Writer and Poet
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Earl Shaffer's Writing
During his groundbreaking first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1948, Earl Shaffer documented his adventures in vivid detail. Along with his photographs, Earl's trail diary was used to confirm that he was the first-ever person to complete the more than 2,000-mile long trail in one continuous journey.
Filled with stories of interactions with locals and other hikers, stories of adventure, poetry, and peaceful reflections on the stillness he found in nature, this compilation was later published as his best-known book, Walking with Spring.
The original "Little Black Book" is part of the Smithsonian Institute's permanent collection at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. along with many of Earl's belongings. Earl's 1948 trail journal has been both scanned and transcribed by volunteers and is available to read in its entirety as an online exhibit here.
Earl Shaffer's Poetry
Before Earl "walked with spring" he documented his entire Army experiences in a poetic journal. A portion of the journal was written in a fast moving "marching" rhythm with ballad quatrains and end rhyme. It is titled "The Doughboy Odyssey."
In other sections of his journal, he experimented with different poetic forms such as the difficult English and Heroic sonnet forms as well as free verse and the ballad. He had with him a Bible, rhyming dictionary, and a book of Rudyard Kipling poetry.
Through his poetic journal, he not only documented his South Pacific odyssey from island to island as a Signal Corps man, but also specific battles, war machinery, war time news, and island cultures.
These poems have been compiled into two volumes. Before I Walked With Spring includes "The Doughboy Odyssey" which is a ballad review of his entire military career.
South of the Sunset specifically describes the war in the Pacific Theater with eyewitness accounts of battles and cultures.