The Power of our Dreams

Have you ever had this experience? You’re minding your own business, usually in a public or semi-public area. Maybe you’re on a road trip, riding the city bus, or you’re on a airplane. Your eyes get heavy, the atmosphere is ripe for a little snooze and slowly you drift off. You enter a dream state where maybe you’re flying, or you’re stepping off the stairs, curb, or you trip and fall. In your dream you reach out for something to catch your fall, unfortunately for you your body responds in real life. Arms go flailing, legs shoot out from your body. Maybe you end up sideways and quite possibly a sound emanates from your mouth that makes you sound like a bridge troll. Your dream was so powerful that you unconscious body reacted to what was going on in your mind. That’s what I’m talking about today, the power of dreams and how it relates to our outdoor pursuits.

I recently made a page on this blog about my dream adventures. I listed out many mountains I’d love to summit, several trails I’d love to hike. The reality of accomplishing everything on my lists might never come to fruition. I’m in my mid-thirties and because we get older and not younger time is running out. I’m disabled as well, so my body isn’t improving. My ability to bounce back after hard days is diminishing; getting older only speeds this along. I’m a husband and a father too, I have two living children and by the time this story is published I our third might be sleeping on my arm. I have responsibilities at my church that may not permit me to be away for a month or more at a time. However in the midst of everything staring me in the face telling me that it’s not possible, I still dare to dream.

One of my dreams

One of my dreams

Those dreams are what spur me to put myself in a position to always be ready. Why train for something that may never materialize? Why do we prepare for an event, a trip, a desire that has no concrete date, plan, or even chance of manifesting? What drives us, what pushes us to the limits of who we are are people are the dreams we hold close to the vest. These dreams cause us to sacrifice ourselves, our time, our resources, our bodies. We ask others that are close to us to join us in this sacrifice as well.

“Honey, instead of getting some new furniture can we instead buy a new road bike? I want to ride in that road race next year.”

“Kids, I know you want to go to Disneyland but we’re going to Yosemite instead. Trust me it’ll be fun”

“Guys, I’d love to hang out and gorge myself on pizzas and movies but I’m going to eat this bag of broccoli, this plain chicken breast, and spend the next hour on the treadmill. Only 250 days until the marathon.”

Our dreams keep us from settling. From becoming too complacent to care at all about making ourselves greater, faster, stronger, more focused. Our dreams are what spur us to never give up; to do those things we don’t want to do but know that we have to do. I heard my pastor say this one time and it’s stuck with me for over ten years now.

“Opportunity does not knock it stands silently by waiting to be recognized but it often goes unnoticed because it looks like an unfair exchange.”

Our dreams become so powerful that it pushes us and motivates us so that we are never caught in a place where we find an opportunity but it passes us by because we didn’t make that unfair exchange earlier in time. I begin to wonder that if we’re not dreaming then are we really living? I hope I never get to a place in my life where I feel as if I’ve arrived. As if I feel that I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do, everything I’ve set out to be. I don’t want to leave things undone, but it sure would be nice to say before I go that I still had dreams I was working towards.

To all our readers I say to you never stop dreaming and never stop trying to make those dreams your reality. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous, nor how far fetched. Someone dreamt one day that we could go to the moon and now we have a rover on Mars. So let yourself dream and don’t let those dreams simply be blown away with the wind. Get out there and make great things happen, prepare yourself for opportunity and while you’re waiting dream some more.

Until next time……Adventure On!

Categories: Insight, Outdoor Adventure, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Secret Superpower

Have you ever hung around someone from a different region of the country?

I had a friend in the military, his name was Brandon, and he was from New Hampshire. We would hang out when we weren’t on duty and being that he was a New Englander he had certainly phrases and ways of saying things (colloquialism) that were very different from my Ohio upbringing. Eventually I found myself saying things the way he did. Listening to the same music, and even smoking the same cigarettes that he did. My friend had a secret superpower that I had never even knew existed.


He never set out to influence me, it happened by chance. If you spend enough time with someone they tend to rub off on you. You pick up phrases, habits, even world views. Think about it. Do you see the world the same now as when you were in high school? A lot of people’s view of life changes when they get to college or have a life changing experience. I see the world differently now then from when I wasn’t disabled. People, books, movies, experiences, all of these and more have an influence over us, but have you ever stopped to wonder what you influence everyday?

My son loves video games and movies. If he could he’d sit on the couch all day long and rot his brain until it’s seeping out of his ears. I’m not talking about National Geographic documentaries that we used to watch, no I’m talking about cartoons that offer up nothing but 22 minutes of mindless entertainment. He’d do it all day and all night without question.

Back in 2009 we took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. It reawakened my desire to explore the outdoors again; it had been put on the back burner for awhile, but now it was burning hot again. Eventually this led to a desire to try rock climbing. After researching and reading, watching videos and day dreaming my family and I spent a Saturday afternoon  at a local outfitter and their bouldering cave in the basement. Needless to say we were exhausted after about fifteen minutes. I was sweating, I was tired, my forearms wanted to slap me in the face then go run into a corner and cry they hurt so bad.

