News and Updates


Here at last is a prequel to Earl's famous bestselling book, Walking With Spring. Written by Earl during the 4-1/2 years he served in the U.S. Army during World War II, Before I Walked With Spring uses humor and verse to describe in detail the wartime experiences that helped propel him to later become the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. The main text of the book is Earl's epic poem "The Doughboy Odyssey," which traces Earl's wide-ranging wartime travels, first training stateside as a Signal Corpsman, then serving in the Pacific theater for most of the war.


Before I Walked With Spring

BOOK DESCRIPTION - Before I Walked With Spring: The Doughboy Odyssey and Other Poems of World War II

In describing his feelings at the beginning of his historic 1948 Appalachian Trail hike, Earl Shaffer wrote:

"And now the time had come. This was the threshold of my great adventure, long delayed by World War II and without my trail partner, who had been killed on Iwo Jima. Those four and a half years of army service, more than half of it in combat areas of the Pacific, without furlough or even rest leave, had left me confused and depressed. Perhaps this trip would be the answer."

The adventure Earl had in mind was of course his 123-day backpacking trek from Georgia to Maine, the first continuous end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail ever documented. Thanks to his seminal work, Walking With Spring, (first published in 1981) much is known by many about that epic journey. Few, however, know anything at all about those four and a half years that Earl served in the Army during the war. Appropriately entitled Before I Walked With Spring, this book serves as both a prequel to Walking With Spring as well as a rich stand-alone history of an American soldier's wide-ranging experience in World War II's Pacific theater.

In the words of an observant young Signal Corps specialist who wrote with playful rhyme and rhythm, Earl has provided a sometimes humorous and always insightful first-person look at the frightening terror as well as the lonely daily grind of America's war in the Pacific. In his epic poem, "The Doughboy Odyssey," Earl leads the reader on an island-hopping journey that covers tens of thousands of miles, helping us to better know the man and understand the accumulating trauma that helped propel him to become the Appalachian Trail's first thru-hiker.

Also included are 46 other poems plus a number of photos that Earl took during the war as well as a detailed map showing all the Pacific islands that he visited.

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In celebration of the 60th Anniverary of Earl's history-making 1948 thru-hike, a new postage stamp and commemorative event cover is available to order for a limited time. The collectible event cover features a custom-designed stamp bearing a photo of Earl at the northern terminus of the A.T. The Earl Shaffer Foundation has made arrangements to have the stamp canceled at the Millinocket, Maine, Post Office on August 5, 2008 - exactly 60 years after the completion of Earl's first hike. Orders will be shipped after that date. The deadline for ordering is July 25, 2008.

HOW TO ORDER the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp:

A very limited quantity of this commemorative event cover will be produced

ORDER NOW to purchase this unique collectors item.

To celebrate the 60th Anniverary of Earl's history-making 1948 thru-hike, the Earl Shaffer Foundation proudly offers a commemorative event cover featuring a custom-designed stamp bearing a photo of Earl at the northern terminus of the A.T. The cachet on the envelope identifies the significance of the anniversary and an image of Earl's boots.To complete the event cover, the Earl Shaffer Foundation has made arrangements to have the stamp canceled at the Millinocket, Maine, Post Office on August 5, 2008 - exactly 60 years after the completion of Earl's first hike. Cost of the complete event cover with stamp is $15.00 each postpaid.


Earl was determined (but not entirely confident) that a hike of the entire AT was possible in a single "go," as it had never been done. He told few people of his endeavor. However, emboldened by reaching as far north as Holmes, New York, Earl became convinced that completing his hike to Maine was well within his grasp. He penned a poem on a simple piece of paper on which he'd sketched a likeness of the Pinnacles of Dan and sent the note to the Appalachian Trail Conference, which was holding its annual meeting that year in Fontana Village, N.C. The cheery little greeting was his way of announcing his endeavor: The flowers bloom the songbirds sing And though it sun or rain I walk the mountain tops with spring From Georgia north to Maine

The ATC did not understand the oblique message at the time, and sadly, the letter was discarded. Fortunately, in the collection of over a thousand poems written by Earl, his brother John was able to find another copy of the poem, written in Earl's own handwriting, which the Earl Shaffer Foundation has used to produce a replica of the drawing and greeting. A copy of the replicated note (illustrated at right) will be included with your stamp cover purchase.

A Brief Overview for those Unfamiliar with Philately (Stamp Collecting):

A commemorative event cover is an envelope postmarked on the day an event occurs or on the anniversary date of an event from the past. An event cover is usually not made by a postal authority but is a private initiative. A cachet is some sort of illustration and/or text explaining or relating to the event that occurred and is printed on or affixed to the envelope.

Any first class stamp can be used on this type of cover, but a stamp that relates to the event or anniversary increases its value as a collector's item. The preferred postmark is from the area where the event occurred. Event covers do not carry addresses, nor are they intended to be used in posting letters, rather they are used as souvenirs.

The Earl Shaffer Foundation has adhered to the guidelines set forth by philatelic societies to ensure that your event cover has the best chance of increasing in value. The attractive event cover is suitable for framing.

Order your event cover now for only $15.00 (Postage for mailing the Event Cover to you is included)

Commemorative Postcard

Also available on the occasion of the anniversary of that now famous hike are postcards for your own use or for collecting. These postcards bear an image of Earl on top of Katahdin, along with his poem. These will be available for purchase at the 2008 ALDHA (Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association) Gathering in October.

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While on his final thru hike of the A.T. in 1998, Earl kept a journal which he wrote in the form of an ode, an ancient form of poetry which Earl loved. The Earl Shaffer Foundation has just published this journal for the first time in a special softcover Limited Edition. It is available to you here FREE with any donation of $25 or more to the Earl Shaffer Foundation. The book is beautifully illustrated with color photos of Earl and the Appalachian Trail contributed by friends of Earl Shaffer.

Earl's brother, John Shaffer, who wrote the book's Foreword, and Dave Donaldson, Earl's hiking partner at the end of his '98 hike, who wrote the book's Introduction, have both personally autographed this Limited First Edition.

We invite your kind donation, which will go directly to help the Foundation bring into publication many more of Earl's works which remain yet unpublished.

Donation Details:

We invite you to join us in making a meaningful contribution to help honor and preserve the legacy of Earl Shaffer. You can do this in a number of ways:

While our limited supply lasts, we will acknowledge your donation of $25.00 or more with a FREE beautifully-illustrated special First Edition of Earl's Ode to the Appalachian Trail.

The easiest way to contribute financially is by clicking the "Make a Donation" link below and charging your donation to your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express Card.

Make a Donation

If you prefer, you may also send a check or money order made payable to the Earl Shaffer Foundation at this address:

Earl Shaffer Foundation 2596 Church Road York, PA 17404

Another very meaningful way to contribute to Earl's lasting legacy is by volunteering your time and energy to local trail and hiking organizations for trail maintenance and other useful projects. Access to a number of hiking organizations can be found on our website links page, and we invite you to experience the joy and satisfaction one can derive from helping construct and maintain rustic pathways through nature, as Earl did during much of his adult life.

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