Wednesday, 15 November 2017 16:02

Inspiring 82-year-old amazingly completes 2,200-mile hike

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Euphoric. That’s how Dale Sanders, 82, described the sensation he felt when he completed his 2,200 mile or 3,540 kilometre hike of the Appalachian Trail. Dale began his journey in January and reached the end Oct. 26.


If you read my column regularly, you’ve heard me mention Dale a time or two. I’ve written about him several times since 2014.
In fact, I once wrote, “He’s who I want to be when I grow up, and by grow up I mean when I’m 80 years old.”
Dale lives an inspiring life. He’s a role model and a living example of what people can achieve, even in their 80s. Case in point, he just become the oldest person to walk the entire Appalachian Trail in a single season. But that isn’t Dale’s only record. Two years ago, when he was just a young pup of 80, Dale canoed the entire Mississippi River from source to sea. He’s also the oldest person to complete that journey, too.
Dale admitted he found hiking the Appalachian Trail more difficult than paddling the Mississippi River. In part, this is because there was no current to push him forward, but also because the Appalachian Trail winds through the mountains between Georgia and Maine. The terrain is often steep and covered in sharp rocks. Weather was also a complicating factor, especially when trudging over snow-covered mountains in the wake of early spring storms. Towards the end of his trip, Dale experience some internal bleeding and seriously contemplated quitting. However, the input of other hikers he met on the trail made him reconsider.
Most of the 2,500 hikers who complete the Appalachian Trial every year are in their 20s and, thanks to social media, many of them had heard of Dale’s attempt to become the oldest person to finish the hike. “I can’t count the number of kids that said, ‘I want to be just like you when I get to your age.’” For Dale, that comment was “really uplifting” and he couldn’t let those young men and women down by quitting.
After taking a few days to recover from his medical issue, Dale laced up his hiking boots and continued his quest. Weeks later, his family and friends gathered and walked the final mile with him.   Afterwards, I phoned Dale to congratulate him and to hear about his experience. I also asked him why a more traditional retirement, one of golf and coffee at the mall, doesn’t appeal to him. He answered that he wouldn’t last if “he sat in a rocking chair.” His adventures are what keep him alive. And he’s already contemplating the next one. Dale is thinking of paddling the Missouri River in 2019 – all 2,340 miles or 3,760 kilometres of it. But that’s no big deal, he’ll only be 84. Speaking of paddlers, you may recall this summer that I published a column about Mike Ranta. He was canoeing across Canada to commemorate the country’s 150th anniversary.
He began his trip in B.C. in April and hoped to reach Nova Scotia by Halloween. Unfortunately, after 190 days the effects of fatigue caught up with Mike and with his dog Spitzii, who was with him. The travellers were on the north shore of Lake Huron when Mike announced on Facebook Oct. 8 that he was ending the journey. His post read, “My main concern is Spitzii and he's indicating he's had enuff! Gonna give this old carcass time to heal and plan another trip!”

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Dominique Liboiron

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.