Appalachian Trail Histories

Cutting the old route of the Appalachian Trail from the New River to Damascus along Iron Mountain was one of the most difficult tasks faced by the ATC in its early years. This section of the Virginia was not well mapped and ATC leader Myron Avery had to rely on local knowledge of abandoned roads, forest trails, and hunter's trails to find a usable route between the river and Damascus.

This first page of a much longer letter from Avery to C.S. (Clint Jackson), the Unaka National Forest supervisor in this part of the state, offers some insight into those difficulties. Avery was keen on making sure that his trail guides were precisely accurate and in this letter he says that he seems to be missing an entire mile of trail. The rest of the letter offers two different alternatives for making sense of the route and asks Jackson to weigh in on which one is the correct one.

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This letter from Myron Avery to C.S. (Clint) Jackson, May 13, 1932, provides very useful insights into the difficulties the Appalachian Trail Conference had in scouting out a route for the trail west of the New River in the early 1930s. In the letter, Avery describes his efforts to find a route along Iron Mountain in the Houndshell Gap area between Flat Ridge and Sugar Grove. Even with the help of a local resident, Avery struggled to find a route that suited his needs.

The trail guide for this section makes it clear just how difficult the task was, because in the early 1930s, this region was still largely unmapped by the U.S. Geological Survey. Avery was relying on a military map created by Henry Lindenkohl in 1864. Iron Mountain and the surrounding area had been incorporated into the Unaka National Forest (now the Jefferson National Forest) in 1920, and Clint Jackson was the supervisor of the forest between the New River and Damascus, Virginia. In that capacity, he was instrumental in helping Avery find a route for the trail through the Unaka Forest and then helped to maintain the trail in this region for more than a decade.

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