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In this letter to John Barnard of Meadows of Dan, Miller thanks Barnard for his hospitality and assistance as he passed through Patrick County during the summer of 1952. Barnard was the person in charge of the trail in Patrick County from 1930 until the trail's relocation west.
The old route of the Appalachian Trail passed close to the Sanatorium from 1932-1952, and hikers could access the trail by taking a bus to the grounds of the Sanatorium and then backtracking to the county road that the trail used to get between Mason Cove and Glenvar, Virginia.
This section of the Guide describes the route of the trail between Mason Cove and Glenvar, the point at which the old Appalachian Trail route deviated substantially from the current route. Several of the landmarks mentioned either no longer exist (Bradshaw Post Office) or are substantially different -- Catawba Sanatorium is now Catawba Hospital -- and the "dirt road passable by automobile" is now county road 622, a paved road.
"I finally stumbled into Rocky Knob by starlight and found the shelter was of stone, open on three sides and with a cold wind howling through. I gathered some snags for fireplace wood and a sackful of leaves to cushion the stone floor. The temperature must have been around freezing."
The Cherry Tree Shelter, pictured here, was constructed right around the time that the AT moved away from its original route along Iron Mountain to the present route that passes through the Grayson Highlands. Some hikers who still followed the old route of the trail into the late 1950s reported staying at this shelter -- the only one west of the New River along the old trail route.
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.
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.
This section of the trail guide from 1940 -- Guide to the Paths of the Blue Ridge -- describes one such location. It also offers insights into the difficulties the Appalachian Trail Conference faced when routing the trail through this part of the state. Early trail scouts had to rely on maps such as the "Lindenkohl chart" mentioned here, because much of this part of the state had not been properly mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Like many place names along the Appalachian Trail, there is more than one version of why this summit on the Iron Mountain ridge was named "Comer's Rock." One version has it that a Civil War draft-dodger named Comer hid there to avoid his military service in the Confederacy. Another has it that the lookout simply derived its name from the many Comers who lived nearby.