Tuesday, March 28, 2017

4' 10" AND You Need to Walk?

Roseville, CA

March 25, 2017

It is both a blessing and curse to live within walking distance of a waterpark, arcade, mini golf, laser tag, and a go cart track. The curse is that it can be seen just about every time we leave the house and 7-year-olds think we can just stop by at anytime for a quick visit. It was easy to avoid the park the last few months with all the rain, but the weather is finally getting nice and Laurel has been very anxious to try the go carts.

Lisa took Laurel go carting a few times last summer, but Laurel wasn't tall enough to drive. She had to be a passenger while Lisa drove. Laurel was convinced that she was finally tall enough to drive and a quick measurement at home confirmed that she was in fact just over 4' 10" tall. 

Kellisa has been a passenger in go carts over the years and loves the speed and wind in her face, but she's never gone around our "home" track. We decided that I would drive Kellisa while Laurel drives her own car. This would leave Lisa to take the pictures in this post from the viewing area.

Monday, March 27, 2017

From 80F to -20F in 11 Hours

Sometimes highlights just happen, they can't be planned because they can't be imagined. This was the case when we ended our stay in Hawaii with watching the sun set (top 3 pictures) from Waikiki Beach with hundreds of other tourists. We missed the sun setting the previous four nights for various reasons and didn't want to leave the island without watching this magical event.

After the sun set, we raced to the airport for a quick dinner before boarding a red eye flight to Anchorage. With little rest, we landed in our 50th state in the dark early morning hours. We loaded the rental car in the cold darkness and started driving to Denali National Park- the location for our hike in Alaska. I drove several hours while everyone rested with varying degrees of success. 

I was too excited to fall asleep while driving in complete darkness. I was busy picturing the end of our quest to hike in all 50 United States and how I couldn't think of a more epic way to finish than in winter in Alaska on a trail in Denali National Park. I was also flooded with memories of the other 49 states and the amazing times spent with my girls on the trails. 

Then it happened- the sun began illuminating the upper slopes of Denali, at 20,310 feet above sea level, it's the highest peak in North America. As the sun was working it's way down the mountainside, I drove by a viewing area (lower picture) to better observe Denali. After a quick u-turn, I pulled into the parking area. We were the only car in the lot that was covered by thick ice hidden under fresh snow. Everyone woke up to marvel at the beauty as I jumped out to snap a few pictures. 

It was and still is hard to comprehend that we watched the sunset from a beach in 80F weather and a mere 11 hours later, we were watching it rise 3,000 miles away in -20F weather. This might surprise some, but not me. If we could only go back to Alaska or Hawaii...we would all pick another trip to Alaska!

I'm not sure EPIC is a big enough word to describe our experience.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Complete Pineapple Experience

Dole Plantation
Wahiawa, HI

November 2016

Kellisa has always loved riding on a train and Laurel also shares the passion for riding the rails. We are always on the lookout for a train ride and found one at the Dole Plantation on Oahu.

The plantation was so much more than just a train ride. Who knew there was so much to learn about pineapples and how much fun could be had? The pineapple ice cream was out of this world! Both girls enjoyed the world's largest maze with eight secret stations. Laurel enjoyed getting a spray-on tattoo.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hale Nalu 1

Wai'anae, HI
November 2016

We booked our trip to Hawaii (state #49) for the beginning of Thanksgiving week at the end of September. With such late planning, I didn't have any options to use hotel points I earn while traveling for my job. In addition, I didn't really want to pay high hotel prices during a holiday week when all we really do is sleep and shower in our rooms. I also knew that Lisa would not want to spend her trip to Hawaii camping. 

I decided to give Airbnb a try and quickly found a nice looking duplex close to a beach, but far from Waikiki. It seemed like the best option available, so I booked. We were a little nervous when we struggled to find the place (confusing street numbers), but we called the owners who were able to direct us to the property. It was approximately 45 minutes from Waikiki Beach, but only a few houses from a beach.

When we walked down to the beach, we were the only ones on the sand for the entire afternoon. We are not exactly a beach family, but we found our own little paradise without any complaints. It was nice to step out the front door, walk two minutes and be all alone on a secluded beach. Maybe even more nice was the fact that we walked back and were able to hose off without every getting in a car or walking through a room. The duplex we rented is called Hale Nalu 1 and we would recommend the property if you are looking to get away from all the tourists and have your own private beach. 

March 25th

Cerebral Palsy is one of the things Kellisa has been diagnosed with in her early years. In fact, with hydrocephalus, it has the greatest impact on Kellisa's life. It's the reason her lower body is so weak and she can't walk. Her brain has the ability to tell her legs what to do and it's our understanding that this connection in kids like Kellisa is rare. We had a lot of hope in the early years that Kellisa would some day walk, even with equipment and/or assistance. 

Paul Gross, in the Pacific Northwest is going beyond his part to raise awareness and improve treatment options. 

