Let's continue on the subject of
fencing with a look at some
of the functional-but- picturesque wooden fences, and several types of
stiles to get over them, along the Appalachian Trail.
Some of the fences are in fields that have been abandoned since the land came
under US Forest Service use for the Appalachian Trail but many of the fields are still used
for grazing or crops. I'll have more photo essays in a
few days that show some of the scenic fields and farms along the AT and the
four-legged critters that reside there. For now, let's stick to the structures
Almost all of the scenic wooden fences I photographed were in North Carolina,
Tennessee, and Virginia, although I saw them in other states, too. They just
seemed the most photogenic in the South for some reason.
The peaceful North Carolina fence line above is a little bit south of
22). Because it was on a ridge, it may have been built to mark a
The serene setting below was down the hill from Max Patch
18) and was one of the first wooden fences that caught my eye along
the Trail. It didn't appear that any active grazing was still being done there.
The fence below on
24 was on one of the hilltops near the NC/TN line somewhere between
the Nolichucky River and Iron Mountain Gap. It also appears to be a relic from
earlier farming or grazing activities.
One of my favorite shots from the entire adventure run is this one on a
mountainside with dramatic clouds in the sky behind the old fence row
25, a bit north of Hwy. 19E/Elk Park in Tennessee):
Although no longer used for its original purpose, the fence serves as a great
spot to put an AT blaze!
Since there is an occupied home beyond this fence in Virginia, it probably
serves as a boundary marker between private property and the AT. This is a
beautiful setting with the North Fork of the Holston River and numerous spring
flowers on the left of the Trail and the old abandoned Tilson Mill shown in
Photos 5 and on
Day 34 just north of this location.
I had a pleasant hike through the first working farm that I encountered on
the trek as the AT went right up a dirt road past the fencing below . . .
. . . and between these fences . . .
. . . past some little out-buildings, and through several fields where a farmer was
harvesting a crop, probably spring wheat. The account of my surprised passage
through this farm is on
I've hiked the AT through fields with cows, but not a guy on a tractor! In
fact, that was the only such incident on the whole AT for me. Cool, huh? (Yes, I
was on the Trail. See the white blaze on the pole in the middle of the picture?)
This farm is just north of TN 91.
I went through many fields with grazing cattle and other livestock during my
journey, including this pasture across from the Elk Garden, Virginia trail head
The AT goes right through the field toward Mt. Rogers. The split-rail fencing
keeps the bovines off the road (VA 600).
Although a "stile" is defined as a set of steps used to get over a fence or wall,
any un-gated method used to cross a wooden or wire fence on the Appalachian Trail is
considered a stile. I'll show several kinds of stiles that are common along the
AT, and one very un-common one.
First, there are the kinds of ladders that go up and over the fence.
They are mostly made of wood and often require grabbing onto the upper "rungs"
to raise and lower yourself, similar to climbing a ladder at home. The example
below of a simple ladder-type stile is from
34 in southern Virginia:
The photo below shows a more sturdy ladder-type stile in New
Day 91. Flat steps like these are easier
to negotiate than the "vertical" type above where you step on the narrow edge of
Only a few of the ladder-stiles had hand-holds along the side; those
were a dream to use. This sturdy stile with railings is in a scenic pastoral
setting in Pennsylvania from
The ladder-stiles may or may not have all their rungs or steps, making for
some very LARGE steps up or down in some cases. I don't have any photos of
those, but they are out there begging to be repaired . . .
Another common type of stile doesn't go up and over the fence but is
incorporated into it in a sideways "V" or "U" shape such that the
livestock cannot pass through but people can.
This is another one of my favorite AT shots, taken in the Mt. Rogers
National Recreational Area in Virginia on
32. It shows a V-shaped stile:
Another similar stile in the Humps in TN/NC is shown here on
27. On mountains like this, livestock are used as "bald maintainers"
to keep the grasses and brush in check, ensuring hikers have a view from the
An example of a U-shaped stile is found north of Mt. Rogers
The strangest stile I found was this flat metal grid design in a protected beech
forest between Clingman's Dome and Newfound Gap in the Smokies (NC/TN). It was a
wet day, making for a slippery walk up and down that grid on
15 to cross the skimpy wire fence (the fence is almost
invisible in this photo):
As you can see, there are a number of stile styles and interesting wooden fences
along the AT. This is just a sampling; I hope you have the opportunity to
find some of the others.
Next up: photos of various ways to climb up and down steep rocks and
mountains on the Appalachian Trail, including wooden ladders, metal grab bars,
and different types of steps.