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You're never too old to challenge Upper Table Rock

Since moving to Southern Oregon more than 30 years ago, Alvin "Al" Schlappy has intended to stand atop Upper Table Rock and check out the view.

"Every time I went by that thing, I'd think about how it would be to climb it," he says. "... I'd always look at the parking lot and see how many people were there."

Yet other things always seem to get in the way.

After all, the retired Sams Valley resident enjoyed camping, fishing and boating with his grown children and their families.

But he finally made the hike to the top of Upper Table Rock on Memorial Day, completing the nearly 1.5-mile trek that gains 800 feet in elevation in one hour and 35 minutes.

Not too shabby, considering he turned 94 years old the next day.

"She talked me into it," the lean nonagenarian says of his daughter, LaVonna Lammon, 55, who accompanied him on the hike.

"Now, that isn't quite how it went," she counters with a laugh. "I just said, 'Dad, let's go to Table Rock and get a picture of you at the trailhead. If you want to, we can even walk up a little ways.' I put some water and granola bars in my fanny pack."

Her mother, Clarice, 87, who uses a walker, wasn't able to join them. The Schlappys have been married for 66 years.

"I'm very proud of him," Clarice says.

Born in Nebraska and reared in Kansas, Alvin Schlappy is a retired truck driver whose earlier lifestyle didn't allow much time for walking up mountains.

"I never did do any hiking — it just wasn't on my agenda," he says. "With truck driving, what we did was specialized hauling, anything wide and high that required a special permit. The longest we ever did was 160-some feet. That's back when they were making flame deflectors for the rocket launchers for the moon."

What launched Monday's hike was the wonderful holiday weather coupled with his upcoming birthday, his daughter says.

"This was kind of for his birthday, to give him something to talk about for another year," she says. "But he didn't need any encouragement."

Although he may not have hiked much, he always enjoyed the outdoors, she says, noting he floated the wild section of the lower Rogue River with family members when he was in his early 80s.

The trailhead parking lot was crowded when they pulled in that morning. The goal was to hike a little, maybe even go to the first bench, about a half-mile up the trail, explains his daughter, who had hiked it several times when her children were young.

When they got to the first bench, it was packed with people. Her father wanted to push on up the trail with his hiking stick.

"We went a little farther but every time I suggested we turn around he insisted on going farther," she says. "He wouldn't stop."

"I knew if I got past that second bench, why, I would make it to the top," he says.

The second bench is perhaps a quarter-mile beyond the first bench. Folks they met along the way applauded his effort.

"A couple of people shook his hand on the trail and said, 'More power to you!' and 'Good job!' " she says. "They were impressed."

There were also some tiny hikers who unwittingly spurred him on.

"These little kids, five and six years old, they just passed us up like nobody's business," he says. "I thought, 'Gee, I've got to go to the top now.' "

So on they hiked.

"It got pretty rough when you get near the top," he says. "There were more rocks projecting up there."

Standing on top, he rested and took in the vista he had been wanting to see for more than 30 years. The top of the rock is as flat as a billiard table.

"I thought it was pretty nice up there," he says. "You have quite a view."

Including one of another mountain to the east which Schlappy has also been eyeing for years: snow-capped Mount McLoughlin, which rises some 9,500 feet above sea level.

"Now, I don't think I'm up to that," he protests with a chuckle.

Reach Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

You're never too old to challenge Upper Table Rock