Sunday, July 15, 2018

Beaver Creek Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

July 2018

It was 101F degrees in the central valley of California. Too hot for hiking, especially considering that excessive heat is a trigger for seizures in Kellisa. We wanted to go on a hike, so we headed up into the mountains to check out Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

The park sits at an elevation of roughly 5,000 feet above sea level and there's a general rule that it cools off approximately 3 degrees for every thousand feet of elevation gain. Since the temperature reading in the car varied between 84F and 86F, the rule proved accurate.

We stopped at the visitor center to gather some information before deciding which trails to explore. It may seem odd to some, but the mid-80s temperature seemed a little "cool" under the shade of the big trees. 

Normally we look for non-accessible trails because they're usually longer and a bit more challenging. A quick look at the trail guide revealed three accessible trails and with our recent struggles with accessible trails in Idaho, we decided to attempt all three trails while scoping out the regular trails for future opportunities. We decided to start with the Beaver Creek Trail because it was the shortest and farthest from the entrance. We thought it would be a great warm up while getting a quick feel for the entire park from the main road. The trail was short, but 100% accessible. We weren't disappointed.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Driving into a Horror Movie Scene

The dead-end road to the Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars was long and rough through a deep forest in northern Idaho. Kellisa loved the rocks, potholes, and overall "bumpiness". We spent maybe two hours on the trail and enjoying a snack back at the rental truck after our hike before we returned to the forest road. We didn't see another human the entire time on our adventure to see the ancient cedars. As I was driving out, I came around a corner and came to a sudden stop. We were next to an old pickup partially blocking the road and maybe 10 yards in front of us, a tree was blocking the road and there was a man with a chainsaw. We were behind him and he couldn't see or hear us. 

My heart starting beating out of my chest. There was only one way out and a tree and chainsaw wielding mountain man were blocking the way. I watched the man saw a few sections of the tree and when the saw powered down, I called out a friendly, "Hello" while smiling and waving from the safety inside my truck.

He waved back. I decided to get out and offer help. I was banking on the fact that this tree had fallen over and he was just clearing the road. At worst, I was hoping he was poaching a tree and wouldn't see us as a threat.

He told me that he was on his way to hike the same trail we just completed and he found the tree blocking the road....and he just happened to have his chainsaw with him ready to go. Maybe this is normal for the area, I don't know? As he cut the tree down to manageable pieces, I helped clear the road by rolling the pieces off to the side. As soon as we had a clear path, he told me that he could handle the rest and we could go on our way. We had our way out and he didn't have to tell me twice. 

If he wanted to use the chainsaw on us, our bodies would have never been found. I don't know if the tree spontaneously fell, but I do know his pickup was between the tree and the trailhead. Since he said he was headed to the trail, if the tree fell spontaneously, it would have had to fall after he drove past. I suppose it's possible it fell and just missed his truck or maybe he saw it fall in his mirror. 

I will never know for sure if the tree fell on it's own and he magically appeared with a chainsaw. There was a sign at the trailhead warning about limbs and trees falling because of recent fires. We were many miles from cell service and the nearest anything. We would have been stuck for probably a very long time if the tree did fall on its own and he wasn't there with his chainsaw. If he was poaching a tree, I'm thankful that he let us pass without any trouble. 

Even in black and grizzly bear country, I'm a little more afraid of encountering other humans and this experience did nothing to change my mind. We cashed in some karma for sure, we just don't know how much we spent.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars

Idaho Panhandle National Forests

June 2018

I'm beginning to think the state of Idaho has a different definition of "accessible" when they use it to describe trails as you can see by the picture to the right. For the second day in a row, Kellisa and I drove a great distance to hike a trail that by all accounts is accessible. Previous hike found here.

The trail started out as a wide, hard packed surface mostly flat through a dense forest, but the ground quickly included mud, rocks, roots, and narrow sections. The trail crossed a creek several times with nicely built bridges, but then there was a crossing of large rocks piled across the creek. I'm not sure if the bridge got washed out or burned in recent fires, but even if you could use a standard wheelchair on this trail, I can't imagine a wheelchair making it across this rock bridge. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Myrtle Falls Trail

 Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

June 2018

The Myrtle Falls Trail in the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge was the main reason Kellisa and I made the long drive. Waterfalls remain mostly elusive for people who use wheels to go down trails. Very few have ADA paths and it's been our experience that due to the topography surrounding waterfalls, it's very hard to push Kellisa down non-ADA trails to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a waterfall. 

We were silly to believe that the trail would be accessible all the way to the waterfall just because they have the little blue and white wheelchair sign hanging with the Myrtle Falls Trailhead sign and the website leads you to believe the trail is accessible. 

