In 2003, two friends, one a former Superintendent of the NPS Arrowhead Hot Shot Crew and the other the brother of a former Arrowhead Hot Shot that died on the South Canyon Fire, began a tradition here in Boise: an early April run/hike up the formidable Lucky Peak. Six miles up, six miles down, the Lucky Peak Challenge (LPC) rivals the difficulty of the local Race to Robie Creek event. Since its inception, the Lucky Peak Challenge has evolved into an unofficial annual benefit for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
This year, I decided to take part in this local tradition. All 23 of us met near the Boise River at the base of the foothills, on a chilly April morning. I had heard stories from previous year's LPC's of frigid temperatures at the top and participants not bringing proper equipment. I made sure I had long pants, changes of clothing, plenty of water and snacks, and weeks of physical preparation in anticipation of this event. Participants stretched out, shook hands, and nervously joked around while they waited for the 9:00 a.m. start time. We took a group picture, and then ran off.
We all started together, jogging at a moderate pace through a neighborhood at the base of the mountain and then straight uphill along a dirt trail. From there, participants separated into groups of runners and walkers. I tried to run with the fastest of them, but I remembered that the LPC is not a race. Also, I found running the whole way impossible and I began hiking up the steep slope.
The further we went in elevation, the windier and colder it became. From the valley floor we hiked all the way up into the tree line and the snow. Around the back of the mountain the trail went, until it spiraled around up to the top next to a giant radio tower. I arrived about two hours after I started. That's where I saw the people who arrived before me. When everyone else made it to the top, we held an informal ceremony honoring the many firefighters who sacrificed quite a lot in order to protect people, property and our country's natural resources.
Up at the top, I was able to see many of my co-workers in a different context than I was used to seeing them. I could tell they have a ton of passion for the work they do, and it is something that definitely inspires me to work hard and continue to pursue this career field after my internship is over. Working as an Education and Communications intern at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has introduced me to many aspects of fire and aviation management and I was grateful to get out of the traditional office environment and get to know many of these fine people on a more personal level.
After about an hour hanging around at the top of Lucky Peak, we began our trek down. The way down was about twice as fast as the way up. By the time I returned to the parking lot where we began, I was completely exhausted but very happy to have taken part in such a great cause.