I was hooked. SN852092

It was exercise that wasn’t exercise. It was fun and new. Our son was four years old about to turn five and he was hooked too. Now he’s on a climb team and we’re in the second year of climbing and members at a climbing gym. We volunteered at a recent comp and anytime my son hears the words Vertical Endeavors he pipes up, smiles, and wonders when we’re going to go. He hates leaving the gym. He can’t stand to take his shoes off. Chalked up hands, sweaty, tired and wanting more and more. He climbs until his little hands hurt and the skin is peeling off where callouses form. He transforms from a couch potato to a little crushing climber.


My little guy would have never gotten the climbing bug had I not influenced him and given him the experience and shared with him what has become a mutually attraction to this terrific outdoor adventure. He has yet to catch on to my love of hiking (too much walking he says) but when he gets out there he loves it. I’ve taken him snowshoeing and I find that who I am and what I endorse influences him more then what I realize. My values and favorites all-of-a-sudden become his during our conversations.

Me: “Mmmm…. I love asparagus it’s one of my favorite vegetables!”

Son: “It’s one of my favorite vegetables too!” (This after him never having eaten them before…..ever)

We can influence the next generation, we can influence our friends and family, our influence can stretch beyond our zip codes, our race, our gender, and our language. It’s a superpower that has no bounds, but it’s a superpower that should have boundaries. It should be harnessed and focused for good; for the betterment of those who look to us and glean from us. They incorporate it into their lives. So what are people incorporating into their lives being around you? Is it a love for the outdoors that is positive and ethical? Is your influence one that inspires greatness in others?

If you’re not a comic book/movie nerd who has read/seen Spider-Man let me borrow a quote from Uncle Ben.

“With great power comes great responsibility”

What are you going to do with your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

For good or evil?

For good or evil?

Until next time………..Adventure On!

Categories: Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Adventure, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


I’m going to be a bit run-out on this post.

Very Exposed.

Like walking a ridge on a windy summit, unroped.

Things have been tough for me lately. I have this deep seeded itch to do something. This “thing” remains undefined, it has no shape, no name, no construct. It remains faceless, and nothing more then a passing notion through my mind. It’s genesis was brought on by a void. A void in me that I desperately need to fill. This void is like a black hole for all of my thoughts, my energy, my drive, my ambition. The appetite for this nothingness is insatiable it seems, it craves one thing and one the thing only. To satisfy it I must take on one magnanimous endeavor. I must create.

Create something, anything, everything that doesn’t currently exist in form but only in the recesses of the minds of people. I have been struggling with this unquenchable thirst to make something from nothing. It hits me just about every time I strap my boots on my feet, tie into my harness, or throw a pack on my back. This is the fruit of someone’s imagination, their dreams, their plans. Every route you climb, every trail you hike, every park you visit was created by someone at sometime.

With the blank tablet of your life what will you create?

With the blank tablet of your life what will you create?

They thought and planned. They worked hard, sweated, sacrificed, became frustrated. They probably quit and then came back after some time later having kicked themselves and encouraged themselves to continue on and never give up again. Creation isn’t spontaneous it’s carefully planned out. It’s a purposeful act of self-discipline and organization. Ideas, inspirations, revelations, breakthroughs these are spontaneous and birthed out of having spent time purposing yourself to create.

I last wrote about adventure. The adventures we take in life should be spontaneous to some degree, the experiencing that we draw and the ideas we conceive should be as fresh and as new as to wear we explore. To get to this place though we have to plan to create. When inspiration hits an artist they don’t have time to scramble for supplies and prepare their studio. They need to have created an environment that allows for ideas to freely flow. They have to plan to create so that they can be ready at a moments notice when something fantastic strikes.

It is too easy for us as busy adults, some with families some without, to get wrapped up in the mire of everyday living. It is because of this course we’ve struck out on that we need to now more then ever to set aside time to create. To place ourselves in a mindset, in an atmosphere, an environment that when we have an idea we are ready to act.

A new route up a familiar peak.

A new trail system or river system that needs to be explored.

A link up of cross-state/city/country/global travel using various methods of transportation.

Whatever ideas you fancy. Whatever you can create in your mind. You are ready and able to act. Your ability to create may be the very thing that inspires creation in someone else. That degree of separation may very well depend on you. So get out there and create. Show us what you’ve got.

Until next time……Adventure (and Create) On!

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The Spirit of Adventure

Sometimes it’s nice to pretend that you’re a kid again.

In our house we like to spend some Friday nights making a big bowl of popcorn, spritz it with canola oil, and dust it with flavoring. We’ll all gather on the couch and throw on a movie we can all watch. Usually something age appropriate for our son which means it’s animated or ridiculously goofy and lighthearted  Not exactly my cup-of-tea seeing as there are few explosions, no superheroes (usually), and a serious lack of muscle bound meat-head screaming “Get to da choppa!” (Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line from Predator. Also I bet you read that line in your best Arnold impersonation didn’t you?). Needless to say I’ve seen my fair share of animated shows. Some good (Phineas and Ferb, anything Pixar puts out, most of Dreamworks stuff, and animated superhero movies) and some that make me fall asleep in the first 15 min (A lot of older Disney movies……I can’t handle a song ever 5 min). There is one show we own that really sticks with me, and that movie is Up by Pixar.

