April 19, 2015

Tirelesss wilderness advocate: the Bay Chapter’s Vicky Hoover

Vicky Hoover at Kugururok Camp, Alaska.

Vicky Hoover at Kugururok Camp, Alaska.

Q: What do Ansel Adams, Edgar Wayburn, William O. Douglas, Jacques Cousteau, David Brower, Wallace Stegner, Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Vicky Hoover all have in common?  A: They all received the John Muir Award, the Sierra Club’s highest, honoring “a distinguished record of leadership in national conservation causes, such as continuing John Muir’s work of preservation and establishment of parks and wildernesses.” It was in 2004 that the Bay Chapter’s own Vicky Hoover received that honor, prompting Chapter Wilderness Committee colleague Alan Carlton to write in the Yodeler: “If anyone epitomizes the spirit of John Muir, it is Vicky Hoover. She is a legendary backpack leader, a tireless and extremely effective wilderness advocate, and a dedicated Sierra Club staff member.”

Fast-forward to 2014: it’s Vicky’s 28th year as a wilderness leader, and she is more effective and widely respected than ever. No longer on staff at Sierra Club (she retired in 2010 after 24 years of service), Vicky donates her prodigious energy full-time to protecting wild places. For the past four years her focus has been on using the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act as a catalyst to publicize and promote wilderness to a broader and more diverse American public. As co-chair of Wilderness50—a coalition of federal agencies and non-profit organizations—Vicky has organized events large and small across the country (You can find a list of events at www.wilderness50th.org, including the major National Wilderness Conference to be held this October in Albuquerque, New Mexico). Vicky has worked to ensure that every local Sierra Club chapter is involved in the anniversary celebrations. She has also helped raise awareness of the anniversary by working with the media and by pushing for official proclamations in many states, counties and cities across the country.

Vicky was born in Manhattan, in the heart of New York City, but spent most of her formative years in Washington, DC. Her family spent summer vacations in rustic cabins in state forests and parks in western Maryland or West Virginia, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors. Vicky moved west to attend college, earning her BA from Oberlin College and going on to earn an MA in economics from University of Michigan.

Vicky was a young wife and mother of two small children, Nathan and Frances, when she first got involved with the Sierra Club outing’s program in 1967. The family had moved to California in 1962 and quickly discovered the magnificence of high Sierra hiking. Soon, she and her husband Bill were climbing peaks and leading Sierra Club outings, starting with family-oriented burro trips.  Through years of training and practice, Vicky became an accomplished outdoorswoman and mountaineer, by 1981 climbing all 247 peaks on the Sierra Peaks Section list (for an account of those years in Vicky’s own words, see http://tinyurl.com/vickysclimbs, pp. 8-11). Over the years Vicky has led countless Club outings, mostly in the Sierra Nevada but also in places as far-flung as Alaska, Utah, and New Zealand.

Vicky’s training as a wilderness advocate began in 1985 when she moved to San Francisco and took a part-time job at the Sierra Club National office as staff assistant to Dr. Ed Wayburn. Under the mentorship of Dr. Wayburn, who had previously served five terms as Sierra Club President, Vicky “learned the ropes” of wilderness politics, grassroots organizing, and effective lobbying. As Vicky says, “Wilderness is a political thing.” In those early years Vicky was staff for the Alaska Task Force, mobilizing people in the lower 48 states to support wilderness protection in Alaska, particularly the Arctic.

Vicky had already been volunteering at the Bay Chapter’s Berkeley office for several years when, in 1985, she joined the Chapter’s Wilderness Committee. She would go on to chair the committee from 1987 to 1997. Influenced by her years of wilderness enjoyment, Vicky would become especially involved with forest planning and the new campaign for the California desert. With Vicky at its helm, the Committee was a leader in the successful eight-year campaign for the California Desert Protection Act. Vicky remembers a marathon lobbying trip to Washington, DC in which she and Elden Hughes “tramped the halls of Congress” for a solid week. Shortly after passage of that landmark legislation, she organized phone banks to help defeat the anti-wilderness Utah Public Lands Management Act. Vicky and the Wilderness Committee went on to participate in many other successful wilderness campaigns in California, Nevada, Utah, and Alaska.

