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Reaching the Peak with Parkinson's and an Extra Measure of Grit

Reaching the Peak with Parkinson's and an Extra Measure of Grit

Steve Green lives in Pleasanton, California, less than four hours from Yosemite National Park by car. A passionate hiker and talented photographer, Steve blogs about his unwavering determination to continue seeking the breathtaking mountain vistas after his Parkinson's diagnosis. He shares an abridged version here. 

August 25, 2016, I entered into the Parkinson's disease (PD) community at 48 years old. In the months that followed, I arrived at every doctor's appointment defeated, and left with higher doses. As I grappled with this new reality, I began to consider all that (I thought) I would no longer be able to do.

Hiking has been a constant throughout my life. When I was a kid, 'vacation' meant the family piling into our '67 Volkswagen camper and driving into the Sierra Nevada mountain range to hike the peaks of Yosemite.

With Parkinson's, my leg would tire walking up streets with far less incline. I feared another hike was about to be beyond me. Nevertheless, I kept going to my appointments, adjusting medications, practicing Tai Chi and fighting through the fatigue in my daily walks. I started to take on a warrior's mentality: battle every day. Nearly a year later, I was steadily climbing local hills and it occurred to me, maybe I do have a hike in me. Not just any hike would do though; I had my sights set on one particular Yosemite peak.

Scattered along this hike are the most spectacular views, including two breathtaking waterfalls. Vernal Falls is first, wide and powerful. If you continue on, you reach my favorite, Nevada Falls. Of course, hiking to Nevada Falls requires a 2,000-foot climb out of the valley. When the guidebook says "strenuous," believe it.

At first, fear kept me from voicing my desire out-loud, to anyone. When I finally found the courage to admit my dream to my wife, she was wonderfully supportive and on a perfect day in early October 2017, we nervously began the hike to the top of Nevada Falls. I knew the hike, which included hundreds of large, uneven, will-breaking steps carved into the granite; I was unsure whether I could hold up.

I stayed focused. There was only the next step, and the next.

Soon, we were climbing up the face of Vernal Falls and my doubts were gone. It was hard. We rested frequently, but hours later, I stood on a bridge a few dozen feet from where the water tumbled over the top of Nevada Falls. Looking out over the valley, I was on top of the world. I pulled my wife to me and quietly sobbed, feeling a complicated mixture of emotions: pride, fear, relief, love, thankfulness. It was a tremendous victory for me and I will always have the pictures and memories to prove it.

I am still getting used to my diagnosis and learning what I can do, and what more I can do with an extra measure of grit. I don't know what tomorrow will be like, but I know I'll be doing Tai Chi, walking every day, and taking my pills. Because I am in this for the long haul.

Battling on.

To read the full account of Steve's Nevada Falls Hike and to view more of his photography from the mountain, visit his blog at

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