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Earl Shaffer and the Appalachian Trail, July 10-October 11, 2009

Blazing the Appalachian Trail

There’s a long footpath along the crest
Of the Appalachian Chain,
On the cloud-high hills so richly blest
With sun and wind and rain.
-Earl Shaffer

Earl Shaffer was the first person to walk the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in one continuous hike. Shaffer had no expert advice, no previous footsteps to follow, or even guidebooks to help him. At the time, experts believed that a hike of the entire Trail was impossible. Shaffer started his walk in April 1948 at Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia, and completed the Trail four months later at Maine’s Mount Katahdin. Shaffer kept a diary, along with photographs taken along the way, to prove to skeptics that he had really accomplished what he claimed.

Earl Shaffer's Appalachian Trail Diary

Appalachian Trail diary. Earl V. Shaffer (1918–2002), reputedly the first individual to walk the trail from end to end in one continuous hike, wrote almost daily entries in this notebook on his hike from Georgia to Maine in 1948. Its battered condition shows the wear and tear of being carried and used for 124 days in extreme temperatures and often rainy weather.

Earl Shaffer's Hiking boots.

Hiking boots. Earl Shaffer wore these boots for the entire 2,000 miles of his first hike of the Appalachian Trail. They were resoled twice along the way. In his book, Walking with Spring, Shaffer describes his foot-toughening technique after developing blisters in the early part of the hike: “Since the weather was too cold and footing too rocky to allow walking barefoot, the regular solution, the next best thing was to put sand in my boots and wear no socks until my feet toughened . . . the Indian ways are usually best in the woods.”

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