My name is Takahiro Shigemitsu. My friends call me Hiro. I am a senior software engineering manager who’s has worked at Microsoft and Amazon. Although I’m used to functioning at a very high level, I started having trouble just brushing my teeth. In 2016, after two frustrating years, I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. I was just 45 years old, with a wife and teenagers.
Looking for someone to talk to, I went to a local support group for people with Parkinson’s. I met Ken Kisch, PasstoPass cofounder who encouraged me to join one of the group’s hiking trips. “I was scared. I was fit but I worried about what would happen if my symptoms got worse. We had wonderful trip leaders who really understood Parkinson’s and could assess what each hiker needed. It’s a safe environment where I can be myself. It was strenuous and I truly loved it.”
I returned for another hike the following year and did two trips in 2021. The first was difficult and the second was moderate. “I love the challenges and I love the people. Being on the trail brings out the kindness and generosity in my character.” PasstoPass inspired me to give back to the Parkinson’s community by joining the board of the Pacific Northwest’s chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA).
I plan to continue hiking with PasstoPass. “The benefits are great exercise and it pushes me to be independent. The wilderness forces you to appreciate what you have and what you can do. I want to do this for the rest of my life, as long as I’m able.”
I’m a former natural resources attorney forced to retire early after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 52. I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and walk the trails outside my back door with my dog. Our whole family, my husband and two sons, love to hike, camp, fly-fish and play golf. I stay fit by taking Rock Steady Boxing classes, which are designed for people with Parkinson’s. I believe that exercise and a strong support group have made a huge difference in my battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
My first PasstoPass hike was on the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer of 2021. Tammy Sloan Smith, my friend of 40 years, was my support hiker. Together we completed all 35 miles, something I’m proud to have accomplished. Tammy and I loved hiking with the llamas and sharing another wonderful adventure. I learned that it is possible to live well with Parkinson’s. During my first PasstoPass hike, I learned, after a lifetime of always having to be first on the trail, that being in the middle or even in the back of the group isn’t so bad… as long as I can keep going.
I am a retired corporate lawyer who finds special joy in outdoor adventures, particularly wilderness experiences. The opportunity to help others experience that joy is very gratifying. My wife and I moved to Washington State in 1980 and have experienced many backpacking adventures together and with our kids over the years, in the Pacific NW and far beyond. In recent years we have done more expedition and wilderness sea kayak trips than backpacking, but among my (our) favorite backpacking adventures have been two completions of the Wonderland Trail (once in each direction), Section J of the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass, several trips into the upper Enchantments, the Goat Rocks Wilderness section of the PCT, the Coast-to-Coast walk across northern England, and the Olympic Coast North trail. I also enjoy day hikes, snowshoeing, X-C skiing, kayak day paddles, and playing pickleball.