Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Human History of the Trail

The Appalachian Trail meanders through a landscape strewn with American history. The problem is that I usually donn't know what I'm looking at. I find myself seeing things such as this beautifully laid chimney picture below and having plenty of questions without anyone to ask.

Who were the people who lived here? Why did they leave? Am I looking at a Civil War remnants, the modest dwelling of a reclusive subsistence farmer, or was this area even a thriving center of life at one point?

The forests had changed so much in the last 200 years. At one point nearly every tree east of the Mississippi has been cut down so it is sometimes impossible to picture what was once here. A thick forest of today may have been an apple orchard just 100 years ago.

An Abandoned Stone Chimney

Fortunately our hosts for the night, Walt and Pat, were able to tell us a little bit about this chimney we passed yesterday morning. It is the remains of the old Lowe House, where 10 children grew up and the men would walk the 5-10 miles into Waynesboro to sell their crops.

For me, the most compelling remnants on the trail were from the Brown Mountain Creek Community pictured and described below.

Remains of the Brown Mountain Creek Community

The Appalachian Trail strolls for 1.4 miles through this shady valley that was once the site of a share-cropping community of freed slaves.

This was a very powerful area to walk through, experiencing so much human history woven into the landscape. In my mind I could hear could hear the songs of those proudly working the first piece of land they could call home and the laughter of children playing in the chilly creek.

It was established in the early 1900's and disbanded in the 1920's when the Forest Service purchased the land for the Appalachian Trail. Makes me wonder if they voluntarily sold it or were more-or-less run off the land.


  1. Ben and Lauren -

    I've been reading your blog all along and continue to enjoy it - I'm very jealous to read of all the favorite hiking spots around Blacksburg! Keep it up!


  2. I agree with Craig. Your stops through all the old spots, Tinker Cliffs, Wind Rock, Dragon's Tooth, etc have brought back memories.

    The pictures of the old homes reminds me of a loop I did off the blue ridge parkway. That history lesson was great.