In the late 1980s, to familiarize herself with areas being considered for protection, Vicky began leading trips to the Southwest desert, which she continues to do to this day. Her trips engage activists in repairing damage to wild places, doing mapping and inventory work, and building support for new wilderness designations. Among desert activists, Vicky is said to have a magic touch: if she visits an area being considered for wilderness designation, lo and behold, it becomes wilderness soon thereafter! Veteran wilderness activist Marge Sill of the Toiyabe Chapter writes, “To be a participant in one of Vicky’s trips is an experience to be cherished. Vicky Hoover is the outstanding representative of what is best in the Sierra Club.” Don Forman, longtime Yodeler editor recalls:

I recall going on several car camping trips Vicky led in the desert—Death Valley, Joshua Tree, East Mojave—and later realized that she was ‘learning the desert’ and helping build awareness of desert issues within our Chapter. At that point she already knew the Sierra Nevada like the back of her hand. Over the course of her career, Vicky has kept expanding her range, capacities and effectiveness as a wilderness advocate, not only at the Chapter and state levels, but nationally.

On top of all this, Vicky has chaired the Sierra Club’s California/Nevada Wilderness Committee since it was formed in 1997; written numerous articles for the Yodeler, the Desert Report, the Alaska Report, and other publications; and edits Words of the Wild, a quarterly Club newsletter focusing on wilderness. In the early 1990s, Vicky received two national Sierra Club awards: one for her outstanding work in the Sierra Club’s national and chapter outings programs, and the other a Special Service Award “for strong and consistent commitment to conservation or the Club over an extended period of time.”

As a leader, Vicky patiently educates and encourages others to care for wild places and work for their protection. She works methodically over months and years, building relationships with sympathetic federal agencies and legislative staff. Her goal is to connect and mobilize individuals and organizations that share her sense of urgency.  “Once harmed, once altered, the wild qualities of an area are lost and you can’t ever get it back,” says Vicky. “I’m alarmed every day as I see new developments being built and open space being torn up. I believe that every bit of roadless land that we have now should stay that way to compensate for all of the development.”

One secret of Vicky’s success is that she blends work with what to her is play: being in the wilderness. Her drive and tenacity come from her deep love of the earth’s wild places. As she puts it, “Mingling outings into conservation work has been at the essence of almost everything I do.” She is famous among desert activists for serving delicious, expertly-prepared wilderness breakfasts and dinners from the tailgate of her car. With her warm smile and gentle encouragement, Vicky clearly enjoys introducing new people, especially young people, to wild places.

Vicky often takes off into the wilderness (without a cell phone or computer). She has traveled widely on several continents, visiting Alaska over 30 times. She has traveled widely on several continents. At home she dotes on her three grandchildren, loves going to the opera, and enjoys hosting friends and family at her San Francisco “B&B.” And although she has driven thousands of miles in her “campaign car,” a Toyota 4Runner, she cycles to work daily and is a dedicated walker and public transit-user when in cities.

Of her ability to work on wilderness advocacy in a concentrated way over long periods of time, never appearing to get discouraged, Vicky says simply, “I don’t think of it as dedicating myself to a cause; the cause is not separate from me—it’s part of my life. It’s what I am.”

—Anne Henny

Vera Lis receives Michener Award

Vera Lis.

Vera Lis.

Vera Lis, long-time outings leader for Solo Sierrans, is this year’s winner of the Bay Chapter’s Michener Award for outstanding outings leadership.

Vera, now in her 80s, still leads two events each month. Her repertoire is based on four walks: Emeryille Marina, Point Isabel, Tilden Park, and Point Pinole.  Her walks are mostly on flat or gently rolling terrain, and are usually about two to three miles.  Except for Tilden, all the walks are on paved trails, and Tilden is partially paved.  Vera’s walks are ideal for older folks, but often younger people attend and benefit from the company as well.  A lot of people who took part in 2B’s and 3C’s are now enjoying Vera’s easier 1A’s. The walks start in the afternoon, and are always followed by an optional dinner.

Vera, always friendly, begins walks with a round of introductions, just your name and where you come from, and the walkers do come from all over the Bay Area. On a recent walk, a younger participant, an engineer from Japan, already familiar with Vera’s walks, had just gotten off the plane from Tokyo!

To join in on Vera’s easy adventures, see the Bay Chapter Calendar, in every Yodeler starting on page A or at http://sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/activities.

Tree-planting volunteers needed now

Sierra Club volunteers planting trees in Oakland.

Sierra Club volunteers planting trees in Oakland.

The Northern Alameda County Group’s Tree Team has planted its 1,000th tree, and it has a bunch more trees to be planted by the end of June. Planting sessions are Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm. The Group provides tools and supplies; you provide the energy.

