The Bear and The Dentist

dale-edHave you ever been camping or hiking and thought – darn, I really should have brought those extra socks, or maybe a hat, or maybe a blanket; perhaps, you needed a rope for your tent or someone to chase away a raccoon in the night. Or, you may have even found yourself as the last one sitting at the fire thinking it would be nice if someone was there to crack a few jokes. Well, look no further, what you need is Dale Walker!

 

*Ed and Dale.

We have been leading volunteer trips to Yosemite National Park for about five years now and one special volunteer has returned again and again. In fact, by my count, he has volunteered with us nine times in Yosemite. Dale started out as a volunteer who signed up to help in Yosemite. Then he returned for another trip and before long he became a sort of Volunteer Ambassador with a knack for having just what someone needs or the ability to MacGyver a solution to a camp challenge.

On our recent volunteer trip (Sept. 2016), I asked Dale if it would be okay to write a blog post about him. His response was – “Me – really? Well, I guess so.” Then, on our last night in camp, we had a sort of roast for Dale. I shared with the group that I’d be writing a blog post about Dale and asked for their memories. What followed were a number of heartfelt stories and folks laughing so hard they had to walk away to regain composure. Here are a few excerpts:

  • He is a “traveling Ace Hardware store. Extracted some twine to rain stake my tent. It was super helpful, which is what Dale is.”
  • “Dale was a volunteer just like us and then he took care of us. He fixed my blisters.” He extended “small meaningful gestures.”
  • “Dale is a good Samaritan and has the best shaving parlor in Yosemite Valley.”
  • “Dale pimped out my tent with a sleeping bag and wool blanket. He said he’d be back for his fee.”
  • “Dale’s a jokester, but the joke was on him when a raccoon named Ricky curled up in his bed!”

Each trip, Dale arrives in his white pickup truck and “sets up camp” with new improvements over his last trip. He has prepared signs, billboards, and maps for the volunteers to learn more about the park. He has extra pillows, blankets, socks, band aids, rope, food, tarps, lights, batteries…you name it. He even has a cardboard diagram of where everything is stored in the back of his truck.

dale-hardhatDale also works hard on the trail and looks out for the other volunteers. Whether it’s moving boulders, digging trenches, or repairing the trail’s tread, Dale is focused and dedicated to the task at hand. When you mention Dale, the trail crew smiles. He loves his rock bar and doesn’t mind carrying it for miles. He’s also happy to take on the project no one wants to do, so someone else can do the more exciting task. That’s just Dale.

For trip leaders, Dale has become a sort of repository of the history of our volunteer trips. “Dale, do you remember when…?” “Oh yeah, well, there was that time Celia and I had to hike back to the stables from under Half Dome, because there were a few volunteers who ran out of water. I think it was five miles roundtrip. Oh yeah, that’s serious.” “That rock, right there, at the entry to Bridalveil Falls, I put that there.” And then – Dale smiles and laughs. His generosity and kindness are matched with a constant smile and a “pee your pants” sense of humor.

One night in camp there was a small group laughing uncontrollably by the campfire. As I walked over to the group, Dale was retelling a story about a bear visiting a dentist. The laughter was so intense there may have been drinks shooting from noses and folks holding their sides. “Can you just picture it – the dentist says open your mouth.” I wish I could tell the story like Dale – you’d be laughing too.

As volunteers, we give of ourselves. We do our part to make the world a better place. And, we enjoy contributing with other folks who feel the same way – folks who feel that giving is important and that together we can make a difference. With Dale, we see a kindred spirit and someone whose kindness and generosity are expansive. Thank you, Dale. You always go farther than is called for and we collectively appreciate it.

If Dale had an impact on your experience – leave a note in the comments. Maybe we can gather enough kind words to show Dale how important he is to us.

**You can see Dale speaking about volunteering in Yosemite at around 2:20 in the video below. This was created by Peter Murphy who was featured in our last blog post.

12 thoughts on “The Bear and The Dentist

  1. Brennan Vince

    Dale is just a great all around guy, wonderful human being! Always upbeat, anxious to help, extremely knowledgeable, never too busy to answer questions. He made things much easier for me as this was my first volunteer adventure at Yosemite. As someone remarked, “Dale is a traveling hardware store”, better yet a fully equipped REI store! He is a lot of fun and a real contributor in every sense of the word.

  2. Mark Hardgrove

    Hello all!
    I met Dale on my first Yosemite Trip. I was amazed by Dale. He helped me set up, loaned me gear and helped me over some hurdles like: don’t put your tent there, unless you brought a snorkel….

    I have worked my entire career with the National Park Service and would have loved to have Dale in our organization. He is kind, loyal, helpful, intuitive and a hell of a trail boss and I consider Dale a good friend.
    Dale I want to thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our Yosemite Volunteer Program and our wonderful volunteers. Yosemite seems to serve as one of our feeder programs and when folks have joined me in the Virgin Islands or the Galapagos we all cherish our experiences at Yosemite with Dale.
    Keep up the great work my friend you are greatly appreciated, making a difference in peoples lives with your positive energy!

    Mark Hardgrove
    Director of Field Operations
    Conservation Volunteer International Program and Dale’s Friend

  3. Rex

    Dale was a life saver on my trip to Yosemite. After months of drought, Mother Nature decided to make up for it on the last day of trip. The camp, including my tent, was flooded and I decided to abandon ship. Dale was gracious enough to take my water logged foam pad home with him which I picked up on my way back to Oregon. Thanks Dale!

  4. Susan

    I have participated in the Yosemite volunteer trip twice and was thrilled to see that familiar smile on my second visit. I think of him sitting in the background hearing every word and making every member of the team have a special experience. Who else would bring the steak knives. I aspire to create the home he has created in the woods. Thank you Dale for all your volunteer hours and the joy you bring to the group.

  5. Paul

    So very nice to see Dale highlighted here. I could sing his praises in so many ways. Patient, selfless, hard-working, compassionate, kind, funny, all-things-to-all-people, conscientious, just to name a few. Not one volunteer who has come across Dale’s path has ever felt left out or excluded because Dale’s quite strength and generous spirit is something that is readily seen by all; he’s a magnet. The quintessential volunteer who keeps on giving! Thanks, Dale, for making such lasting and positive impressions on us all!!

    1. Chris

      Well said, I totally agree with Paul’s comments. Dale, thank you so much. I have just one question though. Looking at the title of the article, with the photo right below it: Are you also a dentist? 🙂 Would that make Ed a (teddy?) bear?

  6. Sheryl and Harold Travis

    We are NOT at all surprised to see Dale highlighted as such an amazing volunteer! We had the privilege of working with him on our first trip to Yosemite several years ago. He was such a wealth of knowledge, and was very patient with us newbies, and with our slow trek the 2 miles up the JMT. It’s so great to hear he has continued to contribute so much to such a worthwhile cause. Thanks, Dale, for being such an inspiration!

  7. Peter

    For those of you who don’t know, Dale is a great cook. He even has an oven which he can bring on trips. Of course, he camps out in a “Taj Mahal” too. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a stand up tent and he can heat it. But more than that, he’s just there to take care of things that might have slipped through the cracks to help keep the ship moving forward. Thanks, Dale.

    Peter

  8. Hanna Oliver

    Oyeah, I remember Dale. I went to Yosemite to do trail maintenance and he was there along in our group. I kept to myself mostly in the trip and one night Dale spotted me sketching in a book. I can’t remember if I asked to draw him or vice versa, but I ended up getting a model and someone to bring me out of my shell over there. Cool dude-

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