Leonard Adkins has spent a lot of time on the Appalachian Trail, and now he has teamed up with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Arcadia Publishing to produce a pictorial history of the part of the trail that goes through Virginia.
The 128-page “Images of America: Along Virginia’s Appalachian Trail” includes dozens of vintage photographs—most never before published—that document the history of the trail and the volunteers who made it possible from the time it was first proposed in 1921 until more recent years.
Adkins, a former Fincastle resident who now lives in Richmond, has hiked the entire length of the trail five times. The last was with his wife Laurie and their dog MacAfee of Knob (The Amazing Appalachian Bouncing Dog) that was chronicled in a series of first-hand articles that appeared in The Fincastle Herald in 2007.
He’s also written a number of books and articles about hiking and wildflowers. Among those books are four about the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Those who are familiar with the AT in this part of Virginia will find many photographs from the early days of the trail until the 1990s. The AT runs the length of Botetourt’s eastern side from where it enters the county from the south on Tinker Mountain until it slips quietly into Bedford County on the slopes of Apple Orchard Mountain, essentially paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“I thoroughly enjoyed doing the research,” Adkins said when asked about producing the soft-cover book. “Being granted access to the archival photographs of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway, and then being granted permission to publish them was a real privilege.”
Many of the photographs also came from the Appalachian Trail Clubs that have built and maintained the trail since it was started.
“The local clubs also had some wonderful photographs,” Adkins said. “Many of the pictures have never been published before, such as the one of Earl Shaffer, the first person to hike the entire trail (in 1948), playing guitar in front of a store in Pearisburg during an Appalachian Trail Conference biennial meeting.”
Adkins said he particularly likes the cover photograph of a member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club in 1939 using a spyglass to gaze across the Roanoke Valley to Fort Lewis and Catawba Mountains.
“Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was being able to document the job that AT volunteers have done from the pathway’s very inception,” Adkins continued. “Just think about it—a 2,000-plus-mile pathway through the woods that was built and is still maintained almost exclusively through the efforts of volunteers. Phenomenal!”
The Appalachian Trail was proposed by Benton MacKaye in 1921. It covers 2,176 miles from Georgia to Maine and passes through Virginia, going across some of the state’s best mountain scenery and affording access to small-town life. Almost one-quarter of the trail is through Virginia, and about 50 miles is in Botetourt between two of the county’s most prominent mountains, Tinker and Apple Orchard.
Now a component of the National Park Service, the trail was, and still is, primarily built maintained, and overseen by volunteers.
The 200 or so photographs in “Images of America: Along Virginia’s Appalachian Trail” were selected from the archives of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the National Park Service, and local Appalachian Trail maintenance clubs.
The book provides a look at life in the Virginia mountains before and during the trail’s creation, how it developed, who its early champions were, the many relocations the trail has experienced, and the volunteers who have constructed and maintained it.
Adkins is the author of 15 books about the outdoors and travel. He has aided the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in identifying and protecting rare and endangered plants by being a Natural Heritage Monitor and a ridge runner. He has also been on the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s board of directors and a volunteer maintainer of a trail section near McAfee Knob, one of the AT’s most prominent overlooks in Roanoke County.
A portion of the profits from the book will be donated to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The book is available in area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888)-313-2665.