Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hiking for a Cause: Shawn Feliciano Garber Hikes to Raise Awareness for Multiple Sclerosis

Here at Hike. Blog. Love. we believe that adventure is for all. It is always my hope to use this blog as inspiration in getting others outdoors and experiencing the world no matter the obstacles that might stand in the way. So when I heard the story of Shawn Feliciano Garber and her Big Hike, I just knew I had to share it with all of you. The other night I had the privilege of chatting with Shawn on the phone to ask her some questions about herself and her upcoming adventure. I hope that you will be inspired by her story as I have been. She also needs our support to make her mission come true, so I am hoping today to spread the word and ask that you do the same.

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Meet Shawn, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2009 and about to embark on a 800 mile hike to raise awareness:

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“Multiple Sclerosis is a disease not often seen on the outside. It affects nearly half a million people in the United States alone. It touches every gender, race and geographical location. Most people diagnosed with MS are between the ages of 20 and 40, a time in life when with families and careers, movement matters the most. MS keeps people from walking. It keeps parents from picking up their children, keeps athletes from reaching their goals, and keeps travelers from hiking the globe. That is why Shawn Feliciano and her team at Hiking for Multiple Sclerosis plan to spend three months hiking the Rocky Mountains beginning in Arizona, bringing awareness to those who can no longer climb to the top of any mountains. Starting on August 4th, 2012 Shawn and her crew will embark on an 800 mile journey to raise money and awareness of those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Shawn hopes to use this hike to inspire the community around her and to bring together a group of people that may not have the support they need to cope with MS. Multiple Sclerosis does not just affect the patients; but it touches their families and friends as well. This hike is for everyone.”

When I sat down to speak with Shawn, my first question to her was “why a Big Hike?” She explained that after her diagnosis in 2009, as she dealt with the shock of her diagnosis and the emotional aftermath, she began writing her memoirs which she had started prior to her diagnosis. She states that her “dad was instrumental” in motivating her to begin writing again. It was during this time that the Big Hike was concieved. She says that “everyone has their own hike” and that she wanted to inspire others to have the “courage to so something” despite the obstacles in their life.

So what does Shawn hope to accomplish through her Big Hike? The “biggest thing is to encourage others. With any kind of disability, it is all encompassing and your world crashes” around you. She feels that it is important for others out there with disabilities to know that there is support and communities who will embrace them. She went on to explain to me how after her diagnosis, some people weren’t sure what to do and that there was even a “shunning away” experience as people learned of her diagnosis.

When I asked Shawn what she envisioned to be her biggest challenge on the hike, she immediately exclaimed “snakes!” Can’t say I blame her on that one! She also told me that vertigo is something she has been experiencing since her diagnosis and could possibly impact her hike, although she also stated that she has “no fears of actually being able to do it.”

I also asked Shawn who her biggest supporters have been on this journey. She told me that her husband and father were among her greatest supporters and that she was thankful for all of her family’s support.

The last question I asked Shawn was this: If there is one thing you could say to someone who has been recently diagnosed with MS or some other type of disorder, what would it be? Shawn says, “I know your world has just crashed down but don’t give up, find inner strength; be courageous.”

I think it is evident that Shawn has done just that! It was an honor to be able to discuss her diagnosis and the Big Hike by phone and I know she will continue on to inspire many more people on her journey. To find out more about Shawn and the Big Hike, you can visit her website at www.az817.org. To make a donation, you can visit her website or her fundraising site through the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). Shawn is still seeking donations to aid with the logistics of a three month hike as well donations to support MS research.

Medano Pass (Primitive Trail) to The Great Sand Dunes National Park

On day 5 of our Colorado exploration, we headed to The Great Sand Dunes National Park via the Medano Pass. These sand dunes are the highest and most majestic in all of North America, and they are formed from some unique environmental conditions that allow a massive collection of sand to accumulate in the San Luis Valley (see here for more details.)

The Medano Pass is a primitive off-road trail and backcountry entrance through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to The Great Sand Dunes National Park. This pass is a low mountain pass that links the San Luis valley (where the dunes lie) to the Wet Mountain Valley on the other side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is a relative easy off-road trail that offers breathtaking scenery of the surrounding forest and mountains. It was a fun way to approach the park and made for a full and exciting day!

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all of a sudden, things started to get sandy…

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wheeeeeee Little Man!

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Big Brother loved the textrue and resistance of the sand, and would even climb all the way to the top!

