8 kids aged 9 to 19 carry their grandfather and his wheelchair through the Grand Canyon. At the end of March the Headings family paid tribute to their head, Bob Headings, by carrying about 250 to 300 pounds of Bob and his wheelchair and all the gear that the family needed over 3 days and 17 miles through the Grand Canyon. Their amazing family travel story will astound and certainly bring a few tears.

Bob Headings is 72 and is paralysed. In March his three sons (Randy, Rick and Roger) and 8 grandsons (Teagan, 9, Michael, 10,  Taber, 11, Tanner, 13, Joel, 13, Jase, 15, Trevor, 17 and Tyler, 19) decided to fulfil his wish to hike the Grand Canyon with kids and grandkids in spite of his physical disability.

Over 17 hours and 6,600 steps, these kids hiked the Grand Canyon South Kaibab trail down and the Bright Angel Trail back up to the top, carrying supplies and each taking turns to be harnessed to Bob to help haul him along the way. Along the path they had to lift and carry Bob over 3,000 weathering logs and it was an exhausting and difficult journey, even for Bob.

Randy Headings talked to suitcases&strollers about this unique family travel experience and just how they did it.


How did you come up with the idea to do the Grand Canyon walk?

I was there on a family vacation in 2013. I was sending pictures back to my dad of the Canyon. He had hiked the Grand Canyon with a friend in 2004, less than a year before his accident in 2005. He was saying he'd love to be there hiking with me. That really pulled at my heart, so I started doing some research and found the Trailrider device that we eventually used to transport him down.

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Why was it important to include the grandkids in this hike in the Grand Canyon?

As I was thinking about who we could use to put a team together, it just really seemed like it would be a special thing to tackle with the men and boys of the family.

What were the grandkids' reaction to the idea?

They were all very excited to go.

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What was the chair that Bob used?

Dad purchased a device called the Trailrider which is made available by the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS). We watched it in action on YouTube and then tried one out in Orlando, Florida that was used by the Florida Trail Association.

Apart from Bob (149 pounds) and the Trailrider (50 pounds), what else did you need to carry for the walk?

We carried a few gallons of water, 140 energy bars and 8 pounds of beef jerky. We also carried clothes and Dad's [usual] wheelchair down for him to get around down at the bottom.

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How do you train for hiking with kids in the Grand Canyon and a wheelchair?  

Some of us started training in November of last year by working out and running. My brothers and I are all active in construction work which I think was a big help as far as being in pretty good physical condition. As the time for the the hike came closer and the weather began to break, all of us went to the local high school bleachers and ran up and down them.

How much of the actual carrying of Bob did the grandkids do? 

The three oldest were instrumental in helping us three sons with the Trailrider while the youngest five were primarily responsible for carrying our gear. On the way up everyone pitched in to help pull with harnesses.

How did the grandkids perform?

They faired much better than could be expected. They didn't whine or complain. It was as if they saw the importance and significance of the mission as much as we did.

What did the kids get out of this experience that they wouldn't have gotten staying at home?

They learned a lot about working as a team. They learned about tackling challenges. They learned about the importance of family. They learned that, with God, all things are possible!

What are your top 3 travel tips for hiking with kids in the Grand Canyon? 

I would take them on a significantly long hike at a local state park and see how they do before taking on something like the Canyon. I would keep a very close eye on their hydration as things can get dangerous quickly in an environment like the Grand Canyon. Make sure it's something they want to do because it won't be enjoyable for anyone involved if it's not.

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Images: John Honaker