Alden Barber 1919-2003
Into the High Sierra … In Remembrance
by Mark Barber - September 1, 2006
In August of this year, Alden Barber’s four children, a son-in-law and his three grandchildren set out from Sequoia National Park’s Wolverton trail-head on a sixty mile, seven-day pack trip into the high peaks. Our mission was to fulfill Alden’s final wish. He passed away in 2003 and asked that his ashes be returned to the High Sierra and to a special place he came to know and love in his earliest days as a professional Scouter.
In 1942, Alden served as Camp Director at Wolverton, then a summer camp for the Crescent Bay Council. While there, he launched a program to lead 10-day high adventure treks from Camp Wolverton into the Sierra backcountry and on to the summit of 14, 441 foot Mt. Whitney, which he climbed eleven times. With some on foot and others on horseback, we retraced the very same High Sierra Trail Alden hiked -- climbing east from Wolverton, past Hamilton Lake and up to the Great Western Divide and points beyond.
On August 21, in a secluded area at 10,600 ft. just north of Kaweah Gap, we gathered in the shadow of Eagle Scout Peak and cast Alden’s ashes into the winds of the High Sierra. Under a cobalt blue sky he was rejoined with the delicate wildflowers and sharp granite peaks through which he tramped more than 60 years before.
A long moment of silence was followed by passages read from the Bible, including one of Alden’s favorites, Psalm 121. Family members recalled their favorite stories and fondest memories and then, one by one, all had a hand in honoring Alden’s wish. And when all were ready, we closed with a Native American Indian prayer.
Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold
the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have
made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things
you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.
We left the tranquility and peace of our mountain chapel, descending from the Gap into the broad meadow of the Big Arroyo and on to camp among the pines. We wondered how many young men, with Alden’s help, Scouting had introduced to the challenge and beauty of the High Sierra … and how many others were inspired by the experience. We wondered if they sat around the same campfire circle, sparks rising into the crisp night air, joining voices in one of Alden’s favorite songs … Sing Your Way Home … The Happy Wanderer … or maybe The Wolverton Camp Song. We finished the trek with a climb into Five Lakes Basin and up over Black Rock Pass before circling back through Bearpaw Meadow and returning to Wolverton.
Eight members of the Barber family now have a connection … a spiritual connection … to the Sequoia backcountry. And, like all those who’ve served on the camp staff, we know why the experience at Wolverton remained an inspiration throughout the life of former Camp Director and Chief Scout Executive, Alden Barber.