Bill & Dave’s excellent adventure in Sonoma County has spanned decades
It’s a wonder Bill Myers and Dave Chalk ever became buddies, much less a beloved Sonoma County hiking duo who’ve guided thousands on the trails over an astonishing two-decade run.
When they first met in 2000 at a docent training for new state park volunteers, the two men thought they had very little in common, other than their shared Midwestern roots.
Myers was a self-described “money-grubbing capitalist” whose smoking habit and aversion to exercise landed him on the surgeon’s table at the age of 43, undergoing angioplasty to clear his clogged arteries.
Chalk was a retired high school math teacher and Boy Scout leader who had moved to Santa Rosa from Michigan to help care for his ailing father.
Nothing suggested a budding friendship between the two men. But nearly 20 years later, “Bill and Dave Hikes” is a Sonoma County institution, and the men behind it integral parts of a seemingly inseparable whole. By their own estimate, more than 10,000 people have joined them on one of their outings in the county’s regional and state parks.
Such is their bond that many people apparently consider them irreplaceable — judging by the lack of interest in their effort to find someone else to lead the hiking excursions. Or maybe people are simply afraid to try and match their stamina.
Whatever the case, Myers and Chalk, who are in their 70s, would like to slow down a bit and leave the organizing to someone else.
So far, they’ve found no takers.
“I don’t think Bill or I gave a thought about where this might lead,” Chalk, 78, said. “We wanted to be outside. We still do.”
The monthly hiking excursions are part of Sonoma County’s official park offerings. Chalk maintains the group’s website — sonic.net/~fmi/daveandbill.html — and each month, e-blasts upcoming excursions to the group’s mailing list of thousands. Most hikes attract upward of 50 people.
Untold friendships have been forged through the hiking group, as well as a few marriages (no word on any divorces).
Mike Noel and Susette Stickel-Rufer met on one of the hikes and later married. The couple, who now reside in Petaluma, invited Myers to their wedding.
“It’s a wonderful way to meet people,” Stickel-Rufer, a retired accountant, said of the organized outings.
Myers and Chalk hew to a routine that has remained remarkably unchanged for years. In two decades, the men have been forced to cancel hikes on only two occasions: an October 2017 outing at Trione-Annadel State Park because of the firestorm, and this winter when flooding forced closure of Windsor’s Shiloh Ranch Regional Park.
Chalk leads the groups, setting out irrigation flags for hikers to follow, and Myers picks up stragglers from the back. Chalk is never without a hat or hiking poles, and his attention to detail is such that for years he rounded up the number of hikers to the nearest prime number, a math teacher’s old habit.
Myers, a retired sales executive whose business carried him around the world, is the more flamboyant of the pair. He and his partner, Linda Pavlak, founded the popular Funky Fridays concert series supporting local parks.