Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Lookout Mountain

Before Leslie had her surgery, she knew there was a chance she would not survive it. She asked that if she didn’t we would have her cremated and distribute her ashes at the top of Lookout Mountain, one of her favorite cycling spots. Luckily, her surgery went very well and she enjoyed another thirteen months of life. When she finally died she was cremated and her ashes were divided into three sets. One set was distributed at the base of the memorial tree that we planted along the eastern edge of Sloan’s Lake in Denver, a flowering crab apple tree that was made possible through a donation in Leslie’s name to “People for Parks.” (This was to fulfill a later request of hers.) Another set was distributed at the base of a red maple tree planted in Leslie’s memory in Vorheesville, NY, the town where she grew up. I also kept a small set, thinking that I would have a small vase, sculpture or some other piece of art made that would incorporate her ashes into pottery or glass. After more that four years I never had this done, and after reading through her diary posting that she made before her surgery, and being reminded of her wish to have her ashes spread on Lookout Mountain, I finally gave up on the idea of a piece of art, and decided that a resting place on Lookout Mountain would be most fitting for the set that I had kept.

Today was Denver’s “Bike to Work” day. I used to participate in this event every year, although it was just a formality for me, being a fairly regular bicycle commuter anyway. Since I’ve been retired, I’ve felt a bit left out by all the publicity in the weeks leading up to “Bike to Work” day. So today I decided it would be a good day to ride up to Lookout Mountain and distribute Leslie’s remaining ashes.

In the local news last night there was a story about a local hiking trail (not on Lookout Mountain) that had been closed due to mountain lion activity. I’ve seen bobcats in the wild but never mountain lions. It’s fairly common for trails to be closed temporarily in the fall due to rattlesnake activity and sometimes due to bears, but I had not ever heard of trail closures due to mountain lion activity. I went to sleep last night having made up my mind that I would carry out my plan this morning, and as I slept I dreamed that a mountain lion attacked me as I was kneeling and spreading the ashes. I awoke thinking that it would not be an entirely unfitting way for me to die. Then, this morning, about a mile from the top of Lookout Mountain, I passed a sign warning of recent mountain lion activity in the area and telling people how to deal with a confrontation with one. A little further up the road, I was startled as I rounded a corner by a buff-colored animal only a few feet to my right on the side of the road. It took me only a moment to realize it was a deer, not a mountain lion, but I’m sure it caused a jump in my already elevated heart rate.

I found a fitting spot to ceremoniously empty the pouch of ashes on the north side of the road that winds up to the Boettcher Mansion and the Nature Center and Preserve. It was a beautiful day to take a bike ride, and the mountain top was lush and green after an unusually wet spring. Today was the first day this year expected to reach a temperature of ninety degrees. I’m lucky to be able to do this ride during the week when the traffic on the road is light. Because the descent is full of turns cyclists can ride down a lot faster than cars can drive, and on weekends you will find many frustrated cyclists having to break behind slower cars on the way down the mountain. Today I was able to ride back down into Golden without a single car in front of me, imagining Leslie right with me the whole way down. Oh, how she loved flying down that mountain on her Trek Madone!

Sloan's Lake Memorial Tree
Sloan’s Lake Memorial Tree
Vorheesville, NY Memorial Tree
With friends Janet and Joseph Vertrees after riding up Lookout Mountain