Over the many years since his birth in New England in 1924, Ernest “Tap” Tapley has crossed into the realm of legend—a legend in his own time, as the saying goes. “Living in the woods was just my life,” is his modest way of explaining it.“I learned how to work with Mother Nature and not against her, so it came naturally to teach all that.” And “teach all that” he did—to generation after generation.
Drafted into the Army at 18, in 1942 in World War II, he was instrumental in forming the famed 10th Mountain Division, which fought on skis in the snow. After the war he worked for both the U.S. Forest Service and the Parks Service, battling wildfires, managing timber, tending mules and horses, mountaineering, teaching.
In 1961 he was a founder of America's first Outward Bound program, and became an inspiration to thousands of young people taking the course. He also was formative in the National Outdoor Leadership School, among other projects. “If you got lost in the wilderness,” says a friend, “by God, you'd want this guy with you.”
Anita Stalter, Tapley’s wife, was determined to save the Historic Santa Fe Foundation's magnificent old trees during this year of terrible drought. And she did —with “donated water,” an original concept. She also is presiding over The Tapley Project, pulling together the pieces of Tap's remarkable life. Got one? 984-8849.