Missing a Trail Companion

Mary Elizabeth Waddell, 1925-2010.

Mary Elizabeth Waddell, 1925-2010.

My grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Waddell, passed away on Thanksgiving day, after showing us all what a well-lived life looks like. We already miss her so much, but I feel immensely grateful to have known her and to have felt her influence in my life.

Grandma has always loved the outdoors, and passed that love along to every member of her family, as well as anyone else she met! Among her church community, Grandma was the one to call when out-of-towners were visiting and you needed a trail expert to tell you where to take visitors hiking so that they'd see the best of Colorado's natural beauty.

She and my grandfather loved the outdoors, and my dad, aunt and uncles tell wonderful stories about their childhood -- much of it spent in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

My grandparents in their natural habitat, a.k.a. Rocky Mountain National Park. 1950s.

My grandparents in their natural habitat, a.k.a. Rocky Mountain National Park. 1950s.

The family that skis together... 1964. Uncle David, Uncle Tom, my grandfather, my grandmother, Aunt Suzanne and Dad (L to R).

The family that skis together... 1964. Uncle David, Uncle Tom, my grandfather, my grandmother, Aunt Suzanne and Dad (L to R).

Early in my life, on a hike with Grandma (Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park) 1978.

Early in my life, on a hike with Grandma (Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park) 1978.

I spent much of my childhood in the mountains with Grandma. She knew the names of most of the birds and flowers, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the trails themselves: how long they were, how steep, and where they all connected to each other. My love of the trail is certainly due in no small part to her influence.

Grandma loved to travel, and visited many countries around the world, including coming to see me in Paris when I was living there. 1998.

Grandma and me at Reid Hall, Paris, 1997.

Grandma and me at Reid Hall, Paris, 1997.

On the Georgetown Loop Railroad to celebrate Grandma's 83rd birthday. August, 2008. Photo by my partner, Christi Brockway.

On the Georgetown Loop Railroad to celebrate Grandma's 83rd birthday. August, 2008. Photo by my partner, Christi Brockway.

Grandma passed away peacefully Thursday afternoon, surrounded by people who love her. Her body had gradually stopped working, and in recent weeks she's lamented not being able to get out onto the trail.

So yesterday morning, missing her so much already, I knew where I needed to be. And while it sounds overly sentimental, I can say I felt her presence with me out there, as I ran up the hills and through the trees. Grandma is free again, and she's roaming the trails in a whole new way.

See you on the trail.