Last week, my family and I took a three day hiking trip to the Zealand Falls Hut in the New Hampshire White Mountains. We were doing a ‘fill in’ to bridge the gap between the summer crew leaving and the fall crew arriving.
Our responsibilities were to cook and serve breakfast and dinner to the 30-50 guests, clean the hut, and deliver the weather report. My dad was really the leader of this entire operation - he has been volunteering for the AMC for 30+ years.
It was our 3 year old son, Hazen’s first hike in the white mountains and he did incredible - hiking the 2.8 miles up and down on his own. He loved scrambling up over the rocks. It only took a little ‘trail magic’ and encouragement to keep him going on the flat spots.
While we were in the hut, we had the pleasure of meeting many amazing people, one of whom was Greybeard. This is Dale Sanders trail name. Dale is a thru-hiker on a mission to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. As if that wasn’t impressive enough - at 82 years old, Dale is working on setting the world record to be the oldest person to complete the mission.
The Appalachian Trail or the A.T is about 2,200 miles in length extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Thru-hikers carry everything they need in their pack and camp along the trail. Occasionally they are able to stay in huts like Zealand Falls and enjoy a delicious meal or two and a nice warm and more importantly, dry place to sleep. Dale anticipates his trek will take him six and a half to seven months - hiking from Georgia to Maine and he is on target to finish before the end of the year.
When we first encountered Dale at the hut, he looked a little listless, he was ready for that meal and a bunk to lay his head. He had a just come from 8 days straight on some really tough terrain sleeping under the stars and on this day completed 10 miles - just a reminder, Greybeard is 82!!
The neat part was, once he got a little nourishment in his system he perked right up and started sharing stories about his journey. The next morning you would have thought he was 32 as he put on a performance at breakfast with his “spirit dance” to inspire the 40 other people in the hut to live life without limitations and believe in yourself and what you can accomplish . If you ever have the opportunity to talk to a thru-hiker - I highly recommend it! Their perspective on life and what is important is absolutely incredible, Greybeard is a prime example of that. What an experience for him and everyone he comes into contact with.
I asked Dale over dinner what motivated him to keep going - he told me that he is hoping to inspire others to adventure and to never put limits on yourself no matter the challenge in front of you.
Imagine that - this 82 year old man - out on a 2,200 journey - in the wilderness for months and he is driven by inspiring others. I told Dale that I wanted to share his story with you all and he was thrilled.
Let’s all take a little inspiration from Dales sweat, gumption, determination, and his journey. Imagine being Dales age - 82 and deciding that you were going to do something this epic - just to inspire others.
To me, that is the definition of living life without limitations. Dale is 82 years old and still living a life of epic adventure.
Thank you Dale, for inspiring me and for allowing me to share your story!
To read more on Dale’s journey, check out:
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