A Tribute to the Bob Marshall

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Written by Cave Dog

Bob Marshall, a cult hero of the environmental movement, had a quirky personality and an indefatigable nature, he was a spark in American history.  His immense energy focused on the foundations of an idea, wilderness preservation.  As he gained more leadership at the U.S. Forest Service, he was able to influence government policies in ways that could never be achieved outside the system.  Yet, he worked outside the system, as well.  He was the cofounder of the Wilderness Society and essentially its covert leader and financial backer through the tough early years.  He often played the National Forest Service and the National Park Service against each other in successful efforts to preserve more wild lands.  Bob wrote many articles and several books about the environment and about his adventures.  However, it was not all serious.  He had a healthy appreciation for humorous writings, often using his detail oriented personality to count and record the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the people around him.  His exploration with Ernie Johnson of the Brooks Range in Alaska resulted in the naming of over six hundred locations on our maps today, including The Gates of the Arctic, a national park in Alaska.  It is less known, but he, along with his siblings, also worked tirelessly for the social justice and betterment of the underrepresented.  We, as a nation, have a great debt of gratitude to Bob Marshall and his family.

Bob Marshall grew up spending his summers in the Adirondack High Peaks of New York.  It became an idyllic youthful environment, stomping around in the dense woods, learning the lessons of life.  His father, Louis, instilled Bob and his siblings with his own solid beliefs in the environment, and these ideals were reinforced by those wonderful summer days in the Adirondacks.  This would be the foundation of a life long service that Bob and his family would give to the causes of the environment and social justice.

It was in 1918 when Bob and his brother, George, as teenagers, set out, with their guide Herb Clark, to do something original:  to hike all of the high peaks of the Adirondacks.  It was an incredible feat to climb all of the 42 peaks they considered over 4,000 feet, using current USGS data, in one summer.  Many of the peaks had never been climbed before and some had not yet been named.  Indeed, some of their names for these peaks are in use today.  They did not have the use of the extensive trail system we have today.  There were no guidebooks.  They did not have our modern maps.  It caused a sensation in the local media.  However, there was some disagreement to the number of peaks over 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks; so, in 1925, they did 4 more to complete the list we still use today.  Updated surveying techniques proved some of the peaks did not reach the required height limit, but the list was left unchanged in part to honor George, Bob, and Herb's original efforts.

The Adirondack 46 High Peaks are the crown jewels of the Adirondacks.  Today to have climbed all 46 is an achievement much admired by the local mountaineering community.  It is in part through this first achievement that Bob Marshall gained a deep appreciation for the joys of speed climbing.  He loved the natural feel of vigorous exercise in the great outdoors.  He had no mentors because he was out there doing 30, 40, even 70 mile day hikes before anyone else.  He demanded that part of his job with the U.S. Forest Service include inspecting National Forest land all over the country, giving him the opportunity to do his long speed hikes of their lands.  He loved it.  It was an inherent part of what made Bob Marshall a champion of every endeavor he pursued.  One of his life long goals was to do a thirty plus mile day hike in all forty eight states that existed at the time.  He got close too, in the low forties, before he passed away at the untimely age of 38, in 1939.  His project has remained unfinished since 1939.  The Dog Team and Duofold have partnered up to do a tribute to one of America's most colorful characters.  What better way to honor Bob than by doing what he loved most, his beloved long day hikes.

We say thanks to Bob and his family for all that they have done to make America a better place.  You are an American original, Bob Marshall.

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