Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Pushiking Contract

It's been 7 1/2 years since I started down the path of seeking a publishing contract to write a book about Kellisa and I finally realized the dream by signing with Rowman & Littlefield. The journey has been long and filled with a lot of hard work with few results. I considered self-publishing in this modern era of dwindling book sales and therefore fewer deals for authors, but I was driven to go big or not publish at all.

I'd say I received hundreds of rejections, but most of the time you don't even get a reply from the literary agent or editor on the other end of your email book idea pitch. I've spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours over the years on pitches, queries, and proposals. I'd like to say I never gave up, but I did several times, but always came back with a new determination because I felt strongly in Kellisa's story of survival and breaking stereotypes. 

My book idea grew to include Laurel over the years and I would change a few slants to the story each time I tried to find a publisher. I always imagined a non-narrative book weaving between the medical history and outdoor adventures. I would question myself every time I was ignored. Was I crazy? Was I the only one who thought we had a story worth sharing?

Lisa pitched the idea of writing a guidebook for pushiking many years ago and while I loved the idea, I always saw that as a follow-up book after laying the foundation with more of a memoir style book. I had given up or at least blocked the idea of publishing a book out of my head for close to a year when it started creeping back into my head earlier this year. 

But, something was different this time. I started to embrace the idea of writing a guidebook. I have dozens of files from my previous efforts, but pitching a guidebook was almost like starting over. I convinced myself that this would be my last attempt and if I couldn't find a publisher, I would either put this book madness out of my head once and for all or maybe I would self-publish something. 

As I was bouncing ideas through my head, I did a little research and sent off one quick query email to Rowman & Littlefield. Because I wasn't expecting a response, I broke the number one rule- sending a query without having a completed book proposal.

While this query was hanging out there, I came across a post on Facebook from a friend back in Chicago who was making a major change in her life and was looking to start a business that included editing. Up until this point, I was doing all the writing and most of the editing and proofreading myself. I knew that if this really was my last effort, that I needed to give it my all and that would include seeking outside help. 

I reached out to Gin and pitched my book idea and what I might need as far as help. Gin immediately liked the idea and we discussed a plan. To my total surprise, within a couple of weeks, I received a response back regarding my query and it was my worst nightmare- they wanted a full book proposal.

I was embarrassed when I had to admit I didn't have a finished proposal (this rookie mistake is often a deal breaker in the publishing world), but I was given some time to complete it. With Gin on board, we were on an incredibly tight timeline. I had just a few weeks to create the perfect book proposal. Sleep would have to wait. Gin was huge in keeping me on track by seeing the big picture of the entire proposal and helping guide me with the perspective of someone removed from our story. In the end, we had a completed proposal of over 8,000 words and submitted the book proposal on June 4, 2018. 

It was a long summer of not knowing if this would finally be my big break. Then, in mid-August, I heard back that it was looking like the book might have a chance, but a little more time was needed. It was hard to sleep or function knowing I was close and this would be it, one way or another.

September 5th rolled around and I received an email from Rowman & Littlefield with an attachment...a contract offer. It was six pages long and I read every word on my tiny cell phone screen (I was traveling for work and eating lunch in a Chinese restaurant). I was so excited, I was ready to sign right there before the offer could get away. But, I thought I should print it out and really read every word when I could see them clearly and also have Lisa look it over. 

I would have signed just about anything at this point, but I had a few questions. We went back and forth and I was able to sign my first publishing contract on September 15, 2018. 

I could go on and on, but I have a book to write!

Don't worry, I'll be sharing more details about the book in future posts.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Photo Session at 7,000ft.

Summit Lake
Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 2018

Kellisa's friend Jenny, is also professional photographer Jenny Sloan. Our mountain lake swim turned into a photo session in a breathtaking natural studio. Look at these amazing pictures and if interested (especially our friends and family in NE Florida), Jenny's work can be viewed on Instagram at @julyfifth1957.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Summit Lake

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 2018

We were hoping to get the chance to go for a swim in a natural body of water during our visit to Lassen National Park. As we were sightseeing through the park, we passed by Summit Lake at 7,000 feet above sea level. It was a small lake, so we were hoping the water wouldn't be ice cold.

Jenny was the first one in and Laurel was right behind her. I felt the water and it was freezing which killed my interest in going in the lake. Usually I'm up for an ice cold dip, but wasn't feeling it for some reason. I pushed Kellisa to the edge of the lake and she splashed around with her hand.

