About Karen Hendricks

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Duo treks AT in memory of uncle, first thru-hiker

By Karen Hendricks – This article was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, June 16, 2018

In April 1948, York County native Earl Shaffer set out to do what no man had done before—hike the Appalachian Trail’s (A.T.) 2,000-some miles in one continuous hike. His motivation was to “walk off the war” and his experiences serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Not only was he the first person to successfully “thru-hike” the longest hiking-only footpath in the world from Georgia to Maine at the age of 29, but he went on to do it two more times, hiking in reverse from Maine to Georgia—and being the first to do so—in 1965; and commemorating the 50th anniversary of his first hike with a 1998 trek at the age of 79.

Last month (May 2018), during this 70th anniversary year of Earl’s first hike, two of Earl’s relatives launched their own A.T. adventure to pay homage to the legendary trail figure.

The father-daughter pair, Dan and Kim Shaffer, who called Earl their uncle and great uncle respectively, began hiking the A.T. at Pen Mar Park, Cascade, Maryland, heading north, on Thursday, May 24. During the past week, their trek took them through nearby sites such as Caledonia and Pine Grove Furnace State Parks and Michaux State Forest, with stops at the Appalachian Trail Museum in Gardners and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) Mid-Atlantic Office in Boiling Springs.

Kimberly Shaffer

“This is pretty much my stomping grounds, from my teenage years,” says Dan, who was born and raised in York; his mother was from Waynesboro. “Seeing the Michaux and Laurel Lake—it brings back memories.”

Memories are what this hike are about—not only memories of the past, but creating new memories together and keeping Earl’s memory alive.

“This whole experience has been about getting to know Earl–hiking along with my dad and listening to his stories. We’re learning a lot together, learning more about ourselves,” says Kim.

In preparation for this summer’s trek, she recently poured over Earl’s many writings, poems and music, including his book The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back to the Hills, published in 1998. She was only 13 when Earl passed away. Although she was born and raised in Arizona, where her father moved and also now lives, she has fond memories of summers spent visiting her relatives in Pennsylvania.

Dan remembers his uncle clearly.

Dan Shaffer

“He was always a lover of the outdoors; a mountain man. Reconnecting with the wilderness brought him peace… He had determination to take on challenges that other people didn’t dare take on until after he showed them that it could be done,” Dan says, referring to his uncle’s historic hike.

“We’re all really happy that Earl has been an inspiration for some of the returning veterans like those involved in Warrior Expeditions. I’m sure Earl would be very happy,” says Dan.

Warrior Expeditions is a program that organizes endurance trips for veterans—hiking on numerous trails such as the A.T., biking on the Trans America Trail and paddling down the Mississippi River. It was founded in order to provide veterans, at no cost, therapeutic experiences that simulated lengthy journeys historically experienced by soldiers returning from battles—time in which military personnel typically processed and came to terms with wartime experiences. The organization pays homage to Earl Shaffer’s then-revolutionary idea to “walk off the war” on its website.

Earl’s dedication to the A.T. became a lifelong passion, says Dan.

“Earl in many ways was a selfless person who played an important role in the 1960s and 70s, in having the federal government assume  responsibility for the Appalachian Trail, in addition to all of his work with trail organizations, maintaining the trail, building shelters, giving talks—probably thousands of times. He was in some ways a shy and private person, but he was always ready to talk on behalf of the trail and his experiences,” Dan says.

That’s exactly what Kim and Dan are doing along the trail—talking with fellow hikers, bringing Earl’s legacy into the conversation when possible, and continuing Earl’s lifelong mission to increase awareness of the A.T.

“It’s an amazing resource. Something like 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive of the A.T.,” Kim says.

According to his 2002 obituary in The New York Times, Earl Shaffer lived much of his life close by the trail, in a wilderness lifestyle—in Adams County: “A bachelor, Earl Shaffer lived most of his life with his cats and goats in a log cabin on a farm in Idaville, Pa., about five miles from the Appalachian Trail. He got electricity two years ago, but never had running water or a refrigerator.”

