Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hiking differently

My last real hike was several years ago to the lookout at Mt Pilchuk, on the Mountain Loop Highway north of Seattle.  I completed the hike to the 5327 foot high lookout and back by using two forearm crutches.   The 5.4 mile hike took me 7 hours.

My husband and I had moved to Seattle in 2002 partially because of the mountains, with grand plans for hiking in the North Cascades, doing the Wonderland Trail, etc.

Life did not cooperate, however, as my mobility declined, and I became a reluctant party to a parade of “toys:" hiking poles, cane, forearm crutches, a battery-powered scooter, and eventually a wheelchair.   

My next “hike” occurred years later, with the help of a folding manual wheelchair.  Only a few, short, paved ADA-approved trails were on offer,  but I was able to open up a whole world of possibilities of unmaintained trails by swallowing some pride and accepting help from generous and hard-working relatives and especially my spouse.

Perpetually on the lookout for a contraption that could better master the stones and roots and vagaries of unmaintained trails, I added a FreeWheel – a third wheel sticking out of the front, which lifted my tiny casters off of the ground and made possible the trails of Iceland, the cobblestones of Italy, and the woods of British Columbia. 

Several years ago, I learned about an all-terrain chair made by a company called GRIT.  At the time, they were only producing this chair for the developing world; however, they had plans to make a version for use in the US, so I got on their mailing list.  Early this year, the company sponsored a contest –the winners of which would receive an all-terrain Freedom Chair for one year, in return for having adventures with it and posting them on social media.  Soon after application, I got a phone call with the good news – I was one of 10 contest winners nationwide.  Thus begins a year of adventures and postings.

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