If you haven’t seen Up yet then stop reading, rent it. Then proceed to cry (you know what I mean), laugh, and feel great after it’s all over. Now that you’ve seen the movie you can read the rest of this post.

The Spirit of Adventure

The Spirit of Adventure

In the movie one of the lines repeated here and there is “Adventure is out there” and the name of the blimp that the famous explorer/villain uses is called “The Spirit of Adventure” and hearkening to the Spirit of St. Louis that Charles Lindbergh flew in. The premise of the movie is that a couple become friends and eventually fall in love over their desire to go on an adventure. However through the years they find that the savings they keep for this once-in-a-lifetime trip keeps getting used up for life’s little interventions. They eventually reach retirement age and as they are about to embark on this lifelong dream the wife becomes ill and eventually passes away. This of course happens in the first ten minutes of the movie and if you don’t have a soul you’ll find yourself choking up at the very least.

This movie, and that line got me to thinking. What is adventure? To the surviving spouse he finds it wasn’t the destination, it was the journey. Cliche? Yes. Full of truth? I’d say so. The destination does matter, but sometimes it’s the journey that really makes the impact on you; especially when you can share that spirit of adventure with someone else. When the spirit of adventure becomes an infectious disease to those around you you find that it’s not about who finishes first or whether or not you even get to the end. Your love of adventure has been caught by someone else and now they’ve got the bug.

This inspiration has them thinking about a path of life they may have never even imagined as possible. You’ve opened their eyes to something new and fresh. Your passion has rubbed itself off on them in some way. There fire may not burn as hot as yours, but truly you’ve stoked their ember a little warmer. I can see that wonder personally in the eyes of my wife and son. I can see my son’s eyes light up as we take him to explore and adventure in different arenas. I watch as my wife does things she never though she could do; I see her amaze herself at what she can accomplish. Someone shared this spirit of adventure with me and them it became my own. It morphed and changed over the years. At times, life’s interventions happened (I was crippled in an accident, a buried a spouse at age 29, I buried a child at age 33) that put my adventures on hold. I’m about to embark on a new one as well (a daughter slated to make her grand entrance in less then two months) and I can share my spirit of adventure with her as well and watch over the years as she makes it her own in her own way.

Adventure truly is out there, and there is enough to go around. I encourage all you who read this to regularly join in our adventures and to share yours with us as well. More importantly then that I encourage you all to find people who don’t have the spirit of adventure and to share it with them. See if they can become carriers of this “disease”, see if they want to be hosts of something fantastic and outstanding. See if they want to live an extraordinary life filled with adventure!

Thanks for reading and commenting and until next time……Adventure On!

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When What We Do Doesn’t Matter

I like to follow a lot of outdoor recreation news and media. I listen to climbing and hiking podcasts, read articles, follow blogs, and watching hours of videos on YouTube and Vimeo. One of the resounding themes that I hear mentioned in interviews and articles is the climber/backpacker/adventurer stating time and again:

“What I do doesn’t matter”

After hearing this mentioned again by others I must say I was taken back a little. In the ego driven, superhuman, gravity/age/gender/possibility defying world out outdoor sports here it was someone admitting for all the world (okay that might be a bit of a stretch) to hear that what do doesn’t really matter.

Do these matter to those who can't appreciate or experience them?

Do these matter to those who can’t appreciate or experience them?


Why would someone completely sweep the rug out from underneath their own feet. Why dismiss the accomplishments of their own passionate driving force. The culmination of years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice. All of it laid to waste by five simple words, six if you chose not to use a contraction. What would push someone to make this naked of a confession?

A realization of the unadulterated truth. What we do on the rocks, trails, rivers and mountains means nothing in the grand scheme of life to anyone else but ourselves.

Why is it that we take so seriously and give so much to something that ultimately matters to no one? When will climbing a grade higher ever solve world hunger? Maybe on my out-and-back overnighter I’ll discover a rare plant that when synthesized the pulp of the root cures 95% of cancer. Doubt it. So why do we take to forums and debate the validity of the difficulty of our sports. We dumps loads of time, money, and energy into things that have no baring or positive effect on the majority of the world as a whole.

You can make the argument that charities that sponsor events and raise money do good work that has a lasting impact and I would agree. How often I ask are you doing said events? Was that the goal of climbing 5.12? Of getting in shape to hike 20 miles a day carrying a 30lb pack? Maybe that’s why you got that season lift pass?  Hmmm?

Don’t get the wrong impression here, I’m not on some sanctimoniousness-self-righteous-guilt distributing-soapbox rant. Actually I’m a HUGE fan of outdoor sports and I wonder why more people don’t participate. It does however create that moment of wonder, or asking ourselves why. Why do we do things that don’t really matter. I’d like to answer my own question.

Mississippi River Valley

Because it does matter. It matters to us.

