Book review: Earl V. Shaffer "Walking With Spring" (1981 )
It seems as if when you can't be out hiking the trail you could just waterproof your boots or you could read about hiking the trail. There are quite a few good books about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but the one to start with is Earl V. Shaffer's "Walking With Spring."
First of all, he was the first to hike the AT continuously from end to end, which he did in 1948 after serving 41/2 years in the Army in World War II. Certainly any 2000 plus mile hike is quite an accomplishment, but in 1948 it was exceptionally difficult. Just following the trail in those days was quite a challenge, and it was made even harder when the maps that Earl ordered from the Appalachian Trail Conference didn't arrive in time, leaving him to depend on gas station maps.
In addition, his equipment seemed to be a little shaky, especially by modern standards. In his "bulky" Mountain Troop rucksack he carried a Marine Corps poncho, a "paper mill" blanket (whatever that is) and an Air Corps survival tent (which he ditched after a week.) When he developed blisters early on, he decided the "…best thing was to put sand in my boots and wear no socks until my feet toughened." (!)
But maybe most importantly, reading "Walking With Spring" gives the reader a unique opportunity to go back in time and experience -even if vicariously - the early Appalachian Trail as it was in 1948, and a very different America along the way . Neither the trail nor the country would ever be the same again.
Finally - and thankfully - Earl Shaffer's writing is more than equal to the promise of his great adventure. He tells you, in quite a bit of detail, with a few photographs, just about everything you might want to know about this first AT thru-hike in a style that's as natural and inspiring as a walk in the woods.
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