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 My TrailRider story by david stratton

I grew up loving to hike or ramble or bushwalk – according to whether you favour the Canadian, British or Australian version of the language. In 1995 my wife Ros and I were rambling in England when she thought I was stumbling more than I ought and my MS was soon diagnosed.

As I dwindled, enjoying the last of my hiking life, the prospect of a life without wild places loomed and I was increasingly wheelchair bound.

Fast forward to 2009 and a visit to Vancouver. Our dear friend Donna threatened me with an outing on a TrailRider. I choose that word because the online videos terrified me. For sure my weight would be borne by the one fat wheelbarrow tyre but I would be completely dependent on the helpers (that we later decided to call ‘sherpas’) who would use the front and back handles to ease me along the track. I would be helpless.

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David Stratton enjoying getting into the great outdoors with the TrailRider

Ros urged me to give it a try. I did. After a few minutes I relaxed, surrendered into the care of my sherpas and experienced elation at being back where I could never imagined being.

The single wheel of the TrailRider weaves its way elegantly amongst the obstacles on a typical mountain track. Between two and four sherpas can combine their efforts according to the steepness. More can get involved if it gets really tricky. Anywhere the able bodied can walk, the disabled can TrailRide. It was a dream come true – a dream that I hadn’t even had.

Back in Australia we laminated Ros’ photos and took them to the Grampians, our closest ‘wild place’ and showed them to David Roberts, the head ranger at the national park. His face lit up. He immediately got the point and he knew who to talk to within Parks Victoria – John Kenwright. Not long before, Parks had launched their Healthy Parks, Healthy People program, that linked human well-being to that of National Parks. The TrailRider precisely fitted between natural wild places and the needs of the disabled.

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David getting back to nature.

Between Parks Victoria, John Kenwright, Ros and myself, there are now sixteen TrailRiders in Australia. Many of these are in Victoria’s Parks, but they can also be found in other States – Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia and in several Shire Visitor Centres in Victoria.

At every turn there are new TrailRider suggestions – mountain rescue, Green scripts from doctors, guiding Aboriginal Elders back to Country, more general rescues, special disability schools, disabled pupils in regular schools, commercial team-building exercises – gradually they are all being played out.

Two very particular innovations have been the addition of a battery and motor which eases steep slopes, as well as the Sherpa Volunteer Program helping to make push power available to the socially isolated rider.

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TrailRiding with a roo for company (in the background)

Online you can follow all the steps along the way at the TrailRider Tales blog here.

You can also see this story graphically told in Park Victoria’s 5 minute “Wild Places” video, which is linked here on the blog.

I’d like to thank David for writing this guest blog and for being the person (I keep saying, it just takes one person) with drive and determination to make things different for so many by approaching Parks Victoria. Thanks to Ros (David’s wife) for the lovely photos.

If you would like to read about BJ’s experience with the TrailRider head to my blog on our adventures here. 

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