On March 3, 2008, my father passed away unexpectedly due to heart failure. This was not the first time he had had heart issues; He had been hospitalized multiple times previously due to heart attacks.
As arrangements for my dad's body began, I remembered at least three times that my father had expressed his desire to be cremated. I also remembered something else he had once written, so I searched for a letter that he sent me a couple years ago. The letter described a place with a waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains called "Falling Waters". He said that he wanted to take me to that spot some day to show me where he wanted his ashes spread. Unfortunately, I never got to go there with my dad for various reasons, but I thought that I could travel to this place he wanted so much for me to see. I decided to spread his ashes in this place, just as he had requested. I would still travel to this spot with my dad by my side.
I had my work cut out for me, because the Blue Ridge Mountains are a mountain chain that span from Pennsylvania to Georgia and dad never explained exactly where this spot was. Since dad wrote that letter after driving from New York to Florida, it really could have been anywhere in that expanse.
After a few days of searching the internet, I found a "Falling Waters Cascades" point of interest in Google Maps. There was very little information — just the name, a general location, and a picture. Fortunately, it did show me that Falling Waters was in Virginia, outside Buchanan, VA and a few miles northeast of Roanoke. After getting this much information, I was able to track down a brochure on Blue Ridge trails in Virginia, which lists the Fallingwater Cascades Trail as being a moderate-difficulty 1.6 mile hike at milepost 83.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In July 2008, I took a week off of work to make the trip. My wife and I headed down south by car, leaving the kids with relatives in New Jersey. After spending a long, long, long time on I-95, we finally made it to Virginia and spent the night outside Roanoke.
The next morning we set out early and made it to the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway we needed to be on, but had trouble finding the trailhead. None of the areas I passed were labeled as Fallingwater Cascades. After a small amount of confusion and a plenty of surfing the web on my cell phone, we finally located the trail. As it turns out, most pull-offs for trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway have signs prominently displayed and viewable from the road. The Fallingwater Cascades Trail, however, has a pulloff that is behind some trees, so the sign is easily visible only once you pull into the parking area.
Spreading the Ashes
We hiked a short distance down to the falls and enjoyed the view. We found a perfect spot to put my dad to rest, just as he would have wanted. On July 22, 2008 at 08:27, I placed my dad's remains to the stream just before it splashes down the falls. Here are a couple pictures of the area we were at:
I got to do a lot of thinking about my dad on that trip and sitting there with his ashes in my hands. My dad had paranoid schizophrenia, which brings with it many ups and downs. Much of the time, dad made it difficult to ignore the downs. As I sat there staring at the water and the ashes, I remembered all the good times we shared over the years, and I was able to truly forgive both him and myself for the rest.
The Lower Falls
A little farther down the trail and farther down the falls, there is a wonderful spot to sit and enjoy the quiet. I am certain that this is the spot where dad sat for hours, enjoying the nature of this peaceful and beautiful area. Here is the view dad had that he was talking about in his letter:
Detailed Location Information
Since I have a GPS receiver, I took careful note of the place where I spread my father's ashes, so that I and others can return to this place with a bit less confusion and research than I had. The coordinates are:
My father's ashes
N 37° 28.610 W 079° 34.875
N 37° 28.381 W 079° 34.835
For the real geeks out there, you can right-click this link to download an LOC file of the above two coordinates (right-click to save the file)
. Also, here is the spot on Google Maps that you can zoom in and out to see the area:
View Larger Map
It is a great spot, and I suggest you take the time to check it out whenever you pass through that area.
I really enjoyed the trip down and seeing this spot that my dad once described to me. I'll bet he would have been shocked to know that I really did fulfill this wish for him!
This trip and destination really gave me the chance to say good-bye to dad the way he wanted to be sent off. I'll always miss him, and I'll always love him.
Thanks for the trip, dad.