Rural Missouri - January 2012 - (Page 32)

N E I G H B O R S by Jim McCarty jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop ne of the greatest achievements for a backpacker is through-hiking the 2,181-mile-long Appalachian Trail. Most start in the north and hike 80 percent of those who set off on a south to avoid inclement weather. M.J. long-distance hike fail not because of “Eb” Eberhart hiked that trail, but he the physical challenges, but because started in southern Florida and didn’t they aren’t prepared for phase two, the quit until he reached Quebec. mental aspect. Those who do get past Only a handful of people have the mental part might arrive at the next through-hiked Missouri’s Ozark Trail stage, which is the spiritual journey. due to its lack of places to find provi“The more I’m into it, especially sions. Eb is one of the few, doing both on the grueling hikes that just wear the eastern and western loops. But he you down, it’s mental,” he says. “And also tacked on the Ozark Highland and you’ve got to nibble at it. You can’t say, Ouchita trails in Arkansas, covering ‘Geez, I’ve got a thousand miles to go.’ more than 1,000 miles. That will kill you. But you say, ‘I can do Lewis and Clark are famous for their 15 or 20 miles today,’ and then you do epic trip up the Missouri River and that. You worry about the rest later.” back. Eb’s done that, too, but he did it People ask Eb how he does it. “It’s all on foot instead of in boats. easy, but here’s the trick,” he relates. Since his first long-distance hike in “I’ll start at first light, where it’s just 1998, Eb, who grew up in Russellville light enough that I can see my footing. but now lives in Eldon, has walked I’ll have 18 to 20 miles hiked before millions of steps in his passion to see 1 or 2 in the afternoon. So when I hit what’s around the next bend. Of the 11 that road crossing that goes to Potosi or National Scenic Trails, he’s bagged nine, Steelville, wherever, I’ll hike into town, some of them more than once. He’ll have me a nice hot meal. I’ll be back on hike the remaining two — Wisconsin’s the trail at 4 in the afternoon and get in Ice Age Trail and the New England Trail another 10 miles.” — this year. The next question is often why, and “I just put on my pack and went,” for that Eb recites one of the many Eb says of his first long-distance hike. “I poems, or “ditties,” he composes on the didn’t prepare. I didn’t go out and run. trail. “I’ve got that boiled down to 38 It’s such a blessing, my ability to put words,” he says of his poetic response on a pack and hike 20 to 30 miles a day called “Why Go?” and do it day after day after day.” It’s the people, the places, The pain What’s even more impressive is the and the trials. It’s the joy and the blessings fact that he started after he retired from That come with the miles. It’s a calling a 30-year career as an optometrist. He gone out To a fortunate few. To wander the was 60 when he set out on that first fringes Of God’s hazy blue. improbable adventure. Now 73, he’s Eb has seen some glorious places showing no signs of slowing down. and witnessed nature at its finest. He He’s already planning his next trip, M.J. “Eb” Eberhart made up for 30 years working in a windowless exam room has no fear of bears or snakes, saying a 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail hike. “That’s when he started hiking long distances. He’s logged thousands of miles on foot. mosquitoes are much more of a threat. a thousand-mile hike, that’s all it is,” He’s had his share of scares, includsays Eb, better known as the Nimblewill ing being knocked off the trail by a falling rock working in a tiny room with no windows. The Nomad to those who read his blog. “That ain’t and struck by lightning. His latest saga through son of a country doctor who loved the outdoors, nothing. I usually do 2,000 miles in a year.” Missouri and Arkansas last year was one of the Eb grew to love nature at an early age. But the So how does a 73-year-old man do most trying. pursuit of a career and material things got in it? Eb’s figured out a few things over Crossing the Courtois Creek at flood stage on the way. the years. the first leg of the Ozark Trail, he almost drowned. A philosopher at heart, Eb was carHe’s cut his pack weight down to He damaged his knees hiking along Highway 60. rying a lot more weight than just his a mere 6 pounds. Most hikers carry Eldon He broke his leg in Arkansas when his foot got pack when he left Florida’s Big Cypress packs that weigh this much, unloaded. • caught in a rock and he fell. And on one stretch, National Preserve on the first of his He sorted his gear into two piles: he almost succumbed to heat stroke. epic adventures. His marriage of 40 what he wanted and what he really Most of the time he hikes alone, though a years had just disintegrated. needed. These days, he carries just the friend often shadows him in a vehicle. Eb also has In the fast pace of daily exisessentials, such as a tent, down sleepsponsors who help offset the costs of his trips. tence, it’s easy to push one’s issues ing bag, sleeping pad, first-aid kit, longDespite the setbacks, he always has completed to the back burner and never deal with them. sleeved shirt and a cheap rain poncho. what he set out to do. His efforts have made him On the trail, the Nomad spent 11 months with “I can take 6 pounds of gear and go in winter,” an inspiration for thousands. “It’s humbling,” he only himself as a constant companion. The soulhe says. “I won’t be as comfortable as you with says. “Look in my guest book (on his blog), and searching he did on the journey changed his life your 30 pounds of gear. But you are going to be the one word that permeates the entries there is forever and brought him to a destination more out there tomorrow, and I will be back in town.” that you are an inspiration. ‘To see you out there important than reaching the Cliffs of Forillon in He invented a tiny backpacking stove that at your age, doing what you do, gives me hope.’” Canada. He finally found peace. burns wood. These days he leaves the stove at In the first of the three books he’s written, Eb home, rarely cooking on the trail. He instead opts You can learn more about the Nimblewill Nomad’s describes the journey in three phases he calls the for cold food or ventures into towns for a meal. adventures and purchase his books on his website at “Three Wise Men.” First is the physical journey, What prompted Eb to embark on his first www.nimblewillnomad.com. which many think is the hardest part. He says hike was the 30 years he spent as an optometrist, O The Nimblewill Nomad M.J. ‘Eb’ Eberhart is a man of a million steps 32 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://www.nimblewillnomad.com http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2012

Rural Missouri - January 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Superior steel
Facing ‘extreme men’
Return to the prairie
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Missouri snapshots
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Woven in tradition
Marketplace
Around Missouri
The Nimblewill Nomad
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - January 2012

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