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1191. Mt Grant (09/07/19)

Hikers (16): Alan, Anuj, Chinyet, David, Giulia, Jeff, Jim, Jolly, Kendra, Mihail, Milon, Sabine, Sarbinder, Shuli, Steve, Yenya
Distance: 17 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 8 beauty

Write-up by Steve -- Pictures by Jolly, Giulia, Jeff, Mihail, Chinyet, Milon, Jim, Alan and Steve

Hawthorne, Nevada calls itself The Most Patriotic Town in the US and it shows. Most of us got to Hawthorne (or nearby Walker Lake) the day before the hike, which provided the opportunity to attend the flag raising ceremony and subsequent registration for the 911 Memorial Mt. Grant Challenge. Oh, and this worthy event is also a good way to experience a 7k ft hike to the highest point in Mineral County.

En route to the flag raising ceremony

The registration provided an early dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce, along with some salad and garlic bread. The perfect carbo load experience (although some beverages would have been nice). This also provided social time to meet other Grant Challengers. For instance, I learned while waiting in line that the first third of the hike could be chilly--this was good advice.

Several of us continued the party down the nearly empty street to a nearly empty bar. The bar kept the patriotic theme going. There was much discussion that the location only features hamburgers one day a week--Thursdays (also lady's night). They feature pizza every day, which generated a haze in the bar due to the fact that the ovens were right there in the bar area. Indeed, the bartenders were also pizza makers. Of interest to me was that they had their own beer, which was a fun surprise.

INCHers chillin' at Barley's Sports Bar in Hawthorne, NV

At this point, the only unaccounted people were Chinyet, Yenya, and Sandy F. The Sandy mystery wouldn't last long, as I ran into him later that night staying a few doors down at the same hotel.

Just after sunrise we all met up at the start of the "hike", where we'd run into several of the people we'd met at the spaghetti dinner the prior day. It's not a huge event--maybe 120 participants--so INCH made up a non-trivial fraction. Just as things were getting close to the 7am start time (and after Sandy F had left for the 6:30 half route), Chinyet and Yenya showed up. Then the "challenge" decided to let people start early, much to our confused dismay. So we quickly made a circle. . .

Time to get goin'

1-2-3 INCH!

Besides the sign at the entrance, there was little to indicate we were on military property. A nicely graded road headed uphill for 17 miles.

Evidence that this is military property

Sarbinder, Mihail, and I passed everyone except one runner by the time we reached the first stop. Stop, you say? Well, this event features a rest stop every three miles! Everyone on the hike knew this, but only Jeff (who'd done it before) and I were truly committed to this fact. I'd confirmed (1) on-line, (2) with Jeff, and (3) with locals that there was no reason to carry anything. Most INCHers were cautious, carrying water and a backpack. I have to admit that several INCHers made a good argument that they expected to refill water at the stations to prevent plastic bottles from being used. This thought never crossed my mind, despite living 21 years in the Bay Area.

Anyway, we ran into two guys manning the refreshment table at the 3-mile point. I had skipped breakfast to demonstrate belief in the system, so enthusiastically scarfed down a banana while noting one of the guys had a cast on his foot. He mentioned that if it were not for the cast, he'd be out running around in the nearby hills. I (correctly) guessed he meant hunting, which led to a discussion about the goats in the area. The second person said the goat populations had become quite successful in the area and, thus, a menace. He said they regularly come down and eat all the plants around his house. . .near the start of the hike. Many hours later, we'd see a bunch of goats in someone's yard doing exactly that. And by the time this discussion was over, Mihail and Sarbinder were already 100 yards away, chasing down the lead guy like greyhounds after a rabbit.

After that first stop, I'd occasionally see Mihail in the distance. . .and eventually not at all. But like clockwork, there would be food and drinks every 50 minutes or so. I partook of one drink and one food item at every stop, as planned. Probably gained weight on the hike. It was great. Word to the wise--bring nothing; hike the good life.

Reached the largest of the rest areas at 10 am. One of the volunteers pointed out the little peak on top of the much bigger mountain ahead. . .while I scarfed down a fruit cup and snagged a gator-aid. I could see some human specks moving on the nearest switchbacks. Eventually caught the tail end of the half-route hikers, one of whom tipped me off to a sun halo (rainbow around the sun) overhead. Pretty cool.

The little peak to the left of center is the goal

At 11 am, Yenya and Chinet reached the 9 mile point. At 11:20 am, Mihail was snapping photos from the summit. I crossed paths with Sarbinder and Mihail as I was heading up to the "finish line" from the van pickup area. Got there at 11:40am and, after receiving a commemorative coin for the effort, headed off to find a route to the summit.

