'Nimblewill Nomad,' 83, is oldest to hike Appalachian Trail

PORTLAND, Maine (AP), An 83-year old man from Alabama began walking after he retired over a quarter century ago. He has never stopped.
M.J. Sunny Eberhart, the oldest hiker to finish the Appalachian Trail, stepped into the record books on Sunday.

Eberhart, also known as Nimblewill Nomad on the trail, admitted that the trail was difficult despite his thousands of miles and had taken many falls on slippery rocks.

He said that although I have a few skid marks, I'm fine. To do this, you need to be determined.

To take advantage of the best weather conditions, he hiked the trail in sections and completed several northern sections, including Maine's Mount Katahdin. In western Massachusetts, he completed the last section, in Dalton. This was the same year that a 5-year old became the youngest person to accomplish the feat.

Eberhart was joined by Dale Greybeard Sanders (ex-record holder), who lives outside Memphis. He reached the top at the age of 82 in 2017. He was not disappointed to witness the record-breaking fall.

My dear friend Nimblewill will be taking my record away. I am happy for him. Sanders said that records are meant to be broken.

Sanders was there to confirm the feat, while Eberhart was celebrated with champagne at a friend's house.

Jordan Bowman from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry (West Virginia), confirmed that Eberhart is the oldest person to complete the trail, surpassing Sanders.

After retiring in 1993 as an optometrist from Florida, Eberhart started his wanderlust.

This man, with his flowing locks and impressive beard, actually hiked further than many who traversed the 2,193-mile (3.530-kilometer) trail between Georgia's Springer Mountain in Georgia and Maine's Katahdin. The hike began in February at Flagg Mountain, Alabama. He added hundreds of miles to the route.

This was a relatively short distance for a man who walked 4,400 miles (7.080 km) from northern Quebec to the Florida Keys. An adventure he wrote about in Ten Million Steps, a book that chronicles his adventures. Later, he hiked from Newfoundland and Florida, a much longer distance. He also walked Route 66 from Chicago to California.

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On this hike, he said that he felt his age. He tried to limit his hiking to just eight hours per day because his reflexes have lost their ability to keep up with the demands of modern life.

He was still a bit jinked.

He took a tumble on a New Hampshire day and injured his elbow. He was asked by a hiking companion if he would like to take a break.

Eberhart replied, "Do you think it will go away if I complain about that?" before picking himself up and moving on. Odie Norman, Huntsville, Alabama, hiked 100 miles with Nimblewill.

Eberhart's age is quite different from the two young hikers who did the trail during the pandemic.

Juniper Netteburg was a 4-year-old who completed her journey last year with her missionary parents. Harvey Sutton, a 5-year old from Lynchburg, Virginia, completed his trail in August with his parents.

Eberhart actually met Sutton (known as Little Man) on the trail. Eberhart stated that the youngster impressed me.

Eberhart isn't losing his drive to move or the feeling of calm he feels on the trails with the close-knit, diverse hiking community.

He said that his first major hike was a result of a search for peace. He found his peace and forgiven.

It is possible to seek peace. It doesn't necessarily mean you will find it. I persevered until the Lord looked at me and said, "You are forgiven." He said this recently while he was on a break near Maine-New Hampshire border.

It is a great blessing. He said it was as easy as that.

After the hike is completed, Eberhart will return home to Flagg Mountain, the southernmost mountain above 1,000 feet in the Appalachians. He serves as the caretaker for a fire tower, and cabins constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps.

Norman, who publishes The Hiker Yearbook," stated that Eberhart won't be quitting his job anytime soon.

Norman replied, "You know they're calling it my last hike." "I don't think it will be his last hike. He doesn't know what he will hike next, I think.


Robert F. Bukaty, photojournalist for the Associated Press, contributed to this report.