Writing Trip Reports to Remember a Loved One
Each year, Diego Moreno's sister and mother go backpacking as part of a memorial trip for Diego, Lizzie's son and Alejandra's brother. They find the time spent in nature is a balm for them, and helps them connect with Diego.
People write trip reports for many reasons. Some write them to notify others of trail conditions or share their photos. Others write them to track their speed or to remember a notable trip. Lizzie Lee writes hers to record the annual hikes she and her daughter Alejandra embark on in memory of Diego, Lizzie's son and Alejandra's brother.
Diego learned to love the mountains in his home country of Venezuela. Diego grew up doing all sorts of outdoor activities.
"He didn’t just enjoy being outside, he enjoyed the physical challenge that exploring nature can often require," Lizzie and Alejandra remember.
He climbed mountains and hiked long treks. His first trips in Venezuela combined physical challenge with beautiful scenery, discovered with his family.
But after the 1998 Venezuelan elections, Lizzie decided to move the family to Washington. They arrived in July 1999. Diego was 16, and took immediately to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, exploring them constantly. After he finished school, Diego got a job as a police officer in Kent and started a family. He took his children hiking often, even before they were able to walk, hoping to instill the same love for nature.
But Diego's life was cut short when he died in an accident while he was on duty in 2018 at the age of 35, just a few days after his birthday.
After the accident, Alejandra wanted to honor Diego by doing one of the things he loved most: spending time in nature. She came up with the idea of an annual backpacking trip that spans the days between his birthday (July 17) to the anniversary of the accident (July 22).
The following year, Lizzie and Alejandra took their first trip. They consider the trip a way for the three of them to travel together again.
"July 2018 may have marked his physical departure, but our connection with him transcends the physical," Lizzie said. "This is what the trips mean to us — it's a way to quiet everything else and tune into what we had and continue to have, through nature, through memories, through shared grief, through story-telling. In those 6 days, we don't just honor his life, we honor and nurture our connection. We do him and ourselves justice."
After the trip is over, Lizzie writes a trip report. They contain information about the trail — including weather, trail conditions and short reviews of the food they ate. But they also include reflections on her son and family. They are personal and bittersweet, and she considers the reports a part of the tradition — a way to externalize the memory of them.
"As a genealogist and my family historian, I record the relevant aspects of our lives. As wanderers, we have always documented our trips in writing, through pictures, and through the journey's paraphernalia. Because these hiking trips mean the bonding of our souls with Diego's, we want to ensure that we capture our experiences...One day, our memory may fail, and for sure one day we will leave this Earth, but the stories will be passed along, staying, like the mountains, forever."