Little did I know yesterday, when I set out for a national park by the Catawba River, that I was in for such an adventurous and adrenaline filled time.  My sister and her husband were interested in seeing the once a year blooms of water lilies which create a sea of white spanning over the quarter of a mile wide River.  It sounded like an incredible sight but unfortunately to get there involved heading down a trail filled with large roots and sections whose designer was not keeping the thought of disabled individuals in mind. 

Unlike some others, who sit and roll instead of walk like myself, I don’t get very angry when faced with inaccessibility especially if it’s in a national park.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be trying to escape out into the beauty of nature all the while using a cement sidewalk to get there.  Just think if it became law to pave all hiking trails.  When would it end?  Pretty soon I’d be able to drive up to Mount Everest, which would be awesome, but unfortunately because of what happened to me I have to miss out on a few pleasures here and there in life.  It just doesn’t seem fair to everyone else to try and cover the world in pavement and ruin Gods craftsmanship.  I guess God made cement too, but you see where I’m going with this.

So I figured I would end up simply sitting by the River enjoying the scenery as everyone else saw the good stuff.  When we got there however, my sister admitted that they couldn’t remember exactly how bad the path was so I decided check it out.  The beginning of the trail was fine and I actually began to really enjoy myself.  I was probably cruising down the trail around 5 mph or so, dodging small roots, hitting a couple here and there, and careening around trees.  It reminded me of my old mountain biking days, flying down the trail feeling the exhilaration of making a perfect turn or picking just the right angle to crash through the tricky spots.  Of course it wasn’t exactly the same but it was bringing a smile to my face and that’s all that matters.

A few minutes past and I began to think that maybe I could actually make it to this sea of lilies I had heard so much about.  I mean it was right by the River so it should be flat, and if things were to get a little rough, my chair has four shock absorbers(that’s right, four) and has been known to conquer some pretty rough terrain.  As the trail went on my doubts began to increase as it seemed things were getting progressively worse.  What used to be a simple hop skip and a jump to get by, was now an obstacle course of steep inclines and jagged roots.  Whenever I reached these areas mountain biking turned into a Four Wheeling adventure. 

I would sit at the beginning of the obstacle and plan out the path I was going to take through the danger zone and let my brother-in-law know which side of the chair to push depending on in which direction I felt the chair might tip.  I know, it sounds kind of crazy but it was actually a blast.  My heart would begin to race as my wheels trudged over roots and powered their way through sandy areas.  After each obstacle was completed, my sister would open her eyes and we would celebrate our victory.  After a couple more Four Wheeling expeditions I was trying to figure out how to get off the end of a bridge when a family walked by.  We asked them what the rest of the trail was like and discovered that there were stairs at the very end.  Well, my beast of a chair can do a lot of things but going down stairs is not one of them.  A nice woman showed me pictures of the flowers on her digital camera.  I don’t know what it was like in person, but the pictures definitely didn’t meet my expectations so I wasn’t too sad about turning around.  It was frustrating to start the adventure and not be able to finish it but at least I tried.  My sister and her husband came back a little ways to help me find a nice spot by the River to hang out while they went on.  On the way to find my hang out spot I hit a sandy incline and actually began sliding towards the River!  I was calm at first simply waiting for the chair to lock but was taking a little longer than usual.  Just as I began to get scared and call for help it locked into place.  It was probably the scariest moment of the afternoon, but great fun!

Nestled amongst the trees I managed to find a great spot by the water, and I sat and enjoyed the sound of natural flowing water against the stones of the riverbed.  I felt like I was back in the mountains sitting next to a cool mountain stream.  Water has always fascinated me.  One minute a stream or river can look calm and relaxing and the next minute it is a raging, uncontrollable force screaming out thunderous echoes, resonating its power.  I love the way water flows without struggle or resistance.  Caught behind a rock, water just sits patiently until the current decides which way to take it.  I wish to live life like a River.  Never fighting the current, simply flowing on whichever path the land wishes to take me.  Like the River I would have awesome power yet it would emerge naturally and only when needed, never forced.  A life of no resistance to what was, is, and will be.  Like the water, I would be free.

It felt great to get back on pavement again.  My back was sore, I had a crick in my neck, and my chair probably has twice as many sounds as it did before, but it was well worth it.  One thing I miss is not being able to get out into nature anymore.  It would be nice if we could find some wooded trails without quite so much adventure and where I could actually make it to my destination.  The Four Wheeling was fun but after awhile I got kind of sick of scaring myself.


