Allen de Hart
A Mountain Wonder Walks On
Through decades of climbing mountains and navigating swamps, Allen de Hart has logged 57,232 miles of walking, all using a surveyor’s measuring wheel. He has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and had 11 books published, including gargantuan guides to the trails of the Virginias, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
Born in 1926, de Hart grew up near Woolwine, Va., near what is now the Blue Ridge Parkway. He took an interest in hiking, he says, as soon as he was able to walk. “I headed for the woods every time I got out of the house. I guess one ingredient in my life is I have a great interest in exploring.”
As a child, de Hart and a few friends built a trail through some woods to save about three miles on their walk to school.
At 86, de Hart is still walking and still inspiring others to do the same. He’s been a key proponent of North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
In his native Patrick County, Va., de Hart recently donated his 172-acre De Hart Botanical Gardens to nearby Ferrum College. This wooded site includes a rugged 3.2-mile loop trail and a 14-foot waterfall.. “And,” he says, “there are so many wildflowers in there – thousands of trilliums.”
The retired history professor also donated his 91-acre North Carolina botanical garden to Louisburg College, where he spent 52 years. He plans, this year, to work on yet another guide to trails.
“We don’t give up,” he says. “I’ve often said that if there isn’t some kind of a trail and if there isn’t any fishing in heaven, then I’m going to make a pond and build a trail. I think I’d be kind of bored just walking around on golden streets.”