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.