Have 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 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.