The Little Cougar is awarded to individuals who have served the Western States Endurance Run organization through the years in extraordinarily significant ways. The Little Cougar Award was presented to Mark Falcone on Friday, June 27, 2014, in Squaw Valley, Calif.
Mark Falcone is one of the few individuals who has run the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, ridden the 100-mile Tevis Cup, and served on both the Board of Trustees for Western States Endurance Run Foundation and the Board of Governors for the Western States Trail Foundation (which oversees the Tevis Cup Ride).
But perhaps what defines Falcone most is how much he cares for the Western States Trail.
“Marko,” says Charlie Gabri, who, like Falcone, is a recipient of the Run’s Little Cougar Award, “understands the Trail about as well as anyone I’ve ever come across.”
For more than a decade, Falcone has a substantial body of work in caretaking the Trail and in organizing a joint trail team effort that is unlike any other in the country.
In August 2013, with the news that the American Fire had burned an iconic and historic section of the Trail stretching from Pucker Point to Devil’s Thumb – the fire itself charred more than 27,000 acres and covered nearly 30 square miles – Falcone quickly swung into action. He helped organize planning and logistical meetings with key agency partner the American River Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, and along with Ride joint trail team organizer Steve Hallmark, developed a work and remediation schedule for the coming winter and spring.
What happened next was historic. Falcone was able to rally hundreds of volunteers, who amassed more than 6,000 hours of volunteer work over the next several months. The effort also included the work of eight young AmeriCorps volunteers, who spent more than six weeks working daily on the Trail. One of the major highlights of the spring came on May 4, when a group of 50 volunteers replaced the scorched skeleton of what had been the Pacific Slab Bridge. A new bridge was assembled, then disassembled, driven to Deadwood Canyon in pieces and then carried on the backs of volunteers nearly a full mile down into the canyon before it was assembled again.
By the time the Run’s annual final cook-out/camp-out/work weekend was held at Robinson Flat in June, the entire Trail that had been affected by August’s fire was open for use. There would be no need to re-route any of the historic course, except for a crossing via safety cable of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River at the bottom of Deadwood Canyon.
“There is a lot of history on the Trail,” Falcone says, “and there also all these people, whose lives pertain to the Trail in real and meaningful ways. That’s why, to me, the Trail will always be a living thing. How can it not be when there are so many people who care about it the way they do?”
For more than a decade, Mark Falcone has instilled in all the volunteers, organizers, agency partners, runners and caretakers of the Western States Trail an ethic of stewardship and involvement. He has said that the Trail, to him, is a living, breathing and cherished entity. His work has proven him to be correct; without his effort, the Trail, its ongoing life and its enduring legacy, would not be the same as it is today.
All Little Cougar Awardees are (in alphabetic order): Gordy Ainsleigh, Mark Falcone, Charles Gabri, Phil Gardner, Richard Goodwin, Stan Jensen, Doug Latimer, Bob Lind, M.D., Mo Livermore, John Medinger, Wayne Miles, Antonio “Tony” Rossmann, Charles Savage, Curt Sproul, Larry Suddjian, Gary Towle, M.D., Diana, Desiree and LeGrand Scott, Greg Soderlund, Tim Twietmeyer, Betty Veal, R.N., Shannon Weil, Tom Winter and Royce Zumalt.