REI Has Asked Me Back

REI CincinnatiI had a great opportunity this past July to share about my hike along the Appalachian Trail at the REI store in Cincinnati. There was a nice turnout to hear my story. The coordinator at the local store said that they had a wait-list of 40 people to attend my workshop. I was humbly bowled over when I heard that news. I asked if I could come back and share again. The coordinator was very interested and asked that I contact him for another date.

REI expert, Owen, and I have been email buddies working on another engagement. We have agreed on a Wednesday in October – October 21st at 6:30 pm. Their website just added the workshops in October. It is a first-come, first-serve sign-up. If you are interested in attending, here is the link to the workshops held in Cincinnati http://www.rei.com/stores/cincinnati.html. There are 20 spots left in my workshop as of this morning.

Here is the information they posted:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015            6:30 – 8:00 PM EDT               Hiking the AT with Dave Rough

Join us for an evening with local Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Dave Rough. Take a virtual walk from Georgia to
Maine highlighting some of the trail’s sights, sounds, joys, and trials and including some tips on gear, planning, and preparation. Please bring a friend and all your questions about the AT.

HikeItForward-Final-Medium
I would love for all of you to attend the workshop at REI. I am always thrilled to talk about my adventure and the incredible faithfulness of God during the hike. The smell of the forest seems to have lodged in my lungs, the songs of the birds echo in my ears, the sights of the trail still fill my dreams, and the call of the woods continues to tug on my heart. Talking about the AT opens up a therapeutic window that allows my inner memories to be shared.   My paraphrase on an old saying: “You can take the hiker out of the woods but you can’t take the woods out of the hiker.”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hiking, Maine, REI, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Flower for My Mom

Thistle 2During a hike this past weekend I had an experience that took me back over fifty years in a blink of an eye. I was hiking out from underneath the canopy of trees into a beautiful meadow on a bright sunny morning. On the background of prairie grass and the light greens of the underbrush stood a single thistle in its perfect plume of majestic blue.

In one short breath, I was eight years old walking down a trail close to the junior high school just down the block from my home in West Virginia. It was the first thistle I ever remember seeing. I literally jumped with amazement when I saw it – it was the most beautiful flower in the entire state. I knew immediately that my mom should have this gorgeous blue gem. She owned this crystal vase with rose etchings on the side that she kept for special bouquets. It always sat in the center of the table when the home was blessed with flowers.

When I first saw the thistle, I carefully looked around to be sure that no one had planted it. I had recently learned my lesson when I showed up with a handful of tulips for my mom…. from the neighbor’s house. That was not a happy day. I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was not allowed to pick flowers that belonged to someone else, no matter how pretty they were. So I checked very carefully before I determined that this flower must have grown here by mistake or it was left over from a house that used to be there a hundred years ago.

Thistle 1So I went over to pick my prize and quickly learned why no one had picked that flower before. It was somehow related to the porcupine. The tulips just pulled right out of the ground but this beauty had roots twenty feet deep and the stem has made of elastic filled with sharp, little needles. I struggled with the thistle for fifteen minutes before I finally tamed the shrew. My fingers were cut and bleeding, the thistle was bent a little to the left, but I proudly walked home with a true sacrifice for my mom. My mother received it with such gratitude and appreciation. It indeed found its place in glorious crystal around the family table. I can only imagine the laughter exchanged between mom and dad once their little lad went to bed.

Today, the thistle was safe. My camera lens captured the wildflower, my fingers avoided the need for a band-aid, the meadow was left intact, and I smiled at the memory.

Categories: Hiking, Trail, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Leave a comment

Two Great Hikes

I had two great hikes this past weekend.

IMG_0381Saturday morning in Springboro was gorgeous and a perfect day for a hike. The temperatures were moderate and the sky was clear. My wife, Cathy, and I decided to head toward Possum Creek MetroPark and a five and a half mile hike in the woods. Not only did we find a beautiful day but the trail was in perfect condition. The early morning coolness provided comfortable walking weather and the easy contour of the path made for an enjoyable time of exploration. Possum Creek holds the memories of Argonne Forest Park, founded in 1930 by Null Hodapp, a WWI veteran and successful judge in the community. Argonne Park appears to have been a hopping place with a swimming hole and diving platform, baseball diamond, shooting range, dance hall, pony and horse tracks, and a figure-eight auto race track. A hike through the MetroPark leads to various spots of historical reflection: a portion of the dance floor, a section of the foot bridge, and my favorite, remains of an old street car used as an apartment out in the woods.

