My Everest: Don't Let Disabilities Keep You Indoors

When we first started 12 Hike, our message was simple. We wanted people to get outdoors and enjoy nature. There are no exclusions to where you go or who is allowed. Nature is free and everyone has the right to enjoy it. However, the most exclusive and difficult opportunities nature has to offer are off limits to some. Physical and mental disabilities prevent many individuals from experiencing the breath taking views from the top of a Colorado 14er or paddling a kayak down one of the many exhilarating rivers this world has to offer.


There are exceptions to this just like with anything else. Mark Inglis is a double amputee and managed to climb the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. Imagine, climbing to the top of the world with prosthetic legs below the knees. He had help but Mark still had to will himself up and down that treacherous mountain. Terezinha Guilhermina can run 100m in 12 seconds, and requires a guide to do it because she happens to be nearly blind. She's one of the most famous Paralympians alive for a reason. The Brazilian won swathes of gold medals, and ten World Championship golds. People like Mark and Terezinha are formidable individuals. They possess something special that drives them to attempt the impossible.


Not everyone has this drive and many have such crippling disabilities that outdoor recreation is simply impossible. The world is fortunate that there are organizations that want to help everyone experience the simple thrills of nature. I was fortunate enough to do a podcast (click here to listen) with Jeff Lockwood of The Lockwood Foundation. Jeff has a deep passion for the mountains and through his life experiences has made it his mission to help people with severe disabilities make it to the top of the tallest mountaintops in Colorado. Jerry Ketelhut from Daring Adventures joined us for that podcast as well. They do a very similar thing to The Lockwood Foundation as well as helping underprivileged youth experience magnificent outdoor adventures like rafting the Colorado River.


Physical disabilities are not the only types of disabilities however. At Colorado Recovery in Boulder, CO, Katie and Dawn have launched a wilderness therapy program designed to help individuals with severe mental health disorders deal with their struggles using nature. It is an effective program that allows a very stigmatized population of our society have a few moments to feel like any other person walking the streets. They get to see beautiful scenery, exercise and talk about the ways their disabilities effect their everyday life. In the end, Dawn and Katie's goal is to reintegrate these people back into society. They understand that with the proper help and rehabilitation, everyone can contribute to society and be a meaningful member of a community. If you are interested in hearing their podcast, click this link.


Nature is an amazing thing. There are so many opportunities to clear your head and put life in perspective. Whether your are a hunter, angler, kayaker, mountain climber or just recreational hiker nature has something to offer you. So the next time you go out for a little adventure, consider taking someone who has never been out (whether it is because they can't afford it or need extra help that no one is willing to offer) and see what it does for both of you.


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