When we are able to free ourselves from the shackles of everyday life and experience and explore the world around us in an exhilarating and tangible way we allow ourselves to grow. We get inspired, we are renewed and refreshed. We think clearer, our creative veins pump the blood of imagination to every cell within our being. We return to the life we left behind with both a longing and a renewed vigor. A desire to do something that does matter to someone other then ourselves.

Whether we create with our minds or with our hands, we return to the life we put on pause. We hit the play button again and we turn the volume on full blast. We reshape the world around us, mold it and form it in a fashion that hopefully others can glean from. We come back to the world a better person, looking to change it into something better. To touch lives in a visceral way, deep down to the center and very core of their being. To give them a piece of what we drank in while we were out adventuring.

As it turns out what doesn’t matter really does matter, just not in the way we might think. When it matters to us, when it changes us, when it touches us we have the responsibility to reform it into something that changes others. What good is a mountain to someone who cannot or does not want to climb it? What about a class 5 rapid? A never ending trail? The solitude of a campsite? Or the deep fresh powder to someone who has never experienced those things? We have, and we do. Every day or weekend, every season of our lives we take a break and step away from what was and we we look forward to what will be. We immerse ourselves in this world; this world that doesn’t matter to anyone but us. If we simply allow it to, it can change us immensely.  We can become a conduit to a world that cannot or will not reach for it. To a people or peoples that will never know the experiences we had. We can make it matter, just in a different way.

Can this become something more?

Can this become something more?

Until next time……Adventure On and Make it Matter.

Categories: Insight | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sunshine and Sand

Usually the Cardwell family can be found pursing the mountains, going out west, or exploring locally in Minnesota.  After our stop in the Great Smokey Mountains, we traveled on to Florida to see family and enjoy the warmer temperatures.  I was especially grateful since we had nearly frozen during the night  in Tennessee, where we camped at a higher altitude than we had planned.  I don’t think I thawed until we were almost to the summit.

So after being more accustomed to northern campsites with pine trees and rocky ground, we were pleasantly surprised by our stay at Paynes Prairie Park Reserve in Florida.  Seeing palm trees, tropical plans, and sand at our campsite was certainly a new experience for us!

Our Camp Site

During our typical camping experiences, we hear loons and owls or maybe a coyote or two.  At night in Florida, we heard foreign bird calls and strange unidentifiable sounds which were a bit disarming at first.  Finding large spiders on the picnic table also was a new experience, one that I can do without!  Thankfully none of them made their way into our tent.


As we were camping over the Thanksgiving holiday, we enjoyed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallow Smores.  Due to a burn ban earlier in the year in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we hadn’t yet had time in 2012 to really enjoy a good camp fire.  Therefore, to commemorate we took to science experiments (mostly initiated by Jayson) to see how quickly different items burn.  I think we probably should have had additional adult supervision.

We rented a Ford Fusion for this trip, and therefore we had minimized our gear to the best of our ability.  This included taking our smallest tent.  The last night of the trip, our son seemed to think we were still in our 10 foot by 12 foot Coleman tent, and not a small 4 person tent.  By the morning, he had effectively taken up nearly 50% of our usable space by laying diagonal this of course had a chain effect on the rest of us. My step-daughter was pushed over towards my husband and knocked him off his pad. Given my state of pregnancy I wasn’t going anywhere and he got smashed in between me and her left him longing for better accommodations.

On Thanksgiving day, we went for a short hike.  It was a nice change of pace as traditionally I’m holed up in the kitchen for  half the day on Thanksgiving.  Enjoying the great outdoors was a nice change and I hope to carry on to future Thanksgiving holidays.  The kids had fun creating different shadow art on the hike.


We also took the opportunity to drive to the beach, even though it was a bit too chilly to get in the water.  Drawing in the wide expanses of sand created great entertainment and picture opportunities.

Benjamin in the sand

St. Augusting

Remember how I said it was too chilly to swim?  About 10 minutes after the beautiful picture above, the wave jumping turned disastrous and Benjamin ended up sitting in the waves soaked to his chest.  And his mother didn’t even bring a change of clothes from the campsite 2 hours away.  Oops.  After two emergency stops for new clothes and dragging my wet son through the local Walmart, everyone was (mostly) dry and ready to go again.

Kiss the belly

While we always feel the call of the mountains, we did enjoy being able to explore a new state and experience the natural features that Florida has to offer.  Now if only there were climbing areas there . . .

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On (Chimney) Top of The Smokies

If you hadn’t noticed we here at The Bionic Chronicles had taken a few weeks sabbatical from posting. We had a good reason, we took a vacation. We sacrificed and took a vacation for you our readers to give you more content. We are caring and considerate blog hosts, always looking to better the lives of our readers. So without further ado here’s a trip report on a pretty spectacular hike in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Quick out and back right?

Quick out and back right?

Chimney Tops

Location: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Length: 4 miles RT

Elevation Gain: 1300′

View from Chimney Top

View from Chimney Top

This was a terrific hike for us as a family. It started out as a gentle hike crossing a cascading creek several times before the .9 mile spur into the more difficult section. What I believe made this hike even more terrific was the fact that it was accomplished by my 6 yr old son, my five month pregnant wife, and the newest addition to our hiking clan “Bubbles” the pinkish-yellow Stegosaurus.

