About 7 weeks ago I messed my bad ankle up playing laser tag. Whether I undid my surgeon’s tendon reconstruction handiwork with this booboo remains unknown. I got an MRI on it this morning though so hopefully I will have some answers on that front soon. (I’m crossing my fingers for the “right” answers.) But that will be the subject of another post’s ramblings.
In the meantime I got my doctor’s approval to undertake a feat that few attempt even when they aren’t one ankle shy of cooperative legs.
Mount Timpanogos is not Utah’s highest peak, it’s not even on the top-ten list for the state, but it dominates the Utah Valley landscape with its 11,749 feet and is one of the most popular climbs around. We made plans to conquer the 16 mile trek to its top with our friends Adam and Abigail a couple of months ago but then my ankle injury left the feasibility of this conquest a little uncertain. Finally, last week my doc said if I wore my brace I should be able to scale this behemoth unscathed thus we decided to still go for it. Of course, what the doctor exactly said was that my ankle would be very sore but taking on this twelve-hour hike wouldn’t do any permanent damage so he had no medical objections to the activity. Since I am pretty much the most stubborn person alive, pain but not permanent injury was good enough of an endorsement for me.
The last time I hiked Timp I was a teenager; I’m not going to confess how long ago that was. Adam too hadn’t traversed this trail since he was an adolescent and Jason, despite his years as a scouter, had never made it all the way to the top. Since the thought of ascending Timp hadn’t ever even occurred to Abigail, we were all kind of green to the experience and oblivious to the suffering we were about to endure.
We began our climb around 7 AM to give ourselves plenty of time to get up and back down the mountain before it got dark, which was wise because construction on the trailhead parking lot forced us to park near another connecting trail instead and hike in nearly a mile to get to the actual start of the trail. We ended up doing nearly 2 more miles of climbing than we had anticipated; that’s over 17 miles in total for those of you who can’t count.
The scenery along the Timpooneke trail is beautiful and constantly changing. First you travel through thick growths of pines and aspens with the occasional waterfall offering you its flowing chatter until you end up in a boulder-strewn grassland. Then, a sharp climb through pine covered precipices later, you find yourself in a stretching alpine meadow full of brilliantly colored wildflowers with the starkness of the triangular peak looming in the background. Once you leave those blossoms below the landscape becomes harsh. From the saddle up the terrain is nothing but rock. With lots of loose stones and over 1000 feet of vertical gain that last ascent is a bugger.
The weather during our trek was perfect. A nice breeze and some afternoon cloud cover kept us pleasantly cool for the most part. Mother Nature was in a good mood and her hillsides of vibrant blooms, which are apparently prettiest this time of year, seemed to echo that cheery humor.
How did our group and my ankle fare? I’d say overall things went rather well. All of us made it to the top and that counts for a lot. I think Adam and Abigail got a bit more from this hike than they were bargaining for though. Adam, who proudly admits that he hasn’t exercised in years, struggled a little on the steep slopes from the saddle to the peak. He lagged behind us on the way back too and was so exhausted he actually fell asleep on the side of the trail when he stopped to rest for a minute. Luckily, Jason randomly decided to backtrack to find him right about then or we may have tramped all the way to the bottom without realizing that Adam was snoring in a grassy patch hours from finishing his descent. Abigail didn’t close her eyes unexpectedly mid-mountain but I don’t think she was the happiest of campers the last few hours of our expedition; she just wanted to be done. I guess when you’ve never hiked that far before you don’t realize that throbbing swollen feet, achy knees, and utter fatigue are the price you must pay to see your world from an extraordinary perspective and obtain some bragging rights. As for my ankle, I was proud of it. It gave me grief the last few miles and its aggravation didn’t subside when the trail ended but, since I was expecting more resistance, I was pleased with it all things considered.
Both Jason and I are glad we trudged into the wilderness. Achieving that mountaintop goal was a highly satisfying and breathtaking experience. I’m not sure Adam and Abigail feel quite as enthusiastic about their accomplishment but I’d like to think that with time, after the torturous aspects of our adventure have been forgotten, they’ll realize how beautiful the slopes and valleys they were so eager to leave behind actually were and decide that the misery of their extreme workout was worth the chance to view one of nature’s unaltered masterpieces.