Posts Tagged With: insight

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

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

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…..you 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

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

The Origination of Your Inspiration


Recently a a department of a super cool company with an awesome initiative commented on our blog. I must tell the truth when I saw who wrote the comment I immediately sent a text to my wife in nearly all capital letters. I thought it was such a huge deal for us to have them not only read our blog, but leave a comment. We just passed 2,000 all-time views since we launched and most of those all by accident. So for us this was a major deal. I refrained from squealing like a 10 yr old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but I did squeal on the inside. What gripped me about what they said as that they “loved our blog” (SQUEAL) and they thought it was “inspiring” (SQU….Who?).

I never considered what we write about or even do as a family as inspiring. I know I personally never felt that I was inspiring, except when I was inspiring our son into some kind of mischief which led to looks of death from my wife. Men know the look I’m talking about and women you’re probably giving some man that look right now……chances are we are deserving of it. I really had to look at what I find inspiring, I had this conversation with myself after reading those comments.

Me: ‘Self, they said we were inspiring, can you believe that?’

Self: ‘Maybe it was a typo?’

Me: ‘?’

Self: ‘Or they thought they were on a different site? It could be possible that it’s a prank, is it April Fool’s Day?’

Me: ‘No, it’s June’

Self: ‘Well maybe it’s June Fool’s Day, I think that’s a holiday in Canada. They seem to have a holiday for everything, they have one that celebrates boxes. I think it’s just an excuse to get out of work. The only conclusion I can come to is to quote The Princess Bride “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Me: “That was a great movie…”

When I envision things that are inspiring I usually gravitate towards movies like ‘Rocky’ and ‘Rudy’, speeches by General George Patton, climbers like Craig DeMartino, Erik  Weihenmayer, and Ronnie Dickson. There are countless other figures, movies, quotes, books, tales, etc that I find inspiring but I have never looked into the mirror and saw inspiration reflected back at me.

I enjoy what I do, I enjoy that we are a family that gets out and enjoys certain forms of outdoor recreation despite physical limitations, but inspiring…..well…… I’m not convinced that they were being anything but very generous.

So I ask this question, “What/Who inspires you?”

Whether it is your career, everyday life, recreational endeavors, whatever it may be we would love to know.

So until next time, stay inspired, get up and get out, and as always……Adventure On!

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

The Rhythm of Success


A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a rare opportunity to climb without our son tagging along to the gym.  Now that I’ve overcome my fear of belaying my husband (2 twists in the rope helps boost my confidence!), we were looking forward to some focused climbing time.

Only I bombed.  For some unknown reason, my brain was not in the game that day.  I was getting short of breath, failing to execute simple moves, and that compounded my exasperation.  I wondered if it had anything to do with my time off from injuring my shoulder.

As I considered why I was so off, the closest comparison and explanation I could come up with was that my rhythm was off.  When I play piano, I have a certain ritual of arranging the bench, the music, even my hair.  I do it without thinking.  I didn’t even know it existed until my biggest fan (my mom) pointed it out to me.  These simple arrangements allowed my mind to focus, distractions to fade, and I could execute my performance with excellence.

This was not the case for climbing that day.  It went something like this:

Bouldering at the Climbing Gym

“On belay?”

“Belay is on.”

“Climbing.”

“Climb on.”  I climb up two holds.

My wedding ring is still on!  How did I forget to take it off?  I reach with my right hand, move my left foot into position.

It sure is grinding into my finger. Climb a few more feet.

Which of these holds is actually on this route?  There are 5 different colors here!  Move another move up.

I hope I don’t hurt my shoulder.

Not the most helpful, focused internal dialogue.

While I’ve been taught to tie in and go through the climbing commands and checks to ensure safety, I don’t think I’ve yet embraced the process as my mental preparation.

The more I climb the more I believe climbing is 50% mental and 50% physical.  If I don’t have it together in my head, its better to not even get on the wall.

For much of my life, playing piano meant that distractions would fade, music would surround me and for a time I’d be transported elsewhere.  It wasn’t my experience when I first started however.

I hope that as I progress in climbing, that when I hear “climb on”, distractions disappear, my thoughts fade away and I send with confidence.

Until next time, send on.

