Here’s an extensive list of hiking tips for those with mobility limitations–these can apply to anyone else too. Take a look. Thanks to Vacyou.com magazine for inviting me to contribute.
I have limited mobility, (paralysis in my right leg), have traveled and hiked extensively in the U.S., and have enjoyed exploring trails in Canada and Ireland. Learning the right questions to ask has made a big difference for me by helping people understand what I needed to know to better enjoy my time in the outdoors.
Questions I ask before setting out include: Where can I find places to walk that are not rooty or rocky, are relatively level with firm footing, and have something of interest along the way? Are dogs allowed? Are there bathrooms? Is there a fee to visit? Are trails well marked? What can you tell me about parking?
With practice you will find your best “questions to ask yourself” that will help you make an educated choice about how and where you want to go. Here are my tried and true accessibility tips that can help you get the most out of an outdoor hike (or walk).
You know your own situation best, so these are suggestions, not guarantees that they will work you.
One of the essays in my memoir, My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places recalls a childhood game we played in the midst of one Florida summer. My siblings, friends and I gathered each night in the South Florida heat, shut our eyes tight and spun in circles. One person sat out the game, perched on the wall, keeping watch over us. We took turns climbing up onto the wall, assuming the role of watcher. When up on the wall we kept our eyes open, ready to alert anyone wandering near the street or too close to the wall.
I recently found a picture of my younger brother sitting on that wall, with my younger sister standing next to him. Sometimes a photo can make the difference in understanding a story…or not. Here’s the essay, just one of many included in the book. Enjoy.
The basic premise of the game, that summer of 1965 in South Florida, was for all of us to shut our eyes and turn around in circles in our front yard. Our goal was to keep spinning till we grew dizzy. A designated “watcher” sat on the five-foot-high brick wall that jutted a few feet out into my parents’ yard. The watcher’s job was to keep their eyes open and warn spinning children if they drew too close to the wall, or ventured near the street.
Years ago I was living in a house with constant construction upheaval. The house was a “fixer-upper” and when we moved in I had little idea what that would mean. The tasks required to make the house stable and functional were endless. Clearing the mess and dust felt overwhelming so most cleaning was left undone. It was only when the marriage ended and construction ceased that I felt in my bones how hard it had been to live with constant upheaval.
The loss of emotional and financial stability pushed me to find new ways of being. Having been a stay-at-home mom for a number of years, I needed to learn to support my family financially. I turned to cleaning other’s homes and soon put to work in my own house the lessons I was learning. Removing dirt, dust, and grime became a way to care for myself and my family, creating a sense of order in a life unsettled by divorce.
Much has changed in my life in the ensuing years but the house and its failings remain a constant. A recently initiated, essential project is almost complete and will help keep our tiny cottage from sagging any more than it already does. The noise, shaking, and hammering are nearly finished.
With the end in sight I can see the layers of mess for what they are—signs of caring and hope–investments in caring for our family. I pulled out the feather duster and began clearing out the tufts of dust-covered cobwebs clinging to corners near the ceiling and stairway. My damp mop shifted bits of debris from the floor along with the grit that had been tracked inside during the messiest periods of the project. Our kittens found the damp mop to be a delightful diversion. Their attentiveness and sense of play “helped” me every step of the way.
I carefully removed pictures of grands from the front of the fridge so I could wipe sticky fingerprints off what had recently been shiny stainless steel. Once polished and dried, the grands and other assorted fridge decorations returned to their rightful places.
The bathroom came next. When my kids were young I cleaned multiple bathrooms (and the rest of each house) weekly to pay our bills. I often said only half-joking, “When you have cleaned ten bathrooms, what’s one more?”
Now living with a body altered by illness, this day one bathroom was enough. After it was cleaner (never totally clean—there is always more), I rested and reflected on a time when I was able to physically do much more. The work in years past, imposing order on disorder, was a source of sanity in trying times.
These days I find stability in a remade family. Necessary construction is undertaken in mostly small doses, and we make time for breaks, for changes of scenery.