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even Big Brother’s beloved lamb let loose and enjoyed himself for a change

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goodbye Great Sand Dunes!

Searching for…The You We Adore {a children’s adoption book review and giveaway}

For those who read my blog, you already know that I’m passionate about the great outdoors, special needs parenting and adoption. My motto is adventure for all, which was inspired by the adoption of Big Brother. If not for him, I’m not really sure that I would even feel inspired enough to keep up with the blog. It is my goal to weave together many stories on this blog that highlight and intertwine my three passions. Today I want to share with you all about an adoption-themed book for children. I know a lot of my readers are not necessarily touched by adoption, but I just had to share for those who are!

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would like a copy of Searching for…the You We Adore. Of course I can’t pass up an adoption related book, so I excitedly said yes! The author, Valerie Westfall, was kind enough to provide a copy for one of my readers as well.

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Searching for…The You We Adore by Valerie Westfall
Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey
www.TheYouWeAdore.com

When the book arrived, my Little Man excitedly ran to the door to take the package from the delivery man. He immediately opened the package and we sat down, along with Big Brother, to read the story.

What I loved most about the book is that it is a beautifully illustrated and simple story that focuses on the love that adoptive parents feel for their child, especially during the waiting phase. In this story, the love of the waiting parents–symbolized by a red ribbon–is sent out all across the world in search of their child. I adore the fact that this book includes diversity and is suitable for all those who have adopted, whether it be domestically or internationally. The overriding theme is that the parents’ love is strong enough to send them searching to the ends of the earth for their child. You see, both literally and figuratively, we have traveled to the ends of the earth for our children. I love how this sweet book captures that fierce love in such a beautiful, simple way. There is no talk of paperwork or processes, only of the love that unites a family. You and your children will love this book and it will make a great addition to your child’s library!

My kids gave it two thumbs up :)

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You can purchase a copy of the book by visiting the website I listed above (psst….you can also preview the book at the site, so go check it out!)

So how can you enter to win a copy of this delightful book? All you need to do is leave a comment on this post! You can also earn additional entries, too. Here’s how to do it:

1. You must leave a comment on this post telling me how you are touched by adoption or why you would like to win this book. Make sure your email address is present when leaving the comment (not visible on the blog) so that I can contact you!

2. For one additional, optional entry you can share this post on your blog. Make sure to leave an additional comment on this post telling me you did so, and please share the link!

3. For an additional, optional entry you can tweet about this giveaway and leave an additional comment on this post telling me you did so. The tweet can go something like this: I just entered to win a cool children’s adoption themed book from @hikemama Check it out! http://hikebloglove.com

4. For an additional, optional entry you can go “like” my fb page and leave an additional comment here telling me you did so. If you are already a liker, just leave an additional comment telling me so!

One lucky winner will be chosen at random at 8 am on Tuesday, July 3.

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I was provided a complementary copy of Searching for…the You We Adore. All opinions expressed, however, are my own.

Pomeroy Lakes and Mary Murphy Mine Ruins, Chaffee County, Colorado

On Day 2 of our Colorado adventure, we loaded up for an off road trek to the Pomeroy Lakes that sit at about 12,400 ft. in elevation atop Pomeroy Mountain. The off-road trail that leads to these alpine lakes is located just outside of the ghost town of St. Elmo, or 17 miles SW of the town of Buena Vista. The rocky trail follows the gulch that runs between Chrysolite and Pomeroy Mountains and is not suitable for stock vehicles. Along the trail lay the remnants of the Mary Murphy Mine, which was the predominant gold mine along Chalk Creek in Chaffee County, operating from about 1870 to 1925.

The trail eventually ends near a system of two alpine lakes, known as the Pomeroy Lakes. A short hike can lead you to these spectacular bodies of water. If you hike up a little further to the crest of the mountain, you can view some spectacular scenery and even find another alpine lake. By far, this trail and the scenery it has to offer was my favorite out of all the trails we did. I absolutely loved having this hard-to-reach and very majestic place all to ourselves. The wind was insane up at top (enough to actually blow over the kids!) but we had a very lovely time!

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Going up.

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Some of the Mary Murphy Mine ruins. The last pic shows Little Man posing with his beloved travel companion, his suffed yeti.

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Hiking to the lakes.

