Sharing stories of inspirational women all over the world is what we’re after here at The Modern Domestic Woman. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Melanie Knecht, a Colorado-based music therapist, rock climber, boxer, and soon-to-be 14,000 foot mountain dominator.
Never mind that Melanie was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair to get around, this tenacious woman has teamed up with her friend Trevor to make the journey hiking a “14er.” A unique duo, Trevor has his share of challenges, in fact, in 2013 he lost his vision to glaucoma. Since then, Trevor’s been guided up mountains all over the world using a bell/voice system.
The two friends came up with a creative solution to take their love of adaptive sports to a new level. Now, Melanie is the eyes of the operation, guiding Trevor as he hikes with Melanie on his back.
Elizabeth Rago — Tell me everything about this 14,000 foot mountain.
Melanie Knecht — Hiking a 14er is sort of a “rite of passage” for Coloradans, as there are 58 mountains with peaks at/above 14K feet. It is a “thing” for Coloradans to climb as many 14ers they can. We haven’t decided on the peak that we are planning on conquering yet, as we are still in the early stages of training and figuring out all of the logistics. Since we are in the middle of winter, we are waiting for it to warm up a bit before we can regularly start training for the big hike, but living in Fort Collins (northern Colorado) provides many nearby spots that are perfect for training.
ER — How did you meet Trevor?
MK — Last summer, I made an awesome friend who is a personal trainer, and a huge supporter of adaptive sports. She immediately said, “You need to meet my friends Trevor and Mandy (Mandy is Trevor’s wife)!”, and introduced us all in a Facebook message. They invited me to an adaptive boxing class through an organization called B-Bold, which I was excited to attend. They also told me to check out rock climbing through Adaptive Adventures. Oddly enough, I was already signed up for the rock climbing class, so we would have crossed paths ANYWAY several weeks later. Although, I doubt we would have become friends without our friend Becca introducing us.
I am still fairly new to Fort Collins, and Trevor, Mandy and Becca quickly became part of my community here.
ER — How/when did you decide to team up?
MK — Trevor has climbed crazy mountains in Nepal by following the sound of a bell and someone’s voice. Back in 2012, I went to Easter Island and was able to see the Moai via a carrier. It was pretty uncomfortable for everyone involved, and I didn’t really fit in it because it was designed for a toddler, not a tiny woman with boobs, ha! Regardless, it was effective and I was able to see sights that would have never been possible in a wheelchair. Since then, I’ve wanted to revisit that idea.
One day, Trevor and Mandy invited me over to watch a CSU football game, and we just got to talking about all of that. I’m not quite sure how we came to the conclusion: “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool if Mel was the guide, with a legit “jet pack” that she can be transported in via Trevor?”, but Trevor and Mandy and I were all intrigued by the idea. It wasn’t until several months later when we talked about it again. Trevor had heard about the My Freeloader carrier, and reached out to them to see if they would donate one to us. The owner was super excited about our idea and had one shipped to us almost immediately.
ER — How long have you been hiking together?
MK — We have never actually done a hike together! Moreover, we are pretty shocked at the momentum that our initial Facebook post, that merely discussed our PLAN to hike a 14er, has gained in just a few days. We have done one “test drive” in a park in town, so there is still a long way to go! We both live pretty busy lives outside of this hobby, and are also at the mercy of good weather days, but we try to get together as often as our schedules allow it.
ER — Favorite piece of hiking gear?
MK — The My Freeloader carrier has been vital in making this dream a reality! I was shocked at the simplicity of the design, and how effective it is! We are also proud to be sponsored by Big Agnes, who hooked us up with some badass, heavy duty down coats to keep us nice and warm on the trails. Big Agnes is also a Colorado-based company, so we are even more proud to support and be supported by local businesses!
ER — Do you participate in any other sports?
MK — Aside from boxing and rock climbing mentioned above, I also started adaptive horseback riding this year. I also love to swim (won gold medals as a child in the Special Olympics), and really want to try out winter sports (I relocated to Colorado from Texas in 2015, so I am still learning how to “winter”). I also plan on doing white water rafting this summer, and hope to skydive one day! I will basically do anything and everything that I can when it comes to sports. Growing up, my dad would take my sister and I camping, boating, hunting, which turned me into an adrenaline junkie.
ER — Coziest place to chill out in your home and why?
MK — I love sitting in front of the fireplace in my living room, which also has a skylight. At night, the moon lights up the entire living room and I love bathing in the moonlight. When the weather is nice, I also like to enjoy my morning coffee on my front porch, where you can see the entire front range of the Rockies. It is also perfect for catching our dreamy, cotton candy sunsets over the mountains.
ER — What’s one thing you really want readers to know about you and your mission to conquer that massive Colorado mountain?
MK — You don’t have to have all the answers to work towards a goal. We have no idea how this is gonna end up going, and that’s the beauty of this journey! We are creative problem solvers, and we want to encourage people to think outside the box when something seems impossible, or so far fetched.
When someone asks, “why,” I challenge you to ask, “why NOT?” Every experience has led you right to this moment, which is exactly where you’re supposed to be. Relish in those moments, because it’s during those times that you make a connection with someone who can change your life. Take the risk to talk to a stranger, and be proud to tell them how awesome you are, and all that you have accomplished. Chances are, they will agree, and might even have the courage to share something positive about themselves.
Finding your tribe makes all the difference!
ER — How do you hope to encourage other women by sharing your journey hiking a 14er?
MK — I think there is this “super woman” stigma that is going around these days; everyone loves a powerful, strong, badass, successful woman, *BUT* that perception is directly contingent on her ability to do everything all by herself. I’m here to tell you that you can be badass AND have help from your support system. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, nor does accepting help when it is offered to you.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A MARTYR TO BE A SUPERWOMAN.
A version of this article was originally published on Feb 21, 2019 on Medium.com.