I was hoping the water would be too cold for her, but I was wrong again. She desperately wanted to join her best friend and sister IN the water. I wasn't thrilled because I would have to change her into her swimwear and carry her in the water. How could I say no to Kellisa's smile and bossy finger pointing to the water? I couldn't and after a few minutes of getting ready, we were both in the water. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Devastated Area Interpretive Trail

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 2019

Kellisa's "best buddy" from Jacksonville, Jenny visited for a few days and going to a national park was high on her list of adventures. Yosemite was closed due to forest fires, so we headed north to spend an afternoon in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We visited the park and this trail back in July 2014 on our vacation to northern California, 18 months before we would move across the country. This would be Lisa and Jenny's first visit to this beautiful and surprisingly little visited gem in the national park system.

Jenny was more than happy to push Kellisa along the trail. It was nice to watch Kellisa have so much fun with her friend. This opportunity to see Kellisa as strangers see her on the trail confirmed everything I always believed, it's beyond obvious that she is having the time of her life with the non-stop smiles and giggles that resonate through the deep forest.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Foresthill Bridge

Auburn, CA

July 2018

Out of the blue, my phone started alarming with notices from the Sacramento Bee. There was a traffic situation in Auburn, approximately 20 miles from our house. The police had blocked traffic around the Foresthill Bridge because there was a jumper situation. 

We had driven across the bridge and even hiked under it, but until I received the alerts, I never realized the bridge towers 730 feet over the North Fork of the American River, making it the highest bridge in California and 4th highest in the United States. 

Two days after the jumper situation had the bridge closed for 4 hours, Kellisa and I had a few hours with nothing to do. It was only 81F outside, so we wanted to be outside, but didn't have enough time for a trail. My thoughts went back to the bridge. We've flirted with the idea of walking across bridges in the past, but many don't have lanes or walkways for pedestrians. The first and only bridge we've crossed was the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge back in St. Johns County, FL. A quick Internet search revealed that you could walk across the Foresthill Bridge on both sides. We now had a plan.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Three Senses Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

July 2018

We found the Three Senses Trail closed for renovation. Instead of driving to a sporting goods store to buy a BB gun because someone owed us an explanation, we decided to peacefully return once the trail is opened.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

North Grove Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

July 2018

Our second hike in Calaveras Big Trees State Park was the North Grove Trail. It was little longer Beaver Creek Trail and far more scenic. The trail is rated as accessible and except for one short narrow section with a few rocks that could be easily negotiated by most people in a wheelchair or jog stroller, this trail was perfect for pushing Kellisa. 

Sometimes we want a challenging trail, especially Kellisa since it usually means more struggle for me and more bumps, but it's also nice to be able to push Kellisa on a longer trail without too much worry. And it's a huge bonus when the trail is highly scenic and the North Grove Trail did not disappoint as it weaved through many "big trees". 

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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Kellisa's "Day of Flight" - One Year Ago Today

Lisa Marie Kain
On May 16th, we spent an entire day flying around the country to celebrate Kellisa's 18th birthday.

By now, you may realize that Chris is a bit extreme when it comes to travel. Several months ago, he started talking with Southwest Airlines (his carrier of choice) about the potential to fly as many commercial flights as possible in one day. At that point, he had been working on the plan for a while but realized he needed their help to perfect the route. They were very supportive. A route was selected, and tickets were purchased. I was informed of this plan after the arrangements had been firmed up with Southwest. Chris knows I do not like to travel and gave me limited information about what the day would entail. When I decided to participate, I told him I did not want to know the specifics because I could not handle the truth. If I had any idea, I never would have gone on this trip, but I am so glad I did.

On Tuesday morning, we boarded "our" plane in Tampa, Florida just before 6 am Eastern time (3 am for us West Coast folks). At that point, all I knew was that we would be on that plane all day, and that our plane would travel to 8 destinations. I never expected what would happen over the next 21 hours -- or even that it would take 21 hours!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day on the Refuge

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
Glenn County, CA

Lisa wanted a picnic lunch in nature and asked if we could go to a place with wildlife. We debated a few spots, but we chose Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge for a few reasons. It's not that far (90 minutes) from our house, this would be Lisa's first visit, and it's always had an abundance of wildlife from our previous visits.

Most of the water in the refuge was gone, although there were still a few ponds left from the rainy season. We observed many birds, but they were difficult to photograph for one reason or another (loud kids, radio, Evie, lighting, etc.). In addition to the birds, we saw a squirrel, two deer, a few rabbits, and four lizards. We enjoyed a short walk to the picnic area where we devoured sandwiches made by Lisa. We planned to hike a short trail, but the bugs were just coming out, so we made our way back to the car. Sadly, we didn't think to take a picture with Lisa and the girls until after Kellisa went to bed.

