Wednesday, May 16, 2018

~ Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial ~

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe" ~ John Muir.

Robert Griego after a six-mile hike up Granite Mountain.

Recently, I found myself head-to-head with an awesome memorial in the state of Arizona. I had never been there before, but I knew one day I would.

You see, this memorial is for the nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hot Shot Crew who lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Fire on June 30, 2013.

Thank you, hotshots (all 20 members).

In fact, I had never been to Yarnell, Arizona but I felt comfortable with my decision to take this direction home from Big Bend National Park in West Texas. I am poor when it comes to reading informational signs, and this time was no different. Had I read the sign, I would have at least carried water, applied sunscreen, and worn my sandals.  

Only later, after my long hike, did I read the sign that said, "The trail before you is strenuous, uphill, and 6 miles round trip."

The view of the Memorial (lower left, center) and Yarnell.

The Memorial. Photo by CNN.

In my cowboy boots, it was a hump. I was determined to see the memorial regardless if it took me to the end of the earth.  

I was overwhelmed by the tribute paid to the nineteen firefighters as I walked up the mountain. Nineteen granite boulders cradled a picture of each fallen man with a personal description of who they were.  

The sun was going down when a man descending down the trail warned me, "It's late, you'd better turn back as it is still a long way."  I thanked him, adding, "I'd be fine, I intend to make the journey. I rode out here from West Texas." Tired, I was only 3/4 the way to the observation site that looked down on the memorial and the town of Yarnell where they met their fatal end.

I remember it was very windy. I thought about those windy conditions as they fought that fire and later fought for their lives. Then, the wind stopped, just like that. The silence was deafening,  

It was late in the evening and I was here alone, just as so many have done before me. Offering a silent prayer, I spoke, "Do you remember me from Happy Jacks?" Silence. Then more silence. And then, the wind picked up again as my words blew closer to them to hear.  The wind saw to it.

I have never met the Woyjeck family but I felt a personal connection to their son, Kevin who I met at Happy Jacks Cafe in Arizona on one of my motorcycle trips from New Mexico. That story is called Granite Mountain Hotshots.

My letter to the Woyjeck family reads:


          Dear Woyjeck Family.

Time moves slowly when pain is always there.  I do not pretend to understand but I am connected by a force that I do not understand.

Recently, I was on another motorcycle trip, this time out to Big Bend National Park in West Texas. 

On my way home, I decided to go by Prescott and Yarnell on my way home to Three Rivers, California.  I had never been to Yarnell before, yet, I knew one day I would be there if only in silence. 
Today was the day.  Deep breath. OK, walk up that mountain. 
The hike was longer than I thought.  In my cowboy boots, it was a challenge.
Honestly, I was overwhelmed with the tribute to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots. 
I had left Big Bend National Park only days before so I was a bit tired, but determined to visit this site. 
For reasons that I do not fully understand, I stopped by your son’s granite rock along the 3 mile hike up the mountain.  I do remember him from my brief encounter at Happy Jacks in Arizona. 
I don’t know what else to say, other than I paused by his rock, to say that I remembered. 
I’m proud to have met him and the other Granite Mountain Hotshots, doing what they loved, if only years later. 
Tired, I left with a better outlook on life.


Robert Griego
May 3, 2018


The Woyjeck family thank you card arrived today with their personal message inside, along with two remembrances of their son, Kevin.  

It was an honor to receive their card and touching words and to share their story.

The Woyjeck family thank you card.

No comments:

Post a Comment