Changing subjects….


My last entry contains my new mantra, “I will face the unknown with confidence, it will work out, it always does”.  I had originally thought I would state this mantra constantly throughout the day so as to train my subconscious to live without fear but I’ve run into a little problem.  Stating the mantra constantly has forced me to constantly think about my fears and of the future.  This has distracted me from one of my main philosophies of life which is to live life in the moment, because the present moment is where peace is found as well as God.  But if I was to free myself of my fear of the unknown, I would be liberated to access the “power of now” more so than ever before.  I believe my new mantra is forcing me to bring fear to the surface when it usually sits and dwells inside of me.  In the past I’ve simply shoved it down and ignored it, only fighting it when I had to.  Now I am purposely focusing on it so as to get rid of it once and for all, but is that even possible?

It’s good to face my fears but I realize that many times it is best to not constantly try and fix myself but simply sit in the moment.  It’s quite a dilemma as I know the mantra is a healthy form of growth but at the present time stating it brings up many uneasy emotions.  Purposely facing the fears of the subconscious is not a simple task and it has not been nearly long enough to say that the mantra is not working and give up on it.  I will continue to use the mantra but know that there are many times to ignore my fear and focus on the good stuff.  Fear is such a small portion of what we as humans contain.  It is like a black speck on the surface of a heavenly white light which is our being.  Yet why does that black speck contain so much power I do not know.  How to approach my present stage of growth confuses me at the moment, more than usual at least.  Maybe the coming week will bring me some answers.


I took a couple pictures of my little adventure.  Unfortunately whenever I was doing the dangerous stuff I was so focused on the task at hand I didn’t take any pictures.  But it happened, I swear!

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28 Responses to Trailblazing

  1. s46 says:

    You are so right about God being with you in every moment. It\’s amazing what you can do with a measure of courage and a good dose of faith. I\’m glad you had a good day yesterday! The way you so brilliantly described it I felt like I was there watching you!

  2. CAROL says:

    Hello Colin,
    Wow I felt like I was right there with you.  Your descriptions were awesome.  I was a rehab nurse for many years & personally know the struggles you face.  Right before I came on the unit, there was a girl who had a C6 injury.   I don\’t know more about her.  What I do know is she went to project walk and come home walking.  We always refered our patients to project walk.  I will keep you in my prayers. 
    Please remember that God does not give us any trials we can not handle.  And that our trials will make us strong.  God is with you every minute of the day and Loves you very much. 

  3. Patricia says:

    Somehow something gets me to thinking that you were at the right part of the stream…despite not making it to where you wanted to go – I personally don\’t like when people say this type of thing to me so sorry but when I read it as you so eloquently describe it I think that – maybe we end up at destinations which we had no way of planning. as far as your mantra – you are right – there are two ways to look at it so why not look at it both ways. I\’m trying against my extreme thinking pattern and maybe there isn\’t one definitive answer.And maybe there is something to be learned by trying it several different ways.  Maybe it is an assortment of things jumbled though it would be easier if it were tidy. I was not the little birdie though it wouldn\’t be unlike me – but before singing I would visit you. I think that the world would be a better place if more people knew you. So good! No my stats are not working I guess or no one has visited me today or yesterday which would be weird but I talk a lot 🙂 I\’m glad that you got out in that beautiful nature. I need to get out in the woods more often. Best to you – dream big- patti

  4. Patricia says:

    Wow what about the woman that visited you prior to me and her great story huh? fabulous! HAve you heard from P.W. ? I\’ll send good wished to you. best – patti

  5. Michaela says:

    Congratulations on being featured! I just read a bit about you since I am trying to eat breakfast and get out the door to take my math test! You had me laughing while you were on your adventure and even a little scared about being in the sand and sliding! You seem like a really amazing and strong man. Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. Madi says:

    Great blog!  I\’ll be back many times!

  7. Bryan says:

    Congratulations on being nominated for best space.  You have such great insight.  I love being outdoors.  My favorite chill spot is at the Colorado river with my friends on the border of California and Arizona.  We usually go out there and camp right by the river and take long floats down it.  It is so relaxing hearing the water and getting away from the city.

  8. Aunt says:

    A great share of your journey. Enjoy your week as a featured blog. Ü

  9. Zeynep says:


  10. Sabine says:

    You have an awesome space here.  Congratulations on your nomination.  I look forward to returning when it is not so late and I do not have a early morning alarm.
    I look forward to reading more of your life stories.

