Appalachian Trail Histories

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The old route of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia crossed Smith Mountain in northeastern Floyd County. This image shows the view of Cahas Knob in Franklin County to the east of the trail and is taken on the summit of Smith Mountain.

The photograph is one of dozens taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery during an inspection tour of the trail in Southwestern Virginia in 1932, a tour he made with Shirley Cole, the county agent in Floyd County and the person tasked with overseeing the trail in this part of the state.

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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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This image shows the view of Smith Mountain from the Appalachian Trail near Bent Mountain in Floyd County, Virginia. The 1940 trail guide describes the views from the summit of Smith Mountain as is section of the trail as:
Summit (3,368 ft.) affords extensive views of Roanoke and Franklin Counties; Buffalo Mtn. visible to the southwest and Peaks of Otter to the northeast. Cahas Knob is prominent on the Skyline.
Much of the original route of the trail in Floyd County was obliterated by the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mid-1930s, but this segment over Smith Mountain remained a part of the trail route -- as trail -- until the relocation of the entire trail in Southwestern Virginia in 1952.

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The old route of the Appalachian Trail crossed into North Carolina on Fisher's Peak, just north of the Blue Ridge Music Center along the Blue Ridge Parkway, both of which were built much later. After passing through the resort known as Norvale Crags, the trail looped back northwest into Virginia toward Galax.

This photograph, taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery in 1932 during one of his hikes along the old trail route, looks west along the Virginia/North Carolina line toward the New River and the Grayson Highlands in the far distance.

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The view north and east from a point along the old route of the Appalachian Trail approximately two miles south of Sling's Gap.

The man in the photograph is Shirley L. Cole, the County Agent in Floyd County, and the original overseer of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia. The photograph is from ATC Chairman Myron Avery's personal scrapbooks and was taken during one of several scouting expeditions he took with Cole in the region between 1930-1932.

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This photograph taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery shows the view of the Appalachian Trail south into North Carolina at Fisher's Peak from Fancy Gap, Virginia. This is one of many photographs of the old route of the trail taken by Avery during his numerous expeditions to this part of Virginia between 1930-1950.

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Hikers on the old route of the Appalachian Trail crossed the Dan River at the bottom of the Dan River Gorge, either just after descending the Pinnacles (if hiking northbound) or just before ascending the Pinnacles (if hiking southbound). This photograph from 1932 shows the river crossing as it was in the original version the trail. The creation of two dams in the Gorge required the trail's overseers to relocate the river crossing to avoid the inundation created by the dams.

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A description of the Myron Avery's first inspection trip of the Appalachian Trail in Floyd County in January 1932. This story from the Floyd News describes Avery's trip with Shirley and Earnest Cole that began on New Year's Day 1932.

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The view from the Appalachian Trail on Horse Knob near the North Carolina border, 1932. This photograph was taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery during one of his many expeditions to this part of Virginia to supervise the building and maintenance of the Appalachian Trail.

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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."

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This panoramic image of Lover's Leap in Patrick County, Virginia, is compiled from three photographs taken by ATC Chairman Myron Avery during a hike on the Appalachian Trail in Southern Virginia in January 1932. Avery was scouting the new route of the Trail in this region with local Appalachian Trail leader Shirley L. Cole and his brother Earnest.

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