For more than two decades, hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia walked through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the southern mountains. Then, in 1952, the Appalachian Trail Conference moved the trail more than fifty miles to the west. Lost in that move were opportunities to scramble over the Pinnacles of Dan, to sit on Fisher’s Peak and gaze out over the North Carolina Piedmont or to cross the New River on a flat-bottomed boat called Redbird for a nickel. Historian and lifelong hiker Mills Kelly tells the story of a three-hundred-mile section of the Appalachian Trail that is all but forgotten by hikers, but not by the residents of the southwestern Virginia counties that the trail used to cross.
Mills Kelly is a historian of the Appalachian Trail and a professor of history at George Mason University. He first set foot on the Appalachian Trail in 1971 as a Boy Scout hiking in Shenandoah National Park and has had a love affair with the trail ever since. He is also the volunteer archivist for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in Vienna, Virginia, which is where he first came into contact with the story of Virginia’s lost segment of the AT. His podcast, The Green Tunnel, charts the history of the trail from its founding to the present.