In April 1948, the 11-year-old Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia was pretty much a wreck: Volunteer maintainers who hadn't been called to combat couldn't get rationed gasoline to get out there to keep it clear. In April 1948, so, pretty much, was Earl Shaffer, self-dubbed "The Crazy One." He had come home from war in the Pacific where he had lost the dearest friend of his life. He needed to walk it off, and he did with the most primitive of gear. In four months, he walked with the merging spring from Georgia to Maine, bushwhacking to find the route more often than not-becoming the first to report a complete, single-journey trek on this footpath of more than 2,000 miles. More than 7,000 have since followed in his footsteps. These reflections on and from his first of three thru-hikes are often lyrical, full of history and local legend and his own quiet insights on life in the woods in a much different era all around.
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It was spring of 1948, and a young man from Pennsylvania had to work out of his psyche the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II; he took a hike. For four months. On August 5 of that year, Earl Victor Shaffer became the first person to solo-hike uninterrupted the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Springer Mountain in Georgia through 13 other states to Katahdin in the central-Maine wilderness...on more than 2,000 miles of footpath created in the 1920s and '30s by volunteers and maintained by volunteers ever since. Earl Shaffer, a woodsman, naturalist, and poet who still lives close to the Trail, went on to become one of those volunteers as a leader of the Appalachian Trail Conference as it worked to secure federal protection for 'the A.T.,' now a unit of the national park system but still volunteer-managed. Written soon after the first of his two thru-hikes and including photographs from 1948, Walking with Spring chronicles Shaffer's adventures along a path that at the time was showing neglect of the war years and has since been rerouted significantly to its permanent locations. His simply stated story has served as an inspiration for more than 3,000 men and women who have since followed in his footsteps...and many thousands more who have tried. Or wanted to. (5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 160 pages, b&w photos)
Earl V. Shaffer (1919-2002) was the first person to report a single-season hike of the whole Appalachian Trail, in 1948, walking of the war. He hiked it again in 1965 and 1998. He lived a modest life in central Pennsylvania, often writing poetry.
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