Appalachian Trail Histories

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The Paul C. Wolfe shelter is located in Nelson County, Virginia. It was built in 1991, by volunteers from theĀ Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club. This club continues to maintain the shelter and 19 miles of the Trail beginning at the southern boundary of Shenandoah National Park.

Collection: Trail Shelters
Paul C. Wolfe Shelter.jpg

Built in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Bearfence Mountain Shelter is located in Greene County, Virginia inside the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park. Maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the shelter is named after the nearby summit of Bearfence Mountain which has an elevation of 3,640 ft. The origin of Bearfence name likely came from a nearby pasture which was fenced in to keep bears out.

Collection: Trail Shelters
Bearfence Mountain.jpg

This map of the Appalachian Trail was produced by the Appalachian Trail Conference in 1948. It shows the southern terminus at Mount Oglethorpe (rather than the current Springer Mountain).

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This 1938 map of the Appalachian Trail from the Susquehanna River to the Virginia/Tennessee border, appeared on the back of the stationary of the Appalachian Trail Conference beginning in the late 1930s. It describes those portions of the Trail covered by the PATC's Guide to Paths in the Blue Ridge: Measured Distances and Detailed Directions for 506 Miles of the Appalachian Trail and 65 Miles of Side Trails in Virginia and Adjacent States, originally published in 1931 and reprinted numerous times since. The route of the Trail in 1938, especially in southern Virginia, is quite different from the current route.

Collection: Maps
PATCMap1938.jpg

Structure Completion Dates

Lewis Spring Lean-to: May 1936
Rock Spring Shelter: June 1937
Doyle River Shelter: March 1937
Pocosin Shelter: June 1937
Big Run Lean-to: February 1939
Rip Rap Lean-to: February 1939
Old Rag Lean-to: September 1939
High Top Lean-to: October 1939
Pass Mountain Lean-to: October 1939
Meadow Springs Shelter: September 1939
Hawksbill Gap Lean-to: May 1940
Bearfence Lean-to:June 1940
Shaver Hollow Lean-to:July 1940
South River Lean-to:July 1940
Pinefield Lean-to: August 1940
Big Flat Lean-to: December 1940
Gravel Springs Lean-to: January 1941
Indian Run Lean-to: March 1941
Black Rock Lean-to: June 1941
Sawmill Run Lean-to: June 1941
Elkwallow Lean-to: December 1941


Collection: Trail Shelters

Image from page 6 of "The Appalachian Trail", published by the U.S. Forest Service in 1964.

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The Dave Lesser Shelter is the last shelter on the Appalachian Trail before northbound hikers reach Harpers Ferry, or the first they encounter south of Harpers Ferry. Maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the shelter is a three-sided structure with a very large front deck. There is also a picnic pavilion with a fire pit and a privy. Half a dozen tent sites are scattered along the slope below the shelter and the freshwater spring is .25 miles down slope. Relatively few thru hikers stop overnight at the Lesser shelter, largely because they are so close to Harpers Ferry, the psychological mid-point of their hike (the real half way point is 80 miles north in Pennsylvania near Pine Grove Furnace). The shelter was built in 1994.

Collection: Trail Shelters
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A page from the Dave Lesser Shelter logbook with entries from April 26, 2016, to May 9, 2016. The first three entries are typical of the sort of inspirational writing long distance hikers leave behind--either as messages to friends along the trail, or simply because they want to. The May 9 entry contains artwork of a sort that often ends up in the shelter logs.

Collection: Trail Shelters
Dave Lesser Shelter Log

Map of the proposed Appalachian Trail, hand-drawn by Benton MacKaye for the first meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference, March, 1925. Although this map became the blueprint for the Trail, the final terminus for the path ended up being Springer Mountain, not the Cohutta Mountains of North Georgia as he proposed in this map.

Collection: Maps
MacKaye Map 1925.jpg

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 theĀ 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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