"In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors." — William Blake
|Walking back through this door in time.
July 3, 2013
This is an Open Letter to the families of the elite, Granite Mountain Hotshots—all twenty members.
I’m a biker and on June 3, 2013, I was camping on USFS land near Happy Jack, Arizona. I had forgotten my Therm-a-Rest in La Joya, New Mexico, so my camp was especially hard. The pine needles gathered helped to soften the ground, but only by the smallest margin. I didn't mind too much as I love camping under the stars. However, I did move slowly the next morning. There is a small cafe nearby and I'm looking forward to a hardy breakfast. I think it’s called the Long Valley Cafe, but I've always called it Happy Jacks.
The fire trucks parked out front do not register in my mind—I'm only thinking of coffee and hot food. As I walk into the small cafe, I see a whole bunch of firefighters. "This is a big mistake; I whisper to myself." I see one waitress moving quickly and I can only imagine how long it will take for my breakfast. The waitress is very fast and coffee and water are on my table rather quickly.
Time is on my side, so I relax. I look at the young men next to me. They appear to be very well-fit, happy, and so enjoying their breakfast with enthusiasm. Secretly, I hope there are a few eggs left over for me. They all look like they could be movie actors in this period of time. They remind me of my son.
The waitress jots down my order—eggs over easy, hash browns, corn beef hash, and pours more coffee. The young firefighter next to me says, "That's what I ordered; it was very good." I see this as an opportunity to make small talk, so I ask: "What fires are you coming from?" Many quickly begin to talk at once describing what, where, and how they left the last fire. I’m impressed. "Where are you going now?" "We are going to fires in New Mexico," they say almost at the same time. I tell them that I just came from New Mexico and that there was severe lighting and rain two days ago. I tell them that I like their shirts, and the words, something like Granite Mountain Fire, stick in my mind. I wished them well and say lastly, "Be safe."
The fighter fighters move towards their trucks and are quickly gone, or so I thought. A young man comes back into the cafe and simply says, "Thank you, sir." At the time, I thought he must be a bit homesick but I appreciate his comment immensely.
On July 1, 2013, the headlines immediately caught my attention—nineteen firefighters die in Yarnell, Arizona. They are the elite hotshot crew from Prescott, Arizona. I read slowly knowing that the guys I met earlier were part of the Granite Mountain crew. Maybe this tragedy involved another crew. The words became harder to read but I continued until the end "....the elite firefighters are known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots..."
They are the same guys I had breakfast with at the cafe; tears fill my eyes—my wife comforts me but does not really know why I am upset. I begin to explain the news and my connection to these young men.
Even now, days later, I cannot stop seeing those young firefighters in my mind having breakfast at that small cafe. To their families, my tears do not stop and I send you my most heartfelt condolences.
To the survivor of the twenty-man Granite Mountain Hotshots, "Thank you, I am so proud of you and your service."
/s/ Robert Griego
ONTO PRESCOTT, AZ
It's early morning in Three Rivers, CA and I've got a long ride ahead despite the cobwebs in my eyes. When I fire up my bike, the sound triggers a familiar, yet primitive sound. The initial coyote howls come from the south—the Dinley River pack. Immediately to the north, the La Cienega pack responds in kind. It's 5:15a.m. and my motorcycle awoke sleeping coyotes who misinterpreted my motorcycle noise for some kind of rally cry. That's my send-off as I depart home for Prescott, AZ some 587 miles away.
My mission is to ride in a motorcycle procession to honor 19 firefighters, known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Perhaps the coyote howling was simply nature's words of encouragement.
|June 30, 2023, Daily Courier headlines define the importance of today—Never forget.
The Hotshots Trail climbs through the Weaver Mountains to the observation deck and is about 3 miles one-way from the trailhead. In May 2018 on a return trip from Big Bend National Park in Texas, I hiked the entire route in my cowboy boots. With a 1,200 ft. elevation gain and a 5-8 percent grade, it was a hump. I remember seeing the 19 granite plaques set into rocks with a photo and a story of each fallen Hotshot. It was an impressive tribute. Today, five years later and a tad older, I walk a portion of the trail while still wearing my cowboy boots.
ONTO POTATO PATCH CAMPGROUND & JEROME, AZ
|A moment lost in time.