A 4-year-old girl has broken the record for the youngest person to complete the famous 2,193-mile hike through the Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine.
Juniper Netteburg is the youngest daughter of a volunteer physician family that was working in the Northern African country of Chad. The Netteburg family recently took a seven-month break to hike the Appalachian Trail with their four children.
Since 2010, Doctors Olen and Danae Netteburg have worked as medical missionaries at Bere Adventist Hospital in Chad. The hospital is a 100-bed facility that is around 25 miles away from the closest paved road.
Mother Danae, said the couple’s youngest daughter, Juniper, completed the entire Appalachian Trail hike on her own. The 4-year-old hiked the full time on her own two feet without being carried by her parents or other siblings.
The family gave Juniper a trail nickname calling her “The Beast.” The name seemed fitting after one particularly tough stretch towards the end of the hike. Danae said that her youngest daughter sat down and began to cry at the base of one of the trail’s hills.
At first, Juniper would not admit to the reason she was upset. Finally, the 4-year-old said, “Mommy is carrying my backpack, but I want to carry it!” Juniper took the backpack from her mother and sprinted up the trail to the top of the hill.
The parents said this was often the case. In fact, they said Juniper would often hike ahead and have to wait on the family. The young girl would sit down on a large rock or fallen tree and patiently wait for her parents and three siblings to catch up.
The History of the Legendary Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail has a long, storied history that millions of hikers have enjoyed for decades. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy describes the trail as the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The conservancy says that more than 2 million people hike on at least part of the trail each year.
The Appalachian Trail was founded by land-use planner Benton Mackaye. He grew up around 30 miles west of Boston, MA and often hiked the mountains of New England.
In 1900, Mackaye graduated from Harvard. Following his graduation, he and a classmate hiked what would later become Vermont’s Long Trail through the Green Mountains. Supposedly, Mackaye had a light-bulb moment while on the hike. He was sitting in a tree on top of Stratton Mountain in Vermont. As he sat there staring off into the landscape, the idea of creating a trail following the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia dawned on him.
The Journal of the American Institute of Architects‘s editor listened to Mackaye’s idea. The editor convinced him to write an article explaining the plan. “An Appalachian Trail, A Project in Regional Planning” was published in October of 1921, and detailed Mackaye’s plans for the new trail.
Mackaye’s vision went beyond just a walking path. His Appalachian Trail would be a destination for East Coast residents to leave the city and get back into nature. The trail would be a place for recreation, recuperation, and as Mackaye said a place “to walk, to see, and to see what you see.”