Diana Christopulos, RATC Archivist

From the RATC archives ~ 1950s

You will notice that I am referring to the Appalachian Trail as a Project. That is what it is in its present stage. Some of us look upon the Appalachian Trail as a completed trail. In fact it has been measured and blazed over its entire length and guide books printed to cover the entire trail. Such a situation may give the impression that the trail is completed, but it is far from completion.

It is safe to say that the section southwest from Roanoke to Iron Mountain near Damascus is the worst to be found in the whole length of the trail. . . I defy anyone to find anything of interest to the hiker except short stretches such as in Rocky Knob Park and The Pinnacles of Dan, and the Fisher’s Peak Area. These spots stand on their own merits, but they are connected by roads, mostly dirt but some graveled and paved. All wilderness aspect is lost. The very nature of this section detracts from the use of the trail.

In view of this situation, I have attempted to revive interest in a relocation project to get the trail moved to the West. This trail would, as presently planned, leave the present route at Lambert’s Meadow and cross the Catawba Creek Valley to North Mountain. From the Juncture with the North Mountain Trail the proposed route would follow in a general manner a line drawn to Hungry Mother State Park, and there cross over to Iron Mountain and rejoin the present trail.

Report of the President, James W. Denton
1949 Annual Banquet of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club
January, 5, 1949

RATC’s founders worked closely with Myron Avery to lay out, mark and build the original Appalachian Trail around and south of Roanoke in the 1930s. Their responsibilities grew in the 1950s, as volunteers led by two extraordinary couples worked with federal agencies and others on a monumental undertaking – relocating about 250 miles of the AT all the way to the West Virginia border. It took almost 40 years to complete the project, but RATC made a great start in the 1950s.

Most of the original route was on private land east of the Blue Ridge, with little more than hand-shake agreements protecting the pathway. Much of it also involved road-walking. As early as 1940, RATC club leaders and US Forest Service officials were advocating a complete relocation of the Appalachian Trail between Roanoke and the Tennessee border.i

World War II put an end to trail building and most trail maintenance. When people like Earl Shaffer, the first documented thru hiker, headed for the AT after the war, it was poorly maintained and poorly marked.

Enter Jim and Mollie Denton as well as Tom and Charlene Campbell. They all joined RATC after the war and revived its leadership role in the southern half of Virginia. Three of the four (Tom Campbell and both Dentons) served as RATC presidents, and they were at the center of both a major trail relocation and the lively social scene of the club.

Jim Beeson with his touring bike at the Pacific Ocean

So, at the last Hiker Happy Hour, several people asked about our former President Jim Beeson’s next adventure. For those of you who don’t know, Jim is starting a new long distance adventure. He and two friends are traveling by bicycle from the Pacific Ocean across country to the Atlantic Ocean via a route called the Southern Tier.

If you’d like to follow along on Jim’s adventure, he is keeping an online journal. You can read it at www.trailjournals.com/southerntier . The journal defaults to his latest entry. If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can either click “First” in the menu choices above the date in his journal entry, or click this link: https://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/632324 .

Also, for those of you wondering, “What’s this about Hiker Happy Hour?” We meet on the third Wednesday of the month at Olde Salem Brewery for a couple hours after work. Check the listings in our Meetup group for the next Hiker Happy Hour!

The Appalachian Trail is again open between Pine Swamp Shelter to Clendenin Road effective 4/15/2021.

The power line tower structure has been repaired, but MANY trees remain down in the area. Work continues to remove and clear debris.

Map showing affected area of the Trail
Affected area between Pine Swamp Shelter (North) and Clendenin Rd (South)

by Diana Christopulos, RATC Archivist

 RATC has been around since 1932, and we are finally pulling together all the records. Acting as the RATC Archivist, I am working to digitize it and write about it. This is the first story. 

The Founding

1932 graffiti from Nomad hiking club, whose members helped found the RATC. Photo by Jim Beeson

How do you make a trail building club out of three hiking clubs? Let them build trail where they like to hike. In 1932, Roanoke College had an outings club. So did Hollins College. And hikers from Roanoke and Salem, mostly women, had their own hiking club called The Nomads. On November 13, 1932, members of all three groups went for a walk in Carvins Cove, followed by supper at the home of Donald Gates, an economics professor at Roanoke College. Then they founded the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. Their own favorite hiking spots like Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob, Carvins Cove, Poor Mountain and Bent Mountain Falls would shape an immediate relocation of the originally planned AT route.