Sign up to help now by contacting Arthur Boone at arboone3@gmail.com or (510)910-6451.

Who will serve on an Executive Committee?

400x400_sc-logoOur membership is the fuel for our Club, and our volunteer activists are the engines.

When it comes to programs and policies for our volunteers, we rely upon the members of our Executive Committees to do the steering. It’s the ExComm that keeps our Chapter and each regional group on track and moving in the right direction.

That’s why it’s so vitally important to find new ExComm members to help serve with this talented and committed group of volunteers. We always need new minds to contribute new perspectives as we map our Chapter’s future.

This means that our upcoming election is a critical challenge for Bay Chapter—and is your opportunity to become more involved with the Sierra Club in a meaningful way. Want to help us? Want to get in the driver’s seat and try your hand at the wheel? Or know someone else who does?

The ballot will be sent out in the fall, with the December-January Yodeler, but it’s time now to recruit candidates.


There are two ways you can help—either by running for a Chapter or group ExComm, or by serving on the Chapter’s Nominations and Elections Committee. To serve either way, to nominate someone else, or for more information on Chapter and group elections, contact Chapter nominations and elections chair Elizabeth Lam at (206)225-8232 or lamyuting@gmail.com.

Southern Alameda County Group seeks ExComm member

Map by Bob Newey.

Map by Bob Newey.

The Sierra Club’s Southern Alameda County Group seeks a volunteer to fill a vacancy on our five-member Executive Committee. The Group includes members in Hayward, Union City, and Fremont, as well as unincorporated Ashland, Cherryland, Castro Valley, Fairview, and San Lorenzo.

The Group ExComm usually meets in even months on the fourth Wednesday at 7 pm in Hayward. The ExComm weighs and takes positions on environmental issues facing our communities, including development proposals, water resources, agriculture, preservation of open space, land use, trails, air quality, creeks, conservation, and political endorsements.

For further information or to volunteer to fill the ExComm vacancy, contact ExComm member Toni Wise at toniwise@mac.com or (510)999-1486.

Wilderness Act 50th-anniversary celebrations in full swing

CA Wilderness_Killion poster 300x400

Get your very own copy of this Tom Killion poster. For details see end of this article.

Update (May 14, 2014): get your own copy of Tom Killion’s wilderness poster; Click here:

or see details at end of article.

Wilderness50, a coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations and federal agencies, is putting on dozens of wilderness-themed events across the U.S.A. this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System. For a full listing see www.wilderness50th.org.


The Bay Chapter is front and center promoting wilderness. We’ll be sponsoring hikes, backpacks, and stewardship days in nearby wilderness areas, including the beautiful Phillip Burton Wilderness in Point Reyes National Seashore. For announcements of these events, watch the Yodeler and the Chapter Calendar on page A of every Yodeler or at http://sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/activities.

In this issue’s Calendar, note:

Sun., June 1–Point Reyes (strenuous 3C)

Sat., June 21–Point Reyes summer solstice (strenuous 4C)

Sat., July 12–Central Point Reyes loop (strenuous 3C)

Wed., July 23–Lioness of the Lake (strenuous 3C).

Most of our backpacks are to wilderness areas all over California. See the Calendar in this and following issues for lots of options.

“Visions of the Wild Festival”

September 3 – 6, downtown Vallejo.

Vallejo, known for its cultural and natural diversity and vibrant arts community, is holding the largest single Bay Area event celebrating the Wilderness Act. “Visions of the Wild” will include field trips, art showings, a film series, panel discussions, and more; see www.visionsofthewild.org.

Earth Day events

The Bay Chapter has participated in Earth Day events this year in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Emeryville, Alameda, El Cerrito, Martinez, Antioch, and Mount Diablo. Chapter volunteers staffed Sierra Club tables and spoke with folks of all ages about wilderness, water conservation, clean energy, ending fracking in California, and other critical issues.

“Wilderness at the Library”

Tuesday, June 3 – Monday, July 7–Berkeley Public Library, Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street (at Shattuck, near Berkeley BART), Berkeley.

We’ve created an exhibit at the Berkeley Public Library, highlighting the Wilderness Act, wilderness in American literature, and how anyone can get out into nearby natural areas without using a car.


We’ve been working with government officials to issue proclamations commemorating the 50th anniversary. The Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution on March 11, and San Francisco adopted one on April 29. California Assemblymember Anthony Rendon has authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution 90 to formally recognize the anniversary. The resolution has passed the Rules Committee and will soon have a hearing and go to the floor.


