Insight

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.

Influence.

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.

Influence.

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

Create


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!

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

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!

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

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?

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

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!

Bubbles...in 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

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

A Life Lived Assisted (Part One)


This isn’t going to be one of our typical posts.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my story and why this blog is called The Bionic Chronicles. As a good storyteller should, I have to begin at the beginning so let me tell you about me.

I grew up in the flatland farm lands of northwest Ohio. My house had a soybean and corn field across from it and behind it. I was your typical Midwestern kid, played soccer, wrestled for a few years, nothing all that special. We were a small family (just four of us) and every summer we’d take a few trips to the local state parks to do some camping. We weren’t really hotel people, we liked the cheaper far from home living alternative. We started out in tents until my mother got sick of having to bail water all the time. Our tent wasn’t the best on the market so during rain storms the floor would collect standing water. The tent was only big enough for the four of us, the rain wasn’t welcome. My parents eventually bought a hard-sided camper so we could vacation in style, this made my mother much happier.

Photo credit: Discover the Hocking Hills [http://www.hockinghills.me]

Without fail every time we went to the state parks we hiked. Mind you these were rolling hill two milers, nothing epic in the least bit. We had one specific state park we always seemed to visit, it was a family favorite and no matter how many times we went we loved going to Hocking Hills State Park. The sandstone caves and rolling hills of the river valley were the closest thing I had to a mountain. We were able to climb and scramble around and explore and from these experiences as a youth my love for the outdoors was birthed.

I wouldn’t actually get to set foot on a real mountain until I was ten years old when my aunt and uncle invited me on a trip with them to The Adirondack mountains of New York. I couldn’t get enough of the elevation and I began to dream about going out west and summitting snow-capped peaks of the Colorado Rockies. That wouldn’t happen for another seven years.

Through a series of events I would end up moving to Colorado and living with this aunt whose love of the mountains, the trail, and a life outdoors dwarfed mine. They had moved to a Denver suburb, a dream of hers to live out west. I spent my senior year of high school out there and I began to flourish. I made new friends, got a new job, and had the opportunity to hike in an area I had only dreamed of. I summitted Grays and Torreys peaks, my first 14ers a monumental accomplishment for this boy from the lowlands of middle America. I would hike on a small glacier, walk the streets of Breckenridge, get the chance to picnic (and celebrate my graduation) in Rocky Mountain National Park. Could this boy on the cusp of manhood who desired to bag every peak in Colorado desire anything else? I felt invincible, as if I could tackle anything, hike any trail, and bag any peak. Oh how things would change.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Knowing that I was a less than average student who had the world’s worst studying habits I decided that the military would be a better choice then trying to make college a useful experience. I was stationed in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but by this time my focus had changed from getting outdoors to hanging out with friends. Hitting the trail and outdoor exploration quickly gave way to video games, partying, and hanging out with friends. I had a four-hour drive to Denver, I had Wyoming next door, and the Black Hills and Badlands National Park as my playground, but I passed on these opportunities. I did hike once or twice while in the military, a buddy and I tried hiking Pikes Peak, but we had to turn around because I kept tossing my cookies. I had washed out my hydration bladder the previous day, apparently rinsing it well was a task I had not done in excellence. So I was taken large swigs of soapy water; the silver lining was that my tossed cookies were rainbow-colored thanks to a 7-11 slushy.

This lack of outdoor love is a far cry from the man-boy who just a few years earlier was hiking solo at Herman’s Gulch and then scrambling and climbing the peaks surrounding the mountain lake. Unroped, no cell phone, and no one really knowing where I was and what I was doing. Blissfully hiking at a lightning pace; completely oblivious to whatever is going on outside of my vision.

Things would eventually change as I accompanied a few friends to an afternoon of skiing at the local hill. This choice would forever change my life and alter everything. A warm winter, a cool evening, a split trail, and a single tree would have a significant impact on my body and would have its ‘hand’ in making me bionic.

Check back later as I continue this four part series.

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Come and Gone


As I have woken up every morning to get to work I’ve noticed a significant change in the morning air temperatures. It had been consistently cooler, ranging for the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s around 7am as I made my way to my bus. A signal to me that the summer was coming to a close and that another half of a year is gone forever. A sobering thought to one who when he looked back at summer realized that it came and went without a significant memory made.

I missed out on a summer, and I cannot tell you where it went. We had some above average heat which caused me to not be able to hit the trail at all. I’ve noticed though that there were other things that fell by the wayside. The commitment to keeping The Bionic Chronicles up-to-date was simply not happening as often. My participation on Twitter slacked off. Also my climbing dropped to virtually nothing at all. So many of life’s responsibilities began to overwhelm me and my family. The house isn’t going to clean itself, the chores won’t get done on their own. Time slipped away and with it the hopes and dreams of accomplishments that I once fantasized about now had slipped through my fingers. I missed the community of commenters to this website. I missed my Twitter friends, and I missed out on many adventures that would have filled my ‘post hopper’ with stories of adventures by The Bionic Family.

