It wasn’t necessarily a goal as much as a statement of fact when Montrose resident Kimba McLean told his friend Art Benzer that he planned to increase his hikes up Antenna Trail.
“Last October he (McLean) told me he was going to hike the trail every day in the winter time,” said Benzer, who was instrumental in developing the trail system in 2004. “Isn’t that a challenge.”
True to his word, since October the 63-year-old Montrose resident gets up early every morning and embarks on the 3.2 km Antenna Loop or the 5.1 km path up Flagpole Trail with an elevation gain of about 1,000-ft and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can waylay his determination.
“I retired just last year and with the COVID, you’re kind of locked in and so to challenge myself I said I was going to go up the Antenna Trail every day,” said McLean. “I started just about the end of October and I’ve gone up every day since.”
McLean has been a regular on the trail for many years, but a jaunt up another local mountain had him hooked.
“I went up Old Glory by myself in August and I kind of caught the bug there. I probably shouldn’t have gone by myself but I went up and down in four hours, and was told it should have taken six.
“I got home about 12:30 p.m. and I ended up going Antenna Trail the same day.”
McLean has summitted the trail for more than 170 straight days, and on some of the more colder and snowier ones the retired firefighter would don the snowshoes and break trail for later-in-the-day hikers.
“I didn’t think people went up there in the winter so I thought ‘Well I’m going up’, and I thought if somebody else wanted to go, maybe I’ll be the one to make the tracks for them … to give them traction to go up.
“I didn’t know how hard it would be, I had to snowshoe up there a couple times, but it ended up being pretty good.”
When McLean first undertook the challenge he thought he would have the trail to himself, but he was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who embarked on the trail during the winter and even more in the spring.
“It’s really neat the amount of people that are going 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 panoramic encapsulating the Seven Summits above Rossland, downtown Trail, Montrose and the mighty Columbia River flowing south into the United States.
“I told somebody who asked me ‘How I can keep going up there?’ and I said, ‘If I ever get tired of the view their must be something wrong with me. It’s just beautiful up there. I’ve seen a moose, apparently there’s a cougar up there, it’s amazing.”
Much like fellow hiker Larry Plummer who set a goal to climb the mountain 1,000 times, the Antenna Trail beckons those who seek out a fit-friendly challenge, capped off by a scenic vista.
The trail is a south facing slope and generally free of snow by April. Spring is one of the best times to head up Antenna, as hikers enjoy a multitude of budding flowers and trees, along with the many birds and wildlife that populate the mountain.
McLean plans to keep going until a summer vacation may take him away to Christina Lake, but until then, he has no plans to alter his morning ritual with the great outdoors.
“Larry’s goal is to reach 1,000 but my goal is just to go up every day,” said McLean. “I don’t think people realize how beautiful the country is that we have around here.