Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trail Ridge Road

Rocky Mountain National Park
June 2014
We drove Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center so the girls could turn in their "homework" and become Junior Park Rangers in Rocky Mountain National Park. Laurel worked very hard on doing her work herself. She completed the 7-9 year old program. We also found time to enjoy some snow in June. Unfortunately, Kellisa was very uncomfortable because her glasses broke and she had a hard time seeing without her prescription sunglasses. She even had a hard time opening her eyes in the sunlight.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bear Lake Accessible Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park

June 2014

Trailhead Elevation: 9,475ft.
Distance: .77 mile

Bear Lake Accessible Trail was a nice hike on crushed gravel around a beautiful lake with wonderful views of Longs Peak. The trail had a few elevation changes which provided just a little challenge for pushing a regular wheelchair. The girls enjoyed finding a small snowbank for climbing and snowballs. After our hike, the girls wanted to ride the park's shuttle bus.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Karen Kain

Continuing our expansion of Kellisa's Path, we've conducted our second interview with someone who's shared a similar path. This time, we talked to leading disabled advocate and author of A Unique Life Fully Lived, Karen Kain:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Crater Lake National Park

August 2009

It's been almost 5 years since we visited Crater Lake National Park and it seems like a lifetime ago. Actually, it has been a lifetime, Laurel's lifetime. This trip happened 14 months before Laurel came into our lives.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sprague Lake Accessible Backcountry Campsite

Rocky Mountain National Park
June 2014
We traveled to Rocky Mountain National Park to spend two nights at the Sprague Lake Accessible Backcountry Campsite. Fortunately, the park provides an excellent trail to this beautiful campsite to give people with disabilities the opportunity to camp in the backcountry. Unfortunately, the ranger issuing our permit told us that the site is almost never used. You do have to be disabled, so that probably keeps most people from cheating and using this site when the hundreds of other sites in the park are full just about every night during the summer. We had a little bit of everything: freezing nighttime temperatures, 90+ degree afternoons, thunderstorms with high winds and an elk sighting. I would highly recommend this campsite!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Letter to the President

After telling Laurel about my Longs Peak story, she was ready to go and climb the biggest mountain. She was very disappointed when I told her that we couldn't. Like everything else, she wanted detailed reasons and a chance to explain why each reason wasn't valid. It went something like this:

Me: We're not prepared today.
Laurel: Yes we are.
Me: There's too much snow on the mountain.
Laurel: I like snow.
Me: We have other plans.
Laurel: I don't want to do anything else.
Me: We can't take Kellisa to the top.
Laurel: Why not?
Me: They don't have a trail to the top where I can push Kellisa.

Laurel was very upset with this last answer. She asked more questions trying to figure out how to make it work with Kellisa. Laurel just couldn't wrap her head around the fact that there was something that Kellisa couldn't do. She kept saying, "it's not fair" as she began to cry. Her love and compassion for Kellisa brought a tear to my eye as well. In an attempt to move past this difficult conversation, I told Laurel that we could come back together sometime to climb a mountain. She asked if Kellisa would come with and I answered, "no". She really started to cry, but then she had an idea.

"I want to write a letter to President Obama to tell him to make a trail to the top for Kellisa". I told her that was a great idea. Laurel wanted to start the letter right then, but I promised her that I would help her write it when we got home. (We got home after 1am and as soon as we walked in the door, she was ready to start her letter.)
I was very proud that Laurel came up with this idea herself (we never talked about writing a letter to the President, so I have no idea where this idea came from) and was more than happy to help her as she wrote the letter. It's her own words, I just helped spell and space the words.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jacksonville Miracle League- Hall of Fame

After 10 seasons of playing baseball in The Jacksonville Miracle League, Kellisa is now a member of their Hall of Fame. A ceremony will take place in September 2014 where a brick with her name will be permanently placed in the ground behind home plate.

Members of our Hall of Fame
Name Inducted
Colin Cone-2013 Fall
Ronnie Edwards-2013 Fall
Kyle Farris-2013 Spring
Doug Fry-2012 Fall
Sean Harcrow-2014 Spring
Taubri Jackson-2013 Fall
Larry Jacobs-2014 Spring
Morgan Jones-2014 Spring
Kellisa Kain-2014 Spring
Jake Miller-2013 Fall
Jason Swink-2014 Spring
Justin Taustein-2014 Spring
Adam Varnadore-2014 Spring
Chris Wright-2012 Fall

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Longs Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park
August 1996

After my trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in September 1995 to hike a few smaller mountains, my brother-in-law Jim and 12 year old niece Jennifer quickly signed on for my trip to climb Longs Peak in 1996. I secured a permit for Longs Peak for early August when the weather would be best for our summit attempt. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park

June 26, 2014

We were headed to Colorado for a long four day weekend with the plan to camp at the only accessible backcountry campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park for two nights. Kellisa and I camped in the backcountry several times over the years while Laurel had only car camped a few times prior to this trip.
            The accessible campsite along the Sprague Lake Trail was the perfect destination for my first attempt to take both girls alone into the backcountry. The campsite was only a half mile from the trailhead. This was important to me since I’d be carrying everything for three people at an elevation of 8,720ft., except for a small backpack worn by Laurel with our fleece and rain coats.
            You need a permit for this campsite and I attempted to secure one for the 4th of July weekend, but the site was already taken. I asked about the last weekend in June and it was available. Sadly, the backcountry ranger told me that it’s extremely rare for this site to be booked. The park has over 500 campsites and most are used every night during the summer season. I'm sure the main reason this campsite is rarely used is because the ranger specifically asked if a member of the permit party was disabled. Unlike buying tickets to a concert or sporting event, you had to prove a disability before booking the accessible campsite. I'm sure this campsite would be booked months in advance for every single night between Memorial Day and Labor Day if the park didn’t have the requirement that someone actually had to be disabled.
            We had an early morning nonstop flight to Denver that was uneventful, except having to wait for two family restrooms (one in Jax and one in Denver) that were occupied by single adults. I love the dirty look I always receive when say, "this is a family bathroom" while pointing to the family sign next to the bathroom door as they're leaving. Depending on how fast they're walking away from us, I usually ask, "what makes you so special to selfishly use the only bathroom available to my family"?
            To date, I've never been answered. This has happened dozens of times over the years and I just expect it now when the door is locked. Once in a while it's a parent with a child, but that's probably less than 10% of the time. I just hope by my actions and questions that they will think twice before occupying the family bathroom again in the future.
           Once we had our rental SUV, we made two quick stops. First, we went to a sporting goods store to buy stove fuel and matches. We also lost the seat belt for Kellisa’s travel wheelchair and I had to purchase nylon straps to make a quick, but temporary seat belt. Our second stop was for lunch which we ate in the car as we drove towards the national park to pick up our permit by 3pm.
            As we started driving west towards the towering snow capped mountains, Laurel asked with excitement, “is that where we’re going”? To which I answered, “yes” and she became giggly with excitement. Kellisa started yelling, "ME" and pointing out the window towards the mountains.

Longs Peak
Laurel announced, “I want to climb the highest mountain and camp on top”. This comment melted my heart. Rising nearly 10,000ft. from the great plains, Longs Peak, at 14, 259ft. was the highest mountain in our view. It’s also the highest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park. I told Laurel that I climbed to the top of Longs Peak with Uncle Jim and cousin Jennifer a long time ago. She wanted to hear all the details about the climb.

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