82-Year Old Hiker Completes the Appalachian Trail

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We’ve seen several speed records set on the Appalachian Trail this year, but how about a new age record as well? Outside magazine is reporting that 82-year old Dale Sanders – trail name “Greybeard” – completed the entire 2190-mile (3524 km) route on October 26, becoming the oldest person to ever walk the AT end-to-end.

Outside says that Sanders spent about seven months on the trail this year, first section-hiking the route from Springer’s Mountain to Neel’s Gap in Georgia last January. Then, in March he embarked on his thru-hike push, reaching Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in June. Next, he hopscotched north to Maine, and restarted on Mount Katahdin, this time heading south. He completed that portion of the trail last Thursday, having now walked every mile of the iconic route. He was greeted by friends, family, and members of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which is headquartered in Harper’s Ferry.

The journey was not an easy one. Along the way, Sanders faced plenty of physical and mental challenges, endured a wide variety of weather conditions, and suffered his fair share of ailments. In July, he was forced to return home to Tennessee when he started to bleed internally from a ruptured hemorrhoid. The challenging hike was also extremely hard on his hips, causing pain and discomfort as well. At one point, he thought that the trek was over, but managed to rally, regain some confidence, and get back out there to finish the final sections.

If the name Dale Sanders sounds familiar to you, it may be because we’ve covered his exploits before.  Back in 2015, at the young age of just 80, he also became the oldest person to paddle the Mississippi River from source to sea. Apparently, the octogenarian still has some big plans yet to come too. He tells Outside that he will take 2018 off to spend some time at home, but in 2019 he’ll paddle the length of the Missouri River all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Pretty inspiring story. I can only hope to be still this active and adventurous when I reach my 80’s. Well done Dale.

Kraig Becker