IMG_0390IMG_0391Cathy and I particularly enjoyed the prairie section of the trail. The Jean V Woodhull Prairie, named for a long-time nature enthusiast of the area, was such an interesting place filled with tall grasses and beautiful prairie flowers. Jean Woodhull, who recently died at age 94 this past January, was said to have had an immense joy of life, a lively sense of humor and an insatiable curiosity about all around her. The prairie honoring her legacy reflected the variety of a beautiful meadow.

IMG_0331The second hike was a jungle adventure scouting out flamingo, gorilla, komodo dragons, and giraffe. We had the opportunity to fly to Kenya…. okay, we drove to the Cincinnati Zoo, but it seemed like Africa with the incredible animals from around the world. Cathy and I captured our four grandchildren that live in the area and whisked them off to the wilds of southern Ohio.

I would estimate that we hiked 23.5 miles around the paths of the zoological park, traveling through the hot desert sun, and pushing rickshaws in and out of the crowded streets packed with homo sapiens. Yes, the four hour adventure with four children (7, 5, and 4 year old twins) made the journey seem bigger than life itself. It was indeed lots of fun, but I was a little tired (actually a lot tired) when we dropped the magnificent four back at their homestead. My afternoon nap was more than welcomed.

Categories: Cathy, Hiking, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Zoo | Leave a comment

How Many Hikers Made It in 2014??

HikeItForward-Final-MediumAs of mid-March, 2015, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) provided statistics for the thru-hiking class of 2014. The ATC classifies a successful thru-hike into one of four categories. First, the Northbound Thru-hike from Georgia to Maine (NOBO for short). The second classification is for those who begin in Maine and finish in Georgia (SOBO). The third designation reflects an alternative thru-hike, typically referred to as a Flip Flop (for example, NOBO part of the way, then travel to Maine, climb Katahdin, and then finish going SOBO). The fourth slot is reserved for those hikers who have completed the trail by sections over several years.

ATmapThe number of NOBO thru-hikers leaving Springer Mountain, Georgia, this year was estimated at 2,500. It is an estimate because there is no official sign-in location to begin the trail. Amicalola Falls State Park is an 829-acre Georgia state park and serves as one gateway into the Appalachian Trail. It provides an 8.5 miles approach trail ending at Springer Mountain. Some hikers don’t complete this strenuous approach trail and fold up their tent before they reach the actual starting line.  Amicalola Falls has a nice lodge and an “unofficial” register for the trail. The true southern terminus of the AT is found on Springer Mountain which contains another “unofficial” sign-in register at the rock which houses the terminus plaque. I did not travel the approach trail, rather I got a ride to a parking lot one mile from Springer. My name is under the rock but not in the lodge at Amicalola.

The first good accounting of thru-hikers is obtained at Harpers Ferry, WV, the headquarters for the ATC. Just about every thru-hiker stops at the headquarters because they take your picture and include your mug shot in a notebook as an historical record of that year’s participants. In 2014, 1,267 NOBO hikers reported to the ATC. I was number 924.

The final stop for the 2014 census is at Mount Katahdin itself. The ranger station at Baxter State Park registers hikers before they make their climb to the brown sign. Typically, half of the hikers that report to Harpers Ferry are unable to complete the journey. In 2014, there were 653 brave souls that scrawled their names in the record book. I was number 618 at Katahdin.

SOBO numbers (the chosen course of the very few) are much smaller. There were 242 hikers that started at Katahdin; 168 SOBO pilgrims made it to Harpers Ferry and only 76 SOBO thru-hikers arrived at Springer Mountain.

The number of thru-hikers that declared a flip-flop at Harpers Ferry was 122 and only 70 individuals reported a successful completion of the journey. In addition, there were 129 hikers that reported the successful completion of their thru-hikes by sections1178.

If I have figured correctly, about 2,742 thru-hikers began their trek this year; 1,435 made it to Harpers Ferry (53.33% of those who began); and 799 reached their terminus of completion (29% of those who began the trek). An additional 129 hikers victoriously completed the last section of their multiple year journey.

My heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2014! May each of us wear the honor wisely, represent the trail with dignity, and recognize the Creator of it all.

