Mount Grant — It’s in our backyard | Guest Column

Allan and Bob at the top of Mount Grant

By Theresa Simendinger

Special to the Journal

Bob Demar rode his motorcycle up to the top of Mount Grant one lovely Sunday afternoon, and I happened to be volunteering as a “summit docent.” As he parked his motorcycle he asked “What are you selling?” I smiled back “A mountain!” After looking at the stunning view, Bob was sold. He donated $100 on the spot, and soon received a Mt. Grant hat.

Bob began to think about his friend, Allan Elder, 80 and living at Life Care and confined to a wheelchair following a stroke. Allan had told Bob stories of his years with the U.S. Forest Service manning fire lookouts. His “beat” was the Kern Plateau in California’s Sierra Range. He “loved it like it was my backyard.”  Wanting to see it preserved, Allan Elder spent years working to save what is now the Golden Trout Wilderness.

Bob called me and wondered how we could get Allan a Mt. Grant hat. In talking to Allan, he said how much he would love to see Mt. Grant. It was proposed to Life Care we take a group up to the top. With a little coordination and Life Care’s help, we gathered Allan and a few of his pals earlier this week. On a sun-filled day we drove up to see views of snowy mountains in two directions, and dark silhouettes of the San Juan Islands to the east. I asked Thor Hanson, co-chair of the Campaign to Save Mount Grant, to meet the van up there to present Allan the cap, in honor of his work preserving special wild places.

The radiant faces on these folks from the center as they looked out over the spectacular views and the joy of being able to ride up the lovely mountain road was worth the hard hours put in by the Preservation Trust team to make this dream come true for all. The reality of having the road up for people incapable of hiking up is invaluable. Soon people visiting friends and family or at our retirement centers will be able to make a charming day’s outing here.

Comments from the group included, from Jean Hendrickson, 77, “What a joy to see this, I have lived here for 24 years and did not know it was even here.” And from Allan Elder, “I wanted to help as soon as I heard about it from Bob. But now that I see it I think it really is beautiful. Really worth saving. How I love being here!”

The San Juan Trails Committee fully supports the Campaign to Save Mount Grant. I have worked with them many years to help establish trails for hikers, equestrians and cyclists on this island, and I am supporting the Campaign to Save Mount Grant because it is truly a gift to everyone. Not just for hikers, equestrians, cyclists and my new motorcycle friend, Bob, but for Allan and Jean and everyone.

Funds raised for the Mount Grant project through the San Juan Island Community Foundation’s Fair Matching Grant program during the four fair days Aug. 12-15 will be matched 50 cents on the dollar and will be used to build permanent paths at the top of Mt. Grant, so that families with young children and elderly and wheelchair-bound visitors may access the summit viewpoints.