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Uncommonly Sensible

Keeping the "anal" in analytical... (While trying to remain civilized)

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Location: United States

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An American icon

From Wikipedia:

"Earl V. Shaffer was an American outdoorsman and author known from 1948 as "The Crazy One" for attempting what became the first documented hiking trip over the entire length of the Appalachian Trail." (A.T.)

From the Earl Shaffer Foundation website:

"In late 1947, the urge to hike the Appalachian Trail started to grow within him when he learned from a magazine article that no one had hiked the entire Trail in one season. It was thought to be an impossible feat by the Appalachian Trail Conference leadership and hiking public. This urge to thru-hike had first surfaced during the late 30's while hiking with his close friend Walter Winemiller, a neighbor in York. He and Earl had planned on hiking the Trail after the war. Walter was killed during the landing at Iwo Jima, though, so Earl headed for Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia alone in May of 1948 to begin his historic journey. He went on to become the first person to "thru-hike" the A.T. in one continuous journey that year. His hike was in many ways a memorial to his friend."

Here he is, in a 1948 photo, upon completion:

"After his 1948 hike, Earl's first book Walking With Spring was published privately and later, in 1982, published commercially by The Appalachian Trail Conference. Earl took to the trail again in 1965, hiking from Mt. Katahdin in Maine south to Springer Mountain, which had recently been designated as the Trail's Southern terminus, replacing Mt. Oglethorpe. He was the first to complete a thru-hike in both Georgia to Maine and Maine to Georgia directions."

"After half a century of on and off Trail work with the ATC and local A.T. clubs, Earl decided to try a third thru-hike in 1998 ... at the age of 79 years! He completed this "anniversary" hike just two weeks prior to his 80th birthday. While on the 1998 trip, Earl kept notes as an "Ode to the Appalachian Trail", which became the basic manuscript for his latest book, The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back To The Hills, now available at book stores and through online book sellers."

And here he is, back again, in 1998:

"Earl V. Shaffer succumbed to cancer on May 5, 2002, after a brief illness and hospitalization. He was 83 years old."

"On August 2, 2008, an enthusiastic group of volunteers hiked to the site on Peters Mountain (near Duncannon, PA) where Earl Shaffer had built a log Appalachian Trail shelter more than 50 years ago. This was the last shelter still standing of the 6 A.T. shelters that Earl built during his lifetime. Organized by the Appalachian Trail Museum Society, the group held a ceremony honoring Earl's many contributions to the A.T. community, then carefully dismantled the shelter and hauled it on foot 3 miles to the nearest forest service road. From there it was transported to temporary storage where it will await the opening of a new Appalachian Trail Museum. Thanks to all the volunteers whose hard work is making possible the preservation of this splendid symbol of Earl's legacy."

More Photos of This Event

The shelter, which was built by Earl circa 1960, is the last remaining intact shelter that Earl built himself and was one of the oldest and smallest remaining on the entire trail.

I was one of three who spent the last night there before it was dismantled.

Here are the other two:

I know people who hiked with Mr. Shaffer; the closest I got was attending Trail Days in '99 when he came to speak about his '98 "thru-hike".

Here I am, removing the floor of the shelter:

Mr. Shaffer, being a purist, disapproved of the addition of that floor.
(If you click on the link, scroll down to page 5)

I like to think that he was looking down and smiling; when the shelter is reassembled, it will be restored to the way he originally built it...


Blogger Whiteacres said...

Cammojack, this is a cool article. Having been raised in the foothills of the Smokies and also at the other end, in Maine, the Appalacian Trail is personally cherished for me. I miss the mountains, but not all of those people!! This is great that you could be part of such a neat project.

August 05, 2008 10:48 AM  
Blogger cave_nate said...

it is interesting that that fairly primitive shelter was considered "too fancy" for Shaffer.
but look at the cotton sack in the one photo he did his first AT hike with...

August 05, 2008 10:48 AM  
Blogger Bunny said...

Great post! Although "purist" Mr. Shaffer didn't like that floor in his shelter, I imagine that lots of folks appreciated it...especially if it was cold or raining. Sleeping on the ground ain't my idea of fun. I know what crawls around out there, too. :-)

August 05, 2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger boberin said...

Once again, interesting, informative and something you have a very personal attachment to.
Kudos once again!

August 05, 2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger Beerme said...

Count yourself as one of the few who did something, rather than just talking about it, in regards to the trail and its history.

I can only say I've talked about it...

Nice work and an interesting read!

August 05, 2008 5:56 PM  
Blogger camojack said...

Cool subject matter.

My first hike on the Appalachian Trail was as a Boy Scout, to The Pinnacle, the best view along the Trail in PA. I have also summited Katahdin since then.

The cotton sack he did his last AT hike with may well have been the same or similar to the one with which he did his first AT hike...a standard issue Army rucksack. He was one tough hombre, who didn't mind sleeping on the ground; he had to have been to do a 2000+ mile hike at the age of 79. His idea of a shelter was merely something for keeping the rain off.

I'm glad you liked it.

Some of what crawls around out there dined quite nicely on my ankles this weekend, apparently.

I have a lot of interests; there are always plenty of answers to the question "what do I want to do next?" in my little world.

Oh, and thanks.

I'm glad you liked the post, too.

I get out there and do trail maintenance every now and again, generally with the DVAMC between Little Gap and Wind Gap here in PA. Last autumn I also took part in testing the water quality in a number of springs along that stretch. The AT has given me much enjoyment over the years, and I like to give back such as I am able...

August 06, 2008 7:31 AM  
Blogger Bunny said...

Heh, heh...what, or should I say "who," dined quite nicely on your ankles?

That, among many other factors, is why I don't do "camping." I had plenty of "roughing it" in my youth...

August 06, 2008 12:29 PM  
Blogger Nylecoj said...

What a phenomenal story.

August 06, 2008 1:44 PM  
Blogger camojack said...

At a guess, it was one or more mosquitoes that fed on my ankles. It was rather warm out there on Friday night, so they weren't covered.

You're quite welcome...Earl was a phenomenal guy. One of the "Greatest Generation", and a prime example of why it came to be known as such...

August 06, 2008 8:03 PM  
Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Interesting read, my friend. I admire you for your skills, commend you for your service, and offer condolences for you ankles.

(:D) Best regards...

August 07, 2008 7:19 PM  
Blogger camojack said...

Ah well, I try to enlighten as well as entertain...but thank you.

My ankles are fine now; unfortunately though, I've managed to get poison ivy rashes on both arms, even though I was wearing work gloves. Seriously aggravating stuff, that.

Oh yeah, and ELEVENTEEN!!!

August 08, 2008 6:36 AM  
Blogger Ms RightWing's Ink said...

Always fascinating stories I would likely never read anywhere else.

Boy, would I love to hike once more. Oh well, travel films and Camojack articles must get me where they will.

Thanks and congrats on walking where the great man did

August 09, 2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger camojack said...

Ms RightWing:
As I said in one of my previous comments, I try to enlighten as well as entertain.

I'm glad that you (et al) appreciate it...

August 09, 2008 8:44 PM  

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