Earl Shaffer on Katahdin
Long-trail hikers are blessed (or perhaps cursed) with a relentless drive to explore and push boundaries.
A good hike consists not only of a leisurely stroll or an opportunity to soak in the beauty of nature, but becomes a great adventure that tests the limits of possibility.
In 1948, after serving his country in WWII, Earl Shaffer set off on foot from Georgia on an epic journey of over 2000 miles that culminated at the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. With gear that would be considered primitive by today’s standards, Shaffer became the first individual to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. At the time, this feat was thought to be an impossibility to complete. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, thousands of hikers now attempt to thru-hike the trail each year but the majority fail to complete the journey.
The longest trail in Kansas is the Flint Hills Nature Trail, a rail-trail that spans the rugged Flint Hills from the eastern terminus in Osawatomie west to Herington. The trail is partially developed, but untamed sections remain with the longest being from Council Grove to Herington. As the longest trail in the state, we are posing a challenge to any intrepid hiker to become the first to thru-hike the trail in a single trip.
Flint Hills Nature Trail
To the best of our knowledge, no one has completed the entire trail by foot. While the daunting exposure of the Flint Hills, lack of water sources, and length of the trail make it a true Kansas challenge; the rewards of the trail are great, with some of the best scenery and pleasant hiking along the way.
We will offer a signed copy of the “Kansas Trail Guide” to the first person to complete the challenge and a custom made leather patch to any individual that makes it all the way across by foot.
A trail services directory from the Kanza Rail Trails Conservancy provides a guide to essential services along the route. Camping options are limited, but take advantage of Neosho Park Recreation Area at Council Grove Reservoir and the Vassar State Park area at Pomona Lake. Plan carefully, be prepared, and don’t underestimate the grand challenge posed by the trail. Keep us posted on your progress and the adventures you encounter along the way!