It’s 5 a.m. in Orem when the alarm goes off in the cold of a dark, fall morning. Henry Miles gets out of bed, laces up his hiking shoes and embarks on his daily hike to the top of the Y.
Miles is 83.
He has been hiking the Y six days a week for the last 12 years. Ever since his 71st birthday, he’s made the trip every morning, waking up at the crack of dawn to hit the trail.
“I’ve kept a hiking journal since 2005,” Miles said. “I know I was hiking since before then, but I didn’t start keeping track until 2005.”
Sometimes he’s joined by a guest if they happen to be staying with him or want to join him, but most days Miles makes the climb in solitude, saying he doesn’t mind spending the time alone, even when weather makes the trip difficult.
“Oh yeah, snow doesn’t stop me. Neither does cold. If it starts getting slick I put ‘clamp-ons’ on my shoes, and I hike with them so I don’t slip,” Miles said. “My balance is starting to not be so good, so I use hiking sticks, like two ski poles.”
When guests join him, Miles is never the one at the back of the pack. His neighbor, James Patterson, is a BYU chemistry professor. On a few occasions, Patterson’s teenage children have joined Miles for his morning hikes, and the results surprised their father.
“What he does is very impressive. In fact, my kids have said they have a hard time keeping up with him,” Patterson said. “He moves at quite a pace.”
Hiking has always been a part of Miles’ life. After graduating from American University with a degree in international diplomacy, he spent over 10 years living in South America. There, he and his wife would hike together, scaling the beautiful volcanoes and majestic glaciers. His wife Carol is still in great shape, but pains in her feet keep her and Miles from hiking together like they did before.
After retiring from his work in South America, Miles and his wife, Carol, moved to Orem so he could pursue a master’s degree in English from BYU. While attending school, Miles and his wife spent much of their free time investigating old newspapers and together discovered a new passion — family history.
“I’ve got some incredible stories about my ancestors, from Supreme Court cases they were involved in to polygamy scandals,” Miles said. “I’ve got lots of stories to tell.”
Miles has published multiple books on family history and his ancestors. He’s provided free copies of all of his books to the BYU library, where students can check them out.
Miles is also in the middle of writing an autobiography. He said he’s only gotten to age 26 in his personal history and the book is already long.
“I’ve got a big ego though, so I guess it has to be long,” Miles said.
Miles hasn’t neglected his living family either. Hiking has become something of a tradition for the Miles family.
Henry Miles’ grandson, Isaiah Miles, works for BYU Catering. When Isaiah was just 5 years old, his grandpa took him on his first hike to the top of the Y. Isaiah is now 18, but remembers the experience vividly.
“I remember there were stinging plants, and I remember being really tired when we got to the top.” Isaiah said. “I didn’t want to make the trip down. We called my mom and I wanted her to drive up and come get me.”
While the hike was difficult for Isaiah as a 5-year-old, he said he’ll surely look back on his grandpa’s athleticism and be inspired when he gets to that age.
Miles shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Rain or shine, wind or snow, he’ll continue to make the most of each day.