Posts Tagged With: Black Hills

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

What the…… 2012 is Almost Here!


‘What the?’ says my son, the Jr. Adventurer, far too often then I’d like. It’s his classic response to just about everything that confuses him or catches him off guard.

I had that same reaction when it dawned on me that we are just days from Thanksgiving, which means only weeks from Christmas which means the end of the year is almost here. In case you didn’t know I was voted ‘Most Aware of the Time and His Surroundings’ when I was in high school. Many years down the road I feel they made the right decision and couldn’t have chosen a better candidate.

After I realized that the year is nearing a close and that I can’t remember what happened to the last ten months I was met with a cold hard slap in the face.

‘DUDE!’ because I speak to myself in third person. I mean who doesn’t am I right? Is anyone going to back me up on this? Can you honestly say you’ve never had a conversation with yourself or referred to yourself in the third person? If you haven’t then my friend I am sorry to say this, but you haven’t lived.

The year is almost over, you didn’t accomplish any goals last year because you didn’t set any, man what a boneheaded move! Don’t do the same this year, get thy tail in gear’

Just to note, I tend to get a little harsh and Shakespearean on myself from time-to-time, it keeps me on my toes.

So I’ve been thinking long and hard about what goals, trips, gear, skills, things of a various outdoor related nature that I would like to see happen, do, buy, experience, avoid, create, imagine, etc in 2012 in addition to the goals I’ve already set for the family for other various interests. Here’s the brainstorm list I’ve come up with so far.

The list isn’t too deep and not too terribly adventuresome (yet). I didn’t say the brainstorm was a class five hurricane; I would say more of a sun shower that could yield a double rainbow in the right light. (warm happy feelings are flowing through me now!)

The Bionic Hiker’s Mondo-Epic-Phenomenal-Magnanimous-Outrageous Adventure List 2012

1. Not die (A great start to any list!)

2. Control gear buying addiction so that I do not have to sell my child to pay for the order I just put in to Backcountry.com, REI.com, and Moosejaw.com all at the same time. (No Self Control!)

3. Come to the resolve that just because some website/company is having a random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes for free outdoor swag doesn’t mean you have to rush to enter everything and then send the link to your wife so she can do the same. (Teamwork!)

4. Stop acting like your five-year old son when you don’t win any of the random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes and you think the system is rigged against you and ‘you never win anything, ever’. (Fail!)

5. Shake off that quitter mentality and enter every random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes you can possibly find because dog-gone-it you’re a winner! (I’m a winner!)

6. Get your five-year old child a Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail address so he can enter the random drawing/giveaway/sweepstakes too because more entries means better chances. That’s just good statistics people! (Math!)

7. Have more children so you can re-create #6 and further improve your chances! (BEST IDEA EVER!)

8. Realize that this list is going nowhere and you’re just stalling because you lack anything of meaning or substance to say.

Truth be told I really only have one goal established for the next year. I want to take my family to both Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Badlands National Park as well as the Black Hills of South Dakota. A year-and-a-half ago we cruised through Badlands in the waning hours of the day just to say we went. We didn’t get a chance to hike a trail. The photos we took were horrible because of the failing light and I want to show them to have a better experience next time.

My wife and I are going to have another child, we’re trying right now. Well I mean not right now now, because that would be like seven kinds of wrong and I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate my writing this while trying to conceive.

We’re not sure when we’ll get pregnant and how that will affect the plans for future plans. I don’t want to drag my wife to the Dakotas in the summer time (can you say sweltering heat?) so major expeditions will have to wait for 2013.

A few ideas that are floating around in my head have to do with climbing. I haven’t been able to even get on the plastic for the last two months. I’m itching and I want to find out what’s going to work for me on real rock. I know that I may very well have limitations to what I can do, but I’m not sure what they are.

I also want to add a few more hiking trips, some geocaching, and camping trips here at a few Minnesota State Parks (especially Great River Bluffs). Of course there is the new project that I’m working on putting together that I am very excited about (cliffhanger!).

I don’t have an official list but it will come to me. It’s important to have one written down not just for outdoor adventures, but for every area of your life. Goals and plans are how we measure our progress. It’s how we keep ourselves accountable to each other and to who we are and what we want out of life. In the absence of a destination one will never know if they will have ever arrived (Quote!).

So what’s on your list? What is on the horizon for 2012? What are you looking to accomplish, overcome, and/or achieve? Let’s us know, we’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…..Adventure On!

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Gear, Geocaching, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fear and Loathing in Minnesota


It’s getting colder outside, the days are getting shorter. Legend has it that there once was a giant ball of fire in the sky that brought light and heat to all, but it seems to only be a legend.

Winter is already upon some and soon to be upon us here in Minnesota. The northern part of the state closer to Canada will soon be met with snow if it has not already and those of us closer to Iowa and Wisconsin will have our date with the fluffy whiteness soon.

Here in Minnesota that means the coming of snowmobile season, along with ice fishing. Being that we have over 10,000 lakes you might as well use them all year-long. It also means the coming of cross-country skiing, snowboarding, or just plain regular downhill skiing. For me, it means battling frozen legs, and the inability to regulate body heat to my feet and calves.

A tree not too different then this changed my life forever.

