Tales From The Trails:

From Wheelchair to Wildwood Trail


When we moved to the Portland area ten years ago they had to take me off the plane in a wheelchair. That had been the custom for about four years as I couldn’t walk as far as one city block without bending over and putting my hands on my knees to rest my back. 

Without going into details, I will say that I have several health issues that needed to be mitigated if I wanted to live an active life in my new home. The situation had been made worse due to being exposed to a toxic chemical environment for over 15 years. I desperately yearned for a healthy life in the fresh air of the Pacific Northwest and that was the only motivation I needed. 

After going through physical therapy for some spine issues, I was able to begin short walks in the clean air and that helped to purge the toxins from my body. However, walking on hard surfaces such as sidewalks, streets, and paved paths was hard on my back so I sought a softer alternative. That’s when I discovered our wonderful Forest Park. 

As a child I spent every moment I could outdoors and Forest Park offered the type of setting that returned me to my early years; it was somewhat of a rebirth for me, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances. I now routinely do 8-12 mile walks in Forest Park once or twice per week; much of that I owe to the Forest Park Conservancy’s All Trails Challenge (ATC). 

Since August of 2005 I have completed the ATC 12 times and am poised to finish all 82 miles twice more during 2014. I began in January after having to take last year off due to more health problems, which I worked very hard to overcome. I did not set one foot in Forest Park during all of 2013 and in December I began prepping for the ATC once–or twice–again. 

The timing has been rather appropriate, as I have been privileged to watch the park itself come back to life during late winter and early spring. I can’t possibly tell you how good it has felt to be out there among the flora and fauna once again. Just three weeks ago I was sitting atop the BPA Road and noticed two bald eagles perched on a power structure just a hundred feet from me; looking skyward I saw four more sailing on the thermals. 

When I am deep into the forest I very much enjoy the beauty, quiet, and solitude it offers. The various seasons offer different experiences that I have much enjoyed as I have logged over 2,000 miles hiking in Forest Park in the past nine years. 

Photo by Bill Cunningham. View from the top of BPA RoadPhoto by Bill Cunningham. Western Trillium, or in this case, QuadrilliumPhoto by Bill Cunningham. Bald eagles near BPA Road and Firelane 13

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