Earl Shaffer’s 1948 Trail Diary Transcribed

Earl Shaffer hand-written 1948 trail diary

Earl’s handwritten trail journal has been transcribed into plain text.

in 1948 Earl Shaffer was the first person to walk all of the Appalachian Trail in a single outing.  He kept a trail journal logging his experiences as he went but his smudged writing can be difficult to read at times.  Fortunately people have transcribed his cursive handwriting into plain text which is much easier to read.  For example, the pages pictured above have been converted to the following:

they offered to feed me. Had tough time finding trail from Frosty Mt. north. Ranger showed me but still had difficulty.
Got back and I dry camped on slope of Springer Mtn. under large fallen tree. Very tired, began to rain lightly in night. I [[hunted slabs ?]] by flashlight and made shelter.
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5/ rose at dawn. [[wore ?]] poncho. Reached Springer Mtn. lookout about 7:30. one swallow of water [[end page]]

[[start page]] in canteen. About 8:30 found spring stopped and cooked cornmeal mush.
[[strikethrough]] ______________________
At shelter on Oglethorp cooked potatoes onions and bits of jerked venisons
_____________________________
Next day (Tues) 6 [[/strikethrough]] about 11:00 found water and cooked oatmeal. Walked nearly ten miles before learning I was off trail (had followed orange blaze. Had to walk back hiked about 25 miles gained about 5

You can read all of Earl Shaffer’s Trail Journal on the Smithsonian’s transcription website.

Cattail Hike

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Prior to our hike we got to examine the cattail and discuss how it can benefit us. Then we proceeded on the 3 mile cross country course behind the Susquenita High School. It is a well kept and well marked trail due to the efforts of Coach Rick Knepp and his helpers. While a moderate hike, some of the hills proved strenuous, especially the hill referred to as the “Demoralizer”, it would prove challenging for a runner as well as a hiker.

Why did Euell Gibbons call the cattail “The Supermarket Plant of the Swamps”? It gets its name because some part of it is edible year round. Parts of the plant have other uses too besides gracing your table.

In the spring the inner core of the first shoots can be used like celery. When the shoots are 2 feet high you can pull out the soft white core eat it raw, boiled, or in salads. The roots can be made into flour which will be discussed in more detail later in this article.

In the summer the cattail bloom or flower head, referred to as “The Kitten” can be eaten like corn on the cob. Gather the kittens while they are still green. Cattail blooms produce heavy, yellow pollen which is used to flavor and thicken soups, and as a substitute for wheat flour. It is high in protein and Vitamin A. Again roots may be used for flour.

In Fall crisp buds at the base of the stalk (next year’s cattail plants) can be eaten raw, boiled with butter, put in salads, or pickled. Roots are best in the winter and fall for flour production.

In Winter the roots are ripe for the picking. Wash and peel the roots and put them in a pail of water. Then mash the roots with your hands to wash out the starch between the fibers of the roots. Pour off the fibers and debris through a strainer leaving the starchy water in the pail for thirty minutes. This allows the starch to settle to the bottom of the pail. After thirty minutes, pour off the water and fill with fresh water allowing time for the starch to settle again. Decant off as much water as you can once the water has cleared. The final product should be a white, starchy flour which can be used wet or dried and stored.

Other uses for the Cattail include drying the leave and using them to make baskets, rush chairs, and mats. The brown heads can be used as fall decorations and down for stuffing mattresses or pillows. They used to be used in life vests. Brown heads can also be lit and used as insect repellent.

Now you know why the cattail is: “The Supermarket Plant of the Swamps”.

The Duncannon Stack

The following article from  March of 1972 originally appeared in the Perry County Times and Duncannon Record and is reprinted with their permission.


“The Duncannon Smokestack”

The Duncannon Stack - a remnant of an old mill near Duncannon BoroughThe large brick stack with a base of mountain stone, that once did service for the boilers of a saw mill operation, probably the largest single operation on any timber tract in Perry County, which stands on the site once known as the Gorgas place, about six miles southwest of Duncannon, was erected in the year 1857.

During the summer of that year, Captain Jacob Coulter, and a man by the name of Palmer, began the erection of the stack and the felling of virgin trees on a sixteen hundred acre tract densely covered by virgin growth, a watershed that now supplies the majority portion of the pure, sparkling water for the Trout Run Water Company reservoir. (*Duncannon Borough is currently supplied with well water from this area.) Continue reading

DOC August Hike – Cattails

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On Sat., Aug. 16th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) will be hiking at the Susquenita High School 3 mile cross country course, through a wooded area. This is an average paced hiked on easy to moderate terrain with some short, steep hills. We will be learning about the Cattail and why it is called the Supermarket Plant of the Swamps. Meet at the Susquenita High School parking lot closest to the entrance of the building at 9:00 am. Call 395-2462 to register or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org. Hope to see you there!

2014 DATC Festival Photos

We were fortunate to have photographers at our 2014 Duncannon Appalachian Trail Festival willing to share their photos with us.  Thanks to Jeromy, Jeannie Conrad, and Charlie Johnson, we have great pictures of the crowd, the entertainment, the vendors and some of the presentations at the Duncannon Appalachian Trail Festival (a.k.a. the Duncannon Blast).

Appalachian Trail Maintainers


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Susquehanna Sojourn

Susquehanna Sojourn

Break out the paddles, prepare your campfire tales, and join the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership for an exciting trip through some lovely and scenic sections of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River during a 5-day educational canoe/kayak trip! Paddle the entire trip, or just a few days… it’s up to you!

Touted by National Geographic as a “Best Adventure Destination for 2012” and recently designated a National Recreation Trail and connecting trail to the Captain John Smith Historic Trail by the National Park Service, the West Branch is a great place for exploration!

Visit the Susquehanna Greenway – West Branch Sojourn webpage for more detailed information.

DOC June Scavenger Hunt

DOC LogoThe DOC scavenger hunt at the Cornerstone Christian Church Trails was a lot of fun! Participants carried clipboards holding a checklist of various items one would see while hiking. While some things were real; like the birds, butterfly, nests, and leaves, some items were strategically placed for the children to find and check off their list. There was the giant yellow spider on a trail sign, a turtle on a bench, a frog on the ground, a feather in the grass, the big red ladybug, a cobra, and a fish in the creek. We all missed the bat hanging from a tree! It was a fun time for all.

Join us for the July DOC Scavenger Hike at Wildwood Nature Center where all the items on our list will be for real!

Duncannon Outdoor Club Scavenger Hike at Wildwood

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On Sat., July 19th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) will be at the Wildwood Nature Center. Join us for an average paced 3 mile hike over easy terrain, as we search for items to check off of our scavenger cards. It is a hike for the whole family; provided children can walk the distance. Bring water, a snack, and binoculars if you have them. Meet at the Cornerstone Christian Church in Duncannon at 9:00 am. to carpool or meet at the Nature Center entrance by the bathrooms at 9:30 am. Call 834-9216 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register.