Ralph Perry: Hiking His Way Through Retirement

Ralph Perry on top of Mt. Kilamanjaro

When Ralph Perry retired after working 55 years in corporate law in downtown Los Angeles, he traded in his briefcase for a backpack. Three days a week, you’ll find the Altadena, Calif. resident hiking the trails of Echo Mountain, a range that’s part of the San Gabriel Mountains located near his home. Two and a half miles straight up and two and a half miles straight back down gives the 86-year-old plenty of exercise as well as a chance to get out into nature and soak up the scenery, which includes bears, rabbits, coyotes, and lots of lush greenery.  

“I push myself going up with a nice little jog,” he says. “Then take my time on the way down and take pictures.” 

Staying Active Is a Lifelong Pursuit 

Perry’s athletic prowess began as a teen when he ran cross country when he was a student at Mount Hermon School for Boys, a Massachusetts-based prep school founded by evangelist Dwight L. Moody to provide a quality education for the poor.  

“At Mount Hermon I learned two things,” says Perry. “I learned that I had real talent as a runner and athletics would always be a part of my life. I even won a couple major races. I also learned how to write, which carried me through Harvard and Stanford Law School and my professional life.” 

During his professional life, he got involved in handball, which provided exercise and friendly competition. Perry even played in the U.S. Handball Association Nationals in the over-80 group in 2016. While staying active has been a lifelong pursuit, Perry says his passion is hiking.  

“What I love most about hiking is the places it can take me,” says Perry. “I’ve taken hiking trips all over the world with Sobek Mountain Travel, one of the premier adventure travel agencies in the country. I’ve hiked in the Himalayas, Iceland, Antarctica, Alaska, Madagascar, and Malawi. I’ve been to some really fantastic places, but you have to work to get there.” 

Perry also hiked to the Everest Base Camp. “I never got to the top of Everest, but I got to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro when I was 70. That was 19,343 feet.” 

Perry’s credits his love of hiking from backpacking as a child. “My parents got me hiking in the mountains when I was about six,” he says. “They would backpack to a spot each year, and then we camped there for about a month. My mother and two friends’ mothers made all the equipment, such as the tents. Growing up in the ‘40s, you couldn’t buy much of that.”  

Age May Change His Abilities but Not His Dedication  

As he’s gotten older, Perry admits that hiking gets a little harder, but he keeps moving. “I couldn’t ask to be in any better shape than most people that are 86,” he says. “But 86 is not 56.”  

When it comes to sharing fitness advice for retirees, Perry has one tip: walk. “There really is no better exercise,” he says. “You don’t need any equipment, special clothing, or instruction. You can supplement walking with weights if you want. Walking has some impact but it’s modest in relation to running.”  

Of course, if you can hike, Perry recommends finding trails and enjoying the exercise and views, which can improve your health in many ways.  

“It doesn’t often happen, but if I go a week without exercise, I don’t feel right,” says Perry. “Good health when you’re in your 70s, 80s, and 90s is part keeping moving and part just dumb luck. I’ve got both.” 

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