Sept 11, 6:00am - I turn on the news to see the twin towers crumbling. No, it’s not 2001, but 9/11/2011. The scene flashes to “O” and “W”, wives in arms, walking the perimeter of the newly dedicated 9/11 memorial. Ten years have passed since that horrific day and we are still healing. No one was left untouched by the events that unfolded that day. And so today we remember those lost, pray for those left behind, and thank those who responded.
This morning I’ve decided to hike to the S. Franklin peak which stands watch over my neighborhood. I drive up Trans Mountain Rd. and, as I crest the hill, am greeted by a gorgeous sunrise. I pull into the recently renovated parking area and get ready to hike. New signs and maps have been posted here (good news) and a fee station has been added (bad news). The state park calls it the “Iron Ranger”. (Fill out some paper work and insert some bucks into the metal box.)
This will be the most walking I’ve done since my Plantar Fasciitis injury, so I’m curious to see how my foot reacts to the stress. The morning is cool and the sun is barely up. I head up the path through the canyon known as Smuggler’s Pass and stop to take a picture of a bush showing its brilliant yellow flowers. I believe it is called brittle bush.
Before long I find myself huffing and puffing up the switchbacks that lead to the main ridge line. This trail can be quite treacherous in parts with loose gravel, exposed ledges, and poor footing. The wind picks up as I ascend and by the time I reach the ridge it is howling in full force. When I get to the track that leads to Mammoth Rock, I can see my neighborhood to the west.
I keep trudging along as the wind whips around trying its best to send my hat over the edge and 2000 ft down to the desert below. Just before I reach my wooly friend, I take a side trip to a shallow cave to get out of the wind and rest for a minute. I observe the city and try to pick out familiar landmarks.
I continue my journey and pass the rock that forms the Mammoth’s trunk. The trail gets trickier here and I have to make my way across a gully that would result in a one way trip to the canyon floor if one lost his footing. At least I’m out of the wind now and after a few rock scrambles I begin the final climb to the radio towers on the summit.
When you near the top, there are many routes to choose from; the summit is mostly rocks. I make it to the top at 6791 ft elev. and take a peak over the edge overlooking the east side. It’s a brilliant morning and all is calm on this 10th anniversary of one of our darkest days. Wildflowers are blooming, birds are singing, and the air is fresh.
After reflecting for a while I start my descent. I wonder how my foot is going to hold up on the downward trip. So far it has felt fine, but hiking down puts more stress on my tendons and joints. Getting down proves to be as complex as getting up here. Clambering down rocks is riskier than climbing up. Most falls happen on the way down, but I manage to get back to the main path without incident.
When I return to the ridge, the wind is still gusting and I almost lose my hat again. Pretty soon I’m out of the wind and complete the final set of switchbacks. When I get down, a kid comments that I’m the fastest walker he has ever seen. Apparently he had been watching me on the peak just a little while ago. His mom asks, “Do you do this all the time?” I simply answered yes even though I haven’t been on the trail in some time due to my injury.