Posted by: James Wapotich | April 27, 2013

Trail Quest: Remembering David Weaver

If you’ve spent any time in the backcountry along the trails or campgrounds in the Santa Lucia Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest over the past ten years, you may have met Wilderness Ranger David Weaver. A long time outdoor enthusiast Mr. Weaver recently passed away, but his contributions to the forest and impact he had on others continues.

A Santa Barbara native, born in 1938, one of Mr. Weaver’s earliest connections with the local backcountry was through the Boy Scouts. He was involved in Troop 16 and later Troop 10 both in Santa Barbara, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. During his college years he continued his connection with outdoors backpacking over school breaks.

After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Mr. Weaver joined the army for two years, serving as a First Lieutenant, and becoming the Provost Marshall at the R and D Command in Natick, Massachusetts.

Returning to California he earned his Masters in Psychology at Cal Poly in 1967. And in 1970, was hired by the Santa Barbara School District where he started as teacher at San Marcos High School. During that time he attended night school and earned his counseling credential and became a counselor at Dos Pueblos High School where he worked until his retirement in 2001.

While a student at UCSB he met his wife Barbara; the two were married in 1962. In 1976, they moved from Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez Valley where they raised their three daughters, living first in Santa Ynez and then later in Los Olivos.

During his time with the Santa Barbara School District the backcountry was still very much a part of his life. In 1970, he and his friends formed what they called the Old Foresters Outdoor Club and began making regular backpacking trips into the Los Padres National Forest over President’s Day weekend. A Memorial Day weekend trip was then added and later a summer trip to the Sierras.

Some of the original members included Bob Burtness, Bob Jennings, Bill Hansen, and Gordon Playman. In the 1980s as the group started regularly visiting sites such as Dabney Cabin in the San Rafael Wilderness and Madulce Guard Station in the Dick Smith Wilderness the trips began to evolve into service projects. The group became involved in the upkeep and maintenance of the structures at those locations and also started taking on trail work projects. One such service project for the Forest Service included re-roofing Dabney Cabin and refortifying its foundation.

In 1996, facing ongoing budget cuts and personnel reductions, the local Forest Service launched the Volunteer Wilderness Ranger (VWR) program to train volunteers to help extend the Forest Service’s presence in the forest. Mr. Weaver and several members of the Old Foresters Outdoor Club were amongst the first trained. Mr. Weaver became actively involved in the program, helping to coordinate the meetings and often teaching parts of the training.

Over the years he got to know many of the people working for the Forest Service.

“I could tell from the beginning that he could identify with the rangers and their work, and was always interested in what they did.” Bob Burtness, lifelong friend, local author, and Volunteer Wilderness Ranger told the News-Press.

After his retirement as a counselor at Dos Pueblos High School in 2001, Mr. Weaver continued his involvement in Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Program. In 2003, an opportunity opened up with the Forest Service for a seasonal or part time position, which he applied for, and was hired by Joe Duran, and became a Wilderness Ranger Technician for the Santa Lucia Ranger District.

“Dave would often say, you know after 30 years of working for the school district, you wouldn’t believe where I landed, my lifelong dream of being a Forest Service ranger.” Joe Duran, Wilderness Trails Manager, Santa Lucia Ranger District. “When that happens you know the opportunity’s unlimited. Because you’ve empowered that person to go out and make a difference and let people see that we care about the land.”

As a Wilderness Ranger, Mr. Weaver worked out of the Santa Maria office and regularly did patrol, visiting the campgrounds and many of the trails and backcountry camps in the Santa Lucia Ranger District. He regularly interacted with the public, ensuring they had a fire permit, and gathering information about trail and camp conditions and the number of visitors to the forest. He also assisted Mr. Duran with various trail work projects in the district, supported the fire crews during forest fires, and helped out the other districts as needed. He also continued to be involved with the VWR program.

In the early 1980s, while still a counselor at Dos Pueblos High School, Mr. Weaver was involved in the State Military Reserve as a member of the 503rd Infantry Battalion eventually becoming the commander of the unit with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Mr. Weaver was often affectionately referred to as Colonel Weaver out on the trails.

In 2011, the Forest Service ran out of funding for Mr. Weaver’s position, and Mr. Weaver continued as a volunteer and relaunched the Wilderness Patrol Ranger program, training volunteers how to do wilderness patrol and passing on his experience.

“I went out with Dave a couple of times at the opening of deer season along the Sierra Madres, when there are lots of people out there, and we went from Bates Canyon to the gate at Santa Barbara Canyon.” Paul Cronshaw, Volunteer Patrol Ranger and VWR light-hiker coordinator. “And it was interesting because he had been doing it for so many years that people looked for him to come and give them their fire permits. He’d wander into camp and sit down, the people would know him, and they just treated him like a real emissary, and it was just good to see his demeanor with people. He was a real people person, and his Spanish was good too.”

“He’d make it a point to interact with people, find out about their trip. If they didn’t know the places where there was water, he’d point that out and other features or sites to visit.” shared Mr. Burtness. “He was the type of ranger you’d want to see in the forest, who would come along and essentially interpret the forest. He really enjoyed meeting people who were basically back there for the same reason he was, to appreciate the outdoors. And I think that’s where his background as both a teacher and counselor would come in, and so it all tied together very nicely.”

At his request Mr. Weaver’s ashes are being spread at the places he loved the most, Dabney Cabin, Bluff Camp, the Madulce site and Maui where he and his wife regularly took their vacations. Mr. Weaver is survived by his wife Barbara, their three daughters and six grandchildren.

Thank you David Weaver for your contributions to forest and for inspiring so many others to care for the land.

This article originally appeared in section A of the April 27th, 2013 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


  1. Wonderful memories, and such an example of the impact one person can make. Rest in peace, Ranger Dave!

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