Local Family Completes Top of Tamarack Hike in Honor of Loved Ones for National Suicide Prevention Month

Taushina Eagle hiking Top of Tamarack

September 30, 2023 – September is National Suicide Prevention Month, the last Saturday in September, the non-profit, Gr8ter, organizes a race in Donnelly, ID called, Top of Tamarack (TOT).  Participants bike, run, or hike up the mountain at Tamarack Resort, to the distance of their choosing, (max distance is just under 15 miles roundtrip).  The competition is against yourself, where you make a goal and set out to achieve it.  

At each milepost, the participant can collect a token.  One side of the token says, “Mentally Strong” and the other side says, “Top of Tamarack”.  A participant can potentially collect up to 14 tokens.  The tokens are a great incentive to push out another mile!

I had signed myself and my family up for this race in July.  Shortly after, I reached out to the Garcia family and asked for their permission to make Maxine Gabriella Garcia-Ruiz an honoree on TOT’s Memorial Mile.  

The Memorial Mile honors those who have lost their lives to suicide.  This year there were 140 honorees on the Memorial Mile.  This race is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Every detail is shrouded in thoughtfulness and meticulous care.  At the end of the Memorial Mile, they’ve made available blank plaques so that participants can write-in names.  Mitchell honored his nephew, Nigele Thomas Williamson.  They’ve also made flowers available to be placed around the plaques.  

The Memorial Mile was emotionally heavy and also healing and empowering.  Everyone was very encouraging and gentle with each other.  I saw people kneeling by their loved one’s plaques, in tears.  Lateral grief instantly hits, I could feel my face getting hot and a lump developing in my throat.  Then the tears!

Mitch Wilson honors a loved one along the hike.

Feeling grief, but then hiking up a mountain, hearing a stream and rain, the fresh air, deer watching us through the trees, the fog, the encouragement from strangers.  Every step felt like a prayer, a prayer for those struggling with their mental health, and a prayer for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.  Every step was empowering and full of hope!

When I was a kid, my dad would take us kids on hikes.  Sometimes we would just go around our subdivision block and sometimes we would hike under the ski lift at Bogus Basin (Boise) and search for dropped coins.  I learned at a young age how healing it is to be outside.  It renews the mind and the body.  

I have continued this tradition with my own kids.  We are regulars on the Fire Trail in Lapwai.  If I am feeling emotionally heavy or if I need to process things, I walk.  If I need to cry or pray, I walk.  If I am overstimulated, I walk.  If I am happy, I walk.  Walking is self-care, family time, exercise, music, and fresh air.

I hope that my sons carry on this tradition and play an active role in nurturing their mental health by staying active and outside!  

In total there were 300 participants and 169 who summited. To give some perspective, TOT is the equivalent of going up the Fire Trail 4 ½ times, elevation-wise. It has an elevation gain of 3000 feet, and it’s roughly 7 miles to the summit. We didn’t sign up for TOT competitively but my son, AJ, placed 2nd in his age group and 55th overall.  AJ summited at 2 hours and 21 minutes.   

My foster son, Odin, placed 5th in his age group and 111th overall.  Odin summited at 2 hours and 53 minutes.

My son, Quentin, stopped at milepost 5 and volunteered at the water booth.  He is a natural encourager, so he easily fell into that role.  He was given a plastic hand clapper/noise maker and he cheered on other participants as they trekked up their last mile.  

The participants can either ride the ski lift down the mountain or go down by foot/bike, it’s up to the individual.  

Next year I hope that more of my family will join me and more community members will participate.  It’s too great of an experience not to share with the world! 

This article was written by TAUSHINA EAGLE.

All views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by the author are solely that of the author and do not reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Nez Perce Tribe or its Communications Department.

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