Appalachian Trail Histories

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Members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club measuring the Appalachian Trail with Myron Avery, second from right with wheel. July 1940.

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Members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) measuring the old version of the Appalachian Trail on Poor Mountain, Bent Mountain, Virginia, July 1940.

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The Nahmakanta Lake Lean-to was located on the Appalachian Trail approximately 39.3 miles south of Mt. Katahdin and was maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. This shelter was torn down in 1981 and replaced by the Wadleigh Stream Lean-to which is 2.6 miles north of the site of the Nahmakanta Lake Lean-to. The Nahmakanta Stream Lean-to is the newest MATC-maintained shelter, built in 2017, and is located 3.2 miles south of the old shelter.

Collection: Trail Shelters
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After ascending the Indian Ladder out of the Dan River Gorge, thru hiker Gene turned and took this photograph of the Pinnacles of Dan from the Northeast rim of the Gorge. Espy was the second person to successfully complete a hike of the entire trail in one season.

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As he passed through the Dan River Gorge in July 1951, Gene Espy took this photograph of what he called "Growed over trail, Virginia" (on the reverse). The image was taken near the famed "Indian Ladder" that took hikers into or out of the Gorge. Espy was the second person to successfully hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season. The image also gives a clear sense for how poor trail conditions were in 1951.

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In 1951, Gene Espy completed the second successful thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in one season. He took this photograph of the Pinnacles of Dan in July 1951, as he passed through the Dan River Gorge on his way north.

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The Dan River Gorge as seen from the summit of the Pinnacles of Dan, July 1951. This image, taken by Gene Espy during his thru hike -- the second successful thru hike of the Appalachian Trail -- offers a sense for how steep the drop was from the summit of the Pinnacles to the river below.

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The view south from the summit of Fisher's Peak, North Carolina, in the summer of 1951. This photograph, taken by thru hiker Gene Espy in July 1951 is one of the only known images of the view from the Appalachian Trail on Fisher's Peak when the trail still ran through this part of Southwestern Virginia. Gene Espy was the second person to successfully hike the entire trail in one season.

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Byllesby Dam on the New River as seen from Farmer Mountain in early July 1951. This photograph was taken by Gene Espy during his 1951 thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, the second such hike completed in one season.

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This photograph was taken by Gene Espy during his 1951 thru hike of the Appalachian Trail from the Jones Knob lookout, possibly from the fire tower that used to stand there. Espy was the second person to successfully thru hike the trail and likely took this photograph on July 1, 1951.

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Earl Shaffer was a veteran of WWII from Pennsylvania. While serving in WWII his best friend, Walter Winemiller, with whom he planned to hike the AT with, died at Iwo Jima. Though not properly diagnosed, it is reasonable to assume that Shaffer suffered from mental illness that coincided with the end of his service. Upon returning from deployment, Shaffer decided to hike the trail both in memory of Winemiller and to "walk the war out of his system." Ironically, he wrote of all the times he saw violence on the trail: walking past Antietam and that nature itself was violent, like a grouse exploding from underbrush like an A-bomb. He became the first person to thru-hike the trail in a single season. This photo was taken at the end of his NOBO hike on top of Mt.Katahdin in 1948.

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This map depicts three of the routes of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia -- the route laid out in 1931 by Shirley Cole and Roy Ozmer, the route used between 1933-1952, and the present route of the trail. The original route looped south of Roanoke and Salem to the junction of Floyd, Franklin, and Roanoke counties, before proceeding south toward Fisher's Peak in North Carolina. After 1933, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club convinced the ATC to shift the northern portion of this trail section north and west of Roanoke to bring it across Catawba Mountain, the location of Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob. After 1952, the ATC abandoned this original route of the AT and moved the trail more than 50 miles west to its present location west of Blacksburg.

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