Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sassafras Mountain

Kellisa's 19th State Highpoint

Sassafras Mountain, SC

Elevation Gain: 50ft.

June 2011

Guidebooks and online trip reports all agree, Sassafras Mountain is wheelchair accessible. The path is nice and wide,  but a little steep and rough. I would agree that the trail is wheelchair accessible, especially with help if it weren't for one little fact. When we visited Sassafras Mountain, we found a gate completely spanning the trail and beyond. Wheelchairs don't tip easily because they have anti-tip bars. The bars can be removed, but I doubt a wheelchair could be tipped enough to make it under the gate. The only option besides settling for "close" would be to lay the disabled person on the ground and lifting the wheelchair over the gate (probably a 2 person job, maybe more for a power chair). Then you would have to drag the person on the ground under the gate, lift them back into the chair. All before even staring the short ascent. This would have to be repeated on the return hike. Trust me and not the reports written by the able bodied trip reporters, this is NOT a wheelchair accessible trail, although it can be done with the right help and planning.

Luckily for us, we had Kellisa's "off-road" disability stroller and I was able to tip it back enough to pass under the gate:

Summit pictures:

Back at the parking lot, a beautiful view awaits at the end of a short walk:

I can't help but wonder how many people make the drive to the trailhead parking lot and walk to the overlook and believe they reached the summit of South Carolina? The path to the summit is not marked and without a guidebook, this could be an easy mistake.

Fort Reno

A bonus Highpoint for Kellisa:

Fort Reno, Washington D.C.

August 2010

A tree at the top of the hill:

The highest point in Washington D.C. is near the tree pictured above:

Geologic Marker:

We had a little time before our flight home, so we stopped at: Theodore Roosevelt Island National Monument to hike the trails and visit the monument dedicated to Roosevelt's conservation legacy:

Spruce Knob

Kellisa's 18th State Highpoint

Spruce Knob, WV

August 2010

Driving through the clouds to the summit::

Trailhead sign:

Summit picture:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Backbone Mountain

Kellisa's 17th State Highpoint

Backbone Mountain, MD

Round trip Hiking Distance: 2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 700ft.

July 2010

Heading up the old logging road towards the summit:

To date, this is the hardest highpoint with Kellisa. Most would think it's because the trail gained 700ft. in only one mile. They would be half correct. The other part of the answer would be leaving the guidebook in the car. This error caused us to miss the correct turn 2/3 of the way to the summit.

Before we knew it, we were completely off the trail and surrounded by featureless forest:

After a few minutes, we followed Kellisa's wheel prints back to the trail. We quickly found the correct turn in the trail and headed back up in the right direction. The trail was steep and rocky from the start. At this point, the trail got even steeper, rockier, twistier and to add insult to the situation- narrower. With the summit no where in sight, it got to the point where I could not get the stroller up another foot.

I left Kellisa for a minute as I scouted the trail up ahead. It did not get any easier and I still did not see the summit. I returned to Kellisa defeated. I knew we had to head down without the summit. I turned the stroller around, but knew we had to be very close to the summit.

Since this would be our only chance, I decided to leave everything except Kellisa right there. I picked Kellisa up, flung her over my shoulder and asked her to help with her 70+ pounds as much as possible. We headed up the trail. I was frustrated, tired and it was hot as we ascended. I fell to my knees several times as I had to set Kellisa down a few times to catch my breath. It seemed like forever, but after about 15 minutes of torture, we reached to top of Maryland.
There were two couples relaxing on the summit and one of the men offer to take our picture:

Limited view from the summit:

Mount Davis

Kellisa's 16th State High Point

Mount Davis, PA

July 2010

No snow in July:

Summer view from the summit road:

A short trail leads to the summit boulder:

Summit picture:

High Point

Kellisa's 15th State Highpoint

High Point, NJ

December 2009

The highpoint monument:

Summit rocks:

After New Jersey, we were hoping to close out 2009 with the highpoints of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. However, the North American Blizzard of 2009 altered our plans.

Shortly after leaving High Point, NJ, the snow started to fall:

The next morning we found the road to the summit of Pennsylvania impossible to drive due to snow:

We were close, so we decided to stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial:

The flag above marks the impact site.

Not able to make all the planned highpoints because we were in the middle of a historic snowstorm, we decided to buy a sled at a small hardware store to have some fun in the snow:

We drove back to Jacksonville because of all the cancelled flights (we didn't want to miss Christmas):

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ebright Azimuth

Kellisa's 14th State Highpoint

Ebright Azimuth, DE

December 2009

Hello. We were in Delaware.

The pictures below don't do the late December weather any justice. It was a lot colder and windier than it looks, especially since we woke up in sunny Florida just a few hours earlier. We were met by Doreen "Queen of Ebright Azimuth" Kupchick as we were parking our car in front of her house. We shared our highpoint totals and Doreen was very interested in Kellisa's story. After a nice chat, we signed the summit register that Doreen keeps in her house. Doreen was kind enough to take the picture of me holding Kellisa at the top of Delaware.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2012 Bataan Memorial Death March

Bataan Memorial Death March
White Sands Missile Range, NM

March 25, 2012

I've completed the last three (2009-2011) Bataan Memorial Death Marches. Every year, I set two goals for myself. First, I wanted to finish no matter what. Second, I set a target finish time in my mind. I did not carry a watch or time myself in any way, I just knew how prepared I was each year and hoped for the best. The march is 26. 2 miles across the rolling hills of the New Mexico desert. Depending on who you talk to, there are two cruxes on the course. There's a mountain to traverse and approximately 3/4 of a mile of ankle deep sand after mile 21, fondly known as the "sand pit".

Elevation of the course:

My timing goal in 2009 was to finish under 9 hours. My time: 8 hours, 59 minutes and 19 seconds. In 2010, all I wanted to do was finish better than the year before. My time: 8 hours, 17 minutes and 28 seconds. My goal for 2011 was to finish in under 8 hours. My time: 7 hours, 59 minutes and 55 seconds. I'm 3 for 3 in finishing under my target finish time. My goal for 2012 will be to finish in under 10 hours. Why am I adding 2 hours and 5 seconds to my target time? I plan on completing the 2012 march with Kellisa!

The march has a strict no strollers policy. I wrote to the race director and pleaded my case. I explained that Kellisa was a disabled 12 year old girl who can't walk, weighs 80 pounds and is a patriotic supporter of our troops. I described the Advanced Mobility Independence Push Chair that Kellisa would ride in as I pushed her along the course. To further my case, I mentioned that I am a three time completer, so I know what I'm getting us into as far as understanding the difficulty of the course. I also promised to be 100% self reliant. They had a few questions and warnings, but on January 20, 2012, we received special permission to participate in the 2012 march.

I've been working on adapting custom rear wheels for Kellisa's chair:

Kellisa traveled to White Sands Missile Range to support my march in both 2009 and 2011 since it fell on one of her spring break weekends. Luckily, the 2012 march also falls during her spring break.

Lisa and Kellisa in the early morning cold before the start of the 2009 march:

Kellisa looking for me at the finish line:

Approaching the finish line:

I didn't want to get up, so Lisa and Kellisa joined me on the ground:

Participating in my first Bataan Memorial Death March was a life changing experience and I made a vow to myself to participate every year that I was able. I'm excited to take the march experience to the next level and share the course with Kellisa. I don't know if 10 hours is realistic considering I will have to stop and help Kellisa, including giving her water through the g-tube. Hopefully we will finish and claim to be the first "pushiking" team to complete the Bataan Memorial Death March.

Maybe we will inspire a team of soldiers to push a fellow veteran that lost a leg or two and can't complete the march under their own power???

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