“Bubbles” is going to become our new travel partner. The name and choice of the family representative was made by our son. He joined us for this trip and he’ll be with us for all of our future adventures.

According to several websites I’ve found out that 900′ (69%) of the elevation gain takes place on the final mile of the trail. The trail was also wet as the temperatures rose after Hurricane Sandy brought some snow into the upper elevations of the park. So we’ve got a steeper section of hiking added to slick rocks and mud. This made the ascension more difficult for this hiking clan (remember I’m disabled, wife’s prego, and son is only 6 years old) but we prevailed to the top. However due to previously stated conditions not all of us could make it to the very top.

Bubbles - The Summit Stegosaurus

Bubbles – The Summit Stegosaurus

Once you cross a short saddle there is a scramble to the true summit where you get to scan over the peaks and valleys of the Newfound Gap area. Given that there was a chance for injury to happen my wife got about 15′ up before deciding to stay put, my son went about another 25′ before I decided that he shouldn’t go any further (he was determined to make it to the top) and I continued to the very top. The rock was not totally vertical but you did need to be very careful and be cautious about hand and foot placement. Injuries could and have happened and it’s not a place where you wanted to twist an ankle or break a leg, arm, or your melon.

After taking some photos and video on the top, I carefully made my way back down climbing to meet my son and then helped him all the way back. We put our packs back on and returned to what would be a near painfully slow pace back down to the trailhead. The snow melt provided us with a much faster but completely bone breaking and life threatening way off the mountain. It offered us the chance to “behind over tea kettle” over the 1200′ vertical feet back down to the car. No thank you mountain, I’d rather hike my way down thank you, and so we did. We took each step as careful as one could avoid wet rocks like they were landmines and the mud as if it were lava. Four slips and trips later we were through the wet section and on to drier descents.

You can see some of the mud and water covering the trail and rocks. This section was one of the nicer sections.

You can see some of the mud and water covering the trail and rocks. This section was one of the nicer sections.

As we inched our way down we started to run into more and more hikers coming up. Each one we passed seemed to compliment my wife and son about how awesome they were, or how amazed and bold they were about getting all the way up the trail. This has seemed to be a theme over the last year. Since we made it a priority to get out on the trail more, I’ve noticed more and more people commenting about how amazed they are that my wife and son being so pregnant and young respectively are out hiking. Is this really something so foreign? What has gone on with our culture that a woman doing two miles or a six year old hiking to the top of a mountain are such marvels?

This is by no means a commentary on my family. I think they are wonderful, but more about what has happened to our society. We have friends (who will go un-named) who would scoff at us doing such things, or wouldn’t consider exposing their children to such undertakings. We’re going to completely blow their minds when we start taking our infant child camping at three months, and as soon as our daughter (if it wasn’t public knowledge before….surprise!) is strong enough to get in a carrier guess where we’re going? Yep, we’re hitting the trail and the crags. Settlers used to have newborn children while heading out west in the harsh environment.  Procreation didn’t cease because amenities weren’t nice enough. Indigenous women would squat in fields or prairies (some probably still do in more rural areas) have their babies, and then return to whatever they were doing both here and abroad. So what has happened to us as a people that makes doing these things in whatever conditions so monumental that they couldn’t fathom doing it themselves?

This is the flatter safer section of the scramble to the top.

This is the flatter safer section of the scramble to the top.

(Descends form soapbox)

Overall it was a great hike. Since we took so long at the top with pictures and what nots (about an hour in total) and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, we unfortunately didn’t get another hike in for the day. We did however tick this great hike off and got some tremendous pictures. Our son got his second summit, Bubbles his first, and all together we had a terrific time with some spectacular views of The Great Smoky Mountains.

Mom and Son made it all the way.

Mom and Son made it all the way.

The Big Man rocking his new summit flag!

The Big Man rocking his new summit flag! the wild!

Bubbles…in the wild!

That is the true summit, and the pathway to get there.

That is the true summit, and the pathway to get there.

Our boy being his funny self.

Our boy being his funny self.

Categories: Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s a Hodge Podge Post

So today’s post isn’t going to be focused on just one thing, my mind is on my upcoming family vacation and thinking about all the write-ups we’ll be doing when we get back. Oh and the 4,000 miles of driving we’ll be doing. It’s a road trip, with stops in Tennessee and then down to Florida and back. Why would I chose to drive 4,000 miles when they have made these new fangled things called airplanes. Because airplanes are for wusses.

Yep…that looks about right.

So today we’re going to be discussing training (I hear your collective moan; it’s not that kind of discussion) and our families 2012 goal to hike 100 Trail Miles and how we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.

Training with a Purpose

I’m not a huge fan of exercise. Really I’m not. I prefer the whole “eat Fritos and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the couch while watching a good movie and keeping warm under my favorite fleece blanket” activity. One of the reasons why I hate exercise is because it’s just so darn hard. Don’t get me wrong I love to hike and climb, but the Stairmaster and the treadmill and the weight machines, they really are no fun. Then there are squats. Squats just outright suck. The deadlift is right behind that too.

