Author Archives: Aydan

Accessible Carriage Ride

Adventures & Outings is simply amazing!  I’ve had a lot of “firsts” with BORP, but never in my wildest imagining would I have pictured myself on a horse-drawn carriage.  Nonetheless, there we were near the Suisun Slough with Michael Muir’s Access Adventure at Rush Ranch.  It was so exciting to meet a direct descendant of one of the 19th century’s renowned Naturalist, John Muir.   Michael Muir is John Muir’s great-great-great grandson.

Our excursion began when we hit Grizzly Island Road along the rolling golden hills.  As we came across a sign that said, “Welcome to Access Adventure” we saw cattle grazing nearby. The BORP bus pulled into a parking lot near the stables where the majestic Percheron horses were hitched up to the carriage.  When  the A & O gang spilled out of the bus, we were greeted by a man who stood six foot tall, with salt and pepper hair, and blue eyes that sparkled as he told us Access Adventure’s story.

Michael Muir’s connection with disability and Nature is profound, not only is he the descendant of John Muir, he also lives with a condition called Multiple Sclerosis.  So, he strives to make Nature accessible to all.

The time soon came to load our wheelchairs, canes, and canine companions onto the carriage.  We boarded one-by-one as we rode a solar-powered hydraulic lift.  Bessie and Charles, the beautiful Percheron horses, were harnessed to the carriage waiting to take us on a tour of Rush Ranch as Michael grabbed the reins.  When we ventured to explore the Ranch, we passed the stables and trespassed onto the golden pastures among the cattle.

As we left the cattle behind, Mr. Muir maintained a slow trot to the base of a steep hill where there was a re-creation of a Patwin tribal village.  Then Bessie and Charles pulled our carriage up the hill for a bird’s eye view of the lush green marshland.  We saw patches of teal, magenta, and rust along the Suisun slough.  The ride was  so bouncy my friend’s wheelchair popped a few wheelies.

Our ride down the hill was a lot smoother as we headed back among the cattle and meandered passed the stables.  Exiting Access Adventure headquarters, the horses’ shoes began clicking on the pavement.  The sound of the slow trot took me back to a time when one could actually feel the passing of twenty-four hours.  Naturally, my romanticized notion of simpler times was probably wrong, but I was grateful for the indulgence.

Muir guided the horses down a quarter mile to the Suisun Slough overpass.  Along the way, we saw Red Winged Black Birds and Starlings as they fluttered among the golden pastures, and Jack Rabbits scurried about for shelter from Turkey Vultures.  Once we crossed the overpass, Bessie and Charles stopped traffic as they u-turned our carriage.

The trip back to Access Adventure indicated that it was time to leave this wonderful experience where the serene sound of  clicking horse hooves took me back to an age of innocence.  I left Access Adventure with a refreshed empathy for the souls who came before us.

Access Adventure website: http://access-adventure.org/

Advertisements

Awestruck at Cosumnes River Preserve

I never thought the sound hundreds of Sandhill Cranes could have an awesome affect on me!

The Adventures & Outings (A & O) gang and I spent our day traversing meandering paths, both wooden and paved, around a small portion of the Cosumnes River in anticipation of hearing the Sandhill Cranes’ “trumpeting” song and seeing the huge birds in the sky.  If one were to stand next to my wheelchair, I’d be able to pat him on the head and he would me reach me from six feet away with the tip of his wing.  But, the skies were clear of their shadows all day, however, our excitement grew as we heard some trumpeting sounds in the distance.

Landscape of Marshland

As we were anticipating our Sandhill sighting, we did see Egrets, Coots, Herons, Grebes, and Mallards diving and dabbling for their food.  I found it incredibly entertaining to watch the Mallards dabble as their downy bottoms pointed up to the sky.  A couple of Coots “showed off” their agility as they hurriedly dove for the same piece of food only to surface in a “tug of war.”

The moment quickly came when we had to pile back into our BORP bus, but that wasn’t the end of our “adventure.”  Apparently, one of our adventurers found out where the Sandhill Cranes fly in to roost; it was only five hundred yards away. Dusk had fallen when we got to the roosting area.  There was only a sliver of burnt-orange on the horizon.  As we were amazed by the serenity of the sunset, we witnessed a flock of fifty or more Sandhill Cranes fly over our bus and land onto their roosting area.  They continued to fly in flock by flock until an area the size of a couple or more football fields were filled. The Cranes’ bluish-gray plumage seemed to glow in the twilight.  While the Cranes filled the roosting area, their trumpeting song enveloped the bus and left us enchanted.

We were all awestruck by the magical moment of Nature’s tranquility.  Adventures & Outings not only takes me out of my ordinary life, but it soothes my soul. There’s no better elixir!

Imagine A Wheelchair On Marshland

One year Lori Gray organized a trip to Coyote Hills; it was amazing!  Coyote Hills had paved trails along its golden rolling hills overlooking vistas of marshland.  It was like looking down onto someone’s quilt work, patches of beige, brown, and rust. I believe the patches of color were beds of salt and mineral.

When our trail hike ended, I rolled my power wheelchair down to the water’s edge.  There, I was further invited to traverse the marsh on a meandering wooden pathway with lush cattails on either side.  It was an amazing feeling to witness a Muskrat forage for its food and find myself among the olive green reeds.  I knew a Muskrat foraging in the afternoon was a rare to see because they usually forage at dusk and dawn.

