I have had the good fortune to learn from and call friend many of the titans of bushcraft and wilderness guiding. Knowing and learning from them has had a huge impact on my life and career. I won’t name names, but I don’t have to; if you’re reading this you probably already know half of them through their books and reputations. But despite their fame, humility is a virtue shared amongst them; all have been quick to mention their own mentors when asked who the greats are.
But there is also the other half that you probably haven’t heard of. They are working guides who have spent their lives traveling, guiding and living both in the far-flung reaches of the forest and just beyond the lights of town. You wouldn’t recognize them by name because they haven’t written a bestseller and don’t put any value on tv or internet fame, but they have put together careers based on the woods life; years of being out there and doing it day after day. Their impacts on me have not been lessened due to their anonymity in the mind of the general public. If anything, maybe the opposite is true.
There comes a point in a person’s life where the mentors of one’s youth begin heading for the happy hunting ground. I’ve lost several this year, and the trend will only continue. It makes me think about all the lessons (ie. gifts) they have given me over the years, and how they will live on through the stories I, and others like me, will pass on to the next generation.
As the second decade of my career as a guide and educator draws to a close, certain things have become more and more clear. High on that list is realization that the debt we owe to our mentors and teachers can never be repaid in full.