As many of you know, when Fred turned 50 he rode his bike across the United States — Pacific Ocean to Atlantic Ocean — in 25 days. He chose the more aggressive “short ride” across, averaging 115 miles a day with just two rest days in between. It took him and a small group of riders 25 days to accomplish this feat. To this day he acknowledges that that’s the hardest thing he’s ever done.
I didn’t know Fred back then, but knowing him now, I know that by testing his physicality like that at that time, he wanted to prove that turning 50 didn’t mean that he was old. I had a similar experience when I turned 40; I hated the whole notion, so I took up the sport of triathlon to prove to myself that 40 didn’t mean out of the game. I kept at the swim-bike-run discipline and competition for another five years to keep my body in shape and keep my mind believing that I wasn’t so old.
Well, a decade has passed since Fred’s “ride across” and today he’s undertaking another physical challenge to mark his 60th year — he’s hiking the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim as they say, in just one day! Most hikers take a rest at the bottom, camp for the night, then many take one to two days to ascend up the other side. But not Fred. He’s doing it all in one day. That competitive spirit and drive is still pushing him, as is his desire to keep from turning into an old man.
The profile of the canyon looks like this:
As I write this post at 6:15 a.m., he’s hiking now… I figure he’s somewhere between Mile 2 and Mile 3 at the moment, as I saw him off at the trailhead promptly at 5:30 a.m., just as he had planned.
If all goes according to plan, Fred will hike 14 miles down to the Colorado River, descending over a mile (5,800 feet) into the big canyon. He’ll hike along the river for about 1.5 miles where he plans to eat the two turkey sandwiches he packed for himself very early this morning. Then more rapidly, not in speed but in distance and steps, he’ll ascend up to the South Rim — about 4,600 feet of climbing over 8 more miles. The total distance of the rim-to-rim hike is 24 miles. He’s calculated that it should take him around 13 hours in total to do.
One of the best pieces of news we could have received when we got to the North Rim yesterday is that all of the water stations are now on for the season so he doesn’t need to carry so much water — he’s got a 3-liter CamelBak that he’ll be able to keep refilling and that way keep his pack weight way down. He’s not taking his camera, for that weighs several pounds and this is no sightseeing/photography trip; any photos he snaps will be with his Smartphone. He’s got two clean pair of socks; he plans to swap them out down at the bottom. He’s got some energy bars and trail mix for some on-the-trail pick-me-ups. Of course he’s got a med pack with, among other things, Blister Band-Aids, in the likely event that he’ll need those. Yes, Fred has planned this trip in his head for over a year now, so he’s ready, both mentally and physically.
While he’s spending his day hiking, I’m going to make the trek around the canyon in Toad — 4-1/2 hours I think it should take me. I’ll check into the Bright Angel Lodge at the South Rim, then start to hike down Bright Angel Trail and meet him somewhere along the way. We’re estimating that my timing will have me at about the 1.5-miles-to-go spot when we meet up. Wherever on the trail we see one another, I’ll have a kiss waiting for him, his favorite candy bar, some Gatorade, and some fresh motivation to help him make it to the top. Not that he’ll need my help, but we both think hiking up that last mile or two together will be a nice way to end his journey.
When we said goodbye at the trailhead this morning at 5:30 a.m., he indicated that on the other side he’d likely feel that this wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. Let’s hope that’s the case. But if you’re reading this post any time before about 6:30 p.m. PST today, May 16th, send Fred strength and energy on the trail and say a prayer that he completes this journey safely. I know he has it in him, but this rim-to-rim hike is just a proof point that, at 60, Fred Jolly is far from old….