Overcoming life’s obstacles
The Aspen Times
I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love anything that scares me, and I’ll be the first person to raise my hand for an adventure. I turned 40 this week and was seeking something “epic” to ring in the next decade. The closer it got to my birthday and the less planning I had put into it, the less likely it seemed that I would do anything epic. That’s OK. I love all birthdays, so epic can happen when I’m 41.
I did get to go paragliding off of Aspen Mountain with my 65-year-old mom, who has had multiple sclerosis for the past 25 years. She’s managed her disease as well as can be expected. She’s not the same person — mentally or physically — that she was 25 years ago. But her adventurous spirit hasn’t waned a bit. When she wanted to ski for the first time since her 40s, Challenge Aspen helped to make that happen, and she rang in 65 on the slopes of Snowmass in February. So when she wanted to go paragliding with my brother, I was hell-bent to make it happen.
The problem is that her legs don’t always work. She can’t take off on a run across the parking lot, much less on downhill-sloping alpine terrain. Maybe her left leg will pick itself up, and maybe it won’t — not a huge deal in everyday life but a pretty big deal when attempting to run off a mountain into the wind. When I called Aspen Paragliding, Alex assured me that we could get my mom off that mountain safely. My brother told me that this was my worst idea in the history of ever. And I’ve had some really, really bad ideas.
On Saturday, when we were preparing for our adventure at the Walsh’s launch site, the Aspen Paragliding crew enlisted the help of two ski patrollers who were on mountain bikes awaiting their patrol duties for an enduro bike race. Alex asked them to come help throw my mom off the mountain. They laughed. He said he was serious. And so there my brother and I stood, watching two guys we didn’t know hold my mom’s arms and use their legs to do what hers could not. The pictures I got after the fact tell a story of these two helpers who were hurtled down the side of Ajax while my mom peacefully soared above North Star Preserve. I need to figure out who they are — I owe them a beer.
You know what was epic? Getting to watch my mom soar through the beautiful Aspen skies as if it were nothing at all. It was an incredible lesson to me, at 40, that the only obstacles we cannot overcome are in our minds. Thanks to Aspen Paragliding for making what might have seemed impossible possible and for creating an experience for my mom, my brother and me that we won’t soon forget.
Samantha Johnston is general manager of The Aspen Times.
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.