AT Map found at http://www.appalachiantrail.org/about-the-trail

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, West Virginia | 2 Comments

The Bionic Hiker

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI love stories like the one that surrounds Niki Rellon. I read three powerful articles about Niki (see below) and this post is a summary of these writings. Niki is a current 2015 thru-hiker, on the trail at this moment. Her trail name is “Bionic Woman” for a good reason.

Niki is forty years old and was a world-class athlete: kickboxer, swimmer, snowboarder, rock climber, and bicyclist. In 2006 Niki hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

I said “was” a world-class athlete because on Nov. 1, 2013, Niki was climbing a rock face in Utah when tragedy called her name. Her harness failed, she fell 45 feet and broke several ribs, her sternum, her pelvis and spinal cord. Her life was spared but her body was severely damaged. Her left leg was so crushed that doctors had to amputate below the knee.

Niki 1According to the news report from the Bangor Daily News, Niki Rellon shared, “Every day was the same. I was going into the stages of depression. Exercise, rehab, yoga, physical therapy – after a while I was able to come up with excuses not to do it. I decided to walk to recovery because I didn’t like myself anymore after my accident.”

On March 9 — just 14 months after that terrible fall — Rellon, a German-born Colorado resident took her first steps from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus in Georgia. Niki will become the first woman with a leg amputation to ever through-hike the trail. Rellon is hiking unassisted and as far as I can discern she has reached the 1,200 miles point.

niki 3The injury has made quite a difference in Niki’s speed. She averaged more than 40 miles a day on the Pacific Crest Trail. Now, on the Appalachian Trail she is pushing to cover 12 miles in a day. At times, she feels more like “Snail Trail” than “Bionic Woman.” I personally would vote for the Bionic handle shouting admiration for her spunk and determination.

Rellon is a “flip-flop” hiker, meaning she started in Georgia and walked about halfway north before flying to Maine and starting atop Mount Katahdin for the journey south. Her summit to the top of Katahdin was difficult indeed. She hiked the mountain on a 90-degree day that turned ugly when 80-mile-per-hour winds complete with a major thunderstorm blasted through Baxter State Park. The powerful gusts of air knocked her over several times before she was forced to call for help. Niki and her rescuer had to descend on their hands and knees at times to avoid being blown off the mountainside. It was 1:30 in the morning before they reached the safety of the campground below.

Niki2Rellon shared with a local Virginia TV station, “On the trail, no excuse, you wake up in the morning, you have to start hiking again. There’s no magic pill that cures all your pains. You have to overcome the pain and push yourself and live with the pain for a while, but when you push yourself and live with the pain for a while, the pain then goes away.” Niki declared that the trail itself was giving her physical strength, but the friends she’d met along the way were providing needed emotional support.

Niki is on my prayer list. I am trusting that God will speak to her with a powerful affirmation of His love for her and the strength and protection that He offers to those who draw near to Him.

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/08/11/outdoors/bionic-woman-gets-leg-up-while-hiking-appalachian-trail/

http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/woman-thruhiking-appalachian-trail-is-an-amputee/33508614

http://appalachiantrail.com/20150803/niki-rellon-facing-lifes-mountains-valleys-on-the-appalachian-trail/

Photo: https://www.crowdrise.com/oneleggedwomenwantstohiketheappalachiantrail/fundraiser/ekiehrellon

Trail Photos from Niki’s Facebook

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, Thru-Hike, Trail, Virginia | Tags: | Leave a comment

Does Technology Belong on the Trail?

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI recently read an article by Barbara Goldberg on yahoo.com expressing a concern regarding the use of smart phones on the trail. She related a story of a young lady who inadvertently dialed 911 from the Appalachian Trail causing major stress in the life of her parents. The hiker adds that she gets constant texts from her parents, who even call her hiking partner’s phone as well. To me, it sounds like a parent issue not a trail issue. Most phones can be turned off…. or put on airplane mode until the hiker is ready to be in contact with the outside world.

Tech on the Trail 1The article makes the point, “Hiking the AT, the famous path from Maine to Georgia, once meant cutting off communication with civilization for much of the six months it typically takes to complete the route.” If this is the hiker’s desire, the option still presents itself. Just leave your phone at home in the trusted care of your family. Cutting off communication is a pretty easy option if the desire is there. Blaming the trail or technology seems to miss the target in my opinion.

