In the midst of the Tri-Cities [in southeast Washington] there’s a dramatic group of mountains known as The Rattles. Their close proximity to the city means urban dwellers can hike a 15-hundred-foot peak and enjoy dramatic views on their lunch break or even after supper. But it also means these ridgelines are prime turf for expensive view-homes. Now, A band of avid hikers, are trying to protect as much of the area from development as they can. They want to raise money to buy land for a network of public trails. Correspondent Anna King went on a steep hike with the group’s leader on one of the peaks in jeopardy -- Candy Mountain - to find out more.
As we roll to a stop at the foot of Candy Mountain, snow, icy gusts and pelting rain greet us. I brace myself for a cold couple of hours. But Sharon Grant shows no hesitation – she nearly leaps out of the car heading out to the rough path.
Sharon Grant: “This is some of the best sagebrush stands that we have on the ridges because you know there haven’t been so much activity here so it’s not disturbed.”
It’s a lovely, but tough hike. Just a rough, steep road cutting up the roll of the mountain. It isn’t the most dramatic peak here, or the tallest. But as we trudge up the slope Grant tells me that it’s a very important link for the 20-mile network of trails she envisions. That network would connect the peaks of: Red, Candy, Badger and Little Badger mountains.
Sharon Grant: “ We really only have this time to create another preserve and to save the access so we can create the trail.”
But it will cost a lot of money -- One-and-a-half-million dollars. But Grant’s done it before -- she and her group raised nearly $700,000 to buy the neighboring mountaintop, Badger.
Sharon Grant: “When we saw that Badger was for sale we jumped in with all of our energy and we were able to raise the money and secure the land.”
That land is now home to three public trails and sees about 200,000 users a year.
Sharon Grant: “I’ll never forget how incredibly exciting that was for us. I felt like if I never do anything else in my life, I’ve done this. But now, of course, there is a lot more to do.”
Of course 1-point-five-million is a bit more than $700,000. But if the peaks are preserved, Grant sees tourists, trails connecting to Red Mountain wineries and marathon running events.
Sharon Grant: “I’ve done these hike, wine, dine events, oh they’re so popular. It doesn’t matter the weather we’ve done it in the middle of winter and the hottest days of summer and I always get the maximum signups.”
As we turn for a moment to catch our breath we take in the view of Badger Mountain in the distance. Grant says people often misunderstand the desert. She could be right. A recent Newsweek article, penned by a New York-based author called -- Rattlesnake Mountain -- a “low, ugly hump.”
Sharon Grant: “You know one of the things I’ve always said is that you can drive by this land and it all looks brown and grey. And as you say, what’s special about that? But I have always said get on the land, because when you get on it, you see all the little special parts. You see wildflowers will start here in February and we’ll see them until September.”
On today’s hike its just too windy and cold to reach the peak -- for me at least. But in our short burst up the mountain, we take in: Old-growth sagebrush, a hawk-drafting overhead and southeast Washington’s wide-open vistas.
Back at the car, I scramble for the ignition and a whisper of heat. Grant? She hasn’t lost her pluck.
Sharon Grant: “Just that little hike felt good! Yeah I just feel kind of a nice workout, we braved the elements and persevered, you know we did good.”