Friends surprise man who has hiked Camelback 34,000 times - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Friends surprise man who has hiked Camelback 34,000 times

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PHOENIX -

He's a valley hiker with an inspiring story. This 78-year-old man has trekked up Camelback Mountain three times a day, six days a week, for 37 years.

Wednesday was his last daily hike. He's retiring. So this morning, there was a surprise waiting for him at the mountaintop.

Sam Wagman began hiking Camelback Mountain 37 years ago.

"1975. I've been doing it every day except Sundays, three times a day."

That's more than 34,000 times. Wednesday, on his 78th birthday, he's wrapping up his amazing regimen.

"It was kind of difficult to hear that, but I also know that, like I said he'll always be here in spirit," says friend Nina Ingrassia.

What was waiting for him before the break of dawn? A big party on top of Camelback Mountain.

Dozens up friends hiked up to greet him at the mountaintop for his final hike at sunrise.

"On behalf of all your friends on Camelback Mountain, you have been the most consistent thing on this mountain, you are always a happy face, you're always here."

A parade of friends with gifts greeted him at the top. Sam opened every card and present, including a memory book filled with photos, and a trophy.

Over 34,000 hikes, a record for all time to come.

Sam has lived an amazing life. He's a Holocaust survivor. All his friends say he's an inspiration.

"Happy birthday, thanks for inspiring us, I've told your story, I tell your story 100 times," a friend said to Sam.

Sam says these daily hikes keep his body strong -- but his knees are giving him trouble. So what's his plan now?

"I'll be walking or hiking but on level ground only. I wish I didn't have to but I have no choice."

Everyone who came up to the mountain met him during a hike.

"And a lot of gifts and a lot of laughs and good times. It gives you a great feeling in the morning, a desire to go on living. It's beautiful… Especially when you get up and it's still dark and you see the whole city. All you see is lights shining."

Sam's knees just won't allow him to hike the mountain three times a day, all week long anymore.

But some of his friends are hoping he'll take a couple more hikes sometime just for old time's sake.

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