It was the summer of ’72 when 13-year-old Tim Taylor reached the summit in the Sierra Nevada outback. Inspired, he wrote a note — “please write” — and tucked it into a metal film canister that he left on the 12,000-foot peak.
Four decades later, a 69-year-old grandfather on an 11-day trek with his son and grandson came across the canister, rusted and now nearly the color of the rocks themselves.
“I had my 14-year-old grandson with me. If he wrote a note like that, he’d be interested to have somebody respond decades later,” Larry Wright said. So the Oakland resident set out to answer the note’s author.
On Monday, Wright and Taylor, now a San Diego County Superior Court judge, spoke about their visits — separated by 40 years — to the rugged landscape known as the Great Western divide.
Taylor, who lived in La Cañada Flintridge as a youth, recalled he was hiking solo in Sequoia National Park in August 1972 when he put a pencil to a lined sheet of paper: “Tim Taylor climbed to this peak, Thursday, August 17, 1972. Age 13 yrs. Anyone finding this note please write.”
Taylor left the note on the peak before rejoining his troop for trout fishing in a nearby lake.
Taylor recalled he left the note on a solo hike during a rare rest day on Boy Scout Troop 502’s 50-mile backpacking trip through the Sierra.
“We had nowhere to go that day, so I woke up and I looked up and said, ‘I think I’ll climb that mountain,’ ” he said.
Taylor said he wanted to climb the peak precisely because it wasn’t named on his Boy Scouts-provided topographic map — a chance to make his mark.
“I could see it was unnamed, and that was part of the attraction,” he said. “There was no evidence that anybody had ever been there.”
Taylor had a history of scrawling notes and leaving them behind, a habit picked up from his father.
“Whenever [my family] would go to Catalina, my dad would have us put a note in a bottle,” he said. “It’s kind of the same idea.”
Taylor left La Cañada in 1977 to attend USC and then Georgetown Law School. He spent 20 years practicing law in San Diego before then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named him to the bench in 2005.
Wright said he first tried reaching Taylor at his old La Cañada address, which was carefully printed on the note he had tucked into the canister. But the family had moved out years ago, so Wright turned to the La Cañada Valley Sun, which published a story on the discovery.
“One of my dad’s old cronies called me Saturday, and he says, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but you’re on the front page of the newspaper,’ ” he said.
Since the peak he climbed remains nameless, Taylor thought perhaps it could take its name from the unlikely connection forged by his note.
“Maybe,” he said, “we can name it the Taylor-Wright Peak.”