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ADITL - Backcountry Guide

Steve Scott is a backcountry guide for Wildland Trekking. (Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun)

Steve in 1992 with wife Laura and raising four sons.

Home renovations and additions had been solid work, regardless of whatever was happening with the economy.

“Those kinds of things were recession-proof. You’re not going to buy a new house, so let’s fix up the kitchen,” he said.

That changed a couple years ago, and Scott was forced to find a new career in his 50s.

“Construction just died, and it didn’t look like it was coming back,” he said.

That was fantastic in this case, it turns out.

Scott landed a dream job, phoning a neighbor down the road to ask if the man needed another backpacking guide.

The neighbor hired him this in the spring of 2012, and Scott took to learning how to guide trips professionally.

“It’s been a great blessing for me,” Scott said.

Scott and his wife started backpacking in the 1990s, first using a child-carrier to haul their supplies, with sons ages 6 to 10.  

Pretty soon friends and relatives also wanted to backpack the Grand Canyon when they came to visit, so that became a habit.

About a decade back, Scott joined a group of volunteers at the Grand Canyon who attempt to warn and prepare hikers on major trails on really hot days, or persuade people to turn around before they need rescue.

Then he joined Coconino County Search and Rescue, too.

All the volunteering and hiking for fun prepped him for a job carrying a 65-pound pack at times, hauling fresh vegetables, gear, and extra water for groups of four or six hikers.

He’s had clients from Israel, New York, Belgium and all over.

One recently included a 70-year-old and two younger generations of his family.

He tells them in the first mile down the Bright Angel Trail: You just went down a 120-story building, to help them grasp the scale of the canyon.

“Once you get over the edge, you’re in your own world,” he said.

The Wildland Trekking Company does hikes of a number of different lengths and difficulties on multiple Grand Canyon trails, from the main trails that cross the canyon to Thunder River and more remote points.

Guides set up tents and sleeping bags, cook and plan meals, offer advice, and sometimes get groups up near 3 a.m. for hikes out of the canyon in the hottest part of the year, to avoid the midday sun.

Changing careers meant training in wilderness medicine and food preparation, and if anything was a little worrisome for Scott, it was learning how to cook fancy meals in the backcountry.

“I took a lot of verbal abuse from my sons,” Scott said. “They said, ‘Dad’s going to be cooking? We’d like to see this.’”

But he pulls out a photo of a spread of fresh vegetables, salami, and peppers from a recent trip.  

And being that tips and trip reviews are part of the deal, along with having a good time, he worries over logistics - like whether he remembered the cream and sugar for coffee-drinking backpackers.

Scott was initially a little uncertain about turning his passion into a job - after all, he’d really hate to lose his love of hiking in the Grand Canyon if it became work, he said.  

But the job allows Scott to meet new people, take them hiking a couple times per month and spend time with his wife and six grandkids.

And he’s in tremendous shape.

“It’s been excellent,” he said. “I feel better than ever.”

Cyndy Cole can be reached at ccole@azdailysun.com or at 913-8607.

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