It’s A Way of Life It’s your fourth day in the Grand Canyon, and you’ve had a long day of hiking beneath the South Rim. It’s arid, hot and smoldering and the day has now come to a close. You’re miles from civilization and completely isolated, as you lie back into your sleeping bag without a worry in the world and look up at a sky so dark it looks like black velvet. This is what life is like for Lin and Jim Musgrove, a retired couple who have developed an interest in hiking and take what they call an annual pilgrimage to the Grand Canyon for multi-night backpacking trips. The couple got started separately when Jim began hiking as a Boy Scout. As an adult and now a Boy Scout leader he took his son, Grant, on a 10-day extreme hiking trip to Philmont, a Boy Scout high-adventure park in New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains. Lin’s interest in hiking evolved in the early 1980s when she started kayaking and was drawn to the outdoors. She had to hike in order to get to where she was kayaking so it became a natural progression she enjoyed. In 1994, Jim took Lin on what was to be billed as a once in a lifetime backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon and the couple has now hiked close to 1000 miles at Grand Canyon and are systematically covering all of the trails below the South Rim. “We typically like to go out there in either May or September when the temperatures are moderate, but even at that we have hiked in the Grand Canyon in June and seen snow and we’ve hiked in September and early October and see it hit 115 degrees down in the canyon,” Jim said.
Hiking isn’t for the ill experienced. People do die every year, and that’s not just a scare tactic used by the rangers. Generally those people don’t know what they are getting themselves into and that’s when things go wrong. An experienced hiker knows that the unexpected can happen, but will generally have multiple backup plans. Having hiked in the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone in Wyoming, Big Bend in Texas, the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the Appalachian trail, and all parts of the country, they both agree hands down that their absolute favorite is the hike in the Grand Canyon. “I think we’ll know when we have to cut back on some of the extreme things we do, but I think God-willing and feet, legs, and hips holding up, we can do it forever,” Lin said. From scratch, backpacking could be very expensive, but they’ve accumulated and upgraded equipment throughout the years. “It’s the kind of thing where you can spend whatever you want on it, however much you’re willing, but you don’t need that much,” Jim explains. A typical pack consists of a tent, which costs $250, sleeping bags for $200, a sleeping pad for $50, a stove for $40 and water filters for $100. Just ask Margaret Winkler an outdoor enthusiast. She’s been hiking since she was in college and says that if you wanted to just start out backpacking today and have the proper equipment, you’d probably expect to spend between $600800 before you ever leave home. The good news is once you make the initial investment, it’s almost free after that because you just pay a minimal park fee to enter and the costs associated with traveling to get you to those places.
Perhaps the most essential aspect of hiking is footwear. A good pair of boots will cost you anywhere from $130-$250 depending on the brand and material used. The process of breaking in a new pair of boots is a slow and sometimes painful process and requires months of wearing before ever using them on a trip. Proper socks are a must and once your feet have stopped growing a good pair of boots can easily last a decade. Preparation is just as important. Knowing where you are going and the terrain of the land, how you’re going to get there and what the weather will be like is key. Ray Watts became interested in hiking through hunting as an adolescent and realized he enjoyed being outdoors. He became re-interested in his thirties and forties when his son, Aaron, was a boy scout. “Now, I would never go on a hike of any distance anymore without the capability to deal with cold weather, wet weather, not being able to get food or water, not being able to go out without a flashlight, a compass and maps and ways to start a fire,” Ray said. Water is also a critical element and it’s advisable to take at least one to two more bottles than you think you’ll need. Margaret laughs as she recounts of a story about an incident when she went hiking in Glacier National Park; afterward the trek was affectionately nicknamed the “Death March”. Ray and two other friends were with her when they left to begin the 15-mile hike. Ray and Margaret were prepared, each had lots of water, but the other two had forgotten to pack any or at least didn’t have very much. “By the time we got back from doing the last five miles, we each bought two big Gatorades and drank them all right there.”
Another important aspect of hiking is the people you hike with. Jim and Lin prefer to hike by themselves, while Margaret and Ray prefer groups from two to six people. For Margaret, pleasant company is a must. “You have to be able to enjoy spending time together to be able to sit there and talk to each other all day and still that night after you’re finished hiking.” Silence is just as important though. You have to be comfortable to sit and share the scenery also. It’s a time to be quiet, peaceful, and sometimes spiritual. Hiking is something quite addictive. Once you experience it, you always want more. Both Margaret and Ray, and the Musgroves still hike year-round no matter the weather and continue to keep a list of places yet to be visited. In addition to their annual trip to the Grand Canyon, Jim and Lin set a goal to hike to the highest point in every state. Margaret and Ray are planning a trip this August to Crater Lake in Oregon. “It’s glacial blue, and is just pristine looking. It literally is just a big old crater about 30 miles around and I’ve just always wanted to go there ever since I saw a picture of it,” Margaret describes. As far as taking pictures, they’ve all learned that it’s not the most important thing anymore. “You have to have been there for a picture to evoke a feeling and that’s what I want, a feeling of being there and I can do it just by closing my eyes,” Lin said. Lin says that hiking is a unique opportunity to see things in a different way. “Hiking is just sort of a natural way to get to where you are going for the way we live our life.” For Margaret, the adventurer, traveling to new places and being
outdoors is a must. As for Ray, “there are all kinds of amazing places around, it’s just a matter of finding the time to get to all of them. For many, hiking is something that can be done no matter your age or physical fitness, it’s about being immersed in nature and enjoying the simple things in life. Just ask Lin, Jim, Ray or Margaret and they’ll tell you.