Waypoints: Ashes on the Arizona Trail with Katie & Quinci

Waypoints: Ashes on the Arizona Trail with Katie & Quinci

  • Erin Swanson

Ruffwear Ambassadors Katie and her canine-sidekick Quinci are outdoor enthusiasts, exploring the trails in their home state of Arizona every chance they get. They recently said goodbye to a member of their pack, beloved dog Chipper. To honor his life, Katie and Quinci embarked on a 67-mile, 6 day hike of the Arizona Trail where they spread Chipper's ashes in a bed of wildflowers.

Between Waypoints

Have you ever felt like your life was between waypoints? Between important events, and you’re left feeling stagnant, frozen in place?

Last October marked a very important event in my life. My beloved dog, Chipper, passed away suddenly, shortly after turning 11-years-old. He was perfectly healthy – other than the sudden and severe heart failure that took him from this world in less than a week.

A woman lies down on a sleeping bag with her dog.

This was a traumatic moment for me. Much of my life is focused around Chipper and Quinci. They’re my constants. But in a blink, it’s just Quinci and me – and our incredible support system.

A woman kisses her dog on the top of the head.

For months, I wasn’t sure how to react, how to feel, how to move forward – I’m still not. But what I have learned is that I can’t keep waiting for the next waypoint to appear; I have to go make them.

So I’ve stopped waiting, and I’ve started making sure each day matters and that I’m no longer putting things on hold. Dogs have an incredible ability to live in the moment – and Chipper was an absolute master of it – so I’m going to live like Chipper.

A dog walks on a hiking trail with trees in the distance.

For years, I have wanted to begin hiking the Arizona Trail that runs from the Utah border down to the Mexico border. I don’t have the ability to thru-hike, so I’ve always planned to hike a week or two-week long section each year, until the entire trail is completed. But that year kept getting pushed back, by one excuse after another … until now.

A dog sits on a backpack and smiles while on a hike on the Arizona trail.

Quinci and I have just completed our first portion of the AZT. We began at the Utah/Arizona border (Northern Terminus) and hiked 67 miles, over 6 days, to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

And we took Chipper with us. I brought along a small portion of his ashes to spread in meaningful places along the trail. He deserves to see it all, and he will.

A woman and her dog hike together along the Arizona trail.

He now lays in a bed of the most stunning wildflower display I’ve witnessed, at a campsite he would have loved, at a meaningful viewpoint over the East Rim of the canyon, and he’s soaring along a stretch of trail flush with butterflies.

A dog walks on a trail surrounded by wildflowers.

Quinci and I hiked anywhere from 12 - 16.5 miles/day. We’d finish our miles by lunchtime and nap the remainder of the afternoon.

We saw incredible sites, from burn scars smothered in wildflowers and meadows over 2 miles long to forests filled with magic – all were views that make your eyes water.

A woman and her dog stand in front of a sign for the Arizona trail.

This experience was beyond words, and I feel so grateful I was able to share it with Quinci and, in a way, Chipper. He walked every mile with us; I could even feel the sensation of his snout pressing against the back of my leg like he wanted to show me something, on multiple occasions. Gently reminding me he’s with us, wherever life may take us.

A dog sits and takes a rest while hiking the Arizona trail.

Life isn’t just about the waypoints, it’s about the time we spend between them. It’s about how we make those moments matter. How we create our own waypoints.

*I am already researching our next portion of trail, from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to the Flagstaff area (around 100 miles)!

Interested in learning more about Katie & Quinci? Follow their journey at @trustyourtrail.

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