California has some oddly restrictive laws about spreading remains, so the easiest thing to do is pay for a company to spread the ashes either at sea or by plane. The funeral home offered information on some of these services. We have no particular attachment to the ocean, so that didn't make sense to us. We did briefly considered a service that would spread the ashes from a plane over somewhere like Monterrey Bay or Lake Tahoe. We probably gave the most thought to Lake Tahoe, since Obie had been there while Elizabeth was pregnant, but the connection seemed like a stretch, and ultimately didn't seem right either. Eventually, we decided that we wanted to scatter the ashes ourselves somewhere in nature.
We found out that it is legal to scatter ashes on public lands in CA, as long as you get the right permission. Most national parks and forests allow this, hiking in Yosemite or in the Tahoe National Forest wasn't a realistic option in January, so finding somewhere that we could visit in any season became important to us. Although we had never really looked into it before, there is a bounty of public parks and open space preserves right in the Bay area. With a little looking, Chris found Uvas Canyon County Park in the Santa Cruz mountains just a little south of San Jose.
View from Uvas Canyon County Park.
The park has a number of spring fed waterfalls which flow year round (even with the drought). There is also a waterfall loop which goes to many of the park's waterfalls, and is considered by many to be the best waterfall hike for families in the Bay Area. The trail has a bit of a grade to it, but nothing too strenuous. We remember seeing people, and families, along the trails, but at no time did we feel crowded, which was important for us. We arbitrarily decided on Superbowl Sunday, but also hoped the timing would keep some crowds away while we hiked. Chris obtaining the permit from Santa Clara County, and we set out. The drive to the park goes south out of San Jose, then winds up into the eastern slope of Santa Cruz Mountains. The road leading to the park goes through Sveadal, a small private Swedish American community directly outside the park's entrance.
There isn't really anything that can prepare you for going on a hike to spread your son's ashes in nature. We didn't have a specific ceremony or remembrance in mind. We didn't have a plan, but really, how could we? Without anything specific in mind, we just started hiking up the waterfall loop carrying our good camera, a set of our favorite wallet-sized Obie pictures, and his ashes to scatter.
The first of many trails we took.
The loop has a steady grade up to first of the waterfalls, Black Rock Falls. At this point, we decided that we wanted to spread Obie's ashes throughout the park as we hiked the trails. Taking turns along the way, we scattered a little bit whenever the surroundings spoke to us. We decided to take pictures of the area with the pictures of Obie in the foreground and the park in the background. We continued past the waterfall loop and hiked to the top of Knobcone Point. We then hiked to Basin Falls and Upper Falls before deciding to continue on the Contour Trail which tracks back along the canyon wall.
Obie's pictures in Uvas Canyon.
We found numerous spots along the trail that spoke to us, but one of the most striking as a grove of white trees the stretched over the trail like a tunnel to walk through.
White tree tunnel (the camera is not tilted).
Not being ready to leave, we kept hiking into Alec Canyon past Manzanita Point. Eventually, we hiked to the Old Logging Camp where we walked under a giant yellow-flowering tree, and finally to Triple Falls. All along, we took pictures of Obie's pictures anywhere that seemed right. I don't think anyone really noticed what we were doing, but we didn't really care if they had. There were lots of tears, lots of embracing each other, and lots of remembering how much we missed our little Obie. The entire experience was, and still seems, completely surreal.
Before this post, we had not shared any of the details of the hike we took to scatter Obie's ashes. We also haven't been back to Uvas Canyon since the hike. This isn't because we don't want to share, but mostly because we haven't been ready to talk about it before now. We picked Uvas Canyon because it is somewhere we can go back to visit any time of year and also somewhere we can take friends and family in the future. We will go back, but not yet, we aren't ready.
If you follow us on social media, it has to be pretty hard not to notice that we have taken to hiking this year. We have made a point of trying to hike every weekend that we are able. There isn't a specific link back to Obie, but the first hike we took was in Uvas Canyon for Obie. Since then, we have taken to it as a way to be good to our bodies and our minds. We didn't know it at the time, but the hiking trips constantly bring us around more of Obie's yellow flowers and more of Obie's bees than we would ever get to see otherwise.