Archived Outdoors

Macon man celebrates 85th birthday with Grand Canyon hike

out praderMany an 85th birthday has been observed with a simple gathering of friends and family sharing cake and memories, but Franklin resident Jim Pader had something more in mind when he crossed that milestone this month — he hiked 23.5 miles across the Grand Canyon.

Accompanied by his son James and friend Sarah Lowell, Pader embarked on the 32-hour adventure at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 11, on the canyon’s north rim, not exiting the south rim until 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 — no camping involved. 

“For me, the hike was from difficult to very difficult because of tread conditions. Mule rides from the North Rim have caused deep crevices and erosion of the tread, which was a problem for me because of having bad knees — old injuries and wear and tear,” Pader said. 

Pader was slow toward the end, taking 18 hours to make the last 9.5 miles, but he was determined. He pressed on, with his son James monitoring his physical condition the whole time. 

“Jimmy did a great job planning in that we avoided the ‘furnace’ — a 7-mile section from Cottonwood Campground to Phantom Ranch where temperatures easily get to 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. We hiked it at night and it was only 90 degrees Fahrenheit,” Pader said. 

However, as the hike wore on Pader had slowed down to half his anticipated 1 mile per hour pace, meaning he had to contend with the noonday sun along the exit route. By the time he finally emerged victorious, he was completely spent. 

But it was worth it. 

“In spite of all the difficulties encountered, hiking the canyon is as near to heaven as I may get,” he wrote. “The beauty of the surroundings, the magnificence of the geology going back almost two billion years, with all the variety of colors and history is beyond imagination or description. Photographs, no matter how good, can never provide the feelings I got while being in that environment, and I cannot find words to adequately explain them.

“It brings tears to my eyes even as I write this as my memory reconstructs what just being there was like. I found oneness, joy and serenity and peace within myself as I listened to the symphony of the earth’s voices, singing all around me. For a moment, I was a microscopic part of a masterful part of creation. It was a privilege that I will remember forever and never forget. All my pain and suffering, my total exhaustion where every cell in my body had no more to give, was hardly price enough to pay for what I got in return.”

This adventure comes after Pader’s 2013 accomplishment of becoming the oldest person, at age 83, to make the 22-mile trek to California’s Mount Whitney without stopping overnight. 

“Some friends have asked me ‘What’s next?’” Pader said. “But for the near future, I plan to rest.”

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.