Tag Archives: accessibility

Getting outside–whatever it takes

The backstory of why Easy Walks

This blog and my books often make note of my challenges in getting outside. (Total paralysis on my right side from life-saving brain surgery that has partially resolved.) Many of you have your own reasons for seeking out Easy Walks. So… what has made the difference in helping me get outside safely? Family, yes. Friends, yes. People who are willing to drive me to far-flung destinations, yes. However, learning how to best use physical supports to aid me in walking outdoors has been a more challenging quest. Tools I have found useful have varied as my body has healed and become capable of doing more on my own.

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Fancy canes and other help come in many sizes

Not a fancy cane, but hiking poles, yet another tool helping me get outdoors

This essay is included in My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming Hope in a World Turned Upside Down

When I returned home from the hospital after brain surgery in 1993, I did a great deal of sitting. Getting across a room was an effort; reaching the other end of the house to use the bathroom was a major undertaking. I spent a lot of time observing my healthy, active children and visiting with neighbors from my cushioned rocker in our living room.

By my side, ready at a minute’s notice, was the cane I had brought home from the hospital. Ugly stainless steel, four little feet at its base to provide better balance, this cane remained standing even when I could not.

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Hiking with a disability

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Wooded, leaf covered trail with stone walls alongside the path
Knowing what trail surfaces you might encounter can make a difference in whether you feel you can visit an area or not.
Handicapped access sign in a wooded area
A handicapped accessibility designation can be helpful, but can also be misleading. This location had tree roots that made wheelchair access limited. Knowing such details can make the difference in each person’s decision whether to visit a specific area or not

This article was first published at the Travel Massive website. Many thanks to their editors for providing a platform for travel interests of all kinds, around the world.

Wooden bridge over the Colorado river, with mountains in the background
Knowing about bridges with railings is a big plus for those with balance issues. “Know before you go” is so helpful

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

author using hiking poles to safely ascend an outdoor area with steps
Mobility challenges do not keep people home. Lack of information and/or support makes getting outside more difficult

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 surfaces Easy Walks, that is, not too many roots or rocks, relatively level, with something of interest along the way.

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Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.


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Walking in Another’s Shoes–ADA Trails in Seekonk


Easy walking in Seekonk

When I met Kelly, we immediately hit it off. Yes, we share mobility issues, but our back stories are quite different. Perhaps it’s our shared sense of irreverence. Or determination to get up and do something whenever we can. And so we planned an outdoor hike together. But you see, Kelly uses a walker to provide needed balance and a place to rest when she grows weary. And so we needed to pick some place that did not present unreasonable barriers for her. We headed to the Runnins River/Town Hall trail at the back of Seekonk’s town hall.


Flat stone dust trail, part of the Runnins River trail at the back of Seekonk Town Hall

And thus began an education on what makes for easy walking when one is using a walker. Kelly quickly pointed out the different size gravel on the stone dust portion of the trail. ‘The fine stone is like sand,” she explained. “That makes it harder for me to push this thing along.”


Hanging out on the boardwalk, headed to the Runnins River

We soon came to the boardwalk that led out to the Runnins River. As we walked and talked, we learned more about each others’ story. My friend Sue joined us for this outing and the three of us found lots to talk about. And then we came to the end of the boardwalk.


End of the line for us–no railings on the step, and from thereon the boardwalk is too narrow for either Kelly or me to navigate easily

I’d hoped we would be able to reach the trail where there is a bridge over the river. But the boardwalk stopped, and the steps down to the continuing trail had no railing. The rest of the trail was linear boards, three boards across, a real barrier for Kelly, and a challenging barrier for me to navigate with walking sticks. This is not meant as criticism, rather, observation, with an understanding that cost is a huge factor in determining how much ADA trail a group can afford to build. In the past I have traveled on trails of the type we faced at the end of the boardwalk, and can manage with support, but on this outing, the boardwalk was as far as we were going together.

The trail eventually leads over to the nearby Turner Reservoir, so I suggested we head over to the Seekonk side of the Turner Reservoir trail, which has extensive boardwalks over wetlands that reach out to the southern edge of the reservoir.


Out on the boardwalk on the banks of the Ten Mile River, Seekonk side

Once we reached the Turner Reservoir trail, I quickly realized that the boardwalk did not reach all the way to the parking lot. Kelly looked at the hard-packed dirt track and assured us, “I can do this.” And she did.

February is not the most scenic time to visit a trail, but it felt good to get out on an ice-free trail and take in views of the Ten Mile River as it flowed past the dam that created the reservoir. Sue spotted a bird paddling upstream in the river and asked me what it might be. It had been a while since I’d last seen one of these birds, but I finally remembered. “Scaup–greater or lesser, hard to tell since the difference is only an inch or so.” Sue and Kelly laughed. What a sweet time with new friends and old, creating memories as we walked.


We made it! At the edge of the Turner Reservoir, Seekonk side

The trail out to the edge of the reservoir is all hard-packed dirt or boardwalk. But to see the reservoir we had a grassy slope to climb. Another challenge. Kelly let us know what she needed, and didn’t need, for help, and we worked our way up the slope to take in some water views. We startled some geese, which flew off to a quieter spot.

Heading down the slope was more challenging for Kelly, which mirrors my own experiences–often going down a trail is a lot more challenging, even scarier, than climbing up. The forces of gravity are inclined to hurry us along, and we who have little capacity for hurrying have to work extra hard to keep ourselves upright.


Sue and Kelly check out the construction of the boardwalk along the Turner Reservoir trail, Seekonk side

Sue volunteered to be Kelly’s “front guard” and walked a couple steps ahead of her as we navigated the downward slope. Success! No runaway walker, and all of us returned to our cars upright and smiling.


Sue checking out the homemade benches along the Runnins River Trail

I’m looking forward to finding ways to collaborate with Kelly in the future. What joy to spend time with someone who is able to hear my own experiences, nod, and say with confidence, “I understand how that feels.” The sense that one is not so alone. A very good feeling indeed.

To learn more about the yoga classes and other efforts Kelly is working on for those with mobility issues, go to her website, https://www.bylfitandrec.org/


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is beech-cliffs-2018-e1577375238704.jpgMarjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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Finding a Place to Walk in Winter–St. Vincent’s Hospital, Worcester


Liz talks with the group prior to heading out to walk at St. Vincent’s in Worcester

Winter offers challenges to everyone, especially those of us concerned about the consequences of slipping on ice and injuring ourselves. The past three winters Worcester resident Liz Myska has created an indoor walking program that provides not only a safe place to walk, it also has drawn people from a wide variety of backgrounds to come walk with those who are visually impaired, and learn how sighted guides can be helpful to those who have limited vision. Continue reading


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Finding a way


Happy time along the carriage trails at Acadia

Hiking poles? Check. Maps? Check. Water? Check. Ice? Spray bottle with water? Check. Wait, am I going to carry all that for a simple hike or bike ride? Well, when a person is unable to sweat, as I am, yes, indeed, it’s all pretty important. Continue reading

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