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Hiker thrilled after note he left on peak in 1972 is found

October 8, 2012 |  1:28 pm

Forty years after he left a note on a mountaintop deep in the Sierra Nevada backcountry, asking its finder to write him, Tim Taylor has gotten his wish.

Taylor, who was raised in La Cañada Flintridge, was hiking solo in Sequoia National Park in August 1972 — his Boy Scout troop bivouacked a short distance away — when he put a pencil to a lined sheet of paper: “Tim Taylor climbed to this peak, Thursday, August 17, 1972. Age 13 yrs. Anyone finding this note please write.”

Taylor placed the note in a metal film canister and left it on the 12,000-foot peak before rejoining his troop for trout fishing in a nearby lake.

Last month, another intrepid hiker, Larry Wright, 69, of Oakland, found the metal canister with the note inside. He sought out Taylor, and on Monday, Wright and now-San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor spoke about their visits — separated by 40 years — to the rugged region known as the Great Western Divide.

Taylor said Monday that he vividly remembers leaving the note during a rare rest day on Boy Scout Troop 502’s 50-mile backpacking trip through the Sierra.

“We had nowhere to go that day, so I woke up and I looked up and said, ‘I think I’ll climb that mountain,’” he said.

Taylor said he wanted to climb the peak precisely because it wasn’t named on his Boy Scouts-provided topographic map — a chance to make his mark.

“I could see it was unnamed, and that was part of the attraction,” he said. “There was no evidence that anybody had ever been there.”

Taylor already had a history of leaving notes behind, he said, because of a habit formed by his father.

“Whenever [my family] would go to Catalina, my dad would have us put a note in a bottle,” he said. “It’s kind of the same idea.”

The day he left the note stands out not only for his mountaineering, but because of his return to the lake where his troop was camping — the same lake Wright was headed toward when he found the note.

“The trout were just going crazy, trying to get fattened up for the winter,” Taylor said. “I was catching fish. It was a magnificent old Sierra day.”

Taylor left La Cañada in 1977 to attend USC. His family stayed in town until his younger brother — a standout wide receiver for the La Cañada High School Spartans — graduated in 1980.

Taylor went from USC to Georgetown Law School. He then spent more than 20 years with law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton and was living in Coronado when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named him to the bench in January 2005.

Last month, Larry Wright, his son, grandson and others were hiking in the Milestone Mountain area when Wright found the note.

He tried to reach Taylor at his old La Cañada address, and having no luck, turned to the La Cañada Valley Sun. The paper published its story over the weekend, and Taylor started getting calls right away.

“One of my dad’s old cronies called me Saturday, and he says, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but you’re on the front page of the newspaper,’” he said. “All my old compatriots from La Cañada have been in touch. … It was quite fun.”

Since the peak he climbed is still nameless, Taylor thought maybe it can take its name from the unlikely connection forged by his note.

“I’m probably the first to climb that peak, and I think [Larry Wright] and his grandson are probably the second,” he said. “Maybe we can name it the Taylor-Wright Peak — after the first two people to climb it.”


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-- Daniel Siegel, Times Community News