Six months after riding off into the sunset for the last time, Leroy Leaf’s legacy lives on at the Rock Creek Campground in Yacolt.
Leaf’s body was discovered in his trailer at the campground by Steve Rhodes March 15. Rhodes is resource warden for the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Pacific Cascade Region.
Since Leaf lived alone, Rhodes said he checked on him twice a week for the past 10 years.
On March 19, DNR Pacific Cascade Recreation Manager Ryan Schreiner emailed the local horseback riding community about Leaf’s death.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I must inform you about the passing of Rock Creek Campground’s beloved host, Leroy Leaf,” Schreiner wrote. “Over the years, he became a staple of the Yacolt Burn State Forest and was known and loved by many locals and visitors alike. He first started as the host in 1995 and proudly stewarded the grounds until his final days. We are very grateful to have had such a wonderful person on site looking out for all of us.”
Little else is known about Leaf’s life.
Rhodes said he died of natural causes. After Leaf’s death, Rhodes discovered he had a son living in Oregon. He gave all the information he had to the son. No obituary was submitted to any local papers.
Clark County residents Diane Swain and Anita Will recently shared stories about the man who took care of the camp for 23 years.
“He was a monument for the community,” Swain said. She told a story about the time her horse got stuck in the mud and Leaf drove around for miles to find them and rescue them. Swain was suffering from heat stroke, so Leaf took her to a hospital.
“Leroy was a good man. I remember him always helping make sure that we were safe at Rock Creek Camp,” Will said, later adding, “He made sure we had a nice place to camp and kept everything clean and taken care of.”
One time, Will and her young stallion Russell rode from Rock Creek to Tarbell camp to meet some friends on horseback. They lost track of time and returned to Tarbell at dusk. Will said she had about 10 minutes of light left, so she “hightailed it in a fast trot” back to Rock Creek.
“It was pitch black in no time. There was no moon shine at all and we had several miles yet to get to camp. I wasn’t prepared. No flashlight in the saddlebag,” Will recalled. “Russell was super. He took care of me all the way back. Never faltered in his step.”
It was almost 9 p.m. when Will and Russell made it back to Rock Creek. To her surprise, Leaf stayed up late to make sure she got back to the camp safe.
“I apologized for making him worry about me and staying out to wait until I returned to camp. Never thought he would go out of his way to do that, but he did. I thanked him for caring enough to take his time to watch for me,” Will said. I have always remembered what Leroy did that night for me. It made a difference to know he was watching out for us when we up there.”