Retired Navy Capt. Don Walsh, 78 ("79 in just a couple weeks") has spent the last year on a coast-to-coast press junket.

The travel, interviews and, well, story-telling, he says, is a headier task than the feat for which he's being recognized.

Semi-retired on a 100-acre ranch near the Oregon Coast, Walsh and his wife of 48 years, Joan, enjoy wine, walks and travel. The quiet life for the only man who has reached the base of the Mariana Trench, the Everest of the deep, a half-century go.

At 28, Walsh piloted the deep-sea sub bathyscaph TRIESTE 36,000 feet into the void in January, 1960' a feat not attempted since.

"I tell everyone I was the jockey of a one-trick pony," Walsh joked Wednesday evening at OC Tanner's Salt Lake flagship store. "I've been to the depths ...and even deeper than that."

Walsh, once an aspiring pilot "with bad eyes", graduated Annapolis and drove subs for the Navy for most of his 20-year military career ending in a brief stint at the Pentagon.

Along the way, he earned his PhD in oceanography, and, after retiring from the Navy in the mid-70s, went on to teach at USC before starting a consulting business which he still runs today.

Fit and jovial, the 78-year-old who could be mistaken for a man in his early 50s says he's got a "long road ahead" thanks to a little longevity in the genes.

"My mother died last year at 101," he said. "She renewed her drivers' license 97. Wouldn't you know it the Oregon DMV didn't renew her license at 97 for seven years.

"The woman at the DMV quipped, 'well, I guess we won't be seeing you again', and mother said right back: 'Why not, you look healthy to me'."

Walsh took a souped-up Rolex Deepsea (ergo, the OC Tanner connection) with him on his voyage to the deepest part of the earth. Like the TRIESTE crew, the watch survived and the technology that held the watch together in the deepest of depths is still seen in the brand's dive watches today.

Here a few highlights and witticisms (you gotta be quick) from Salt Lake magazine's conversation with Walsh:

"I guess you could compare it to going to the move. Space is infinite, when a sub goes down, all we leave is bubbles at the surface."

"I'm writing a book called 'Right Stuff , Wrong Direction'."

"I majored in boats in Annapolis."

"After graduation, I was a Lt. that had just qualified in subs, a bachelor looking for the good life in San Diego, and instead I got sent to the bottom of the ocean."

"I wasn't nervous about the (TRIESTE) dive. You're like a test pilot. You do smoke tests and listen for all the noises. It's a luck-meets-skill thing. You always gotta have a lot of skill and a little luck. That day, we had both."

Be sure to check www.saltlakemagazine.com for a full photo gallery of Walsh's appearance at OC Tanner and Wednesday night's event.