A North Bend teen with cerebral palsy has inspired her mom to hike, run, and help others do the same.
“I would’ve never found my love of running or my love of hiking if it weren’t for Ellie,” said Summer Jo Nowicki of her 13-year-old daughter Ellie.
Ellie loves to go running with her mom. She really loves to go hiking. But she also has cerebral palsy – meaning she has brain damage that affects how her muscles and eyes work.
To get out on the trails requires them to use of one of five different devices Ellie has for mobility. But that hasn’t stopped them from basking in the beauty of Washington.
“When we’re out on the trails, she’s happy. She’s chatting, she’s looking around. I know just by those things that she’s having a great time,” said Nowicki.
It didn’t take long for them to run out of places around North Bend that were accessible, but also adventurous, so Summer Jo turned to the Washington Hikers and Climbers Facebook group for ideas. She was overwhelmed by the response in terms of both suggestions – and kindness. To capture their discovery of accessible trails in nature – and share them with other families who may be looking for the same, Nowicki started the Instagram account @FindingMountains.
But the woods aren’t the only place where they like to find adventure. Summer Jo has run five marathons – pushing Ellie for all 26.2 miles in each of them. Why? Because it gives Ellie joy.
Summer Jo was never a runner, wasn’t athletic growing up, but when Ellie was about three years old, she took her for a run. And it was the first time she heard her so happy.
“Ellie squealed for delight, and I knew running was going to be part of my life. Seeing that smile on her face and the joy running brings to her has kept me going,” she said.
Whether it’s running or hiking, she thinks being outside does something for all of us.
“We’re confined to our homes and our jobs, in some sort of rut,” Summer Jo said. “This gives us a little more freedom, sense of adventure, and a feeling of accomplishment. I think that’s what we all want, whether we have disabilities or whether we don’t.”
Here are five accessible trails Summer Jo loves to take Ellie for outdoor adventure:
One-mile paved loop with beautiful views of the mountains all around.
Challenging but accessible trails wandering through mossy forests.
Another trip out to the Middle Fork in the jogger to explore the CCC trail. Check out the website in our bio for a trip report on this trail’s accessibility. #findingmountains #accessibletrails #middlefork
Two miles of easily accessible trails in the forest with views of the lake.
A more challenging trail with some elevation that makes you feel like you have escaped into the mountains.
Endless miles of accessible trails with a two-mile tunnel in the dark.