by Steve Norcross

“Hike the Grand Canyon at your age?”

Apparently this co-worker was not aware that ageist comments like this are not socially acceptable. He also was not aware of the assumption he made about what a man should be at my age.

I was also immediately aware that he was really talking about himself, way overweight and definitely not fit and aging along with everyone else.

Having recently moved to the Southwest, one of my goals was to hike into the Grand Canyon, camp in the inner gorge, and hike out two days later. Furthermore, I wanted to hike down the South Kaibab Trail which has the better views, and hike up the Bright Angel, giving a chance to rest half way at Indian Gardens.

I applied for my backcountry permit, and on or about the middle of April, off I drove to Northern Arizona.

Down into the canyon, it’s mostly of matter of holding one’s self back. My knee began to complain bitterly, but all pain was forgotten as I walked to the Tipoff and saw clearly the inner gorge. I was awash (wrong image — this is the desert) with joy at seeing one of the truly spectacular places in the world, and I’m in it, all my own effort.

Camping was good except that I had carried way too much stuff. I managed to give away half my food and most of my fuel. Whew, that’s better. Fifteen pounds lighter.

Breaking camp in the dark so as to make some time before the big heat, I took off over the suspension bridge just as the dawn was returning. Up, up, up, struggled against the force of gravity and my own limitation. After a rest, up the switchbacks I went, wondering how I would ever make it.

At last I gasped my way to the trailhead, somehow managing not to yell at day trippers holding their soda cans and smoking their cigarettes. There’s no one quite as self-righteous as a through hiker near the trail head.

I made my way to the car, immensely grateful that I had made it and, yes, I was one of the oldest people on the trail.

Back at work, the co-worker looked just the same as always. I probably did, too, but I felt a million times better.


SteveNorcrossSteve Norcross is a leader in the MKP Northwest and Portland Councils. An Episcopal priest, he is the director of pastoral services at William Temple House and the Priest-in-Charge at Ascension Parish. He is married with two grown children and a granddaughter on the way.