Appalachian Trail Histories

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On a November evening in 1927 a small group of Washington outdoor enthusiasts met to consider plans for the construction of hiking trails in mountainous and wooded regions accessible to Washington. An informal organization was effected and the name Potomac Appalachian Trail Club was adopted. The trail work which the group had primarily in mind was construction of a link of the Appalachian Trail, which is to be a footpath following the crestline of the Appalachian mountain system from Maine to Georgia. Considerable work had been done on the Appalachian Trail in New England, New York and Pennsylvania, but no work had been done in Maryland and Virginia. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has undertaken construction of the trail from the Maryland-Pennsylvania line south to Harpers Ferry, and along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park.

Soon after the organization meeting, scouting parties made trips to the Blue Ridge to reconnoiter the country and determine where the trail should be built, and it was not long before the actual cutting and marking of the trail was started. The activities of the Club have exceeded the most sanguine expectations of its founders. Nearly every week-end has seen a group of its members on a scouting or trail-cutting trip to the Blue Ridge. They have not been deterred by weather conditions, and have braved alike icy blasts of winter and the scorching rays of the mid-summer sun. As a result, there is now cleared and marked a trail from Harpers Ferry to Skyland, a distance of over eighty miles.

The Blue Ridge section, like the rest of the Appalachian Trail, as far as possible, [is] a sky-line trail. Its sole purpose is to afford pleasure and recreation. It endeavors to connect as many high points, affording wide views of surrounding country, and as many places of beauty as lie within its course, consistent with accessibility and reasonably practical grades. It is a trail for hikers, and in many places works its way to the top of rugged mountain summits which can be reached only on foot.

Climbing the Blue Ridge at Harpers Ferry where the altitude is 1,500 feet, the trail winds its way along the crest-line of the ridge from peak to peak, passing over summits over 4,000 feet high, such as Stony Man and Hawks Bill, which are in the heart of the Shenandoah National Park. On peaks such as these the hiker sometimes finds himself above the clouds with lesser peaks rising above the mist-shrouded valleys like islands in an arctic sea.

The construction of a trail along the crest of the Blue Ridge is only the beginning of the Club's plans. It contemplates the construction of branch trails so that the main trail will serve as a trunk line from which may be reached all points of scenic interest in the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah National Park. The plans of the Club also include the construction of camping shelters at convenient points along the trail an the issuance of a guidebook describing not only the route of the trail, with sketch maps, but containing also data concerning scenery, history, geology, botany, forestry and wild life of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Club is very much interested in the development of the Shenandoah National Park. One of its objects as set forth in the constitution is to foster public appreciation and use of this scenic region. The most attractive portion of the Club's trail lies in the Shenandoah National Park. The section of the Trail from Thornton Gap to Stony Man Mountain is one of which the Club is particularly proud. It is wild and rugged enough to satisfy the most strenuous mountain climber. Passing as it does over the summits of Mary's Rock, Pinnacle, and Stony Man, it affords many superb views of mountains, river and plain. Aside from its scenic value, this section of the Trail should be of great appeal to hikers, in that it affords a convenient approach to Skyland from the Lee Highway in Thornton Gap. The Skyland region, with its extensive trail system leading to many scenic points, can now be reached from Thornton Gap over a trail less than nine miles long, thus avoiding the circuitous journey through Luray and the tedious climb up Stony Man Mountain.

The members of the Club have derived much enjoyment and profit from this trail construction work. They are now interested in sharing the beauties of the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah National Park with other nature lovers. They would like to have more of their fellow beings who feel the tension of this hectic machine age experience the joys of taking a pack on back and following a mountain trail leading one knows not where.


Collection: Maps

Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939, just north of Linden, Virginia. Like many of the shelters along the Trail, the Manassas Gap Shelter resided on private land for many decades. Built from chestnut logs, the shelter is a simple lean-to with three walls, originally equipped with six wire framed bunks. Until the 1980s there were also bunks across the back of the structure, but these were removed in the 1980s during a restoration of the shelter brought on by a severe infestation of mice and field rats. A covered spring is just downslope from the shelter.

According to the Bulletin of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (July 1939), the Manassas Gap Shelter (then called a Lean-to) repesented the first project "accomplished as a result of the ruling of Director Fechner of the Civilian Conservation Corps that, subject to certain conditions, the CCC could build lean-tos on privately owned lands."

At the time of the shelter's construction, it was accessible by car via the Linden-Ashby Gap fire road, which would take visitors to within 250 feet of the structure.

Collection: Trail Shelters
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Contents of Manassas Gap Shelter log book from July 7, 2012.

