The first time I tried to visualize a 14’er, I imagined a place where nothing grew. I believed it to be a home for dust and rock with winds sweeping over and against the peak. And of course, I pictured difficulty breathing both in these conditions and in the altitude. Today, on Mt. Sherman. I have been pleasantly surprised thus far with the the appearance of the mountains as I have climbed them. The amount of vegetation and tree cover on the lower trails and earlier climbs I have done has been startlingly beautiful.
As I drove to what I believed to be the trail head, I was greeted by Horseshoe Mountain and several abandoned mining stations. I arrived at the GPS coordinates for the start of the trail only to find an open gate and several cars parked along the side of the road. Unsurprisingly, no official trail head station was to be found, but I was in a deserted mining town after all. It was at this time that I realized how much I have enjoyed reading the trail head maps and learning about the mountain before me and the environment that I am about to embark into.
As I began my ascent, I first passed as series of mining huts. The huts were deserted and collapsing but surprisingly the foundations of the buildings were still in tact. Even the water collection pipes were still diverting the water flow to each station. The manufactured caves and tunnel systems still exist on the mountain. With year round snow fall melting and draining down the mountain, it provides an abundance of water.
I hiked the car path all the way to the top of Horseshoe Mountain and then followed the ridge past four false peaks, eventually arriving at the top of Mt. Sherman. Loose gravel and boulders, strong winds, and heavy dust cover encouraged a short stay at the top. Just enough time to take a selfie for proof and a snap shot of the the american flag staked on the peak. Apparently someone before me claimed this land for America. I wondered if perhaps it was there as a tribute to General Sherman for whom the peak is named or simply as a memorial to somebody who had special significance to the military and the mountain. Whatever the story, I appreciate that someone took great care to travel up the mountain to deliver this flag and memorialize all the men and women who serve and have served in our armed forces. Despite the fact that I was a little underwhelmed by the hike up this particular 14’er, I thought that this unique view was very special. It was a view that reminded me of how easy it is to dwell on the negative things in life but that those problems are so insignificant when appreciating that we live in a safe and free country because of such sacrifice.
After this reflective moment, I jogged down the mountain with a new sense of purpose and inspiration because this hiking endeavor that I am on has never been about finding the most beautiful views nature has to offer (although, bonus!), but rather it is about encouraging and inspiring people to reach their peaks and to show anyone that when you set your mind to it, you can accomplish so much.