The best pictures are below.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

April 2018

Laurel woke up on Sunday and asked if we could go panning for gold. The last time we visited the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Site, we bought two mounds of gravel where Laurel found about 75 cents of gold after panning for an hour. We didn't have plans and thought it would be nice to have a picnic and see how Evie does in an outdoor setting.

Kellisa slept until almost noon, so it was mid-afternoon before we arrived at the park less than an hour from our house. Lisa made a nice picnic lunch that we enjoyed upon our arrival. Then Laurel and Evie started wandering while Kellisa wheeled around like crazy.

By the time we made it to the gold panning area, it was closed for the day. Laurel was disappointed because she was convinced it was her day to strike it rich. As she was processing the letdown, Lisa thought she saw a good friend of Laurel's from school. I turned around and sure enough it was her friend and his family. Laurel quickly forgot all about her lost gold while spending an hour exploring with her friend and his younger brother while prancing Evie around the park.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Chicago "Grub"

Taco Burrito King
Harlem & the Kennedy
Chicago, IL
April 2018

Lisa and the girls recently joined me on my business trip to Chicago to visit with Grandma. Laurel had heard food referred to as "grub" several times on this trip and she didn't understand the meaning. I'm not sure if it's a Chicago or Midwest thing, but I tried to explain it to her. On our last day, we were stopping by Grandma's one last time before catching our flight and as we drove by Taco Burrito King, Laurel asked if they had Chicago Grub. When I answered, "It looks like they would," Laurel asked if we could stop for some food. 

Lisa and Kellisa weren't hungry and I wasn't about to pass up an opportunity for a promising meal, so we dropped Lisa and Kellisa off while Laurel and I went back for some grub. Right away, Laurel thought it was odd that we entered the restaurant from an alley. In fact, the idea of an alley was foreign to her and she was disturbed by the garbage and smell. Anyway, I ordered a burrito bowl (which was amazing) and Laurel got a burrito. We didn't want to leave Evie in the car while we ate, so we carried our food back to the car. That's when Laurel saw a Rat Warning Sign on a telephone pole. She lost her appetite and was convinced that her burrito had rat meat in it instead of chicken. I assured her that while rats were common in Chicago alleys, her burrito was indeed filled with chicken. Laurel believed me once she took her first bite and proceeded to devour her burrito. Even though this wasn't Laurel's first Chicago Grub meal, it was her first lesson and as her teacher, I would rate the entire meal experience A+.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

On the 9th Day

Evie's 1st Flight

Sacramento, CA to Chicago- Midway

(Evie did great on her 1st flight despite the little vomit upon the sudden stop on the landing at Midway...
and the diarrhea on the jet bridge leaving the plane. I am happy to report no body fluid issues on our return flights.) 

Evie walking in Illinois (3/50):

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Laurel and Kellisa meet Evie
Evie Laurel Kain

April 14 & 15, 2018

Our family grew by one when we flew down to Ontario, CA to pick-up Evie, a Miniature Pinscher/Basenji mix. Lisa found Evie at a rescue in Hesperia, CA. We got very lucky that Lisa found Evie online shortly after her photo and information was posted and we were the first family to submit. Fortunately, our application was accepted.

We spent a couple of hours getting to know Evie before everyone felt comfortable. There were two spots to sign the paperwork and after Lisa signed, we let Laurel sign as she promised to love and take care of Evie. We decided to drive home instead of flying since we didn't know how Evie would travel. Kellisa and Laurel loved having Evie in the back seat and I think Evie enjoyed all the attention!

We decided to take the scenic way home through Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas. Our first stop was after two hours at a small, rundown gas station in the middle of the desert. Kellisa stayed in the car, while I went inside to buy some drinks and snacks. Laurel took Evie for a short walk and Lisa watched from a distance. Just as I was about to pay, I heard Laurel screaming like I've never heard before and when I stepped outside, I saw her crying and holding the leash. You might have guessed, Evie was not on the other end of the leash.

I looked to the south and saw Lisa running across the desert about 100 yards away. I told Laurel to stay at the car with Kellisa and I went running in Lisa's direction. After sprinting maybe 30 yards, I saw Evie running out of the brush towards Lisa. At this point, I could hear Lisa calling Evie and she ended up returning and Lisa was able to pick her up. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Kain Family Grows

We told the girls this morning, so we are comfortable in telling the world that the Kain family will have a new member in the near future. More information and pictures coming soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Lake Clementine Trail

Auburn State Recreation Area

March 2018

It felt good, real good to get out on a trail that was not blazed for wheeled mobility devices. It's been awhile.

