Ray (far right) on the 2023 Bean-Bacon Loop Project

Navy vet Ray Arguello began volunteering in 2018 with ITA and last year became a crew leader. He is excited to be part of our growing Veterans Program and is leading our first weeklong Veterans project this year at Ditch Creek. He also enjoys working with young people and will co-lead a Youth Trail Crew Project this year as well. Thank you, Ray, for your enthusiasm for Wilderness and leading trail crews!

What is your background in?

I was born and raised in Idaho. I am from Declo (8 miles East of Burley). I graduated from the University of Utah and spent 20 years in the Navy as a Naval Officer traveling around the world. My last sea tour was as the Commanding Officer of the USS Benjamin Stoddert, a guided missile destroyer in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After I retired from the Navy, my family (Wife-Karen, daughter-Emily, son-Patrick) and I moved back to Boise. I worked for POWER Engineers for 20 years and retired in 2022. I grew up hunting, fishing, skiing, and camping in Idaho. I passed this on to my children.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing for fun?

I am active, so I enjoy fly-fishing (I volunteer for Idaho2Fly supporting men with cancer; and The Mayfly Project teaching kids in the foster care program to fly-fish). I enjoy camping, backpacking, riding my mountain bike, road bike, skiing, and running. My wife Karen and I enjoy hiking in Idaho and other places where we travel. I love doing ITA projects. It is the best of backpacking, camping, and giving back. It is great to meet people with attitudes about the outdoors that match mine. I work to get more young people outdoors.

How and why did you first get involved with ITA? What are the different ways you’ve volunteered for ITA over the years?

I saw a Facebook post about ITA in 2018. I went on the Vance Lake trip in the Selway that year. I first went to the Selway when I was 12 (in about 1967) and fell in love with the place. I went back in 2019 on the same trip. After that I volunteered for two ITA trips each year. Last year I qualified to be trip leader.

What do you like about volunteering with ITA?

I like being with people who want to make a difference in the outdoors. The Wilderness trails are in bad shape and the Forest Service is not able to keep up, so volunteers need to step up. I love the Wilderness, backpacking and doing good work. ITA does a great job of identifying projects and team leaders are amazing. I really enjoyed working on the youth project in 2023 and intend to do another one in 2024.

Most memorable backcountry or ITA experience?

While in the Navy I was stationed in Alaska for a year. At that time the Alaska State Railroad ran from Anchorage to Fairbanks. You could buy a ticket and they would stop the railroad and let you out at certain mile markers. It sounded like great fun to a couple of young males looking for adventure. When they stopped the train and we got off, it was a strange experience to watch the train pull out of sight and know that it would not stop to pick us up for another 4 days. We were making our way through the bush which was over our heads. We stumbled along looking for some type of trail that would take us to the river. We finally found one and breathed a sigh of relief. About 100 yards down the trail, we came upon brown bear tracks bigger than a dinner plate. Another 10 yards down the trail, we found a pile of steaming bear scat. We had no bear spray and were not armed in any way. I guess we could poke a bear with a fishing rod. That was enough, we turned around and camped next to the railroad tracks for 3 nights.
1. Understand where you are going.
2. Understand that there are dangers in the wilderness.
3. Be prepared to deal with the dangers—or go home.

Why are trails worth protecting?

Trails provide an opportunity for people to connect with nature. I prefer Wilderness trails where I see no one but the people I am with. When I hike with some people it gives comfort to see other people on the trail. Idaho has an abundance of Wilderness but without the trails people cannot use it. The Wilderness is a treasure and trails provide the opportunity to enjoy it.

Ray on the 2023 Ditch Creek Project