Bob Flamme started running the Colorado River sometime in
the early to mid-1980s, first supporting scientific research trips as
a boatman, then quickly evolving into a permanent fixture on science and
private trips on the Colorado and San Juan Rivers. It did not take long
for him to develop a deep love for the Grand Canyon. Bob became a proud
member of Grand Canyon River Guides and accepted every opportunity to
spend time at gcrg functions. Bob was also an avid Canyon explorer and
hiker. There was an ever-pleasant appreciation of the beauty and serenity
of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River in Bob’s expression.
Bob passed away among this beauty on October 10, 2004 at age 75, while
hiking the Spencer Trail at Lees Ferry; a truly poetic ending to his time
Ron Hayes, one of the founders of Wilderness World passed
away on October 1, after suffering a subdural hematoma as the result of
a fall near his Malibu home. He was 75 years old.
Ron was born in 1929 to Marion de Rode Brune and Sam Hayes. Both of his
parents were very involved in theater and acting, which was an influence
that stayed with Ron his entire life. Ron attended Stanford University
from 1949–1952 and graduated with a degree in foreign relations.
It was here that he met a young Slovak student, Vladimir Kovalik, who
would become his best friend for life. Ron and “Vlado” both
had a passion for climbing and were deeply involved in the Stanford Alpine
Club. Together they had countless adventures in the Sierras and beyond.
After graduating from Stanford, Ron spent a year and a half as a Marine
Lt. in Korea during the war. After the war he settled in the San Jose
area and worked for ksjo radio. During this time he and his wife Joan
had three children, Vanessa, Peter and Heidi.
In 1957 the siren call of Hollywood was strong and Ron moved his family
to the land of showbiz. With his theater background, resonant voice and
handsome looks it wasn’t long before he was making regular appearances
on almost every western/adventure/detective show, eventually logging guest
roles in over a hundred different shows. He starred in four series over
the years, including The Everglades, The Rounders, Lassie and The Western
Ron was heavily involved in the Sierra Club and was part of David Brower’s
inner circle during the fight to save the Grand Canyon from the dams.
It was on one of these trips that he and Vladimir decided to make their
living as river outfitters.
Thus was born Wilderness World, a joint venture between Ron, Vladimir,
and Nada Kovalik in 1970. All three of them were devout environmentalists,
before the notion was popular, and, with Vladimir’s skill at designing
cutting edge boats and gear as well as their commitment to running intimate,
oar powered trips, a legend was born. Wilderness World soon had the contract
with the Sierra Club to lead their Grand Canyon and other trips. Ron headed
up the Canyon crew through the mid-1970s.
Although Ron officially left Wilderness World in 1976 to return to his
acting career, he continued to be instrumental in some outstanding Canyon
trips. In 1977 Ron organized a very special trip featuring guest speakers
David Brower and Mark Dubois. Those of us lucky enough to be there will
never forget sitting on the beach at the Marble Canyon dam site as David
Brower spoke about the battle to save the Grand Canyon along with the
resulting loss of Glen Canyon. As the tears poured forth, each and every
person there was moved in a fundamental way never to give up the fight
to save our sacred and special places.
Ron was a lifelong environmental activist and was one of the principal
founders of Earth Day, helping launch the first Earth Day celebration
in 1970. He was always involved in both local and national battles to
save our environment from developers, dammers, and the like. He continued
to get down to the Big Ditch on private trips every few years through
the late nineties.
I never tired of watching Ron convey his love of the natural world to
the clients on later Wilderness World trips. It was his mission to pass
on his love of the canyons, rivers, and mountains to everyone he met.
The actor in Ron was always present. He could captivate people with the
way he spoke and carried himself. Sometimes this could be quite amusing.
Anyone who ever scouted a rapid with Ron will always remember the way
he would regally stand, perfectly straight and tall, one hand on his hip,
the other arm extended fully as he pointed out the route. It was as if
he was on camera, even though I don’t think he was aware of it,
and the other guides would all smile and wink at each other as the clients
“oohed” and “ahhed.”
Ron is survived by his three children and five grandchildren. His activism
and river adventures live on in all of them. He remains a great influence
for so many and leaves a legacy of joy for those of us lucky enough to
have known him. May he always have stout oars in his hands, a beautiful
canyon ahead and the wind at his back.