Like other clubs south of Washington, DC, RATC was the brainchild of Myron Avery, the driven and meticulous implementer of Benton McKaye’s visionary Appalachian Trail. Avery became chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 1931, when about 1,000 miles of the AT had already been completed. He was also president of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and, like Johnny Appleseed, was busy planting new clubs between Georgia and Maine.

The founders of the RATC were hikers. Under Avery’s guidance, some of them would also become expert trail builders. After encountering Avery at an ATC event in the Smoky Mountains, Prof. Gates began corresponding with Avery, and he called a meeting of interested parties at the Roanoke YMCA on October 24, 1932. Next came a two-day meeting with Avery and other PATC members at the Hotel Mons near the Peaks of Otter on October 29-30. It must have been an impressive show. After day hikes to Sharp Top and Flat Top, PATC members showed movies and slides on how to mark and build trail along with scenic views on the completed northern sections. The next day they demonstrated exactly how to construct a trail.

Read more »

Want to show your love of iconic McAfee Knob and support the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club?

 

McAfee Knob shirts are available in various styles and sizes via this link –  http://www.bonfire.com/store/ratc

 

Proceeds support the mission of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) to maintain 120 miles,16 Shelters/Privies and 53 Bridges on the AT from Lickskillet Hollow in Giles County to Black Horse Gap in Botetourt County. This includes Virginia’s Triple Crown, i.e., Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.

 

 

http://www.bonfire.com/store/ratc

GOOD NEWS!

Beginning June 13. 2020 – The National Park Service reopened access to 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail known as the “Triple Crown”. The “Triple Crown” area includes the AT between VA Route 624 (Newport Road) and VA Route 652 (Mountain Pass Road), including McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. All sections of RATC maintained AT are now open.

Things to Remember:

Please follow all local health orders, including social distancing and practice Leave No Trace principles. No hand washing facilities exist on the trail, bring hand sanitizer. No restroom facilities exist on the trail or VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot

VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot is at 100% capacity and parking is not allowed on VA 311 – illegally parked cars may be ticketed and towed

No trail maintenance has been performed on the trail since March 15, 2020.Be prepared for trail obstructions.

Shelters and privies in all sections section remain closed

Plan your Triple Crown hike during the week, if at all possible. Weekend days can be crowded.

Enjoy your hike and BE SAFE!

https://www.ratc.org/membership

As you know, RATC is an active organization devoting countless volunteer hours to maintain and improve our 120 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Funds generated from membership play an integral part in the club’s ability to provide trail and shelter maintenance. If you are not an RATC member or have not renewed your membership please join or renew your Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) membership and support the stewardship of our 120 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) section with both your membership and financial support. Membership information is available at

https://www.ratc.org/membership

Questions? Please contact RATC Membership Coordinator – Steve Urbaniak 540-588-5410 – membership@ratc.org

Highlights of 2019 RATC activities include;
• Resurfaced McAfee Knob/VA 311 Trailhead Parking Lot – $2,000
• Supported the “Virginia Triple Crown” Volunteer Ridgerunner Program – 52 Volunteers/1679 Volunteer Hours
• Contributed $5000 toward purchase of Doc’s Way property to protect McAfee Knob view shed
• Replaced roofs on Catawba, Wilson Creek, Jenny’s Knob, Laurel Creek and Doc’s Knob Shelters – $2500
• Replaced fire rings for 5 Shelters – $1100
• Repaired foot bridges at VA 620, VA 621 and VA 785 – $1000
• Held weekly trail maintenance hikes resulting in 350 steps being installed on Dragon’s Tooth, Sinking Creek (Niday Shelter side), Curry Gap and AT/McAfee Knob.
• 83 RATC Trail Maintainers worked >5500 volunteer hours to maintain our section of the AT
• Assisted Konnarock Crew with War Spur trail relocation
• Performed emergency repairs to Fulhardt Knob Shelter after fire
• Offered 60+ recreational hikes covering a wide range of difficulty and distance

Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy released the following statement, March 23, 2020;

“In these unprecedented times, I am making an unprecedented request: please stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Whether your hike is for a couple of hours or a couple of days, staying away from the Trail minimizes the spread or contraction of COVID-19.