  11. Embrace says:

    Just stop by to wish u the best of luck.

  12. sharon says:

    Wow, wonderful site, and poignant insights.  If you want to vacation in Maine, try Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor.  The park is crisscrossed by miles of carriage roads, no cars allowed (there are also regular roads for the cars).  The carriage roads make the beauty of the park completely accessible, without feeling like you missed the best spots because you had to go the "easy" way.
    On just one trip, we heard loons, saw a bald eagle perched in a tree, and enjoyed a stream and a lake at sunset.  Nice!

  13. kelli says:

    WOW!  You are amazing.  And your insight about the river reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    "Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
    Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend."
    -Bruce Lee
    Who knew Bruce Lee was so quotable?  (He was a philosophy major in college before the whole kung fu thing took off. . .)
    Best wishes to you!

  14. Donald says:

    It\’s great to read about the way you are continuing with life outdoors.
    Two years ago, I was severely injured when I was run over by the right wheel of a Black Hawk helicopter.  I was with the Customs & Border Protection Agency, Air & Marine Div. at the time.
    I almost lost my left leg at the knee but I was moved from a hospital in Lakeland, FL to a doctor in Orlando who was able to save it with nine of my thirteen surgeries.  My right foot and right thumb were injured as well.
    I find it difficult to get outside and I feel like an idiot as you are dealing with your accident with so much more courage than I am with my own.  Something I find important now is reaching out to others who are dealing with injuries new to them, many coming back from Iraq.
    I think it is important for others that you share experiences with how you are driven to continue enjoying life.  I don\’t want to be a shut-in like I have been, partly because at the time of my accident, I was going through a rough divorce.
    I find that my two sons, 18 and 12, are my drive.  They are from my first marriage.  Donnie is going to bootcamp with the Marines June 19th.  Of all things, he is suppose to be trained to work on the Super Stallion helicopters.  "Just stay away from the tires!!!"
    I\’ve seen the silver lining in my accident.  I can no longer do my job as a Senior Marine Enforcement Officer (we patrol on 39\’ speedboats with four outboard engines in FL).  But now, I just moved back to NH where my sons have been for the past six years.  I can be a father to my sons for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
    Colin,  keep on LIVING and ENJOYING LIFE and I will try to do the same.
    Good luck,
    Portsmouth, NH

  15. KATIE says:

    Colin,I couldn\’t stop smiling while reading about your adventure. I could really feel your excitment and was soooo flipping excited for you. I hope you take more of these \’Four wheeling\’ adventures soon…The fresh air and the challenge is great for anoyones soul. I am so happy for you.Hugs,Katie

  16. LoadedNLookin says:

    I am also in a wheelchair. I have been in one since 1979 with a T4, T5, & T6 vertebrae injury. It just broke them up for the most part. So, I got the ole strapped into a frame and flipped from looking up to looking down every 2 hours for 3 months. I was in the frame for 1-1/2 months before they let me have my arms free when I was facing up.
    Anyhow, My comment was about the part where you said you tried to live in the moment to be free. And, you said how that was kind of hindered by your now looking to the future.
    I have always thought the only way to live and truly be free, is to know oneself totally. In order to do this one has to look not only into the future but the past and present. Then one has to try and observe that life with no prejudice. Then you take all the events within and try to learn from them, and use them to learn what ones true self is. When you can feel comfortable and happy about living as that person you have so carefully dissected, only then will you find true freedom. Because being free is having no regrets, doubts, or anything negative about who one is. I had alot of time to think while I was strapped into the frame, and I think it actually made me a better person while also helping me decide on how to live life, and treat others. I always thought I was free before my accident. In many ways I was as free as one could get without becoming part of the wilderness. Now I am free no matter where I am or what I am doing. Along with that freedom comes alot of decisions. Not only what one has, is, and going to do, but who one was, is, and will be. I feel more freedom with every passing day. AND, one has to teach oneself not to get caught up in others activities. That is, don\’t get sucked into a conundrum that you are not the owner of. Let the owners take care of their own.
    Well I sometimes feel like I drag on and on, but I hope this will be usefull in your pursuit of happiness and freedom.
    Feel free to email me if you want. Have a good day and try not to keep all the wheels down too long.

  17. Connie says:

    I once knew a guy who just dived into a lake from his boat and it was too shallow and he was paralized too.  I feel for you.  Good luck and I like that you have a great outlook on life and a great spirit.

