Appalachian Trail Histories

In 1952, George Miller hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine at the age of 72. His hike was the seventh completed thru hike of the trail and the third that year. He was also the last thru hiker to follow the old route of the trail through Southwestern Virginia, because in 1953 the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) completed its relocation of the trail to its current location west of Blacksburg and the route through Floyd, Patrick, Carroll, Grayson, and Washington Counties was abandoned.

In this letter to John Barnard of Meadows of Dan, Miller thanks Barnard for his hospitality and assistance as he passed through Patrick County during the summer of 1952. Barnard was the person in charge of the trail in Patrick County from 1930 until the trail's relocation west.

George Miller.jpg

A group of hikers on the Pinnacles of Dan in 1908, led by John Barnard (in hat on far left). Barnard later became the overseer of the Appalachian Trail in Patrick County, VA, and was described as the "King of the Pinnacles" in a story about the trail that appeared in National Geographic Magazine in the 1940s. 

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.


John Barnard with a memorial he made to the local Native Americans who lived in the Dan River gorge. According to his grandson, Barnard cast the concrete in sand and then added artifacts he had found in the gorge over the years.

Scan 8.jpeg

From the reverse: The Little Falls of Dan, one mile north of Pinnacles of Dan. The fall here of Dan River is 90 or 100 ft. The River here flowing through the great crevice of rock and around huge boulders at a tremendous rapid rate which is interesting to observe and very beautiful. Frank Cox in picture.

Scan 11.jpeg

John R. Barnard (right) leading a hike in the Dan River Gorge, August, 1936. Barnard was the man responsible for laying out and maintaining the Appalachian Trail in Patrick County, Virginia from 1930-1952. He regularly led hikes along the Trail and throughout the Dan River Gorge throughout this period and continued to do so long after the Trail moved 50 miles west.

Scan 4.jpeg

In 1933, members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) traveled to Meadows of Dan, Virginia, to hike the Dan River Gorge, including the Pinnacles of Dan. They stayed at the home of John Barnard, who had laid out and maintained the Trail in Patrick County on behalf of the ATC. Barnard led hikes over the Pinnacles and was a regular host for PATC excursions in the area. Visitors such as this group typically camped on his land or stayed in his barn.

[Reverse of image] "Members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Barnard near Pinnacles of Dan, Patrick Co. Va., July 1,2,3, 1933. Myron Avery with wheel."

Scan 2.jpeg