Appalachian Trail Histories

Earl Shaffer was a veteran of WWII from Pennsylvania. While serving in WWII his best friend, Walter Winemiller, with whom he planned to hike the AT with, died at Iwo Jima. Though not properly diagnosed, it is reasonable to assume that Shaffer suffered from mental illness that coincided with the end of his service. Upon returning from deployment, Shaffer decided to hike the trail both in memory of Winemiller and to "walk the war out of his system." Ironically, he wrote of all the times he saw violence on the trail: walking past Antietam and that nature itself was violent, like a grouse exploding from underbrush like an A-bomb. He became the first person to thru-hike the trail in a single season. This photo was taken at the end of his NOBO hike on top of Mt.Katahdin in 1948.


The Earl Shaffer Shelter, pictured here in August 2008, was dedicated to Earl Shaffer, the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one year. Shaffer, who grew up nearby, eventually asked that his name be taken off the shelter in 1983, because he felt it had become "too fancy" after the addition of a wooden floor, replacing the old dirt floor. The Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club disassembled this shelter in 2008, and it now resides at the Appalachian Trail Museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park (PA).

Collection: Trail Shelters

The Peters Mountain Shelter, pictured on January 1, 1980. This shelter is the replacement for the Earl Shaffer Shelter, which was removed from the Trail in the summer of 2008, and now resides at the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove Furnace State Park (PA). This shelter is maintained by volunteers from the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club, co-founded by Earl Shaffer.

Collection: Trail Shelters
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During his first solo thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 1948, Earl Shaffer kept a diary of his trip, logging information about the condition of the Trail, the people he met, wildlife he encountered, and photographs he took. Shaffer was also a poet, and the diary contains many of the poems he wrote along the way. The diary is now part of the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and has been transcribed in its entirety.

Collection: Hikers
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Earl Shaffer at the conclusion of his thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 1948. Although some have disputed his claim to have hiked the entire trail that summer, accusing him of skipping sections or hitching rides in cars, Shaffer is still widely considered to be the first "thru hiker" of the Appalachian Trail.

Collection: Hikers
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Earl Shaffer (1918-2002) is widely considered to be the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in one year during the summer of 1948. 

Shaffer's diary of his first thru hike has been transcribed by volunteers at the Smithsonian Institution and can be read in its entirety online. The diary entry associated with this image reads: "About noon came to sign “Appalachian Trail continues across river cross at Harrisburg bridge and take Rockville car no. 5 to Linglestown Road”. Have now hiked 25 miles past Center Point, total of 1050 miles. 1000 more to go."

Collection: Hikers

Earl Shaffer on Mt. Katahdin at the end of his thru hike in 1948. Taken by an unknown hiker

Collection: Hikers
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