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Hiking Happenings July 2006

Have a Nice Hike, Dick
by Rory Tyler

Dick Webster

Dick Webster, one of the greatest hikers I ever met, died on June 4 at the age of 64. He was following behind his long-time hiking partner when the accident took place. They were working their way up the west ridge of Mt. Tukhanikavits in the La Sal Mountains, going through an area of timber and rock outcrops.

Dick made his way to the top of one outcrop and, when he stepped on it, it disintegrated beneath him, taking him hundreds of feet down the mountainside. Angle of repose. Fractal instability. The last straw. Bad luck. An unfortunate and unforeseeable tragedy.

I’m not the only one who is going to miss Dick Webster. He has a lot of friends. Besides being a great hiker, Dick was a great guy. Cheerful. Generous. Intelligent. Gracious. Kind. And very, very friendly. After he passed, his family set up a website where people could place their remembrances. Along with the qualities I just mentioned, there is a phrase that is repeated over and over. Dick Webster was, they said, “one of a kind”. I know I never met anyone like him. (To learn more about this remarkable man you can log on to dickwebster.com.)

It was a good start to any morning, walking into a local coffee shop if Dick was there with that big smile and easy laugh. It was a great way to wind up the day, tipping a jar or two of the local brew and going over the day’s adventure. Dick loved people and could talk about anything, but he really loved to talk about the wild lands. He never dwelt too much on where he’d been last month or last year or years ago, and he’d been to plenty of places. Counting coup wasn’t Dick’s thing. His joy came from being in it and looking forward to being in it again. And, just as importantly, sharing the world he loved with anyone who was willing to take the time and spend the energy to go with him.

There aren’t many dedicated hikers. For most, hiking is an option, one of several recreational choices, an item from a menu of possible diversions. Dick had other activities, of course, but for him hiking was a Way. A Way to be what he wanted to be and was always striving to become. And he was a Master of the Way, I think. Dick learned twice as much about Moab’s canyon country in half the time it took me to learn half as much. He was as natural a part of the wilds as the sun, the wind, and the mountains themselves. I guess that’s why so many of us are so shocked. That’s all still here, but Dick is gone and somehow it doesn’t seem fair.

For me, as for many others, Dick was an inspiration. This aspect of his character came into sharp focus as I read the comments on his memorial website. People who had known him all their lives, people who had known him only a little while, even people who only met him once or twice all said the same thing. Knowing Dick changed their outlook on life in such profound fashion that they could not help but think of him with affection and gratitude. The way he lived helped them to see the doors in their own lives they wanted to open. He showed them, humbly, by daily example, how you could pass through those doors and realize your own fondest dreams and desires.

When he and I swapped notes the point was not to brag about where we’d been, but to help each other figure out where we wanted to go, sharing our best information and wackiest fantasies about how to get from Point A to Point Omega. I plan to keep hiking toward Point Omega. I hope that, in some mysterious way, Dick is tagging along or, better yet, in the lead where he belongs. And, if any of us is ever lucky enough to get to Hiker Heaven, Dick Webster will be there at the Trailhead ready to show us the wildest ways to the greatest places. He’ll know most of them by then. But I won’t be able to keep up with him, even if they give me wings. Not many people ever could. So, until we meet again, have a nice hike, Dick.


Rory Tyler is available for cowboy poetry/campfire song gatherings which include lore, science, history and lies of the Moab area. (Suitable for all age groups). Rates are negotiable. Give Rory a call at 435-260-8496.

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