Ray Kinsman is one tough cookie. After 85 years of adversaries, including growing up in various foster homes, being a prisoner of war and most recently helping his wife battle brain cancer, Kinsman doesn’t give up easily when faced with a challenge.
Last week, the Grand Canyon got the better of him.
After four successful treks through the canyon, this trip proved too much for Kinsman’s body, which gave up after hours of grueling hiking and only five miles left to go.
Kinsman was airlifted from the canyon and treated for dehydration and a bad case of diarrhea. On Tuesday, Kinsman shared his story, just days after being released from Payson’s hospital for continued dehydration.
“I just wanted to do it better than last year,” Kinsman laments.
For the first time last year, Kinsman hiked the canyon from rim-to-rim, 24 miles total, in one day.
It took Kinsman 16 hours and the help of friends to complete the trek, but he managed to do it. Kinsman said he barely made it out after his headlamp went out in the middle of the final switchbacks, leaving him paralyzed in the middle of the trail with no inkling of up or down. Three friends caught up with Kinsman and guided/pushed him the final few miles up.
For this year’s hike, Kinsman said he had learned his lessons from last year and was going to do the rim-to-rim hikes better and faster.
He vowed to conserve his energy by resisting the urge to jog down the North Rim and drink plenty of water throughout.
On Tuesday, May 18, Kinsman left Payson with Payson First Church of the Nazarene Pastor Rich Richey, his brother-in-law Steve and a few other hikers.
On Wednesday, the group left the North Rim around 5 a.m. and hiked 14.5 miles to Phantom Ranch.
Kinsman arrived at the ranch around 11:15 a.m., a half an hour faster than last year. This was Richey’s first trip down the canyon and despite a lack of training, managed to keep up with Kinsman, who hikes regularly with the Payson Packers several times a week.
At Phantom Ranch, Kinsman and Richey rested and collected themselves for the 9.5-mile hike to the South Rim. Richey pulled out a knife and began cutting his toenails, something he had forgotten to do before leaving the Rim.
When he saw this, Kinsman laughed and told Richey it was too late, they were heading uphill from here out.
After sufficiently resting, Richey and Kinsman made their way across the bridge and began their ascent to Indian Gardens, a shady spot with water, restrooms, camping, ranger station and unbeknownst to Kinsman, medical supplies.
After hiking only a few hundred yards, Kinsman said his legs started “acting up,” the first sign trouble was brewing.
Richey and Kinsman started walking slower, a welcomed relief for Richey.
Eventually, the pair made it to Indian Gardens, laid down on benches and rested.
After half an hour, Kinsman said he had to go to the bathroom and then had to go again.
Kinsman told Richey they had better start hiking up because he was beginning to feel weak.
The pair left the comfort of Indian Gardens and slowly inched their way up the trail, stopping every few hundred feet to rest.
After a mile, Kinsman stopped, looked at Richey and said he could not go any further — his legs were too weak.
“I am not a quitter,” Kinsman said, “but I could not do it.”
Kinsman told Richey to go ahead and get help, unaware that a mile down the trail was a ranger station.
After Richey left, Kinsman said the diarrhea hit him.
Meanwhile, Richey continued and eventually got a hold of a cell phone from a hiker. He called for help and rangers told him they would send someone for Kinsman. Richey continued his ascent out to warn the others that Kinsman would not be hiking out.
An hour later, Kinsman said a pair of rangers arrived and very slowly helped him walk back down to Indian Gardens. There, they put Kinsman up for the night. The next day they asked Kinsman if he thought he could walk out with their help.
“I thought, there is no way I could walk out,” he said.
A helicopter flew in and airlifted Kinsman out to a nearby hospital. On Thursday, Kinsman was released to Richey and the rest of the hikers, who had waited for his release.
Back at home, Kinsman’s wife Theresa Maiers, wondered where her husband was after he didn’t return home as promised.
Kinsman instructed Richey to call Maiers and tell her they were running late, but to give no mention of his condition.
“I didn’t want to worry her,” he said.
On Jan. 26, doctors diagnosed Maiers with brain cancer.
Doctors removed 98 percent of the cancer and Maiers underwent chemotherapy and radiation. In mid-April, Maiers was moved into hospice. Two days after checking in, doctors told Maiers she had four to seven days to live.
Miraculously, Maiers began eating and regaining her strength and two days after doctors told her she was going to die, she was released from hospice.
Today, Kinsman said Maiers is doing well and they are “taking one day at a time.”
When Kinsman arrived home Thursday night, Maiers was relieved to see him, however, she told him “he was an idiot” for hiking the canyon again.
On Friday morning, May 21, Kinsman went to see his regular doctor in Payson for some blood work. At noon, Kinsman’s doctor called and said Kinsman needed to admit himself to the hospital immediately because he was still dehydrated.
After another day in the hospital, Kinsman was released.
Kinsman said he learned his lesson and won’t be trying the canyon again.
“I still think I could have done it if I had not got the diarrhea,” he said. “I had already done 21 miles.”
After reflecting a moment, Kinsman added, “I am quite sure I am not going to do it again.”