My mom, Amelie and I took a trip up to Estes Park yesterday and on the way up I told her that one of my new goals is to climb Longs Peak, sometime in the next couple of years. That particular hike makes my mom nervous. She’s never been but she’s heard stories about treacherous areas and falling climbers.
Before my mom was paralyzed, she hiked many of the mountains in Colorado. Hiking was a passion that she and my dad shared, and they conquered many mountains together, dragging along four children with varying degrees of willingness. We lived in Kansas but spent nearly every summer vacation in Colorado, mostly in Rocky Mountain National Park. I know that it hurts my mom terribly that she is no longer able to do certain things that she always loved, but sometimes it hits me like a punch to the stomach how painful this must be. So we got to talking about alternatives. There are some things she won’t be able to do but there are still so many possibilities.
|The three of us at wheelchair-friendly Lily Lake near Allenspark, CO|
I’ve been reading a guidebook on Longs Peak and found out that you can ride all the way to the Boulderfield of Longs Peak on horseback. In fact, there are a ton of trails in Colorado that are accessible on a horse. We went back and forth on the logistics of a paraplegic riding horseback. A special saddle would be necessary. Some assistance getting on and off the horse. A second horse to “pack” her wheelchair.
We both knew we needed to do some research. Here’s some cool stuff we’ve found since our discussion: Accessible custom saddles. Therapeutic Equine Centers where paraplegics can learn to ride horses again. Most amazing: an exoskeleton that allows paraplegics to walk. Possibilities.
I'm inspired by the tenacity of people with incredible challenges. My mom wants to get on those trails and I think she's going to make it happen. I'm looking forward to seeing that empty place in her heart heart filled again.