The experience of having a disability, along with sharing adventures in such a beautiful place, meant the quick formation of common bonds.
Late afternoons and evenings were for socializing and reliving the day’s activities. “This is my fifth year participating in the event,” says Lynn Murray, 70, a T10 complete para since 2004. “In addition to the beauty and accessibility of the park, the attraction for me is meeting up with old buddies. Even more cool is meeting new people and hearing everybody’s stories. This event attracts people who are making the most of life with a disability, creating a very positive vibe that adds to the experience.”
Many of the participants had different disabilities, plus there was a mix of veterans and non-vets. Yet, the experience of having a disability, along with sharing adventures in such a beautiful place, meant the quick formation of common bonds.
“It was interesting to see how we all got to know each other during the event,” says Margie Donovan, 54, who worked as a Veterans Affairs visual impairment service coordinator at the San Francisco VA hospital. She has been blind since age 14, and cycles by riding on the back of a tandem bike. “It was obvious that most of the participants were not familiar with folks who are blind, as the first night everybody was overly helpful. By the second night I went up and got my food, and people just continued their conversation, which is what I want — if I need help I will ask.”
At first, the military veterans seemed to gather together in one area, sharing stories about their experiences with the VA. But within 24 hours, vets and non-veterans integrated and began sharing stories about their disability experiences.
This is Army veteran Marv Tuttle’s fifth Rock ’n Roll event. “I keep coming back for the camaraderie,” says Tuttle, 66, a T12 para for 18 years. “All veterans share a common thread that a civilian will never know, and I hope they never have to know, just like people with disabilities share a common thread that nondisabled people will never know. We are all in the same boat, whether we are military or non-military, which makes it easier to form lasting bonds.”
Evenings also included speeches and video presentations — projected on a sheet hung from a clothing line — about other forms of adaptive sports as well as a viewing of Crank it Up, an off-road handcycle documentary produced by Wellman.
Those of us who stayed up a bit later were treated to a star-filled sky, silhouetted by the surrounding granite walls and peaks.
Rock Climbing and Water Falls
On the third day, Wellman brought out his adaptive climbing gear and a few local guides set up a route for us on Chapel Wall. “The route was much higher than my portable climbing wall, and included the opportunity to check out a portaledge, which is the cot climbers sleep on during multi-day climbs,” says Wellman.