Valley man, Sam Wagman, marks 78th birthday by hiking Camelback Mountain for last time

PHOENIX - A Valley man is marking his milestone birthday by hiking Camelback Mountain one last time.

"I'm still limber," smiled Sam Wagman. He turned 78 years old on Wednesday and celebrated by trekking a path he's taken several times a day for nearly 40 years.

Since 1975, you could find Sam hiking here three times a day, six days a week. He said he's made close to 34,000 trips.

"So I'll call this my last climb," Wagman said sadly.

Dozens, inspired by Sam, gathered at the foot of the mountain to shower him with gifts, cards and $500 in cash as he took his final steps down the mountain he loves.  
 
"Never thought it was going to be like this," smiled Wagman. "This is exceptional, beyond the call of duty."

Sam said he doesn't want to stop hiking Camelback, he has too.

"My knees are hurting too much, can't fly anymore," Wagman explained. "They're just wearing out. I'm old, you get old, things wear out."
 
For 38 years, Sam has spent four and a half hours a day, except on Sundays, climbing up and back down the mountain, bumping into a lot of new faces along the way.

"When you're laying in bed in summertime and it's 90 degrees at 5 a.m. and you know that Sam is already out it's like, I'd better go to the mountain," explained hiker Karla Pope.

"I get here early in the morning in the summer at 4:30 and it just wakes you up," laughed Wagman. "It gives you a great feeling for the rest of the day."

Sam plans to keep hiking, just on flat terrain, and he encourages others to do the same.

"I advise everyone who can to come here to climb this mountain because there's nothing like it," Wagman said enthusiastically. "Physically and mentally, it's a great pick me up."

Something the mountain and the man have been doing for decades.

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