Post 3: Late September

Greetings to my family & friends,

I’d like to share with you my recent visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. Despite the continuing pandemic, I was determined to make the long-scheduled trip as our trip to Mount Rainier was canceled earlier this year. As part of mom and dad‘s will, they asked me to put their ashes on Mount Evans, near Denver. As I may have relayed in previous communications, dad and I also came up with a long list of locations to visit over the course of time that he and mom and I all loved.

Prior to our trip, I researched Mount Evans only to find that the road to the top was closed due to COVID. I subsequently found that the Cameron Peak fire had closed a portion of the park where I intended to lay some of mom and dad to rest per my conversations with dad (Colorado river trail head).

But I did not despair! The upside? Rocky Mountain National Park is open to entrance with reserved tickets only. I reserved tickets for all  days we were in the area and they are limiting the amount of people in far below normal visitor levels. That gave me plenty of unhurried opportunity for contemplation, hiking, and much relaxation. I believe I will never again have such a park almost to myself, as we felt on many of our hikes through the week.

Below is a summary of locations: I return mentally refreshed and ready for our next adventure.  I’d like to think that mom & dad are enjoying the lovely views and vast open spaces of the Great West.

  1. Alpine Visitors Center Trail
  2. Milner Pass
  3. Coyote Valley Trail- CO River (not too far downriver from my original spot)
  4. Top of Cascade Falls
  5. Mills Lake
  6. Tonahutu Creek  in Big Meadow
  7. Scott Gomer Creek at base of Bierstadt in Mt Evans wilderness

Post 2: October 2019, The Top of Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park

The top of Gorham Mountain and a fast running tide in Ship Harbor near the mouth of the Atlantic:

I spread some ashes at each spot on my first leg of the parks that mom and dad traveled to over the years. The red blueberry plant and pine near each other was one of the most beautiful spots I have encountered and I spread some ashes under each of these plants. Overlooking the ocean and windswept, we saw several happy dogs hike past this spot and we ate lunch there. It will be lovely and desolate when snow comes.  

Mom & dad’s ashes lay on a rock awaiting the tide to sweep them away. Peter built a temporary memorial at the edge of the water.

Post 1: April 2019

I began this journey with an unexpected sense of freshness and freedom. Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not glad to be free of my family. Quite the opposite. My parents enveloped me with the most wonderful feeling of acceptance. I find an incredible freedom in my ability to give back to our little family in these last trips with an overwhelming sense of unity, bonding and love.

My mother, in her final weeks of life, tried to plan a future for my father in which she could virtually or spiritually participate: thinking of all the places he would go and he would see. She spoke of her desire for him to get a camper. This gave her something precious and somewhat tangible to look forward to in her declining days. My father, however, had other ideas. As much as he loved travel, what he loved most was doing it with my mother and then also with me.

The will said simply, Mount Evans. “Why Mount Evans” I asked? The answer was a simple and unexpected, “I’m not sure. We went up there once and loved it” was the vague answer I received from my calculating, engineer father. After this surprise, and after looking up the exact location of Mount Evans, my dad and I started talking about all the places we had traveled over the decades with my mother.

Like a lot of children visiting national parks at an early age, these vast places, these shaded spaces, these intimate and isolated spots, became part of my soul and I knew that my parents felt similarly. We had camped with my grandparents as a young child and my grandfather hopped a freight train prior to college and headed out to Kalispell to spend some time at Glacier. I still have the glass jar with coordinates listed in my father’s handwriting filled with water from the north fork of the Flathead River and collected on one of our vacations together in memory of his dad‘s trip. 

While my dad was still alive I could happily envision traipsing around the country to the national parks, among a couple of non parklocations, with their ashes, as we would be traveling as a team of sorts. After his death, this idea morphed into a kind of bittersweet drive: Have fun with this trip no matter what to pay tribute to their memories. And through the planning process, that did indeed start to happen.
Now, with excitement, my 15 stop odyssey begins.

Song of Sapiens

I know who I am and whence I came.
I floated in primordial oceans and swam in archaic seas.
I wiggled from ancient ooze onto dry land.
I fought unceasingly to survive, to live one more day.
I became small and could hide from the great killing stone and its all- consuming fires
To survive, to live one more day.
More slowly than slow, I grew larger and stood upright and began to know,
But my spirit still floats in primordial oceans, still swims archaic seas.