When Fruitvale resident Larry Plummer sets his goals, he sets them high: about 1,000 feet high.
The 72-year-old Plummer completed his 500th hike up to the Canadian flag on the popular Flagpole View Trail in Montrose on Oct. 11, and yet, he’s only halfway to concluding his quest.
Plummer celebrated the 500-milestone hike with Gordon McAlpine and Art Benzer, a driving force behind the creation of the trails back in 2004.
For many years, Plummer was a regular at Beaver Valley May Days and Montrose Days hikes up Antenna Trail Loop and the Flagpole Trail, a 5.1-km hike with 307-metre elevation gain.
“Art Benzer got me going on it, he was one of the people that got Antenna Trail started,” explained Plummer. “Finally in May and June of 2017, I did it again and I told Art that I should do this more than twice a year.
“So I told him, I was 69 at the time, ‘I’m going to do this 1,000 times.’”
Benzer, a former teacher, wasn’t fazed by the dramatic claim.
“It was interesting, because I turned 80, and he was just under 70, and he looked at me and thought, by the time I get that old I want to hike this trail 1,000 times,” laughed Benzer. “But it was a challenge, and he’s done this sort of thing a number of times.”
It took Plummer just three years and four months to reach the 500 milestone.
He averaged about 150 summits per year, or 12 to 13 times per month throughout the year, no matter the weather.
“Because of this virus, I have nothing to do but walk, and I’m retired anyway” said Plummer. “I told my wife, I’ll get out of your hair, so now I go and do my walks in the morning.”
For Plummer, the benefits are many.
In three years he has lost about 20 pounds, yet takes his time, enjoys the views, the flora, the wildlife, and meeting with others on the same path.
“There’s five benches up there and I use them all,” said Plummer. “You just pace yourself, it’s not a race. You meet a lot of people and that’s the best thing about it.”
The trail also has interpretive signage at the trailhead, and at the top of Antenna Loop, of the corresponding Seven Summits peaks across the valley.
Thousands of locals and visiting hikers and geocachers from around the world have shared their experiences in the sign-in/comment sheet at the top.
Benzer says that all trail users have been respectful, keeping self-distanced when passing, and assist in keeping the trails cleared and well-maintained, along with the help of the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society.
Plummer has no intention of slowing down and expects to wind up his quest of 1,000 hikes within four years.
“I’m trying to hit about 125 a year now, so another four years, by the time I’m 76, that’s my goal. I could set it to 80, then there’s no high expectation, but hopefully I can do it in four.”
Benzer is even more optimistic.
“He’s taken just over three years to do the first 500. Now I think, with a bit of incentive, he’s probably going to do it more. I would say probably under three years.”
The Montrose trail system has grown significantly in the past two decades and also includes the Orchard Trail off Christie Road.
Originally built in the 1950’s to access television towers, the trails were eventually developed into the Antenna Loop and Flagpole Trail with spectacular views of the Beaver and Columbia Valleys.
Benzer sends a big thank you to all the volunteers who helped develop and maintain the trails over the years.