Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reaching 18 (2017)

After moving across the country in 2016 and finishing our quest to hike in all 50 states, 2017 was a slow travel year (by our standards), but very exciting! 

The year started out with some of Kellisa's hiking adventures featured in the new book, families on foot. We also went to Yosemite National Park for the first time and the girls enjoyed Disney on Ice in Sacramento. Our family vacation for the year was a week in the Pacific Northwest where we visited several national parks and hiked with a large group of wheelchairs. Kellisa really enjoyed not being the only one in a chair on a trail.

Egypt continued to love all things that allowed her to spend time in water, including taking water polo lessons. We enjoyed several local hikes in the valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Kellisa went to a dream prom with a date and both girls went to several community dances alone. On of Egypt's highlights was borrowing a friends dog for a "Doggie Dash" and I continued to take many pictures of the moon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What a Difference 12 Years Can Make

49ers and Jaguars

JAX 10 SF 9 (12.18.05)

SF 44 JAX 33 (12.24.17)

We were season ticket holders for the Jaguars in 2005 and watched the 49ers game when they visited Jacksonville from Kellisa's hospital room. It was a rough fall/winter for Kellisa as she endured brain surgeries in October, November, and December. Always the trooper, she was able to attend every home game except the 49ers and that's only because she was still in the hospital. Back in October, we went to a Monday night football game the day after she was released from the hospital. After being trapped in the hospital, Kellisa was more than ready to get out and have some fun. It helps that the Jaguars won that game too.

Fast forward to 2017.

We no longer had season tickets, no longer lived in Jacksonville, and Kellisa had a little sister for the past 7 years. We moved to the Sacramento area in 2016, but remain diehard Jaguars fans. When the 2017 schedule was released, we were disappointed that our "local" Jaguars game 2 hours away at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA was scheduled for Christmas Eve. Afraid that it would interfere with holiday plans, we did not purchase tickets.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Placer County Big Trees Grove

Big Trees Grove

Tahoe National Forest

December 2017

We have traveled far for specific trails, but I don't think we've ever driven so far off any beaten path as we did to reach the trailhead for the Big Trees Grove in Tahoe National Forest. After leaving tiny Foresthill, we drove 25 miles on a beautiful two lane road that zig and zagged as it climbed and descended many ridges of the Sierra-Nevada foothills. There was not a single straight or flat section for the entire length. Also, you do not pass a single house, business, or really anything other than trees and sweeping views. I didn't keep track of how many cars we saw on this part of the drive to the trailhead, but I'm confident it would have been far less than five.

Not surprisingly, we were the only car in the parking lot at the trail head. My Garmin told us our elevation was just under 5,600 feet above sea level. The temperature was 40F and there was a pretty good wind whipping through the forest. The sign for the trail was missing, but it was fairly obvious and we started our lollipop hike down the ridge. The trail was littered with large pine cones which are not a friend to the person pushing the Hippocampe. However, Kellisa loves these little annoying obstacles because she either bounces over them or lunges forward a little if they lock up a wheel.

The highlight of the trail is of course, the big trees. There are six giant sequoias in this small grove far from everything, including other giant sequoias. In fact, these six trees represent many anomalies: smallest grove, northern most grove, and most isolated grove. If you count the two giant sequoias that fell in 1861, the grove actually has eight trees. 

We enjoyed our hike and found it well worth the effort to reach this remote trailhead. The trail was wide enough for Kellisa's chair and we enjoyed the challenge of the elevation changes we found on most of the trail. There were a few rocky areas in addition to the pine cones, but the trail was mostly friendly to us. Despite the grove's desolation, it was only a little more than an hour from our home just outside of Sacramento. On our way out, we couldn't resist going off-pavement on a few forest roads. Kellisa loved the "bumpy" as she bounced up and down and around in her seat.

I made a note to count the cars on our 25 mile drive back to Foresthill and that number would be one. I pulled off at large parking area to give Kellisa some water through her g-tube and one car passed us from behind. This was the only car we saw on this Saturday afternoon and if I didn't stop, we probably wouldn't have even seen the one. Kellisa was hungry by the time we reached Foresthill and I stopped at a gas station to get her a Clif Bar. As I was getting out of the Pilot, a kind woman asked if I knew that my "bumper was hanging off?" No, I didn't know and was surprised since I didn't hear anything dragging while driving. Maybe the music was a little loud?

Thankfully, it wasn't my bumper, it was just the skid plate that protects the engine. I wasn't thrilled, but I was able to crawl under the car and kind of "pop" it back in place. It held the rest of the way home and I'm hoping it's mostly fixed, but will look at it closer in the near future. A small price to pay for an amazing afternoon out with Kellisa.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Airports Visited

Airports Visited:

Chris- 113   Kellisa- 52   Lisa- 44   Laurel- 37

Lisa visited Idaho for the first time in 2017 bringing her states visited total to 40 something and it was the first calendar year that Chris, Kellisa, and Laurel didn't have any new states to cross off their "visited/hiked" list. As the year is coming to its end without any trips planned, I felt the need to update some kind of list. While thinking about the possibilities, I realized that I added several new airports visited for my "mostly" Monday-Friday job this year (Calgary, Bismarck, Omaha, Wichita, Tulsa), so I started to think about Lisa and the kids. I pulled out my trusty road atlas and started making lists of airports visited.