  18. Unknown says:

    I just wanted to mention how impressed I am by how well you are coping with your injury. I believe that we all experience particular troubles to allow is to grow spiritually.  Unfortunately, some people do not grow, because they do not allow the experience to teach them anything by dwelling in grief, drugs, depression etc.  You show great strength and you ought to be proud of yourself, as I am sure your parents are.  I know that if i was your mother, i would be beaming with pride to have a child that exuded such insight.  And do not worry about wether you are missing out on something great..most of the time you are not..  However, i understand that as humans we all crave social interaction..just know that when you do find people that want to hang out with you, they will be worthy people..because it usually takes special people to sift trough all the anxiety that goes along with hanging out with someone that is perceived as different..usually we fear for ourselves when we do not want to hang out with a person with a disability..we remember that we are not immune to accidents ourselves, and that reality freaks us out!! so their own fears will weed them out for you and you will end up with special people as your friends!! Anyway  in reference to your nervousness, just remember that usually, others are usually as nervous as you, you just do not know it..I enjoyed your blog very much…especially because I just moved from california to georgia and sometimes i wondered about all the adjustments that i was going though..then i found your blog..and like you i compared..there will always be someone worse off than you..thanks for your made me remember that you need to create your own happiness..i am 38 now, you think I would have figured this out for myself..i thought i did until i moved to georgia..and experienced almost a culture i am working on getting adjusted to my new world..just like you..thanks again for your thoughts

  19. Peggy says:

    You are amazing and best of luck with your endeavors and my prayers will be for your acceptance in the Portugal project.  Courage is one of the best attributes those of us in such a situation must maintain. 

  20. Jane says:

    You are so AWESOME!  I\’m a mom and a grandmother and some days I feel sorry for myself – the older we get, the more aches and pains, etc.  Then I look at a story like yours, and what a wake up call.  I know you are such an inspiration to others who may be handicapped in any way.  Your love of the outdoors is so obvious and I\’m sure gets you through many rough times.  I have always been an outdoor person and when times have been rough over the years, that has always been my comfort – whether walking, riding or just sitting by the water.  Please continue in your positive attitude and I know God has something special in mind for you!!!

  21. BLAKE says:

    i found your blog on my MSN home page i\’m a T-4-5 para 21 years in da chair & yes its a bitch!
    BUT i\’m very blessed in that its incompleat i can" walk" with a leg brace & walker, i live in the country -i quess its my escape & refuge & sanctuary from the city hassels. ANYWAY have you ever been on a four wheeler? —a 4 wheeled motor cycle or ATV.  i\’m sure you can find some one who knows of a program or some one who will just strap you on the back!  if you ever get to my part of S.C. WE\’LL DO IT !!
    i cant hike anymore but  with mine i can  be as close to nature & see & smell the trees,SEE wild life up close. you just gilde over the roots & bumps!
         well i send you my hope
         and keep on turnin\’

  22. Miss Mooks says:

    Thought my Mantra might bring you some encouragement.  If god brings you to it, he will bring you through it!  Enjoyed your blog immensely, your "Bright side of Life" attitude is truly a gift!

  23. Unknown says:

    I thought the woods seemed so quiet, the river waters, pooling and sliding, buds of bright green and dense thickets of shrubs and evergreens cascading like trellis\’s and canopies opening and closing their bows to the sun.  Then I could hear the laughter of thrills as you careened over roots and grazed massive trunks indulging in the play the woods offered.  And then I realized I could see it in my heart, the words you used captured on paper only, I could picture it all.  The words were vivid colors, a pallette of paint, a stroke of a brush.  The lesson that we all strive to learn to be.

  24. Pierre Radulescu says:

    Hi Colin,
    I discovered yesterday your blog and I wish you to fight up to the victory. I posted some in my own blog,
    Keep strong,

  25. Unknown says:

    Dear Colin,
    Congrats on getting featured and more importantly on kicking in some motivation.  You are doing a terrific job and this website will inspire others.  Our thoughts are with you.

  26. Jerry says:

    hey colin im a para and i have not had a uti in over 2 years i would like to talk to you and tell you what i do it might help you. I was a deputy sheriff when i got hurt i was in the shepard center in atlanta. heres my number so you can call me  1-256-825-1352 my name is jerry knighton looking forward to talkig to you. my brother owns is own medical company we make low loss air beds which i sleep on its great cause it turns me at night and i dont have to wake up its great please call i would like to talk with you     jerry r knighton

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