Sierra Club executive director Mike Brune and associate executive director Bruce Hamilton are strongly promoting the 50th anniversary in their public appearances. Mike’s keynote address at the Bay Nature annual awards dinner on March 23 focused on the evolving concept of wilderness and the relevance of wilderness to metropolitan areas like the Bay Area. Bruce’s keynote address at the Earth Day/John Muir’s Birthday event at the John Muir National Historic Site on April 26 focused on Muir as a founder of the Sierra Club and as a vigorous proponent of the principles for preserving wild lands that ultimately led to passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.


Come to any of our coming events. Even better, volunteer to help put them on. To volunteer, contact Anne Henny at anneth16@sbcglobal.net or Vicky Hoover at (415)977-5527.

Get your own copy of Tom Killion’s spectacular poster commemorating the wilderness 50th anniversary; see the reproduction above. Posters are available for $10 (tax included) at the Chapter Office, 2530 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. You can pay cash or check there, or pay on-line through the link at:

Shipping is available for an additional $7. Proceeds will go towards the conservation efforts of the Bay Chapter.

Join in Earth Day Events 2014

june 31 2011 020 lo-res copyThe Sierra Club will be taking part in Earth Day Events all over the Bay Area this April.  Come to these events; even better, volunteer to help staff the Sierra Club tables.  It is an opportunity to introduce others to the Club and inform them about our environmental concerns. This year we will especially focus on water conservation and stopping fracking.

Delta Group

Sat., April 5—Earth Day work party, Fredrickson Lane, Contra Loma Park, Antioch. For details, see Chapter Calendar.

Sat., April 26—John Muir Earth Day/birthday celebration at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez. If you can help, please contact Janess Hanson at (925)458-0860. For more details see page F.

West Contra Costa County Group

Sat., April 26—El Cerrito Earth Day. To participate in a Sierra Club West Contra Costa Group Earth Day clean-up team, 9 am – noon, followed by volunteer-appreciation lunch, contact Gabe Quinto at (415)265-4610 or gtq2002@yahoo.com.

Northern Alameda County Group

Wed., April 9—Oakland Earth Day at Frank Ogawa Plaza—set-up at 9:30 am, tabling from 10 – 2, clean-up 2 – 2:30 pm.

Sat., April 12—Berkeley Bay Festival at Berkeley Marina—set-up at 10 am, tabling 11 – 4, and clean-up 4 – 4:30.

Sat., April 19, Emeryville Fair at Doyle Hollis Park—set up at 10 am, tabling 11 – 3, and clean-up 3 – 3:30 pm

Sat., April 19, City of Alameda Earth Day Fair at Washington Park—set-up at 9:30 am, tabling 10 – 3, and clean-up 3 – 3:30.

San Francisco

Wed., April 16—BART Blue Sky at Justin Herman Plaza—set-up 10 – 11 am, tabling 11 – 2, clean-up 2 – 3 pm.

Sat., April 19—SF Earth Day Festival at San Francisco Civic Center—set-up at 8 am, tabling 9 – 6, clean up 6 – 7 pm. Also see page 5 for article on the Earth Day march in San Francisco.

To volunteer at any of these Northern Alameda or San Francisco events, contact Chapter volunteer coordinator Ben Alvers at volunteer@sfbaysc.org or (510)848-0800.

New Ward Hut for backcountry skiers and snowshoers

Bradley Hut was one of several inspirations for the new hut. Photo by Dick Simpson.

Bradley Hut was one of several inspirations for the new hut. Photo by Dick Simpson.

The Sierra Club is beginning a design study for a new backcountry ski and snowshoe hut, to be built as a memorial to the late Paul Ward, whose family and friends are funding the project. This will be the fifth Sierra Club hut in the Donner Summit/Lake Tahoe area, the first new one since 1957.

Finding a suitable location will be an early goal. The study will also consider environmental issues, hut design and engineering, and cost. Timing of construction will depend on results of the study. People with suggestions for location or design should contact the Club’s hut volunteer coordinator, Dick Simpson, at hut.coord@yahoo.com.

Paul Ward grew up in San Francisco and Burlingame, settled in San Jose, and had a successful career in Silicon Valley technology, working for Eimac, Memorex, and Verbatim. He discovered skiing on his own; his parents did not ski. At age 17 he was at Squaw Valley, watching the

Paul Ward. Photo by Kerri Antes.

Paul Ward. Photo by Kerri Antes.

