by Laura Ness
When he was just 18, Dublin resident and retired math and science teacher Richard Deets suffered a life-altering collision while riding a motorcycle in southern California, where he grew up. “The doctors told me I might not walk again,” shares Deets. He was in the hospital and rehab for nearly four years, during which time he forced himself to walk, to the amazement of his medical team. It made his legs stronger and it motivated him to read works by the great explorers and conservationists, like John Muir.
Among his favorite inspirational books Deets counts Of Men and Mountains, the auto-biography of outdoorsman and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. The young Douglas spent his youth hiking the mountains of Washington to strengthen his weak legs, and in so doing, developed a keen appreciation of nature. Another is Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, written by The Mountaineers. When he wasn’t reading, Deets was out walking. In fact, he went on to become an accomplished international hiker with a special fondness for mountains. He’s since summited Mt. Adams, Mt. Whitney and Mt Rainier, and served for many years on the Search and Rescue Squad out of Sierra Madre, where he often hiked on missions in the Eastern Sierra.
Today, Deets is happy to live so close to hiking trails like Brushy Peak. He can walk out his door, and in less than a mile, be on a trail that leads him straight into nature, where he finds his daily dose of communion with the things that matter most to him. “Nature is very important to me,” says Deets. So much so that he got involved with the “Save Doolan Canyon” movement in Dublin and spoke before the City Council about the critical role it played in his rehabilitation so long ago, and how it inspires and motivates him daily. He still walks 4 to 6 miles every day, regardless of weather. Another of his favorites is Pleasanton Ridge, which he describes as “more of a hike,” at 12 miles round trip.
He acclaims Tri-Valley Conservancy for their role in trail expansion and preservation, and is a proud supporter and advocate. He can-not think of a more important mission than to preserve nature from the ravages of over-development. It’s one of the reasons he and his wife, Susan, chose to relocate to this part of Dublin from their home in southern California over seven years ago.
His friend Norm Petermeier, a Tri-Valley Conservancy Board Member, inspired him to become a Tri-Valley Conservancy supporter. “We are so happy they are preserving land for future generations,” says Deets, who credits the organization with adding and repairing many miles of trails since he moved to the area.
Deets strongly feels that connecting with na-ture is exactly what young people, with their constant electronic overstimulation, need every day. Beyond the physical exercise, it brings an appreciation for a universe that operates independently of human fabrication.“Music is incredibly important to young adults,” observes Deets, a longtime school principal as well as teacher. “But most have never heard the song of a meadowlark, which is truly some of the most beautiful music on earth.”