It wasn’t exactly a destination, but a finding when Montrose-resident Kimba McLean told his friend Art Benzer that he was planning to step up his hikes on the Antenna Trail.
“Last October, he (McLean) told me that he would hike the trail every day in winter,” said Benzer, who was instrumental in developing the trail system in 2004. “Isn’t that a challenge?”
True to his word, the 63-year-old Montrose resident has been getting up early every morning since October and embarking on the 3.2 km antenna loop or the 5.1 km path on the Flagpole Trail with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet and no snow nor rain Neither heat nor darkness of night can affect his resolve.
“I just retired last year and with the COVID you’re kind of locked up. To challenge myself, I said I’d go up the antenna path every day,” McLean said. “I only started at the end of October and have been climbing every day since then.”
McLean has been a regular on the trail for many years, but a trip up another local mountain got him hooked.
“I went to Old Glory alone in August and somehow caught the beetle there. I probably shouldn’t have gone alone, but I was walking up and down in four hours and was told it should have been six.
“I got home around 12:30 pm and went on the Antenna Trail that same day.”
McLean has covered the trail for more than 170 consecutive days, and on some of the colder and snowier days the retired firefighter put on snowshoes and broke the trail for later hikers.
“I didn’t think people went up there in winter so I was like, ‘Well, I’m going up’ and I thought if someone else wanted to go, maybe I’ll be the one doing the tracks for them … to give them Traction to go up.
“I didn’t know how hard it was going to be, I had to snowshoe a few times up there, but it ended up pretty well.”
When McLean first took on the challenge, he thought he would have the trail to himself, but was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who hit the trail in winter and even more so in spring.
“It’s really great how many people go up there and it’s funny that people who go up there for the first time make comments like ‘Holy cow, I didn’t know there was such a view from up here’.”
The view is a panoramic view of the seven peaks over Rossland, the Downtown Trail, Montrose, and the mighty Columbia River that flows south into the United States.
“I said to someone who asked me, ‘How can I go on there?’ and I said, “If I ever get tired of the view, there must be something wrong with me. It’s just beautiful up there. I’ve seen a moose, apparently there’s a puma up there, it’s amazing.”
Much like fellow hiker Larry Plummer, who aims to climb the mountain 1,000 times, the Antenna Trail attracts those looking for a fit-friendly challenge topped by scenic views.
The trail is on a southern slope and generally free of snow in April. Spring is one of the best times to climb the aerial as hikers enjoy a variety of flowers and trees in bloom, as well as the many birds and wildlife that populate the mountain.
McLean plans to move on through the summer vacation to take him to Christina Lake, but until then he has no plans to change his morning ritual with the great outdoors.
“Larry’s goal is to get to 1,000, but my goal is to go up every day,” said McLean. “I don’t think people realize how beautiful the country is that we have here.
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