CAPISTRANO BEACH COUPLE PLAN TO KEEP ON TREKKING
THEY TAKE ANNUAL GRAND CANYON HIKE TO MARK ANNIVERSARY
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER Thursday, June 2, 1988
Byline: TONI MAZZACANE:THE REGISTER

While some married couples' ideal of the perfect way to celebrate their wedding anniversary may be sipping on fine champagne in a dimly lighted restaurant, Francis and Helen Line of Capistrano Beach opt for a slightly different approach. For the past 11 years, the two commemorate the day they exchanged their wedding vows -- May 1, 1928 -- by making a 5,000-foot trek down the Grand Canyon. Francis is 84, and Helen is 81.

 

The couple's zest for life and love for the Grand Canyon bring them back each year, rain or shine. They consider each descent an adventure -- another story to tell.

The couple usually make the trip alone, but this year they were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, and the trip turned into a larger affair. More than 20 family members and friends made the trip with them. The Lines' only daughter, her three children, and even their 3-year-old great-grandson made the trip to Arizona.

"It was like a family reunion," Francis said.

He describes the latest trek with the enthusiasm of a boy who just took his first overnight camping trip with the Boy Scouts. His eyes widen as he tells of the high winds and the hail that hurt as it pelted them as they made their descent.

"We had never in all our years of going to the Grand Canyon seen such fierce winds. Down in the canyon, the hail has farther to fall. By the time it hit us, it really hurt," Francis said.

And then there was Helen's problem with her knees and legs.

"The weather was freezing, and we were more than halfway down. Turning back was out of the question," Francis said.

"I've never had trouble with my knees before, but it just seemed that they got weaker and weaker that day," Helen said.

She made it down to the bottom of the canyon with the help of relatives and with periodic stops. An anniversary party was waiting for them at the Phantom Ranch, a favorite spot to stay in the canyon. A park ranger later inspected Helen's legs and insisted she ride out by helicopter, Francis said.

The two keep in shape by taking a two-mile walk three times a week. They also take periodic seven-mile walks through Caspers Park in San Juan Capistrano.

"But nothing can prepare you for the Grand Canyon," Helen said.

The canyon isn't their only vacation destination. The Lines have had many travel adventures during their 60-year marriage. They have made a life out of traveling the world and making films, writing books and lecturing about what they have seen.

In the last 14 years, they has settled down somewhat, doing more writing than traveling. Together and separately, they have written six books.

"My greatest joy now is staying home and writing books. I have about a dozen more I'd like to write," Francis said.

His first book was co-written with his brother, Winfield Line, in the 1920s. It is titled "Foot by Foot Through the USA" and chronicles the brothers' adventures walking through the then-48 states of the union.

Francis met his wife while walking in California. She was vacationing with her sister in the redwoods of Northern California when Francis and Winfield walked by the campground they were staying in. The two kept in touch after the meeting and were married five years later.

The Lines moved to Capistrano Beach from Ontario 28 years ago.

"Back when something like this was affordable," Line said of his two-story house that sits on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Their home is filled with mementos of their years of traveling -- a kachina doll from the Hopi Indians, Navajo baskets, a sculpted bust of a native woman from Bali. The wall inside the entrance to their home has a large bulletin board covered with a photographic history of their years at the Grand Canyon.

But there is still room for more. And the Lines have no intention of stopping their annual hike.

"We may not go all the way down next time, but there are still many trails around the rim of the canyon we haven't hiked yet," Helen said