Earl Shaffer the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail in one trek (thru-hike) was also a person who had little desire to accumulate money. Earl sought his brother John's help in setting up a nonprofit foundation to support the trail and related causes. He realized that he would be collecting book royalties on his not-yet released work Calling Me Back to the Hills. Earl discussed with John different projects in need of support. During Earl's final months in the spring of 2002, they established the Earl Shaffer Foundation. It was at this time that renowned trail photographer Bart Smith conceived of the idea combining his awe-inspiring photograph of Katahdin with Earl's poetry to raise funds. In what became The Katahdin Art Project, funds generated through sales would be distributed to the trail related causes Earl wished to support. This work continues today. It is an honor for all of us to be part of this ongoing support for the following organization that were close to Earl’s heart:
1. Appalachian Trail Museum Society
2. Local Appalachian Trail Hiking Clubs
3. Appalachian Trail Land Trust
5. Center for Appalachian Trail Studies
6. Penn State Forestry School
How They Met—Earl and Bar
The Katahdin Art Project originated on a blustery autumn afternoon along the Appalachian Trail on Webster Cliffs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Earl was hiking north up the trail and Bart, having flip-flopped, was hiking south down the trail. Wearing his iconic white pith helmut (now in the Smithsonian Museum) Earl was easy to spot and the two men stopped for a rest. The steep terrain provided a good excuse to sit and chat. Bart was hoping to run into Earl after hearing so much about him from other northbounders. Earl was heading into the homestretch of his 50th anniversary hike, but at the age of 79, the White Mountains and Maine were still formidable obstacles yet to be overcome. Bart carried a tripod on his backpack which led their conversation into photography. Having photographed the Pacific Crest Trail for one of his books he was now photographing the Appalachian Trail. Bart Smith is the first person to hike and photograph all eleven National Scenic Trails. They were kindred spirits from the start. Earl carried a camera on his first two thru-hikes. He mentioned he enjoyed photography but had left his camera at home to lessen his load. Jokingly, Earl stated that a pencil and paper were lighter allowing him to capture his thoughts and observations along the trail and to write poetry when the muse hit him. As the two legends parted for the first time, they couldn’t know at the time that their initial trailside chat would be the genesis of the coffee table book titled The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back To The Hills. This book includes the narrative of Earl’s 50th anniversary hike along with poetry written throughout his life together with Bart’s photography taken along the Appalachian Trail.
The foundation now directs funds from Earl's book royalties, CD sales, and various donations to The Appalachian Trail Museum and related trail & nature programs dear to Earl. The art piece itself (available now) celebrates the magnificence of Mt Katahdin and raises funds for the Foundation. The Katahdin Art Project is a collaboration between the Earl Shaffer Foundation and Image Pathways LLC, Bart Smith’s company.
The Appalachian Trail Museum is now built and open! Located in Pennsylvania's Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the facility is the realization of Larry Luxemburg and the many supporters of the museum including early visionaries Earl Shaffer and Bart Smith. The Katahdin Art Project helped to provide some of the seed money to get the museum started. Thank you for your support.
Bart Smith speaking at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
October 2nd, 2008. -"40th Anniversary celebration of the creation of the National Trail System".
What is the Katahdin Art Project
The Katahdin Art Project combines Appalachian Trail pioneer Earl Shaffer's poetry and Bart Smith's (the first person to hike and photograph all 11 of America’s National Scenic Trails) photography to create a moving and lasting tribute to the northern terminus of the Appalachian trail, Mt. Katahdin. All net proceeds are donated to the Earl Shaffer Foundation, the Appalachian Trail Museum, and if you choose, your local trail club.
The poem "Katahdin" came to Earl upon waking from a dream in the wee hours of the morning the day of his final ascent up the mountain. He wrote it down while still in his sleeping bag using light from his head lamp.
Bart’s actual photograph of Mt. Katahdin used in the art project was captured from the Appalachian Trail along Abol Bridge in the same year Earl’s poem was written. During the day prior to the photograph, a passing storm yielded thunder, lightening, and rainbows. That night the year's first snow then fell upon Mt. Katahdin. In the crisp air of early dawn, the mountain shone sparkling clear with wisps of clouds. Bart Smith aimed his lens upward and captured the moment forever… for all of us to see.
The art project includes both Earl and Bart's signatures. The 1¼ x 3 inch card is placed under the top mat in the lower right hand corner of each art piece. Earl was only able to sign 1200 of the cards and the last from his hospital bed before he became too weak to write. His physical strength declining, Earl left us on May 5th 2002. Your purchase of The Katahdin Art Project preserves and carries on forever Earl Shaffer’s spirit and legacy, a man who gave so much to the Appalachian Trail.
All of the art pieces display Bart’s magnificent photograph and Earl’s signature engraved under his poem. A limited number of the Signed Edition are available that have both Earl and Bart’s personally hand written signatures displayed on a card and are priced at $400. This amount includes a tax deductable donation for you of $250.
Also available is the Memorial Edition which substitutes an engraved card with “In memory of Earl Shaffer” and Bart Smith’s signature. This edition is priced at $250 and a tax deduction for you of $100 is included.
The benchmark book about the trail was written by Earl Shaffer and includes his poetry. All of the timeless photos in this must have book were taken by renowned trail photographer Bart Smith. Titled The Appalachian Trail Calling Me Back to the Hills, Shaffer and Smith collaborated in the creation of what some say is the best overall book ever produced covering the entire trail. A masterpiece unto itself this coffee table sized work makes a perfect companion piece to the Katahdin Art Project.
We believe you will appreciate the scope of these endeavors as a lasting tribute to the mountain, the trail, and to Earl Shaffer. If you are excited about the artistry of the Katahdin Art Project, as well as the concept of win, win, win fundraising please tell a friend so the word can spread. Here is that one of a kind gift, timeless and stunningly beautiful. Most of the purchase price is a charitable contribution but best of all, your purchase will help carry on the spirit of Earl Shaffer's legacy, a man who gave so much to the Appalachian Trail and to Nature. Join in and be a part of the legacy!