Collins Chew


Virgil Collins Chew passed away on December 19, 2020, finishing his battle with melanoma.

Collins was passionate about hiking and geology.

He was on Appalachian Trail at least once every year from 1945 to 2020, including the section from Mt. Oglethorpe to Springer Mountain in Georgia that was abandoned in 1958. Collins finished his section hike of the entire Appalachian Trail by 1987. He loved hiking all over the United States and internationally. For over a decade, Collins led a Friday Hikers group who speedily traversed trails around the N.C.-Tenn.-Va. area. In 1974, he completed summitting forty of the highest peaks in the Southern Appalachian region as part of the Beyond 6000 challenge sponsored by the Carolina Mountain and Tennessee Eastman clubs. Even greater heights were reached on the summits of the Grand Teton, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Whitney. His travels took him to all fifty states, all Canadian provinces, and most continents, including Antarctica.

Collins had a summer job in a gold mine north of Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1949, which led to a lifelong interest in geology. The second edition of his guide to geology of the Appalachian Trail, Underfoot, was published in 1993, providing background on the development of the rocks beneath the hiker’s feet. For those who have read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, (also made into a movie starring Robert Redford), the first chapter mentions that the author purchased several books, including “a geological history of the Appalachian Trail by the exquisitely named V. Collins Chew….” Collins was the lead editor of the 12th (2005), 13th (2009) and 14th (2013) editions of the Appalachian Trail Guide to Tennessee-North Carolina, which was instilled with many entries about geology. At the 2013 biennial membership meeting at Culhowee, he spoke in separate sessions about the geologic history of the Appalachian Trail and North Carolina Blue Ridge, as he had for many previous such meetings.

Collins was active in the Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club, leading a maintenance team on the Appalachian Trail from 1961 to 2011. He served on the club’s leadership committee and on the Board of Managers for the Appalachian Trail Conference from 1983 to 1989, serving there as chair of the publications committee. He was awarded honorary membership by ATC, its highest recognition. In 2004, the Tennessee Eastman club recognized Collins with our Stan Murray Award for particularly meritorious service over the years.

“Collins was a great guy and a dedicated A.T. enthusiast who did a lot to make the A.T. a better Trail.” says Morgan Sommerville, current Director of Visitor Use Management, and previous Southern Regional Director with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.