Next Steps 

Recently, I came across a couple of BBC Sounds programs – Walk Like a Duck and, What if Everyone was Disabled? And I’ve also been exploring the website BeyondMyBattle.  These are all excellent resources on disability and BeyondMyBattle provides support for those who have also received devastating diagnoses.

Since our return to Colorado, and once we’d done much of the heavy lifting in the yard, and planted cat nip to tame the little cat, we decided to take up hiking again.  On top of a high ridge, we met two young women who told us their exploits had involved sheltering in a hollow from a thunder and hail storm!  Those of you who have read my books, Hiking England’s Coast to Coast Way, and Blisters and Blessings, will wince at the foot problems I almost always suffer.  Sweat sluices down your spine, or you shiver in glacial force winds at the top of a peak. The facilities are always primitive or involve shrubbery, and you bear your world on your back.

So why does anyone do thislet alone someone with a disability?

My low vision is a hindrance but not yet a barrier to hiking. Going downhill always has its challenges, so a few years ago I contacted a low vision hiking group to ask for advice. They said they were happy to help as long as I didn’t have Kilimanjaro or the Rockies in mind – well, we framed the certificates we received for reaching the crater rim of Kilimanjaro, and last year we climbed a 14,000 foot mountain here in the Rockies, so I guess I don’t set the bar too low!

So how and why do I hike?

My vision is blurred especially in the center. I don’t see in the dark, and glare is painful.  Given these issues I couldn’t hike without Chris who tries to plan routes that are, if possible, above tree line, (avoiding the challenge of adapting to changes in light and shade), or he chooses wider trails. As I mentioned, going down is my main problem. Most people huff and puff as they climb up, and Im no exception, but decades of yoga with its breath practices give me an edge.  On the way down however, there’s the fear of losing my footing and taking a serious fall.  Fear saps energy, forces you to over engage your quads for breaking, and stress your shoulders when stabbing the hiking pole in extra hard just to make sure it’s safe. Years of yoga and swimming have helped build my muscles and, generally, steady my mind so I am less frustrated at being constantly overtaken on the descent. I always have water and snacks at the ready as extra effort requires reward.  I sling my shades around my neck and jam my visor down so it screens the sun  – and, of course, when Chris gets camera happy, it hides my horrid hair!

Hiding my horrid hair and making a reverse fashion statement in clumpy boots and a malassortment of hiking gear – it is nevertheless all worthwhile.

My disability doesn’t preclude me from feeling physically strong with all the joys that invokes. As we progress, our breathing settles into a regular rhythm that calms the mind as if we are doing a rather strenuous walking mediation. The mind disengages and life’s worries slip into perspective. We are in nature, and although I can’t appreciate every detail or every larger feature, there’s still awe and wonder. The best hikes reach the top of something that brings a literal and metaphorical high – and oh how the appetite increases so that the humblest sandwich becomes the finest meal.

Experts, in these Covid times suggest, to relax, we pay attention to breath, engage in nature, and practice mindfulness and meditation.

So if you can – go take a hike!

End Notes

Reading

Jean

The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali

Chris

Let the Mountains Talk Let the River Run
David Brower with Steve Chapple

 

Listening

Victoria Wood – Lets do it – The Ballad of Barry and Freda

People Get Ready – Blind Boys of Alabama

Viewing

The Boy who harnessed the Wind (Netflix)

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