History Of The Kanawha Trail Club

By King Cole

The Kanawha Trail Club was originally sponsored by the Charleston Daily Mail in July 1942. To start it, Mr. Sol Padlibsky, reporter for the paper, collaborated with Mr. M. H. F. Kinsey, Boy Scout Executive, who retired later after many successful years work in the Kanawha Valley. Mr. Kinsy was a real hiker who sponsored a group of boys for long arduous Saturday all-day trips in every direction from Charleston. His influence on some of our young male contemporaries is still evident.

The first hikes were informal gatherings of several groups of strangers. Mud, heat, briers, and lack of plan made some trips too long and difficult and others too easy. During the winter they were almost abandoned. In the spring of 1943, when the myriad of flowers in the neighborhood came into their own, the innate charm of Kanawha County hills commenced to make itself felt, and the groups began to knit themselves into the friendly club they are now.

Not without a great deal of commotion, the first trip to Babcock State Park was made over the Decoration Day weekend. Where lack of plan appeared, sheer luck and some very helpful friends, like Mrs. Henry Lewis, pulled us through. There were thirty-three that first time: we all had a lot to eat, and a grand time. Since that trip, we have been back to Babcock several times with considerable satisfaction to ourselves and to the Management. We have evolved methods of planning reservations, transportation, and commissary which have proven adequate, and which we hope may employ in the other state parks, or elsewhere, if the occasion arises, now that transportation problems have ceased.

Since then overnight excursions have been made to Mrs. Scherr's farm beyond Sissonville, and to Charlie Carlson's farm up in Greenbrier County, with the same pleasure and satisfaction.

As for the main purpose, the hikes have been more and more carefully planned, as succeeding hikemasters contributed their stints, and now our repertory is quite diversified. The landmarks have emerged in the form of special hikes like the berry picking in July, closely followed by the berry-pie eating the next weekend; the trilliums, the mistletoe, the holly; the paw paws, the persimmons; the autumn foliage; and the Easter hike up Little Creek. The regular hikes have been directed at several well-liked objectives, like the Skyline, Rocky Knob (Tyler Mountain area), Balance Rock, Buzzard’s Rocks, Bunker Hill, Watts Hill (West Side), Panther Rocks, and the new airport. During the summer the Sunday afternoon hikes are replaced by Wednesday evening hikes - oh, how we could use daylight-saving time for those Sunday mornings have always been semi-official, but when Miriam Sanborn came along, we got into the habit of disregarding some of the adverse weather and cooking out in a more orderly style. They are usually synchronized with the afternoon hikes in such a way that one can go on both hikes if they want so long a trip. The Saturday hikes have always been exploratory, at first to verify the current trail conditions, but later to discover new routes. There are a couple of dozen prospects now in line for exploration, several of which we hope will be useful, and which we hope will permit us to add further variety to our schedule.

In 1945, it was decided to organize the club and to change its name to Kanawha Trail Club. Since that time we have enjoyed the cooperation of both newspapers, the Charleston Daily Mail and the Charleston Gazette. An unsuccessful attempt was made to form an association with the Camera Club and the Archery Club for the purpose of leasing certain buildings in Kanawha State Forrest, but the State Conservation Commission found they could do nothing and the project fell through.

At the time this organization, one of our aims was to sponsor the Mountaineer Trail, as an extension of the Appalachian Trail through West Virginia. Plans and profiles of the proposed route from Cacapon to Babcock have been prepared and referred to the State Conservation Commission. At this time, they have taken no action.

Late in 1946, we started to buy a lot on Coal River, which we could develop and use as a base for swimming and hiking. We have lately taken on a lot in Lincoln Park, and through loans from the members, we hope to have a cabin shortly. Bridge playing, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, dances, formal dinners have all become a part of our program, and we hope that the new cabin will house some of these activities and permit us to expand our cookouts, overnights and excursions.

This handbook represents the end of our youth and the dawn of maturity. By good luck we have come this far, a grand group of congenial friends, who have enjoyed many pleasant occasions together. But now we must either progress or stagnate, and this book describes somewhat the plans we have made toward our future progress. Not all of us like to hike, or play bridge, or cook out, but we have gathered together a group of kindred spirits, whose association, with each other has developed into friendships not often found elsewhere. There seems to be a distinct need for expanding our activities, wherever we can, to enhance those friendships we have enjoyed so well.

Program 1948; Kanawha Trail Club; Charleston, WV (Original Copy)
Edited by Charles Carlson
Associate Editors: Miss Gertrude Slutsky and Mrs. Barbara Randall
First Edition: December 29, 1947
Reprinted: June 2002

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Kanawha Trail Club

First Steps: 1942 - 1947

A hiking club to bring together newcomers to the Kanawha Valley was the inspiration of the Charleston Daily Mail columnist Sol Padlibsky. The year was 1942 and war production jobs were drawing many out-of-staters to companies such as Union Carbide. The title of Padlibsky's column was "Along Reality Row," in which the only hikes mentioned were hikes in rent or mortgages; however, he also penned "feeler stories" promoting a hiking club. By collaborating with Boy Scout Executive M. H. Kinsey, he was able to move his idea into a reality.

