Meet the Explorer: David Todd Carden

Explorer. Grandfather. Philanthropist.

I am super excited to be able to showcase an interview I setup with my grandfather in his home on April, 20th 2019. Between my grandfather and my father, my travel and love for the outdoors would otherwise be vastly diminished. We had a good time trading travel stores and memories as we walked back though his 82 year time line. This moment I will cherish forever, and I am beyond happy to be able to share his experiences and insight with you. So grandpa, take it away!

My Grandfather (David Todd) and my grandmother (Patricia Ann).

Short Biography:

My name is David Todd Carden, presently 81 years old. I was born in Ritchie County, WV in 1937. Then I lived in Zela, Nicholas County, WV until age five. My family moved to Parkersburg where I attended first and second grade. Following this we moved to Charleston until age 10, then moved to St. Albans where I graduated high school in 1955, and later graduated college in 1959. After summer camp, I was employed for 44 years the the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities. I later retired from this position in 2003. I chose to belong to the United States Army Reserve for the rest of my military obligation following field artillery training in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

At the age of 40, I earned my general aviation pilot certificate. I flew over 500 hours in the air in my Cesna 172, a 4-seater single-engine aircraft. I like water sports (kayaking and skiing), and winter sports such as sledding and snow skiing. I love to travel the states and foreign countries which I find fascinating.

What do you do for a living, how did you end up in that field? 

Of course, I am retired now. I spent 44 years in utility regulation with the West Virginia Public Service Commission. I have a B.S. in Business Administration from West Virginia State University and majored in Accounting. When I went to college I knew I was good in business mathematics and I worked my way through college working for the Kroger company. When I graduated from college, I was aware of some openings at the PSC, not sure of what they did.

I went in and sat for a test, and I passed, they later hired me, this was 1960. I enjoyed regulation, I travelled to various places, initially within the state, but as I climbed the ladder I regulated companies such as Columbia Gas and Bell Systems, Potomic Edison, etc. Mostly electrical companies and telephone companies. I was elevated over the years to be the head of telecommunications and later instrumental in being a chair on the National Association of Utility Commissioners Accounting board. We met twice a year, involved all states and federal agencies. I was appointed by the governor to be on the cable advisory committee on the state level.

My job involved a lot of traveling. I visited many cities and went all over the country. It was my favorite part of the job, it was the highlight of my auditing career.

Pictures of my brother and I, along with my cousin at a family reunion.

When did you first start enjoying the outdoors?

I was raised on a small farm outside of St. Albans, WV. We had goats and chickens and things of that sort. When I was a teenager I hunted rabbits and squirrels for a brief period on our farm. When I joined the Army I was involved in ROTC and became an officer in the artillery division of the United States Army. We camped out and had field exercises at night, daylight, and so on. This prepared me to be out in nature. I also ran track, the first track team at St. Albans high school, I ran the mile and hurdles.

What is your favorite place to explore? 

The Grand Canyon is probably my favorite place to explore, in fact, that whole area. The crater made by the meteor near Flagstaff, AZ is also amazing. A friend of mine and I camped out a lot on a trip out West. His brother was a musician at Lake Tahoe, and my brother lived in Modesto, CA where I also panned for gold and found some! One night we even slept on a bombing range on accident, we found out in the morning when we woke up.

Yosemite is the most fascinating and most impressive places I have visited.

How many of the 50 United States have you visited? Favorite?

I have visited 48/50 states. North Dakota and Alaska are the only two I have not been to. Easy, West Virginia. I also like North Carolina, if I had to move anywhere that is where I would go.

How many countries, where? 

Twenty something at least. Including the following: Russia, China, Sweden, Finland, Greece, Italy, France, England, Switzerland, Bahamas, Trinidad, mostly all the islands of the Caribbean, Barbados, Israel, Canada, Mexico, Haiti, Uganda, Belgium, Germany.

The old home place.

Best hike you have ever had? 

Hiking down Bright Angel Trail, the most famous trail in Grand Canyon National Park. It was a precipitous trail, steep. We actually walked, we did not ride the mules down. We (my wife and I, I went further, though).

From his days in the military.

Essential items for summer hikes/winter hikes in your opinion.

For summer hikes you would need good hiking boots, a hat to protect you from too much sun (full brimmed), sunscreen, Bermuda shorts, sunglasses, binoculars, water canteen.

Winter hikes; I never really hiked much in the winter. Only times I went out in the winter was to ski. You need a warm ski jacket and thermal underclothing. Insulated pants are also a must, having googles is extremely helpful. Also you need good gloves for your hands, with a warm ski hat to keep your ears toasty.

Papa in the adventure Jeep.

Most comical hike/adventure story? 

When we camped out on the bombing range. We did not realize it until later, on one of the military bases in Kanas. We almost froze our rear ends off. We thought out West would be warm in April, we were wrong,. We just had a basic tent, we were unprepared. We found out it was a bombing range when we later looked up our place on a state map, no bombing going on while we were there thankfully. It was in the middle of nowhere, we just found a place by a small stream and set up camp. That was the only time we camped out on that trip, we gave it up and stayed in a hotel. Thinking back, we should have went on the Southern route to California.

Carden farm.

Scariest hike/adventure story?

I saw a long and vicious diamondback or timber rattle snake on the land across from my mothers house. They are extremely poisonous, it was very close to the path we were hiking along. We got out of there, but by then I would know it was a rattler, but this one was huge.

Upcoming trips planned?

We have future plans to go to Michigan to see my grandson get married. We would also like to go to Alaska sometime soon, in the summer time. Taking the train to Denali National Park, that would be fun. I would also like to go to Egypt and and the southern tip of Africa. That is where Ghandi initially lived.

Two of my cousins, my brother and I….and of course Grandpa 🙂

Favorite outdoors gear/lifestyle companies? Any local? 

I like Cabelas. I also like Bass Pro shops, now they are one company. L. L. Beane, I was on the governors board, and L.L. Beane was at the conference, talking about ordering systems via telephone. I liked Nike as well for footwear, my latest tennis shoes are Nike. Mainly because they are fairly priced and comfortable.

I am not much of a brand seeker. I am a get the best price seeker, quality at a cheap price. I only pay money for good suits, they don’t make them like they used to.

Papa driving the boat as my dad skis behind.

What does conservation mean to you? 

It means a healthy environment, using water and keeping them clean. Keeping land, water and air clean. We lived through a time in the chemical valley where we would wake up with ash on the cars from pollutants. I tired to ride my motorcycle to work but the dust would cover me. My tennis shoes would get dirty from walking in the grass. I am now very conservative about our environment. I like the clean rivers and recycling. I like to canoe, so I do not want to go around junk in our rivers.

Papa taking on the rapids in West Virginia!

What can we do to make sure our parks and wild lands stay clean and pure forever? 

We always need to clean up after ourselves. We have to be a good neighbor, even picking up limbs in my neighbors yard, it is an eyesore. This whale I saw on TV was full of pounds of plastic bags, we have to do something about the plastic issue. Also, litter must be controlled. The schools could do more to educate children about the litter problem and trying to encourage kids to clean up and dispose of waste correctly. Adding more trash bins would be beneficial.

Some of my fondest memories with my Papa

Section coming soon!

Being able to share my grandfather’s wisdom and experiences has been truly my favorite blog to date. I love hearing his stories and seeing his wanderlust. He spends all his money on travel and experiences, saying they are the only things that can satisfy the hunger for exploration. Material things come and go, memories last a lifetime.

Cheers Papa, thank you for sharing 🙂

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