Dale Sanders is stubborn. That’s the first thing he’ll say when you ask him how he manages to keep snagging age-related records on America’s classic long-distance routes. Sanders has a long history of adventure on and off the water. His early interest in acrobatics and swimming led to a Navy career, springboard diving and spearfishing competitions and awards, and a round-the-world backpacking trip with his wife Meriam. He retired from the Navy after 37 years, then continued working in parks and recreation until his formal retirement in 2002. Never one to sit down, Sanders post-retirement hobbies included river guiding in Memphis, Tenn. When he turned 80, Sanders retired again, this time to tackle a series of increasingly difficult long-distance adventures. He completed his first thru-paddle of the Mississippi in 2015. Dale Sanders held the age record for hiking the whole Appalachian Trail from 2017 until last year. “Grey Beard” (Dale) would also tell you that first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Earl Shaffer was 79, and was the oldest until I hiked in at 82 years old. And it was really a big morale booster for me. In 2020, Grey Beard became a Guinness World Record Holder as the oldest person to hike rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon.
Dale Sanders is an 87-year-old Kentuckian now living in Tennessee. Dale completed a thru-paddle of the Mississippi River and he did it in 87 days. His feat was witnessed by an observer for the Guinness Book of World Records. When Guinness certifies the results, Sanders will become the oldest person to paddle all of Old Man River’s 2,350 miles end to end. “We paddled out into the Gulf of Mexico enough to taste the salt in the water and then made the turn to come back into the beach,” he said. Dale was elated to see his wife and his entire family there on the beach waiting to celebrate with him. “My whole big family was there, every single one of them. Even my son, who lives in Ohio, everyone,” he said. During his travels, which stretched 2,340 miles, Sanders had a film crew along for the ride documenting the historic feat. “I want to thank the crew and the “River Angels.” Hundreds of River Angels that cheered us on were just superb. I also had a crew that was experienced and that was a tremendous asset,” Sanders said, adding they all helped him reach his goal “as planned,” which was reaching the Gulf of Mexico in 87 days. You can watch his movie trailer below.
What advice would Grey Beard give to someone who wanted to paddle the length of the Mississippi? “It doesn’t matter what it is, paddling or hiking. If your heart’s not in it, if you’re not willing to eat it, live it, and sleep it, don’t do it. Your heart has to be in it. It’s so challenging. You get times when you go, “Why am I doing this?” Dale’s advice to someone who wanted to break any age records: “Records are made to be broken. Talk to me and I’ll give you all the help I can. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.”
Canoe row for 87 days?
When rowing a boat, do you use the left paddle or the right paddle?
What happened to the guy that lit a fire in his boat?
He learned that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
Did you hear about the huge sale they just had on canoe accessories?
It was quite the oar deal.
I lost my job at the gym because I tried to use old fashioned motivation on a guy on the rowing machine.
He didn’t like being whipped.
January 17th Birthdays
1922 – Betty White, 1981 – Zooey Deschannel, 1991 – Willa Fitzgerald, 1983 – Lucy Boynton
1958 – Steve Harvey, 1931 – James Earl Jones, 1942 – Mohammed Ali, 1982 – Dwayne Wade