Saturday, April 30, 2005

My friend Wil

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.

3 comments:

MEV said...

The memorial service for Wil is Sunday, May 15 at 1:30 in Oakton, Virginia, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (2709 Hunter Mill Road). Email mvakiener@aol.com for directions.

Patski said...

Wow -- just came across this. I was thinking of Wil tonight and wondered what he was up to these days. I knew him from his former life as a programmer and really great guy with his priorities straight. He was so valuable to the company he worked for that they paid to let him contribute a couple of work days a week to doing community volunteer work.

Wil was an incredibly bright and deeply thoughtful man. I missed him when he left New England and am sorry he has departed this world -- but obviously not before making a lasting impression on both the land and people.

camps said...

Thanks for your thoughts Patski