40 years later, mountaintop note left by La Cañada teen gets a response

Forty years after he left a torn-off piece of lined paper on a mountaintop deep in the Sierra Nevada backcountry, Tim Taylor is about to get his note back.

Taylor, who was raised in La Cañada Flintridge, was hiking in Sequoia National Park in August 1972 — his Boy Scout troop bivouacked a short distance away — when he wrote: “Tim Taylor climbed to this peak, Thursday, August 17, 1972. Age 13 yrs. Anyone finding this note please write.”

Taylor placed the note in a metal film canister and left it on the 12,000-foot peak before rejoining his troop for trout fishing in a nearby lake.

Last month, another intrepid hiker, Larry Wright, 69, of Oakland, found the metal canister with the note inside. He sought out Taylor, and this week Wright and Timothy Taylor, now a San Diego County Superior Court judge, spoke about their visits to the rugged region known as the Great Western Divide.

Wright and Taylor discussed trout fishing and how high-country grasshoppers make good bait, and Wright offered to return to Taylor the note he left on the mountain 40 years earlier.

Taylor said Monday that he vividly remembers leaving the note 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 already had a history of leaving notes behind, he said, because of a habit formed by 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.”

The day he left the note stands out not only for his mountaineering, but because of his return to the lake where his troop was camping.

“The trout were just going crazy, trying to get fattened up for the winter,” Taylor said. “I was catching fish. It was a magnificent old Sierra day.”

Taylor left La Cañada in 1977 to attend USC. His family stayed in town until his younger brother — a standout wide receiver at La Cañada High School — graduated in 1980.

Taylor went from USC to Georgetown Law School. He then spent more than 20 years with law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton and was living in Coronado when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named him to the bench in January 2005.

Last month, Larry Wright, his son, grandson and others were hiking in the Milestone Mountain area when Wright found the note.

He tried to reach Taylor at his La Cañada address, and having no luck, turned to the La Cañada Valley Sun. Taylor started getting calls as soon as the story was published.

“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. “All my old compatriots from La Cañada have been in touch … it was quite fun.”

Taylor said that his favorite part of connecting with Wright was seeing photos from the area around Milestone Mountain.

“It's just as beautiful as I remember it,” said Taylor.

Follow Dan on Twitter @ValleySunDan.

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