75-Year-Old Organizer Leads Grand Canyon Hike Again
Geza Csapo made his first trip into the Grand Canyon in 1985, at age 60. He was scouting it out, solo, as a possible excursion destination for Hoosier Chapter backpackers.
He went down the south Kaibab trail and spent the night in the Bright Angel campground on the canyon floor. On his way out, he stopped to talk with some rafters on the beach.
Their leader turned out to be from Indiana. “Hey, Hoosier,” the fellow yelled as Geza was leaving. “How would you like to ride the Colorado?”
Geza was worried about getting stranded, but the leader explained that the Bright Angel trail parallels the river for a couple of miles. So on his first hiking trip in the canyon, Geza also got to raft the river.
His unexpected side trip delayed him. He was still a long way from the canyon rim when it started getting dark. “I didn’t think I could make it up,” he recalled as we were chugging our way through Kansas on Amtrak 15 years later, homeward bound from Geza’s fourth visit.
“And to be honest,” he added, “I wanted to spend another night in the canyon.” So he found a ledge that ran back from the trail, with a small cave at the end, and there he spent the night.
Geza began organizing trips for the Hoosier Chapter in 1978, the same year he helped form the Michiana Group, of which he is the only remaining charter member. At the time he was very active in the battle to save Grand Mere Dune (now a state park) west of Stevensville, Michigan.
To give club members a break from their campaigning, he decided to organize an outing. But not just any outing. “I wanted to find something a group could do economically and feasibly,” he explained. “I looked at a map and noticed that the railroad tracks went from Chicago right next to Glacier (National Park).”
So in June he and two other people took the train to Glacier for the first of what has become a rite of summer for Hoosier Chapter hikers. June turned out to be too early in the year (the three hikers got snowed in), so the annual outing is now held later in the summer.
Geza has organized other train-hike excursions to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah and the Colorado National Monument and Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, but Glacier remains his favorite. “Glacier’s an easy one; anyone can do Glacier with a little preparation,” says the 75-year-old Osceola native with twinkling brown eyes. The Grand Canyon is a different story. Even though he emphasizes preparation for those who sign up for his trips, it’s impossible to train for the South Rim’s 8,000-foot altitude in Indiana.
We (Geza, Bob Friend, Ken Kovach, and myself) arrived in Flagstaff about midnight on the most recent Grand Canyon trip, only three hours behind schedule.
The coyotes and pronghorn antelope seen from the train, plus a spectacular lightning display in Missouri, made the delay a small inconvenience.
Geza had reserved a room at a motel near the station, where we found the fifth member of our team, Paul Pearson, snug in his sleeping bag on the floor. To save time, Paul had flown into Phoenix and taken a bus to Flagstaff.
The four train riders shared two double beds (not much of an improvement over the previous night’s Amtrak coach chairs). Conditions were much better the next night in the Mather campground at the national park on the South Rim, even though the temperature dropped below freezing.
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