MindFire Press

The Appalachian Trail

Maine Hiker's Journal

Season 1 (2013)

Chapter 4: The Appalachian Trail


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 this book, 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. In previous chapters of Maine Hiker’s Journal, I related my experiences hiking the trails of Mount A and visiting Baxter State Park for the first time. So I won’t repeat them here.

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). [For a glimpse of what a section of the AT looks like, check out the photos in the slideshow below from that glorious, 2.4 mile round trip hike.To move from one slide to the next, just click the directional arrow on the side of the picture.] 

I have also identified several other sections of the AT in Maine to hike in coming seasons (spring, summer, and fall) as my level of fitness improves. For me, the 2014 season is one in which I will try to make a quantum leap in my hiking ability, so that more challenging AT section hikes, as well as hikes to open summits at greater elevations, are possible. Inspired by these spiritual journeys on the AT and the trails to majestic summits, I hope to make continuous improvement as a hiker in the coming years so that more hiking adventures always lie ahead.

The greatest adventure of my first hiking season, and the day when I discovered that I was destined to become a hiker, was not one I had planned. It happened by chance. I describe this tipping point in my hiking career in the next chapter of Maine Hiker’s Journal—An Acadian Adventure.  

Click An Acadian Adventure to read the next chapter.

Click Maine Hiker's Journal to return to the home page of the journal.


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