As I continued on my path, Nature beckoned me to look up and watch a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the sky.  The flock formed a black wave that looked like a sail being pulled taut along its mast.  Little by little, the blackbirds would swoop down into the reeds to roost; they chirped happily as if they were welcoming me to their home.  These beautiful little birds flashed their black iridescent bodies and their brilliant red stained wings in the sunshine as they landed.  I felt as if I were secretly witnessing the filming of a documentary on marsh life.

Unfortunately, I soon found myself back at the beginning of my marshland adventure.  When I reached the paved trail my heart was warm and tranquil.  I wasn’t ready to go home, but, was most grateful to witness Nature at her best  — an opportunity I would have never dreamed.

Whale watching in Half Moon Bay

Before I became an Adventures & Outings participant, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to witness Nature’s moments of stillness as well as her moments  of amazement. The prospect of seeing spray from a blow hole or a gigantic tail fin waving at us was so exciting.  As we boarded on a boat, the size of a professional fisherman’s, I was hoisted wheelchair and all on deck by four strong pairs of hands.   Our departure took us twelve miles off-shore to witness the whales as they migrated toward the Arctic to feed and breed.

We were three months into the six-month migration, so, I thought we’d have a pretty good chance to see a Gray Whale.  However, as we got further and further from shore, I realized that wildlife does not always fulfill the whims of Nature buffs like me.  To bear special witness to Nature you need luck and timing on your side.  Luck. . .?  Timing. . .?  Forget it.  We did see an otter laying on its back as he floated by and there was a cloud of jelly fish as they traveled the waves of the ocean, but no, no migrating Gray Whale.

Twelve miles off-shore and still no sighting meant that we were heading home.  Darn, three hours on the boat had gone by as if it were only an instant.  Oh well, this trip had only increased my perseverance to witness Nature in her purest form.

There’s always next time!

Whale Sightings

It wasn’t long before Adventures & Outings went back to test our synchronicity with one of Nature’s majestic scenes.  So, back at Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point we boarded the same boat.  I was hoisted aboard by four very strong pairs of hands again. Then, I was put in a corner of the boat where my wheelchair would be nice and stable for the twelve-mile ride.

As the boat made its way toward potential sightings, the crew instructed us on how to alert each other about the direction of a particular sighting.  We were directed to use the sayings of a clock such as six o’clock and twelve o’clock so everyone would have a chance to see the elusive beings.

The energy and the feel of the day was different.  It was a beautiful spring day in Half Moon Bay.  The sun was so bright, I felt like flea a sitting on a reflective tanning screen in the middle of the ocean.  Although the afternoon wind had increased, it seemed to have changed our luck.  All of sudden someone shouted, “there, at two o’clock!”  I looked to my right and saw the effervescence coming from a blow-hole.  Oh boy, I thought, our perseverance has paid off.

Then, at ‘four o’clock,’ I saw a Gray Whale dive deeper into the ocean as her back broke the water’s surface and disappeared again. I could have sworn that I saw the edge of her tail fin.  Perhaps my hopes colored my perception; all I knew for sure was that it was breath taking!

The elation of the sightings made the time on the water seem so short.  We were already headed home.

Once again, not only was I in awe of Nature and her amazing moments, but I’ve also been awestruck by BORP’s Adventures & Outings Program.  These were literally “opportunities of a lifetime!”

My first trip to Angel Island with Adventures & Outings

The weather was cloudy but warm; rain wasn’t predicted until later that evening.  A large group of thirty participants met at Jack London Square to take the ferry to Pier 39 where another group of thirty people were waiting to join us.  We were people who used power wheelchairs, canine companions, and manual wheelchairs.

As we float toward Angel Island, a light drizzle began to cover the ferry windows drop by drop.  I thought, oh well a  little drizzle won’t harm us.  But when the Island was in sight, the drizzle turned into rain.  Oh darn, I hope we don’t have to go back, was my first exclamation!  Of course, taking the forecast for granted, none of us were dressed for the rain.  So, A & O Coordinator, Lori Gray asked the ferry’s crew for sixty garbage bags.  Needless to say, we all disembarked wrapped in plastic.

Lori gave us a choice that day, we could go home early or stay and have ourselves a real wet adventure.  I had already decided to stay and felt even better about the decision once the control box of my power wheelchair was also wrapped in plastic.

A group of us “die hards” went up the steep, slick hill in the warm spring rain.  We were headed toward the Immigration Station where thousands of Asian immigrants were kept during World War II.  My cold and wet state intensified my empathy for the lives of the immigrants who were subject to much worse conditions.  I suppose if one were to read about the experiences of these immigrants, one would be empathic.  But, seeing and experiencing what their lives must have been like speaks to the heart.

Although I was cold, wet, and hungry when I got home, these ‘adventures’ fill my life with passion.  Long live A & O!

Elephant Seals?

One of my first trips with BORP’s Adventures & Outings was to see the Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo State Preserve.  In all my life, leading to the moment I rolled up the wooden walk-way cutting across the beach, I never thought I would have the opportunity to witness these gigantic creatures live, in their natural habit.

I remember, as if it had only been moments ago, as our group went further on the path, a two ton male Elephant Seal literally “stood his ground” growing to appear twice his size.  He was only twenty feet away from us and the other male was on the opposite side of our path.  The Elephant Seal’s territory was being encroached upon by another male.  As the grunts and groans from the males became louder, our docent told us that we could easily be caught between the “duel.”  So, we turned around gently and headed toward our bus leaving Nature to continue her magical ways.

It’s absolutely amazing to be somewhere that you thought was impossible to be!  Adventures & Outings defines itself.  Wherever we head out, there is always an ‘adventure’ waiting for us!