Sheri Samson
A somber parade of volunteers and emergency vehicles and personnel marched down Main Street in Hawthorne Friday evening to remember those lost on Sept. 11, 2001. The annual 9/11 Mt. Grant Challenge followed the next day.

The starting point of the 9/11 parade began Friday evening in Hawthorne with a stunning tribute of community participants, including county employees, emergency vehicles and many others that walked the large American Flag in a solemn pace toward Veterans Park.

Lt. Commander Scott Bishop from Hawthorne Army Depot assisted volunteers in carrying the Big Flag down Hawthorne’s main street. A fire guard from the Yerington Fire Department participated in the parade and dedication at Veterans Park, including a young member playing the bagpipes, accompanied by a drummer.

The following day, volunteers and hikers began lining up for the 9/11 Mt. Grant Challenge. As nature’s serene coolness remained in the air, following a night of light showers throughout the impending mountain range, organizers shared in the excitement that more participants had signed up this year than previous hikes.

President, Robbie Mathias said, “This is going to be great this year. The weather is cooler for our hikers, the ground has been watered down by nature to limit the dust and everyone is pumped up to do the walk. The volunteers are here nice and early, ready to set up and get this going. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

The Challenge began in 2011, as the brainstorm of locals wanting to remember 9/11 by opening the base-owned Mt. Grant as a tie-in using an outdoor remembrance. In combination with the local base efforts, this hike remains a pull for many out-of-town hiking enthusiasts and includes locals who wish to stretch their limits. All would agree that without volunteers and the company involvements, this Challenge could not have continued.

As the orange volunteer shirt boasts over 40 companies partnered with this endeavor, this Seventh Annual 9/11 Memorial Challenge called out an intimidating upward elevation of 11,239 feet facing the full-hike participants, while many signed up for the half-hike, which also served to be a dedicated decision, as many first-timers found out.

At the first 3.4 mile VFW service stop called “The Goat Ranch”, Ricky Isom and Barbara Edington hosted light refreshments and water, allowing for a needed rest for some new hikers. The second stop, at 7.2 miles was the bottom of Camp Dixie. The Hawthorne Lions Club had created a block-long procession of American flags for hikers to prepare in advance to stop for refreshing bananas, apples, drinks and salty snacks. Included in their patriotic decor was a humorous wreath on the Port-a-Potty stating, “You Can Do It”.

The next resting stop was hosted by SOC, the largest Hawthorne base contractor, with Tiffani Sweet-Oberhansli coordinating the refreshments while enjoying her own outdoor experience. At the well-known, 3-way stop called “Turkey Tracks” a crew of friendly El Capitan faces provided fruit cups and healthy beverages, while directing hikers toward the greatest leg of the race.

At the 13.4 mark, following a steeper, uphill climb, participants were greeted by Kurt Bosman’s

family reunion entitled, “Shangra-La”. At what is left of an old 1937 Dodge along the hillside, an array of fresh fruits, drinks and encouragement was offered to the hikers as well as prayers to the weather gods, as they watched overcast clouding emerge throughout the day.

Rounding into the last stop at 16 miles, the economic development table, hosted by Jimmy Campos and friends, provided healthy, homemade, peanut butter popcorn balls and water.

Once reaching the top, whether one was a full hiker or half hiker, everyone received a 2017 coin medal and many handshakes from the congratulatory group of Wade and Kay Barton, Sheriff Randy Adams and wife Tammy, along with many from the consistent seven-year organizers and friends.

This year’s first arrival, completing the entire 17 miles in a new record of three hours and 49 minutes, went to Paul Robb of Tonopah. Robb was also last year’s winning participant, who ran this year’s Challenge wearing last year’s winning ring.

Lt. Commander Scott Bishop of Hawthorne’s Army Depot, hiked along with his wife, Sarah. Many essential groups assisted with the day, providing ambulances through the SOC Fire Department and with the safety of Mineral County entities. Another base contractor, ERRG, donated the use of three vans which assisted in the necessary transport of hikers and volunteers throughout the day. The CEO of ERRG, Cindy Liu, also participated in the hike for her third year. Out-of-area hikers commented that Mineral County provided exceptional hosting with friendly encouragement throughout the weekend’s events.

For the last volunteers and ending hikers coming through at the 5 p.m. hour, a surprise air glider showed up, gliding around the small crowd and circling the rocks atop of Mt. Grant. This provided a magnificent show to end a wonderful, safe day.