The Clementine Trail starts out for the first .18 of a mile as an old paved road and it just gets rougher and narrower from there to a trail filled with rocks barely wide enough for Kellisa's Hippocampe in some areas high above the North Fork American River. We also encountered some minor, but challenging elevation changes. As always, the bumpier the trail and more of a struggle for me...the more Kellisa loves it and she had a great time.

Several hikers who passed us mentioned how they noticed Kellisa giggling during the roughest sections and shouting for more when the trail leveled out a little. Most offered words of encouragement to Kellisa, "Love it" and "You're awesome" are two that I remember.

I always brag about how well Kellisa is treated out on a trail and love the compliments that fly her way, but my favorite quote from our hike belongs to an exchange between a mother and her young son (in a picture below). We had been leap frogging them along the trail and as we passed just before our turn around, the mother asked her son, "Do you need a break?"

"NO! We need one of those!" as he pointed to Kellisa's Hippocampe Mobility Chair.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dave Moore Nature Trail

Dave Moore Nature Area

March 2018

This trail has been on my radar for at least a year when I first read that it was at least partially accessible. It's a 1.1 mile loop trail with the first half being accessible down to a beach area along the South Fork of the American River. The trailhead is only 33-miles from our house. Kellisa and I have been desperate to hit a trail, especially after driving to a different trail yesterday, only to find the park closed due to a special event.

The nature area and trail is named after a Ranger Conservationist for the Bureau of Land Management who was diagnosed with MS at 35-years-old and forced into an early retirement due to his disability. The trail was dedicated on June 4, 1994. We were hoping to be able to pushike the entire loop, but quickly found the accessible trail to be far from what we expect when out on an accessible trail (pictures below).

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sandals and Water Shoes and Low Top Hiking Boots, Oh My!

Roseville, CA
March 25, 2018

My dividend from purchases at REI during 2017 arrived in the mail recently and I was more than ready to use it towards new footwear for Kellisa. I've been assembling our wall art with pictures from our hikes in each of the 50 United States and I noticed that Kellisa has worn the same few shoes on our hikes for many, many years. This makes sense since she can't walk and her feet rarely touch the ground or get sweaty, so her shoes look barely used even though she's worn them for so long. 

We didn't have anything specific in mind when we arrived, but she gets her love of shoes honestly from her mother, so it wasn't a surprise that she loved all three of the shoes she tried on. Her outdoor adventure footwear should be covered for the next decade with the purchase of these high quality shoes.

We walked around the entire store and saved the books and maps area for last so we could linger until closing time. That's when we saw families on foot staring back at us from a prominent spot on an eye level shelf. Kellisa is featured in a few places in this book, including a 2 page spread (bottom right picture). I couldn't help but show Kellisa the pictures of her out on the trails in the book. The gentleman who helped us from the shoe department came over to see if we were still OK and I could tell he looked a little puzzled as he watched me take a few pictures of the book. I explained that Kellisa has spent a lot of time out on the trails and was in this book after meeting the authors several times. He was blown away and acted like Kellisa was a celebrity...and she enjoyed every second of the accolades.

Lisa and I have been members of REI for decades and they offered Kellisa her own membership at checkout because members could save 20% on any one item. This way, we could check out twice, once under my membership and once under Kellisa's so we could save the 20% on both transactions. It made sense to me to spend the extra few minutes to help sign up for her very own membership card (top right picture). I was proud of her and left with a deep feeling of contentment from our shoe shopping adventure. It's rare that I get to do "normal" activities with Kellisa and this experience somehow felt very normal and I look forward to helping her spend her own dividend next year!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

All 50 States Photo Wall: Exhibit B

    Iowa                  Ohio                California
Delaware          Alabama             Montana
                      Missouri                Utah
  Nebraska                                    Wisconsin

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park

March 2006

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

- Theodore Roosevelt

Words cannot describe the Grand Canyon and photos, while beautiful, also do not do the views justice. The great expanse of the canyon surely leaves first time viewers speechless and we were no different when we first caught sight of this national treasure late one afternoon in March 2006. One last cliché, everyone should go to Grand Canyon National Park at least one in their lifetime.

Kellisa visited Everglades National Park in 2004 for the first time making the Grand Canyon the second national park checked off of her life list. As of March 2018, Kellisa has visited 29 national parks.

If I can't fully write about the beauty and pictures don't accurately capture the grandeur, then the following pictures probably don't say 1,000 words each, but hopefully they say a few hundred:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Flat Tire in the Frozen Desert

Sunset Crater Volcano 
Wupatki National Monuments

March 2006

After Sedona, but before our visit to the Grand Canyon, we made the side trip to see Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments. Both are just out side Flagstaff and on the way to the Grand Canyon. Despite the winter cold and snow, we still managed to do a hike in both national monuments. This was before we kept track, so we don't remember the trail names or the distances hiked.