Collection: Trail Shelters
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5/16 - If there are any Southbounders that come through, there is a kid named Matthew that was in a wreck last night and ran into the woods near the A.T. headed south down at the next road that leads into Linden. His mom was down at the trail head asking us if we saw him. She was read torn up. But, he is a handsome 20-year-old with dark hair and is about 5'10". He was seen by a witness at the accident running into the woods with no shirt and no shoes. I don't know, maybe we can help find him somehow.
-- NoseHoSe [hiker trail name]

5/16 - Starburst are yummy for snacking. -- Maybe

5/16 - Not sure if we are here for the night or for the moment. Waiting out a T-storm. Saw a turtle on the way here...Neat.
-- Kremers

5/16 - Bojangles - Bri Bri in for the night. On to Ashby Gap plus Hunter's Head Tavern tomorrow! I've been anticipating a Hunter's Head Tavern visit since Springer Mtn. Anyone behind me - hitch East on hwy 50 for 5-7 miles to Upperville Virginia. Well worth the visit!

5/18 - HARD CORE 10:00

5/18 - In for a break. Great day so far. Nice breeze and sunny skies.
-- Hardrock


Collection: Trail Shelters
PATCMGSL1.jpg

Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps around 1933, just north of Linden, Virginia. Like many of the shelters along the Trail, the Manassas Gap Shelter resided on private land for many decades. Built from chestnut logs, the shelter is a simple lean-to with three walls. Until the 1980s there were also bunks across the back of the structure, but these were removed in the 1980s during a restoration of the shelter brought on by a severe infestation of mice and field rats. A covered spring is just downslope from the shelter.

Collection: Trail Shelters
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A menu from the restaurants along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in 1960. Restaurants were located at Skyland, Big Meadows, Panorama (Route 211/Thornton Gap), Elk Wallow, and Dickey Ridge. Today food service is still provided at Skyland, Big Meadows, Elk Wallow, and in the southern section of the park at Loft Mountain. The restaurant at Panorama was removed by the Park Service in 2008 as part of a cost cutting effort.

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Map from the Confederate Engineer Bureau in Richmond, Va. General J.F. Gilmer Chief Engineer . Presented to the West Point Military Academy by his only daughter, Mrs J.F. Minis, Savh, Ga

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Survey map of the land assigned to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) by the National Park Service around Corbin Cabin. Drawing no. 134-60010, Scale 1" = 60'

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Transcription of the log book entry:

May 28, 1954 through May 30, 1954

We had a beautiful weekend for the continuance of work & the dedication. Jeannette Fitz Williams & Earl Haskell merit special mention for their vigorous labor in the annex. Besides that, all those whose name appear below the arrow on the previous page contributed largely toward weeding, clearing, mortaring, tarring, painting, & rattle-snake killing. On Sunday afternoon, George Corbin, Chief Ranger Jacobs & Park Naturalist Favour & those whose names appear above the arrow on the previous page began to wander in & all of us finally gathered about 3:30 daylight savings time for the dedication over which President Blackburn presided. He gave a short history of the cabin before PATC & since. He introduced the new overseer, Karl Thrif [sp?], & presented his wife, Ann, with keys, this book, & the cabin sign, while Karl & many others took pictures. Pr. Blackburn introduced next Mr. Corbin who expressed his gratitude for the Club’s interest in his home. The rangers each said a few words & then the piece de resistance [winged?] up by physicist Blackburn & consisting of a spark-plug igniting a few drops of gasoline & thus shooting a can against the door & smashing a bottle of “champagne” against the threshold — but it didn’t work, but after 2 manual efforts, Canada Dry’s best was in smithereens.

At the same decisive moment, several hydrogen filled balloons were released from the attic windows and floated out over the park. Afterwards, George Corbin’s best apple brandy was served to the guests who later staggered up the hill & left the rest of us to continue our work.


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The families of Corbin Hollow--a community of perennial starvation and penniless squalor within a dozen miles of President Hoover's Rapidan camp--are about to come into something more than their own.

A plan to move the community, rooted in this one spot since the Revolutionary War, to a new section of the mountains adjoining a church mission has been virtually agreed upon between Federal and State officials.

Mixed up in the strange story are officials of the National Park Service, a Washington physician and a lone woman social worker, Miss Miriam Sizer.

Secretary Wilbur rode into the Hollow over the week end, accompanied by Horace M. Albright, director of the National Park Service; Dr. Lyman Sexton of Washington and Miss Sizer.

Corbin Hollow is within the limits of the new Shenandoah National Park. In order not only to aid the Corbins and the Nicholsons, but also to clear the park, the plan of providing a sizable plot for them near a mountain mission was advanced. Wilbur looked on it with favor.

"No matter what is done with these people," he said, "the will be better off. They have nothing to lose."



A undated photograph of Nicholson Hollow resident Fannie Corbin and one of her children. On the reverse of the print it says "Fannie Corbin and one of her 22 children." Fannie Corbin was a resident of Lower Nicholson Hollow in what is now Shenandoah National Park. This photograph, although undated, was almost certainly taken before the people of Nicholson Hollow were required to move by the Commonwealth of Virginia to make way for the new park in 1936.

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This photograph (photographer unknown) depicts Sam Corbin and Eddie Nicholson, residents of Corbin Hollow, Virginia at the time that Shenandoah National Park was being created. According to information on the reverse of the photograph, Sam Corbin is on the left, Eddie Nicholson is on the right. The children are not named.

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