Hiking the AT

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is the reason I started hiking. A friend recommended A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, because in it Bill chronicled in a humorous way his misadventures trying to thru-hike the AT (he didn’t make it). I read the book, had a few laughs, but found myself wondering what someone who had completed the trip and written about it in a more serious way might have to say. This led me to Earl Shaffer’s Walking with Spring.


In Walking with Spring, Earl tells of his great adventure in such a simple, humble, and yet profound way that it captivated me from the first page. Earl, a veteran of World War II, and a close friend had decided to walk the newly completed AT after the war. His friend never made it. But Earl, to walk off the effects of the war, decided to hike the over 2,000 mile trail alone. He did so in 1948 in four months, starting in early spring in Georgia and walking north to Maine. In so doing, Earl became the first person to thru-hike the entire AT, an epic achievement.


Earl’s great adventure inspired me to learn to hike, not to become a thru-hiker like him (except perhaps in my heart), but to walk on sections of the trail accessible to me that Earl and thousands of other thru-hikers have trod. With this goal in mind, I began hiking in the spring of 2013 on the trails of the nearest hill to me—Mount Agamenticus in York County, Maine—to see if this was something I could do at my age and would enjoy doing.


In the same month, May, I went to Baxter State Park as soon as it opened to see the northern end of the AT (the Hunt Trail to the summit of Mount Katahdin) for myself and draw further inspiration to fuel my vision of becoming a hiker.

Since reading Earl’s book, I have read several other books on the AT, joined the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, an organization whose mission, according to its website is “to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come,” read a number of books on Mount Katahdin and its history, and walked a beautiful and easy section of the AT in Baxter State Park (from Daicey Pond Campground to Little and Big Niagara Falls).


Click Maine Hiker’s Journal to read more about my hiking adventures.