16 Salutes: Bob Webber

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TIADAGHTON STATE FOREST -- There is a place in Lycoming County where you can't be reached by cell phone. There are no roads and it's just the way nature intended. It's where retired state forester Bob Webber calls home: the woods and mountains of the Pine Creek Valley.

And as he nears his 79th birthday, we tagged along for a hike with the man who devotes his life to making it so others can enjoy the same outdoors.

You can't just pick up a phone and call Bob Webber so we sat down and wrote him a letter, drove to Slate Run north of Jersey Shore and left it at the general store for him.

You see, Bob Webber lives off the grid; no electricity, no phone, just him and nature.

Within a couple weeks, we arranged to meet here at the trailhead along the Pine Creek. Webber was prepared, having worked as a state forester in this area much of his life.

“So this is where we begin.”

The incline was steep, taking Webber and state forester Ben Sands through the wilderness on a late fall day. Webber's boots looked worn but each step was surefooted and when we came upon something blocking our path, he set out to remove it.

“How much do you love the outdoors?”
“I'd say very much,” Webber replied.

Each year, Webber sets out to clear miles and miles of hiking trails in the Tiadaghton State Forest, including 42 miles on one trail alone.

He swings an axe like someone at least half his age. He'll turn 79 next month and still makes quick work of fallen trees on these paths. And he does it with a youthful fervor.

“You can have the interest in things, but if you don't have the mental determination, physical determination to do things, that's an important thing,” said Webber.

He said he maintains these trails so that other people can enjoy them and the untouched scenery surrounding us on both sides.

When it comes to the all the change taking place on state land in pursuit of natural gas resources, Webber says it has nothing to do with preserving nature.

“You put high tech industry into an area like this and it's bound to have an impact, and not for the better.”

Bob Webber's career in the forestry service has spanned the better part of four decades, and even after retiring in 1988, about 10 years later, he dug a majority of the trail that bears his name north of Jersey Shore. He has left his mark there for years to come

“He's quite a role model. He's a remarkable individual. Something to strive for,” said state forester Ben Sands.

For Bob Webber, there's no stopping anytime soon. He'll keep doing this as long as he's able. And when the time comes, Webber is certain others will follow where he marked the path.

“Anything you do that people enjoy, is remembered (and) becomes a part of your life, and their life.”

And that's why we salute Bob Webber.