Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Yosemite National Park Wheelchair Accessible Trail

One of our most favorite things to do with our little ones is getting out into nature, hiking, and looking for animals and plants. We love the time we get to have with the kids, exploring together, and remembering that we live in a big and beautiful world. The best hikes have happened this year as Boston, who is three years old, is incredibly talkative. We get to hear all sorts of stories, both true and made up, from him. It’s amazing the little things he notices and how verbal he is about his experiences.
 So after visiting Kings National Park we had planned to go down to San Luis Obispo, but some plans changed and we ended up going to Yosemite National Park - it was AJ and the kids first time!

The morning of our journey was a little hectic as we wanted to get in as much time as possible in the park. So we neglected to fill-up on gas before leaving civilization. When we realized our folly we looked to technology to save us. Unfortunately, cell service (for T-Mobile) wasn’t great, so we got turned around for awhile. Finally we found a Chevron (very overpriced) and filled up there. It wasn’t long before we passed some little towns like Coarsegold, where gas prices were way better than what we paid. We held back our little screams of annoyance. Lesson learned--Chevron is always overpriced, and definitely fill up gas before you begin a journey.

The drive to Yosemite was beautiful. It was breathtaking to ascend the mountain and feel like we’re climbing up Giant Sequoias as well. We loved driving with the windows down and breathing in fresh air. We had a great time with the kiddos. We drove up to Glacier Point to take in the magnificent vista of Half Dome (the large boulder people hike up to), waterfalls, and the view of the valley. While there, we listened to a presentation by Park Ranger Christine, who taught us all about the different wildlife in Yosemite and how to take care of them. Boston became a Junior Park Ranger, so if you ever ask him “Should we feed squirrels,” he’ll tell you “no, because they would get dead.”

Martina found a few accessible trails, so we went on one to the Lower Yosemite Falls. We loved the trail as it goes along the river, where Boston found all sorts of fun things like huge trees (he kept asking why they fell and why the river didn’t carry them away), a blue jay, and some frogs. It was amazing that all of us were able to hike this trail with so much ease. It was a beautiful trek and the destination was so worthwhile. There was tons of water this time of year, and the mist gave us a good spray. Boston loved it. And Audrey… tolerated it. The only downside of the whole hike was the food, mostly because we were the food! It seemed like we were constantly swatting at mosquitos which feasted heavily on Boston and Martina’s sweet blood. So… if you are looking for an accessible, or just family friendly trail, definitely do the Lower Yosemite Falls! Just don’t forget the bug spray...

As with all things in life our wonderful day eventually came to an end. We were fortunate enough though to see an incredible sunset, which was a magical rainbow sherbet mixture of pastels in the sky. It really caused us to reflect on our day and the beauty we’d just seen. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit places like this and that places like this are protected just for this purpose. Summertime is the perfect time to visit your local national park (or road trip to one). We have a new goal of trying to visit every national park across the US, which will take some time, but we look forward to the adventure!

We also saw a bear! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Kings Canyon National Park Wheelchair Accessible Trail

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Fresno this year. Partly to visit with family and friends in the area and partly to just get away for awhile. We decided it would be a lot of fun to visit some national parks nearby. Martina was dead set on going  to Yosemite since I had never been and it is probably her favorite national park. However, others in the group wanted to go and see Kings Canyon since they hadn’t seen been there (Martina hadn’t either, but she really wanted me to see Yosemite). Well, Kings Canyon won (we still made it to Yosemite though) and it was fabulous.

It was a nice drive through some rural areas of California, which before marrying Martina, I had no idea existed. We got to the park and found it had several accessible trails - perfect for our little crew!

We started our day in the park by hiking to General Grant tree. The trees were enormous! I had never been around such amazing trees. Boston saw that some had fallen and constantly asked why. Even after we explained why to him he kept asking, so then we made him tell us why. It was cute that he was so curious and noticing his surroundings, or at least it was the first 10 times…

Along the trail, we came across a fallen tree that had once been used as a shelter. Walking through it, I easily understood why it was used as a shelter and immediately wished I had my own giant tree to hang out in. The trees are seriously that large. In fact, one placard told the story of how some men cut down a tree to showcase at a world’s fair (or something of the sort) and people thought it was a hoax, since a real tree couldn’t be that big.

Admittedly, I had no idea why the General Grant tree was a destination, I had already been wowed by the hike, what could this single tree offer? While it wasn’t exactly breathtaking, it was impressive, made more so as I learned more about it.

FUN FACT: General Grant tree is the third largest tree in the world and thought to be roughly 3500 years old!

After seeing General Grant tree and breaking for snacks we decided go to the very bottom of the canyon.

FUN FACT: Kings Canyon is actually the deepest canyon in North America

His "I don't want to be wet" face
It was a beautiful drive in cool, crisp air. We stopped at one point to admire a waterfall and the nearby river, which was raging. You could feel the mist of the waterfall from a good distance away and many people we absolutely drenched. As we didn’t have extra clothes we opted to keep our distance and stay dry.

