On Thursday, Dale “Gray Beard” Sanders, 82, officially became the oldest person to hike the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail within a year. Finishing at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Sanders did something most don’t ever do in their lives.
— Bangor Daily News (@bangordailynews) October 27, 2017
Sanders set out on his journey in January, beginning at the trail's Southern Terminus in Georgia to avoid cold weather. He then headed north to roughly the halfway point at the Conservancy's headquarters, then embarked on his second leg at the Northern Terminus atop Mount Katahdin in Maine.
"I feel euphoric!" Sanders said upon completing the Trail, according to The Washington Post. "I keep thinking, is someone going to come out of the woodwork and say, 'Uh-uh, I hiked it last year … and I was 83' – but no one has stepped up and said that."
As is accustomed on the Appalachian Trail, many hikers receive nicknames from other fellow hikers. Easily older than many of his peers, Sanders was given the nickname “Gray Beard” early on.
At 82, Sanders is actually older than the Trail itself, which was officially connected in 1937. He did encounter some rough patches, and he nearly quit in the middle of the 100-Mile Wilderness stretch in Maine. Suffering from internal bleeding and heart palpitations, Sanders called his wife in Bartlett, Tennessee, and she compelled him to keep going.
This isn’t the only physical feat Sanders has completed: He paddled the length of the Mississippi River a couple of years ago and in 1959 he broke a record for underwater breath-holding. While he is an avid hiker, he had never done a hike lasting more than two weeks before this. For this one, he was on the trail for a total of seven months.
Skipping around and drinking cider upon completing the AT, Sanders told The Post he plans to go home and be with his wife. "I'm done, and I'm tired. And I can go home."
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