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.
A highlight of our trip to Newfoundland was returning to Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland’s western coast. When visiting a place for the first time we often say, “We need to come back.” Much less often are we able to say, “It’s so good to be back,” especially when referring to more far-flung destinations. At the bottom of this article are links to previous posts on our earlier visit to Gros Morne.
A mild winter’s day seemed just the time to take a day trip to East Haddam, Connecticut to visit Gillette Castle State Park, overlooking the Connecticut River. We had been to this area in the past for a winter boat ride along the river (February and March) in hopes of seeing bald eagles that winter in the area. The river stays open through winter and thus provides ideal hunting for eagles through the winter months. Our first trip favored us with multiple eagle sightings, but on this more recent visit we were not as successful. We caught a glimpse of what looked like an eagle soaring into the clouds overhead, but we’re not bird experts, and the glimpse we got was brief.
Often outdoor walking locations are “hiding in plain sight.” Locals know about what makes a specific place special. There may be a pull off for a good place to explore, but no sign is posted to assure visitors they have found the right location. The Keystone Arch Bridges trail starts in Chester MA and heads into Middlefield and Becket.
Clear signage has now been posted directing would be visitors where to find parking and get views of the dry laid stone railroad bridges that were built in the early 1840s to carry trains over the Westfield River. For background on the history of these bridges, learn more here. Information signs have been recently placed on Middlefield Road, next to Hebert Cross Road in Chester. Parking for about nine cars is available off road just past the sign.
Ice can be a huge barrier to getting out in winter. For those of us with mobility challenges (and others) it can keep us inside, missing out on the beauty that is found in colder weather. In general, newly fallen snow is pleasant to walk through. With little snow so far this winter in New England (at least southern New England) we have been able to get out fairly often without the concern of ice. A beautiful spot we revisited recently after a light snow is a Mass Audubon property, Pierpont Meadow in Dudley, MA.
New England is often an icy, pretty cold place to be in winter. However, the winter, 2022-23 has mostly had little snow, has been relatively warm and thus we have found little or no ice on local trails (at least where I am in south central MA). We generally avoid Cape Cod in summer since that is where everyone else seems to head. Instead, we wait for cooler weather then set out for locations on the Cape within about an hour or two from our home.
A January day with temperatures in the 40s seemed a good time to visit the Cape. I had wanted to visit the Knob, in Woods Hole, MA since I heard about it. This conservation land is part of the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuaries properties. When I had last checked, the trail out to a peninsula in Buzzards Bay had been closed for repairs. I felt sure it was still closed, but the website for this destination indicated the trails were open to the public again. In case this turned out not to be accurate, we made a plan B to stop at the Shining Sea bikeway. (We ended up stopping later at the shoreline access for the bikeway anyway.) Here’s an early fall visit to the bikeway.
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.
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 have helped me make sense of confounding situations.
If you will, take a walk with me. My hope 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.