First Backpacking Trip

Journal, August 4, 2014


The girls and I are leaving this morning for our first backpacking (i.e. not car camping) trip without our beloved John Mullally. It is heartbreaking to pack up without him, and almost every item is a trigger – his foldable backpacking saw, the beat up backpacking stove, the water filter (he used to be so chivalrous and would do the majority of the time consuming water pumping). My whole body aches. I miss him. I don’t want to do this alone, I want him back. It is so hard to keep moving and to finish packing up through my tears, but still – I do it. I keep breathing. I do not allow myself to succumb to the urge to collapse on the floor and give up.

Journal, August 8, 2014




Nika, Jessica, and I took 4 kids backpacking to the Ozette coast. The crew included a 2.5 yr old who had to be carried part of the time, an 11mo old who had to be carried the entire time, and my 6 and 9 yr old mountain girls. It was hard. I don’t mean physically hard (I’m a bit of an ox), but rather it was emotionally hard. I was a bit grouchy and in fact at one point said to Nika “Really the only reason I’m cranky is… you know… the whole dead husband thing.”

John and I took the kids to the Ozette coast when Mel was just 1 yr old and so of course this special spot reminds me of him. Oh how I missed him. I missed him when I was packing up for the trip (he always had such pre-camping trip exuberance), I missed him at the trailhead campground the first night. He always gave me a break and did more of the setup work when we went camping, since he loved it so much. And of course, I missed him when we were on the beach. He would have sat with me, watching our girls play in the tide pools, completely relaxed and happy.

Oh how I wept an ocean of tears for him when I sat on the beach, watching our girls. I truly, unconditionally, completely, utterly loved and adored him. I never doubted our life-long union for a nanosecond. John was my guy – my mountain man, my bearded hottie, my best friend, my climbing buddy, my lover, and the doting father of my children. I sat there, weeping, wanting my life back. All of my dreams had come true with him. Everything is different now. My mountain man is gone, and my children will never have a father again.

Still, through the tears, there was so much joy. My kids explored and played for hours on the beach. They loved it. In them I see him. His love for camping, hiking, and the outdoors lives on in my 2 little girls. It would make him so happy to know that I’m continuing on this path with them, even though it’s so much harder to do now that he is gone.

John – thank you for teaching me everything I know about mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest. Thank you for all of the beautiful spots you have brought me to. Many of my dreams died with you – I will never grow old with you. I will never take 6mo to hike the PCT with you once the girls go to college. I will never get to share the joy of our grandchildren with you. Still, many of our dreams will live on. I promise to be the Mountain Mama that you would want me to be. I promise to keep taking our girls out to beautiful places, even when it’s hard, even though it makes me so sad to do it without you by my side.

On the last night, on the beach, Melanie said “Mama, do we really have to go home tomorrow? I want to stay here.” I have to admit, I felt the same way. Through the tears, I had fun. I got back on the trail.

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