“Even when Benton MacKaye conceived the idea of the A.T. [in 1921], it was this escape from busy society. Today, it’s still an escape, but it’s also a pursuit of peace, knowing yourself better, really challenging yourself. This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever set for myself, discovering what I’m made of. Getting back to nature, a lot of people are trying to do that as a society, we really do need time alone and time in nature,” Kim says.

Currently, the pair is averaging ten trail miles a day. Kim’s mother (Dan’s wife), Ya-mai Shaffer is shadowing them in a support vehicle. Together, they are visiting many relatives still living in Pennsylvania during the evening hours. After a month together, Dan will return to Arizona, and Kim will continue hiking alone, increasing her daily mileage to 15-20 in order to reach the trail’s northern point at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Then, she plans on returning to Pen Mar Park and hiking south as far as time will allow before returning to her job as a teacher in Arizona. It’s what’s called a “flip-flop hike” in the trail community—hiking the entire A.T. in discontinuous sections.

There are tentative plans in late August, for Kim and Dan to offer a talk at the A.T. Museum where exhibits pay homage to early A.T. trail pioneers including Earl. Some of Earl’s belongings are also on display, housed in one of many historic shelters he personally constructed along the trail.

Thru-hikers are typically given trail nicknames. Kim, following in Earl’s footsteps, was dubbed “Echo” during a recent brainstorming session at the museum.

Kim points out that their ages are similar to Earl’s ages at the time of his hikes—Kim just turned 30; Earl was 29 when he completed his first hike. Dan is 73; Earl was 79 for his final hike. Also, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Earl’s birth in 1918.

Dan and Kim Shaffer, May 2018

And, 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the National Trail System Act, which designated the A.T., according to Sara Haxby, senior office manager at the ATC’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office and Visitor Center which oversees the trail from Rockfish Gap, Virginia to the New York/Connecticut state line. The ATC manages and protects the A.T. on many levels.

“That can be monitoring plant species, monitoring the National Park boundary, or protecting the A.T. from threats such as pipelines, powerlines, encroaching development; making sure various townships are aware of the benefit of having green space,” says Haxby.

Haxby, a native of Massachusetts, completed an A.T. thru-hike in 2009. She says Earl Shaffer’s desire “to walk the army out of his system” is relatable. “I think a lot of people can identify with that situation, to take a different path for a while. Being in the woods, taking care of yourself is a way to rebuild,” Haxby says.

“Walking off the war, which we’re seeing now with soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, is as relevant today as it was then. It’s the healing power of connecting with nature and quieting yourself,” says Karen Lutz, ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Director.

Lutz, who has served as director of the Boiling Springs office for 30 years, says she met Earl Shaffer several times. “He was a character—he truly was the definition of a character, kind of reclusive.”

Ironically, it was his historic 1948 hike that inspired her own career path.

“When I was in third grade, [growing up near Pittsburgh], we used to get Weekly Readers, and one had an article about the A.T. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it had to have been an article about Earl in the early 1960s and it captured my imagination. That stayed with me, and I worked at summer camps, going on to earn my master’s in outdoor recreation from Penn State. When I was hired, I was the first woman in a field position with the ATC.”

Lutz says Earl often sat on the front porch of the ATC’s Mid-Atlantic Office, located along the trail adjacent to Children’s Lake in Boiling Springs. She says he enjoyed connecting with hikers and talking about his experiences. It was those types of interactions that cultivated his legendary status and following among many in the trail community. She says in many ways, Kim and Dan’s hike brings Earl’s experience “full circle.”

“When I thru-hiked the A.T. in 1978, there were just 106 of us. Today, there are thousands of thru-hikers,” Lutz says, “But Earl was the first. And he used the trail as a healing experience, which is really what Benton MacKay thought it could be.”

