News and Publicity

 Over the years, many publications have written about Earl and his achievements on the Appalachian Trail. From the 1949 National Geographic article about the Appalachian Trail, to more recent articles, we have included some excerpts below.

The National Geographic Magazine

"Skyline Trail from Maine to Georgia" by Andrew H. Brown

Published in August, 1949, this article begins by describing Earl's 1948 thru hike.

Scanned original provided by the Appalachian Trail Museum.

Appalachian Trailway News

"Trail Years: A History of the Appalachian Trail Conference" by Brian B. King

Published in July 2000, this special commemorative issue discusses Earl's 1948 thru-hike, his service as president of the York Hiking Club and corresponding secretary of the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC), and his 1966 southbound thru-hike ("Chasing Autumn").

 

A full PDF of the article is available at the following link, thanks to the Appalachian Trail Museum:

https://www.atmuseum.org/uploads/5/5/8/1/55813761/00-trailyears.pdf

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Smithsonian Magazine

"The Army Veteran Who Became the First to Hike the Entire Appalachian Trail" by Abigail Tucker

Published in July 2017, this article highlights the motivations for Earl's first thru-hike, as well as the significance of his "little black book", his poetry, his music, and role in pioneering "a whole new American genre, the Appalachian Trail journal.. best known from Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods." Featured is a photograph of Earl's "Birdshooter" boots, which took him from Georgia to Maine and are now housed in the Smithsonian's permanent collection. 

 

The article can be read in full at the following link:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/army-veteran-became-first-hike-entire-appalachian-trail-180963678/

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

"The Long Cruise - Celebrating 70 Years of the A.T. Thru-Hiking Tradition" by Brian King

Published in August 2018 in the official blog of the ATC, this article gives a detailed overview of Earl's motivation to hike, his experiences along the Trail, his service as the ATC corresponding secretary and president of the York Hiking Club, and subsequent thru hikes in 1965 and 1998. It also describes how Earl's thru-hike forever changed the notion that "a single backpacker could not walk that whole distance in a continuous hike."

The article can be read in full at the following link:

https://appalachiantrail.org/official-blog/the-long-cruise-celebrating-70-years-of-the-a-t-thru-hiking-tradition/

The New York Times

 

"Earl Shaffer, First to Hike Length of Appalachian Trail in Both Directions, Dies at 83" by Douglas Martin

This tribute to Earl is a well-written account of his legacy on and off the Appalachian Trail. It follows Earl's childhood, experience as a combat veteran in the South Pacific, and decision to hike the trail. As his brother John Shaffer said, "If you told him something couldn't be done, he'd try to figure out a way to do it." Finally, it discusses Earl's final hike in 1998, which was covered on national television, radio broadcasts, and in many newspapers. 

The full-length article can be found at the following link:

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

NPR: Morning Edition

"On The Appalachian Trail, Combat Veterans Learn to Let Things Go" by Quil Lawrence

This radio story was featured on National Public Radio (NPR) in October 2016, and describes the parallels of Earl's 1948 hike to "walk off the war" and the mission of Warrior Hikes to help combat veterans to do the same. In an interview with Warrior Hikes founder Sean Gobin, the story explores how thru-hiking allows veterans to process their combat experiences and transition back to civilian life.

You can listen to the full-length radio story or read the transcript at the following link:

https://www.npr.org/2016/10/06/496826293/on-the-appalachian-trail-combat-veterans-learn-to-let-things-go

On the Trail: A History of American Hiking

 Ph.D. Dissertation by Silas Chamberlin, published as a book

Written by Ph.D. graduate and York, PA resident Silas Chamberlin in 2014, this 355-page dissertation delves into the detailed history of Earl's thru-hike as part of a greater exploration of the history of American hiking. The dissertation has now been published through Yale University Press as a book of the same title.

The full-length dissertation can be found at the following link:

https://preserve.lehigh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2451&context=etd

The Baltimore Sun

"A true Appalachian trailblazer" by Candus Thomson

Published in May 2012 as a tribute to Earl after his passing, this article highlights Earl's mark on the world of hiking. One quote by Dan "Wingfoot" Bruce, 7-time thru-hiker, describes Earl as "the Lindbergh of American hiking." Larry Luxenberg, thru-hiker and founding president of the Appalachian Trail Museum, calls Earl "a genuine hero [who] as corresponding secretary... was the one who personally gave advice to the thru-hikers those first 20 years."  

 

The article can be read in full at the following link:

https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-2002-05-12-0205120233-story.html

Military Experience & the Arts

"Walking off the War" by David Chrisinger

This article was published by the non-profit organization Military Experience & the Arts, which works with "veterans and their families to publish short stories, essays, poems, and artwork." The writer describes in detail the way in which Earl's first hike helped him to honor his friend Walter Winemiller, who was killed in Iwo Jima, and to "walk off the war." Through Earl's story, that of Sean Gobin, founder of Warrior Expeditions, and multiple others', we can reflect on the many ways in which veterans "have used long-distance walking to make sense of life after war."

The article can be read in full at the following link:

http://militaryexperience.org/walking-off-the-war/

The Seattle Times

"Leaving the war in the woods" by Jason Nark of The Philadelphia Inquirer

Published on October 29, 2017, this article describes Earl's 1948 hike in great detail, including excerpts from his Little Black Book documenting the hike, and Earl's healing through writing and hiking. It also delves into how Earl processed his time serving in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II and the loss of his friend Walter during his hike. Finally, the article relays the personal and poignant stories of many veterans who have also found healing on the Appalachian Trail. Mentioned are nonprofits such River House, which helps "bring vets... into nature in smaller increments" to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the idea of nature-as-therapy for all of society;

 

The article can be read in full at the following link:

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/leaving-the-war-in-the-woods/

Boston Globe

"Doers and dreamers finish Appalachian Trail" by Nathan Ehrlich

Published in December 2009, this article discusses Earl's legacy as "The Original Crazy One" and the way trail names are now adopted as part of Appalachian Trail thru-hiking culture. It also describes the kindness of "trail angels" - community members who generously provide for thru-hikers. 

The article can be read in full at the following link:

http://archive.boston.com/travel/explorene/maine/articles/2009/12/27/doers_and_dreamers_finish_appalachian_trail/?page=full

Men's Journal

"Veteran Trio Finds Healing on Mississippi Source-to-Sea Paddle" by Canoe & Kayak

This article, published in the Adventure section of Men's Journal, describes Earl's first thru-hike. It traces the origins of similar journeys, in which troops in ancient times would slowly decompress on their journeys from battlefield back to their homes. In the same spirit, Sean Gobin's Warrior Expeditions started initially to support combat veterans in "hiking off the war" as Earl did from Georgia Maine. It has now grown to include many different types of expeditions, including paddling a kayak down the length of the Mississippi River. 

The article can be read in full at the following link:

https://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/veteran-trio-find-healing-on-mississippi-source-to-sea-paddle/

Reading Eagle

"Out on the trail: How a PA soldier 'walked off the war' from Georgia to Maine" by Rita Floriani

Published in July 2013 by a local Pennsylvania newspaper, this article describes how Earl, a combat veteran, used hiking as a way to heal from his post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, it highlights how Earl's hike helped to inspire the foundation of Warrior Hike (now Warrior Expeditions), an organization that helps combat veterans to "walk off the war" as Earl did. 

 

The article can be read in full at the following link:

http://www2.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=490741