New Earl Shaffer biography published by Appalachian Trail Museum

Appalachian Trail legend Earl Shaffer is the subject of a new biography, “A Grip on the Mane of Life,” by thru-hiker David Donaldson and Maurice J. Forrester, a long-time activist in the Pennsylvania hiking community. Shaffer, a native of York, became the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in a single season in 1948.

His feat was featured the following year in a National Geographic article on the Appalachian Trail and led eventually to an upsurge in long-distance backpacking in this country. Shaffer’s gear from the 1948 hike, his slides, journal, boots and memorabilia are preserved by the Smithsonian Institution, which featured him in a major exhibit in 2009.

Other artifacts from Shaffer, including a trail shelter he built himself along the Appalachian Trail north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are featured in the Appalachian Trail Museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners.

The book’s authors both have ties to Shaffer. Donaldson finished the 1998 thru-hike with Shaffer and spent years researching the book. Forrester served as president of the Keystone Trails Association and is a board member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and a founder of the Appalachian Trail Museum. Forrester knew Shaffer for many years and wrote the foreword for his memoir, “Walking with Spring.”

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