… A Mountain Climbing Grandma

July 24, 2018

There are times in life when a real life story comes along that is so wonderful, you just have to share it. This is one of those stories.

Hulda crooks Mount fuji.jpgIt was on July 24, 1987 when 91 year old Hulda Crooks of California successfully scaled 12,388 foot tall Mount Fuji. She was the oldest woman to ever summit that mountain.

In fact, she was affectionately called Grandma Whitney due to the fact that she had climbed Mount Whitney – at 14,495 feet it’s the tallest mountain in the continental United States – twenty three times… all after the age of 65!

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mount Whitney peaks“In 1990, Day Needle, one of the peaks in the Whitney area was, by an Act of Congress, renamed Crooks Peak in her honor.  On July 24, 1987, at the age of 91, she became the oldest woman to complete the ascent of Mt. Fuji in Japan. She hiked the entire 212 mile John Muir Trail in the high Sierras, completing the hike in segments over five years.

Hulda Crooks was a long-time resident of Loma Linda, California and a Seventh-day Adventist. She often spent time with children in the community, encouraging them to appreciate nature and stay active. In 1991 Loma Linda dedicated a park at the base of the south hills as Hulda Crooks Park.

‘Early to bed and early to rise. Out jogging about 5:30am. Jog a mile and walk it back briskly. It takes me 12 minutes to jog the mile and 15 minutes to walk it. Do some upper trunk exercises, work in the yard, and walk to the market, and work.’ — Hulda Crooks describing life at 80

According to Congressman Jerry Lewis (R California), one of her hiking companions,

Hulda crooks hiking‘No mountain was ever too high for this gentle giant. With a twinkle in her eye, and purpose in her step, Grandma Whitney showed the world that mental, physical and spiritual health is attainable at any age.’”

This remarkable woman lived to the age of 101. Even more remarkable is that she did NOT start climbing mountains until she was 66 years old.

In the obituary for her from Loma Linda University it said, “She held eight world records for women over the age of 80 including Senior Olympic events in marathon and road races. In addition she climbed a total of 86 different Southern California peaks, each over 5,000 feet between 1977 and 1983. When Mrs. Crooks spoke about the advantage of a good diet, proper exercise, and a positive mental attitude, she was speaking from experience. It was during a period of poor health while a student at Loma Linda that she changed her lifestyle. During her retirement years, she would give up to a dozen talks a month on health and physical fitness. She would walk up to 100 miles each month to stay in shape.”

Back in 1997 there was a movie released which featured a heroine named Rose. The movie: Titanic.

For those unfamiliar with the plot line: Rich girl, Rose, meets poor boy, Jack, and they fall in love. Both are passengers on the Titanic but, due to societal pressures, it’s a hidden love affair. When the boat hits an iceberg, their love – and pretty much everyone on board – is doomed. In the final moments of the movie, we see Jack succumb to the frigid waters of the north Atlantic. But his ultimate sacrifice saves Rose.

It always struck me, as we got the briefest of glimpses into Rose’s life after Jack, that the real gift he gave her was the understanding that life is to be lived to its fullest. She promised him to live her life that way – and she did.

Which is why Hulda’s story is so inspiring. No matter what your passion might be, go out and pursue it! For me it’s writing novels. Haven’t published a single one. Yet. But I’ve completed five and am halfway through number six. And I have no shortage of ideas and plots for seven, eight, nine, and ten.

Now, climbing a mountain? Not on my bucket list. Or riding a horse now that you mention it.

For years my sister, Susan, and I have spent anywhere from two weeks to a few days each summer at Long Beach, Washington. It all started in the summer of 1991 when, with her then two year old daughter and my one and half year old son in tow, we made our first ‘girls’ trek. Over the years our activities changed depending on the age and interests of the kids. Sometime in the early to mid-2000’s her two daughters decided they wanted to ride horses. In Long Beach there are a couple of outfits where you can sign up for a guide led trot to the beach.  The first year we opted for the half hour ride. This consisted of riding a horse with an attitude in a single file line over bumpy, sandy terrain to the beach. Once at the beach the horses were allowed to fight with each other and trot a little bit horse ride views long beachbefore the whole pack turned around and went back.

The next year the girls’ wanted a longer ride so we opted for the hour and half adventure. Which just meant more time doing exactly the same thing as the previous year. The only real difference was that I walked like a chafed cowboy for two days instead of one.

When the third year rolled around I had made a decision. The night before the proposed ride I said to my sister, “So here’s the deal. I’m not going horseback riding this year. In fact, I’m never going horseback riding ever again. Tomorrow morning my plan is to put the girls on those horses then wave goodbye. After that I’m driving to Laurie’s Homestead Café and having breakfast. If you want to go on the horses, then that’s fine, but I’d love to have you join me for breakfast.”Girls with horses 2008.jpg

So if you are ever in Long Beach, Laurie’s has the BEST hash browns.*  Which my sister found out that fateful morning when we marked horseback riding off our bucket list along with climb a volcano. I’ll leave that activity to the Hulda Crook’s of this world.Laurie's breakfast

After all, I can always tap into my imagination if I need a new adventure.

And, of course, a few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulda_Crooks

https://web.archive.org/web/20101212011154/http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty_pages/romain.wacziarg/climbing/crooks.html

Two scenes from Titanic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sErVyGeQrQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7IBCKCKVO0

And if you’re on the peninsula: https://www.yelp.com/biz/lauries-homestead-breakfast-house-seaview

* With the continued shutdowns from the COVID19 Pandemic I am unsure as to the status of Laurie’s Homestead cafe. I will check it out next time I’m in Long Beach and provide and update here.

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