Some of the favorite posts that we write here on The Bionic Chronicles are about our weekend family adventures. Those are easy to write and share and it’s unique content which is nice since we’re not trying to rehash what 20 other blogs have written. I created this blog, this special piece of the internet to share my life and the life of my family is how we cope, adapt, enjoy, and suffer through our time together. We’re a unique grouping; you’ve got a man whose desires are greater then his physical body can handle, a woman learning to adapt to a new type of lifestyle, and the child they drag along and try their best to share what they believe is an important aspect of life with. Combined these ingredients can make for a fantastic adventure.

We are most likely not going to reach our goal of 100 Miles in 2012, so many unforeseen circumstances stole away the most precious of outdoor resources, time. So the summer is gone and the autumn arrive with the promise of adventure around the corner. Things are looking up for fall as a change in schedules looks to bring forth more opportunities. Our son now is old enough to join the climbing team at the local gym, he’s going to be a Spider Monkey. I’m getting over a recent Sciatica issue and will be heading back to a local fitness center to help give my body the training it needs given the disability I live with. With the fall comes cooler temperatures which for me means easier hiking as the swelter and energy-draining heat gives way to cool breezes and the need for one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing, the fleece jacket/pullover.

For those faithful readers look for a change in voice as there is a change in the weather. We’re looking to offer on this site more of our stories and less tips, tricks, and advice. You can find that elsewhere, we know some people who do it quite well. We’re getting back to our roots, returning to our first love. Returning to a life spent in adventure, and the tales of days come and gone.

Until next time……Adventure On!!!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The first time


Most outdoor bloggers have always been in love with the outdoors.  On the spectrum from being an outdoor hater to outdoor enthusiast, I would consider my former self an outdoor sympathizer.  Sure, I loved scenery and perfect weather, because who doesn’t?  When it came to any adverse weather or having to deal with backcountry conditions (what do you mean there isn’t a bathroom along the trail?!?) I was certainly not interested.

So my husband deemed some car camping with the in-laws to be the perfect gateway drug for this sympathizer.  Surprisingly, we hadn’t attempted camping until 2010.  Before we became aware of the online outdoor family community, everyone we knew said it was too difficult to camp with children, so we didn’t bother to try.  Since our son was approaching 4 years old, it didn’t seem as daunting.

Going for a walk on the family farm.

During my time of being an outdoor sympathizer, most of my outdoor enjoyment was via camping in the pop-up camper of my youth (which graduated to an RV by my teen years), short hikes, and time romping around outside on the family farm. Tents were a rather novel idea to me.

Imagine my surprise when my husband enlisted my help to set up the tent at our walk-in campsite.

Um, what is that you want me to do?  Do you mean this pole?  Where do I tie this?   To say the least, it was a frustrating experience.  That tent has since been lovingly donated to my in-laws and we’ve updated to a more recent Coleman model.  I was about as helpful as a 4 year old in the campsite set up process.

My son “helping” set up the tent at age 3. Still more helpful than my skills at the time.

Organizing a camp site and subsequently finding anything when I needed it was like a game of Where’s Waldo?  yet somehow not quite as fun.

And yet, just a week after our initial foray into camping did we attempt a road trip with the primary destination of Yellowstone National Park.  My husband had been educating me regarding the neccesities of proper gear.  I wasn’t convinced we needed to spend money on new hiking socks and other items I was unfamiliar with.  I’m glad I listened to him as we just happened to go during the rainiest week of 2010.  And there’s nothing worse then being cold AND wet.  Unfortunately some of our gear had limitations.  I don’t think I dried out until we had driven through most of South Dakota on our way home.

Snow around our tent

The Yellowstone I remembered from my youth was from the perspective of a tween relaxing in the comforts of an RV every night.  During our stay in 2010 the snow was not yet gone and it rained or drizzled for a good portion of every single day.  I was a fair weather camper and setting up the tent with snow on the ground was far outside my comfort zone.  We ended up accomplishing a trip that I would have formerly described as a trip for only the serious “hardcore” camper.

In spite of the many challenges we encountered, the trip solidified me as an outdoor enthusiast.  As I have embraced that which my husband first loved, I have grown to love it too.  Experiencing the serenity of creation, and the joy of discovering it with my family has gotten me hooked.  I’m now even open to adventures such as hiking the John Muir Trail or climbing one of the Teton Mountains, which are both  goals that my husband and I have.

What about you?  Where you born loving the outdoors or did a significant other warm you up to the idea?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Categories: Camping, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.