Lost and Forgotten Trails

 

Hiked any of these lately? The Egg Trail, the Transmountain, the Jinny Grey, or the Persimmon Run Black Pond trail? PATC members have hiked them, but today they don't even appear on our maps.

 

Jinny Grey Fire Trail
The Jinny Grey Fire Trail can still be hiked. The map shows it under another name which bureaucracy thought was better than the long used name of a mountain woman.

 

Persimmon Creek - Black Pond Trail
The Persimmon Creek - Black Pond Trail is one of the dozen or more trails on a 1918 map Trails below Great Falls & the Cliffs & Ravines of Washington. Besides the trails, there are some intriguing places shown on that map: Prospect Rock, The Balcony, and a cave camp-site with a fireplace opposite Herzog Island - all mentioned in very early PATC excursion reports. Are they there today? The sites perhaps, but most of the trails (and certainly part of the Persimmon Run Trail) are now somebody's garden. The Black Rock end of the Persimmon Run trail is now within the grounds of the Madera School and hence not open to hikers.

 

Egg Trail
The Egg Trail was used occasionally for hikes by both PATC and the Wanderbirds as late as the 1940s. Years earlier, it was used regularly by the farm women of Loudoun County and Brunswick to take produce to Harpers Ferry to sell to passengers on the through trains that stopped there. It went over Third Hill Mountain, descended into Pleasant Valley, and crossed the Shenandoah on the bridge at a point of land that washed out in 1936. I have no information on the eastern end of the trail, but know that the hikes that used it began or ended at Brunswick. As late as the mid-1970s, parts of the old trail (wide enough for horses, and perhaps a wagon, too) could be followed, as Phil Paschall, a local landowner, and I did in an exploring trip that visited Rabbit Rock further north on Third Hill Mountain.

 

Transmountain Trail
The Transmountain Trail last appeared in print in a PATC Forecast of Sept. 1969 when it was announced as a blue-blazed trail, and it was identified as the wagon road that was used to cross Ashby Gap before US 50. It was mentioned as a side trail in the Club's first Guide to Paths in the Blue Ridge (1931). In the mid-1970s, when the AT north of Ashby Gap was being closed down by landowners, John Oliphant led an exploring party to the area of the Transmountain Trail. We followed its route with difficulty because of trees fallen across its sunken treadway and brush grown up inside. It hasn't been reblazed, or apparently used since that exploration.

 

Rattlesnake Mountain Trail
The Rattlesnake Mountain trail appeared on a relief map of Virginia that I saw in the 1950s, but never on any PATC map. It began south of Linden and climbed 1200-1500 feet to traverse three knobs of the mountain. Inquiry with local people suggested it had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the Great Depression. Jeannette Fitzwilliam and I explored it, finding cairns to follow across the lower pastures and well built switchbacks on the descent of the mountain, though the route on the ridge was less well defined. I led a hike there in January 1959 and we had remarkable views of the Blue Ridge and Mt. Marshall. It was a typical Strain hike, ending with an unexpected disaster that turned into good fortune. The good fortune was cocktails for the entire group with an editor of Sports Afield and his weekend guest, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior.

 

Had I remained in the area, I would have repeated the hike (but not the disaster!) in a year or two. I did not, and no one else has ever since. The AT is now much closer to Rattlesnake Mountain than it was then. I wonder if that old trail ought to be reexplored?

 

Old-time members will remember other trails the present generation of hikers do not know. Many of them could still be hiked if PATC were still organizing exploratory hikes. Jugtown to Bagtown, Caudy Castle, Lefthand Hollow, the old carriage Road from Thornton River to Mary's Rock Tunnel overlook. Almost certainly some of the older Club members can nominate other trails that ought to be brought into use again.

 

Paula Strain - PATC Archivist