Sandia Crest is a cherished place for residents of Albuquerque to scatter the cremated remains of their loved ones. It is part of the Cibola National Forest, a popular quick getaway to enjoy nature and cooler temperatures in the summer heat. There must be thousands of New Mexicans’ ashes scattered there.
Eight years ago, in June of 2012, I went to the top of Sandia Mountain to demonstrate how to scatter cremated remains. While it is not illegal to scatter ashes on public land, here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts.”
- Cremated remains of an entire human body comprise 3-5 pounds of gritty calcium, about a coffee can’s worth. Avoid dumping it all in one spot.
- Scatter the remains in different directions, using a trowel, a cup, your hand, or a cremation scattering tube. Cremated remains are sterile, you don’t have to worry about germs or microbes.
- Unless you want to have ashes in your face, turn your back to the prevailing wind.
- You can scatter on your own land or other private land with the owner’s permission.
- On public land, it’s not against the law and it’s mostly a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation. While there are no cremation scattering police, avoid scattering in front of a park ranger.
- If you wish to obtain a permit for scattering in any of the national parks, search for the appropriate National Park website for more information. You can get permits to scatter in specific national parks, such as for Mt. Rainier and the Grand Canyon, by searching on the NPS website.
- Don’t erect a marker on the scattering spot on public lands. That is against the rules. Get GPS coordinates or make note of nearby natural landmarks that will endure through time.
- You may want to bring ceremony into the scattering with readings of poetry, psalms or prayers to recite before, during or after the scattering. Here’s an example.
- As noted in an earlier blog post, avoid scattering on tribal lands. Cremation and human remains scattering is offensive to many Native Americans and taboo. Note: The western face of Sandia Mountain is considered sacred to the Sandia Pueblo tribe. Show your respect by keeping any scattering to the eastern side of the mountain. My demonstration on the western cliff side with garden dirt does not mean you should scatter on the western side of Sandia Mountain.
Scattering Cremated Remains in 2020
Eight years later, I returned to scatter the cremated remains of an old boyfriend, Pete Goodwin.
Because of Pete, I was able to move to New Mexico in 1990. While our romantic relationship didn’t endure, we remained friends. He moved to Oklahoma to help care for his aging parents, and then moved to Texas. He married a lovely woman named Lucy and lived in New Braunfels, Texas for a number of years.
Pete’s heart stayed here in New Mexico. After his death, I went to Pete’s memorial service on November 11, 2018. Lucy told me that Pete wanted to have his ashes scattered on Sandia Crest. I promised that I would do that for him.
I chose a spot slightly below the crest on the east side of Sandia Mountain because it is sheltered from the wind. It has a wide view of the sky: Pete loved astronomy and exploring the night sky. Beautiful wildflowers in shades of purple, blue, red and yellow dot the rocky slope.
I placed most of Pete’s ashes in an ossuary in Sunset Memorial Park in Albuquerque. It’s a place with a name plate where I can easily go visit. That’s one of the nice aspects of cremated remains, they can be shared with many people and scattered in numerous meaningful places.
Rest in peace, Pete.