Virginia's Lost AT

On July 5, 1951, Gene Espy passed through Galax, Virginia on his way north from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia. Espy, from Cordele, Georgia, was the second person to successfully hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season.

This story, from the Galax Gazette is particularly interesting for the discomfort of the reporter with Espy's beard. In 1951, a bearded man was often suspected of being either a vagabond or a communist. In his book about that 1951 hike, Espy describes several times when he was misunderstood because of that beard.

Espy story.jpg

In 1951, Chester Dziengielewski, a machinist from Naugatuck, Connecticut, was the first person to successfully hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season in a southbound direction. On September 20, he stopped in Galax, Virginia on his way through Southwestern Virginia and was interviewed by a reporter from the Galax Gazette.

The story, pictured here, describes his experiences along the trail and his meeting with Gene Espy, who was hiking northbound that same summer. Two other hikers were also attempting a southbound thru hike that summer -- Martin Papendick, a World War II veteran from Michigan, and Bill Hall, a teenager from Ohio. Papendick also passed through Galax a few weeks later, but Hall skipped the section between Roanoke and Damascus because he was running short of funds and time.


In 1952, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine at the age of 72. His hike was the seventh completed thru hike of the trail and the third that year. He was also the last thru hiker to follow the old route of the trail through Southwestern Virginia, because in 1953 the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) completed its relocation of the trail to its current location west of Blacksburg and the route through Floyd, Patrick, Carroll, Grayson, and Washington Counties was abandoned.

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.

George Miller.jpg