Appalachian Trail Histories

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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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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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The original route of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia passed within a mile of the Mabry Mill, pictured here. Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, Virginia, Edwin Mabry built the mill in 1903. Originally a sawmill, by 1905, the mill had been converted to a gristmill. It was incorporated into the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s, and today is believed to be the most photographed site along the Parkway.

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The store, restaurant, and motel at Tuggle Gap, pictured here, built in the early 1940s, sits at the intersection of Highway 8 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The old route of the Appalachian Trail passed directly by the store until the trail was moved west in 1952 to its current location.

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From 1932-1952, the Appalachian Trail followed an entirely different route between Roanoke and Damascus, Virginia from the one it uses today. The Guide to the Paths of Blue Ridge (1941 edition) details each section of that hike from Route 11 just northwest of Roanoke, down through Floyd, Patrick, Carroll, Grayson, and Washington Counties in great detail.

This section of the guide describes the route between Tuggle Gap and US Highway 58, just north of the Dan River Gorge. It includes the popular Rocky Knob Recreation Area along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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On July 5, 1951, Gene Espy passed through Galax, Virginia on his way north from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia. Espy, from Cordele, Georgia, was the second person to successfully hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season.

This story, from theĀ Galax GazetteĀ is particularly interesting for the discomfort of the reporter with Espy's beard. In 1951, a bearded man was often suspected of being either a vagabond or a communist. In his book about that 1951 hike, Espy describes several times when he was misunderstood because of that beard.

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