It’ll be thirteen years in January since I crashed into a tree in South Dakota forever changing my life and the life of my family. Living with a person who has a disability isn’t easy at all, there are many restrictions and compensations that need to be made. I haven’t been near a ski slope, or a pair of skis for that manner. I vowed that I would never again put my feet in those boots and stare down a slope again. I guess the lesson to be learned is never vow a vow you cannot keep.

Given my re-awakening to the love of the outdoors and proof that I can still enjoy them (see mid-life crisis post here). I’ve given skiing another look. I go dormant in the winter time because of my disability, the nerves affected my body’s ability to regulate the temperature in my legs beneath my knees. They are usually ice-cold and it’s uncomfortable to say the least.

Fear is an overwhelming emotion, it grips us and suffocates us if we do not keep it in check. It can work for us as an early warning signal to danger, but too often overtakes us. I’ve lived in fear for thirteen years; it is time to face and bury the demons of old. It looks like this year I’m going skiing. It’ll be a season of firsts. Neither my wife nor my son have ever been, and it is important for me to try again even if it’s just for the two of them. You see when you are married to, or a child of a person with a disability (or sibling too for that manner) you give up certain things out of love because that person cannot enjoy or even participate in certain activities because of their disability. My disability has been both mental and physical and I do not want to cripple my families potential enjoyment of something because that cannot bring me along.

My late wife (to catch you up I was married to a woman for six years who died from ARDS, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome , after a four-year battle with cancer) had to face her fear of cancer and the diagnosis that changed my life, my son’s life and in the end ended her life. At the encouragement of our pastor she visited the very place where she nearly fainted and eventually learned she had cancer. My current wife asked me last night if I felt the need to return to South Dakota to the very place where I had my accident, I said no….honestly I don’t know if I could handle it.

I did this too, I was laying down and the result was a cracked pelvis and a shatter back

I don’t want to live in fear anymore, nor do I want my son to learn the lesson that when things go bad for you it’s okay to run and hide. Our children have to wrestle with the very things we as parents fail to overcome. There are some things my children just won’t have to deal with. So this winter I’m taking my family skiing, even if it’s only just once. If no one enjoys themselves then at least we tried it and now we know that skiing isn’t a family activity. I can make peace and say that I overcame my fear.

You’ll get a report on this trip. I’ll be sure to bring the camera and add photos and videos. It might be hilarious watching me try to stay upright on skis! I do have a confession to make, I am a bit nervous even slightly scared. I’ve been ‘practicing’ at home by checking my balance side-to-side to see how far I can lean without falling over. If you happen to be at Afton Alps when I go you’ll know who I am. I’m the grown man who is going nuts on the beginner slope hollering and cheering himself on like he just skied down a double black diamond run in Breckenridge, CO. People may laugh, and I may cry but if they knew my story I’d like to think they’d be cheering me on too.

Until next time…..adventure on!

Categories: Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is it Wrong to Hope for an Apocalypse?


Maybe I’ve watched one too many movies. I’ll admit it I like movies, especially movies that allow me to shut my brain off for about two hours. Explosions, gunfire, action, effects, fast-paced thrill fests, my kind of movie. Hey at least I have the courage to admit it and I don’t live in denial like some people I know…….if you feel guilty it’s because I’m talking about you.

Life just seems a little but better after an apocalypse. Yea you have to avoid the S&M biker gangs and they’re attempting to kill you and steal your stuff. Sure there could be mutated zombie/vampire/mutant humans who crave your flesh, and yes it is possible that you could be eaten by a Morlock. Caveats abound.

This could be nice.....right?

Last year when the family and I went on a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota. We traveled through Minnesota, across North Dakota, into Montana and then down into Wyoming. We spent several days in Yellowstone camping and then a few more in the Black Hills. Weather re-routed us from the Bighorn Mountains, but I’ll get to that in another post.

One of the many benefits to being at Yellowstone (other then the scenery, flora, fauna, geothermic activity) was that being in a bowl (depressed area surrounded by higher peaks and elevation) yielded little to no cell phone service.

I was amazed at how awesome this experience was. No one could reach me, no matter how much they wanted to! I was free from annoying phone calls and I was free from e-mails that I didn’t want to read. (Note I don’t have a smartphone, but there was no temptation to got on the internet anywhere) We did purchase a portable DVD player for our son on the long ride out, but I think 2-3 movies we played the entire time. There was so much to do and see that there was no need for anything other entertainment. (Disclosure: We took an iPod loaded with the songs we liked for the trip, we did play a few songs but the conversations took over and we marveled at the beauty)

Of course I see the irony as I am writing this on a laptop, posting it on the internet in a technologically innovative format called a blog (well 1Nature is blog-like anyways) so technology isn’t all bad and a near total annihilation of the human race, all life on Earth, and our way of life might be a bit extreme. However the joys of being unplugged and unreachable abound.

This weekend we’re headed out to a place where there is certain and exceptional cell phone reception, but I think I’m going play make-believe. I’m going to pretend that no one wants to get in contact with me and that cell phone’s were never invented. I’m going to enjoy some solitude for the bleeps and the tapping of keypads. It’s time to unplug and stay unplugged…….at least until I get the launch codes.

Categories: Family Vacation, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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