The Appalachian Trail

The Postmark Adventures of Kelvin Kindahl, Part 3

March 21 - Into Kentucky again, and I've had a few surprises. Fourmile, Ky., was right at the edge of a page of the Virginia atlas, and I wasn't quite sure if I'd figure out where the center of the town was. Just as I thought I was almost there, on the main highway I saw a big, new building on the left that was identified as a U.S. Post Office.

Only when I got to the door did it actually say Fourmile, Ky., in very small letters. It was after 8 a.m. and the hours posted said it opened at 7:30 a.m. However, the door was still locked. I hadn't seen any other cars in the parking lot, and I was starting to wonder if this building wasn't yet open for business, as it was so new-looking.

I walked around to the back, saw an employee's car and found the side door open. The opening clerk had gotten sidetracked after coming in and had forgotten to unlock the front door. This was the last modern, standard USPS building I would see in Kentucky that day.

March 22 - My turnoff to Pathfork, Ky., seven miles down a dead-end road, was at Blackmont. Blackmont is not listed as a PO, but the town looked big enough for a third-class office. Two blocks down the road to Pathfork, I spotted "U.S.P.O. Hulen, Ky." on the left.

This was a complete surprise. If I had a list of POs by county, I would have wondered where Hulen was and why I couldn't find it.

By this time, I had begun asking at each office whether the next few towns still had post offices. This way I found out about Dayhoit, which was misspelled as Wilhoit in my map. I never would have seen if from the highway if I hadn't been given directions before I got there.

All the Kentucky towns I've been to today are coal mining towns. Towns like Mary Alice (DPO), Tejay (no PO as of 1988) and Keith (DPO) were clearly named for their mines.


March 23 - Stopped at Flag Pond, Tenn. I had already passed it twice on Friday afternoon, going to and from the first meeting place with Ann that didn't work. A road we believed was drivable wasn't. She had to hike three miles further and we met successfully at the next gap. Also stopped at Erwin and Union, completing Union County.

March 24 - Elizabethtown is a large town, a county seat. Milligan College there is an independent PO, not a station or branch like most college POs. The office sits just outside the main entrance to the college, and appears to serve the campus and the surrounding community.

At Milligan College, I learned the locations of Johnson City's two stations, Carroll Reese and Estes Kefauver. Both were listed in the phone book with no address, and their names offered no clue about their location. I also found the location of Mountain Home, Tenn., which is an independent PO located at the Johnson City Veterans Administration Medical Center.

March 25 - Outside Asheville, N.C., is the town of Black Mountain, and nearby is Montreat. It was founded 100 years ago as a Presbyterian retreat town and still remains almost entirely connected to the Presbyterian church, as does Montreat College. Many of the town's residents are retired missionaries. There is only one road into town, and everything else branches off that dead-end road.

March 27 - This day, unexpectedly, I visited post offices in the home towns of three PMCC members. Spruce Pine, N.C., is the home of Rodger and Nancy Hinshaw and Morganton is home to Walter Cooper.

Near Spruce Pine is Penland, N.C., where the PO is in an old building right next to the railroad tracks. The postmaster was talkative and interesting. The PO was established in 1879, several miles away, but moved to this building in 1903, after the railroad was built. The other half of the building used to be a store, but it was long gone. The postmaster told me the building is due to be replaced by a more modern one, but she hopes it won't happen soon.

The main post office in Morganton is the largest store in a small shopping plaza outside of downtown. It looks distinctly like an ex-supermarket. The downtown contract station was very accessible from there, about half a block from the former main office.

Cancels from the Appalachian trail:

Dayhoit, KY
Elizabethton, TN
Flag Pond, TN
Fourmile, KY
Johnson City, TN
Montreat, NC
Morganton, NC
Mountain Home, TN
Penland, NC
Spruce Pines, NC