Oregon has so many wonderful places to hike and Oregonians love hiking! We love to be embraced by the beauty of nature, especially after a long, rainy Pacific Northwest winter. We melt when the first sunny rays warm our faces? The winter thaw begins from within, when vitamin D permeates our skin and awakens our sense of adventure. What better way to celebrate than to hit the trails and embrace nature?! Thanks to AccessTrails.org there is now essential information explaining and showing (maps/photos/videos) the accessibility of dozens of trails and parks surrounding the Portland - Vancouver region.
As the Spring arrives, the Cripple Triple Threat will be hitting the trails in and around Portland any chance we get. Last year, some of our favorites included the 4T Trail Loop through downtown Portland, which connects the Trolley (streetcar), Train (MAX), Trail, and aerial Tram. We also loved the Hoyt Arboretum Loop, and for a real burner, we summited Powell Butte.
There are many reasons why everyone should be able to access nature, not the least of which is, being in the midst of the beauty of nature can renew a person’s sense of their own beauty and dignity by being in the context of the vast grandeur of the whole. The physical exercise of hiking also provides many, well-documented health benefits. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “people who are physically active live longer and have lower risks for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers”, which are experienced more often by people with disabilities than people without disabilities. And according to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD), exercise releases endorphins that reduces stress, and when it’s done in the company of others there is the added benefit of strengthening friendships which has long-lasting benefits beyond the trail. Cumulatively, these benefits can increase a person’s quality of life by boosting a person’s confidence, sense of joy and self-image. Hitting the trail with friends is not only fun, it’s what’s best for your health and well-being.
Oregon Office on Disability and Health
National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability
Access Recreation: Fostering Health and Friendships among the Disability Community
I recently had the opportunity to become a member of a wheelchair “gang”, The Cripple Triple Threat. It’s the only one I know of in Portland. Actually, it may be the only one in Oregon for that matter. Dave, Josiah, and I are the Cripple Triple Threat, three wheelies (people who use wheelchairs) who have forged our friendship last summer through the adventures of wheelchair hiking. We try not to hog the whole trail, but as we push along, we joke about life in a wheelchair, and how intimidating our “gang” must be as other hikers maneuver their way past us. But all joking aside, we love the benefits we receive from wheelchair hiking, especially the great exercise!
By West Livaudais: Program Coordinator, Oregon Office on Disability & Health
For many people, especially those experiencing disabilities, exercising can be difficult. According to Oregon’s state-wide Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, a whopping 32% of individuals who reported having a disability in 2016 had not exercised in the last 30 days, as compared to only 11.6% of those who reported not having a disability (OODH Chartbook link). One of the obvious reasons for the disparity is that, in general, it is more difficult for people with disabilities than without disabilities to exercise.
The Cripple Triple Threat— three guys in wheelchairs who enjoy nature and each other’s humor—is an example of how friendships and hiking can improve your quality of life. As the weather turns nicer, check out AccessTrails.org to find a trail that is suitable for you and invite a friend to explore the trails around Portland, OR.