Friends gather to celebrate birthday with Mount Peak's No. 1 supporter

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

About a dozen Mount Peak faithful gathered on their favorite trail last week for a special "happy birthday" hike.

At the center of attention was Cal Magnusson, a Mount Peak icon and inspiration to those who make regular trips up and down the popular Enumclaw-area attraction. Magnusson turned 78 on March 19 and, like so many times before, he and wife Joyce climbed into their Subaru and headed for the trailhead.

It's different now, as Cal is feeling the effects of an ongoing battle with cancer. He's unable to trek all the way to the top, so last week friends and well-wishers stopped about half-way up the hill, at the first site of the trillium that grace the steep flanks of the distinctive peak.

Among those who frequent Mount Peak, the legend holds that the trillium always bloom on Magnusson's birthday. That wasn't quite true last week; on a shady hillside, the trillium were healthy, but not ready to flower.

That couldn't put a damper on the day, however. The group broke into a heartfelt rendition of "Happy Birthday" and a chorus of "Everything's Going My Way."

Those who frequent Mount Peak are sincere when they speak of the warm bond between fellow hikers, and don't hesitate to share their respect for Magnusson.

"He's an inspiration to just about everybody," said Tom Powers, who considers himself a newcomer, since he's only been visiting Mount Peak for five years.

Magnusson has considerably more experience, having climbed the short, but steep, trail since 1974. He has no idea how many times he's been up and down the trail, but it's well into the thousands, and Magnusson figures he made more than 300 trips during a 12-month span in his prime. Employed by REI in Seattle, Magnusson would stop at Mount Peak for a quick hike on his way home from work.

Eventually, he and others developed a feeling of ownership, and decided some improvements were in order. No one else was maintaining the trail, so Magnusson and others could be found clearing brush, hauling rock or building steps. Their efforts were strictly voluntary.

"One section near the top was a mud hole," Magnusson said, "but it's pretty well stabilized now."

Over the years, partly due to the efforts of Magnusson and other "Mount Peak Protectors," the north side of the small mountain shifted from private to public ownership. The state's Department of Natural Resources acquired the land in a trade and has since turned it over to King County.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at

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