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I have just been on the most exciting adventure of my life. I went to the Grand Canyon. The goal was to get someone who was unable to walk to the bottom of the canyon.
My daughter fit that description, and that’s how I came to be included.
I had been told about the TrailRider before the trip, designed for a handicapped person to be able to ride down a trail that was otherwise inaccessible.
Anyone who can get up and move around freely, even if it’s just to sit on the couch and watch TV, cannot know what it is like to be confined to a wheelchair 24 hours a day.
So, it may be difficult to understand the importance of this trip for me and my daughter.
This trip was not for pleasure; it was not a vacation, as some people might think. When Sarah, my daughter, wants to go on vacation, she pays her own way. A couple years ago, she saved money for a cruise to Mexico.
This trip involved 64 hours on a bus in five days, including a grueling 16-hour hike. It was meant to prove a serious point: People with disabilities, who are brave enough to try, can access places like the Grand Canyon.
Our team consisted of 13 members: two pastors, three teen-age boys, two journalists, two disability coordinators, a businessman/hunter, an extra bus driver, and Sarah and myself. I believe this team was hand-picked by God. It was the best combination of people to get the job done. The team did an incredible job and defied the odds of defeat. They laid down their lives for a friend; they sacrificed their fall breaks to see this mission through.
The trail was extremely difficult. There were large rocks, dust, narrow trails with a canyon to fall into, if we slipped.
There were thousands of logs laid into the trail to prevent erosion. These formed stair steps that at times had to be maneuvered both descending and ascending the trail. These could be as high as one foot or one inch; either way, the TrailRider had to be lifted over them.
With each passing hour, as fatigue began to set in, it added intensity to the hike.
We started at 5:30 a.m. It was 35 degrees (Farhenheit). We traveled down the trail 4.5 miles. That took us seven hours. Though we turned around before reaching the bottom, in my opinion, it didn’t diminish our statement. Sarah still made history; no other disabled person had ever been down the trail even that far.
The view was spectacular. It was the most gorgeous and majestic view I have ever seen in my life. Nothing can compare to its grandeur. We saw a sunrise and a sunset in the canyon. We got to see the moon cast shadows on those tall towering canyon walls. After 13 hours in the canyon, Sarah was still asking us to take pictures of the view we were experiencing. It was her way of saying how she was still enjoying the hike. Sarah kept a smile on her face the whole time.
We shared the trail with mule trains, and with people from all over the world. The age range of the hikers went from about 10 to mid-70s, maybe older, hiking anywhere from one mile to 26. We even met people from Trimble County.
In my humble opinion, this was history. Sarah was also an inspiration to other hikers. She was brave enough to take a chance and try. She gained the respect of fellow hikers, who would stop and shake her hand or take her picture.
Together, Sarah and the team completed what was considered an impossible task. Of course, now we know it is not impossible. Sarah made a statement to others with disabilities, and inspired those without disabilities.
I know, because she inspired me. Before we started talking about this trip, I had no desire to go out west. It was too far. Pictures I saw from others I know who went to the Grand Canyon (none of whom hiked it) didn’t do it justice; they just said, “Yeah, it’s a big hole in the ground.”
But there is so much more there! And I never would have made the effort, if Sarah had not wanted to go.
Now, I know there are big, beautiful trees and grass growing in the bottom of the canyon. I know the mules that take visitors to the bottom are huge. I learned that the squirrels are spotted there. I learned the dust is red. I learned that the moon casts shadows on the walls at night that are absolutely breathtaking. I learned my cell phone picks up four miles into the canyon, when at home it drops calls at Butler Hill.
Thank you to those who made this possible. Camp Kysoc, the First Baptist Church of Carrollton and the Carrollton Christian Church were all wonderful in helping to organize this. Thanks to everyone for donations, prayers and words of encouragement that helped to make this trip a success. Thanks to the team for their faith and stamina.
I hope Sarah will inspire people in this community to try things they have never tried before. Don’t let obstacles discourage you. Enjoy life. Do things, even if they seem impossible. This trip turned out to be incredibly rewarding. It was an honor to be part of “The Grand Adventure.”
Beverly Service lives in Owen County with her children, Hannah, Daniel, Sarah and Amelia. She is a nurse at Baptist Hospital Northeast in La Grange, Ky.