Dan and Kim Shaffer hike past the ATC’s front porch in Boiling Springs, PA where Earl Shaffer often sat, talked with hikers

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Get out–really. Connect with nature for greater well-being:

NYC’s Central Park: One of my favorite places on earth

By Karen Hendricks

When your mother told you to “Go play outside,” she may have been laying the groundwork for a lifelong healthy habit.

A recent study, reported by The Los Angeles Times, found that people who came into contact with nature, even in urban environments, boosted their well-being.

It’s considered landmark work because it measured how nature within a built environment can affect mental well-being–for the first time. Since more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and numerous studies point to a link between city dwelling and higher risk of mental health issues, the authors say their work could help city planners incorporate more natural features.

The study, published in the journal Biosciencefound that people were more likely to report higher states of well-being when they were outdoors, seeing trees, hearing birds singing, seeing the sky and feeling in contact with nature. 

The positive effects on well-being of seeing trees and seeing the sky lasted for more than two hours. Additionally, when people answered “yes” to the question “Do you feel in contact with nature?” researchers measured a statistical effect on mental well-being that lasted nearly five hours.

It’s a timely topic: Today is National Arbor Day, on the heels of Earth Day, as most of the country (finally) begins to feel and see the effects of spring.

Three of my published articles in April focused on nature and the great outdoors. Perhaps the implications of enjoying nature go much deeper into our health and well-being than we realize! 

Through It All: In springtime, the thru-hikers take to the A.T., TheBurg, April 2018

20 Ways to Go Wild in Central PA: Discover adventure at any age in local nature centers, wildlife sanctuaries and moreSusquehanna Style, April 2018

25 Hot Spots to Dine Out(doors)Susquehanna Style, April 2018

Enjoy!

Source: Nature boosts your mental health, LA Times

Wellness: In Mind, Body & Spirit

Wellness is all the rage: It’s a $686 billion industry–and growing. The global market for health and wellness is expected to swell to $815 billion by 2021, according to Euromonitor International.

The buzzword “wellness” can be defined as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” (World Health Organization).

Going one step further, wellness “goes beyond mere freedom from disease or infirmity and emphasizes the proactive maintenance and improvement of health and well-being… incorporating attitudes and activities that prevent disease, improve health, enhance quality of life, and bring a person to increasingly optimum levels of well-being” (Dr. Jack Travis’ Illness Wellness Continuum).

Wellness is tied to:

  • health
  • fitness
  • nutrition
  • health eating
  • exercise
  • sleep
  • mental health
  • managing stress
  • corporate wellness programs
  • meditation
  • spa industry
  • outdoor recreation
  • weight loss
  • lifestyle

With that in mind, much of my work has focused on wellness lately! Here are three recently-published articles touching on wellness… and look for more to come!

Gaining Momentum: Tracey Wakeen shares her passion for fitness, TheBurg, March 2018

18 Ways to Get Healthy in 2018Susquehanna Style, February 2018

On the Rocks: Climbing high, warm and dry, in Perry CountyTheBurg, January 2018

What areas of wellness interest you? Feel free to comment, below:

Gettysburg’s Growing Culinary Scene

New: Ribeye breakfast sliders marry breakfast and lunch on mini croissants at Christine’s Cafe, Gettysburg

“The most famous small town in America” is gaining a reputation as one of Pennsylvania’s new culinary hot spots. Gettysburg not only boasts a thriving downtown restaurant district, but an abundance of outlying, rural restaurants dotting the surrounding agricultural landscape.

Gettysburg’s growing reputation as a mecca for foodies is thanks in great part to the talented chefs locating to the area. I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the newest chefs in town, for two magazine articles, both published this month (October 2017).

Bon appetit!

At the Crossroads of American Fusion: Christine’s Café in GettysburgSusquehanna Style, October 2017 – with photography by Jen Foster, The Premise Studio

 

The Parrot: A Colorful History & Bright Future, Celebrate Gettysburg, Cover Story, Sept/Oct 2017 – with photography by Casey Martin, Casey Martin Photography

 

The Parrot, Chambersburg Street, Gettysburg

Chef Keith Lowman, Christine’s Cafe, Gettysburg

Introducing TheBurg

Harrisburg, PA

By Karen Hendricks

Central Pennsylvania is one of the most unique media markets in the country. That’s because unlike most markets geographically focused on one city, the Central PA media market combines four cities clustered together, along with additional medium-sized outlying towns. Often called “Hilly,” for its acroynm of HLLY, the area encompasses the capital city of Harrisburg, along with Lancaster, Lebanon and York.

