The Shenandoah National Park Association (SNPA) considered the possibility of updating the Guide to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, by Henry Heatwole beginning in 1999, the time of the last printing when it was known that significant changes would have to be made if the guide were to remain accurate and up-to-date. Henry did his original field work in the mid 1970s and while changes were made with each edition and reprinting, the guide had never been subjected to a full field review since the original edition. In the meantime the gypsy moth infestation swept through, followed by the hemlock woolly adelgid. These caused significant changes in a number of areas of the park, particularly in the moist shaded hemlock groves Henry loved so well and described so vividly. Similarly, a series of fires, most recently in 2000, left their marks and changed the nature of the forest in their path. Mother Nature provided several major floods and windstorms that had both permanent and shorter term impacts. Time also resulted in growth of the park's flora and decay of the remaining artifacts of the former residents. Lastly, sections of trails have been relocated for various reasons.
In trying to evaluate the situation, decide how to approach the task, and help ascertain if a comprehensive guide were warranted, the Association conducted a workshop/retreat that included Park Service staff, Association board members, and most importantly a group of active park users. The consensus, after a day's discussion, was that the Heatwole guide be updated, an attempt be made to follow Henry's general format, and that the text remain true to his style of writing, reflecting his vast experience in the park and his love of the park experience. As a result, the Association, in cooperation with the National Park Service, decided to proceed with an update of the Heatwole guide. A determining factor in proceeding was that Tony Heatwole agreed to make the electronic version of the guide that he had prepared for the web, available to this effort.
In the spring of 2005 an informal committee began field work. A team of SNPA board members - Larry Bradford, Dixon Freeland, Bob Johnson and I - spent three days driving/reviewing the 105 miles of Skyline Drive with the Heatwole text in hand. Next, it was clear that the 110 hikes with more than 430 miles of trails would present a significant challenge. As a first step, the cooperation of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) was sought. Tom Johnson, then PATC President, agreed to help and designated the PATC Trail Patrol chaired by Holly Wheeler as the group we should work with. At a meeting of the Trail Patrol, a number of members volunteered to do field reviews. Most significantly, Joe Gareri, the Trail Patrol's web-site manager offered to put up on the Trail Patrol website, a list of the hikes, a way of indicating hike reviews completed, and a link to an electronic version of the Heatwole Guide. Thus, the project became a manageable process.
While PATC made the organization of the hike field reviews manageable, SNPA board member Pete Syme did yeoman's work. Pete has extensive experience hiking and camping in the park. Once the project began, he started the hikes in the southern section and kept at it. He completed all 33 hikes, over 140 miles, in the southern section. He also did many hikes in the central section and northern sections. It is only through Pete's efforts that we were able to complete a first draft on schedule. Additionally, Pete contributed updated text for a number of sections of the guide.
I also want to acknowledge with sincere appreciation others who joined Pete and me by contributing to the hike reviews: David Dellefield; Holly Wheeler and Joe Gareri; Janet Hogenauer; Brian, Colleen, Conor, and Katie Heanue; Bill King; Dean, Patty, Kevin, and Maura Munson; David Tuttle; Nathan Caldwell; Ahmed Kochaji; Rob Warren; and Saleena DeVore.
A major challenge to the update was the maps illustrating the Drive and the hikes. Henry did the originals by hand. It is fortunate that Dan Hurlbert, Shenandoah National Park GIS specialist, volunteered to redo Heatwole's original maps by superimposing them on the digital base maps of the park. He also filled in gaps, providing maps not in the original guide, so that all hikes now have corresponding maps. Thus, with new digital maps, in the future the updating process will be much easier. A new simplified indexing system linking maps and hikes was also developed.
While the guide has many features, the hike section is clearly a major element and one that many find most useful. By identifying, describing, and mapping 110 hikes Henry revealed for thousands the incredible opportunity to experience the major features of the park as well as the treasures found in remote rarely visited areas. As mentioned, all the hikes were field reviewed. Only a few hikes were deleted and none added. The Park Service hiking staff was very helpful in reviewing all the revised hike descriptions and in devising the new scheme for numbering hikes and maps. In particular the contributions of Steve Bair, Shawn Green, and Melissa Rubacille, joined by Dan Hurlbert are deeply appreciated.
This project would not have been possible without the support of the Board of the SNPA, the careful oversight of Executive Director Greta Miller, and timely input of Joanne Amberson, a Shenandoah National Park volunteer, who has developed a number of excellent publications about the park, and was extremely helpful in providing a primer on the National Park Service editorial style. I also want to thank my wife Anne who has supported, reviewed and edited my work on this project.
Following development of a revised texts and maps a decision was made that it would not be possible to advance a new published text at this time. After this decision, Tony Heatwole and I agreed to work together make the updated text and maps available to the public. Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Martha Bogle made the new maps available and the Shenandoah Park Association cooperated to make this new version possible. To complete the story Tony solicited the help, skills, and experience of Larry W. Brown, a web site developer and photographer. Larry's web site, features photographs of the park and most recently reflecting an intense interest in black bears. He has for some time maintained a link on his web site to Tony's site with the earlier web version of the guide. Larry has provided significant help in enhancing the electronic presentation of the guide. Many of his outstanding photographs as well as those solicited from others combine with the text and maps to bring the guide up to date, and to add a visual dimension that could not be provided at today's print costs.
Kevin Heanue, Editor