We eventually reached the “End of the Road” at the bottom of the canyon, which wasn’t very exciting and as we didn’t have much time for hiking around, we pretty much just turned around and headed back out the canyon. At least we can  mark it off our bucketlist. The highlight of getting to the bottom though was probably introducing Boston to a “proper” national park restroom. He had all sorts of questions, everything about the smell, why there was no handle for flushing, and what was in the hole. I won’t go into detail here, but it was not a conversation I ever thought I would have. #parentlife


All in all, the trip to Kings Canyon was great. Taking in another the beauty of another national park just makes me feel good. It was great to disconnect from technology and just enjoy the scenery, spend time with family, and relax.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Back (Monoskiing) On the Slopes

I know we're gearing up for summer, and I'm excited for all the fun stuff to do with our little family, but a little part of me is really going to miss winter and the beautiful snow. Let's be real though, I'm going to miss mono skiing the most. As some of you know, I've gotten back into adaptive snow sports through Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS), and my life has become exponentially more thrilling! It's been so much fun to reflect on this past season.

I remember driving up to Snowbird to monoski for the first time. It was honestly a bittersweet feeling for me to get up on a snowy mountain again and not strap on my boots, but get strapped into a monoski. I was afraid because snow is hard enough to navigate with use of your legs, so a crash seemed eminent for someone who had absolutely no use of their legs like me...and how would I get back up then? However, my instructors put me at ease and patiently taught me the basics of the monoski, amidst picking me up as I fell each time I didn’t start my turns quick enough. They were super fun and so encouraging. From that lesson, I was hooked and went back every Friday, sometimes even Saturdays, too, so I could learn to spend more time skiing than falling. There’s no greater feeling than breathing in the fresh winter air and flying freely down the mountains again. It brought back the freedom and exhilaration I've missed for so long. I love skiing so very much.
Ski lessons with Peter has been some the most amazing and uplifting experiences.
The A-Team. My instructor turned ski bud, Alex.
My husband and I are incredibly grateful we have had this opportunity to do sports with our number one supporters, WAS, at no cost, especially as we are struggling to get through graduate school and care for our little family. We hope one day, we’ll be able to share our love of winter with our children and build wonderful memories together. I foresee many slopes to shred down in our future. I mean, since there are SO MANY beautiful mountains in Utah calling our names, we might as well enjoy them all right?

With a rigorous and stressful schedule, having a healthy outlet through WAS has been the greatest blessing for me. I feel physically and mentally stronger and more prepared to take on the responsibilities I hold. Being active makes me so much happier and excited about life. Life is more complete as I challenge myself and thrive. I look forward to pushing myself and having fun with awesome people every week. Because of WAS, I love winter again. I’m so grateful for this wonderful program that enriches so many lives by boosting up confidence and independence. I try to share this joy every chance I get (so I'm doing it here!). I love helping people enjoy adaptive sports, and realize that despite the challenges life throws at us, the possibilities are endless. Now matter who you are and what circumstances you are in, this life is to be enjoyed, so we must get back up [on the slopes] and live! Check out some footage on my Insta @clanhuntington
My greatest supporter and love, AJ.

(P.S. I haven't packed up my gear yet. I'm still holding out hope that we'll be skiing through to the Fourth of July!)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the Fourth Be With You

I love Star Wars!!! It was a cinematic staple growing up, as it was for many others. Star Wars is one of the earliest movies I can remember watching as a kid, besides all the old school Disney stuff. When we first got internet, the internet was still dial up, one of my favorite sites to visit was StarWars.com. I love to just look at pictures, art, and get little insider tips.

When Star Wars Episode I came out, I have to admit I was excited. This was Start Wars for me and my generation - too bad the prequels weren't nearly as good - yet they still hold a special place in my heart. I can't tell you how many times I watched the fight (on VHS) between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul (I always wanted to be a Jedi...)

My love of Star Wars stuck with me through adolescence. As Martina and I started dating in college, I found out she hadn't seen all of any of the Star Wars, so like any good boyfriend I made her watch them (yes even Jar Jar).

What does all this have to do with today? Are you serious? It's one of the nerdist unofficial holidays celebrated around - its STAR WARS DAY!!!

So bust out your lightsaber and blaster, find a Wookie, hop aboard your T-16 and get to celebrating already!!! (Obviously Star Wars is still something I have a lot of fun with and so happy to have a family that's willing to "celebrate" with me.)

HAPPY STAR WARS DAY!!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Job Loss and God's Love

A few weeks ago the company I'd been with for the past 3 1/2 years went through some restructuring and let go over 100 employees, including me. It was a day of mixed emotions - sadness, frustration, and relief. Many of us knew cuts were coming, but obviously didn't know who would be let go and to the extent it would affect the company. For anyone who's been through this it can be a little scary, but far from being worried about the future, Martina and I have felt peace, excitement even.

