HAMILTON, Ind. — As he prepares for his September hiking trip to Colorado, Phil Moser will tell you he's never been big on the great outdoors, but that's not stopping him. And he has his best friend to thank for that.
Moser and his daughter, Brittany, shared a special bond, one that makes people smile. It was Brittany that got Moser outside his comfort zone through hiking and sightseeing.
"In a lot of ways, I learned more from her," Moser says. "She was just so full of life."
Unfortunately, their time exploring together was cut short.
In 2015, Moser's family received news that Brittany was diagnosed with Addison's disease, a rare disorder in which the adrenal glands don't produce enough hormones. After battling the disease for two years, Brittany passed away in February at the age of 32.
Before the illness took her life, Brittany, who was living in Colorado at the time, discovered a bucket list on BuzzFeed titled "20 Colorado Places That Will Literally Take Your Breath Way."
Not knowing where the disease would take her, Brittany jumped at the opportunity to visit the sights. Already an avid adventurer, she called up Moser, the man who had been present in every chapter of Brittany's life up until that point, to join her.
The father and daughter duo managed to make it to 13 of the 20 spots before Brittany passed. Moser still intends to complete the bucket list.
For some, attempting to continue such a journey would be painful, each stop an emotional reminder that someone special is missing. For Moser, though, he sees finishing the bucket list as the most appropriate way to preserve Brittany's memory.
While the list includes a handful of spots the two had already visited multiple times together - Coors Field and the Red Rocks Amphitheater - it also features destinations off the beaten trail, such as Dinosaur National Monument and Bridal Veil Falls.
Moser recently returned from visiting The Sawtooth, which has one of the sharpest cliffs in the state, according to the bucket list.
The mountainous terrain is not exactly ideal for the 60-year-old Moser, who lives in Hamilton. But his wife, Marilyn, and older daughter, Camille, both know that hardly anything will keep Moser from finishing what he and Brittany started together.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," Moser says.
After all, Brittany was someone who loved to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
When her Little League team needed her to pitch during the playoffs after their ace went down with an injury, she took the mound fearlessly, having never pitched in her life.
When the recession put her soon-to-be employer out of business, she shrugged off the disappointment, saying she could use the extra time to acclimate to the real world. She had just graduated from Ball State University with a video production degree.
What seemed like a setback at the time was ultimately what got Brittany out to Colorado. A few years following her graduation, a friend suggested Brittany give the West a chance.
After making the move to Denver, it didn't take long for Brittany to put her college degree to work, editing and producing wedding videos. But soon she felt it was time to get outside her comfort zone once again. That's when she saw an ad for a flight attendant.
"She cared about those around her but was very carefree about her life in general," says Brent Eads, an old roommate of Brittany's at Ball State who later joined her out in Colorado. "She was always a very free-spirited individual."
It was her love of exploration that made Brittany want to continue living life to the fullest, even after becoming sick. Her illness, though, forced the father and daughter to pause their adventures in 2016. But it didn't stop Brittany from thinking about places to go.
In January, Moser received what he thought was good news in a message from Brittany.
"I have a place we need to add to our list," it read. The place was Sky Pond, a part of the Rocky Mountain National Park.
At the time, Moser took the message as a sign Brittany was getting better. But, she was quietly getting worse. A month after sending the message, she passed away.
Sky Pond will be the final destination on the bucket list, and Moser won't be alone when he checks it off. A handful of people who've grown close to Brittany and her story want to be with him when he brings his daughter's ashes to Sky Pond.
He's looking to make the trip next summer, after he's visited the seven remaining places on the original list.
"It's gut-wrenching for her to get this disease and lose her," Moser says. "This is the only thing that makes any sense out of this, to be able to tell her inspirational story."
Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net