BYU, Environment, Provo History, Utah History

Glory of Timpanogos Hikes

Click to see original imageWhat poet, artist or photographer can live in Central Utah very long without turning his or her talents to Mt. Timpanogos?

And what admirer of the mountain isn’t uplifted by driving its scenic routes, hiking its trails, living within its shadow or just gazing at the lofty peaks?

With all of Timp’s magnetic charm, however, many still miss the extra fascination the once-famous Timpanogos Hike provided before its disbandment 14 years ago.

The community climb was founded in 1912 by Athletic Director Eugene L. Roberts and the Brigham Young University Physical Education Department. Only a score of hardy souls responded that first year.

The 10th annual hike in 1921 marked the dawning of a long Timp Hike heyday when 1,200 attended the evening bonfire program at Aspen Grove and 650 climbers reached the summit the next day.

That seemed to signal unprecedented publicity and promotion, judging by a 48-page booklet on Timpanogos published in 1922 by the BYU extensions Division in cooperation with the Provo Chamber of Commerce and the American Fork Commercial Club.

The booklet was loaned to me by Ethelyn Peterson Taylor, wife of Elder Henry D. Taylor, a general authority emeritus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ot has been in the Peterson family all these years.

Published “to celebrate Timpanogos,” it is replete with articles, poetry, pictures and legends. Maybe mentioning some of these will stir good memories of the once-great hike that is no more.

In that period, BYU had an array of Timp boosters unrivaled before or since. Besides “Timpanogos” Roberts himself, there were “Y” President Franklin S. Harris, his predecessor George H. Brimhall, Extension Division Director Lowry Nelson (in his 90s now and living in Provo), Harrison R.Merrill, John Swensen, Alfred Osmond, Edwin Smart, Fred Buss, E. H. Eastmond and others.

The souvenir booklet carried articles by several of these men plus winning entries in a poetry contest. Elsie C. Carroll won first prize, describing Timp’s images and moods. Second and third places went to M. E. Crandall Jr. and Annie D. Palmer.

What devotee of the mountain hasn’t heard of the Legend of Timpanogos written by Roberts? It appeared in the booklet along with an outline by the same author of more routes and trails up the mountain than I ever knew existed.

A legend of Bridal Veil Falls, written in poetry by M. M. Warner also was published.

“To Timpanogos,” a ??? page poem by Brimhall, seemed to symbolize the reverence in which the mountain is held. I quote the last two lines:

“A joy to behold thee, Mount of the West,
But Oh to ascend thee, to stand on thy crest!”

No Madison Avenue advertising wizard could top the lofty catch-phrases applied by the writers – “wonder mountain,” “king of the Wasatch,” “patriarch of mountains,” “a sweep of savage splendor,” “monarch of mountains,” etc.

Some of the attractions of the Timp trail which became known to countless hikers were described, including waterfalls, winding streamlets, vast cirques, carpets of wild flowers, natural amphitheaters, Emerald Lake, the Timpanogos glacier, the rocky summit, spectacular views of the valley, and of course, the “sit-down” glacier slide.

Participation in the hike increased steadily through the years, eventually surpassing the mountains’ ability to withstand environmental pressures. Hikes from 1967 through 1970 put as high as 7,000 to 8,000 on the trails, and 2,500 to a record 2,736 were reaching the summit.

Confronted with increasing erosion, pollution and damage to vegetation plus traffic and parking problems, the university and the Forest Service, with the support of cooperating agencies, announced permanent cancellation of the community climb May 13, 1971. They encouraged future hikes by small groups.

While Roberts founded the Timp hike, Charles J. (Chick) Hart served the longest tenure as director, 30-plus years. Israel Heaton was another of the directors who served many years. Altogether something like 59 annual hikes were held. Many participants still take pride in the “Summit Club” badges they received for scaling “Old Timp.” ‘