How can we be excited you ask? Well, we see it as a chance for new opportunities and challenges. A chance to learn and grow. We also looked at everything leading up to this point, and realized that while this situation isn't exactly ideal, we were prepared for it through the guiding hand of the Lord.

Several months ago, I was rear-ended on my way home from work. Fortunately I wasn't seriously injured, but unfortunately it led to my car being totaled. I loved my Jeep Patriot, and I was so close to paying it off! So the insurance company gave me the money for the car and Martina and I started looking at all the sweet rides we could get. While I wanted to put it towards a Subaru for myself Martina thought we should put look at something more practical, as in, a minivan. Initially I fought the idea, but the more we looked the more I warmed up to the idea of cruising around in a minivan (#dadlife). Still, something didn't seem right, and Martina had the same impression. We talked it over for a long while. Weighed the pros and cons. Really tried to figure out what our family needed. In the end, we decided our family would be a one car family. We'd use the money to pay off some debt and add to our kids savings. It just felt right.

Secondly, for any of you who know me, I've been obsessed the last few years with earning the Spartan Trifecta. This is the year I'm working to complete do just that, and the first race I had planned was the first ever Spartan Sprint in Cuba. I have wanted to go to Cuba since I was like 14. The race was expensive, but Martina and I saw it was a chance to be part of something special - the first ever obstacle course race in Cuba. So we were willing to shell out the couple thousand dollars it was going to cost to fly to Cuba, get a place to stay, and run the race. We put down our initial down payment months ago. The only problem was that there was a chance the race wouldn't go through. That the government would reschedule it. So here we were, right around the holiday season, wondering if we'd be headed to Cuba in March. The financial obligation meant that we felt tight on finances and were really watching our spend, which was probably a good thing. Ultimately the Cuban government did ask that the race be moved to a later date. We were refunded our down payment and felt like we had some financial wiggle room.

Now, fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I was let go from my job, and man am I glad to not have these financial burdens looming over our heads! Both with the car and the Spartan race there was a slight sense of disappointment, but there was also a larger amount of relief. Initially I thought it was me - that I'm so adverse to spending money that this was just helping me be less anxious - but now I believe it was more. It was the calm that can only really come from the Spirit. It will guide you and protect you if you let it. I have faith things will get better as I keep looking up.

Sure, I may be counting my chickens before they hatch. I may be overly optimistic about my situation. I may be unemployed for the next several months, who knows, but I do know that with faith and hard work the Lord will provide. And with my family by my side, I know I can do anything.

-A.J.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ski Season

Clan Huntington, we're those crazy children of winter who want snow beyond Christmas day. We want powder days every weekend. We want to ride the frozen waves of frosty peaks and bask in the "greatest snow on earth." Snowboarding. Skiing. Heck, even sledding. We love it all. Is it cold when we have to scrape snow off our car? Yes. Do we love our heated seats? Yes. Does snow and slush get everywhere? Do we go through bottles of lotion each month? Do we drink immoderate amounts of hot chocolate? Yes, yes, and yes - and it's totally worth it. We pray for snow.

Admittedly, there are aspects of winter that are less desirable (too cold, dry skin, accidents...). Winter can get especially difficult for Martina as curb cut outs aren't always clear, ramps get slick, and snow gets all over her tires and therefore her. I just hate getting soggy socks (hard life, right?). In the end though, hitting the slopes is what it's all about, and this last season has been great. 

It has been eight years since Martina's accident, and seven since she first tried mono skiing, but this year, Clan Huntington committed to her getting really good. We saw it as an investment in our family's future. To be able to take a family ski day (or many, many days) in the future sounds like a perfect winter. So we each sacrificed. Martina would take lessons once or twice a week with the great team at Wasatch Adaptive Sports. This meant less time with us and that she needed to be on top of her homework. For me, I had to take up skiing (forgive me, my snowboarding brothers and sisters, but sacrifices had to made for this snowy dream). 

Hitting the slopes with Martina this season was so reminiscent of the year we both got heavily into snowboarding. Sitting with her on the ski lift, throwing snowballs at her, and cruising down the mountain just felt right. And isn't that what it's really all about? We could be doing any number of things and having a great time, but this is our passion. It's always a good day when you can be on the mountain, but it's better when you can be up there with your best friend. 

Spring Skiing at Sundance

It has been great to see Martina grow from needing to be tethered to being able to ski free. She still has a long ways to go, and so do I, but we're on our way to becoming a skiing family! So for those of you who are stuck on your couch this winter, get up, get your gear (or borrow some friend's stuff), and get outside. Hit the slopes. Snowshoe a trail. Take a jump in a sled. Whatever it is you want to try, don't let winter pass you by. We've still got a few more great ski days left. Enjoy 'em!