Appalachian Trail Histories

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The Dan River Gorge, also known as the Kibler Valley, as seen from the summit of the Pinnacles of Dan in Southwestern Virginia.

This black and white lantern slide is part of a set of promotional slides used by the Appalachian Trail Conference to promote hiking the trail beginning in the late 1930s. ATC members could borrow the slides for public presentations. This particular image was from a photograph taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery in the early 1930s during one of his many tours of the trail in Southwestern Virginia.

The Pinnacles were regularly described by AT hikers as the single most difficult part of the hike, except perhaps the climb of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Today the Dan River Gorge (where the Pinnacles are located) is closed to hikers. The Gorge itself is now largely filled in by two lakes created in the late 1930s by the Danville Power Authority when they dammed the Dan River.

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This black and white lantern slide of the Pinnacles of Dan in Southwestern Virginia is part of a set of promotional slides used by the Appalachian Trail Conference to promote hiking the trail beginning in the late 1930s. ATC members could borrow the slides for public presentations. This particular image was from a photograph taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery in the early 1930s during one of his many tours of the trail in Southwestern Virginia.

The Pinnacles were regularly described by AT hikers as the single most difficult part of the hike, except perhaps the climb of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Today the Dan River Gorge (where the Pinnacles are located) is closed to hikers.

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This map depicts the Appalachian Trail between Fries and Damascus, Virginia in 1941, including the crossing of the New River at Dixon's Ferry. This original route of the Appalachian Trail was abandoned in 1952, when the Trail was rerouted west into the Jefferson National Forest to the route it follows today.

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This map depicts the Appalachian Trail between Roanoke and Fries, Virginia in 1940, including the legendary stretch over the Pinnacles of Dan. This original route of the Appalachian Trail was abandoned in 1952, when the Trail was rerouted west into the Jefferson National Forest to the route it follows today.

PATC Map 13 1940.jpeg

The Windsor Furnace Shelter is located in Pennsylvania, north of the city of Reading. It is a traditional Adirondack style lean-to and was built in 1972. It is currently maintained by the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club. Text from the reverse of the photograph reads: "Windsor Furnace Shelter, PA. John Rappaport, Landowner. This shelter erected in early 1972."

Collection: Trail Shelters
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The Poplar Ridge Shelter in Maine is a traditional Adirondack style lean-to, maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. The description on the reverse of the image reads: "Poplar Ridge Lean-to, an ideal resting place."

Collection: Trail Shelters
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During the first four decades of the Trail's existence, the majority of its route passed over private property. The local trail clubs and the ATC secured rights of way over these private lands through a series of agreements--some formal, some informal--that gave the clubs the right to build the trail across an individual's land, gave hikers the right to pass through, and sometimes included the right to build a shelter on the landowner's property. This sample easement from 1938 shows that the ATC was often able to secure these rights of way at minimal cost (in this case, $1.00). At the same time, these agreements were very fragile, generally giving the landowner the right to revoke or cancel the agreement with 30 days notice. As a result, the Trail was often rerouted when an easement was canceled, or when the property through which it passed changed hands.

Collection: Legislation
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A trail maintainer along the Appalachian Trail in 1932. The caption on the reverse of this photograph reads: "Homeward bound, with her pack and pruning shears after a day's work on the Appalachian Trail." Trail volunteers like this young woman were, and remain, essential to the building and maintaining of the Appalachian Trail.

Collection: Trail Clubs
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Arthur Perkins was the first chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference. Perkins, a judge from Hartford, Connecticut, was an avid outdoorsman and member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. After assuming the chairmanship of the ATC, Perkins recruited a young attorney named Myron Avery to the Appalachian Trail project. Avery went on to become the second ATC chairman and was the man most responsible for the completion of the AT in 1937. Perkins was instrumental in turning the ATC into an organizing force for the building of the Trail and often served as a mediator between various individuals and organizations that had differing visions of how the project should proceed.

Collection: Builders
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Stephen Mather was the first director of the National Park Service, serving in that capacity from 1916-1929. Mather was one of the small group of like-minded conservationists and trail club members who founded the Appalachian Trail Conference in 1925.

Collection: Builders
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Jean Stephenson (left) and Marion Park (right) on a day hike on the Appalachian Trail sometime in the 1930s or 1940s. Stephenson was the long-time second in command to ATC Chairman Myron Avery and Park was the long-serving secretary of the ATC.

Collection: Builders
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