Getting to Know a Dragon on Bear Mountain

By Caitlyn Ball, AmeriCorps member of the Bear Mountain Crew

Daniel Yu Bear Mountain Volunteer

Daniel Yu is a Bear Mountain Crew volunteer from Staten Island. (Photo credit: Caitlyn Ball)

The Komodo Dragon joins us every weekend on Bear Mountain. He’s aptly been given this nickname because of the tenacious manner in which he goes about his work. Daniel Yu approaches the art of building cribwall similar to the patient Komodo dragon attacking his prey. Whereas the Komodo lies in wait for a passing meal, lurches into attack with powerful legs, and calmly follows its prey for miles and days until its victim finally succumbs to the dragon’s deadly bite, Daniel scans his surroundings looking for worthy rocks, doesn’t back down when they are huge and heavy, and is patient and determined as he skillfully sets them in another tier of crib on the newest re-route of the Appalachian Trail. Fortunately, he doesn’t bite (at least he hasn’t yet).

Daniel works mostly from home as an IT consultant, but has joined us every weekend since March, coming all the way from Staten Island. He began working with computers in college he says, because, “When I got into the field it was fascinating to me and exciting new stuff. Everyone wants to be in it now, but at the time it was an easy field to enter.” He now refers to himself as the “Plumber of the Internet.” “I upgrade the infrastructure and make it work faster; I handle the stuff you don’t see to make all the possibilities of iPhones and computers seem seamless.” Ironically, he does not own much hi-tech gear himself.

Though a dedicated trails man now, Daniel only began hiking last year. “There were places I wanted to get to and I could only get there by walking,” he says of his motivation to hit the trails. He was attempting a new hike every weekend, an endeavor coupled with his mission to stand atop the high point of every state and at every tri-corner (where three states meet) in the USA. “I hiked Mt. Marcy and realized I’d done four state high points and figured there are only 46 more to go,” he says. (The thought pattern of a Komodo dragon.)

Daniel Yu Bear Mountain Volunteer

Daniel approaches the art of building cribwall like a Komodo dragon. (Photo credit: Caitlyn Ball)

It was while hiking that Daniel learned about the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference via trail markers. He attended an Intro to Bear Mountain Hike in March and has been hooked ever since. Daniel says he was drawn to the challenge of the work. “I was interested in making a wild place accessible. Every day you learn something new, either on your own or by [watching] how others are doing it,” he says. When referring to building cribwall, Daniel adds, “The Trail-U [courses] explain the basic science, but putting it into practice is an art form.” The most important lesson he’s learned, he says, is what we refer to as “not marrying the rock.” Not every rock sets exactly how you want, and it can be hard to separate yourself from it once you’ve worked on it for a bit. But, Daniel advises, “You have to learn when to call it quits.” Since starting with the NYNJTC, Daniel is now aware of the effort put into moving rocks and making trails. “I thank God for whoever built it,” he says.

Though his body ached and he learned of muscles he didn’t even know he had after the first couple days working at Bear Mountain, Daniel now claims he has better balance, feels stronger, and enjoys the mental challenge. Daniel plans to volunteer with us until the project is complete—unless something more challenging comes up. (Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen.)

Something Not Known about Him: Daniel showed me the large scar on top of his head from an accident as a youth. “It’s a big reminder to be careful out there, but, you will survive,” he says.

Favorite Attribute Of Self: “My curiosity. It drives everything else. Do something new every day.” We at Bear love that about you too, Daniel.

If you’d like to join Daniel and the rest of the Bear Mountain Crew on a work trip or sign up for a workshop, check out the crew page and schedule.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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