When Ray Kinsman decides he is going to do something, stand out of his way, because he is sure to make it happen.
The 84-year-old recently hiked 24 miles, rim to rim, at the Grand Canyon in one day and said he wouldn’t let the impeding darkness of nightfall or his sore muscles slow him down a bit.
Even when he couldn’t continue because his legs were giving out from hours of strain and stress, Kinsman used the strength of fellow hikers to push him to the top.
“I was determined to do it,” Kinsman said of the trek, even if it meant trudging through the canyon for more than 16 hours with much of the last half of it through pitch darkness.
“My wife thinks I am an idiot,” Kinsman joked at his home. “She (Theresa) always says that I do not know I can’t do something, I just do it.”
This isn’t the first time Kinsman has hiked through the canyon, in fact, he has done it three other times, several times on the Havasupai Trail.
And Kinsman said he plans to do it again soon, simply to prove that he can.
On May 23, Kinsman along with 24 (much younger) members of the Nazarene Church from the Valley drove to the north rim of the canyon with plans to hike down the North Kaibab and up the Bright Angel in one day.
The rest of the hikers in the group were under 55 years old and were concerned about Kinsman’s age, but he assured them that he could do it.
Kinsman said after hiking with the Boy Scouts, the Army and throughout his life, he is more than able to hike the canyon.
Kinsman even earned two Purple Hearts after being shot in the eye and chest and being a prison of war during World War II in Germany.
And if surviving a war isn’t enough to prove your toughness, Kinsman was raised in multiple foster homes and had to learn to support himself by the ninth-grade.
“I made a success of myself because I had to, with no one else to tell me or look up to,” he said. “I didn’t know what love was growing up.”
This same toughness proved invaluable for Kinsman on the recent canyon hike.
The trek started out in the early morning with bitter cold temperatures. To warm himself up, Kinsman said he made the decision to jog down the first four miles of the hike. A major mistake he realized later.
Jogging downhill for several miles ruined his knees, he said.
“I went to sit down and my legs collapsed.”
After struggling back to his feet, he collapsed again when he tried to sit down.
“I said to myself I have got to stay on my feet,” he said. “There aren’t any mules or free rides to get out.”
After managing to get to his feet, Kinsman carried on with the hike and made it to the Bright Angel Trail several hours later.
With tired legs, Kinsman started the nine-mile hike uphill to the south rim.
Realizing he was not going to make it up the trail during daylight and that he had left his headlamp behind, Kinsman knew he needed to get a light source.
“I left the light in the hotel room because I thought I would be out by 6 or 7 p.m.,” he said.
A young woman offered her headlamp to Kinsman and he gratefully accepted. However, halfway up the trail, around 10 p.m., the batteries in the light went out and Kinsman said he was left standing in the middle of the switchback with no light and no moon to follow.
“I knew the leader of the group and his wife were behind me, so I waited,” he said. “There was no way you could move up or down because you might fall off the trail.”
Michelle and Lanley Benson and Leslie Hoffman helped push Kinsman up the trail. Around 11:15 p.m. the group made it to the south rim.
Kinsman said he lost 8 pounds during the grueling hike, but is thankful for all the people who helped him along the way.
Helping others is something Kinsman is familiar with. Since 1999, he has managed the Salvation Army’s bell ringer program and has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and at hospice.
“I believe in helping others,” he said. “I live by the golden rule and it has paid off all through life.”