The man who went on a hike – and never stopped walking

In his 61st year on this earth, the man who calls himself Nimblewill Nomad left home and walked a very long way through the mountains – about 10 million steps, he estimates, or 4,400 miles. Then, he took another, even longer walk. And then another one. And then another. Soon, he had given away almost all of his money and taken to walking almost year-round, roaming the post-industrial wilderness of North America in what he called “a desperate search for peace”.

His fellow long-distance hikers speak of him in mythical terms. They told me that, in order to avoid foot infections, he had chosen to have all 10 of his toenails surgically removed. He was said to never carry more than 10 lbs on his back, and to have invented a tiny stove that ran on twigs and grass, so he wouldn’t have to carry fuel.

Over 15 years, he had hiked 34,000 miles. First he completed the so-called Triple Crown of long-distance trails: the Appalachian trail (2,200 miles), the Pacific Crest trail (2,650 miles), and the Continental Divide trail (3,100 miles). Then he went on to complete all 11 national scenic trails in 2013. Triumphant, fulfilled, and nearing his 75th birthday, he vowed to hang up his hiking boots.

Then, the next spring, he was back. He announced he would complete a grueling road-walk from New Mexico to Florida, in order to complete a route he had named the Great American Loop, which connected the four farthest corners of the continental US. This, he claimed, would be his last long hike.

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