Living legend: Craig’s John Jepkema seeks world record as oldest man to hike Grand Canyon rim-to-rim
Craig resident John Jepkema has seen it all in his travels on foot.
From walking all throughout Craig and Moffat County, trails in Palisade and Utah, and three trips rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon — six times total at the bottom of the Canyon, Jepkema has always had his walking boots on.
His last trip rim-to-rim in October was a historic one though. Jepkema, at 91 years old, become the oldest man to ever complete the trip, setting a Guinness Book of World Record in the process.
Jepkema completed the backpacking trip in October with Craig resident Ann Wagner, 70, and Loveland residents Craig Mortensen, 68; Pete Bergmann, 66; and John Whinery, 66. During the trip, the crew documented Jepkema’s journey for the record, allowing him to submit an application to the Guinness Book of World Record for the rim-to-rim hike.
“It was special this time because we were able to document it for the record,” Jepkema said. “It’ll be a few months before we get confirmation back that it’s the record, but we know for sure I’m the oldest to do it.”
At 91, Jepkema spent 5 days hiking from the North Kaibab Trailhead at the North Rim to the Bright Angel Trailhead at the South Rim. Training for four months leading up to the hike, Jepkema started seriously training in July and walked roughly 5-8 miles a day, five days a week, allowing him some recovery time.
Despite needing to walk around town to train, Jepkema was quick to point out that
With his age and the record open, Jepkema decided to go for it.
“I’m pretty competitive by nature,” Jepkema said. “I knew it was an open record, so I decided to go for it.”
The backpacking trip through the wilderness over the 5 days allowed for plenty of time to socialize with the rest of the group, making for a good time for all.
At the end of the walk, it wasn’t the accomplishment that struck Jepkema. It was the amount of people lined up to take pictures with the nonagenarian hiker.
“That was pretty special,” Jepkema said. “I am not sure how many lined up to take photos, but it had to be between 20 and 30 people.
“I wasn’t expecting that, but it certainly boosted my ego,” he added with a laugh.
Now that the record is set, Jepkema says he’ll take a break from hiking to possibly get back into competitive shooting, something he’s done for more than 70 years.
Jepkema shoots a .22 pistol and mainly attends matches in Denver.
“I started competitively shooting with some friends years and years ago and just kept at it,” he said. “It will be nice to get back into that.”
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