I recently finished the book, “Walking with Spring.” The book is a hiking memoir by Earl Shaffer, the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. Shaffer recounts his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1948, a journey spurred by the hope that a long trail might be enough to help “walk off the war.” The book didn’t talk much about combat or PTSD, but it was a very interesting account of what the A.T. was like 67 years ago.

I’m not sure this book would be as meaningful to folks who have not hiked the trail, but I loved Shaffer’s detailed recall and the recounting of spots and experiences along his journey. Here are some of my favorite quotes and quips from his book.


  1. My motto is, “Carry as little as possible. But choose that little with care.”
  1. (North Georgia) was a well-watered region of dense laurel thicket, ideal for the making of “Mountain Dew.” A certain odor soon was evident and you can be sure I didn’t linger or look to right or left.
  1. From that time on my strength increased and so did my food bill.
  1. The choice was to backtrack or to bushwhack up the steep, high, slope, which is what I chose and thereby jeopardized the entire expedition, instead of saving time.
  1. Most people never in all their lives sleep under the open sky, and never realize what they are missing.
  1. One advantage, more or less, in backpacking is that when you have less food for strength you also have less weight to carry.
  1. “A rattlesnake’s a gentleman, he’ll sing and let you know he’s there, but a copperhead just lays there and lashes out at ye.”
  1. Dozens of people were on the overlook, admiring the view. I felt detached from them, like a stranger in a far country.
  1. Mention of the Trail brought on a discussion as to the proper pronunciation of Appalachian. The lady, who spoke with a Deep Southern accent, used the pronunciation derived from the Appalachee Indian Tribe, the original source. The man, definitely a northerner, said she would think so, coming from the South were, “They always mess up the language.” I agreed with her but didn’t say so.
  1. Cutting a tree is almost like killing an animal and neither should be done without good reason.
  1. Actually, the danger of snakebite is almost nil on the Appalachian Trail. The greatest danger is crossing a busy highway, especially a four lane.
  1. “What are these, the Appalachians or the Rockies? My feet feel like hamburgers.”
  1. “Sun and wind and the sound of rain - Hunger and thirst and strife – God, to be on the trail again – With a grip on the mane of life.”
  1. The rain kept on and so did I.
  1. Someone has said that if you don’t like the weather in the Appalachians, just wait a while and it will change.
  1. Fishing and long distance hiking don’t combine very well.
  1. The highlands of New Hampshire have a bleak ruggedness that commands the respect of the hardiest mountaineer.
  1. Most people will pay to ride, rather than walk, even to the top of a mountain.
  1. When I left the signs of my presence were so slight that the next rain would remove them. Like the Indians, I say, “Where I go, I leave no sign.”
  1. Trail-hiking had become my way of life. Civilization seemed like a sham.