Jack's Mountain is short, very steep, and very very sweet.
A fair warning, this post will be more emotional than others. To understand why, I thought it would be important to share the history of Jack's Mountain. Below is an excerpt from the Salt Lake Tribune:
"Jack Edwards was just a toddler when he died of leukemia in 1995. His parents scattered his ashes from a peak above Salt Lake City, where they later placed a memorial. Two mailboxes mark the site, with a notebook that begins with a letter from Jack's mother: "Please take a moment to say hello to Jackie Jack and write a little (or long) note." The mailboxes now contain several journals filled with personal and poignant entries by visitors from the past 13 years."
With that in mind, let's get back to the hike.
The trailhead is at the end of a neighborhood street where you will find a few street parking spots but no trailhead marker. For this reason, it is very likely that I didn't take the most direct route for Jack's Mountain as I noticed a smaller trail to the right of the one I started down. "No matter," I thought. I would link up with it eventually and the dogs were already off like bandits. We were quickly rewarded with incredible views of the valley. This would be a fine place to bring up visiting friends or a host a picnic at sunset without any notable exertion. Today was about Jack, however, so we pressed on (or should I say UP).
Each peak we reached gave us an immediate sense of accomplishment and deflation. After we achieved a new height we had the next one, always oh so much taller than the last, in view. The ground was dusty, the wind was whipping, and the trail was comprised of loose rocks causing unsure footing. With Jack's story on our minds, however, we had no quit in us and had to press on until we made it to his memorial to pay our respects.
Upon reaching the summit of Jack's Mountain I found myself much more emotional than I originally anticipated.
Jack's Mountain is adorned with weathered ceramic Buddahs, prayer beads, and two mailboxes wedged deliberately between slabs of sandstone. The mailboxes themselves are packed full of scraps of paper, leather-bound journals, and binoculars. I flipped through a few pages of a booklet comprised of yellow paper stapled down the middle with a different author on each page. It was clear that this memorial has grown to host letters to hundreds of loved ones lost in addition to the notes left for Jack. Jack's Mountain has become a space of reflection for people dealing with loss and grief. Any human with half a soul would of course feel their heart strings tugged when hearing the story of Jack. In addition to whatever sentiment one feels after learning about Jack, the power of the endless pages brimming with stories and prayers adds a heavy pressure on your chest.
Folks hike for various reasons, my main reason for hiking is that my dogs truly live for it, but while sitting cross legged in the dirt with the scorching Utah sun blaring down on my cheeks and a journal for Jack in my lap I had another motivation. I pulled out my latest Jon Krakauer non-fiction and ripped out the back page. I borrowed one of the dozens of pens in the white angel adorned mailbox and got to scribbling. In a letter addressed to Jack I told of my personal relationship with the loss of a loved one. It wasn't long into the letter before it became clear that the actual intended recipient was myself.
I recognize that this post has veered off the typical formatting of describing the intricacies of the hike at hand, but climbing Jack's Mountain isn't a typical hike.
My recommendations for Jack's Mountain? Allot some time for reflection when you reach the memorial and wear shoes with exceptional traction.