All I really remember is Kellisa's jog stroller getting a flat tire at Wupatki. I had to push her back to the car while lifting the back of the stroller with the wheels off the ground. I was also panicking because I didn't have a plan for a flat tire. I didn't want to go back to Flagstaff to try and figure it out, but I also wanted the stroller available for trails in Grand Canyon National Park, our next stop.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Red Rocks and Hungry Giraffes

Sedona, Arizona
March 2006

Shutterfly memories popped up in my emails to remind me that we were in Sedona, AZ exactly 12 years ago. Scrolling through the photos brought back many memories. The first thing that jumped out is Kellisa's very short hair. That's because she ended 2005 with three brain surgeries for her shunt. Next, I noticed that I could still carry Kellisa out on a trail even though she had the biggest and best baby jog stroller on the market. Lastly, while mentioned in our 2006 summary, I realized that this trip was never completely shared on the blog in words and pictures.

This was our first vacation since Kellisa was born where the purpose wasn't to visit family. In fact, the main goal of this trip was to witness and immerse ourselves in the great outdoors! Lisa and I also celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary in a cowboy themed restaurant in Sedona and the girls (Lisa and Kellisa) fed giraffes during our side trip to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Shaking for Gold

Marshall Gold Discovery
State Historic Park

February 18 and March 10, 2018

Our initial visit (2/18/18) to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park where James W. Marshall first discovered gold on the South Fork of the American River back in 1848 was a little disappointing. We wanted to start our visit with a nice little picnic before exploring the park. For a variety of reasons, we left later than planned and by the time we arrived at the park there was less than an hour remaining before the park closed.

We decided to skip the picnic so we could walk through the museum (and gift store) before they closed. Unfortunately, we missed our chance to pan for gold due to our late arrival. As the sun was fading, we did enjoy a few short trails through the little village and along the river. Everyone was a little hungry and not at our best during this visit, so we ended up having our picnic lunch at home for dinner. Thankfully, the park is less than an hour from our home.  

Almost a month passed since that visit and out of the blue, Laurel asked, "Can I have a do over? I'd like to go to that park to go shaking for gold so we can become rich"?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Trains and Sisterly Love

California State Railroad Museum
March 5, 2018

Yesterday, Laurel went on her first field trip of the year to the California State Railroad Museum. Even though it's less than 30 minutes from our house and both girls, especially Kellisa enjoy trains, we've never explored this museum. Laurel got dressed up in a special dress and had Lisa fix her hair straight for the occasion. She wore her purse to school filled with a small bottle of lotion, chap stick, and $10 of her Christmas gift money. Laurel was so excited for this trip.

When I picked her up from school, she was even more excited. I figured she had a great time with her friends while also enjoying the train exhibits. While my assumption was correct, Laurel was more excited about something else. She opened her purse to pull something out as soon as she got in the SUV. I was thinking a souvenir of some sort, but it was a brochure. She opened it up and started talking a million miles per hour. "Kellisa will love the train museum. I know she loves trains. They have so many. See? See?" as she pointed to the brochure. 

"Kellisa can even go in some of the trains. Look!" as she points to the trains with a wheelchair symbol designating which trains are accessible.

Laurel went on and on about how we need to take Kellisa because she will "just love it!"

Laurel continued about how she checked everything out with Kellisa in mind and was disappointed in a few things Kellisa couldn't do in a wheelchair, but "You can just carry her dad".

I was expecting to be proud that she had a great field trip and avoided any trouble and I was, but I was more proud of how much Laurel loves Kellisa and how she is always looking out for her. I sometimes worry if Kellisa will be OK when her parents are unable to take her places, then Laurel has a way of reminding me that Kellisa will be in good hands.

I'm guessing there will be a post in the near future of a family trip to the California State Railroad Museum.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Another School Threat

Oakmont High School
Roseville, CA

March 5, 2018

Kellisa was already safely home from school when we received this message from her school district. The threats are obviously out of control and these are extremely scary times to be a student, teacher, aide, school nurse, administrator, or first responders. 

We don't have any more information, so we don't know if there was ever a real threat to Kellisa or any other people, but that doesn't make this any easier as a parent of a special needs student. 

I'm just thankful these recent threats have been taken so seriously and I don't envy the people who have to figure out if it's a student making a joke or if it's a real threat of mass murder. 

The former student was arrested less than 3 miles from Kellisa's school during school hours with an AR-15 style weapon in the suspect's vehicle. So scary! It makes me want to hug Kellisa and Laurel and head off on a trail!