Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mount Washington

Kellisa's 9th State Highpoint

Mount Washington, NH

June 2009

Highpointers have three options for gaining the summit of New Hampshire: hike, drive or ride the Cog Railway. Since Kellisa loves trains, we decided to ride the railway up Mount Washington.

Kellisa with Mount Washington in the background:

We just missed the purple train:

Kellisa waiting to board the blue train:

The beginning of the train ride:

Alpine views in the Northeast:

The steepest section of track:

Enjoying the ride:

As far as you can go with a wheelchair:

Not satisfied with close, I carried Kellisa up the rocky trail to the true highpoint:

Short video from the summit:

Mount Washington is known for its weather:

Weather during our visit:

Mount Washington is also known for its fatalities:

A list of known deaths:

Enjoying the ride back down:

After a long day, Kellisa is asleep in our Northwoods cabin:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Clingmans Dome

Kellisa's 7th State Highpoint

Clingmans Dome, Tennessee

August 2007

Clingmans Dome is in the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is wide, paved and steep. There is an observation tower on the actual summit. The trail gains 332ft. in only a half a mile and the top of the tower adds an additional 54ft. to your ascent. Both the highpoint and the observation tower can be reached with a wheelchair or stroller. However, assistance and great care is advised because the trail is steep and an out of control wheelchair could be deadly. To be safe, I always tether Kellisa to my body. That way, even if I slip or let go of the chair (it only takes a second), it would only roll a couple of feet before coming to a stop.

 Trailhead views

Observation tower at the summit

 Highpoint picture

Mount Mitchell, NC from Clingmans Dome

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
January 7, 2012

Lisa had to work on a Saturday and both kids wanted to get out of the house to do "something". With both kids, it wasn't the time to push the limits with Kellisa, so I planned on heading to the swamp to enjoy the easy .75 mile boardwalk trail. The boardwalk takes visitors into the swamp for unique views and glimpses of wildlife in a natural setting. Since the boardwalk is flat, wide and has a curb on the edges, it's the perfect accessible swamp trail for a wheelchair.  

Egypt joined us on our first adventure of the new year:

Unfortunately, we found the boardwalk trail closed because the wildfires of 2011 burned the boardwalk and observation decks to the ground:

All that is left of the once beautiful boardwalk trail:

Fire damage:

Eerie light play over the swamp as the sun hides behind a cloud:

All was not lost. We enjoyed the .35 mile long Cane Pole Trail. It's paved like a sidewalk and follows the water's edge. Wheelchair assistance was needed because there are a few little elevation changes and nothing to keep the wheels on the concrete. An out of control wheelchair could end up in the water, so caution is advised.

Back at the visitor center, an old juke box was set-up to play "Swamp Songs". This was a highlight for both girls:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mount Mitchell

Kellisa's 6th State Highpoint

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

June 2006

We cut our trip to Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia short because Kellisa had a significant seizure, which allowed us to make an unplanned side trip to Mount Mitchell, the highpoint of North Carolina.

Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park

June 2006

Kellisa and I went on our third father-daughter camping trip and first beyond Florida in June 2006. We went to Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia for a week of camping and hiking. Although we weren't able to summit the highpoint of Virginia, we did enjoy several nice hikes, including a trail to the top of Little Pinnacle.

We were camping deep in the mountains and the rangers locked the gate to the campground at night. Cell phones do not work in Grayson Highlands. In other words, we were experiencing perfect solitude. However, I couldn't relax completely because I was worried Kellisa would have a seizure far from medical services.

Our 3rd night of camping was interrupted by rain storms that included strong wind gusts. It was hard for me to sleep as I was worried about trees falling on our tent.

Kellisa was sleeping through the storm as I continued to struggled. Then, one of my fears was realized. Kellisa started to have a seizure. I wasn't comfortable with Kellisa's seizures at this point and would always over worry since her typical seizure would only last 45-60 seconds. We've been instructed to call 911 if a seizure lasts 5 minutes. I quickly sat up, turned on a light and started timing the seizure. 30 seconds, then 45. I was hoping she would pop out and it would be just a normal seizure and we could go back to bed. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, it seemed like hours. Then 4 minutes and I still had no idea what I was going to do if we reached 5 minutes. An eternity later the seizure hit 4 1/2 minutes and I was frozen with panic and it felt like my head was removed from my body as I couldn't believe this was happening. As suddenly as the seizure started, it stopped just before hitting 5 minutes. I was never more relieved as when I saw Kellisa's partially paralyzed face looking up at me with blue lips and glassed eyes with a half smile as the other half of her mouth sagged from being paralyzed. This was her look when she came out of a seizure. We snuggled and Kellisa quickly fell asleep as I tried my best to get a little rest with what was left of the night.

Sadly, the month after our trip, a 6 year old girl died in a tent while camping at Nelson Dewey State Park in Wisconsin. As a kid, my dad took me on a couple of camping trips to Nelson Dewey State Park.

To this day (1.5.12), this seizure ranks in the top 5 most terrifying incidents in my life.

We used Grayson Highlands as a base for our day trip to Black Mountain, the highpoint in Kentucky. I was too scared after the seizure to camp the remaining two nights and cut our trip short. Because of this decision, we had an extra day and were able to reach Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River on our drive back home.

I have since reached the summit of Mount Rogers three times as I continue to search for a route that I can use to get Kellisa to the top of Virginia.

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