By Shannon Quinn

Mia Ives-Rublee doesn’t seem to know the word “can’t”. At 31 years old, she has acquired a list of accomplishments that many people don’t achieve in a lifetime. A research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine with a Master’s degree in social work, Mia is also a gifted athlete and artist. She began qualifying for Junior Wheelchair Nationals in track and field in middle school, breaking numerous records. In high school, she continued her success in track and field and in 2003 was accepted to the University of Illinois on an athletic scholarship, where she earned student athlete awards every season.21_2015-10-31_184230998_B5B13_iOS

Mia was born in South Korea with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a congenital collagen defect that causes bones in the body to break easily. Her first sentence, “I do it myself,” would essentially summarize her life mantra.

21_2015-10-31_192116893_11671_iOSOnce Mia sets her mind to something, there doesn’t seem to be much that can stop her. “It was my goal to participate in the Athens Paralympics in 2004, but pneumonia and a car accident that year prevented me from going,” she says. “I obtained B standard times and just missed getting on the US team.” Undaunted, Mia continued to compete in track and field, but had to stop after a severe fall fractured her leg. The fracture led to a non-union, which required numerous operations. Unable to sit properly in a racing wheelchair, she turned to Wheelchair Fencing to stay active. She has competed at numerous North American and World Cups. In 2013, she was invited by the US Wheelchair Fencing team to compete at the World Championships in Budapest.

All her life, Mia has overcome what most folks would consider insurmountable challenges. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that when she visited Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park with her friend Janine Healey last October, learned that the elevator was out of service and that the only way to reach the top of the Rock was by climbing 499 steps, she decided that’s just what she’d do. “I came to Chimney Rock to get some fall photos. I knew I was going to get a great perspective from the top of the Rock,” says Mia. “And I just decided to go as far as I could.”

With her service dog Arianne and Janine by her side, Mia began to ascend the Park’s Outcroppings trail by crawling on her hands and knees, using the staircase railing to pull herself up. After climbing for about an hour, Mia reached the top of Chimney Rock, where she sat and gazed on the views while catching her breath. “You don’t get to see that kind of view often in the world,” she remarks. “It was worth it!”

Mia’s advice to people who are daunted by all those steps? “If you focus on the difficulty, you’ll defeat yourself. But if you take it one step at time, it’s not too bad. There are landings along the way where you can take breaks. Just focus on your end goal, and you can do it. And having friend along with you helps!”21_Photo 2

Beginning March 13, the Park returns to its regular hours of 8:30am-5:30 pm. Once you’re in the Park, you can stay until 7pm.

The Park’s 61st Annual Easter Sunrise Service is March 27. Gates open from 5am-6am for our free 7am nondenominational service. Please note that due to the large number of guests who attend the sunrise service, no one can be admitted through the gate after 6am so everyone is able to be at the service by 7am. Guests are invited to eat breakfast at the Old Rock Café (visit for buffet prices) and then return to enjoy the Park at no charge all day on March 27 by showing their sunrise service bulletin at the Ticket Plaza.

Shannon Quinn is PR and Promotions Manager, Chimney Rock State Park.