‘Nimblewill Nomad,’ 83, becomes oldest person to hike Appalachian Trail

It was merely a walk in the park for the Nimblewill Nomad -- or more accurately, a 2,600-mile hike.

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M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart, an 83-year-old Alabama native, on Sunday became the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail, according to The Associated Press.

The Appalachian Trail runs between Georgia’s Springer Mountain and Maine’s Mount Katahdin and covers 2,193 miles. Known as the Nimblewill Nomad, Eberhart hiked from his home in Flagg Mountain, Alabama, adding several hundred miles to his trek. Flagg Mountain is the southernmost mountain higher than 1,000 feet in the Appalachian chain, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Eberhart called this year’s journey “Odyssey 2021 ‘Bama to Baxter -- Hike On.” It began in February and lasted 261 days.

Eberhart broke the age record set in 2017 by 82-year-old Dale “Graybeard” Sanders, who lives outside Memphis, Tennessee. Sanders was at the finish line Sunday in Dalton, Massachusetts.

“My dear friend Nimblewill is taking my record away from me, and I’m happy for him,” Sanders told the AP. “Records are made to be broken.”

Eberhart hiked the trail out of order, tackling different sections in order to take advantage of favorable weather, the AP reported. He admitted that despite being a hiker for more than 25 years, his advancing age made his trip hazardous at times.

“I’ve a got a couple of skid marks on me, but I’m OK,” Eberhart said in a recent interview, according to the AP. “You’ve got to have an incredible resolve to do this.”

Jordan Bowman, of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, confirmed that Eberhart is the oldest to finish the trail.

According to his website, Eberhart was born in New York and moved to the “neat little farm-to-market village of Russellville, population: 336,” when he was 5.

Eberhart said his high school graduating class had 16 members, and he lettered in basketball, track and baseball.

After serving in the military, Eberhart married and raised a family. He moved to Florida and was the senior practitioner in a three-doctor optometric practice in Titusville.

He retired in 1993 and moved to Nimblewill Creek, close to the base of Springer Mountain and near Dahlonega, Georgia. He began hiking in the 1980s and completed the Florida Trail. He later moved to Alabama.

Sunday’s journey has not been Eberhart’s longest. He traveled 4,400 miles from the Florida Keys to northern Quebec, which he chronicled in his 2007 book, “Ten Million Steps,” according to the AP.

He later hiked from Newfoundland to Florida, and also walked from Chicago to California, tracing Route 66.

He may be getting older, but Eberhart remains adventurous.

“You can seek peace. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to find it. I persevered to the point that the good Lord looked down on me and said you’re forgiven, you can be at peace,” he said recently. “It’s a profound blessing. It’s as simple as that.”