November 2021, M.J. Eberhart (Nimblewill Nomad) completed the Appalachian Trail. At 83, he became the oldest person to complete the AT. The previous record holder was Mr. Sanders, 82 when he finished the AT in 2017.
The Appalachian trail is 2,193 miles long and spans from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail travels over 14 states through mountains and valleys of the Appalachian mountains and is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. A challenging hike, even for the best of hikers; for Eberhart, it was a daily challenge.
“Eighty percent of it is mental grit,” Eberhart said. “And that is why so many people fail.”
Over 3 thousand people attempt to thru-hike every year; however, only 1 in 4 will complete the trail.
The average time for a thru-hiker to complete the AT is 5-7 months. Eberhart took his journey in what the trail refers to as a flip-flopper. A flip-flopper is someone who hikes the trail out of order; he completes the sections as weather permits.
As long as you finish each section, how you walk is up to you. In total, it took Eberhart approximately six months to complete.
Eberhart carried a lighter backpack than most, approximately six pounds of gear; inside was a tent, sleeping pad, his iPhone, and a few snacks to keep him fueled. He could track his mileage and those he met along the way.
However, Eberhart is an experienced hiker; he began hiking when he retired as an eye doctor in 1993—preferring to spend his time outdoors. Eberhard has also hiked 4,400 miles from the Florida Keys to northern Quebec.
The Guardian has referred to him as the ¨man who went on a hike and never stopped walking¨. What an inspiration.