Yenya leverages the props along the hike

20 minutes later, Mihail was snapping pictures of Walker Lake from Grant summit

From here, things got stupid. While other people were going straight up the front of the little knob by the finish line, I could see a trail going around the back. I took that trail for a bit, but then decided it didn't seem to be heading up, so made a beeline to the summit from the backside. That mostly worked until just a little below the peak. Worked my around some blockage until I could see a reasonable path to the top (could see the poles on top). As I put myself in a weird position, my calf seized up painfully, leaving me stuck trying to find some way to change position without falling down. Finally got to enough of a ledge to sit and think about the plight. Then I looked at my GPS and realized the coordinates of the summit were a quarter mile away. . .and I could see a second "hump" in that direction. Made my way back down and found a pretty good trail heading to that summit. Was happy to see two summit registers and a wind break there. Clearly this was the actual summit, although looking back, the other one still looked higher. Well, why would I have the coordinates for *not* the summit? Must be an optical illusion. . .

Mt Grant summit. . .but maybe not the high point

Long story short, not only did that ordeal take one hour and fifteen minutes (should have taken about 20 minutes) from the "finish line" and back to the "finish line", but I never reached the highest point in Mineral county. Instead, I'd made it to the top of Mt Grant as listed on a topographical map, which isn't the highest point. Grrrr.

INCHers readying themselves (presumably) for the summit

Walked down to the shuttle location and was happy to discover there was a beer sitting in one of the coolers. I asked if I could have it, and the guy said "absolutely". It was clear he'd had most of the other ones himself. Not a bad job to volunteer for. He's the non-INCHer on the left picture below. Many of us sat at the same table with him the day before at the spaghetti dinner.

Celebrating Mt Grant

Milon came by just as I was finishing that beer, and I erroneously told him the story about the "real" peak, just as I'd told Shuli a bit before him. They all ignored me, so no harm done.

Shuli on the summit, long with the INCH log

Jumped into the van to get out of the wind. Eventually it filled up, and we headed down. However, we were dropped off unceremoniously at the location of the big rest stop. Giulia, who was sitting the front, heard why--the upcoming van driver didn't want to go all the way to the summit and back, so our driver was going to head back up. . .

As we were standing around, a pickup truck came down with Jeff (and others). Sabine jumped in and they both guilted me into doing the same, even though it was easy to predict it would be a bumpy ride in the bed of the truck. . .to add insult to injury, the comfortable shuttle van we could have taken eventually passed us going down. Curses!

Good times in the back of a truck

After many bumps, dust, and a stop for a car-sick passenger, we made it back. Just before we got to the parking lot, though, the truck stopped in the now hot sun so that everyone could take pictures of those aforementioned goats terrorizing the Walker Lake community!

Fear the goats

One hour after the goats, the last INCHers crossed the finish line!

. . .and they got what Milon can only imagine

But the adventure wasn't over yet--we still needed to eat dinner. We had talked to Hawthorne natives and found Pepper's was the best (actually only) place in this not-many-choices town that anyone had anything positive to say. So when I got back to the hotel, I sent out mail arranging to meet there. Upon early arrival, however, we found it was closed on Saturdays (!). I couldn't send an e-mail update because there is no AT&T coverage in that area. Fortunately, Sabine had the bright idea to make her (not AT&T) phone into a hotspot, and I was able to send out an update to meet at the pizza place instead.

As we were waiting for people to show up, I put in a pizza order when a large group of military guys came in (lest we have to wait longer). Behind the scenes, a nearby motorcycle club was also ordering many pizzas due to a catering mishap (incidentally, weeks later, Thomas would mention he knew a motorcycle club that was meeting up in Hawthorne the weekend we were there--small world). Turned out the next INCH order was an hour wait time, so it was good we had some pizza to cover the gap. . .In another twist, several INCHers had gotten back much earlier and had a late lunch at the same pizza restaurant. They had texted, but. . .I had no coverage, so didn't get the text until the next day. So once they arrived, they decided to try a different restaurant across the street in a casino. They taunted me later about the $2.50 beers they enjoyed. Oh well, next time!

7kft of elevation and cheap beer? Yes, please.

Several of us stayed in town that night to experience the free breakfast at the Elk's Lodge the next morning. I got there at right at the opening--7 am. The lodge was closed. No other Challenge participants were around, which seemed odd. Checked the website back at the hotel--it still prominently advertised the breakfast starting at 7 am {and still does, weeks later}. I heard other disappointed INCHers had no luck later in the day. Pictures of the closed Elk Lodge door were submitted by multiple folks!

David and Alan took advantage of the location and swung by Bodie on the way back. Sounds like it's worth a visit. Might have to plan Mt. Grant again. That way we can try the other half of the restaurants, I can bag the actual high point, Milon can get a memorial coin (for some reason he didn't get one), and those who have never been to historic Bodie can visit. . .but only after we triple check on the breakfast situation.

It never gets old in Bodie

Anuj's 1st leaf
Steve's 930th leaf

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