[at-l] Earl Shaffer's hike questioned

Jim Bullard jim.bullard at gmail.com
Sun Jul 3 09:49:45 CDT 2011

It's been a while (several years) since I last read either of Earl's books,
longer for "Walking with Spring" than for "The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me
Back to the Hills" but my memory of "Walking with Spring" was that the
writing came no where near being a thorough, mile-by-mile description of of
his hike that would allow an precise reconstruction. In fact of the 100+
thru-hike accounts I've read few were that thorough. Let's face it, some
miles of any hike just aren't that interesting. When you're writing a book
you write about the interesting bits. I do recall Earl saying that some
parts of the trail were in such disrepair (trees down, missing blazes, etc.)
that its path was indistinguishable and yes, he did talk about hiking
country roads around such sections. I don't recall the part of accepting a
ride that took him around a substantial portion of the trail. I'll probably
have to reread it to satisfy my curiosity but it will make no difference in
my opinion of him and his hike anyway.

In as much as he was the 1st to successfully attempt an end-to-end hike in
one season he can hardly be faulted for failing to adhere to "purity" of
thru-hiking standards. He invented one season thru-hiking. No one had ever
done it before. There were no 'standards'. Those were all the product of
later hikers who, for whatever reasons, decided that simply walking
end-to-end wasn't enough they needed added constraints. Ironically at least
one of the loudest voices (WF) for rigid 'rules' regarding what constituted
a thru frequently broke his own rules.

I just don't understand this adherence to someone else's standards in an
activity that is, by nature, an individual endeavor. I don't even understand
the notion that setting such limits on one's self is a valuable exercise. I
can see setting the larger goal and some broad parameters but the day-to-day
process should be responding to what it encountered. That's what Earl did.
If there is a 'standard' for thru-hiking it should be what Earl did.

Jim Bullard

On Sun, Jul 3, 2011 at 9:53 AM, <carla_dave_hicks at verizon.net> wrote:

> http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/291803
> "Did the man heralded as the first to walk the entire Appalachian Trail
> take a shortcut into history?A new report questions whether Earl Shaffer
> actually walked the trail's entire length.
> By Laurence Hammack
>  981-3239
>  ....
> Jim McNeely, a West Virginia lawyer and hiker who spent years researching
> the epic hike, says Shaffer bypassed at least 170 miles of the trail --
> taking multiple shortcuts by walking on country roads and twice accepting
> short rides in cars.
> "This is not nitpicking about someone leaving the trail to go around some
> downed trees," McNeely said of his findings, detailed in a 158-page report
> he shared with The Roanoke Times.
> "I was looking for knowing, deliberate decisions to not walk the
> Appalachian Trail."
> ...."
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