His Love of the Land

A Story of Inspiration

I have always been drawn to open and expansive spaces. Growing up in the high desert of California, I relished the road trips to my grandparents in Morro Bay, and exploring the caves of nearby Los Osos.

As a family, we backpacked and fished the high Sierras, took Saturday hikes near Tehachapi, and rafted the Colorado River. The amazing geology and promise of these and other destinations filled me with anticipation and wonder.

I know I was lucky, and it wasn’t by accident.

It was because of my Dad—he was intentional in guiding this aspect of my childhood, instilling my love of the outdoors, and encouraging my passion to protect it.

He had a post-it note on his fridge, quoting John Muir, one of the country’s earliest wilderness advocates and conservationists: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.” I can truly say this was his life motto.

A Love of Place

It reminds me of those road trips where he’d inevitably say to us kids, “Stop that bickering, and just look at that view, will you!”—always with the promise of an adventure to come. He was passionate in support of his ideals, especially on the importance of wilderness protection.

He was proud that I volunteer for the Bitter Root Land Trust. An ardent supporter for the conservation of special places, he enjoyed hearing about the land trust’s efforts to protect the Bitterroot Valley’s waterways, wildlife, recreational, and
agricultural treasures.

A Sense of Peace

Then, after a lifetime of hiking, fishing, and road trips we shared, he passed away in June of 2018. I found that post-it note of his, shortly after he passed. As I held it in my hand, it gave me a sense of peace that he lived by that quote every day. And I see how it affected me.

That’s why I volunteer, to honor my dad and our shared love of the land. It was his love of the land that changed me.

–Kathie Messer