Each city has its own unique personality, yet together the cities of HLLY form the heart of central PA–a region where urban landscapes give way to rolling farmland, where technology and tourism merge with manufacturing and agriculture to form the top industries.

My career, geographically speaking, has come full circle. I began my work in the HLLY market by living and working in Harrisburg in 1993; a recent move back to the Harrisburg area after 22 years in the York/Adams region feels like a homecoming of sorts.

So I consider it an exciting honor to begin writing for a Harrisburg-based publication that I’ve admired for its quality of writing and journalistic integrity for a long tme, TheBurg.

I hope you enjoy reading my first two pieces for TheBurg, with links below:

Born to Run: Fred Joslyn takes his love of running around the midstate, across the world (TheBurg, August 2017)

Hoppy Trail: Best of the West Shore featured in the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail (TheBurg, July 2017)

Al’s of Hampden in Enola

 

Susquehanna Valley Staycations

By Karen Hendricks

A “staycation” is defined as “a vacation spent at home or nearby,” according to Merriam-Webster. Here in the Susquehanna Valley of Central Pennsylvania, there are infinite possibilities for summer staycations, saving traveling time and shrinking vacation budgets, with the added benefit of seeing our hometowns in a new light. In fact, some of the state’s top tourism destinations are right under our noses.

One of the most authentic staycation experiences can be found at one of the “farm stays” within A Lancaster County Farm Stay, an association of 20 bed and breakfasts and guesthouses that welcome families with children. Not only do these accommodations provide pretty, pastoral farm settings, but they also offer behind-the-scenes tours and opportunities for couples or families to experience farm life.

I headed to Airy Hill Farm B&B to preview their rustic, back-to-basics farm charm.

“Airy Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast: Life as it should be,” reads the sign aside the winding driveway, in the midst of lush, rolling green farmland, shady clusters of trees and several babbling brooks. Situated in northern Lancaster County, just a few miles from Lebanon County, Airy Hill Farm B&B is named for its picturesque
Lancaster County backroad, Airy Hill Road, in Manheim…. click here to read the full article, Susquehanna Valley Staycations: Finding Farm Charm and More–Locally, a cover story in the June issue of Susquehanna Style.

Enjoy a few photos I snapped along the way, below! Fun fact: I covered this story in between snowstorms during the winter of 2017, attempting to make the photography look as “summery” as possible for publication in June.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda: Baseball Stories You May Not Have Heard (Yet)

By Karen Hendricks

Just in time for summer, York County author Chris Williams has released a book of 12 little-known yarns about American’s favorite pasttime, baseball. I am so proud of Chris, a former radio colleague who is a fellow writer. Best practices call for us writers to write about what we know, and Chris certainly knows about baseball.

Could the 1966 Cubs be the best team to ever finish in last place? Would Greg Luzinski, Fernando Valenzuela, or Eric Gagne have had the careers they did, if they hadn’t been September call-ups? Should Dick Allen be finally elected to the Hall of Fame? Chris tackles these questions and more, including the unusual case of a rookie who hit .313 in his rookie season only to be sent back to the minors the following year.

The book is sprinkled with statistical analysis, along with human interest stories, and nostalgic memories. Chris recounts a childhood trip to one of baseball’s historic ballparks with his own father, and he transcribes an invaluable recording made by his great-grandfather Jacob “Jake” Jeremiah who played professional baseball in the early 1900s. Baseball simply must be in Chris Williams’ blood.

Congrats, Chris, on the fantastic book, perfect for summertime reading by fans of all ages.

Click here for more information and ordering!