Posts Tagged With: skiing

When What We Do Doesn’t Matter

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

“What I do doesn’t matter”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mississippi River Valley

Because it does matter. It matters to us.

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

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

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

Can this become something more?

Can this become something more?

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

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

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 []

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

Tortuga: A Lesson in Learning

No, this is not me channeling Captain Jack Sparrow and calling for everyone to join me in some form of debauchery.

A couple of months ago my son told me that Tortuga is Spanish for turtle. There is nothing like getting your foreign language education from a 5 year old kindergartner. He’s enrolled in a Spanish Immersion school so he’s being introduced to a foreign language very young, so I can expect a lot more of this in the years to come. Humbling.

This got me to think about the fables of a man named Aesop. He told a tale of the tortoise and the hare, and how slow and steady wins the race. Aesop must have been a man of such great patience because if I would have written the story I would have written it as having a cheetah, a tortoise, and a hare. Wherein the Cheetah eats the hare, races the tortoise, and blows his doors off. My version is far more realistic even if it’s not child friendly.

Speed kills, plain and simple. In sports it is a cliche but never-the-less it’s a fact if not a truth.

Right now I wish a whole lot of things in my life would speed up. I want to do so much, but my time and abilities are so very limited. I want my son to grow up so we can take more adventurous trips with him, but at the same time I don’t want to blink and watch him go off to college. I want the winter to end so that my family and I can take some camping trips and go explore without having to deal with my son reminding us every two minutes that it’s cold outside and he wants to go in. I also don’t want to miss out of getting a chance to introduce my family to skiing.

I want my abilities at the sports I enjoy to rapidly increase, but the challenge that comes with that is missing out on the journey which is really the most important thing.

It didn’t matter that the tortoise won the race and beat the hare (or cheetah if you want a more action packed version….I should adapt this story for 3D!). It was the lessons learned along the road, or should I say what should have been learned. How can we really enjoy the destination if we never enjoyed and understood the process by which we got there? What good is a college degree if you didn’t actually learn anything in class? All you’re left with is a VERY expensive piece of paper.

With the new year approaching and the turn of the clock near-at-hand it somehow supernaturally offers us a chance to begin again. Don’t ask me how a mere second from 11:59:59 to 12:00:00 can give someone a chance to start fresh, but somehow it does. I would encourage everyone that over this next year that you enjoy the process that unfolds and the journey that lies ahead. Whether you are a parent, athlete, or just someone who stumbled on to this blog by chance. I would say to you (the latter) I am so sorry, but I cannot refund you the time you spent reading this. I would direct you to our complaint department at WhoWritesThisMess? So in conclusion, be the tortuga….and enjoy the journey.

Until Next Time…… Meander On!

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

A Matter of Confidence

Have you ever had that voice screaming at you in the back of your mind “You’re just not going to make it”

Mine voice comes from a cartoon character with a grey face, weird hair, and rabbit red eyeballs.

If my eyes were red and my skin grey I'd scream too, not to mention that hair!

Hey everyone gets bored at work sometimes and I never proclaimed myself to be Picasso.

Some people have little voices that whisper to them, mine he is rather manic and likes to spout-off every-once-and-awhile. He’s not the voice of humility where he tries to keep me from being cocky. No he’s the voice of imminent failure determined to keep me under his boot.

I had a great conversation about confidence with a good friend the other day. He was telling me the difference between him and another family member. He said that when he gets into a situation or a game he expects to come out on top, to win, and to him there really isn’t another alternative.

I thought to myself for a second, “Holy buckets. I wonder how that feels?”

I’m the type of person that when faced with a challenge I want to overcome I settle for a mediocre outcome.

“I hope I don’t hurt myself”, “If I make it half way up that’s a moral victory”, “Hey I still have all my body parts, at least 75% of my blood still in my body, and three-out-of-four limbs still work….chalk up a victory for me!”

I think the only thing I haven’t settled for was my wife, she’s way out of my league and I hope she doesn’t ever figure that out!

My wife often gets on me about my self-deprecating humor to which I reply “it works wonders on opposite day.”

So much of our success in life can be derived from the confidence and mental attitude we bring to the table, or the trail, or the crag, or the river, or our computer, desk, child, spouse, yo-yo, or the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip. (I am a little unsure about the last few or where I was trying to go with this but please bear with me I promise it’ll get better)

Several years ago I watched the video for The Secret. Now I’m not endorsing it, but the some of the principles I do agree with. The adage goes, ‘If you look good, you feel good’ to which I whole heartily agree but it is only half the battle here. How you feel about how comfortable and stylish your clothes are is very important. Don’t believe me, hike a 14er in Colorado dressed in cotton on a cold and wet day and then come and tell me how much you enjoyed the journey?

How you view your abilities and the complexity of a challenge can often determine how you come out of it in the end. Not because you’ve willed something into place, but you are less likely to quit and more likely to concentrate and give it everything you have. You’re mind is sharper as you are more focused letting to see holds and try movements you may have never thought of, or hike faster and longer because in your mind you know you can finish what you started.

Personally I’m struggling with a matter of confidence myself. Not about climbing (which I am sure will come about when my shoulder heals) but about a very special project that I’ve been mulling in my head and placing down on spreadsheets for the past two months.

‘Will it work?” ‘Why would it work”, “Shouldn’t I be devoting my time toward something else that might be more useful”, “Maybe I should stay in my own lane and comfort zone”

A wise man once told me that “Failure often comes dressed up in wisdom clothing”, he also told me that “My world is framed by the words of my mouth”.

So today I ask you readers, what world is being framed by your words? What matters of confidence are you wrestling with? Can you slay that dragon, or will it eat you alive?

Until next time……Adventure On!

Categories: Backpacking, Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | 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

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