My dad died. It was sad, and it wasn’t. He had had a long and really quite wonderful life. Age, injury and illness had taken away, one by one, the things he loved to do. In the end, he was ready to go.
We took his ashes to Namadji National park and scattered them from a cluster of granite tors on a precipice looking down to the Orroral valley, with the outline of abandoned Orroral Station showing. The rocks were on a ridge above the Honeysuckle Creek campground, where the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking station (the Deep Space station which received the first images of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk) used to be. How appropriate for a man who grew up with a love of astronomy.
We were lucky. It was an afternoon in early January. The extreme bushfire weather which as turned NSW and ACT into a patchwork of fiery outbreaks the following week hadn’t arrived yet. The ACT National Parks association, of which he was a life member, turned up in force. The park gates were closed, but fifty of us crowded into the Visitor’s centre and then drove up to the campground, then to the trailhead on the ridge. No toilets, no barbecues or ashphalt parking lot, just a clearing in the forest.
Tables and chairs were unfolded, eskies and bags and bottles came out of car boots. We ate, drank and chatted there up on the remote ridge in the evening sunlight. Two groups of overnight pack walkers had to pass through our circle as they crested the hill and walked on down the track. The expressions on their faces as they found a noisy party at that remote place after park closing time were unforgettable.
Some of us were quite old – My mum is 91 and there was an ACT walking group member who looked very old indeed, a little slip of bone and spirit walking with two sticks. The lookout to the valley was only a few steps down the walking path and then another few steps on a side track. Everyone made it, at least to the Granite tors. That’s my mum there – she went all the way and sat right on the edge. There were many hands waiting to grab her if she went over.
We scattered Dad’s ashes over the cliff and the valley as the sun took on that velvety, golden afternooon light. The ACT walkers told stories of his love of walking and his often erratic navigational skills, combined with an enthusiasm for side trips and brilliant alternative routes which would often have his walking groups bushed and nearly benighted.
Now he’s out there forever, with (I’m told) quite a few other former members of the walking club.