For Morris and Phyllis Brown, age has never been a limiting factor. When they met 18 years ago, neither doubted it was possible to fall in love again while in their 50s, and when they decided to hike the Grand Canyon together, not once but several times, they knew it could be done with a little patience and persistence.
The Browns recently completed their third and longest trip together at the Grand Canyon Monday. Their first trip was on their honeymoon in 1991 and included hiking through the backcountry.
Not your typical honeymoon — the trip worked for the Browns who have both had an affection for nature since childhood.
Phyllis, 68, recounted trekking through the forests near her New Hampshire childhood home and getting lost. She says she somehow always managed to make it home in one piece.
“I have always loved being in the woods,” Phyllis said. “We both love nature and have since we were very young.”
Morris, 69, said he has been an avid hiker much of his life and has summited Mount Whitney, Mount Humphreys and Mount Ord to name a few.
Before the Browns could take up hiking together, they had to meet, which they did while working at a nuclear power plant in North Carolina. After a year and half of friendship, they finally started dating and after marrying, decided to move west for retirement.
They bought a log home overlooking Payson and the Mogollon Rim and with such beauty at their beckoning every day, they said they quickly took to hiking almost every day throughout the Rim Country.
On most weeknights, you can catch the Browns walking after dinner several miles through their neighborhood.
Conditioning along with hydration, Morris said, is key to hiking, especially when you are older.
The Browns got a lesson in being prepared on one of the first hikes they ever took after moving to Payson.
Nearly a mile and half into the Barnhardt Trail, they stumbled upon an older man with his head cracked and bleeding. The man had apparently become disoriented, fell down and was now trying to amble his way back to the trailhead. Phyllis ran and got the couple’s satellite phone from the car and called the Sheriff’s Office, which sent a helicopter and airlifted the man out.
Since then, Morris brings two GPS devices and a satellite phone on every major hike. Phyllis said Morris is usually extremely prepared for hikes, researching topographic maps, trail conditions and weather conditions.
Last week, when the pair planned a
24-mile conditioning hike to Rainbow Bridge, Morris diligently searched books for information on the trail and was confident in the chosen route. Once on the trail and several miles and 17 canyons later, Morris said he realized the trail was more than they could handle and was actually 28 miles long. Running out of water and energy, the pair turned back and were able to find water, but it was not until after dark that they made it back to their Jeep Wrangler.
Although the hike did not go exactly as planned, Morris said they felt ready to tackle a rim-to-rim hike at the Grand Canyon.
The pair has been planning for several months to make the 24-mile hike from the north rim using the North Kaibab back up to the south rim on the Bright Angel, all in one day. For weeks, the pair has increased their mileage on hikes until they could comfortably hike 17 miles in a day.
Two weeks ago, the pair hiked the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, and then took the Bright Angel back as training for Monday’s hike.
Finally, on Monday, the pair started down the trail at 4:20 a.m. with only the light from their headlamps leading the way.
Early in the hike, the pair stumbled upon Sweat magazine’s publisher and several runners making a video and article for the magazine.
After being passed, Morris said there were few people on the trail.
“It was just fantastic scenery, really gorgeous on the north side,” he said.
By the time the Browns made it to Phantom Ranch at the bottom, the temperature was hitting 107 in the shade.
“We planned for that (the temperature) and had brought towels that we kept dipping into the water,” he said. “We even dipped our clothes in the creek to stay cool.”
The heat slowed the couple down, who made it out of the canyon at 7:30 p.m., 15 hours after starting.
“We both feel great,” Morris reported Tuesday, “I have a little soreness in my legs, but Phyllis is doing good.”
Now that they have completed their goal of hiking the canyon rim to rim, Morris said they plan to hike Mount Humphreys in June.
“The dream evolves all the time,” Phyllis said. “There are such wonderful things to see.”
Phyllis said one of her favorite parts of each hike, is the victory kiss she gets at the end from Morris.
Below are some of the Browns’ favorite hiking tips:
• Always carry plenty of water.
• Wear good shoes.
• Take moleskin for blisters.
• Carry an electrolyte replacement that is added to water.
• Work up to longer hikes by starting with easy walks around the neighborhood, adding more and more miles each week.
• Stop and stretch during a hike if legs become stiff.
• Drink before becoming thirsty.
• Try to keep your energy input the same as your output.
• Keep your blood sugar up.