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5-Yr-Old Conquers the Appalachian Trail



  • Harvey Sutton started hiking the Appalachian Trail with his parents when he was just 4 years old.
  • About 2,193 miles (3,530 kilometers) and 209 days later, he completed the trail at age 5.
  • The journey strengthened the family’s bond, and would definitely be a memorable experience for the “Little Man.”

Harvey Sutton hasn’t even started kindergarten and he has already conquered the Appalachian Trail. The “Little Man,” as he is known on the hiking trail, starts school on Friday.

Photo Credit: Joshua Sutton, AP

The 5-year-old completed the trail with his parents, Josh and Cassie Sutton, in 209 days. He is one of the youngest to hike the entire trail, which spans 2,193 miles (3,530 kilometers).

Harvey’s parents have been going on hikes since he was 2. Their journey on the Appalachian Trail felt like a “mini retirement” from their real estate jobs in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Despite the difficulty of the trail, the family from Virginia found the whole journey fun. Harvey’s parents were too busy keeping him entertained that it took their attention away from the physical pain of hiking for so long.

Cassie shared, “It gave us a bond and a strength that we hadn’t realized before.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Sutton, AP

The only difficult encounter they had was when a snowstorm in the Smoky Mountains forced them to backtrack more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) to safety over 2 1/2 days.

The trio got used to the simplicity of sleeping in a tent, waking at 5:30 a.m., and hiking all day. It never got boring thanks to other “thru hikers” who helped keep Harvey engaged and even gifted him various toys.

One hiker, Karl Donus Sakas, a.k.a. “Sugar Man,” accompanied the Suttons from Pennsylvania to the end in Maine. He described Harvey as “pretty strong and tough,” and always energized for another game even after a long day of hiking.

Harvey’s imagination had him planning to build homes, construct space ships, and host a lava party during their walks, Karl shared. Karl also helped keep Harvey engaged by setting up treasure hunts with maps, hidden toys, and glow sticks on the trail over several days in New Jersey.

Harvey found it fun to check out the rocks, frogs, lizards, and other wildlife. His favorite snack was peanut butter tortillas sprinked with Skittles.

Harvey was only 4 years old when they began the trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia. He turned 5 by the time they reached Mount Katahdin in Maine on Aug. 9.

Photo Credit: Joshua Sutton, AP

Dale “Greybeard” Sanders of Bartlett, Tennessee, the oldest person to complete the trail at age 82 in 2017, praised Harvey for his achievement.

Greybeard, now 86, said, “It’s going to change his life forever, and his parents’ life, too. The kid went through some hardships, but don’t we all? Hardships make us stronger. That kid is going to smile through life.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Sutton, AP

Another boy, nicknamed “Buddy Backpacker,” held the record for youngest to complete the trail in 2013. The record was broken by Juniper Netteburg, who completed the trail at age 4 while wearing a Wonder Woman costume. She and her parents, who are missionary doctors, completed the trail on Oct. 13, 2020, with her three siblings after hiking sections over a period of months.

Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician and medical adviser to the American Camp Association, gave the assurance that kids have enough resiliency for the experience — as long as their parents mind their kids’ physical limitations and social and emotional development during the hike.

Source: MSN