If you read this column regularly, you’ll recall that Dale was the 80-year-old who canoed the entire Mississippi River. He’s a year older now and has undertaken another major adventure — to hike the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.
Yes, you read that right. At an age when most people strive for well-fitting dentures and free refills of coffee, Dale began 2017 with a quest to do what’s never been done before.
“I started getting younger at 40,” Dale joked the day before he left. On New Year’s Day, he drove to the top of Springer Mountain in Georgia, which is the starting point of the Appalachian Trail.
After ascending the 3,700-foot peak, Dale signed a log book that is kept at the summit. When he reaches the trail’s end at Mount Katahdin, Maine, he’ll inscribe his name and the date as a way to complete the odyssey. Dale hoped to begin hiking Jan. 1, but foul weather temporarily delayed his departure.
The Appalachian Trail runs between the Deep South and New England parallel to the American East Coast. It meanders through the forests and mountains of 14 states and welcomes millions of hikers a year, but only about 2,500 walk from start to finish and all of them have been younger than Dale who’ll turn 82 June 14. It’s believed Dale will be the oldest person to ever hike the entire 2,180-mile route.
Prior commitments will require him to pause his trip in early March, but he’ll resume where he left off and plans to finish in October.
In the case of his Mississippi adventure, Dale’s goal was to raise money for juvenile diabetes, a condition his grandniece lives with, and to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest man to paddle the length of America’s great river.
His decision to hike the Appalachian Trail was partly inspired by his experience on the Mighty Mississippi. Rather than deplete his body, canoeing 2,300 miles actually strengthened it. As a result, Dale was able to go off all his medication for blood pressure and cholesterol, an unanticipated benefit of the lengthy trip.
Dale said he planned to graze like the rest of the horses after paddling the Mississippi, but the outpouring of support he received from people on the Internet who felt inspired by his accomplishment prompted him to rethink his decision. Committing to another long-distance trek would further his good health and as an added bonus he’d earn a second spot in the record books, Dale explained.
As far as obstacles are concerned, the Appalachian Trail is known for its trip hazards, namely rocks. To protect against falls, Dale uses two walking sticks.
The 20 pounds of food and gear Dale is carrying all fit within a medium-sized backpack. His tent, sleeping bag and air mattress are all ultra-light as is his camp stove. Long-distance hikers are known for their obsession with saving weight. One example is that Dale cut the handle off his toothbrush.
If you’d like to read more about Dale, see the following online editions of Your Life is Now: Aug. 13, 2014; April 15 and Aug. 26, 2015; July 13 and Aug. 16, 2016. The print editions will be the Friday after each date.
And what will Dale do after his current adventure? In 2019, he wants to peddle from Minnesota to Florida.
Dominique Liboiron is a speaker, author, teacher, journalist and photographer. To raise awareness about heart disease and to honour the life of one of its victims, Liboiron canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans. He is the first person to undertake that journey. He enjoys outdoor sports such as camping, hunting, fly fishing and canoeing. For more information about his speaking engagements, phone 306-661-8975 or visit www.canoetoneworleans.com.