After Kellisa's cancer scare at the end of 2012, I wanted 2013 to be a big year for Kellisa. I had the idea of hiking a trail in all 50 states in one year and decided to make an attempt at that goal.
We started with a 25K race across the desert in Big Bend National Park in January. Kellisa was the first wheelchair finisher in the history of the race.
Laurel joined us on several hikes, including across an ice road in Voyageurs National Park and a 4.2 mile race across frozen Lake Superior to an island and back in Wisconsin.
I also took Laurel on a few trips without Kellisa to attempt to keep things fair.
Britton Hill, Florida's Highpoint (March)
Top & Left- Rainy Road, Voyageurs National Park Bottom Right- Run on Water, Bayfield, WI
I took Kellisa back to New Mexico to attempt the Bataan Memorial Death March with her, but one of the axles on her off-road chair broke during our flight to El Paso. Despite a desperate search around the city for a fix, our attempt was over before it even began.
In between hikes, we attended The Abilities Expo in Atlanta where Kellisa climbed a 40ft. rock wall pulling herself up with her arms while using a modified climbing system. We also met Karen Kain, author of A Unique Life Fully Lived while in Atlanta.
Kellisa and I went on a quick trip for hikes in NE Arkansas and SE Missouri. We were the only ones on either trail. We were able to take a ferry between Missouri and Kentucky, the only states that border each other without a land or bridge connection.
Land Between the Lakes, KY (April)
Kellisa and I had a quick weekend quick drive up to Damascus, VA to attend the annual Trail Days Festival and to hike a portion of The Virginia Creeper Trail. On our drive home, we stopped at Congaree National Park in South Carolina for a nice stroll along the boardwalk.
The girls enjoyed the Jacksonville Zoo on Mother's Day:
Left- Wheeling on the beach Middle & Right- Salt Springs, FL
I didn't realize it, but Laurel struggled when she wasn't included. I found out when she told her Uncle Jim, "Sometimes my dad forgets me" while visiting family in Ohio.
I had the rest of 2013 fairly planned out with commitments, but vowed to included Laurel on every trip once we fulfilled our remaining obligations. I also ended our attempt to hike in all 50 states in 2013.
We joined Matt for hikes in Nevada and Utah. Our hike in Utah required special permission from the chief ranger to take Kellisa deep on The Narrows trail. The trail required walking through a river in a narrow canyon. The park does not allow flotation devices. I proposed a plan to pull Kellisa up the river in a one person raft. The ranger told us that she has denied this very request every time over the years, but she granted us permission based on our experience and the fact that Matt would be there for added safety.
Sanilac Petroglyphs, MI
Joshua Tree National Park- It was too hot to hike the trails, but we did walk/push/ride the little paved trail behind the Visitor Center and enjoyed driving the park roads.
Left- Dance Recital Right- Taum Sauk Mountain (Highpoint of Missouri)
Juniper Springs, Florida Camping Trip with Laurel:
I can honestly say that we found a piece of heaven on earth. Grand Island has Northwoods, sea cliffs, miles of trails that are wide and nicely cleared, beautiful campsites, it's cut off from cell towers and the island has more bears than people. My first concern in taking Kellisa to such a remote location is to have a plan if she has a significant seizure. I start with a hope and prayers and after that I make sure I have her rescue medications. My only other concern other than coming across a psychopath is an unexpected encounter with a bear and we make sure to keep a clean camp to cut down on the odds.
During our first night, my 2nd to worst fear was realized. Despite locking all of our smells in a bearproof container away from our campsite, I was woken up from my deep sleep by a large grunt. All of a sudden, the thin fabric of the tent that offered a sense of security didn't seem like enough of a barrier between us and a hungry bear. I was paralyzed with fear. I was trying to think of a plan. I didn't really want to wrestle with a bear and I knew I should make loud noises to scare the bear away, but I remained silent. I was hoping it would just go away.
Then I heard another enormous grunt and it seemed to be only inches from my head. I knew it might be close to "go time" and I started to feel around in the dark for my little knife, the only protection I had with me. It didn't even the odds, but I felt like I might have a slight chance. Before I could find the knife, I heard another grunt and this time I realized it was just Kellisa snoring. Able to move more freely, I turned on a light and watched Kellisa just to be sure it was her and when she let out another grunt, I was satisfied. I'd like to say I was relieved, but I was so scared that relief wouldn't be had until the sunrise a few sleepless hours later.
Kellisa and I went to Lake Placid, NY to attend an outdoor writers conference. We managed to do a little sightseeing and even found a trail to hike.
While at a gas station in Memphis, I was getting snacks with Laurel and we had an encounter with a man who questioned my relationship with Laurel. I told him I was her dad and he wanted to argue because in his words, "I just don't see it". Not wanting to get into anything, especially in front of Laurel, we quickly left.
Memphis Zoo to see Laurel's Favorite Animal
(She was so disappointed to find out that she wouldn't be able to pet the polar bears)
Kellisa and I had a few presentations scheduled in Seattle in October. I figured if I was going to pull Kellisa out of school and fly across the country, we should take a whole week. I had planned on visiting at least two, if not three of Washington's national parks. Our government had other ideas since they were in a shutdown, so we headed north to British Columbia.