5 year old Christian Thomas (aka Buddy Backpacker), is the youngest person to hike the entire Appalacian Trail. Accompanied by his mother, Andrea Rego and stepdad Dion Pagonis, he climbed over rocks and knotty roots for 2,180 miles. He listens to audio lessons on his iPod, learning vocabulary words, like “nefarious” and “encumbered”. Who says kindergartners need a classroom?
In spring 2012, finally, Dion engineered an escape plan. He and Andrea sold nearly all their possessions and moved west to Colorado, first to Boulder, then to Crested Butte, a ski town where Dion scored design gigs at elance.com and they operated a hostel called Butte Bunk. While Dion snowboarded, Christian (then four) and Andrea took to the bunny hill on skis. “By the end of the season,” Andrea writes at buddybackpacker.com, Christian “was blowing down moguls and double blacks on one of the hardest mountains in the United States. He has the endurance of an advanced athlete with a deep love for nature. Andrea and Dion have no choice but to live epic lives with him.”
The experience in Crested Butte changed the trajectory of their lives. Suddenly, the pair hoped to bring Buddy to California, so they could all learn to surf. They thought they’d like try a long distance mountain bike odyssey somewhere. They wanted to put themselves on a path toward adventure, and test their own endurance as well as Christian’s. In Colorado, as the snow melted, Andrea envisioned another kind of adventure.
“Why don’t we hike the Appalachian Trail?” she asked Dion in April of 2013.
Crested Butte was about to button up for the off-season. So they bought the well-used Jeep for $1,500, loaded their gear, and headed east.
Read the full piece at Backpacker.com: Kindergarten Can Wait: Buddy Backpacker, 5-Year-Old Thru-Hiker