So you’ll see that I’m not one of those hardcore, ‘roided, endurance athlete, self-punishing for pleasure, sickos you might see at your local gym. I choose to quietly laugh and ridicule those type of people; I’d point my finger at them if I weren’t so busy trying to suck wind and stay alive. However as much as I want to believe that Twinkies and Oatmeal Creme Pies are the way to summit mountains and crank on crimps it just doesn’t work that way. Plus, I’m a cripple so I’ve got that working against me too.

My body can only take so much abuse. I’ve wrecked my shoulders in the first year of climbing and my knees outright hate me after a few miles on flat terrain. I’ve topped the scales at 205 lbs a far cry from where I used to be in the military at 155 lbs. My metabolism didn’t just slow down, it broke down and my activity level plummeted with my accident. Add it all up and it’s not conducive to a lifestyle of a successful outdoor athlete, no matter what you want to say. So I decided one day that it was time to get back to the gym and to start training my body. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I was four months along in this photo.

I’ve read books many climbing books on the topic (this one, this one, and this one) and they all kind of say the same things. “The best way to train is to climb/hike/backpack/insert activity here” but I’ve found that isn’t the case for everyone. In the month-and-a-half I’ve been hitting the gym on the regular I’ve seen the largest growth in my climbing since I began. I didn’t buy new shoes (actually went back to my flat-last non-sport climbing shoes) and I didn’t magically grow super skills. I just trained my whole body and changed the way I ate.

My strength has improved, I’m climbing at a full grade higher, and my endurance has increased. I only climb once a week, and even then I only get to maybe seven sport routes a night max. I’ve seen my energy increase, and even my hiking endurance has shot through the roof. I haven’t been training for climbing specifically, or any sport for that manner. I don’t campus or do hang board training, I don’t use a weighted belt for pull-ups, or a weighted backpack (yet). I do nine simple exercises and then some cardio. The same ones every workout 3-4 times a week. I lift two times a week and do endurance cardio 1-2 times a week. No personal trainer, just basic machine exercises and sometimes I don’t even do all nine, I usually choose 5-6 one night and MAYBE 2-3 the other.

One of the things that keeps me motivated to hit the gym is it gives me a chance to laugh at the people that spend their lives there working on specific muscle groups in order to look super buff and swollen. They do one exercise to blast that third muscle fiber on the left bicep for maximum growth. While I’m in-and-out in 70 minutes having done a full routine. What a bunch of tools!  I giggle in your general direction.

See…..even my son is laughing at you.

I also giggle at the person who aimlessly wanders the gym looking at the machines and weights but never breaks a sweat. Also the person working out so lightly that they can read a book, watch a TV show, and hold a conversation all at the same time. Oh…. and if you’re one of those persons who carries their phone with them and has a conversation on it instead of working out but still sits on the machine like you’re doing something, just stop. Please, just stop… annoy me and everyone else.

So I found that training my whole body in a non-specific routine had yielded for me the best results. So tell me, what works for you?

A 100 Mile Update

For anyone who has been following this blog you know that we set a goal as a family (we had many but only this one is relevant to TBC) to hike 100 trail miles in 2012. It was a great feat for us to try as we have a six year old who isn’t fond of taking long walks in the woods, and our schedules make it difficult to get out but maybe once or twice a month. Summer was hot, I mean real hot which doesn’t bode well for a man with an SCI (spinal cord injury) as the heat and humidity drain my strength and suffocate me with every step.

We started off the year very slowly taking 1-2 mile trips, we didn’t get out a few months and fell well behind. One of the reasons we didn’t get at it full-steam is we didn’t think our son could handle it. We were wrong, so very very wrong. We underestimated the hiking power of our little man and we’re going to pay the price for it by not making our goal.

Currently we have 48 miles to go and less then two months to do it in. We found out near the end just how far our little guy can go when he pulled off a personal best (along with my wife who wasn’t much of a hiker or outdoors athlete until she married me and she’s pregnant too) when he hiked for 8.6 miles last month. Had we known he had this kind of staying power we might be closing in on 150 miles and not just crossing the 50 mile mark. As I stated earlier we have a vacation coming up and we’re looking at tackling over 20 miles in total. Getting us close to the 80 mile mark, but short of the 100 we need.

Never underestimate this boys hiking power…or his trailblazing skills.

All-in-all it’s been a great success. We’ve done more and learned more then we would have had we not set the goal and it helped us to reallocate our time and energy to make room for hitting the trail. We developed a game to help our son get his mind off the miles (trail bingo) and if he scores enough bingo’s he gets a prize (a new video game….yea yea I understand the irony of using an outdoor activity and rewarding it with a soul-sucking, mind numbing indoor activity… stop judging me). We also found out that we love a hot trail meal (thank you JetBoil and mac ‘n cheese) it helps to lift our spirits and boosts morale for the troops.

