MAY 8, 2015 – Don_J 1961 – 2015

May 8, 2015


I am greatly saddened to learn about the passing of my friend Don. Over the years we hiked hundreds of miles together and found at least a thousand geocaches. As part of larger groups we usually ended up at the back of the pack. I think at first this was because he didn’t want me to lag by myself. Later it was because, though we were near opposites on religion, politics and social issues, we still had much in common to discuss. We were less than a month apart in age, both went to high school in the valley and had been fanatical CBers in the late 1970’s. Without knowing each other we spent decades hiking Chatsworth Park and the surrounding mountains.

On our last few hikes together it was Don who lagged and I sensed that something was very wrong. But he never complained. And as a fellow introvert I didn’t pry very hard. When he stopped communicating altogether I thought it was because he was putting 100% of his energy into his new job. I’d hoped that once he was settled that he’d come back to hiking and caching. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.

Don was low keyed but had a keen sense of humor. He rarely laughed out loud, at least in my presence. A notable exception was when I compared him to an ewok.

We consistently agreed on on-trail decisions, sometimes against the opinions of everyone else in a group. Once, we chose not to take an iffy-looking ‘short cut’ up a small hill. The two of us reached our destination first and waited in the shade. Later, the others straggled in with a wild story about a bee attack and painful red stings to prove it.

Don was especially knowledgeable about oddities we encountered on remote hikes.
I was amazed that not only did he know about every abandoned wrecked car I’d found on my solo hikes, but that he could recite the model and year for each one.

Don had exceptional balance. I told him he had gecko-feet because he could stand sure footed on steep uneven edges of precarious drop offs that no one else would approach. I witnessed this often when we worked on the Spinal Tap challenge. We finished the 96 caches (at the time) together with robb_dog.
Organizing group geohikes can be like cat herding. So we sometimes went on 2 person caching expeditions. Once, on an isolated section of Ventura Beach, we walked around a dune into a nude photo shoot. My programming turned me in another direction and I waddled away in the sand as fast as I could. A few minutes later Don sauntered in with a big smile on his face. We went to the desert too. Here Don holds a Kern County Altoids tin.
And we DNF’d here on a day trip to Fiesta Island in San Diego. I found a $20.bill nearby (the 3rd time I found big money while caching with Don) and used it to buy us a late lunch at Santana’s Mxn. Don was incredibly picky about his food. Seeing an unfamiliar ingredient listed he at first refused to eat his burrito. When I was half done, hunger got the best of him and he took a tentative bite. He finished before me.
Another time, after a morning of local urban caching, I dragged a visibly reluctant Don into a Japanese street food restaurant on Saticoy St. Even though there was no sushi and not a fish anywhere in sight Don looked grossed out; this from a guy who ate his first In-N-Out Burger on another of our expeditions! So I suggested a beef teriyaki, BBQ chicken combo. He stared at it for awhile before finally poking it with his fork. He never touched the side dishes but in the end there wasn’t a speck of teriyaki or BBQ left on his plate. This proved that he wasn’t as set in his ways as he might’ve wanted people to believe.

On one of our last trips we cached the RV series near Barstow. On the way back to the SFV Don took me to his confluence cache at coordinates N 35° 00.000 W 118° 00.000. I never would have thought to visit on my own. It’ll always be one of the highlights of my caching career.

I’m beyond upset to think that I’ll never go on another geohike with Don. He’ll be remembered and missed by the caching community. I’m sure that there’ll be multiple tribute caches. I look forward to finding them all.