82-year-old Dale “Greybeard” Sanders became the oldest person to thru-hike the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail after completing the trail in just over seven months. The previous age record was set by Lee Berry in 2004 when he completed the trail at age 81.
The octogenarian is no stranger to adventure, having solo paddled the entire length of the Mississippi River at age 80—a journey that he dubbed Source to Sea and used to raise $23,000 for type 1 juvenile diabetes.
He completed his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail by tackling the footpath in a series of section hikes. He started at Springer Mountain in Georgia and continued to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia before relocating to Maine and setting off southbound.
Throughout the course of his hike, he experienced setbacks that ranged from gnarly falls along the notoriously rocky New Hampshire section of the trail to a serious case of internal bleeding brought about by a ruptured hemorrhoid. The latter ultimately forced him off the trail and back home to Tennessee for medical treatment.
“I lost my confidence,” he told Outside Magazine. “I almost didn’t come back.”
But after a ten-day hiatus, Greybeard was back on the trail with Harpers Ferry on his mind, and on the morning of October 26, 2017, he made his dream of becoming the oldest person to complete a thru-hike of America’s most iconic wilderness trail a reality.
When Greybeard arrived back at Harpers Ferry he was greeted by friends, family members, supporters and Appalachian Trail Conservancy officials.
“I feel numb right now. It’s really a euphoric experience,” Sanders told Outside after completing the hike. “I’m just so thankful to the people who have helped me. I literally would not be here if it weren’t for all the people who encouraged me along the way.”