Impact Giving | Sharing the Awe: Inspired by Decades of Outdoor Lessons, Dave Enfield Pays It Forward

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we hear the story of Dave Enfield - a 44-year member who credits The Mountaineers with giving him his appetite for adventure, inspiring him to give back to his community.
Tyler Dunning Tyler Dunning
Development Manager
April 27, 2019
Impact Giving | Sharing the Awe: Inspired by Decades of Outdoor Lessons, Dave Enfield Pays It Forward

When Dave Enfield describes one of his first and most memorable Mountaineers scrambles along Mazama Ridge, he does not mention the iconic views of the Tatoosh Range, the subalpine meadows down below, or Mount Rainier looming above. He does not bring up the early-season frost spreading from underfoot to distant peaks and chilling glaciers. He does not speak of beauty or majesty. Dave describes something entirely different: leaving his tent in the morning, all he saw was pure white.

An unexpected storm had rolled in overnight, causing snowsquall conditions. The whiteout tested Dave’s early abilities as a scrambler and offered opportunities to learn and grow in an alpine environment. Experiences like this, shared alongside experienced Mountaineers volunteers, led Dave to join the scrambling committee and then to help write the book on the subject – well, that is, the scrambling section of The Freedom of the Hills, Fourth Edition. But on this day as he joined others in his favorite mountaineering activity, all he saw was blinding white.

Navigation was nearly impossible and, undoubtedly at the time, a crisis. But when Dave reflects on the trip, there are signs of amusement and still some awe. “Despite the impossible visibility, one of the trip leaders, Clint Kelley, remembered precisely how to handle the terrain,” said Dave. “He was just good at observing, I guess. He took his time. Was always stopping, looking around, and taking note of things – even in a snowstorm! I really respect that level of attention. You don’t see it much anymore.”

It comes as no surprise then, that when asked about the greatest lesson Dave learned in the outdoors, he says to always be prepared for the unexpected.

It’s these unexpected adventures that we often remember the fondest. The ones that catch us by surprise and cause us to divert from anticipated paths. The ones that become our best shared stories. Our avenues to growth and change.

Dave’s journey through his lifetime in the outdoors has had many such unexpected twists and, lucky for us, he took note of his surroundings along the way. He recalls the path with merriment in the telling.

Get by with a little help from my friends

Dave was born in Everett, Washington, and then moved to Whatcom County when he was five years old. He grew up within a few miles of the Canadian border, lodged between the beauty of Mount Baker and the salt water of Birch Bay. Despite this idyllic location, Dave’s family was never nature-going. By the time he graduated high school, he’d done almost no hiking. It wasn’t until he moved away to attend both undergrad and graduate school, first at MIT and then Boston University, that Dave started making summer trips back home and somehow got sucked into his friends’ newly chosen pastime: bushwhacking. He considers his first real hike a nine-day trek straight up the hillside from the Suiattle River to Box Mountain Lakes and Lime Mountain. They forded rivers, explored peaks, and caught awe-inspiring views of Glacier Peak – all with the naivety and gusto youth can bring. This trip gave him a taste of what was to come when he joined The Mountaineers nearly ten years later.

He joined in 1975, three years after finishing graduate school and moving back to Seattle. The woman he was dating at the time – now his wife of 40 years, Britta – became the ultimate catalyst. “One spring she planned to return home to Sweden, and she encouraged me to occupy my free time by joining The Mountaineers while she was away,” said Dave. “Following her suggestion, I joined and immediately enrolled in the Alpine Scramble Course.”

“She came to regret the encouragement though,” he laughed, “because, as is my habit with new activities, I became quite obsessed.” This led to other courses too, like Basic Climbing and Snowshoeing. Dave ultimately chaired the Alpine Scramble Committee for two years and was elected to the Board, where he served as Secretary of The Mountaineers for two years. Despite being late to the game, Dave was advancing quickly in Seattle’s outdoor community.

He came to spend many days and weeks in the mountains, often with other dedicated Mountaineers members and leaders. These experiences gave Dave an insatiable passion for exploration. He ventured to summits stretching from the North Cascades to the eastern slopes of the Cascades, and from the Mountain Loop Highway to the Snoqualmie Pass area, and on toward the many peaks near Mount Rainier. The trips left lasting impressions with rewarding outcomes. Dave was seeing unforgettable scenery and making lifelong friends.

This momentum, however, was stymied when Dave and his family, now including three children, moved to Indiana and then Minnesota for his job in the biotech industry. Dave didn’t let this deter him though: the family adapted to their new environment and stayed active in new ways. When two of his kids began playing soccer, Dave replaced mountains with refereeing, an activity he continued for 16 years. Britta, having grown up in central Sweden, had spent much of her early life cross-country skiing and got the rest of the family involved once they made it to Minnesota. They enjoyed the opportunity to ski directly out of their house for a few months out of the year. For the seven years he was away from Washington, Dave remained a Mountaineers member.

Dave’s outdoor adventures began with his friends, but joining The Mountaineers is what really motivated him to stay active. He remained loyal to the organization because in many ways it reformed his life. He was an out of shape smoker when he first joined. He couldn’t even jog around a city block. But staying active became a staple in Dave’s life. The health benefits were too significant to ignore, especially considering that Dave faces a family history of coronary heart disease, his father passing of his fourth heart attack at the age of 44.

Giving the gift of adventure

It’s this acknowledgement of nature’s benefits that inspires Dave to give back to his community. Once you’ve experienced the rewards of the outdoors, it’s not a secret you want to keep to yourself. That’s why Dave joined the Peak Society and has been making monthly donations to The Mountaineers since 2015. He knows any amount of giving is going to help somebody somewhere, so he happily and passionately makes these donations hoping to provide similar outdoor experiences for future trip participants. “Outreach to our youth – that’s our future,” Dave said confidently. “And we have to start bringing non-outdoor people into our wild spaces or we’re going to lose the resource. Nature is finite and our kids are the next generation to protect it.”

Dave and Britta are now grandparents to six kids, all of whom can say they are being raised in nature-oriented families. But how could it be otherwise with a grandfather like Dave? The man has dedicated 44 years to the outdoors and still continues to get after it, though a little differently than in his initial bushwhacking days. Dave now loves walking around the city, often with a Mountaineers Books publication like Urban Trails: Seattle or Seattle Stairway Walks in hand. Through these guides, Dave’s discovered many parks and nature areas in or near the city. He also continues to venture to the mountains when the opportunity arises.

Dave remains engaged within The Mountaineers too, attending scheduled events and occasionally taking courses, most recently through the photography program. He felt especially proud when, several years ago, a friend from his church’s wilderness ministry noted that he’d found Dave’s name while reading The Freedom of the Hills, Fourth Edition. It was a reminder that Dave’s contribution to a book published in 1982 was still having an impact on the community, and that the contributions he makes now will have unseen positive impacts on today’s youth.

When asked what he’d tell the next generation of explorers, Dave smiles and no doubt thinks back to his initial experience as a scrambling student on Mazama Ridge, and the many unforgettable trips taken with leaders and friends from The Mountaineers. “Slow down. Take your time,” Dave said. “Stop and look around at your surroundings. Never lose your sense of awe. Share your passion with others, especially the younger generations. There is no reason to rush through all this.”

PICT0002.JPGDave on the summit of Mount Logan. Photo courtesy of Dave Enfield. 

 This article originally appeared in our Spring 2019 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.