Although it is quite true that technology has developed many aids to connecting the world even in the wilds of the canopy, going completely off the grid is readily available to anyone who chooses to do so. There are indeed many forms of rechargers available from portable solar panels to cook stoves to phone covers to external power sticks that will keep the hiker in touch with his/her community. The Appalachian Trail is not a wilderness trail. It is very much a social trail with multiple connections to civilization just about every day. Roads that quickly lead to a town crisscross the AT from Georgia to Maine. The trail travels right down the main street in a half dozen towns and within just a few miles of many more. Being “cut off from civilization” and “getting away from it all” is simply not the experience that I found. Places to resupply and rest were welcomed by all.

Solar ChargerThe perspective of the yahoo author is the concern of losing the solitude and silence of the forest. Quoting Bill Bryson, author of the bestselling book and soon to be released movie, A Walk in the Woods, the article states, “The whole idea of the Appalachian Trail is to get away from it all. I am all in favor of gadgets, but my fear is that most people spend all their rest time texting and staring at little screens and miss out on all the glorious solitude around them.” From my experience, if you spend much time texting and posting and calling on the  trail, you will not make it to Maine.

Laurie Potteiger, spokeswoman for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, said, “Smartphones can steal your eyes away from the beauty around you.” The flip side of the coin is that smartphones can help you capture the beauty in picture and video. So much depends on the intelligence and balance of the hiker. Potteiger expresses a solid concern as she points out the unrealistic response of the support if they don’t hear from a hiker for a day or two. As an ATC employee she shared that those frenzied calls are on the rise. Depending on one’s cell phone provider, there are several spots along the trail that are “dark” to the connection of cyber space. There are several trail towns that are off the grid! I know it is hard but the support team needs to relax and be patient.

I blogged ever day that I had phone service during my thru-hike in 2014. My post usually included a few pictures taken during the day and a short message letting folks know where I was. The normal post took about 15 minutes to type and send. I talked to my wife every day that I could and her voice fueled my heart. I still felt that I had an incredible experience of solitude and quiet and fellowship with the Creator.

Just another point of view….

http://news.yahoo.com/no-getting-away-appalachian-trail-123628814.html
Photo of charger found at http://blog.newtrent.com/new-trent-batteries/
Photo solar found at http://www.appalachiantrailcafe.net/index.php/Thread/656-solar-on-the-trail-what-will-help-you-in-your-decision/
Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Technology, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Video Series Aimed at Educating Hikers

HikeItForward-Final-MediumThe staff at the ATC have created a series of educational videos that will teach hikers how to reduce their imprint and physical impact on the path. The video series is called “Don’t Be That Guy – Appalachian Trail – Leave No Trace,” and are online today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO7V3UayreE&index=1&list=PLuekIhaoBuWZ0c4R2jd3RE4PgjDwg9NOp) Filmed by professional videographer, Tara Roberts. the entertaining videos demonstrate positive techniques for both hiking and camping along the trail.

ATC logo‘Leave No Trace’ is a great hiking philosophy and necessary mindset to maintain the beauty and freshness of the outdoors. Outdoor ethics and proper trail etiquette are skills that every hiker (section or thru) should understand and incorporate every day along the journey.  These short humorous videos still illustrate the techniques with a straight forward message.

Each of the seven principles of Leave No Trace (plan ahead and prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; and be considerate of other visitors) are highlighted in the series.

According to the ATC website, “the video series is one way the ATC is preparing for a surge in Trail use following the release of the film A Walk in the Woods, a comedy adventure starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as old friends who make the improbable decision to hike the 2,190-mile Trail. The film will be released September 2 by Broad Green Pictures. The ATC acted as a consulting organization during production and assisted with the film’s environmental messaging.” Javier Folger, Director of Marketing and Communication for the ACT encourages, “Effort will be necessary to keep the Appalachian Trail in its natural state, especially given the increased attention that the Trail is receiving,”

Don't Be That GuyLeave No Trace reflects responsible and positive decision-making with the trail in mind.  In order to protect, preserve, and promote the incredible experience offered by the Appalachian Trail, all hikers must be committed to cleaning up after themselves. Mom is just not around to pick up our messes. Let’s pick up so that we can all enjoy.

