by: Will Clingenpeel
Editor's Note: GRIT is proud to bring you original content written by our Trailblazers. Will grew up immersed in nature in rural Vermont. A Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis 5 years ago didn't dampen his sense of adventure or slow him down. Will continues to push his limits, even if it requires adaptive equipment. He enjoys helping others realize they never have to give up activities they love!
Howdy folks! It has been another great month in Vermont to be out in the “Green Machine” (aka my Freedom Chair)! Although there were a few sweltering hot, and soaking wet days, I was able to get out and explore some new trails in the Burlington area. Thankfully, I have a few dear friends that have been making regular outings with me. When I'm unsupervised I tend to have a bit too much fun with my freedom and get way off the beaten path and into “situations." So, situations aside, the following is a few moments captured on my most recent adventures!
Ethan Allen Tower in the north end of Burlington was a great place to visit! The terrain is mixed. There are some flat some hills, pavement, and even a few dirt trails suitable for gettin’ “GRITy.” I had a few trips with my friend and her little one into this place. I got a great workout, and even found some mushrooms as a reward! I would definitely recommend this space to anyone, and especially for those who may have mobility challenges.
Red Rocks park was another of my successful, but very challenging ventures. For years I had walked these trails, effortlessly exploring all the ledges and critter paths woven throughout the cedars and beech. But in a chair the land was far more inclined and challenging than I had remembered! With a friend at my side (and at times at my back with a little push) we made it on a full loop of the forest! Definitely a trail to have a teammate with. Definitely a beautiful spot that’s accessible though!
Also, I explored a popular foot-walking area just on the edge of town known as East Woods. I hadn’t been there in years. My last memories there were with my sidekick of a dog running through the woods down to the stream and crawling through the piney hills. This time I was prepared with my Green Machine, and my faithful sidekicks: venture partner Chrissy and her little one Iris. The trail started out delightful! There were smooth pine covered trails with some nice big roots here and there (I’ve grown to love the rooty, rocky stuff in this chair! Feels good climbing through tight spots on my wheels. Mini victories every time!). The woods were fairly open which allowed me to truly get off trail. I smashed through some dry underbrush and poked around like the “good ol’ days”. As we rounded the loop of the trail towards the river, the trail became a bit too intense even for my crazy self, so we decided to just bush-wack it off trail to reunite with the smooth trail home! I was really pleased with the performance of my Freedom Chair in this environment and excited to check off another spot to return to!
Fall is here in Vermont, so this next month should prove for some colorful reports from me in the woods, and hopefully a video or two!
As I’m venturing about I hope to see another wheel-walker out there, and I truly hope that word of this type of equipment percolates through the stories of the foot-walking folks that do stop and chat with me about the chair and my story. I hope word gets to the people that need to know that anything is possible and that the outside is not at all out of reach!
Yet again, another huge THANK YOU to everyone at GRIT who were part of the creation and manifestation of the Freedom Chair! I'm looking forward to another month of great adventures off the pavement! RIDE ON!