The Value of Accessing the Outdoors

Nicholette’s Story:

Nature has always been a huge part of my life. Ever since I was a little girl being out in nature heals my soul. Growing up my father couldn’t pay me to come inside from hiking and swimming around our area. When I became a paraplegic at age sixteen due to a car accident, one of the first coherent thoughts I had was losing my ability to enjoy the great outdoors.  My injury took place 14 years ago and for the first 6 years or so I didn’t even attempt to get around on anything but pavement and maybe some grass as it seemed impossible to explore as a wheelchair user. The tiniest rocks hitting my castor wheels would almost send me flying out of my wheelchair and it truly defeated who I was at a person. I started exploring hiking in my manual wheelchair a few years back and it instantly changed something inside of me. I felt the part of myself that I had lost for the first time in over 5 years. I’ll never forget the first trail I ever completed in a wheelchair, The Barbour Rock trail in the PA Grand Canyon. A mile long gravel trail to a beautiful view of the gorge. I had to wheelie all the way up and down the trail and I remember feeling completely different when I completed it. It awaked something inside of me and for the next couple year I search my surrounding area for accessible or nearly accessibly activities and I probably did them all. Nature isn’t accessible and trying to navigate it in a manual wheelchair was impossible. Naturally I ran out of options and began researching hiking wheelchairs. When I say I was discouraged by the prices of these converted mountain bike wheelchair options, it’s an understatement. The only thing between myself and a hiking trail was pretty much a down payment for a home. The discouragement wore away after I started a fundraiser and was gifted a Mountain Trike by a beautiful couple in honor of their daughter, who had passed away. I never would have been able to afford this type of accessibility without the help of my community and I’m thankful. I’ll never forget the first time I thoughtlessly went over rocks and tree branches on my mountain trike. One of the biggest parts of my life was given back to me.  It’s truly unexplainable to describe how this made me feel. It feels so amazing to be back out in nature and has provided immense physical and mental health benefits to me. The last couple years have been filled with amazing views, fun hikes and being places I never thought I would be again, and new places I’ve never been before. Recently, I’ve began crystal mining and working toward making that my full time career. None of this would be possible without my Mountain Trike. Every person, with any type of mobility should have access to nature if they want to. It’s changed the whole course of my life to have access to nature and even though still in some ways I’m limited, I don’t feel that way so much, anymore.