Just like last week, this week’s topic comes from readers. I recently was asked in an email, “What kinds of local outdoor activities are possible for someone in a wheelchair?”
The good news is there are several options. It doesn’t matter whether you use a walker, cane or wheelchair. Or perhaps you simply don’t have as much energy as you used to or are a parent with small children and a stroller.
Here’s a list of fun things that involve the outdoors, learning, history and wildlife that anyone can enjoy. Although most trails are pretty rough, there are some that have been designed for easy access. Some of the best include:
Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park – An easy 1-mile route to the base of the falls.
Yosemite Valley Loop Trail – Twelve paved miles looping around the grandeur of Yosemite Valley.
Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park near Oakhurst – Three miles of unpaved but hard-surface trail that is passable in dry weather. Handicapped guests are also permitted to drive to the park’s lake.
Calaveras Big Trees North Grove – A 1.5-mile loop with a level surface of compact soil among giant trees.
Columns of the Giants – An easy half-mile round-trip route to an unusual geologic formation similar to the Devils Postpile.
Postpile National Monument at Mammoth Lakes – Located on Highway 108 between Sonora and Kennedy Meadows.
Eaton Trail, Woodward Park – Six paved miles along the San Joaquin River in Fresno.
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The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail – Located between Pacific Grove and Monterey, the trail is paved and offers miles of grand views.
McWay Falls – This half-mile paved loop provides great views of the falls as they crash onto one of Big Sur’s beaches.
Before you head out, contact the agency that manages the trail to make sure it suits your needs. National parks and all other federal recreation areas offer free lifetime access passes for all citizens or residents with permanent disabilities. The pass also provides a 50 percent discount on use fees for campgrounds, tours and interpretive activities. For information, go to http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.
Yosemite is probably the most accessible major local park. A detailed, 30-page accessibility guide is available on the Internet at http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/access.pdf. Campgrounds, lodging, picnic areas, visitor centers and museums and the shuttle bus are all accessible.
You can see a wide range of local wildlife at the Applegate Park Zoo, including secretive creatures like the mountain lion that are rarely seen in the wilderness. Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo offers the opportunity to see wild creatures from around the world. Call (559) 498-5910.
At the Merced and San Luis National Wildlife Refuges, ramps provide easy access to viewing platforms where elk and many bird species can be enjoyed, especially in the winter months. The visitor center at the San Luis refuge is also accessible. Some of the best viewing can be enjoyed from the windows of your vehicle as you travel the designated auto tour routes. For information, go to http://www.fws.gov/refuge/san_luis/ or call (209) 826-3508.
At the Moccasin Creek Trout Hatchery, you can see and feed schools of trout – including some very large ones. Bring quarters for the fish feed machine. For information, go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/fish/Hatcheries/Moccasin/.
Most local museums are accessible, including the Merced County Historical Society Museum, Castle Air Museum, the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County, Mariposa’s California State Mining and Mineral Museum, and the Mariposa Museum and History Center.
Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is accessible and a mobility lift is available for boarding the train. Special arrangements can be made by calling (209) 984-3953.
Living history events like this weekend’s Civil War Revisited in Fresno’s Kearney Park are a great way to get out and have fun while learning at the same time. One of the largest historic events west of the Mississippi, this event offers battle reenactments, historically accurate army camps, historical figures and food. For information, go to http://www.valleyhistory.org/index.php?c=112.