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.
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).
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 my...adult...daughter 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!
“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:
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.
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.
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"?
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.
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!
Sadly, Lisa’s father passed away 5 years before
Kellisa was born. That left my dad, Jeff as the only grandfather Kellisa would
ever know. My dad desperately wanted to be surprised about the sex of our twins
and wanted to wait until their birth. We shared the same feelings, but once the
pregnancy started to go into life and death circumstances, Lisa and I decided
to find out, so we could start calling our little lime sized babies by their names
instead of Baby A and Baby B. Since we were faced with losing one, we wanted to
call her by her name for as long as possible. It’s wasn't the first time we
didn’t honor my dad’s wishes as we told him Lisa was pregnant with Kirsten and
after losing Kirsten, while Kellisa was fighting for her life in the NICU, my
dad started calling Kellisa his Special K. He would kiss his index and middle
finger before gently touching them to some part of exposed skin on Kellisa
while she lay in her incubator. He would talk softly to his Special K. When he
would get updates over the phone, he always used his nickname for Kellisa. For
my dad, Special K stuck, but it didn’t catch on with anyone else and that was
I believe losing the love of his life, my mom, in March 1998 made our move to Florida the following year extra hard on my dad. Kellisa was barely 6-months-old when we overloaded our Mitsubishi Eclipse and drove to the Sunshine State. I just hope he understood that we were making the best decision for
Kellisa's fragile health. Looking back 18-years
later, I can definitely say it worked out for the best and don't have any doubts.
dad even drove down from Chicago to visit us for a week during our first summer in
Florida. He had a great time. We kept him busy by hiking, visiting the
beach, swimming in a spring, and even surprised him with NASCAR tickets to a race at the famous Daytona International
Speedway. His favorite driver, Awesome Bill Elliott was well past his prime,
but led an unlikely 42 laps. I could see my dad was having fun on his vacation and was impressed
with how much time he was spending just holding his Special K. What I didn’t
know was my father was dying inside and he knew it.