That reality appeared in the Sunday paper of July 19, 1942, with the banner headline "DAILY MAIL TO SPONSOR HIKING CLUB FOR CHARLESTON: First Trip Set for Next Sunday." The article’s first lines read, Kanawha Countians soon will heed the alluring call of rustic hillsides, hollows, creeks and scores of generally unfamiliar nearby scenic spots..."

The readers were informed that Kinsey would be the route advisor with Scout Trail Blazers volunteering as guides. To have become a Trail Blazer, a scout had to have accumulated 1000 miles of hiking. No dues or fees-only the completion of a membership form published in the paper - were required.

That first hike on Sunday, July 26, 1942, was led by Bill Rippetoe, an alumnus of the Scout Trail Blazers. A group of 35 hikers met at the foot of the "wooded picturesque Mission Hollow Trail," an area just beyond were Watt Powell Baseball Park used to be in Kanawha City.

Padlibsky walked a brief 100 yards from his cameraman's car to wish these pioneer hikers well. For this effort he was granted an Honorary Membership. Afterwards Padlibsky continued to boost in print the organization but always boasted that he never went on a hike in his life.

During the winter of 1942 - 1943, the hikes were almost abandoned; however, spring brought renewed interest. In 1944 the Daily Mail Hiking Club was chartered as a club with 54 original members.

By 1945 the club's organization had become stabilized and a new name was adopted: The Kanawha Trail Club. During the next two years membership grew and the club's activities expanded. A constitution and bylaws were written, accepted, and signed by all charter members. Club officers were elected: president, King Cole; vice president, Charlie Carlson; and secretary-treasurer, Helen Bartlett.

The next big goal of the club was to build a lodge. In order to accomplish this goal, a charter that empowered the club to conduct business as a corporation was needed. Such a charter was obtained from the Secretary of State on August 29, 1947. However, the new charter brought about a change in the bylaws. New members elected a Board of Directors and the Board, in turn, elected officers.

The newly elected Board included president, James Randall; vice president, Hiram Edwards; secretary, Angela Chase; treasurer, Alice Williams, and remaining members Alex Reid, Charlie Carlson, and King Cole. (According to other KTC reports Charlie Carlson and Alex Reid respectively served as presidents between King Cole and James Randall.)

The club's first handbook, Program 1948, was published on December 29, 1947. In addition to including the charter and bylaws, the club's purpose was presented:

To bring in mutual cooperation persons interested in hiking. To develop an appreciation of the natural beauties of the out-of-doors, to foster the preservation and extension of them and to furnish such other recreation as may seem desirable.

This handbook not only reflected on the events of 1947, but also included a full hiking and social schedule for the entire year to follow, bus schedules, pictures of club activities, and a 61 membership directory. Various topical reports addressed hiking expectations, and appropriate clothing food, and equipment. Articles written by members addressed issues such as geology, botany, spelunking, and conversation.

The activities that complimented hiking were dances, bridge parties, pie-eating festivals, picnics, holiday gatherings and a formal spring dinner. Also during the summer there would be an occasional cookout preceding the Wednesday evening hike when a full moon was expected.

The major excursions included a Memorial Day weekend at Babcock State Park and an October weekend at Watoga State Park. The 1948 excursions included a return to Watoga over Memorial Day weekend to compare the fall and spring foliage and an October weekend at Charlie Carlson's farm in Greenbrier County. New in 1948 was a tent outing on July 4th weekend at the KTC's Middle Lick Creek camp, where today's lodge stands.

The year of 1947 was a year of planning and organization that established a firm foundation for the Kanawha Trail Club. Sixty years have been built on this foundation. Without it, the first five years also might have been the final ones. An inspiration became an idea. An idea became a reality. The reality has continued as club members have stepped up to meet required responsibilities. In the 1948 handbook, ex-president Alex Reid commented that the trail club had been very fortunate that, "When the occasion arose, its members did more than their share."

Those first five years were crucial to the KTC organization. However, there would be no 60 year reunion were it not for members who have been willing to open and maintain trails, and to lead hikes. Therefore, deep appreciation should be expressed to all the members who, by serving in these capacities, are paying tribute to the founding hiking committee of 1947:

Chairman King COle
Scout Larry Bennett
Hikemaster Bob Carver
Leaders Charlie Carlson
Alex Reid
Sam Ballard
Joe Hazel
Alice Williams
Gertrude Slutsky
Bill Miller
James Randall

On July 19, 2002, we celebrated our Reunion Banquet with the invitation that was extended exactly sixty years ago in the Charleston Daily Mail to, "Come hike with us." It has been my pleasure to research those First Steps, and I look forward to continuing along the trail with the KTC.

Carl McLaughlin, Jr.
60th Reunion Planning Committee
June 2002

We believe the lodge was completed 1950-51, although we do not have the data to confirm the actual date.

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