It was with great sorrow that I learned recently of the passing of Erin Anders. This is the first death of which I am aware of anybody from Yosemite 2.
We met Erin on the very first day of our Backcountry season. He drove one of the NPS vehicles to pick us up from orientation in Stockton. He was the ramrod who saw that we got our first camp set up at Comfort House in Wawona. Erin was the maintenance worker on our crew in the front country. Most of the first lessons we had about the mountains and trail work came from Erin. He gave many of the morning safety meetings and taught us about first aid and living in the mountains. He taught us to identify hypothermia and how to treat it. He taught us the importance of staying hydrated. For many of us, this was only the beginning of lifelong skills we would develop, and we would build on the foundation that Erin laid. How fitting.
He also taught us about trails. We had already demonstrated a strong work ethic in order to earn a place on a Backcountry trail crew, but Erin taught us how to take our work ethic to an even higher level of commitment. He taught us all about ‘assholes and elbows’. Erin taught us how to read the lay of a trail and figure out how water flowed down and around the trail even when no water had been down the trail for months, and how to figure out the best way to get the water off the trail, which is the essence of all trail work.
Erin taught us to do all of this while at the same time having fun and enjoying life. At the beginning of the season, the thing Erin was the most excited about was the winter he had just had with the Yosemite Nordic Ski Patrol. He had been able to get in eighty days of telemark skiing that season. That was eighty days in the Backcountry in the dead of winter. That was the sort of thing Erin lived for…immersing himself in everything the outdoors had to offer.
Erin became our NPS foreman when we hit the Backcountry. He was eager to try new approaches to Backcountry camps that had not been tried before. He and Marty decided to try composting garbage. (Didn’t work. The compost pile drew in bears. But they tried!) He and Patti, our cook, decided to vary the menu from typical meat and potatoes to include other proteins and starches. (This one worked!)
Our memories of Erin would not be complete without thinking about him sitting by the campfire at night with his guitar. Many times he would strum quietly and talk to us about the mountains. Other times he would passionately pound out an amazing program of acoustic guitar songs. I don’t know how his tastes went in other seasons, but in 1987 he was particularly fond of John Prine. Erin also loved to make up his own lyrics, always funny, often a little bawdy, but always with passion.
Every Corpsmember who passed through his Backcountry trail crews was changed forever for the better by having known Erin and having him as a role model.
Thank you for everything, Erin.