Ronald Ucovich, one of the Chapter’s most creative and knowledgeable outings leaders, is the 2015 winner of the Michener Award for outstanding outings leadership.
Ron’s guided adventures for the Hiking Section are unique. Perhaps you will examine the marshes, dikes, and abandoned settlements of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps you will sample the surprising variety of a seemingly simple suburb such as Hayward. Perhaps you will board the USS Hornet in Alameda, and explore the aircraft carrier stem to stern.
Ron taught high school Spanish, French, Latin, and signed English for 35 years. Walk with him and you’ll be convinced his subject was local history. Ron loves research, and his Sierra Club hikes are famous for combining appreciation of natural wonders with historical particulars. For each of his hikes, Ron keeps an updated file with records, articles, pictures, legends, and trivia. He is a treasure trove of local lore, informed in part by his other volunteer gigs at the USS Hornet, the Hayward Museum, the Alameda Museum, East Bay Regional Parks, and the USS Potomac. Ever the teacher, Ron has even been known to give homework assignments to the participants.
On Ron’s walks, lunch is a special occasion. Ron often brings food for the group, and it’s always a feast. After eating, however, his flock must abide by the precept “There is no such thing as garbage.” They do not use trashcans in the parks; they carry out the scraps to be composted.
Ron has lived in the area all his life. In the 1950s the Ucovich family dragged a new-fangled trailer to state and national parks for their vacations, helping Ron develop an early love of nature. After high school, Ron studied foreign languages at San Jose State, and stayed to get a graduate degree in Spanish and French. While teaching at Aragon and Hillsdale High Schools in San Mateo, Ron hiked on the weekends, which is how he met his wife. She thought guided hikes sounded like a good idea, and so she talked him into joining the Sierra Club in 1989.
While he was teaching, Ron had anticipated a retirement of traveling with his wife. Now, however, he finds new experiences in the “old” places close to home. Following his wife’s death in 1994, Ron began hitting the trails with Sierra Clubbers. The hike leaders noticed that he often knew the terrain better than they did, and suggested that he might want to become a trip leader himself. We’re lucky he took us up on the offer!
As of November 2014, Ron had led 341 outings with the Bay Chapter. These days, his hikes are exclusively on Thursdays. If you have had the pleasure of joining one of Ron’s outings, you know this award is well deserved; if not, clear your schedule for his next hike! And be prepared for mental as well as physical exercise.