Many adults dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, a more than 2,100-mile trek that starts in Georgia and ends in Maine. But Harvey Sutton, or “Little Man” as he was known along the trail, completed the hike at just 5 years old. Walking alongside his parents, the accomplishment makes him one of the youngest people known to complete the hike that spans 14 states.
Harvey and his parents, Josh and Cassie Sutton, spent 209 days completing the hike—made possible by the “mini-retirement” the adults took from their real estate jobs. Prior to departing on the grand adventure, Harvey had been hiking since he was 2 years old and was accustomed to walking long distances. The Appalachian Trail hike was something else, however, and the family kept a routine of waking up at 5:30 a.m. and walking for the day. Sometimes they would have to backtrack on their progress if the weather was bad—as in the case of a snowstorm in the Smoky Mountains.
One of the biggest challenges of the hike was not the weather at all, though. “I thought being cold and wet was going to be the hardest part of hiking the Appalachian trail,” Cassie tells My Modern Met. “But in actuality, it was the mental game of motivating and keeping an upbeat attitude to help Harvey stay positive and enjoy his hike.”
“The days had to transform from hiking to elaborate games of pretend so Harvey would have fun,” she continues. This included making plans to construct spaceships, build houses, and setting up treasure hunts with faux maps. Additionally, Harvey would enjoy a snack of Skittles and peanut butter on a tortilla to keep up his energy as they trudged along. “Maintaining that attitude was hard when the snow and rain were soaking through your gear. But I think that's what brought about the most transformation in each of us.”
The Suttons completed the hike on August 9, 2021, and celebrated atop Mount Katahdin. But there was little time to fully relish their achievement as life moves on. “Harvey just started kindergarten,” his mom says. “So he's off on a new adventure, completely different from this past one. It's expensive to not work, so we're back starting to build our business back to where it was. We're planning our next adventure and staying active in the hiking community.”