So before we go we wish you all a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and family, and as always…..Adventure On!

(PS: We will be coming back just not for two weeks so check the archives for a lot of good posts)

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Staying in the Game (Part 2)

Ready to climb! (excuse the fuzzy pictures, its part of having a 6 year old take them)

I’m officially half-way through my pregnancy this week!  We are excited for our upcoming ultrasound and I’m hoping it will make baby’s March arrival seem more real. A few weeks ago I discussed climbing in regards to early pregnancy, and things are changing as my belly grows.

Thankfully my new CAMP body harness arrived a month ago.  I can certainly tell that it was NOT designed for a woman’s body, but I didn’t want to stop climbing until January when the Mountain Mama pregnancy harness comes out.  I’ve been able to adjust it for the most part, and it takes all the pressure off my growing belly.

Two things surprised me when I climbed the first time with the body harness.  1) With the belay loop being higher, the stopper knot ended up being close to my nose during important parts of the climb.  Three fourths of the way up I’d gotten slapped in the face by the extra rope one too many times and decided to come down.  Thankfully my friend Eliz taught me how to do a Yosemite finish so I don’t have the rope trying to pick my nose as I climb. 2) I like to climb in tanktops, but the harness straps coming over my shoulders began to rub my skin raw.  The first night I had to finish out my climbing in my husbands fashionable white undershirt just to save my skin.  We’ve considered adding some flair to my climbing harness (yes, this is an Office Space reference) because its just that fashionable.

As for the actual climbing, I can tell that my center of gravity is shifting and the weight gain  makes it a bit more challenging to pull certain moves.  However, it is forcing me to climb a bit more creatively (which is a good thing).  My husband teases me that I only used to climb with my hip into the wall and I’m now having to climb in a position that more resembles a frog.  I was particularly proud of myself for pulling a modified layback move to get through the crux of one of my climbs.  Sometimes I discover that my depth perception is off in regards to my belly and I have to shift my body to avoid knocking it on a hold.

Also, my husband has been losing weight and I’ve been gaining it; so I’ve started belaying him with only one twist in the rope instead of two.  It can be difficult for me to smoothly belay with the twists in the rope, which at one point a while back had ended up knocking his glasses off during a climb.  However, the weight gain has been to my advantage in this scenario and (I hope) I’m a better belayer for it.

I also had the joy of meeting another pregnant climber at the gym.  She says I’m only the third pregnant climber she’s seen in our area over the last few years, and she’s been climbing much longer than I have.  I’ve noticed over the last few weeks my harness and my belly are conversation starters.  People are curious and supportive.

One last thing, I’ve started reading Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, which I would recommend as a great resource for women looking for scientifically sound advice for activities in pregnancy. It’s great to see the research and the wonderful impact of fitness for mother and baby.

So until next time, climb on!

Categories: Climbing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Life Lived Assisted (Part Two)

This is part two of a four part series.

So as I left off on the last post I wrote in this series, (Forgot? Missed it? Bored? Check it out here) I went skiing at Deer Mountain in Deadwood, South Dakota. It had been a few years since I had skied, but just like riding a bike I got back into the groove after about three runs.  I needed to because the runs that day were junk. The winter had been abnormally warmer then usual, and Deer Mountain didn’t make snow. I had to dodge patches of dirt and grass and navigate on icy, slushy, rotten snow. The skiing was fun, the terrain sketchy, and it wasn’t until the evening that I found out how sketchy it really was.

I was skiing on a run that my friend Matt and I had done previously, so I was rather relaxed and didn’t expect to have to pay any particular attention to what I was doing. This however was exactly the opposite approach that I should have taken. Remember how I said the weather was warm? Well when the sun started to descend the temperature went with it, causing the slushy snow to turn to sheets of ice.

It started with my buddy heading down the run first. As I followed down behind him, I saw him eat it. Down he went, losing his skis in the process. As I came across the slope I found myself on a collision course with his sticks. With no time to stop myself, I tried sitting and leaning into the slope in hopes of slowing myself down and letting his skis pass. Turns out my buddy didn’t lose his balance because he sucked eggs, he lost it because of a large patch a ice that had formed from the dropping temps and the warm day. Sure enough, where I decided to sit into the hill was directly on this ice patch and I yard saled it.

Poles. Gone (they were leashed too….still trying to figure that out)

Skis. Not on my feet that was for sure.

It didn’t end there, I began sliding down the hill picking up speed as I went. I started digging the heels of my boots into the snow to slow my descent. That was one of the most least productive acts I could have done, all I did was kick snow into my face blinding me from what was ahead. This run split into two trails; wide to the right, narrow to the left. A grove of trees blocked the middle. When Matt biffed it he slid to the right, when I started my unintentional glissading my path took me right down the center where the trail abruptly stopped, thanks to a few trees.

I didn’t even see the tree coming, my face was covered in snow but all of a sudden I was stopped cold in my tracks. My sledding sans sled came to a violent finish followed by immense pain. I had slid into the first tree, and the way I slid into it was cringe inducing. Thanks to my genius slide stopping skills I had spread my feet apart and wouldn’t you know it.

