Part of the thrill of hiking is never knowing exactly what to expect when you start down a new path. There are unexpected obstacles and the ever-changing weather, but there are also plenty of friends to be made.
When Reddit user Jeromiewhalen’s brother finished the Appalachian Trail, he had no idea that his adventure wasn’t quite over. One of the friends he’d made along the way had recently turned 83, so to celebrate his birthday, he invited the man over.
As luck would have it, this lively 83-year-old man was none other than famous long distance walker and author M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart, better known as Nimblewill Nomad!
Known as a perpetual hiker, Nimblewill first trailed off into the world of hiking over 25 years ago after retiring from his career as an eye doctor. His first major trek took place during a trying time in his life. He was going through a divorce, and the relationship he had with his children was strained.
Since then, Nimblewill has been able to find peace and solace on his many travels around the country.
“You can seek peace. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to find it,” he said. “I persevered to the point that that good Lord looked down on me and said, ‘You’re forgiven, you can be at peace.'”
Over the course of his 25 years of hiking, Nimblewill has made countless friends and has had his fair share of adventures, some of which he has chronicled in several books. But one of the most accomplished hikes of his life happened just this past month in November 2021.
Although he’s no stranger to the Appalachian Trail, having completed it in 1998, doing it again at 83 was nothing short of a challenge. In fact, it was a record-breaking goal! Once he finished, he would become the oldest person to hike the 2,193-mile trail.
“This will be the ultimate journey in this old man’s life,” he wrote on his blog, “one of body, mind, and spirit.”
Despite knowing the challenges he would face, Nimblewill happily took on the challenge, which he called “Odyssey 2021 ‘Bama to Baxter — Hike On.” Followers of his blog eagerly kept watch for updates on his journey, which began at his home in Flagg Mountain, Alabama. This starting point made his journey even longer than it is for most!
Aside from the companions he made along the way, all he had with him was six pounds of gear, which included a solo tent, a sleeping pad, and his iPhone. Each day he would document his mileage and interesting things that had happened on his blog, always making sure to end with an inspirational quote from people like Dr. Seuss and Henry David Thoreau.
Based on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, hikers have a full 12 months to complete the Appalachian Trail to say they’ve completed it. Nimblewill did just that, taking on chunks of the trail at a time over the course of 261 days. He dealt with unpredictable weather, bears, mosquitos, and physical pain, but in the end, the journey was more than worth it.
Fittingly, he was able to end his journey alongside Dale Sanders, the last person to hold the record title. At the end, Dale offered him an engraved hiking stick, symbolically handing him his record.
“An incredibly emotional time, as I again break down in tears,” Nimblewill wrote.
At the moment, Nimblewill doesn’t have any plans for when or where he’ll be hiking next, but that doesn’t mean he’s done. No matter what path he takes, one thing is for sure: There’s no shortage of fellow hikers who will be there to walk right alongside him and offer him a place to sleep, take a shower, or even celebrate another birthday.
Share this article to celebrate Nimblewill’s incredible accomplishment.
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