As yet one more project nears completion, I try to see putting our house back in order as a way of expressing care. Caring for our family, caring for ourselves, and making peace with the state of our cottage as it is. Yes, after all these years, the house is still a work in progress. The tasks are never done, but a respite, a time to allow everything to hold still is in sight.
I once told a young girl that the act of dusting is actually a way of hugging your house. She looked skeptical but followed my lead and got to work with me. When I pass on so-called words of wisdom I am mostly reminding myself about lessons learned long ago in another life. And so I set out once more to hug our small, still-in-progress cottage that has protected me and my family from the cold for oh, these many years.
The Mowry Conservation Area on Old Forge road in Smithfield, RI is relatively small (forty-four acres), with two clearly marked loop trails. A burbling trout stream (actually part of the Woonasquatucket watershed) flows past the entrance of the property, with a small footbridge that provides easy access to the land on the other side of the stream.
This article was first published at the Travel Massivewebsite. Many thanks to their editors for providing a platform for travel interests of all kinds, around the world.
Lots of trail guides and magazine articles provide information about the compelling reasons to visit any certain area. What is consistently missing is information about trail surfaces. Whether you have a disability or simply enjoy the outdoors you can be make a difference to others by noticing and then sharing with others details that are included in the article below.
My Story of Hiking with Mobility Challenges
Travel Massive article:
Some people think that because I have written a number of trail guides I must be a super hiker. In fact, there was a time in my life when walking across a room was an insurmountable challenge. While healing has come after disastrous brain surgery that saved my life yet left my right side paralyzed, I still require support to navigate uneven surfaces: bumpy sidewalks, crowded airport terminals, or rooty or rocky outdoor spaces.
One of the most important factors that dictate whether I can safely manage an outing is asking about an area ahead of time. To safely navigate an outdoor trail, I need to know about trail surface Easy Walks, that is, not too many roots or rocks, relatively level, with something of interest along the way.
While out walking, do you find yourself thinking about things that have absolutely nothing to do with your surroundings? I know I do. Pairs of walkers passing by chat about all sorts of things—family, friends, work, etc. Other solitary walkers stride along, their thoughts unknown to passersby.
When I get outside my thoughts often stray to unsettling situations. Somehow the quiet, the beauty all around me opens a door to places I tend to avoid thinking about. However, I also have had instances when these times of quiet help me make sense of confounding situations.
If you will, take a walk with me as I write. My intent is that in hearing a little of my own story it might help you make sense of something in your own life.
Visits to Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Newport, RI never disappoint. We enjoy the wide level graveled path that encircles the spit of land jutting out into the surf. Although we have been here countless times, it never gets old.
Rocky Point amusement park was a “go-to” destination for summer visitors in Rhode Island for many years. First arriving by boat, later by trolley and finally by car, people found open fields, a restaurant and carnival type rides, which drew huge crowds through the years.
The nation’s 200th anniversary celebration of 1976 was an occasion when hundreds of thousands arrived at the park for a shore dinner. By the early 1990s the privately-owned park closed and remained that way till 2014 when it reopened as a state park.
Our trip to Newfoundland had so many highlights, but perhaps our favorite spot, for many reasons, was Blow Me Down Provincial Park, located between between Lark and York Harbor.
For those more adventurous than me, the park offered a stairway to the top of the mountain that met the shore next to the beach area. Wooden steps follwed the edge of the mountain up to the ridgeline. My husband hurried up to the top on our first evening there, taking advantage of the late sunsets of the Newfoundland summer season. At that point the sun did not set till about 9:15 PM. I enjoyed the photos, and was fine with avoiding the steep climb up to the view.
As we crunch along on the trail through fall leaves that now lie underfoot, we are reminded that winter is not far off. Here’s an excerpt from my newest book release, My Liturgy Of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) places.
Sounds of Silence
We were tromping through the drifts on a short walk in new fallen snow when I spotted the tracks. Ha! These were our own footprints—we were retracing our steps, headed back home. We had ventured to an old trolley line rail bed that still stands in the woods near our house. The dirt road cuts a straight line through the trees; the path we took did not. Despite the straightness of the trail we still created a wobbly line as we walked.