‘Nimblewill Nomad’, 83, is the oldest to hike the Appalachian Trail | Today Headlines

‘Nimblewill Nomad’, 83, is the oldest to hike the Appalachian Trail

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – An 83-year-old man from Alabama started walking when he retired more than a quarter of a century ago – and has never stopped.

MJ “Sunny” Eberhart entered the record books on Sunday as the oldest hiker to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Eberhart, known as the Nimblewill Nomad Trail, acknowledged that despite tens of thousands of miles under his belt, the trail was tough at his age, resulting in numerous spills on slippery rocks.

“I have a few skid marks on me, but I’m fine,” he said in a recent interview. “You have to have incredible resolve to do this. “

He hiked the trail in chaos, in sections, for optimal weather, and had already completed northern sections including Mount Katahdin in Maine. He completed his final section in Western Massachusetts, in the town of Dalton, the same year a 5-year-old became one of the youngest to complete the feat.

Former record holder Dale “Greybeard” Sanders, who lives outside of Memphis, Tennessee, joined Eberhart for the finish. He finished the hike at 82 in 2017. It is not sad to see the record drop.

“My dear friend Nimblewill takes my record away from me and I’m happy for him. Records are made to be broken, ”said Sanders.

Sanders confirmed the completion of the feat as Eberhart was toasted with champagne at a friend’s house.

Jordan Bowman, of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, confirmed that Eberhart is the oldest to complete the trail, overtaking Sanders.

Eberhart began his urge to travel in earnest after retiring as an optometrist in Florida in 1993.

The man with the flowing locks and the impressive beard has actually walked further than most who hike the 3,530 kilometer (2,193 mile) trail that connects Springer Mountain in Georgia and Katahdin in Maine. He began his hike in February at his home in Flagg Mountain, Alabama, adding hundreds of extra miles to the route.

The trip was a modest distance, relatively speaking, for a guy who hiked 4,400 miles (7,080 kilometers) of the Florida Keys in northern Quebec, an adventure he recounted in a book, “Ten Million Steps”. He then hiked from Newfoundland to Florida, an even greater distance. He also walked from Chicago to California on Route 66.

He said he felt his age on this hike. His reflexes aren’t what they once were, so he tried to limit himself to walking eight hours a day.

But he still bumped into it.

On a recent day in New Hampshire, he fell and bloodied his elbow. A hiking buddy asked him if he wanted to take a break.

Eberhart retorted, “Do you think if I complain, it will go away? Before choosing himself and moving forward, said Odie Norman of Huntsville, Ala., Who has covered 100 miles with Nimblewill.

Eberhart’s age puts him on the opposite extreme of a pair of young hikers who have walked the trail during the pandemic.

4-year-old Juniper Netteburg completed her journey with her missionary parents last year, and 5-year-old Harvey Sutton, of Lynchburg, Va., Completed the journey with her parents in August.

Eberhart actually met Sutton, known as Little Man, on the trail. The youngster “impressed me,” Eberhart said.

Eberhart hasn’t lost his urge to keep moving or seek the calm he finds on the trail in the company of the tight-knit and diverse hiking community.

His first big hike coincided with a search for peace after dragging emotional and mental baggage that involved divorce and loss of respect for his children, he said. He finally found peace and forgiveness.

“You can seek peace. That doesn’t mean you’re going to find it. I persevered to the point that the good Lord despised me and told me that you are forgiven, you can be at peace, ”he said recently during a break near the Maine border. and New Hampshire.

“It’s a profound blessing. It’s that simple, ”he said.

Once the hike is complete, Eberhart will return home to Flagg Mountain, the southernmost mountain at 1,000 feet in the Appalachians, where he is the keeper of a fire tower and cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Norman, who publishes “The Hiker Yearbook,” said Eberhart probably won’t be hanging up his boots anytime soon.

“He said, ‘You know they call this my last hike.’ Then he laughed, “Norman said.” I don’t think this will be his last hike. I just don’t think he knows what to do next.


Associated Press photojournalist Robert F. Bukaty contributed to this report.

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