I so applaud the ATC for providing some basic skills and information on proper trail expectations. Want some more information? Check out the Center for Outdoor Ethics at  www.LNT.org. and visit the ATC at www.appalachiantrail.org.

 

http://www.appalachiantrail.org/who-we-are/news/2015/08/05/the-appalachian-trail-conservancy-launches-video-series-aimed-at-educating-hikers

 

Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Hiking, Leave No Trace, Trail Etiquette, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trees Can Be Deadly

Jason Parish.2Jason Parish was a 36-year old hiker from Philadelphia involved in a short, two-night trek on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. Jason was not a stranger to camping in rugged conditions and cold weather. He thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors. On Friday night this past March 13, Jason and a few friends stayed in the Ed Garvey Shelter on the AT, about 6 miles north of Harpers Ferry, WV. On Saturday, Jason took a day hike to Weverton Cliffs, overlooking Harpers Ferry, and returned to the shelter for the night.

Sunday, March 15 was greeted with high winds in the forest. Jason was making a last check of his gear before breaking camp when a dead tree was uprooted under the pressure of the wind and crashed on top of him. His friends heard the noise, rushed to the scene, saw their trapped colleague, and called 911. The tree pinned Jason about 9:00 and the first responders arrived about an hour later, but were unable to revive him. What a sad day on the Appalachian Trail.

Jason Parish1 (2)Parish was an environmental engineer and a folk musician. He was born on September 7, 1978 in Dover, Delaware and graduated from the University of Delaware in 2000 majoring in mechanical engineering. He was an excellent musician playing several instruments including guitar, piano and saxophone. Jason had recently released a debut CD, A Mountain and a Hill, in January and a short sample of his live music can be heard at www.lehighvalleylive.com.

The tree that fell on Jason was marked with a pink ribbon and identified as one to be cut down. As a result of Parish’s death, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources temporarily closed eight shelters and campgrounds on the AT for a tree inspection and maintenance.

Ed Garvey ShelterThe Ed Garvey Memorial Shelter was built in 2001 and named in honor of Edward B. Garvey (1914 -1999) who thru-hiked the AT in 1970. In 1971, Ed published a book about his journey, Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime. This early writing significantly raised public awareness of thru-hiking, including several chapters dedicated to the hike’s preparation,  trail gear, and the flowers, animals, birds and trees of the AT. The shelter is a two story structure and sleeps twelve campers comfortably, as long as you can stand the thru-hiker smell and chorus of a dozen snorers.

Color Photo of Jason: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/newszapde/obituary.aspx?n=jason-robert-parish&pid=174428671

Jason the Musician Photo: www.lehighvalleylive.com.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry, Jason Parish, Maryland, Trees, West Virginia | 4 Comments

Who Paints the White Blazes?

Volunteer ATHiking the Appalachian Trail is an incredible experience. One of the positive aspects of the journey is the excellent marking of the trail. The AT is always marked with the white blaze – a 3×6 inch rectangle – painted on trees, fence posts, and rocks. There are approximately 165,000 blazes marking the trail and keeping the hiker on the correct route. The trail is so well marked that I did not take a map. I carried an AT Guidebook that indicated water sources, shelters, camp sites, towns and elevation changes, but I did not need a map because of the superb marking of the path.

So who oversees all the painting on the trail? It’s the same people who maintain the trail itself with clearing blow-downs, controlling sections overgrown with grasses/weeds, and addressing issues of erosion and deterioration of the path. Although there is an Appalachian Trail Conservancy located in Harpers Ferry, WV, the vast majority of the trail upkeep and improvements are conducted by thirty-one maintenance clubs that serve the AT. These amazing clubs are responsible for painting blazes, excavating damaged areas, rerouting for repairs, shelter maintenance, and general care of the path.

All of these maintenance clubs are run by volunteers. According to the AT Conservancy during 2014, people contributed 241,936 hours in volunteer service to keep the trail open and looking beautiful. That is the equivalent of 30,242 work days (eight hour days) or over 6,048 forty-hour weeks. It would take one individual more than 116 years working 40 hours each week without a vacation to accomplish this much volunteer time.

Volunteer AT 2In reality those 241,936 hours were accomplished with 5617 volunteers. That means that each person averaged over forty-three hours of sacrificial service to the hiking community. What an amazing volunteer force that maintains this inspiring trail.

