A Veterans and Civilian Summit to Humble the Soul

No Barriers

WHAT’S WITHIN YOU IS STRONGER THAN WHAT’S IN YOUR WAY.

The doors of the flight close, everyone loaded and the pilot turns it over to the flight attendants. Once allowed, the song “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison is the first song played on my headphones as the flight heads west. It has been a long time into California – since my Marine Corps days and this opportunity is huge.

This is a lifetime, life changing event. It is the No Barriers Summit and one that I will not forget for the rest of my adult life. Blue Ridge Energies has provided me an opportunity to gather with fellow veterans, and civilians, and love to live. Excited? Yes, but I have never expressed my excitement in a giddy way. More reserved, and on this trip humbled.

This summit is a gift and after 27 years of service, who would have thought I would head back to California. Actually, I am closing some life circles. That is if you believe in that stuff. First is Phoenix, a place I frequented when I lived in California. Next Reno, a place I visited when I was in the National Guard. If you believe in that stuff, closing circles is a closing of the life thread. Hopefully, I will have a lot more to close.

Looking out on this great nation from my small portal hole, it reminds me of how simple it seems from this altitude, yet complex. Roads, fields, streams, towns, etc. look like ants or a miniature model set-up for kids to play in. Clouds forming all sorts of cool patterns a formations, some level, some high with cottontails reaching for the sky. America is beautiful in so many ways.

As we fly into Phoenix, I am reminded of where I live. Those people live way to close. That said, I had to literally fast walk to my connected flight so that just left my mind. I had 19 minutes to connect, and no food.

Once I got into Reno I met up with my ride – Tim Taxi. He was a nice fellow and filled me in on the history of the area. Oh, he drove me in to Squaw Valley in a suburban and I thought it was going to be a limo. Thank God it was not. I could not deal with that but hey, I am on vacation.

It was beautiful to still see snow on the mountaintops in June. They really did get a lot of snow.

Squaw Valley View

The resort at Squaw Valley was a beautiful place to rest and relax.

Pulling into Squaw Valley Resort I was in awe at the beauty. The valley opened up with the greens of the golf course and the resort was top notch. I have never stayed at a place like this and was kind of overwhelmed.

My room was huge I had more room than I knew what to do with, so I just kept it simple. The bed, that was way to stiff for me but I still slept as good as I could with a three hour difference.

I was way ahead of most of the arrivals so I tooled around and hiked over to the ski resort.This was a beautiful place. It was the sight of the 1960 Olympics and is still used by the USA ski team up at High Camp some 8,000 plus above the main entrance.

The next day was when the summit was to start but I still had the morning to just play around. I decided to head up to High Camp via the tram. It took 8.5 minutes to hit the top. The views were sweet. You could see Lake Tahoe and if you do a 360 degree turn you can see peak after high peak still covered with snow and people skiing.

The Olympic museum was neat and as I walked outside I saw my first Marmot. It is kind of like our Groundhogs. I missed the Golden Eagles and also the Bald Eagles. They flew by just before I hit the top.

Over the next four days I began to make connections, military and civilian. It was so cool and so humbling. I realized the issues I have are small in comparison to those I met.

No Barriers Vet Hike

This is an image of my Veteran group as we hike in the Burton Creek State Park.

The hike with all veterans was special. It was a time to reflect and to share. The veterans who could not hike got to test out the track chairs. They worked well up until the batteries gave out. Not sure what caused that but that was when we began to use one of the main elements of the summit–the rope team. We pulled together as a team and pulled them out, both of them. That was rewarding.

So, the rope team was one of the first points I came across during the event. Now that we are on the elements, here are they are:

Vision: Define a purpose that inspires you to give your best back to the world.
Reach: Move beyond your comfort zone to grow and reach goals.
Pioneer: Persevere through challenges to innovate.
Rope Team: Collaborate and connect with others to build strong communities.
Alchemy: Harness life experiences into optimism.
Summit: Find the gifts earned through the struggle.
Elevate: Impact the world as a leader who serves.

These were developed by several alumni and co-founder Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind climber of Mount Everest, who was present to walk us through the event.

Two people I met, both veterans, really opened my mind further and showed me anything is possible. More of the elements came to light talking with these two and it was refreshing. My thanks goes to Eric Donoho and Marc Gershman for a new friendship and being part of my rope team.

Vet Noah Galloway_Dancing with Stars

Veteran Noah Galloway, and Dancing with the Stars participant, speaks to the Summit attendees.

The speakers (Marlee Matlin, Noah Galloway, Angie Shireman, Sam Morris, Liz Murray, Sara Agah Franti, Mark Wellman Zach Anner, Erik Weihenmayer and Britt Dougherty), and performers (Spare Pages, Infinite Flow, X Ambassadors, Mark Goffeney and Mandy Harvey, were excellent. They each have a story and shared with us to shine a positive light on what No Barriers is all about. I came out of each event feeling recharged and positive.

One of the cool activities I participated in was the adaptive bike ride. For the first time I rode a trike bike. I was use to riding a Mountain Bike and at times it takes a toll on my neck because of the hard bumps and dips I have to travel over on the trail. The trike is not really a hard core trail type bike but it is a road type bike. It was fun. The brakes and shifters are right next to your hips and that is also where you steer. You pedal while sitting down. The motion was much easier on the body.

Another type of bike was one where you could hand crank. That just looked tough but if you had no legs, no problem.

My last two events were right down my alley. The Raptor Force was excellent and I learned a lot about the Harris hawks, Peregrine Falcons and owls. Icci, the Peregrine, as great until the local Black birds started to attack him. The trainer said, “ I need to put him up because he is thinking bad things.” That being hunting the Black birds.

Digital Workshop

My fellow photographers on a beautiful California day.

My last event was a digital workshop. It was a great refresher for me and I enjoyed the interaction with the other photographers. Lauren Kallen, from New York city, was great and her work is exceptional. The looks on the faces of some of the ladies as they produced great shots was very rewarding.

As I wrapped up the last day in California, I traveled to Tahoe City. What a beautiful place and we were there just before the Summer swarm of people. You could see the snow on the mountaintops from the shoreline and the water was aqua blue. One local said the water was the highest it had been in several years. Well, makes sense since they were still skiing.

The arts are very prevalent in this little town. My wife benefitted from the talents of some of these artists. The prices were extremely fair. Better than Boone, N.C.

So, I had to try the local beer and ended up at Tahoe Mountain Brewery. I really enjoyed the brews and have a glass to show. I even met a young lady who was from Boone and went to Watauga High School. What a small world.

So, the event was a life changer and a major RESET for my life and how I view things. I hope to go to another event and meet up with my new found friends. No Barriers is well worth the visit and very humbling.

Trek on!