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A hike to the crest recealed this spectacular site

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Ruins at the bottom of the mountain

If you are looking for a wonderful mountain trek in Colorado full of spectacular sites, history, hiking opportunities and even camping opportunities, you won’t have to look much further! We loved this trail SO much.

Columbia Mini Muddy Buddy Run: Trying Stuff

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[My Little Man is on the left and Big Brother is on the right]

The motto of Columbia Sportswear goes something like this:

“…trying is the fuel of progress. It’s the spirit that pushes people up mountains, down rivers, and across continents… So try. Try often. Try differently. Try harder. Then try again. Greatness will follow. Columbia. Trying stuff since 1938.”

Weeks ago I had signed Little Man up to run the Columbia Mini Muddy Buddy Run with me. We were both stoked about it and were counting down the days until the sloppy, muddy event. I knew this was right up his alley and that he would totally rock it.

On the morning of the run, we decided to sign Big Brother up for the event as well. After the great horse adventure of 2012, we figured why not? Columbia’s motto is trying stuff. Why did we have to exclude our 5 year old special needs son from trying stuff, too? Isn’t trying stuff for everyone? It seems that Big Brother is always full of surprises, so try we did. I knew the mud would be difficult for him sensory-wise, but I also knew that he could do it if he really wanted to.

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Big Brother became nervous as we approached the mud pit. I grabbed his hand, looked him in the eyes and said, “baby, you got this, let’s do it together!”

As Big Brother and I crossed the finish line, hand in hand, tears stung my eyes and my heart swelled with pride. He did it. We did it. We tried harder than any other child at the race that day and greatness did follow! We may have come in dead last, but by golly we gave it everything we had and finished with smiles on our faces. I’ve never been more proud of my kids, for the one who pushed his way to the head of the crowd and the one who never gave up even though the entire world would have understood if he had.

Thanks Columbia for encouraging everyone to try stuff.

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Little Man didn’t want any help as he pushed himself to the head of the race!

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Big Brother was trying to process everything that had just happened!

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just as expected, Little Man rocked it and loved every single moment of the mud

Special Needs Kids and Adventure: when is it too much? (or not enough!)

[I'm skipping around in sharing our Colorado adventures. Stay with me, I promise the chronological ordering is not important!]

It was our fourth day in Colorado and we were looking to take a break from our daily mountain escapades. Right down the road from our cabin was a riding stable. On a whim we decided to check it out. Little Man loves horses and although he hasn’t ridden much, it’s something he absolutely enjoys. Big Brother had never even seen a horse up close and personal before. Big Brother is not really into animals, or so we thought.

When we reached the stables, I asked Big Brother if he wanted to ride a horse. He quickly said “yes.” A nice man took us out back to see the horses and brought one near. Big Brother immediately put his nose against the horse’s face. It took him a year to even pet our sweet, gentle and very old family dog…but this giant creature he had known all of two seconds was invited into his close, personal space without even so much as a slight hesitation.

So the staff kindly placed him upon this horse–the most kind-hearted and mild-mannered horse they had–and led Big Brother and his horse around in a small circle.

I held my breath, waiting for the meltdown that I was sure would ensue….

Nothing.

He sat on the saddle quietly, listening to the horse’s footsteps and reaching down to smell her back.

I was baffled. Here was a child that “does not respond to discipline,” and “cannot sit still for any length of time,” and who normally has continuous, disruptive verbal stimming. Here was a child that did not like to be high up in the air, deathly afraid to even ride on Daddy’s shoulders.

And here he was now, as quiet and still as a mouse, sitting up high upon a large creature, listening closely to the giant beast breathing.

The man looked at me, waiting to see what I thought.

“Let’s do it,” I said. And just like that, I found our family about to embark on a horseback ride through the Colorado praire.

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Big Brother ready and waiting to go

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Little Man rarin’ to go

“This is ludicrous,” I thought to myself as we trotted out onto the praire. “You just can’t take Big Brother out on an hour trek into the wild on a horse, he’ll never be able to do it. He needs more time to practice and learn about how to ride. He can’t even make it through an entire day of school without a violent outburst or having to be restrained, What are we doing here?!”

But I quieted my brain and instead, listened to my gut. “I think he can do this,” it whispered.

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And so I realized that with the help of the very kind and compassionate staff, Big Brother was safe and that he could, indeed, do this. In fact, this was the first time in his life that he was doing something without direct help. That feeling must have been overwhelming for him.

