Shane Krogen was one of the first friendly faces I met in Fresno.
He was behind the counter at California Outfitters, the outdoors speciality shop he used to own near Blackstone and Herndon, when I walked in 15 years ago looking for new hiking boots. (I found the store in something called the yellow pages. Kids, ask your parents what that is.)
Shane not only sold me new boots but also measured my feet for high-quality moldable insoles. I balked, but he insisted. And my blister problems ceased that day.
I remember being struck by Krogen's smile and enthusiasm for the outdoors, and it wasn't long before he had me volunteering for his trail crew and signing up for the store's activity classes. He was one of those people you can't help but think of fondly.
That's why my knees buckled when I heard that Krogen died Thursday morning in a fall from a helicopter while members of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew assisted in the cleanup of a marijuana grove in the Tulare County mountains. The group's founder and executive director was 57.
While I could sit here and tell you what a great guy Shane was and how many lives he influenced, others do it better.
Mike Libecki, 40, is a renowned explorer and climber who lives outside Salt Lake City. National Geographic named him one of its Adventurers of the Year for 2013.
But back in the 1990s, Libecki was just an aspiring rock climber from Clovis who hung around California Outfitters for two reasons: his friends worked there; and it was the only place in town that sold climbing equipment.
But Shane sensed something in the young upstart. ("A lot of kids come to the store and talk a lot," Krogen told me for a 2003 story. "But I knew right away Mike was more than just talk.") So when Libecki started getting his foot in the door by doing a couple big routes on Yosemite's El Capitan and Baffin Island, Krogen helped him kick it open.
"I'll never forget when he told me, 'Mike, when you come into the store, take anything you want. Anything you want,' " Libecki recalls. "He said, 'You're going to make it as a climber, and I want to help you get there.'
"When I heard the news (about Krogen's death), I immediately thought of his kindness and generosity."
Libecki estimates that over the years he took "thousands of dollars" worth of equipment from California Outfitters on his expeditions to places like Greenland, Madagascar and Antarctica. But Krogen's influence when he returned from those adventures was just as important.
Libecki is known for his entertaining slideshows; he's given hundreds around the world. But the very first one came at California Outfitters — and it was Shane who encouraged it.
"I don't know if I'd be where I'm at today without his support in those early days," Libecki says.
Then there is Ryan Soares.
Soares, 36, is Fresno State's "adventure professor" teaching outdoors-themed classes for the Department of Recreation Administration. He also directs the school's E.D.G.E Challenge Ropes Course, a leadership development program.
Soares began working at California Outfitters as an 18-year-old. Years later, as store manager, he, Krogen and two professors helped establish outdoors classes on campus.
"I'd say about 90% of where I am today in the outdoors industry is because of him," Soares says. "And I'm only one person. When you think of all the people whose lives he touched, it's kind of hard to quantify."
The group includes Haley Fielding.
Fielding, a 19-year-old graduate of Yosemite High, is pursuing a degree in environmental biology (though she's currently living in Florida working for Disney on an internship). She credits the many summer weekends she and her mother, Coni Hintergardt, spent volunteering for the trail crew with sparking her interest in the outdoors.
"I don't think that I'd be the person I am today without him," Fielding says. "He had a huge influence on my life, and I've met so many people through trail crew that are like my second family."
Krogen made it his mission to get people excited about nature and the outdoors while encouraging volunteer stewardship of our public lands.
The legacy he leaves behind carries on with these three stories, and many more. There couldn't be a better tribute.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.