‘Dr. Snowshoe’ Jim Davis, of Bend, dies at 87

By Dylan J. Darling The Bulletin Published Apr 11, 2014 at 12:01AM

Although many snowshoers in Central Oregon might not be familiar with the name Jim Davis, they probably know the trails the Bend man helped create at sno-parks near town.

James “Jim” Davis, who died Sunday at 87, was known to Chris Sabo, summer and winter trails specialist on the Deschutes National Forest, as “Dr. Snowshoe.”

“He really put the snowshoe trails on the map here, literally …” he said.

Due to the efforts of Davis and other volunteers with the Central Oregon Nordic Club, there are now about 22 miles of snowshoe trails at Virginia Meissner, Edison and other sno-parks close to the Cascade Lakes Highway, he said. The snowshoe trailblazing was mostly done in the past dozen years.

A family doctor for 33 years in Milwaukie, Davis moved to Central Oregon in the late 1980s after retiring. Long an outdoorsman, Davis focused on snowshoeing as he became older, said Dave Hunt, 83, of Bend, one of Davis’ friends and a fellow snowshoe trail-building volunteer.

“As age gets on you can’t do the downhill or the nordic, but you can still walk,” Hunt said. “And we had some beautiful times out in the forest.”

Unlike other wintertime outdoor recreation options, snowshoeing doesn’t take a lot of skill, equipment or experience, Sabo said. Snowshoeing caught on as a recreation activity in the early 1990s and for years snowshoers shared trails with nordic skiers. This led to conflicts between the groups. Snowshoers and skiers alike would complain about the other treading through their tracks.

Davis was among the group of snowshoers who approached the Deschutes National Forest about easing the conflicts by creating separate trails for snowshoers. The trails he developed differed from the ski trails, which often follow snow-covered forest roads, by being more narrow and windy.

Bruce Davis, Jim Davis’ son, said his dad was a skilled orienteer. He put these talents to use in designing snowshoe trails.

“He laid out most of the trails with a $2 compass and a map,” he said. Bruce Davis, 60, who now lives in Seattle, said his father had also enjoyed backpacking and had memorable trips around the Northwest, as well as to Patagonia in South America and Europe.

Until last year Jim Davis was still out snowshoeing, Hunt said.

As are the nordic trails, snowshoe trails are marked with a blue diamond, but they have a distinctive yellow figure of a snowshoer to indicate whom they’re for. Sabo said he developed the small signs and started placing them along snowshoe trails on the Deschutes after checking with Jim Davis about the design.

The trails have become popular and volunteers plan to continue in Davis’ tracks, creating more trails.

“There are days we can see more snowshoers than skiers,” Sabo said of the sno-parks.

Davis grew up on a cattle ranch in Ritter, in Eastern Oregon, according to Bruce Davis. He served in the Navy and went to Oregon State University, where he graduated in 1949, before going to medical school in Portland.

Additional survivors include Davis’ wife, Deama Davis, of Bend; son, Steve Davis, of Lake Oswego; stepdaughters, Susan Coulson, of Portland, and Judy Lanning, of Arizona; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A public memorial is set for June 8 at Aspen Hall in Shevlin Park.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

Photo courtesy Dave Hunt James "Jim" Davis during a 2011 snow hike to the Swampy Lakes shelter. Davis, a retired doctor, was instrumental in the creation of snowshoe trails near Bend. He died Sunday at age 87.
Jim Davis