Don Bennett

Don Bennett’s first experience with a PCTA trail crew was in March 1999. “We did not hold out much hope for him,” remembers Tom Marshall, a PCTA and Backcountry Horsemen of California volunteer, “as he was unable to reach the work site because of a circulation problem in his legs. He finished out the project as camp custodian. He appeared at three projects that year (legs improving), four the next, twenty-seven the next, and by 2004 Don was up to thirty-four projects per year, walking in to most of them. By this time we had gotten used to him as a permanent fixture and could only conclude that trail work is great medicine.”

This past July, Don passed away at home in Silverado, Calif., after a valiant fight against lung cancer. Despite his illness, Don had continued to join the Southern California PCT Trail Gorillas on projects long after most would have given up. He was an indispensable member of the crews and over the years Don worked every inch of the PCT between the Mexican border and Kennedy Meadows.

In recognition for his outstanding service, he received awards from PCTA’s Southern California region (Region 1) as well as the PCTA’s highest volunteer honor – the Alice Krueper Award, which he was awarded in 2003. “Don was a Trail Gorilla, sawyer, general expediter and someone who was always willing to pitch in and help. He was counted on a lot,” says PCTA Southern California Regional Coordinator, Pete Fish. “Don has been a great asset to our crews and to me personally.”

Don’s family has expressed their gratitude to his fellow Trail Gorillas and to his friends in government land management agencies for the camaraderie he sincerely enjoyed. While he chose not to have a memorial service, donations in Don’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, PCTA, and Backcountry Horsemen of California.

“Don brought friendship, humor, devotion, leadership, and, for those of us in need of some minor item, a warehouse of stores in that little truck of his,” says PCTA Southern California Section F Chief, Jerry Stone. “I for one do not mourn his loss but cherish his friendship. The PCT gave Don a renewed direction to his life and Don gave back to the PCT his all and more. We’re all better for knowing him, and his imprint on the Trail Gorilla activities will live on. Every time I put a blade on a brush saw I will think of him and his fondness for whacking back brush even when he said otherwise.”

↑ Back to top