Joe Lannon at 74 is unbroken
The big 737 touched down and we were in Phoenix Arizona! Seven of us, friends all, landed with the hope of once again attempting to conquer the hot and dry trails leading down into and out of nature’s perfect river carved structure the Grand Canyon!!! High hopes and great expectation ran through he group.
Dave and Robbie flying in from San Francisco, Joe and son Joe Lannon traveled from Stoudsburg, Pa, Charlene and Mike, from NJ, and me hop scotching from Myrtle Beach to NJ met at the storied El Tovar Hotel majestically placed on the South Rim of the Canyon!!
The party set out at 4:30 am down the famous and colorful trail South Kaibob! As expected the group was split up by youth with Dave and Robbie leading the way. The trip went smooth and four of us made it to Phantom Ranch our home for a day and a half in 4 hours. This was our quickest trip down . We caught a break with the weather. It was the coolest at the rim and at the bottom in my five trips to the Canyon. We made it down so quickly that for the first time ever our beds were not ready for us to move in!!!!
After lagging behind we expected Joe and Joe Lannon to be coming along shortly!! However, that was not the case. Three hours later they were still not at the bottom! We panicked a little, so I went to the Ranger Station and in formed her about Joe and Joe. She said all we could was wait since she had not had any word over her radio that anyone was in trouble.
A half hour later Joe and Joe Lannon appeared marching very slowly into camp. Joe the father is 74 years old and he said he had pulled or strained his thigh muscle and wondered if he could make the trip out the next day. His son Joe told us his father had also fell twice just missing hitting his head. We iced Joe’s thigh and sent him to bed with him getting up only for dinner. At dinner Joe arranged to stay an extra day at the ranch if he could not make the hike out in the morning. More rest and ice overnight was the order for Joe.
The four thirty wake up call came quickly. The ranch supplied a big breakfast and a sack lunch for the 12 mile hike out. Joe’s good news was that he felt better and was convinced he could make the trip out. I had second thoughts about his willingness to try but we could not convince Joe to stay. Mike Gilligan and I decided to hike out with Joe just to make sure he was ok!!
How ever just 30 minutes into the hike out Joe felt very tired and had to stop often to catch his breath. I took over carrying his back pack and lunch as we slowly moved upward. We asked Joe if he wanted to go back to the Ranch, but he insisted he would make it. He kept repeating that no matter when he left to go up he would he would have to go up hill all the way.
It wasn’t Joe’s leg that bothered him since the climb up used a different set of muscles. Our concern was that his breath was very short and he had to stop too often to regain a normal breathing level.
Joe drank plenty of water, but his shortness of breath really concerned Mike and I. Mike and I took turns carrying Joe’s back pack and Joe stopped any time he felt the need to rest. When we started to climb up steadily Joe became slower and slower. He at times could only take 10 steps at a time before he called for rest and water. Needless to say Mike and I were very concerned about Joe’s ability to finish the hike . Joe was soaking wet with sweat and was walking slower and slower. As we passed other hikers on their way down, they expressed concern for Joe and asked if he was ok! He answered with I am fine and moved on each time he was asked!!! Mike and I were concerned that Joe would collapse at any time and were constantly taking about what we would do in the event that he did collapse. We passed a Ranger and the Ranger expressed concern and to keep doing what we were doing and told Joe to hang in there!
We passed through a small tunnel near the top and I thought the rim was just around the corner so I said to Joe let’s say a Hail Mary. We did but once around the corner the rim was still about 3 quarters of a mile away!!
Thirteen and a half hour after we started, Mike and I held back and allowed Joe to be the first to make it to the trail head of the Bight Angel Trail. We sang the Rocky Theme and gave high fives and fist bumps!!
Mike and I witnessed an amazing accomplishment as Joe unbroken had refused to give up advancing slowly to the top! Yes. some may say he was foolish , he should not have climbed out. Joe even admitted that he was surprised how he had really deteriated with age since the last time he had hiked the canyon. But with all of the negatives against him, he did not quit from doing what he had set out to do.
I called Joe the next day as he and his son continued on to Lake Powell for a boat trip, and he said he was fine and that he was going to visit his cardiologist when he returned home.
It was truly amazing to see the human spirit at work! Joe never quit nor did he ever give up! At one point I wondered if Joe was a graduate of Notre Dame!!!!!!
He certainly played like a Champion on that day!!!
Go Joe Lannon
Always practice cutting down the nets!!!
Just a note Mike Gilligan is 65 and Jack Bottinger 75!
We gray heads really stick together!!!