Trail Development (April 1932)

Written by Frank Schairer   

The following is a historic reprint from the April 1934 Edition of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Bulletin, precursor the PATC's current newsletter, the Potomac Appalachian.



The Trail across Maryland has been measured and trail data prepared, reading in both directions. The Council has directed the Guidebook Editor to issue this data in the form of a supplement to the Guide to Paths in the Blue Ridge. The supplement will be sold at a nominal cost and will include changes made in any sections of the Trail subsequent to the issuing of the Guidebook. Members who wish to make use of the Maryland data prior to the appearance of the supplement may borrow a typed copy from the Secretary. The Trail across Maryland is 38.74 miles long; the section mileages (reading from north to south) are given below:


Trail Mileage
Pen Mar to Raven Rock Hollow 5.45
- - Offset in Raven Rock Hollow .04
Raven Rock Hollow to Smithsburg-Wolfsville highway 3.70
- - Offset on Smithsburg-Wolfsville highway .14
Smithsburg-Wolfsville highway to Myersville-Smoketown road 8.25
Myersville-Smoketown road to Turners Gap 5.15
Turners Gap to Crampton Gap 6.70
Crampton Gap to Weverton 6.35
Weverton to foot of Chimney Rock Harpers Ferry, W. Va. 2.96
TOTAL 38.74

Blazes. - A perplexing problem which is now becoming very apparent in our trail construction has its origin in the rapidity with which the tree growth covers over the painted blazes. This growth, in the form of a swelling on each side of the blaze, obscures the painted surface. There has been a tendency to cut away all the new growth - a procedure which results in a wide, disfiguring blaze. In some instances the new, uncut growth, as well as the original blaze, has been painted. Both these practices result in disfiguring blazes and cannot be permitted. Overseers are particularly warned against permitting inexperienced trail workers to do blazing.


The problem of the overgrown blaze is not easy of solution. The general instruction is, however, not to cut new growth in such a way that with the previously painted surface the new blaze (painted) is more than 2 inches in width. The standard blaze is 8 inches by 2 inches; it may be reduced to 1-1/2 inches by tree growth before widening is necessary. In many cases of extremely rapid ingrowth the old blaze can be abandoned and a new one cut. Trail workers, however, must exercise considerable judgment in meeting this problem and must avoid unnecessarily frequent and, more particularly, disfiguringly wide blazes.


Clearing. - The Club's program was originally premised on a suspension of activities during the summer months. Increasing membership and familiarity with the Blue Ridge region have resulted in a marked increase of summer hiking. If the present tendency continues we may soon see proportionately the same summer use of our trails as of those in the White Mountains. Anticipating this development, the Supervisor of Trails will devote particular effort to keeping the trails well cleared of the annual growth which so impedes summer travel but disappears in the fall. Consequently, each overseer will be asked to make a special trip in June and July to clear out his section. Mowing will be required in many places. For this purpose special tools, such as bush scythes and weeders, have been added to the Club's equipment.


Because the amateur nature of the Club's trail-cutting activities, little labor has been possible on the footway. Stubs left in the footway constitute a real menace. Several overseers have appreciated this defect and are removing the stumps. After summer clearing, work on the footway is the next logical step in trail development. The Club has acquired four Maine Forestry Axes, a combined ax and mattock, for use in cutting out these stubs.


Trail overseers must repeatedly caution pruning-shear workers to cut as close to the ground as possible. High stubs not only offer danger to the walker, but provide opportunity for prolific sprouting.


Persons wishing to obtain for use on the Trail the Club's Clearing equipment should get in touch with Charles W. Williams, 9129 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md. (Telephone, Silver Spring 325), several days before the week-end for which equipment is needed.


Marking mileage. - An improvement in the trail-marking system is the placing, parallel to the Trail, of numerals to indicate the mileage from the northern terminus of each section, as described in the Guidebook. This will enable the hiker to check his pace and, if desired, determine his location with respect to the Trail data. The point to bear in mind is that the zero marker is at the northern terminus of each section except in Pennsylvania, where the zero marker is at the southern terminus.


Milestones. - Wherever mile numerals have been placed on the sections, overseers are to take steps to make the milestones more prominent by painting the numerals on rocks or on a large blaze parallel to the Trail.


APPALACHIAN TRAIL NOTES1932 Trail Conference Postponed

The Board of Managers of the Appalachian Trail Conference voted at the 1931 Conference to hold the next official gathering at the Long Trail Lodge of the Green Mountain Club, near Rutland, Vt. However, with the near completion of the Trail and the difficulty of procuring the desired widespread representation each year at the Conferences, it has become apparent that a biennial meeting would be more suitable. This year seems a particularly appropriate one in which to make the change. The Board of Managers has therefore postponed the next Conference until August, 1933. The Green Mountain Club has renewed its invitation for that time. The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club are planning a bus trip to the Conference. It has been suggested that the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club do the same and hold the 1933 camp in the Green Mountains and hike on the Long Trail.


Series of Guidebooks Planned

Plans are maturing to have the entire Appalachian Trail covered by a series of four guidebooks. The New England Trail Conference is preparing a guide to the New England section. The second section would be covered by an expansion of the New York Walk Book, edited by R. H. Torrey and Frank Place, to include the territory from Connecticut to the Susquehana River. The third section is that covered by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Guidebook. The remaining southern link, comprising the Pisgah, Nantahala, and Cherokee National Forest sections and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, would be covered by a fourth book. (The Unaka section will be included in the supplement to the P. A. T. C. Guidebook.) Much of the needed information has already been procured, and a complete series of guides to the entire Appalachian Trail promises to become a reality by the 1933 Conference.


Progress Along the Trail

Much progress is reported along the entire Trail. Noteworthy improvements have been made in southern Virginia. Supervisor John B. Byrne has marked the Nantahala National Forest section. The Trail in Massachusetts and Connecticut is nearing completion. Extensive scouting has been carried on to determine a connection between the Smokies and the Nantahala Mountains, the only section where the exact route is in doubt. George Masa has contributed very effective work in this direction. The only hiatus is the 200-mile link east from Grafton Notch to Katahdin. No progress has been made there. Were it not for Katahdin's distinctiveness and the absence of any other suitable northern terminus, this link might well be abandoned. By the end of the summer of 1932 the entire Trail, with the exception of this Maine link, should be completed.


Improvement in South Mountain Section

A very considerable improvement was made in the southern 16 miles of the South Mountain Trail over the Washington's Birthday holiday through the efforts of Otis Gates, Egbert Walker, and Myron H. Avery. Fifteen miles of trail were painted for the first time, a mile gap between Highway No 16 and Pen Mar was left for future work. Mile numerals, commencing at Pen Mar and going as far north as Caledonia Park, were placed on the Trail. Assistant Forester T. G. Norris of the Michaux Forest, had done excellent work in marking the Trail on each side of Caledonia Park. This extensive region, rich in economic and historic interest, affords a splendid opportunity for private explorations.