Appalachian Trail Histories

An account of a ten-day trip on the Appalachian Trail by Ben Beck of the Maryland Appalachian Trail Club. Beck and his friend Herb Robertson hiked from Harper's Ferry south to the Skyland Resort in the newly created Shenandoah National Park between June 13-23, 1935, a total of 79 miles.

At that time there were only a few shelters (Sexton, Meadow Spring, Range View) available for their use, so they either camped under the stars, in the ruins of abandoned houses, or stayed in bunks at CCC work camps.

Trail conditions varied widely during their hike, from recently cleared and well-maintained, to almost impossible. "The trail was bad this morning. Very rough and uncleared. Berry bushes and ferns up to your shoulders…All the springs along here are classified as intermittent. Damned intermittent if you ask me. They’re all dry."

Their diet consisted mostly of onion and bacon sandwiches, canned peaches, dried fruit, and instant noodle soup, and whatever they could purchase at stores they passed along the way.

Collection: Hikers
10 Days on the AT.jpg

Long distance hiker Cherie Cummings photographed outside ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV, July 17, 1979.

The tradition of taking hiker photographs at ATC headquarters began in 1979. Staff member Jean Cashin ("Trail Mom") used a Polaroid camera to record passing long distance hikers at the sign by the front door. Over time, the practice became a standard procedure, and a numbering system was developed that serves as an informal registration system for these hikers.

Collection: Hikers
ATC 1979.jpg

Family with dog at Appalachian Trail Conservancy's visitor center


Taken at the Appalachian Trail Conference (now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, June 30 1989. Ken "MN Slow Foot" Erickson and Jason "Crud" Majerski are wearing different hiking styles, one is in denim and the other is not

Collection: Hiker Clothing
MN Slow Foot and Crud, June 30 1989.jpg

Taken at the Appalachian Trail Conference (now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, June 15 1989. They are wearing all sportswear.

Collection: Hiker Clothing
Flowerchild and Birdman, June 15 1989.jpg

Taken at the Appalachian Trail Conference (now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, August 15 1979. Three of them are wearing denim shorts

Collection: Hiker Clothing
Dennis, Jim, George and Kevin, August 15 1979.jpg

Taken at the Appalachian Trail Conference (now known as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, September 2 1994. Tobias "Rubberduck" Binder and CC. P. de are wearing hiking pants

Collection: Hiker Clothing
Rubberduck and CC.P, September 2 1994.jpg

View of Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers

Collection: Iconic Locations
Harper's Ferry.jpg

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

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