As a crew leader and photographer, Dave not only works hard on the trail leading trips but also captures some amazing images as well. Dave chronicles his adventures and post his photos on his blog, Davefaitlemonde.com. This summer just a few hours into the three-week Wilderness Immersion project in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, Dave jumped in to act as a co-crew leader when the original leader was hurt and had to be evacuated. So much for enjoying a project as just a regular volunteer! Thank you Dave for all you do for trails and ITA.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Southern Idaho working on small farms and ranches as a teenager. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and hard work. It is great to see the direct results of hard physical labor. I have also always been fascinated by the power of water and how it carves and creates elements of nature. At the University of Idaho, I studied Water Resource Engineering. Upon graduation, I worked as a Water Resource Engineer in Seattle and then later across the country with my own consulting firm. If it related to moving, capturing, or controlling water, it seems I had a project of that kind.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing for fun?
Since I was a young boy, I have always enjoyed riding my bike and more specifically a mountain bike or at that time it was my Schwinn Sting Ray. The bike has always given me the freedom and range to get out and explore the world. As part of that, finding, building, and maintaining trails has always been a big part of who I was. Later in life, I was able to combine my project management skills from my professional engineering career with my mountain biking passion. In the early 2000’s I led the Shaffer Butte Master Trail Plan which ultimately resulted in the trails around Stack Rock and Bogus Basin then later founded and led the effort to create the Eagle Bike Park. After almost two decades of trail advocacy, I really thought my days of planning and building trails were over. I was happy just to enjoy the experience of using trails…..
How and why did you first get involved with ITA?
About 6 years ago I started hiking and backpacking with John Platt. I wanted to spend more time in the backcountry in places you cannot reach with a mountain bike. Like many things in John’s life, he was deeply involved in organizations that matter and it wasn’t long before we were both doing projects to support ITA. The first one for me was in 2019.
What are the different ways you’ve volunteered for ITA over the years?
My primary focus with ITA has been to support projects which extend into the deepest portions of the Idaho Wilderness. It is hard to get deeper into the wild than the Frank Church Wilderness and the bulk of my projects have been with projects there. This year, I spent a total of 5 weeks in the Frank Church, our crews cut out almost 4,000 trees during that time. Over the years I have now spent nearly 100 nights in the Frank; it’s funny but I feel like I have only scratched the surface!
What do you like about volunteering with ITA?
I think like most folks, I find that it really is the unique people that make ITA special. They really are a special breed of confidence, experience, and talent. I always learn something from every single person on a trail crew. We have a very special group here in the McCall area which we call the “McCall “A” Team”. “A” stands for “aged”! The A Team is an incredablely talented and experienced group which the ITA calls upon for particularly difficult projects. When I put the call out for an A team project, I usually hear back from the members within a couple hours and every one of them make it happen.
Most memorable backcountry or ITA experience?
I have many memorable moments which have occurred during ITA trips and most of them center around adversity. Difficult moments centered in and around the uncontrollable elements of the wilderness result in the intense moments which burn in the memories. It is always interesting to see how crew members react to adversity. Some folks do well and others very much struggle but one thing is for sure, adversity always results in memories! A few years ago, I was on a hitch with the McCall “A” team and we were deep into the Frank Church Wilderness, about a two day hike from the Cold Meadows Airstrip. On that evening we had set up camp and were settling in when I looked up and saw Barry about 100 yards out of camp. He was limping badly and he was yelling for help. As I ran down to give him aid he sat on a log and held up his foot. He said “I stepped on something and it is in my foot”. Barry had been out on a nature call when he had stepped on something…. Keep in mind, although we were settled into camp, he was still wearing his hiking boots. As I approached him, I couldn’t help think about how difficult it was going to be to evacuate him, help would be at least 12 hours away, the next morning. I arrived and he stated, “I can’t take off my boot and something is in it.” As I closely inspected the bottom of his boot, I found a 3 inch stainless steel sewing needle sticking straight out of his boot near the ball of his foot and it was the sharp end that was sticking out of the boot with the eye end well into his foot. He couldn’t take off his boot until we pulled out the needle. As hard as I tried, I could not pull the needle back out through the sole of the boot. Barry had a small Leatherman tool in his pack so I ran back to camp and brought down his mostly empty pack. By that time most of our crew had come down to aid Barry and luckily we had Brian Mahon on our trip, a retired Physician’s Assistant who teaches our ITA Wilderness First Aid courses, so he had taken over the situation. He was in good hands! Brian used the Leatherman and he extracted the needle. The moment of truth came when we took off his boot, I was expecting a bloody sock and the need to apply some pressure. As it turned out ,even though the needle had gone in fairly deep, there was no blood, just a tiny little red spot. Brian treated it with antibiotics and a Band Aid and we monitored it for the remainder of the trip. It turned out not to be a problem. The remainder of the evening we asked ourselves what the odds are that you could find a needle in the Frank Church Wilderness? As soon as I arrived home, I ordered a small Leatherman and carry it with me on every trip!