Laurel visited four new airports in 2017: Boise, Columbus, New Orleans, and Dallas- Love Field. Lisa added three: New Orleans, Dallas-Love Field, and San Diego. Kellisa only added one to her total- Columbus.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


A Mother and Daughter's
Peakbagging Adventure

Patricia Ellis Herr

I spent 10 hours on 4 flights this past week and I was able to finish another great read, Up by Patricia Ellis Herr. 

The book shares the story of a mother who takes her very young mountain climbing daughter on an adventure few adults achieve. The goal was to hike and climb the 48 tallest peaks in New Hampshire, including Mount Washington- home to some of the worst weather and strongest winds in the world.

Patricia has to balance many things as the mother of a 5-year-old adventurer, including safety, risks, equipment, and nay-sayers. The author has to defend their outdoor activities because too many assume that the parent is just dragging her child along for their own selfish reasons.

I can relate because many look at what I do with the girls, especially Kellisa, and assume that I am forcing her to be out on the trails. Anyone who spends time with Kellisa on the trail will know her giggles, laughter, and never ending asking for "more" proves the exact opposite- it's actually Kellisa dragging me along for her ride. 

The mother-daughter team is not afraid to go at their own pace and even turn around with a summit in view when it is no longer safe to ascend. Patricia shares many struggles, both physical and emotional as she describes their unique peakbagging challenges and experiences. Up is an inspiration on the importance of spending time with your children in the great outdoors, even if it's not a monumental undertaking like climbing 48 mountains higher than 4,000ft. in New Hampshire. 

Up can be purchased here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

I'll Push You

A Journey of 500 Miles

Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair

Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

It's been awhile since we did a book review on Kellisa's Path, but after recently reading, I'll Push You, we couldn't resist sharing this book. At the heart of this book is a love story, not a boy meets girl or father-daughter love story, but the love between two life long best friends.

Patrick and Justin grow up together as inseparable best friends always up for an adventure. They serve as the best man for each other's weddings and even vacation together with their brides.

Like so many families, Justin's life is interrupted by a debilitating disease which eventually leaves him confined to a wheelchair in need of constant care. Instead of accepting his fate and merely existing, Justin is determined to set an example of how to live. He could have picked an "easy" challenge, but that is not his nature. He decides he wants to hike the famous Camino de Santiago trail stretching 500-miles over mostly difficult terrain in Spain.

Unable to hike this trail alone, Patrick immediately volunteers to push Justin and they start planning. The first order of business is to find a wheelchair up for the hike and to start training. Along the way, they have the opportunity to have the hike filmed for a documentary and many other people offer their help in varying capacities.

The Camino de Santiago should be impossible for Justin and Patrick, but with their love, dedication, determination, and the help from other hikers along the way, they are able to complete this challenge proving that the impossible is very possible!

It is nice to see and read about others hitting the trails on wheels and pushing beyond known limits. I'll Push You can be ordered here.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sierra Discovery Trail

 Tahoe National Forest

November 2017

We've been wanting to hike the Sierra Discovery Trail for awhile because it's only one hour from our home and it is listed as fully accessible. The trail has a little bit of everything, a boardwalk, bridge, large pine trees, rolling terrain, interpretive signs, and views of several waterfalls. Because every source I could find describes the trail as accessible, I decided to bring Kellisa's everyday therapeutic wheelchair instead of one of her mobility chairs made for trails. One guide book suggested that help may be necessary to get a wheelchair around the entire loop trail.

We found the trail to be as described, but since it was late November, the trail was littered with large pine cones and broken branches. With Kellisa's small front tires, the wheelchair would come to an immediate stop every time they came into contact with these little obstacles. If we were going at a good pace, the back wheels would lift from the sudden stop as the chair lurched forward. While this process jammed my wrists to the point of pain, Kellisa thought the repeated jarring was hilarious and wanted more. 

It was a low risk, but I hiked at a slow and careful pace because I didn't want to flip the chair with Kellisa landing on her face. This happened once years ago at recess at school (scary pictures). 

I was surprised the trail was so hilly and still considered accessible. There were a few steep sections followed by twisting down hills. I have no idea how accessible this would be for others in wheelchairs propelling themselves or even motorized wheelchairs, but I found it quite challenging pushing Kellisa. It would have been a lot easy in one of her off-road trail chair.

Guidebooks list the trail length between .7 and .8 miles, but it seemed longer (maybe because I was pushing Kellisa?). We enjoyed exploring the forest with large trees, rocks, and several viewpoints to observe the waterfalls, including the 12-foot drop of Bear River Falls. It's quite rewarding to stop at every interpretive sign while Laure reads the information to the family so we can all learn about our surroundings. 

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