Ken was guiding in Alaska before I was born. So I can’t say much about his early years up here. I’ll leave that to friends and family. They explored the wildest rivers in Alaska, chased bears in Russia and found perfect snow while backcountry skiing in Juneau.
For me, Ken was the always-enthusiastic force that got me away from my desk and back out into the Wilderness. He was the kind of person you always wanted to say yes to. When I showed mild interest, he had me leading trips to Pack Creek. I was a few years past my days as a Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service, still up on all my certifications, but firmly behind a desk. When a chance would come to fly out to Pack Creek on a sunny afternoon, I’d happily closed my laptop and head for the airport.
When I would return home from a trip, well past dinner but the summer sun still shining, Ken would be ringing my phone for details. He would insist I come over for dinner, which I often did, but otherwise we would spend an hour talking about the day. I would report the number of bears, notable encounters and if clients were happy. He always wanted more. Which bear? How close? What did the people think? I found a quote of Ken’s in a book about bear safety, attributed to a magazine article from when I was 2 years old. More than 30 years later, he still had the passion for other people’s chance to experience the wilderness he loved so much.
I’ve tried writing about Ken a few times, end up writing too much and going outside. So I figured just this little story before the Discovery Southeast Banquet.
Ken did a lot for me, for other guides and everyone in Juneau. He was one of the founder’s of Discovery Southeast, a nature education program for Juneau’s schools. Many of his guides worked for Discovery SE as naturalists in the winter. Many organizations benefited from his relentless fundraising. Sitting with him a few weeks before he died, he pitching people for donations for organizations that he loved.
This week, I’ll be going to Discovery Southeast’s annual banquet and making a contribution in his honor.