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Youngest thru-hiker nears goal

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Nov 07 2013 04:22:32 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 07 2013 04:28:06 PM CST

With just 600 miles to go, a five-year-old will become the youngest to ever hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

SMYTH COUNTY, Va. -

Thru-hikers are people trying to hike the entire 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail. On average, only one in four make it the entire way from Maine to Georgia.

There have been many thru-hikers over the years, but one is about to do something no one else has done -- hike the entire trail at age five.

If you see them on the trail it may appear like a short family hike along the Appalachian Trail, but the little guy in middle is known as Buddy Backpacker, his trail name.

He and his dad have now completed just over 1,600 miles of trail so far. "We started in Harpers Ferry. We went to Maine, then to Baxter State Park to Katahdin, and then to Rockfish Gap, but the Shenandoah was closed," the young Christian Thomas announced.

The government shutdown caused the young hiker to detour, but he plans to return.

Should he complete his hike before his birthday he will be the youngest to do so. "I don't think we knew that he was setting the record officially until after we started, because we started at the Appalachian Trial Conservancy in Harpers Ferry. The people there when we started let us know that there was a six-year-old hiker in 1980," his mother Andrea Rego says.

And if young Buddy isn't hiking the trail, it seems he is hopping itl. "After the first two weeks of physical conditioning it goes pretty easy. It's all in the head, it's all a head game after that. Him, he never hurts the next morning like most thru-hikers do. His regeneration is overnight. He's had it easier than most hikers," father and hiking partner Dion Pagonis said.

Besides his education on the great outdoors, Buddy is learning while he hikes along. "He hikes with educational music, he's learning French, he's learning to count, spell, add and subtract while he hikes without the distraction of other kids or being in the classroom," his mother said.

All of his experiences and adventures will be chronicled in a children's book when he reaches his goal, just 600 miles away.

For more information about Buddy's journey click here.