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10 famous Appalachian Trail hikers

By: Laura Moss on May 18, 2011, 1:23 p.m.
Earl Shaffer after completing the Applachian Trail

Photo: National Museum of American History, Behring Center

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Earl Shaffer

Earl Shaffer was the first person to walk the AT in one continuous hike, a feat that the Appalachian Trail Conference believed to be impossible. After completing his service during World War II, Shaffer said he wanted to "walk the army out of [his] system," and he began his hike at Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia, on April 4, 1948. There were no guidebooks for the trail, so Shaffer set out with just roadmaps and a compass, and averaging 16.5 miles a day, he reached Mount Katahdin 124 days later. The moment was bittersweet for Shaffer who wrote, "I almost wished that the Trail really was endless, that no one could ever hike its length." In 1965, Shaffer hiked the trail again — this time starting in Maine and hiking to Georgia, making him the first person to complete a thru-hike in both directions. Then in 1998, at the age of 79, he hiked the entire AT again. Believe it or not, there have been older thru-hikers: The record is currently held by Lee Barry who finished his fifth AT hike in 2004 at the age of 81.