Appalachian Trail Quilt

Emma Powell, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

I had briefly stumbled across mention of a quilt made to commemorate the Appalachian Trail by one of its frequent hikers, Mary Sands or more affectionately known as “Mama Boots.” I hoped to see it when my family visited the Harpers Ferry Appalachian Trail Headquarters this past weekend. When I walked into the tiny museum, store, and office located in the bottom of a very old building it was nowhere in sight.

I panicked a bit and wondered if I was in the right place. They were very busy and I was finally able to ask an employee where it was. He had never heard of it! He offered to ask another employee, who looked to be a relic of the place – overgrown white beard and all. He knew just where it was. Because the space is so tiny, there is limited wall space. He explained that where it had hung before was in front of a window and condensation formed around it. Justifiably concerned it would cause mildew and damage to the quilt, he stored it away in a box in their storage room.

Full image of Mary Sands’ Appalachian Trail Quilt.

Photograph by Emma Jane Powell

I have been able to gather spotty information about this quilt and its maker. There was no label on the back, so I am not even really sure how old it is. It does appear to be a bit dated based on the colors and patterns in the fabrics. I have learned Mary Sands was an avid trail hiker and took many a Girl Scout troop on the trail. Now over 80 years old, she has one through hike under her belt, and much of the trail subsequent times. She has written Appalachian Trial in Bits and Pieces about her experiences on the trail.

Honestly, my pictures do not do this quilt justice. I was pleased and impressed with how well-made this quilt is. If Mary’s quilting is any indication of her trail hiking abilities, I wouldn’t be able to keep up! I didn’t spend as much time with this quilt as I wanted to as they were very busy and they took time to pull it off the shelf and hold it up for me while I photographed it. If time permitted, I would have taken up-close photos of all the squares. Her original quilt squares represent different parts of the trail. If you are familiar with the Trails’ highlights, you might be able to recognize what some of the squares represent.

This is a great article with more information about Mary Sands the person, not the quilt. What about you? Have you ever hiked all or part of the Appalachian Trail? Do you recognize parts of Mary’s quilt from the trail?

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