taking on the north rim

Ever think about throwing caution to the wind, pulling up stakes and traveling cross-country on a road trip to take up temporary residence in a part of the country that you’ve never been to before? And doing it on your own?

Well, that’s exactly what Bill Morris did in May of 2016.

Just a year earlier, Morris had been hiking with a group through one of Westchester’s many wooded trails when he struck up a conversation with a fellow trekker. Her name? Well, he cannot quite recall, but he sure remembered the conversation. She had sold her condo and her car, purchased an RV, and was preparing to visit America’s national parks. The idea intrigued Bill – enough so that even after passing on the RV purchase (too expensive, too much of a commitment), he began to plan his own western adventure.

Having lived in Westchester for about 25 years and mostly retired from work in freelance TV production, Morris felt that at the age of 72, there was no reason to delay his dream of spending an extended time at one of America’s natural wonders. Mid-career, he had produced some educational videos for LL Bean and lovingly recalled the shoot at Acadia National Park for the bicycle touring segment. (There were other videos: for fly fishing, canoeing and outdoor photography.) So the seed for this excursion had been planted long ago.

Targeting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as his most likely destination, he simply googled “jobs at the North Rim,” which quickly led him to employment opportunities on the resort’s website. Confident that he met the first job requirement (candidate must be either 18 or 21 depending on the job specifics), he submitted his application.

Morris headed out in May of last year, driving five days before reaching Arizona to “work, eat, sleep and breathe” at the North Rim. The season there runs from May through October, as winter snow makes parts of the terrain impossible to pass and thus free of tourists and workers.

During his six months at the rim, Morris worked eight-hour days for minimum wage as a cashier at The General Store, about two miles from the Grand Canyon Lodge (www.grandcanyonforever.com), and spent his free time hiking the terrain. He lived in a dormitory which housed about 150 other employees of the Forever Living Resort, ranging in age from their mid-20s to 70s and older.

Morris was living the dream. He spent six months exploring one of the most beautiful areas of America: on foot and by auto. He relished the daily conversations with hikers and tourists coming in to the store after a day of physical exertion. “It wasn’t work, standing at a cash register, gabbing with people all day.”

The only negative, says Morris, is “I waited too long to do it. I could not have given myself a better time than doing what I did.” He made friendships that will last, and he will go back, though not necessarily to the North Rim. “There are so many other National Parks to experience.”

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