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Three amazing girls, three wheelchairs, three feeding tubes, three communications devices and an incredible spirit of adventure!
By Jen Mendenhall

We went camping at Ridgway State Park (RSP) in Ridgway, CO. We chose to go there because of its accessibility options. Ridgway is located about 1 1/2 hours from where we live in Grand Junction, CO. We had two sites, one was an accessible yurt and the other was a tent campsite. A yurt is a traditional portable dwelling used by many cultures in the world but primarily in Mongolia. A yurt is a round wooden structure with a canvas outer lining. It has a domed ceiling with a skylight. 

RSP has been working with the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program to improve its accessibility.  Three state parks in Colorado, including RSP, purchased Action Trackchairs, wheelchairs for people with disabilities to use on hardened and off-road trails. The Park also has big wheeled wheelchairs for the beach and water access. It was a bit too cold and the lake levels were too low for us to try those out. 

We went as a group of three families (moms and daughters) to take our girls camping. We had originally wanted to road trip to San Diego but thought we would start with an adventure closer to home for our first trip. My partner and the girl’s Special Education teacher braved the all girls trip with us too!

All three girls have significant support needs and Codi’s friends Bella and Carol-Lynn hadn’t been camping before. So we had three girls (16, 10, 9 years old), technically considered non- verbal who use communications devices, three wheelchairs, three gastrostomy tubes (g tubes) and many supplies for a two night excursion into the woods! It was an incredible experience!  

The first night Codi and I slept in our tent. The second night all of us slept in the yurt because the girls wanted to have a sleepover. There were lots of giggles, reading of stories and feeling free from all of their medical worries! 

The campsites and campground were very comfortable and easy to get around. We did a scavenger hunt around the campground. There were shower houses and very accessible bathrooms close to our campsites. We cooked our meals on a propane stove. The yurt did have electricity/refrigerator which was good for all of the meds and feeding tube supplies. We spent all of our time outside except for sleeping! The fresh air was wonderful for all of us!  

All of the girls experienced the Action Trackchair! It did have a companion control so if they needed help driving it someone else could help out. A park ranger came with us to teach us about the chair and the trails. The dirt trails were awesome for the Trackchair but the rest of us had a workout pushing the manual chairs!  

Ridgway is at the base of the beautiful San Juan Mountains, which many songs have been written about, and many movies have been filmed in the area. We went to Ouray Hot Springs for one afternoon to get ice cream. Ouray has a one million gallon hot springs pool which we didn’t go to that day, but Codi has soaked in it.  It was wonderful to see the shocked and pleased reactions we received from people as we rolled around a very hilly and not very accessible small mountain town. We will be back!  The next week all the girls went on a field trip with their school to the Glenwood Adventure Park and rode a roller coaster! We love having adventures and giving our girls the best lives possible. 

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