He was a hiker and a backpacker, a Louisiana Master Naturalist, a YouTuber, and a devotee of Louisiana trails. He was a doting dad who brought his young daughter along on day hikes and campouts as often as he could. He was the creator of Louisiana Hikes, the premier source of in-depth, detailed information about Louisiana hiking.
His name was Eric Heber, and he died on his 46th birthday, April 7, 2022.
I first met Eric when I interviewed him for this article, published by The Trek on October 11, 2018. I last spoke to him when I interviewed him for this article, in the March 2022 issue of Country Roads magazine, about his contribution to planning Louisiana’s first long-distance trail, dubbed the Bayou State Trail.
Every time we spoke I was struck by how down to earth he was and how easy his laugh was. During our last conversation, he told me about the Kisatchie Trail, a route he had created by connecting sections of the Kisatchie National Forest. It didn’t have an official trail designation, but that didn’t bother Eric because he was doing it just for himself. As you can see in this video, he was jazzed about the project.
He told me he planned to thru-hike the trail in January but had to put it off; a month or so later he was again slated to do it, but his daughter was ill and he had to stay home and care for her. He also planned to thru-hike the AT in 2021, but a house flood kept him from that too. He did complete one distance thru-hike, of the Ouachita Trail in 2019.
As we talked, he contemplated the future of his website.
“Louisiana Hikes is kind of taking a back seat to real-life stuff,” he told me. “My daughter is getting older and becoming more socially aware, and I’m in a pretty serious relationship.”
The relationship turned into an engagement, and clearly Eric was entering a new phase of his life, simultaneous with his involvement with the new Bayou State Trail project.
Brian Chriceol, who initiated the project, says he reached out to Eric after watching his videos about the Kisatchie Trail. Brian was already thinking about creating the state’s first long trail, so it seemed only natural to reach out to Eric, although a bit nerve-wracking.
“I was a little intimidated actually,” Brian said of his first time reaching out to Eric. “I didn’t know how he was going to respond.”
Predictably, he responded with enthusiasm, and the two bounced ideas off each other. Eric became a founding member of the Bayou State Trail Association and director for the Baton Rouge section of the proposed trail.
Brian regrets that he never had the chance to hike with Eric. He would have loved to explore at least some of the Kisatchie Trail. When I started reporting for the Country Roads article linked above, I did think briefly about asking Eric if I could join him for a day hike when he did the Kisatchie Trail. I regret that I wasn’t able to do so.
When I read that Eric had died, I shared the news with my husband, and as I talked about Eric I was surprised to find myself crying a little. I had never met him in person and had only spoken to him a handful of times, but his death has left us without a guide for the many trails of Louisiana – long or short – and knowing that is awful.
His last Instagram post was poignant. It was a few photos of him, his fiancée, and his daughter, clearly on an outing or vacation. The caption was perfect.
Just life lately #lezlesbontempsrouler #louisianahikes #onlyinlouisiana
In his obituary, his family suggests that people donate in Eric’s memory to the Louisiana Hiking Club, for which he served as president and vice president. I encourage you to do so.