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SEAL BEACH : Still on Lookout for New Hills to Climb

October 12, 1994|RUSS LOAR

Peggy Shay was born to be wild.

The 77-year-old Leisure World resident, just back from a hiking excursion deep into the Grand Canyon, is a veteran four-wheeler. In her 1986 Toyota 4-Runner, she has climbed the treacherous mountain paths of Death Valley and plowed through the shoreline waters of the Gulf of California.

"You just get off the road, throw it into four-wheel and go up the side of a mountain," says Shay, whose CB handle is G.G.: "It stands for geriatric gypsy."

Shay, who once owned an Oregon cattle ranch with her late husband, Jack, blasts through the preconceptions of old age much as she powers across the uninhabited territory of her favorite off-road site, Copper Canyon, Mexico.

"I've always had trucks," Shay says. "People who lived on ranches and farms always did this--they just didn't call it four-wheeling. They called it work."

Born in Salt Lake City, Shay says she did not have a rough-and-tumble childhood. Her father owned hotels. In the late 1940s, she worked for the YWCA in Hollywood and did some social work in Watts. Shay is a seven-year resident of Leisure World, where she drives a shuttle bus two days a week, taking residents to market and a health center.

But she loves to get away for hiking, skiing and camping trips. Two years ago she hiked through the jungles of Costa Rica. She hasn't done much mountain climbing lately, but she hasn't given up her dream of trekking across the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Sequoia National Park.

"My problem is finding somebody my age who wants to do it with me," she says.

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