No matter what age you’ll turn this year or what stage of life you’re in, it’s never too late to go after your dreams! An 83-year-old proved that point this Sunday, when he became the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail.
Known on the trail as Nimblewill Nomad, M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart has probably hiked over 50,000 miles in his life, though he doesn’t keep track. It all began in 1993, when Eberhart retired from optometry and decided he wanted to take a walk one day. The habit turned into a passion and helped him form a spiritual connection to nature.
“There was a time in my life where the important things were … being successful, making money … My desire to go seek and be part of nature was the last thing that was on that list of priorities,” Eberhart said in an interview with Five Aces Media. That all changed when he began hiking.
“I think in our lives we all seek the path of exploring and part of, or immersing ourselves in nature,” he added. “I think it’s a … natural instinct. We’ve got this fire that we’ve got burning in our gut. Do you know what that is? … It’s our desire and our hope and our dream just to be free, to have a free life.”
Nimblewill Nomad’s Epic Hike
Eberhart started his hike back in February, with the goal of beating previous record holder Dale “Greybeard” Sanders, who finished the entire Appalachian Trail at 82 years old in 2017. The trail covers over 2,000 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine.
However, Eberhart began his journey far from the trail, at his home in Flagg Mountain, Alabama, per AP News. That added hundreds of extra miles to the route. But Eberhart wasn’t fazed by the longer distance. He once hiked 4,400 miles from the Florida Keys to Northern Quebec, and another time from Chicago to California on Route 66.
The journey wasn’t without its challenges. Eberhart admitted that he was feeling his age and the trail got tough at points, even for a seasoned hiker like himself. He fell a few times on slippery rocks, at one point scraping up his elbow. However, the mishaps didn’t deter him. “I’ve a got a couple of skid marks on me, but I’m okay,” he said. “You’ve got to have an incredible resolve to do this.”
Eberhart hiked the trail in out-of-order sections so he could complete each portion in optimal weather. He finished his journey in Massachusetts, where he celebrated with champagne and friends. And while some people think this will be his last hike, Eberhart seems to strongly disagree.