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Before I knew it, our ride was over. Somewhere along the way I was able to see Big Brother in a new light…from a perspective I’ve never seen before. And in that moment, I felt ashamed for ever thinking that he couldn’t do it. I’m his mother for crying out loud! I, most of all, should be the one to know he is capable of so much more than this world gives him credit for. As for the special and instantaneous bond between Big Brother and his horse? Well, it’s not at all surprising given the many stories of similar happenings in the autism community (check out the documentary Horse Boy, for example.)

As for me, I learned an important lesson that day. Sometimes you have to cast rational thought aside and follow your instinct in order to accomplish that which seems impossible. If adventure is about sailing away from the safe harbour, Big Brother must have traversed the entire globe that day.

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein

Throwback Thursday…..reminiscing about one of our favorite trails! I’m still trying to wade through all of our Colorado photos, so enjoy some scrumptious Tennessee hiking for now. Be back tomorrow with with our Western adventures!

An Off-Road Trek Up Mount Antero in the Colorado Rockies

On our first full day in Colorado, we did some hiking (that’s for an upcoming post) and then visited Mount Antero via an off-road expedition. I filmed our trek with my phone and I’m sharing the clips below. If you become bored with them, just skip to the last two videos of the kids where an overload of cuteness awaits you. I’m not a very good videographer, so be gracious!

“Mount Antero is the eleventh highest peak in Colorado, with an elevation of 14,276 feet (4,351 m). Also known as Antero Peak, it is named for Chief Antero of the Uintah band of Utes. It is located in the central Sawatch Range in Chaffee County between the towns of Buena Vista and Salida. The mountain itself is prized for its gemstone deposits and has one of the highest concentrations of aquamarine in the country. There are several active private mining claims being exploited on Mt. Antero and surrounding peaks.

The peak is located entirely within the San Isabel National Forest, due south of the more visually prominent Mount Princeton. Mount Antero is one of the most prominent peaks of the Sawatch Range rising an impressive 7,000 feet above the town of Salida, Colorado to the south east. There are two popular climbing routes on Mount Antero. The generally accepted hiking route, which begins near the ghost town of St. Elmo, is from the east starting at the Browns Creek Trailhead and paralleling Little Browns Creek to its upper reaches where it crosses Forest Road 1A, then following the road near to the summit. The other route follows the same forest road from the north up Baldwin Creek. This route has heavy mining and tourist traffic in fair weather during the summer months.

The peak was surveyed by the Pike Expedition in 1806. A forest service sign at the Browns Creek trailhead commemorates the expedition camp at the eastern base of the peak.” -Wikipedia

Going up and rocking out to Phineas and Ferb (this video is kind of boring and poorly executed, but I’m posting them all so here it is!):

On our way to the peak:

The one where I have a panic attack on film. I would have happily hiked this mountain, but in our FJ Cruiser, it was just too much to see us teeter-totter on the edge of the blind curves:

Looking for snow:

Looking for a lake:

Baldwin Lake:

Big Brother’s Take on Colorado:

Little Man’s Take on Colorado:

I’ll be back with photos from our other hikes and trails soon!

A Rocky Mountain Adventure for an Appalachian Girl (and her family)

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yours-truly rocking the 80+ mph wind gusts 12,000 ft up near Pomeroy Lake in the Colorado Rockies

I’m a southern, Appalachian Mountain girl through and through. Born and raised in the foothills of Appalachia, I love my old growth cove forests, raging waterfalls, lightening bugs, sweet tea and steamy summer nights where the forests glisten in an almost magical, ethereal way in the wetness of the surrounding air. After traveling 24 hours in the car, I found myself here, within reach of the clouds. Toto, we’re not in Tennessee anymore!

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traveling off-road up to the crest of the Continental Divide

We spent a week climbing up the spectacular mountains of Colorado in our trusty FJ Cruiser. We hiked to alpine lakes and waterfalls and even managed to go horseback riding (a first for my son with Autism!), visit some ghost towns and mine ruins, and also visit the Great Sand Dunes national park. It was an exciting trip filled with breathtaking views and new landscapes to explore. I have hundreds upon hundreds of photos to download off of both my “good camera” and my iphone! I’m not sure when I will be able to tackle it all, so bear with me. I have so much to share…not only of pictures and trails, but reflections from travel and adventure with a special needs child and more. I also have some reviews I would like to do. So stay tuned, I’ve got a lot in store for you all!