A Mountain Is a Mountain, no Matter How Small

Katie Napiwocki avatar

by Katie Napiwocki |

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snowy mountains, importance of adventure

I’ve come down with a fever. 

As I sit on my outdoor patio, the tall angle of late February sun kisses my cheeks and warms my bones. From one bare tree branch to another, chickadees chatter amid treetop frolic. Surrounding me along all borders of the patio is a mountain range of snow, piled high as my shoulders. I gaze around, seeing the beauty in it all, but I cannot help but wonder how long it will take for the land of ice and snow to dissipate. 

I lower my head, forcing out a loud sigh of impatience and think to myself, “Winter takes forever to melt away … I gotta find a new place to live.”

On the roof above me, a thawing symphony gushes along the gutters. It is a song most peaceful, and if I close my eyes, I am taken to a different place. A mountainside stream giddy with wildlife, flowing along a bountiful meadow of wildflowers.

Spring wants to be here. I can feel it. The air wants to mingle with fresh rains. The soil wants to nurture a blanket of lush green earth. I want it to be here, too. More than anything.

I begin thinking about the upcoming seasons and how to plan them. Thoughts of new adventures I’d like to explore, and old adventures I intend to rendezvous with again. I complain about winter, but Wisconsin summers send my heart aflutter. I’m a two-faced, fair-weather fan of the Badger State and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

When I begin making new plans, my mind drifts toward memories of old ones. The circumstances of my SMA have made traveling very interesting at times, to say the least. More often than not, my travels never actually unravel as planned. My fatigue level creeps in and halts the itinerary. Our supposed ADA-compliant lodging turns out to be not-so-accessible. Our modified van undergoes some sort of snafu, changing the trajectory of our adventure (because it’s not like we can simply Uber our way across the map). I’m sure many of you can relate to these ridiculous roadside attractions that laugh in the face of your masterful coordination efforts. 

Because of the aforementioned unforeseen quirks, and many others not listed as examples, I’ve developed a certain appreciation for day trips. I’ve also created an easily accessible playlist within my brain that loops mantras of positive affirmations. Just roll with it, Katie. Everything will fall into place. Someday, you’ll laugh at this story. It will pass, even if it passes like a kidney stone. You are resilient and rad.

Last winter, I had the pleasure of meeting legendary explorer Joshua Gates in Milwaukee. I waited in line for a good while to have the hurriedly exciting opportunity to say to Josh, in one very exasperated breath, “Josh! It’s so wonderful to meet you — I’m Katie — I like to go on adventures and write about them — not like your adventures but, you know, like, adventures that are accessible for wheelchairs — throughout my state — here in Wisconsin — and I just wanted to tell you …” (cue adoring eyes) “… you’ve been such an awesome influence. So, thank you!” To which he replied with genuine kindness and a bright smile, “Wow, well, thank you.” Or something like that. It was really great.

What stuck with me more than meeting Josh that evening was something he said to the audience during his tales on stage. In his parting words, he reminded us that adventure doesn’t always need to involve zillions of miles traveled, and he encouraged everyone to get out and explore their surrounding state and national parks, their local wonders and regional gems. 

A few months prior, my partner Andy and I experienced one of those nightmarish adventures I mentioned earlier. We attempted a road trip to Colorado, and every corner felt plagued by angst. We had van trouble in unseasonably scorching weather. Our cabin, though technically barrier-free, was the size of a matchbox and just about as wheelchair-unfriendly as could be. We stayed high in the mountains, which my body was not acclimated to, and made my already weary lungs feel threadbare. 

I wanted to go home much earlier than planned, so we did. On our way back, I licked my wounds and pondered whether the highway sign “You Are Now Entering Mountain Time” was harboring an original sign beneath it: “Welcome to the Twilight Zone.” 

During the remainder of our vacation days away from work, we journeyed to the Porcupine Mountains and Wildcat Mountain State Park. We tackled local, minuscule elevations first, knowing we will eventually work our way up to other grand sights. We still had a blast. If your heart is in it, any adventure will be memorable. A mountain is a mountain, no matter how small.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Michelle avatar


Thank you for this article-I needed it today!

Katie Napiwocki avatar

Katie Napiwocki

You're most welcome, Michelle! Sending sunshine your way!


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