I was able to meet several groups of volunteers on my hike. I always stopped and visited awhile, thanking them for their ministry to me personally. I talked with a painting crew of two retired ladies renewing the paint to shiny white in Virginia. There was a rather large group of a dozen volunteers excavating a small section of the trail in Vermont by establishing large stepping stones to help in the descent of a very steep incline. I had a quick conversation with an older gentleman and his wife who were trimming part of the trail with chain saws. They were concerned about the next generation and the lack of younger volunteers to take their place.

I passed a volunteer in Pennsylvania using an axe to clear a fallen tree (blow-down). I thanked him for his work and he shared that he was not a member of a club, but just a former thru-hiker who lived nearby who knew that trail would be impacted from the storm the night before.  I hiked through Massachusetts with a doctor from Boston who had adopted a particular section of the trail and personally managed his segment with pride and precision. I regularly found this spirit of giving and love for the hiking community.

Photo at work: https://www.appalachiantrail.org/who-we-are/news/2015/01/08/volunteers-donate-more-than-200-000-hours-in-2014-to-maintaining-the-appalachian-trail

Photo group: http://appalachiantrials.com/thru-hiker-volunteer-give-back/

Categories: Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Thru-Hike, Trail, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, White Blaze | Leave a comment

Earl Shaffer – The Crazy One

HikeItForward-Final-MediumEarl ShaefferEarl V. Shaffer was born on November 8, 1918 in rural Pennsylvania. Shortly after World War II at the age of 29, Earl would establish himself as a vital and important part of the history of the Appalachian Trail. In 1948 he became the “father of the thru-hiker” by completing the first documented thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in one continuous journey. He even gave himself a trail name, The Crazy One, beginning a naming tradition that dominates the AT to this day.

Earl’s high school graduation greeted him with the realities of the Depression. He, like so many, could not find a steady job, so he tried to find work on nearby farms and temporary carpentry jobs. Earl joined the Army in early 1941 and served with the Army Signal Corps in the South Pacific. In 1947, he was back home in Pennsylvania but greatly saddened by the death of a close childhood friend, Walter Winemiller, who gave his life for his country in the invasion of Iwo Jima.  He and Walter had talked before the war about hiking the trail someday. The South Pacific and the loss of his friend left Earl feeling directionless after the war. The thru-hike was to be therapeutic. Earl shared said he wanted to ”walk the Army out of my system.”

Earl Shaffer.olderEarl Shaffer, who became the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 1948, hiked the trail again in 1965 at age 46, becoming the first person to hike the AT in both directions. The first hike was south to north (Georgia to Maine) and then in 1965 his adventure traveled north to south (Maine to Georgia). Finally in 1998, at the age of 79, he made his third and final thru-hike. This time he hiked northbound as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of his first victorious trek.

Earl Shaffer was a bachelor and lived most of his life in a log cabin on a farm just five miles from the trail in Idaville, Pa. He lived a simple life surrounded by his cats and goats.  He did not have electricity in his home until 2000 and never had running water or a refrigerator. Earl died at the age of 83 of liver cancer on May 5, 2002 while living with his brother John in Lebanon, PA.

Earl Shaffer was one of six individuals inducted as an inaugural member of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame in 2011. The induction banquet was held in Boiling Springs, PA (a beautiful trail town) and the Hall of Fame is located at the geographical mid-point of the trail in the AT Museum at Pine Grove Furnace, PA. Earl’s niece, Nancy Shaffer Nofziger, accepted the award on behalf of her uncle.

The original copy of Earl’s journal has been given to the Smithsonian Institute and can be seen online at https://transcription.si.edu/view/6734/NMAH-AC0828-0000025-009 The original journal has been transcribed and can be enjoyed at this same website. Earl wrote a book about his initial thru-hike published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 1982 under the title, Walking With Spring. He later developed and published his notes from his last hike in 1998 called The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back To The Hills. Earl was also a poet and songwriter. He played the guitar and loved to sing his folk songs.

Related articles:

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=earl%20shaffer

http://earlshaffer.com/

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/12/us/earl-shaffer-first-hike-length-appalachian-trail-both-directions-dies-83.html

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/photos/10-famous-appalachian-trail-hikers/earl-shaffer

Photo: First Hike – www.appalachiantrail.org

Photo: Last Hike – www.tgaw.wordpress.com

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Museum, Backpack, Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

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