Former Gov. Dan Evans Talks Trails with WTA
Daniel Jackson Evans (center) with his son, Dan Jr., and grandson, Jackson, in the basin below Lake Ann in the North Cascades. Photo courtesy Dan Evans.
"The thing I like most about Washington public lands is visiting them." —Daniel J. Evans
This week, former Governor and Senator Dan Evans—a lifelong hiker who was instrumental in the creation of Alpine Lakes Wilderness and North Cascades National Park—dropped into Washington Trails Association offices to spend an hour talking trails and telling stories with our staff. Below are a few highlights from our conversation.
A hero and a hiker
Dan Evans served three terms as Washington's Governor, one term in Congress as Washington’s Senator, and was President of Evergreen State College.
In his public service, Evans shepherded the protection of many of our favorite public lands and co-founded the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. He also supported legislation to clean up the state’s air and water, to restore areas damaged by strip mining, and to protect endangered species.
Protect Public Lands
During his administration, Washington became the first state to create a Department of Ecology (in 1970) and the first to adopt a coastal management program (in 1976).
On the evolution of hiking gear
Evans may have just a touch of nostalgia for the gear of his early scouting years (he still has a "near pristine" Trapper Nelson backpack his brother gave him as a gift ten years ago, and he fondly recalls the sounds of tin cans rattling from his scout troop's packs "like a bunch of Swiss cows"), but when it comes to his own hiking gear, Evans is happy to look forward.
"As age catches up with you," he says," they keep making things lighter."
"I'm still out hiking on my artificial knees," Evans told us. His most recent trip was a fall hike to Lake Ann with his son and grandson.
On his bookshelf
Besides a copy of Alpine Lakes Wilderness (the book Evans took, as a Senator, to the Oval Office to help convince then-President Ford to sign the bill designating the Alpine Lakes area as Wilderness) Evans recommends Douglas Brinkley's biography of Teddy Roosevelt, The Wilderness Warrior.
"It's a really fascinating book," he says, one that looks at the original roots of Roosevelt's wilderness legacy (birding) and the complicated politics of preservation.
On access and advocacy
As you talk with him, it is clear Evans knows the backcountry of this state like the back of his hand. His incredible legacy in Washington state springs from a deep love of the landscapes he has traveled every inch of on foot, a passion some of his staff have also shared over the years.
"We would talk frequently about hikes and places to go when I was in office," he remembers.
As Governor, he would take staffers hiking for several days every summer. A group of climbers forged from staffers and a few political reporters climbed Washington's six summits (including the original Mount St. Helens).
Evans talked with us about how responsible access, and how allowing hikers to experience the beauty and wonder of Washington's wild places first-hand, is key to stoking the kind of passion that will ultimately protect those places.
You "need access to keep passionate advocates," Evans says.
Since his first hike up Silver Peak with the Scouts ("It was miserable," he jokes) Evans has never stopped hiking or advocating for the wild places of Washington state. For that reason alone, it was a rare privilege to have him visit and to cheer on our own work here at WTA.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the visit," Evans tells us, "and love the work you do."