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Mead Hargis is an old friend. Though he is not really that old—58—a year older than me. But I don’t think he knows me anymore. Mead is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. And so many hearts ache because of that.

I don’t remember exactly when I met Mead—I think it was during some Wilderness Ranger school I was asked to address. Mead was the resource/environmental planner on the Kamas Ranger District with a deep and profound care for the High Uintas Wilderness— for all wild places for that matter. Before coming to the Forest Service, Mead spent a couple of decades in the National Park Service in backcountry management in the Sierras. He was a climber of note, a cross country skier, a winter mountaineer.

His smile was immediate, his eyes connected to yours, he listened, always wore baggy pants, maybe because he was rail thin and as fit as a person can be, forgot to comb his hair on most days, and for the decade or so on the Kamas Ranger District did his job like it was supposed to be done! We were hiking above Long Lake one afternoon and I asked him when he would be applying for a district ranger job. I think that was the first time his heart raced over 50 beats a minute and his face squinched up to something unrecognizable. He asked, “Why? I like what I do and I like to get things done.”
Mead played a major role in some of the most important projects on the Uintas. With Melissa Blackwell as District Ranger, Mead set in motion the first steps restricting campfires in the high elevations of the Uintas. It took a long time—Mead built the process, gathered the data, set it in motion in Naturalist Basin and was still of strong enough mind, though forced to retire, to see it happen across much of the Uintas. He did the majority of the planning and initial analysis on the Lakes backcountry reservoir stabilization. With District Ranger Jane Cottrell, he fleshed out a Lakes Backcountry Management Plan. He insisted on road closures not one at a time but in groups.
And like all with Alzheimer’s, Mead knew what was happening, starting a few years back. Once clearly diagnosed he never lost faith, never lost his goodness or dignity. But he was robbed; of that there is no doubt. At our last HUPC Rendezvous Mead and I sat on a rock for a while and he said to me, “I’m sorry I can’t think as clearly. I have a hard time with more than one thought.” What can be said to respond to that? I think with incredible lameness I responded, “It’s okay.” Sheesh.

The year before, he and Connie and Margaret and I shared Thanksgiving at our house in Hyrum. Nice day. As were most of the days with Mead even as he spiraled down. The last two HUPC board meetings were held in the Assisted Living Center in Oakley where Mead was staying. In April he had a hard time walking and for the first time our eyes simply didn’t meet.

I don’t know where Mead has gone. I know where he has been though—he is a good friend, he did the Forest Service proud, he was a good dad, grandpa, husband and partner. And his story, like so many others robbed by Alzheimer’s, deserves a good telling!

Dick Carter

Backpacker by M. Pettis

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