Author(s): Earl V. Shaffer
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.