In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the Trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.

These same crowds accessing the A.T. may not know how a simple half-day hike can spread COVID-19. While hiking, they may have eaten lunch at a picnic table, taken a break in a shelter, used a privy, or shared a map or food with someone unknowingly infected with COVID-19 and carried this highly contagious virus back to their communities at the end of the day. They may not have realized that ATC staff and

Trail volunteers have been recalled from the A.T. and cannot maintain the footpath, trailheads, shelters and privies that may be heavily (or permanently) impacted by increased visitor use. And, they may not be aware of the rural communities adjacent to the Trail that may not have the healthcare resources to help a sick hiker or volunteer or manage a COVID-19 outbreak should a hiker transport the virus in from the Trail.

Many day hikers see the outdoors as an escape from the stresses of these difficult times. But with crowding from day hikers reaching unmanageable levels and the lack of any staff or volunteers to manage this traffic, it is necessary that all hikers avoid accessing the Trail. The A.T. is not a separate reality from the communities in which hikers live – so, until the risk of spreading COVID-19 has reduced significantly, hiking on a heavily-trafficked trail like the A.T. potentially increases rather than reduces harm.

The ATC does not want to do too little, too late. We cannot close the Trail. We cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. We can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice.

There is an unfortunate truth about this virus: unless everyone is safe, no one is safe. So, take a walk around the block. Spend time with your loved ones. And, please, stay home.”

https://wildeast.appalachiantrail.org/explore/plan-and-prepare/hiking-basics/health/covid19/

COVID – 19 Information

RATC Members/Supporters

As a result of the COVID -19 pandemic we are all experiencing new and challenging times in our lives and on the Appalachian Trail.

In response to the best guidance available on effective ways to slow transmission the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) is suspending all club and trail-related activities for a least the next month to give local communities and the country time to realize the full impact of the virus.

The RATC annual meeting scheduled for March 28, 2020 will be postponed and rescheduled at a future date.

This is a rapidly changing situation and acting with an abundance of caution is the best course of action.

Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!

Jim Beeson
RATC President

Appalachian Trail Friend/Supporter

McAfee Knob is one of the most beautiful and photographed spots along the 2,193 mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) and one of the Roanoke Valley’s defining landmarks. A large partnership including the National Park Service, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will be implementing significant improvements over the next decade, but public support is critical now to get the project off on the right foot.

Popular, but also problematic, anyone who has visited McAfee’s, and that’s about 75,000 people from around the world each year, know that crossing the road can be dangerous, parking can be difficult and amenities at the trailhead are limited. To address these issues our partnership has secured funding to construct a pedestrian bridge over VA 311, redesign the parking area and add signage with a similar look and feel to Shenandoah or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One small, but critical piece of the puzzle is left: ATC is raising money to buy a 7 acre parcel of land immediately adjacent to the existing parking area (see map below) that would allow the National Park Service to consider a wider variety of improvements including bathrooms, safer ingress and egress, and better parking.

ATC and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), the AT trail club that maintains 120 AT miles and 16 shelters from Lickskillet Hollow in Giles County to Blackhorse
Gap in Botetourt County, which includes the McAfee Knob Trailhead/Parking Area and AT up to McAfee Knob are working together to raise $200,000, to acquire the land, remove the structures and transfer it to the National Park Service. Once the parcel is acquired, the National Park Service will have all resources available to create the National Park experience that McAfee, our region, and visitors to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail deserve.

We must protect this property to contribute to the planned improvements. The land owner is an AT supporter, yet multiple developers have made inquiries! We need to act this property soon to prevent it from being purchased for other uses!

Please join with us to improve the McAfee Knob Trailhead! Can we count on you to support this project financially?

Donate on our website today! https://www.ratc.org/donate

Thank you in advance for your support of this critical AT property acquisition.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Jim Beeson, RATC President – president@ratc.org (540 986 5301) or ATC Central and SW VA Regional Director, Andrew Downs (504 904 4354).

RATC is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization