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Per, “His journal and hiking boots (Russell Moccasin Company “Birdshooter” boots), are in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.”

They’re kept there and the case is hardly ever opened because, well, the boots still stink!

True that!  After all, modern ‘through hikers’ usually go through 2-3 pairs of sturdy walking shoes, Earl Shaffer, WWII veteran, “paused often to sew, grease and patch his footwear, and twice had the soles replaced at shops along the route.”


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Back to Earl himself. In 1948, he decided to ‘walk the war out of my system.” He had planned to hike the trail together, with Walter, a childhood friend who died on Iwo Jima. 

Earl took on the task solo, hiking some 16 miles per day, and a total of about 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. He kept a journal that he used “as a log to prove that he had completed his historic hike.”


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In it, comments range from casual notes about the sounds of the forest, to the graves of veterans that he ran across (it seems the war was always with him), washing his underwear, encountering Girls Scouts and copperheads, and a raccoon that insisted on licking his frying pan.

The entire diary is fascinating. 



Earl Shaffer died in 2002, after also becoming the oldest person to hike the whole trail, at age 79, in 1998!