I first read about Bob in a newspaper article back in 2010. My first thought was "That sure puts my life in perspective." My second thought was, "How the hell does he get up those steep dirt trails in a wheelchair?" I’ve been an avid hiker all my life, and can relate to how simply being outdoors lifts the spirit and connects us to nature and the glory around us. I contacted Bob out of the blue and we met for what was to be the first of many unconventional hikes together.
What stuck about Bob was his easy going, sweet, and gregarious nature. During our first hike, Bob stopped and talked with everyone we met – a kid on a dirt bike, a fellow hiker, a woman walking her dogs and the dogs themselves. He shared a bit about the ecology of the area or talked about his upcoming hikes. I felt like I was hiking with a park ranger – someone who had a deep passion for ecology and who immediately and compassionately connected with others.
Bob, let me hasten to explain, hates being called "inspirational." He views himself as a hiker and nothing more – one who just happens to be in a wheelchair. I came to see that these hikes and especially the ardous Sierra climbs served two powerful needs for him: to attempt to conquer virtually any obstacle despite his disablity, and to open himself to the natural world and its mysterious ability to heal.
I spent six years hanging out with Bob, and I’m grateful, above all, to have found a marvelous new friend. Like many who come into his orbit, I’ve become more fearless (or is it foolish) in the challenges I’ll accept. I walk in the wild world differently – a man who wheels rather than walks taught me that.