The Appalachian Trail

The Postmark Adventures of Kelvin Kindahl, Part 1

March 12 - The only interesting office today was Lowland, TN. As I sped along the highway, getting close (according to the map) to the turnoff to the town of Lowland, there was an enormous factory complex on my right. After passing a couple of entrances to it, I noticed a tiny sign at one entrance that said "U.S. Post Office, Lowland, TN 37778."

Sure enough, the Lowland post office is in one of the factory buildings, across from what appeared to be a company-run hospital. Makes you wonder about the types of chemicals and processes at this BASF and Lensing plant that requires a hospital right on the grounds.

I entered the PO lobby at 3:25 p.m., but the window had closed at 3 p.m. The postmaster heard me and asked what I wanted. When I told her I just wanted postmarks and didn't mind tomorrow's date if she had already changed it, she opened the window and gave me some fine postmarks.

March 13 - Cumberland Gap, TN, is a historic town right on the Virginia state line. Cumberland Gap and Harrogate are right at the eastern side of the Cumberland Gap; Middlesboro, KY, is on the western side. From Middlesboro, I followed a small highway west along the Kentucky-Tennessee line. This took me into the coal mining country of Appalachia.

The first post office on this road was Pruden, TN, which is right at the state line. There was no sign for Pruden, but I spotted a street sign for Pruden Road. I turned onto Pruden Road, a narrow gravel path. It had about a dozen small houses along it before dead-ending. The post office was the third to the last building in town.

It was the first post office I'd seen on my trip that was unquestionably fourth class. There are few tiny offices like this left, and it surely won't survive its postmaster's retirement. This is the kind of place that Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia used to have so many of. Towns like this give these states such a huge number of discontinued post offices.

Farther down the road, I found the unmarked turnoff to Frakes, KY, another tiny town. On the way back, I stopped and waited for a small herd of cattle to be guided up the road, across a bridge and off toward the barn.

The next two towns, Clairfield and Eagan, TN, were bigger than Pruden. A few miles down the road was Jellico, TN, on the Kentucky line. Driving down the main street, I spotted a building that looked like a Depression-era post office, but its stone at the top said something unusual. It read "U.S. Post Office and Mine Rescue Station." There's something you don't see often.

From Jellico, I headed back into Kentucky, down another unmarked, unpaved road, which was the shortest way to Nevisdale. There I found another obviously fourth class office, inside a store, pool hall and restaurant. The clerk was amazed that someone from Massachusetts would be able to find the way to Nevisdale, especially over the back road.

Leaving there, I took the main road out, which still wasn't very big, which took me to Williamsburg and its Cumberland College contract station.

This day had been one of my most enjoyable, with visits to some quality post offices. And with towns like Pruden, I felt like I was really getting into a part of the country I had never seen up close before. Truly rural and remote.

Cancels from the Appalachian trail:

Cumberland Gap, TN
Eagan, TN
Frakes, KY
Jellico, TN
Lowland, TN
Nevisdale, KY
Pruden, TN
Williamsburg, KY