BAM!!! Right between the legs.

That pretty much sums it up.

Now if you’re a man and you’re about to fall out of your chair and grab your berries in sympathetic pain reducing comfort let me help you, I had two things going for me.

1. The speed I picked up caused the impact to be so great that it blew apart one of my vertebrae causing my surrounding tissue to swell and leaving me paralyzed from the trauma area down.

2. I actually hit the tree with my pelvic bone (the Ischium to be precise) which caused it to crack and shoot through the skin.

So I didn’t actually use my cojones as air bags to cushion the impact. However the result was still devastating. A compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae and a compound fracture of the pelvic bone. The first causes paralysis, the second profuse bleeding that they couldn’t stop. Luckily for me my friend Matt was with me. As I tried to move and get myself off the tree (I was in an uncomfortable position with the lower half of my body slightly elevated) he came over and placed my head between his knees to secure my neck from movement. He then told a passing skier to get the rescue unit. I don’t remember much from our conversation together but I do remember telling him this.

“Matt, I think I need to see a chiropractor.”

When the rescue unit came to get me, they strapped me to a sled and snowmobiled me down to the lodge. I noticed a large drop of blood had formed. I remember telling Matt to call some people, and I remember it being cold because they were cutting the clothes off of my body (and I was rocking a cool Starter jacket too….okay I’ll be honest Starter jackets were never cool). I remember being put into the ambulance and BEGGING the EMT for Tylenol. I didn’t ask for the hard stuff but for over-the-counter meds.

I woke up in a Deadwood, SD hospital lot still in the ambulance,  seeing a doctor that I had played with on an adult recreational soccer team. Then I passed out again as they took me to Rapid City to treat me. I woke up once in the hospital and promptly passed out again. I had lost a lot of blood, so much so that I needed several infusions. They eventually took me to surgery and pushed the bone back in and sewed me up. They x-rayed my back and when I came to, they told me that shards of bone were rubbing against my spine. Up to this point I hadn’t even noticed that I couldn’t move my legs. If you couldn’t tell right now I was obviously on-top of this whole situation from the beginning.

Since I was in the military, they called my parents who were my emergency contacts, and I (of course) did not keep my emergency contact information updated. (Genius!) When they did get a hold of my parents somehow the translation of my condition got mistaken and they told my dad that I had a slipped disk in my back (See I was right about needing a chiropractor). They eventually got me to a second surgery where they cut me open about 2/3rds of the way up my back from my waist to assess the damage. They were only able to salvage one piece of the original bone, they cut a piece off my illiac crest (see previous pelvic bone picture) and still didn’t have enough to create a new vertebrae so they put in some donor bone (i.e. from a dead person) and TA-DA I had a new back, sorta. They added in screws, rods, various other metals apparatus, maybe some chicken wire, and quite possibly some bolts and such like (you could probably build a bomber anchor out of the hardware in my spine)and then sewed me back up . . . then the fun began.

Not my spine, but you can get an idea of what is holding mine together. (A) is a compression fracture, (B) & (C) is the hardware needed to hold everything together. Oh, and it’s permanent.

Eventually the swelling subsided, but the damage was done. Permanent nerve damage resulting in little to no communication with some skin, and many muscles. This of course leads to atrophy, or the loss of muscle mass. I started a 18 month rehabilitation process, beginning with learning the delicate art of wheelchair balance on two wheels (no kidding we practiced this which was necessary for getting up curbs and for impressing the ladies who are into the cripples). I had to learn to walk again which meant sitting in my wheelchair staring at people walking to re-learn the cadence of their steps and arm swings (I am not making this up).

My first attempt at walking lasted .75 seconds. I stood up and then collapsed in my wheelchair as the pain that shot down the back of my legs as it felt like the cast of Braveheart had been shrunk to a microscopic scale and were going to war with every ligament, tendon, and sinew in my legs with white-hot battle axes (if you’ve been reading up to this point, just go with it and nod your head in agreement even if you don’t understand because so am I and I’m writing this). Physical Therapy felt like this all the time, grueling, painful, exhausting, it felt like ritualistic torture and I was the sacrifice.

As I stated this went on for 18 months. I went from a wheelchair to a walker; I added a sweet set of tennis balls on the bottom of the legs,  rocking it geriatric style. From there to  Canadian crutches, to only one crutch, to none. I wore a turtle shell brace around my torso, and what I called my prosthetic legs as leg braces (they were HUGE, went up to my knees almost). I eventually finished physical therapy which when I left I was told I’d never get better, or stronger the only thing that would increase would be my endurance. So I had to set out to find a new normal, eventually leading me to where I am today.

Subscribe and check in regularly for new articles and insights. We post every Wednesday (mostly) about various topics dealing with the outdoors and us. Also it’ll increase your opportunities to see me use WAY too many parenthetical references, and just wait I’m thinking I can pull off a parenthetical inside a parenthetical which will be mind-blowing and may or may not rip a hole in space and time. We’ll see.

So until next time adventure on……and avoid angry trees which jump out or nowhere and break your bones.

Categories: Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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