My friend Wil died this week. Wil was a friend of the forest. When I first became involved in MORE it was as liaison to the George Washington Nat'l Forest, and Wil mentored me in the ways of forest trail maintenance. He was a long-time member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and a US Forest Service volunteer and p/t employee. He was dedicated to trail maintenance and wrote comprehensive reference manuals for other trail overseers and groups. He was an expert source employed by Trails Illustrated/National Geographic for the research behind their new trail map series which are now used by all of us GW Forest users. Wil verified every trail shown on that map. He was in the woods nearly every day, scouting trails, re-blazing, planting signposts, leading work crews, and doing lots of solo weekday trips.
I would guess Wil was about 50-55 when I met him about 8-9 years ago, and he was one of the fittest men I'd ever met. He walked and worked with a polished efficiency, and he wore out many a studly mountain biker with his full-day trailwork sessions. Often, we'd start hiking up at 9:30, break at noon, and start hiking out around 3:00 after a hard session. Those who brought their bikes thinking of a post-session ride, never seemed to bring them twice.
Everything Wil did in the forest was meant to outlive him, me, and the next generation. His work will forever lead to happy footsteps and pleasant memories for the wide world of trail users. I often wondered what Wil wondered about as he spent his long days in the mountains. Did he think of his former life as a gov't computer programmer (he was a programmer long before the Internet, he was even a reluctant e-mail user for several years). Did he wonder about his family? I never knew the circumstances that led Wil to the small basement apartment he kept in the mountain town of Mount Jackson. There just wasn't much time to talk about things on those workdays. Wil spoke mainly for the forest. I'll miss him.