Appalachian Trail Histories

The old route of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia offered hikers only one overnight shelter where they could stay. Instead, the Guide to the Paths of the Blue Ridge recommended places where hikers could either set up camp in abandonded farms, behind stores, in church yards, or where they could obtain overnight accommodations from local residents. In Floyd County, the Guide said, "Excellent accommodations obtainable at Mrs. Sue Hall's." Susan Harris Hall was much more than someone who would take in hikers. "Ma Sue," as she was known locally, was a force of nature in the community, providing what today would be called social services, especially to women nearby, encouraging visitors to read in her parlor, and generally promoting the well-being of the Floyd community.


A trail maintainer along the Appalachian Trail in 1932. The caption on the reverse of this photograph reads: "Homeward bound, with her pack and pruning shears after a day's work on the Appalachian Trail." Trail volunteers like this young woman were, and remain, essential to the building and maintaining of the Appalachian Trail.

Collection: Trail Clubs
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Jean Stephenson, in the late 1960s, either just before or just after she retired as editor of the Appalachian Trailway News.

Collection: Builders

Photograph of five hikers, June 4, 1933, by Albert (Dutch) Roth.

Collection: Hikers
Roth Five Hikers.jpg

The November 1937 edition of The Long Trail News includes a description of an encounter of several trustees of the Long Trail (Vermont) with a female hiker alone on her end to end hike of that Trail:

"When the trustees visited the Tucker camp north of the Long Trail Lodge on October 2, they found a woman in possession the only occupant. On being asked how many were in her party, she replied, "One." It was Miss Maud Ransom of New York City. She had come up on the bus to Rutland, and had tramped with her pack to this camp, where she was passing the first night. The next night she expected to stay at the Noyes Pond camp, the next at Carmel camp and the enxt at Sunrise camp, then walk to Brandon and take the bus home. Last season she started at the south end of the Trail and went as far as Rutland, and she proposes to finish the trek to the Canadian line in installments before she calls a hal. It may reasonably be inferred that she is a young woman of good physique, and self-reliant, fond of solitary wanderings in the wilderness, and unafraid."

Throughout the history of the Appalachian Trail, many women who have hiked on the Trail alone report similar encounters with concerned or even incredulous hikers, who wonder at the bravery or what they perceive to be foolhardiness of a woman hiking alone in the forest. This 1937 news item demonstrates just how pervasive these views of lone female hikers have been over the decades.