Man, can he hike.
Nelson resident Bob Dean may have turned 90 years old on Saturday, but he still finds time to conquer Elephant Mountain’s Pulpit Rock four or five times a week. He picks up garbage along the way, he chats with fellow enthusiasts and has earned a devoted following with the group Friends of Pulpit Rock.
“Bob is amazing. He’s very quiet about what he does. He brings up his backpack every day and picks up litter, doesn’t make a fuss about it,” said Nelson hiker Diana Dickieson. “He’s a small-town hero. Everyone who hikes Pulpit regularly knows him and loves him.”
That’s why on Saturday morning she organized a parking lot party for Dean, complete with balloons and a poster reading “1926 was a very good year.” She was joined by Dianne Riley, and they both posed for pictures with him. And though he was pleased with the celebration, Dean also found the attention a little embarrassing. When asked how it made him feel, he had a one-word answer: “old.”
But his age isn’t showing, something both women credit to his ultra-active lifestyle.
“I met Bob in step class and I remember he never did what the instructor said,” said Riley. “They always tried to correct him and he never listened. He was in the back in wool socks with headphones in doing it his way.”
Asked what it is he that he likes so much about Pulpit Rock, he shrugged.
“I appreciate the convenience, and the closeness to Nelson. Nice way to get exercise.”
And it’s also a good way to make friends, apparently.
“Bob gets more hugs than anyone else,” said Dickieson. “I got a whole school bus full of kids who were up there to sing happy birthday.”
Their connection? He was her math teacher at Mount Sentinel Secondary, years ago. But they didn’t reconnect until about a decade ago, when they ran into each other en route to the top of the lectern-shaped outcropping.
“I’ve asked him questions about what his secret is to longevity. He said I don’t eat sugar, I don’t eat chocolate, I don’t drink coffee or alcohol. I was like ‘oh no, I’m doomed’.”
Riley said she finds Dean inspiring.
“He never seems to slow down. He’s always moving, riding his bicycle. And every time I come up or down Pulpit Rock I give him a hug, but he never really stops because he has to get going.”
And though he claims he can no longer do it in thirty minutes, the ladies refute that.
“He beats me every time,” said Dickieson.