Not everyone has his own personal Fountain of Youth, but 81-year-old Paul Faddis of American Fork claims that's the secret behind his exceptional health and strength.

"It was during the Great Depression that I found the Fountain of Youth," explained Faddis. "It seems that hard winter wheat was much easier to come by than the usual breakfast of rolled oats, so with the aid of an old coffee mill I ground up some wheat and made what we called `wheat mush.' "Faddis has eaten the mush for breakfast ever since.

In addition to eating "pure unadulterated wheat," Faddis also spends much of his time hiking. "I felt so much better after eating the mush that I began hiking Timp and other canyon trails with the vigor of youth," Faddis remembers. "I feel better today at 81 than I did when I was 20."

Faddis enjoyed hiking so much that he decided he wanted to share that enjoyment with others. He began making his own hiking "medals" and distributing them to fellow hikers he met on his jaunts.

The homemade coins are made from aluminum slugs donated by a Springville ladder company. "I design and engrave the coins. I can make about 200 coins in an hour," Faddis said proudly.

"Utah's for you," "Self-fulfillment begins when self-pity ends" and "Choose the Right, Be Good to Yourself" are only a few of the messages found on Faddis' coins. "The one I like the best has `Love' printed on one side and `Happiness is the object and design of our existence' on the other," Faddis said.

As he meets new friends on his favorite hiking trails, Faddis welcomes them with a cheerful greeting, reaches into his fanny pack (which holds more than 400 coins), and then surprises them with a personal medal.

Many people have had the opportunity to meet Faddis on the Timpanogos Cave trail. He's hard to miss. He carries a ski pole for a walking stick ("Got it for about $1 at Deseret Industries,"), slacks cut off just below the knee ("They were only $3") and a hat covered with badges earned by hiking to the top of Timp each year.

"I love to make friends in the parks," Faddis said. "You meet the nicest people who hike. This is kind of my reward for hiking. And my motto is: To make a friend, be a friend. And always make others happy, too.

"Another way to enjoy a hike is to know what you are looking at," Faddis said. "Learn the names of all the flowers from a good wildflower book. I can name over 200 flowers up the Timpanogos trail to the summit."

Faddis also has personal nicknames for almost every scenic spot on the Timp trail. "There's Big Rock Slide, Quarter-way Tunnel, the First Resting Bench, Picture-taking Rock and the Comfort Station." The list goes on. He also likes to share the names with his new hiking buddies.

In addition to helping him stay in shape, hiking also prepares Faddis for longer treks. Just last week, Faddis and his 19-year-old granddaughter spent a day hiking the Timpooneke Trail. "We came back in a refreshing rain, hail and wind storm," Faddis said. "I just put on my large trash bag rain coat, laced up my shoes and we tromped, slid and splashed our way happily down all 9.1 miles of the trail."

This week Faddis is with his daughter, son-in-law and their 14 children at Lake Powell. "They definitely keep him young," said Virginia, his wife of 52 years, who stayed at home.

Virginia used to accompany her husband when their daughter and son were young. "But gradually I weaned myself away from it. I've just never enjoyed it as much as he does. I'd rather read a book."

So while his wife is home reading, Faddis continues with his exercise routine. "I am thoroughly convinced that the best exercise for seniors, or anyone wishing to strengthen their heart muscles or improve themselves, is to hike, hike, hike!