Eating tortillas slathered in peanut butter and sprinkled with skittles, scrambling after reptiles and amphibians, and lengthy discussions about constructing a spaceship all sound like things a young boy would enjoy.
At least, 5-year-old Harvey Sutton — known by the trail name “Little Man” — thinks so. He spent the past few months trekking along the Appalachian Trail with his parents Josh and Cassie Sutton, having a ball.
“The rock scrambles were really fun and hard,” he told The Associated Press. “We were not bored.”
The Suttons decided that a short break from life as they knew it would be good for all of them, and since Harvey had been hitting the trails with them since he was 2, they decided to tackle what the official website for the trail calls “the world’s longest hiking-only footpath,” coming in at 2,193 miles (which Little Man kept track of on a calculator he got from a Dollar General along the way) from Georgia to Maine.
Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician and adviser to the American Camp Association, told the AP that as long as parents keep their kids’ limitations in mind, a hike of this magnitude can be safely scaled to suit them.
Setting out in January, when Harvey was 4 years old, the trio faced adventure after adventure in the form of a snowstorm, meeting fellow thru-hikers, and keeping Little Man engaged.
Last week they ended their trek in Maine after 209 days, with stories to tell and fond memories of the adventure of a lifetime. Not many other kindergarteners can boast that they’ve completed the Appalachian Trail, but Little Man can.
They met another hiker named Karl Donus Sakas, “Sugar Man,” who completed the leg from Pennsylvania to Maine with them, and he had a special job: He’d hide little surprises along the trail and create treasure maps to keep Little Man entertained.
“He’s pretty strong and tough,” Sakas said of the young hiker, according to the AP. “So often we’d get to camp and I’d be beaten and tired. And Little Man would say, ‘Let’s play freeze tag!'”
Since Harvey is one of the youngest to have made the journey — and reportedly the youngest to thru-hike it — he had his photo taken with the oldest hiker to make the journey.
“This is Nimblewill Nomad & Little Man at the Appalachian Trail Lodge in Millinocket, Maine,” the Appalachian Trail Museum posted on Aug. 10. “NN will shortly become the oldest known person to thru-hike the A.T. and Little Man the youngest.”
Dale “Greybeard” Sanders, 86, who completed the hike in 2017 at the age of 82, had some things to say about the young man.
“It’s going to change his life forever, and his parents’ life, too,” Sanders said of the Suttons’ accomplishment. “The kid went through some hardships, but don’t we all? Hardships make us stronger. That kid is going to smile through life.”
Harvey’s mom says the trip has made a huge impact on their family, bringing them together in a bond forged over months of camping, hiking and crushing their goal together.
“It gave us a bond and a strength that we hadn’t realized before,” she told the AP. “We’re closer than ever before.”
Hopefully mom and dad are planning for more adventures, because with a start like this, Harvey’s going to have big expectations.
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