[Also: I have to apologize publicly to my husband for my last post.  It was never my intention to paint him as someone who is inept.  In fact he is quite the opposite.  He is truly inspiring for all the trials and challenges he perseveres through.  I thought I was being funny in my last post, but I realized later that it could be interpreted as mean spirited or demeaning, and that is certainly not my intent.  My first post on this blog more accurately describes how I view him.]

Categories: Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The 3 Questions That Hold Me Back


I first tried rock climbing in September 2011 after I had been insisting to my husband I was NOT interested in trying.  What changed my mind?  On a camping trip up north we saw climbers on Palisade Head.  We also did some rock scrambling by a waterfall and the experience intrigued me.  My husband has talked at length about his progress from the perspective of being a climber who is disabled, I haven’t shared much from my nonathletic-kinda-afraid-of-heights-I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this perspective.

We started climbing more regularly in November, just 3 months ago.  In the gym, I’ve been climbing 5.7s and trying 5.8s here and there.  (non-climber?  see this explanation of climbing grades)  As for bouldering (short, un-roped routes), I can usually get most V0 problems after a try or two (or 5, but who’s counting) and I’ve started working on a V1.

While I’m not the most physically fit person, it doesn’t seem to be my fitness that’s holding me back.  It’s my mental game. I’m plagued by 3 internal questions.

What if I can’t?

Bouldering at the Climbing Gym

When I reach a section of a route or problem that I haven’t gotten past before, I feel the anticipation building and I doubt I can do it.  When the doubt sets in, I hesitate, miss the hold and fall.  It’s a huge barrier to giving 100% and committing to my moves.  When I focus on what I think I can’t do, it cheats me from the possibility of what I could do if I gave it my all.

During some climbing sessions I get discouraged by the lack of progress from my holding back, and I proceed to sit back and watch my husband and son climb.  Watching my son requires effort to make sure he doesn’t get in the way of other climbers, and it makes the perfect excuse.

What do people think?

Unfortunately this is a question I’ve had to deal with in other areas of life, and for the most part I’ve squashed it.  Except when it comes to climbing.  I find myself self-conscious and hoping others aren’t watching.  When the gym is busy I find I’m less likely to jump in and climb since there are more people to see my lack of skills.  I try to remind myself: You’re new at this.  You are still learning. However, as a recovering perfectionist my little pep talk doesn’t usually work.  I was naturally inclined to do well in school as a child, going on to become the valedictorian in high school.  Life doesn’t hand out “A’s” as often as I got used to receiving them, and I don’t like appearing as the “D” student of the gym.

What if I fall?

This is a question I deal with more in bouldering.  I’ve only had one bad fall in the gym when my foot got stuck on a hold, but it successfully embarrassed me, startled me and ended my climbing for the evening.  Even on roped routes when I look over my shoulder and see how high I am, I can feel my heart rate increase.  Confession: sometimes at the top of the wall, I have to tell myself to let go.  Even then sometimes one hand still has a white-knuckled grip on the last hold for a few more seconds.

Answering the Questions

So what am I doing about these questions?  I’m trying to think less when I’m on a problem to combat #1.  I slow down when I over think and then I do poorly.  I’m also trying to draw on my musical background and think of the rhythm I create in moving to make it more consistent and less hesitant.  Possibly next week I will climb with @eliz_rocks (check out her blog!) so someone will see me climb and I’ll have to get over myself. 🙂  As for the fear of falling . . . don’t all climbers continue to deal with that to some degree?

It never ceases to amaze me how climbing can have such a direct correlation to other areas of life, possibly even exposing thoughts and attitudes we believe we’ve successfully overcome.  Have you had to deal with any of these questions, in climbing or other areas of life?  Please share your insights in the comments.

100 Miles in 2012 and Other Updates

Warming up with hot chocolate

During our period of mild weather in Minnesota, I had suggested we take a longer hike to test our junior hiker and train for our upcoming vacation.  We ended up suffering through experiencing refreshing 15 degree weather for 2.5 hours to cover 3.7 miles, bringing our total to 6.2 miles for the year.  It was the quickest pace we’ve ever had on a hike!  The wind picked up about half way through, which encouraged a fast pace back to the truck.

Are you on Facebook? If you haven’t already, you can check out our Facebook page.  And until next time, climb on!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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