What a fantastic review from the Macatangay Family. Thank you so much for providing us with your mountain experience. We love hearing from those that use the facility. Keep them coming (please read below). The Wilderness On Wheels Board
Our family loves to travel, except when we get tired, and unfortunately due to medical issues, that happens a lot.
This last weekend, we found ourselves in Colorado, Aurora, visiting relatives. There was a shooting at a nearby theatre, and being from Detroit, our first inclination was to book it out of the city as soon as possible.
I was raised in Georgetown Colorado in the late 1970′s, where I enjoyed a fairly worry free existance- my main concerns in terms of safety were to avoid cougars, and to avoid stepping in a mineshaft air hole. Other than that, there wasn’t much to worry about, spending most days either running up the hills or sledding down them. My brother on the other hand, didn’t have it so easy. It took him four long years to learn to walk, and there were clear indications that he would never manage to live on his own. It just wasn’t possible to hike with him either due to frequent falls and bloodied chins.
We all got older and moved away from the mountains. I came to live in big cities both in the US and in Europe. Once, I took a train into the Alps in search of some solitude, away from the busy and well regulated life of downtown Munich, only to find the hillsides of the mountain village of Mittenwald to be over run by weekend tourists. There were a lot more people living in Europe, per square kilometer, than any mountain region I had visited in the Rockies, or the Cascade mountains. Feeling claustrophobic and a little defeated, I never the less hiked the mountian at an increasingly slower pace, with my friend in her high heels, and me with a mysterious health problem.
So now, I have lived in Michgan for 7 years, and because Michigan is flat, it is a very easy place to use a manual wheel chair. But not many mountains for sure, and I find that my mind is activated and enlivened by the verticality of such magnificent slopes, crowned with a multitude of varied rock formations, and outcroppings, each unique and more facinating than the next. The hypnotic effect of such visual variation, and the draw that it imposes on the brain, are very difficult to withstand; like the gravitational attraction of another planet.
My brother, despite his limitations, loves the mountains; his favorite hobby is to see just how far he can lob rather sizeable rocks into neighboring streams, it is best to keep one’s distance!
We tried to find a place to camp, amongst all the offerings of the national park camp sites, and the state camp sites, nothing was available, wheel chair accessible or otherwise. On a lark, I decided to see if there were any private camping areas that would be available to people with disabilities and I found the website for Wilderness on Wheels. We called and reserved a cabin for a night, about all the time we could afford to pull my mom away from her busy job. On my fixed income, the price of the cabin was just right.
I wasn’t familiar with the area, but we were able to find it very easily, and it didn’t take long to get there from Golden. My brother was very excited or “eggsalad” as he said it, to hear that we were going for an overnight into the mountains, a rare treat for him. We were also happy to see that it was near many National forest roads as we also like to sight see from the car.
We checked in around 1 pm and met Barbara Cramer, one of the delightful caretakers of the WOW camp ground, she came zipping up a dirt road to meet us, and gave us the keys to two cabins we could choose from for our stay. We had great fun looking at both of the cabins and we chose to stay in the Ridge top cabin for my brother’s nightly bathroom needs. It had a breath taking view of the whole valley and we were excited to be able to cook there too. BUT the very best part was that we could use our manual wheel chair on the terrific ramps all around the mountain near us, we were able to give each other “turns” on wheel chair, and speeding (a little bit!) down the ramp that was about the most fun thing we have ever done next to a roller coaster ride. We were of course, wishing that we had a really sturdy electric wheel chair to go up the ramp too, but, grandma was very kind to meet us at the bottom of the hill, and give us a ride back up in the car. I love nature, and even more, I love to enjoy the nature all around me because I don’t have to worry about falling or loosing my footing on a mountain trail, what a glorious thing, this wheel chair trail on the side of a mountain! I can’t think of a single better thing to make accessable to everyone who wants to enjoy it.
My brother has no depth perception and has fallen off a chair lift before ( and survived without a broken bone) but hiking can be very treacherous for him because he can’t really tell where his feet are going to land. He had a great time walking down the trail and giggled and laughed when we would speed up on the downward parts of the ramps when it was his turn for a ride on the wheelchair. I think we took the whole trail (mountain side) about three times because it was so fun!
The stream side trail was enchanting and I fully expected to roll around the corner and surprise either a a) bunch of fairies planning a prank on passing cars up the valley, or b) a group of gnomes working to add an updated section to the trail. Though I found neither, I certainly found a very deep sense of tranquility and peace of mind that this wonderful place had been created (and maintained!) to provide people who regularly struggle through different parts of their day due to disabilities, with the freedom to glide through the wonders of nature as gently as a butterfly would glide over a succulent patch of flowers in a valley glade.
A huge thanks go out from us to the entire Wilderness on Wheels volunteer staff for all of your efforts and contributions towards making this a reality for all of us!!! We read every plaque and marker that was on the way down, and I can’t tell you how touching the entire experience was.
Hilary Macatangay and Family