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He Just Hiked Entire Appalachian Trail. Next, Kindergarten

Harvey Sutton completed the entire 2.1K miles in 209 days with his parents
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 20, 2021 9:21 AM CDT
He Just Hiked Entire Appalachian Trail. Next, Kindergarten
In this April 11, 2021, family photo, 5-year-old Harvey Sutton, center, poses with his mom, Cassie, right, and dad, Josh, atop a mountain in Three Ridges, Va., while hiking the Appalachian Trail.   (Joshua Sutton via AP)

(Newser) – Harvey Sutton, or "Little Man," as he's known on the Appalachian Trail, won't have long to bask in the glory of hiking its full length. After all, he starts kindergarten Friday. At 5 years old, Harvey is one of the youngest to complete the trail, trekking more than 2,193 miles from Georgia to Maine in 209 days with parents Josh and Cassie Sutton. It was hard work, but it was fun checking out frogs, lizards, and other wildlife. So was sprinkling Skittles onto peanut butter tortillas as fuel for the walk, he said. "The rock scrambles were really fun and hard. We were not bored," he told the AP in a phone interview from Virginia.

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  • The feat: Harvey was 4 years old when he and his parents began their walk in January, and he turned 5 before the family completed the journey last week in Maine. For the hike, his parents decided to take a "mini retirement" from their real estate jobs in Lynchburg. They'd been hiking with Harvey since he was 2.
  • Keeping Harvey entertained: The parents said the biggest challenge was keeping their son's imagination engaged. Harvey made plans to build homes, construct spaceships, and host a lava party in discussions over hours of hiking, says a fellow hiker who accompanied the family for part of their journey.
  • Other youngsters: Harvey is several months younger than "Buddy Backpacker," a boy who held the record for youngest to complete the trail in 2013, Harvey's parents say. But the youngest of all may be Juniper Netteberg, who finished the trail at age 4 with her parents and three siblings on Oct. 13, 2020, says her parents. Her family hiked sections over a period of months, but that still counts as long as they didn't skip any part of the trail, per Ken Bunning, president of Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.
  • A doctor's take: This type of activity may seem extreme for a kid, but a pediatrician sees no harm. Kids are resilient enough to handle the experience as long as parents keep their social and emotional development in mind and scale the hike to kids' abilities, says Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a medical adviser to the American Camp Association.
(Read more uplifting news stories.)

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