I grew up in a family that held an innate love of nature and the outdoors. Growing up in northeastern Utah near the Wasatch Mountains, I had numerous opportunities to get outside. I was a true “Hike It Baby”. My mother shared with me that she hiked at Zion National Park a week before I was born, and continued packing me in the child carrier when I was just months old. I am grateful to my father James, and mother Carla, for instilling in me the value in getting outside, and the lessons that can be learned on the trails.
When I was eleven years old, my older brother Noah and I learned that we would be welcoming one more sibling to our family. The lens through which we viewed our world was about to change. My younger brother Jonah Geier was born with schizencephaly, a rare birth defect characterized by abnormal slits, or clefts, in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. Individuals with schizencephaly have motor and developmental delays, cognitive delay, poor muscle tone, and are often paralyzed on one side of the body.
Love and Determination
Initially we didn’t realize the implications of Jonah’s disability and the changes it would make to our family. There was one thing though that remained constant and would never change, love and determination. We had always hiked together as a family and continued hiking together as a family, my father carrying Jonah in a child carrier on his back. Even though Jonah would never walk, he could still experience the outdoors just as we had.
My parents began to look for alternatives to a child carrier when Jonah began to weigh more than 70 pounds. He found The Dixon Rollerpack, a rollerpack designed for hunters and fishermen to carry their gear. My father contacted Bob Dixon, the owner of The Dixon Rollerpack, and asked if he would be willing to modify the pack for Jonah. Together they customized a pack for Jonah with a sling system for Jonah’s body, a footplate in the front, and a seatbelt contraption for the waist. With the Dixon Rollerpack, our opportunities for hiking with Jonah became limitless.
Inspiring the World
In the summer of 2012, my father James tested the pack for the first time and hiked Jonah, then 19 years old, 3.2 miles to the famous Delicate Arch landmark at Arches National Park. Fellow hikers were amazed and cheered my father on as he passed. I remember that I couldn’t stop laughing as we hiked up the slick rock trail as a family because I knew Jonah could continue getting outdoors as he grows older.
I submitted a photo to the National Park Foundation’s “Share The Experience” photo contest of my father James and brother Jonah standing with the arch in the background and it was awarded an Honorable Mention. In June of 2014, the Department of Interior reposted the inspiring photo on their Instagram page and the photo instantly went viral. Today and ABC news saw the photo and were also inspired by our family story.
Since the hike to Delicate Arch, I became a mother in April of 2014 and now guide my own son Gabriel on trails and adventures. We joined Hike It Baby last winter and I was so delighted to hear that they offer All Access hikes to inspire all families to get outdoors with their children. It is important we widen our communities and strengthen human ties to individuals who may normally feel isolated.
When I share Jonah’s story, I want families to realize that with love and determination, nothing is impossible. There are no limits. You can continue getting outdoors despite the odds and the extra effort. Believe me, for my family, it has made all the difference.