1960 Winter Olympics; a few years later he was working as a weekend ski patroller at Dodge Ridge. He was quick to put his own children on skis; daughter Kerri and son Bryan started when they were two. More recently he was taking his grandchildren to Peter Grubb and Bradley Huts, which inspired the memorial. He and his wife, Lynn, maintained a second home in the Tahoe Donner section of Truckee. He passed away in February 2013 after a short battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He is survived by his wife; his daughter Kerri Antes of San Jose; her husband Todd; their sons Drew, Will, and Bennett; his son Bryan; and sisters Laurie Krassilnikoff (San Mateo) and Diane Gartner (Pleasant Hill).

Dick Simpson

Peter Grubb Hut reopens

Peter Grubb Hut, on the west edge of Round Valley north of Donner Summit, has withstood heavy snow loads since its construction in 1938 - 39. Photo by Dick Simpson.

Peter Grubb Hut, on the west edge of Round Valley north of Donner Summit, has withstood heavy snow loads since its construction in 1938 – 39. Photo by Dick Simpson.

The Sierra Club re-opened the Peter Grubb Hut in mid-December, after completing the first round of a multi-year upgrade. The iconic building, three miles north of I-80 at Donner Summit, had been closed since March 2013, when concerns were raised about its structural integrity after providing rustic shelter to backcountry skiers and snowshoers for 75 years.

The Club retained Doug Gadow of Linchpin Structural Engineering, Inc., in Truckee to complete an assessment of the hut’s condition and then make recommendations for repair. The 2013 work included adding 1/4-inch steel plates to floor joists and 3/16-inch plates to roof rafters to improve strength under heavy loads.

Over a ton of steel plates were hand-carried to the hut during the first weekend in November. In the next three weekends, work parties of volunteers installed the plates and returned the hut to usable condition. The work was supervised by Dave Rust, a retired builder, and Dick Simpson, who oversaw logistics and recruiting. Over 50 people from Reno to Santa Cruz and even Eugene OR participated.

A fierce windstorm 24 hours before the final work party blocked sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. Fortunately, only small hand tools and warm clothes had to be carried to complete the November repairs. Photo by Dick Simpson.

A fierce windstorm 24 hours before the final work party blocked sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. Fortunately, only small hand tools and warm clothes had to be carried to complete the November repairs. Photo by Dick Simpson.

The repair work was complicated by early snow, which delayed delivery of the steel from the Bay Area and then closed the main access road through Castle Valley in late November. Wind from the second storm toppled four trees across the three-mile access route before the final work party.

Repairs will continue in 2014 with an emphasis on seismic issues such as anchoring the roof and sleeping loft to the walls. New flooring for the loft and a new roof are also likely. A priority is to retain the historic feel of the building.

The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation recently awarded a $5,000 matching grant to support the repairs. The Sierra Club Foundation has until November to raise matching gifts (tax-deductible) from individual donors.

Peter Grubb is one of four backcountry huts owned and operated by the Sierra Club under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. Although Sierra Club members and work-party volunteers receive priority in the initial allocation of winter reservations, the huts are available to the public. Reservations can be made by calling (800)867-6775. More information is available at www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/huts.

Details about the Peter Grubb repair and fundraising campaign can be found at www.savepetergrubbhut.org.

Dick Simpson

Nominations sought for Michener Award

Janess Hanson, winner of last year's Michener Award. See theYodeler.org/?p=7499 for full article.

Janess Hanson, winner of last year’s Michener Award. See theYodeler.org/?p=7499 for full article.

Now is the time to nominate outings leaders for this year’s Dave and Pat Michener Outings Leadership Award. The Bay Chapter established the award in 2001 to commemorate the many years of volunteer service performed by the Micheners as editors of the Chapter Schedule (the predecessor of the calendar in today’s Yodeler and Chapter web site) and to recognize superior leadership by Chapter outing leaders.

If you know of an outstanding leader, send in a nomination. Leadership criteria include concern for individual participants, activities skill and knowledge combined with a penchant for sharing them, the ability to forge links between the Club’s activities and its conservation values, and the number/variety of their outings. To qualify, nominees must be leaders who list outings in the Chapter Events and Activities calendar. Each nomination may include up to two letters of support.

Send nominations and supporting letters by Tue., April 22, to Steve Bakaley, chair of the Chapter Activities Committee, at slbakaley@lbl.gov (preferred) or:

12 Calvin Court
Walnut Creek, CA 94595.

The winner will be selected at the Mon., May 5, Activities Committee meeting and announced in the June-July Yodeler.