How to Dead-Trek in 13 Easy Steps
Well Before You Leave ...
Step One: Do Research
First, figure out where you're going. Are you already visiting an area and you want to trek a bit while there, or are you looking to visit a specific person? Either way, do your standard homework about where you're going, then take it a step further. If you're just travelling to an area, find the prominent cemeteries there and throughly research their interments, distance from one another, etc. If you're visiting someone specific, get as much info as you can about their cemetery and see who else is there and in nearby locations.
Once you locate the cemeteries you want to visit, get as much information as you can on their locations. Print out pictures of the cemetery gates and any gravesites if available as well as Google Maps of each area you're trekking. Get all the information you can on the cemeteries you'll be visiting, such as exact physical address (NOT mailing address!), phone number, hours of operation and even seemingly silly bits of info like cross-streets or landmarks nearby.
This research all means a lot of back-breaking internet time, but it is well worth it It will really pay off in that you will have a smoother trip and be better able to see more graves in a more reasonable amount of time.
Step Two: Do More Research
You thought you were done with all that research, but you're not. You will never be more pissed-off in your life if you miss someone really cool just because you didn't know they were in a cemetery you were visiting anyway. When you think you've scoured every inch of the internet for info, check again. Cross-reference. Never use only 1 site for information!
Another thing you should do is get some information regarding the people you're trekking. Wikipedia is great for this. It's not just fun to read about the person's life and/or death while you're at their grave or on your way there, but it also helps connect you more to them - making you even less like a tourist than you already are!
Step Three: Keep a Notebook (or 'Bundle Up'!)
It's imperative to keep your research somewhat organized or at least at-the-ready. A notebook is a requirement, whether it be a hand-written spiral-bound affair or an old school 3-hole binder. We have recently found that Bundles work fantastically for us: research in the form of computer print-outs stapled together by person and/or cemetery including photos of cemetery gates and stones, maps and other info. I also keep my cursery research in a handwritten notebook, but our Bundles have proved very useful recently!
However you chose to do it, keeping track of all the info you've gathered is vital. Losing any of it could mean disaster.
Step Four: Plan Your Itinerary
Make at least a rough plan of what you want to see when and in what order. Overestimate times, because you might want to stay longer in some spots. See what other interesting things are in the area you'll be visiting and save some time for those, too. Figure out where you're going to stay, if it's a longer trek - now's a great time to call those friends you haven't seen in a while! =)
Keep this in mind: doing research and wanting to see a lot of stuff is great, but be realistic. Don't try to cram too much into a small amount of time. All you'll end up doing is stressing yourself out and being disappointed that you missed things when you could have been content with what you got to see if you hadn't tried to over-exert your trip. Don't be afraid to be a bit ambitious, but don't be disappointed when you have to weed-out some stops.
Step Five: Save Money
Dead-trekking is not - by nature - an expensive hobby, which is one of the things that makes it so appealing. But don't underestimate your power to spend. You will find neat things along the way that you want, and you may need to pay for overnight accomidation as well - so start saving in advance so that you won't have any money problems once it's too late to do anything about it!
Just Before You Leave ...
Step Six: Check Your Transportation
If you're driving, make sure your vehicle can handle the ride. Equip it accordingly to make sure it lasts. If you're flying, confirm your flight and make sure everything is a go. Many a trek has been ruined by lack of reliable transport.
Step Seven: Prepare for the Worst
You might be going on a day trip to the next town or flying overseas for a week-long getaway from the living. Either way, always prepare for the worst possible outcome. Have emergency items at your disposal, pack sensibly and don't forget anything. What you bring along is just as important as all the research you just did.
Basic items to bring:
· A camera - well, duh.
More advanced items you might like to have along:
· Emergency food, if applicable - things like bottled water, jerky, dried fruit, snack cakes, etc.
Family and friends are going to worry about you, particularly if they don't exactly understand what you're doing. Get phone numbers and addresses for calls and postcards, and make sure people know where you're going - at least vaguely.
Except your job. Don't let them call you and ruin your trip!
During Your Trek ...
Step Nine: Try Not To Get Lost
It's bound to happen, but stay calm. Photos of your intended location are handy when you're lost, as is asking for help. Don't be afraid or too proud to ask for help if you can. Gas stations are cliche but great for this, usually ... even if they can't help you they usually have maps. Fancy things like GPS are always nice, and the phone number of the cemetery is a great thing to have along with the address. Call if you're desperate.
Also, be aware of your surroundings. Some very amazing places are smack in the middle of some very bad areas. Don't be stupid when it comes to matters like this!
Step Ten: Do Not Fight with Your Fellow Trekkers
Hand-in-hand with Step Nine ... you're going to fight if you get lost! But try not to. It makes everyone miserable. Keep it to a minimum!
Step Eleven: Be Polite To The Living
Don't tell people you're Kalpurnia Queen of The Goths out for a rendezvous with Death - and don't act like it. Be polite, especially when you need help from cemetery-workers. They're there to help you, but if you act like you don't belong there they'll feel like you don't and act accordingly. Always be super-nice and polite, and don't lie. If you simply tell them you're there to pay your respects, or doing some research, they should be helpful - some moreso than others, as we have found.
Also, make sure you're following the rules of the cemetery you're visiting. While we're not above some guerilla-style-trekking - keep your less-than-kosher activities to a non-invasive minimum.
Step Twelve: Have Respect for the Dead
We have found it nice to leave a little something at the graves we visit - whether it be a card, note, flowers, or some other special token of appreciation. Some cemeteries have strict guidelines regarding what you can leave where, so find out the policies of your specific location before leaving anything. We also make it a point to not disturb anything that has been left before we arrived. We have broken this rule on only a very few occassions (Andy Warhol's little basket comes to mind!), and then only after great need.
We also always bring a stiff brush with us to clean outdoor graves, as we found early on that quite a few are not in the best shape which saddened us a great deal.
Treat these people, and those nearby, well. Many of them have not been paid any respects for many years, but they deserve it. So pay it!
Step Thirteen: Have Fun!
You're participating in a very interesting, unique and honorable activity - make it fun!
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