Harvey Sutton recently had his first day of kindergarten, and we can only imagine all the epic stories he told.
His hiking adventure didn’t start until January 2021, but Harvey’s preparation for such a long trek really began when he was 2 years old. To build up his stamina, his parents started taking him on short walks.
“It started out as a joke and we decided maybe that could be our mini-retirement and hike the Appalachian Trail with Harvey,” said his dad, Josh Sutton. “We started training [him] at a young age to hike and camp and he took on to it really well.”
The joke turned into reality when Josh and Cassie Sutton took a break from their real estate jobs in order to make the 2,100-mile journey. They started off in Georgia and finished in Maine, traversing an impressive 14 states.
Although a few other children Harvey’s age and younger have managed to follow through with this massive hike, there was no telling how Harvey would take to it.
Soon enough, Josh and Cassie discovered just how much their little one loves the great outdoors.
“We learned that he is fabulous at hiking, but as long as we’re playing make-believe and pretend with him all day long, then he moves quickly and hikes a lot faster than a lot of us imagine,” Josh said.
Some of Harvey’s favorite games included searching for wildlife and making plans to build homes, construct spaceships, and host a lava party. In between using his imagination, he took plenty of snack breaks. Harvey was quite the fan of peanut butter tortillas with a side of Skittles.
During what would turn into a 209-day adventure, the tight-knit family created their own routine. Each morning, they’d wake up around 5:30 and hike all day. They’d end their night by setting up their tent, going to sleep, and then doing it all over again the next day.
“It gave us a bond and a strength that we hadn’t realized before,” Cassie said.
While much of their journey was spent forming connections with each other, they also got to meet other people who were on the trail. One hiker named Karl Donus Sakas, also known as “Sugar Man,” even accompanied them from Pennsylvania all the way to the end in Maine.
“He’s pretty strong and tough,” Karl said. “So often we’d get to camp and I’d be beaten and tired. And Little Man would say, ‘Let’s play freeze tag!'”
To make the long walk more engaging, Karl would create treasure hunts for Harvey out of pretend maps, toys, and glow sticks. Other hikers would pitch in by giving Harvey trinkets like Hot Wheels or a pet rock.
Over 200 days and one snowstorm later, the Sutton family finally reached their destination on August 9.
“I think a lot of people are surprised at how well he did,” Cassie said. “They’re like, ‘How did you get your 5-year-old to do that because my 5-year-old won’t even walk half a mile without complaining?’ Everyone is pretty amazed and astounded.”
Their journey wasn’t always easy, but the Suttons can say with confidence that they’ve never felt closer. Plus, it’s clear that Harvey had the time of his life!
“The rock scrambles were really fun and hard. We were not bored,” Harvey said. “I would do it again because I like it so much.”
What an awesome kid! Don’t forget to share Harvey’s story to inspire your friends today.
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