The trail starts off accessible for the first .15 of a mile. You can't even hear Myrtle Falls, let alone view it when the trail becomes a rugged path not developed for wheeled devices. Once the accessibility ended, the trail started to switch back up the side of a steep hill. The trail was barely wide enough for Kellisa's chair. Since the sun was setting, we were a tasty treat for all the local mosquitoes. I wanted to buy some bug spray on our drive, but forgot and we both paid a heavy price. We didn't let the mosquitoes or lack of accessibility stop us from reaching the viewing area for Myrtle Falls. We exchanged high fives, snapped a few pictures, and quickly descended the trail back to the waiting enclosure of our rental car. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Auto Tour

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

June 2018

Kellisa and I recently found ourselves in the far north of Idaho where we spent a beautiful early evening exploring the wild Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. We observed many birds (including an eagle- picture below) and turtles. Despite being deep in black and grizzly bear country, we did not see any bruins. We originally had the thought of hiking the gravel auto tour road, but our late in the day arrival didn't allow enough time and we had to be satisfied with a nice little drive. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Laurel's Birthday and Total Inclusion

June 8, 2018
aka Laurel's 9th Birthday

Roseville, CA

Laurel woke up excited to be a 9-year-old early this morning, but it's what she did to make this day special for someone else is what really melted my heart. Today is her last day of third grade and her teacher said she could bring in a birthday treat. Laurel was concerned because a classmate can't eat gluten. The teacher told us not to worry about doing something extra (I think they would have provided a gluten free treat), but that wasn't good enough for Laurel. She wanted to get a treat that every kid could eat...100% inclusion for her birthday celebration. Lisa helped Laurel taste and purchase gluten free birthday cupcakes earlier in the week for her class to enjoy today. Just after Lisa delivered the cupcakes, the teacher asked Laurel's class if anyone knew, "why it was a special day?" Laurel's gluten free friend was the first to raise his hand and his answer was, "because there's gluten free treats for everyone"? I couldn't be more proud of Laurel and her staunch advocate heart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Born Too Soon

May 29th

Another sorrow filled day for the Kain family. It should be a day of crazy celebrations because it's our first born, Everett's birthday. We never celebrated a birthday with Everett because he passed away from an extremely rare heart defect when he was only 6 months and 9 days old.

Everett's birth defect was explained as a 1 in 10 million births in the United States. He bounced around hospitals before we found a leading cardiologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The doctor performed two heart surgeries and was hopeful that he would be able to save Everett, but his surgeries couldn't correct the defect. Everett spent approximately half of his short life in hospitals.

Lisa and I have seen and been through more than any two people should ever endure and be expected to survive. I'm sure some people wonder how we do it and I don't have an answer, I guess we're just adapted to endure.

Through everything, nothing compares to watching Everett slowly earn his angel wings as Lisa held him for days as we knew there was nothing left for the doctors to do. We had hoped to donate his organs so other babies could benefit with parts of Everett living on, especially his big beautiful blue eyes, but he was too weak at the end to donate.

Kellisa and Kirsten's complications are not related to Everett's and the girls are their own and separate 1 in many millions. Before adopting, we consulted with a doctor to learn the odds of a third pregnancy being completely successful. Since both of Lisa's pregnancies were unrelated and neither were hereditary, we were told that any future pregnancies had the same odds as any other healthy couple our age. The doctor wanted to place odds of two 1 in millions pregnancies happening to the same couple, but he couldn't come up with a number high enough, he left it at incomprehensible.  

I think the doctor could tell that we weren't really comforted by his information and green light to proceed, so he offered another fact. He told us that if Everett would have been born in 2007, doctors would now be able to perform successful surgery on his heart leading to a long and healthy life. Again, this did not comfort us and was devastating before we realized through hopeful reflection that Everett may have helped future babies with his heart defect survive by the experiences of his two surgeries. We like to think he continues to save 1 out of every 10 million babies born in the United States with the same heart defect.

We purchased two gravesites after Everett passed away with the plan that he would spend eternity over Lisa. We had no idea that in less than 10 years, Kirsten would be spending eternity above me and next to Everett and Lisa. About 10 years ago, we purchased the site directly before my spot for Kellisa. 

Everett's Statistics: 1 state (Illinois) and 2 hikes (Starved Rock State Park and Chicago Botanical Gardens)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

An Evening of Train Rides

May 23, 2018

aka Kellisa's 19th Birthday

Sacramento, CA

We went all out for Kellisa's 18th birthday last year, so we didn't plan anything crazy this year. In fact, we didn't really have a plan until Lisa suggested taking Kellisa for a ride on Sacramento's Light Rail System since she loves trains so much. The plan evolved to riding the train downtown where we would find a place to eat dinner, have cake, and then ride the train back. Since her birthday was a Wednesday and it was also a school and work day, we planned her train adventure for the evening.

Kellisa's birthday started with getting ready for school in her birthday dress before catching her bus. A little later, Lisa dropped off a dragonfly birthday cupcake so Kellisa could celebrate with her teachers and classmates. Even at 19, it can be hard picturing Kellisa going off to school and living a huge part of her life without mom and dad. This hit home when Kellisa's teacher sent a picture of Kellisa taken at McDonald's for a birthday lunch. We had no idea she was going to McDonald's for lunch. A little mind blowing when we think about it.

We didn't really have a plan, just drive to the nearest light rail train stop closest to our house and take a ride downtown. We'd pick a spot to get off and hopefully find a restaurant close. Since this was our first ride, buying tickets from a machine was a little confusing, especially not being able to really see the screen due to the glaring sun, but it all worked out when we hopped on the train at Watts/I-80 West. We got off at the Cathedral Square stop in downtown Sacramento.