Please check out the Cerebral Palsy Research Network.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Alyeska Resort

Girdwood, AK

November 24, 2016

We spent an amazing Thanksgiving evening at Alyeska Resort just outside of Anchorage, AK. The resort is a short drive down the beautiful Seward Highway. We didn't let the freezing cold prevent us from enjoying the scenery (mountains rising straight up from the frigid water) and riding the tramway for top of the world views. We saw a couple of moose grazing on the mountainside from inside the tram. Hot chocolate helped extend our visit along the walkways high on the mountain. 

We didn't plan ahead for Thanksgiving dinner and got lucky when there was a cancellation of a party of four at the 8pm sitting in the resort dining room. It was an all you can eat traditional Thanksgiving feast and after a few days of adventure in Alaska...we got our money's worth. We would have been OK with dinner from McDonald's (like we did for Thanksgiving 2010 in Las Vegas when we weren't willing to pay $65 for each kid when Laurel was a baby and Kellisa with her usual petite appetite), but it was nice to enjoy a fancy dinner for the holiday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Alaska Zoo

Anchorage, AK

November 25, 2016

In late November, it's almost always dark in the final frontier state making it difficult to tell the time of day when outside. Our visit to The Alaska Zoo was in the evening, from 8 until 10pm to enjoy the start of the Holiday Lights season. It was just a few degrees below zero with a constant, but slight wind blowing which edged the wind chill factor to -12F.

In addition to the holiday light display, The Alaska Zoo is home to one of the state's most famous native residents which happens to also be Laurel's long time favorite animal- the polar bear. Finding the polar bear exhibit in the dark with falling snow at an unknown zoo was more difficult than we would have ever imagined. We wandered around through the natural setting of the zoo for nearly 30 minutes before we finally found the polar bear exhibit.

We were more excited than the bear who we found fast asleep. The sleeping bear didn't disappoint either girl as they withstood the freezing nighttime air to quietly observe the sleeping giant. Close to 10 minutes passed and neither girl would budge from their observing positions. We were the only ones watching the polar bear sleep. I tried to tell them that the bear would probably sleep until the morning, but we stayed a few more minutes anyway. Just as we they were ready to leave, the polar bear raised his head and looked right at us for a few minutes. Unfortunately, I only had my camera phone and wasn't able to snap a quality picture. The lights were nice as was the complimentary hot chocolate (which we found shortly after our visit with the polar bear), but the polar bear was by far the highlight of our evening visit to The Alaska Zoo.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Explore All 50

Reader Profile: The Kain Family—Ain’t no Challenge Great Enough!

“Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you babe”-that line from that famous song by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this amazing family and all they’ve accomplished to get to their goal of hiking a trail in all 50 states which they are set to complete very shortly.

The Kain family has faced some remarkable challenges. Daughter Kellisa was born a micropreemie at 25 weeks and was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. Kellisa has endured 12 brain surgeries, has epilepsy and cerebral palsy but that hasn’t stopped her and her family from their quest to not only visit but hike a trail in all 50 states. The Kain family believes in living life without limits and they are an absolute inspiration. Check out my interview with Chris Kain, Kellisa’s dad …     

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

families on foot

families on foot
Urban Hikes to Backyard Treks and National Park Adventures

Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis

It didn't seem right to sit back in a chair to read this book, so I found a comfortable rock to read my new favorite book, "families on foot" by Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis. Kellisa and I have met Jennifer a couple of times over the years from Trail Days in Damascus, VA to a presentation at REI in Jacksonville, FL. Someday we hope to share a trail together.

I didn't hesitate to submit a story with a few pictures when the call went out for submissions. I decided to share the story of Kellisa's first hike on wheels. We were thrilled that Kellisa's story was chosen for the book and honored to discuss some of Kellisa's challenges and medical history to be included in Chapter 9: Health Conditions and Special Concerns. Both Lisa and Cousin Matt (hiking partner on several trails with Kellisa spanning several states) received photo credits as an added bonus.

Jennifer and Brew definitely succeed in providing the blueprint and motivation to get families up and more importantly, out. I especially appreciate that they recognize the need for all children to experience life on the trail. Too often society overlooks the disabled population and I'm beyond proud that Kellisa can represent her "peeps" in this book.

Since I'm probably slightly biased, I will just say, go ahead and buy the book here

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dark Embrace

February Moons - 2017

What started out as a casual occurrence in late 2016 has developed into an almost obsession by the second month of 2017. In the beginning, if I happened to see the moon rising behind our house, I would grab the camera and snap a few disappointing pictures. Then one evening, I discovered my camera, a Nikon COOLPIX P530 with 42X Optical Zoom ED VR and 16.1 Megapixels, has a "Moon" setting. After a little trial and error playing with this new found feature, I started taking really clear pictures of the moon.

None of the pictures from this first collection have been edited or photo-shopped in any way, except for an occasional "CROP".  I mentioned this hobby is growing close to an obsession because I find myself watching the evening weather for cloud cover and consulting Moon Rise and Location  in the Night Sky databases. I then wait for the minute the moon appears from the east with my camera ready to snap pictures. For every one picture selected for this post, I have 25 pictures of varying quality not suitable for sharing.

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