It is with great sadness that we tell you the news that our friend Chris Appleford passed away on Wednesday, 17 October 2012, after a long struggle with cancer.
In 1991 Mary and I packed up our wagon and headed west. We drove west from Philadelphia until we reached the point that if we drove any further we would need to find our passport. This stopping point in our journey westward just happened to be the doorstep of Chris Appleford and Marcia Bruno. They took us in for the summer until we could securely set anchor in the Pacific Northwest.
What we learned about Chris that summer was that he was the person upon which the Seattle stereotype was modeled: he was the ultimate dorky nerd (or is it nerdy dork?); he loved coffee; he knew the brewing schedule for every microbrewery within 100 miles; he loved the outdoors; he loved hiking, camping and, most of all, his bike; rarely dressed up; a hopeless optimist; and above all else, he was the nicest person you would ever want to meet.
Chris was the first to introduce me to many of the natural wonders of Washington State. My first visit to Mount Rainier was with Chris. My first view of a genuine Northwest old growth forest was on a hike with Chris to the alpine lakes above Darrington. I remember one of our first camping trips to Eastern Washington was to a spot called Wenas Creek. It was about two hours east of Seattle, up in the ponderosa pines near Ellensburg. I remember like it was yesterday because it was what I imagined the western forest to be. Elk grazed here in winter, big horned sheep roamed the Yakima Valley below. Cowboys chased cows around. What I really like about the place was that in and around the ponderosa pines lived one of my favorite birds – the White-headed Woodpecker. I revisited Wenas Creek many times (something on the order of 5 or 6 times a year). In 1999, I used the site as part of a study that I did on White-headed Woodpeckers when I was working as a wildlife biologist. Each time I visited Wenas Creek, I recalled that first camping trip with Chris. I can still hear him trying to calm and keep that silly dog of his, Spammy, who was still a puppy at that time, from whining, “Shhh Spammy! Your going to keep everyone awake.” Of course, he was unsuccessful at keeping Spammy from whining and we were all wake all night.
When I arrived in the Pacific Northwest, I already had a well-developed environmental ethic. It is not easy for anyone to have any influence over that aspect of my life, most of which is set in stone, yet Chris was able to do just that. My approach to being out doors was to analyze it and know all if its parts. Chris’s approach was to simply be outdoors. Chris showed me how to do that. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. This, however, was not Chris’s biggest influence over me. That involved a simple machine with two wheels that would carry me further than I could have ever imagined and has forever changed my life in profound ways.
Back in 2004 in an effort to lose weight I blew the dust of my bike. It had been siting in our garage for way to long. Knowing that Chris liked these things, I’d call him up and ask his advice about this, that and the other and Chris would talk to me at length about it. Looking back I can see now just how dumb most of my questions were. Yet, Chris would address all of them with an unparalleled level of enthusiasm as if he was hearing it for the first tine. Slowly but surely Chris guided me along to becoming a respectable and knowledgeable cyclist of my own. I so happy that I got to ride hundreds and hundreds of miles of Washington’s roads with Chris; the Hood Canal, the Olympic Peninsula, the Carnation Valley, Bainbridge Island’s “Chilly Hilly,” Seattle to Portland to name a few. My only regret is that I wish it could have been thousands of miles instead.
Knowing Chris has left with me a greater appreciation for the good stuff in life, something that I will certainly carry with me for the rest of my days and hopefully be able to pass along to others. He may be physically gone from this earth but he will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of many people for a long time.
Ride lots, stop often,
For those of you who knew Chris and are in the Seattle area, there will be a memorial service for him on 11 November 2012, starting at 2:00 PM at The Hall at Fauntleroy, 9131 California Ave SW, Seattle Washington.
Chris asked that in lieu of flowers people could make a donation to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Chris also requested that his ashes be spread over a mountaintop somewhere in Washington. Marsha said that this event will take place sometime next summer. When the location and time is set I’ll post the details here.
I've posted a few of the photos that we have of Chris here.