Take a Hike!
If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that one of the journeys I occasionally post about is the one I travel every day – grief, sorrow, and the adjustments I’m making due to Toni’s death almost two years ago. About a week ago I posted “My Hero“, concerning her decision to be an organ donor and the recognition ceremony I attended in her remembrance.
Last Wednesday I went to the movies with Ali and Brian; the show we saw was “John Wick.” I knew nothing about the movie when it was suggested, and when I looked it up on Fandango it looked pretty good so I said I’d go. I had no idea I’d identify so closely with the protagonist. John is a retired hit man whose soul mate has recently died. A puppy is delivered, and with it is a note from his wife – she wanted to give him something to live for after her death. Shortly thereafter, his car is stolen (and his puppy killed in the process) by the son of a Russian Mafia kingpin he worked for/with. The rest of the movie is all about John’s efforts to exact his revenge on the son and the entire Mafia family for the puppy’s death, and the kingpin’s efforts to stop John. Guess who wins?
But what I identified with was his attachment to the puppy. Although the circumstances were vastly different, John and I suffered essentially the same loss. Had Toni been able to plan anything like a puppy (or kitten) for me, I’m sure she would have. I have my memories, of course, and photos, and her family, but it would be something totally different if she had been able to give me a living reminder, too.
So. Having said that, now I’ll get to the *real* topic of today’s post, which is the hike I took with Will yesterday. Toni told me several times that, although she was okay with having her name on a gravestone, she definitely wanted to have her body cremated and the cremains scattered outdoors. She was an outdoors girl and didn’t want “to be kept in an urn on somebody’s mantel.” Over the past two years, I’ve gone to various places to honor her request. I kayaked down the Green River in Utah and left cremains at each of the campsites we used; I went to Florida so her family could scatter cremains at the family farm; and I’ve made several hikes with family members to her favorite spots around Tucson (including Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains, Lower Tanque Verde Falls, and Seven Falls in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area). Yesterday’s hike was the last of these.
Will and I left my home about 8:15 and drove to the Sabino Canyon Ranger Station, where we left his truck and began our walk. We debated whether to wait for the tram to open (their first run is at 9 AM; we got there about 8:40), but decided to walk up the road to the trailhead that leads to Hutch’s Pool. It’s about 3.7 miles and we got there just at 10. The trail itself is between 3 and 3.5 miles to the pool; it’s 2.5 miles to a trail junction and then an undetermined distance (but about an hour’s hike) beyond that to the pool.
After a couple of false leads (neither one of us remembered exactly how far it was), we arrived at the pool around 12:15 – well, Will got there about 12:15. I staggered in about 5 – 10 minutes later. By that time Will had already taken off his shoes and socks and waded into the pool up to his knees. That was far enough for him. I got as far as my right wrist and decided not to go any farther. So we sat / sank / collapsed and rested and remembered. The last time we hiked to the pool (in fact, the only other time I have ever been there) was in September 2009 (this photo was taken by Will’s wife, Maria):
So after Will and I had eaten our lunch, and sufficiently recovered that we could stand again, I pulled out a small packet of Toni’s cremains. We split them between us and said our separate goodbyes to Toni.
Naturally, at the moment I tossed my handful of cremains in the air, the breeze took a turn and blew them back at me. So I inadvertently brought some cremains back home and spread them through the sewer system when I washed my clothes today. *sigh*
In 2009 the four of us not only walked *up* the road to the trailhead, and walked the trail, but we also walked *down* the road back to the Visitor Center because we missed the last tram. We could see it and we could hear it, but we were too far away to have them wait. So we walked an extra 3.7 miles that we hadn’t planned on.
Yesterday, determined not to repeat that error, Will and I paid a bit more attention to our watches. We left Hutch’s Pool earlier than we had in 2009, and we kept tabs on our time as we got closer. Will was once again ahead of me, and he could have caught the 3:30 tram. He told me that if it had been the last one, he would have lain down in front of it. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary, so when I arrived at the trailhead at about 3:33, he was waiting for me and the tram was gone. We spent the next 20 – 25 minutes letting our legs stiffen up, waiting for what we thought was the last run of the day. As it turned out, there were two *more* runs after 4, so we *could* have stayed at the pool longer. But we were happy we erred on the safe side, and I was home by about 4:45 yesterday afternoon.
I still have one small packet of Toni’s ashes, but it’s reserved for when I hike the Appalachian Trail. Hiking the AT was one of our retirement goals, and even though Toni’s gone, I still plan to do the hike someday. I’ve resolved to put about half of the cremains at the southern end (Springer Mountain, in Georgia) and the other half at the northern end (Mt. Katahdin, in Maine). If it turns out that I decide not to do the hike, or that I can’t, I’ll find a way to get to each end of the AT and leave her cremains anyway.
I miss you, Toni Stalker. Every day.
I’m really happy your honoring what aunt Toni would have wanted. It’s super decent that she’s in so many special places especially the farm and where y’all did all the Rapids, she loved that. I miss her, love y’all – Amy
Thanks, Amy. That means a lot to me.