The old axiom is certainly true-you can take the boy out of the country, and oh yes, you can take him out of the woods, too. Ah, but from that day forth and forevermore the country remains in that boy and the adventuresome spirit deep in the heart of that lad is truly never far away! And so it was surely destined to be-the restless lad in this old man will venture forth again, returning to the country, to the woods, back to that mysterious, ever-winding and far-off trail.
Hi folks! My name is Eb Eberhart, trail name, the"Nimblewill Nomad" and on June 3, National Trails Day, even earlier perhaps if the ice goes off the tundra in those mystic and far-away Chic Chocs, the old Nomad will be standing in the sea at the base of the spectacular Cliffs of Forillon, Cap Gaspe, Quebec Province Canada. From there will begin an incredible journey, "Odyssey 2000," a trek o'er the backbone of the entire Appalachian Mountain Range, on the Appalachian Mountains Trail (AMT), from the Gulf of St. Lawrence where the most-ancient of the timeless Appalachians plunge dramatically to the sea, thence south to near Porter Gap, where these venerable old mountains winter in south-central Alabama.
This trek will be the first recorded southbound thru-hike o'er these ancient and spiritual mountains, a distance of near 3,200 miles, 220 days, to end hopefully, on December 31. I know the Lord and I have this hike in us. I feel it with deep, reassuring contentment. For, though during this journey I will celebrate my 62nd birthday, I am not daunted; neither do I possess the least bit of doubt. I know what's out there now, what awaits me, for I have been there before, having hiked from the Gulf of Mexico at Key West, Florida to the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Cap Gaspe, Quebec in 1998, a distance of 4,400 miles, 298 days. I know the challenges that face me and though they are truly daunting, so too is the fact that the years havebrought me wisdom, a bountiful gift from God's true Trust, and with this wisdom, the patience and determination to accomplish this goal. So now, with deep heart-bound humility do I thank God for such incredible health, stamina, and intense resolve. Upon reaching the end of the Appalachian Mountains, and should I remain of sound body, mind, and spirit I will continue on,through southern Alabama o'er the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT)-thence tothe last two segments of the ECT, the Florida Trail, then venturing everonward, ever south, to the Gulf of Mexico at Key West Florida on theKeys/Everglades Roadwalk, a journey totaling near 5,000 miles, near a fullyear on the trail.
Many challenges lie ahead, some of which will surely present as burdens.Of these, there will be two I must face straight on. One, the burden ofsheer packweight and the other, the burden of the pounding, the seeminglyrelentless and never-ending pounding dealt by the countless daily miles. Isuffered dearly initially and most-near the entire last half of the "Odysseyof 1998"-suffering that resulted from the pitiful condition of my feet.Since then, I've had two separate surgical procedures performed on my feet. One,to cut the bones and fit them back where they belong, and the other topermanently remove all my toenails. Hopefully, I will not suffer from foottrouble this trek. Doc says I'm good for go. I am filled with joy as Icontemplate a journey free from foot pain!
So it is that one of my initial goals this trek will be to reduce theburden on my body, on my back, and on my feet by reducing my packweight."Easy enough," you say! Ah, but this task will be much like trying tostrip just an ounce or two more from the bones of a well conditioned, world-classathlete (not that I profess to be one . . . just an analogy!). I carry preciouslittle as is-some of it for sure little more than junk, quite heavy junkin fact, by current standards. So to assist me in this initial grand endeavorI've found a few very kind and generous sponsors, friends who have graciously agreed to bring their collective talent and their remarkably creative and uncanny ingenuity to bear, to assist and aid the old Nomad. Among them-the great folks here at GORP.com. My goal for this journey is to emerge from the sea at the base of the Cliffs of Forillon carrying (not counting provisions) a scant fourteen pounds . . . total! Oh my and oh yes! The excitement of it allbegins anew, the clock is ticking down; anticipation and suspense fill the air! I'm pumped-here we go again, "Odyssey 2000!"
Folks, dear folks, what a joy it would be-should you come along! We'llhave such a happy and memorable time. We'll climb some mountains, sleepunder the stars, ford some cool mountain brooks, scamper barefoot in the highmountain meadows, swim in the glacial tarns, endure some hardship and meetand make friends with a lot of great people along the way. You'll learnabout two grand and glorious new trails, the AMT and the ECT. You'll shudderwith me as we gaze o'er the wonders of the incredible Appalachians ofCanada-as we hike the new Sentier International des Appalaches, and you'llexperience the spiritual, soul-filling solitude that winds the path of thevenerable old Appalachian Trail. You'll be introduced to some very specialnew places along the Benton MacKaye Trail, and the Georgia and AlabamaPinhoti Trails as we hike the mysterious and rugged mountains of the southern Appalachians-and we'll stop in all the neat little old mom-n-pop cafes in southern Alabama. Then the grand finale, the excitement and joy of it as we venture south through Florida on the delightful Florida National Scenic Trail all the way to the subtropics that are the Everglades and the Florida Keys.
Please do come along! And please do remember me in your prayers.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication