He’s 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, wearing a Wonder Woman costume, with her parents and three siblings on Oct. 13, 2020, said her parents, who are missionary doctors.
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, said Ken Bunning, president of Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.
In this Aug. 9, 2021, family photograph provided by Joshua Sutton, 5-year-old Harvey Sutton, center, poses with his mom Cassie, right, and dad Joshua, at the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine while hiking the Appalachian Trail with his Mom and Dad. Know by the trail name as “Little Man,” Harvey tagged along with his parents over more than 2,100 miles over 209 days to complete the family feat. (Joshua Sutton via AP)
It 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, said Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician and medical adviser to the American Camp Association.
For Harvey’s hike, his parents decided to take a “mini retirement” from their real estate jobs in Lynchburg, Virginia. They’d been hiking with Harvey since he was 2, so the Appalachian Trail made sense to them.
It was mostly smooth sailing after a snowstorm in the Smoky Mountains forced them to backtrack more than 30 miles to safety over 2 1/2 days.
The family became accustomed to sleeping in a tent, waking at 5:30 a.m. and hiking all day. There was a simplicity to the routine and a camaraderie with other “thru hikers” that kept it from getting boring, Josh Sutton said.