HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – “I didn’t have to be crazy, but it helped.”
Dale Easton, 86, doesn’t consider himself too crazy, just crazy enough to have hiked the Appalachian Trail and the John Muir Trail.
“I was an outdoor kid when I was little and when I was in the Army I carried a pack and I said I would never carry another one, but I did and loved it,” said Easton.
At the young age of 64, Easton set out on a journey of a lifetime; a 2,174-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail.
He started in Georgia in 1998. He would hike for about two to three weeks at a time averaging about 13 miles a day.
“I drove out to the trail. I would leave my car,” Easton explained. “I would hire a shuttler in that area. There were always people that would do that and take my pick up maybe about 100 miles north and leave it in a parking lot there. I would hike to it.”
With each trip, Easton said he learned a little bit more.
“When you first start you carry too much. The first time I went out I carried 53 pounds. The last time I went out for the same amount of time period with 34 pounds,” he said. “I tried to take a bath every night. It might be with just two bottles of water, but you know you can clean up pretty good with two bottles of water if you’re careful, but if you are by a spring or a creek or a lake then that wasn’t a problem.”
After 12 trips within six years Easton finished the Appalachian Trail in Maine. It was a moment he said he will never forget.
“I cried. I absolutely cried. It was just overwhelming,” Easton said.
Those emotions fueled Easton’s next adventure: The John Muir Trail, a more than 211-mile trail that runs from Yosemite National Park to Mount Whitney.
“The Appalachian Trail was a great, great experience but the frosting on the cake was John Muir,” he said. “We slept above 10,000 feet most nights. It was July and August. We walked through snow and frost. There was ice in our ice bottles many mornings. It was just a fabulous, fabulous trip.”
Easton said what made the trip so fabulous was the time he spent learning about himself.
“You will see things that you will never see in any other way than on those trails,” Easton explained. “I can’t explain it. It just changes the way you feel about life.”
Easton was 75 when he became the oldest hiker to finish the through hike in 26 days.
He celebrated the feat with a hamburger and his family.
Easton now lives at Legend of Hutchinson with his wife. He enjoys going on long walks around the senior living facility and said he cannot wait to get back outside once the pandemic is over.