Go West!

And satisfy your inner adventurer

by Amy Madsen on January 1, 2008 - 2:43pm

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 1

In the depths of winter, people from the East Coast to the West begin thinking of ways to escape the house and office. If taking a vacation is on your to-do list this year, now’s the time to make plans.

So, what will it be — a whirlwind tour around a city, with bright lights and big entertainment? A week spent lounging on a ribbon of soft sand, soaking up sun and surf? Or maybe a gambling town like Vegas or Atlantic City, the tinny sound of coins jangling through the slots, a siren song calling your name?

Or … perhaps this is the year for an adventure.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association defines adventure travel as “any tourist activity including two of the following three components: a physical activity, a cultural exchange or interaction, and engagement with nature.” It’s a new take on vacation that’s gaining in popularity as people, including those with disabilities, look to do something different with their downtime.

Check out the following three destinations to spark your adventure ideas, and remember when making your plans: The sky’s the limit.

Wet and wild

If a marine adventure is what you’re after, consider a tour with Sea Wolf Adventures, based out of Elfin Cove, Alaska.

MV Sea Wolf
The MV Sea Wolf journeys to North Sandy Cove in Glacier Bay National Park, where travelers enjoy seeing spectacular scenery, wildlife wandering the beaches, and whales, sea lions, porpoises and seals navigating pristine waters.

The MV Sea Wolf started out as a U.S. Navy minesweeper in 1941. After a circuitous journey that included stints as a family’s private yacht and company entertainment vessel, the boat was refitted as an action adventure yacht.

The ocean-going vessel comfortably carries 12 passengers and six crewmembers on tours off the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state. Common sightings include glaciers and ice floes; eagles; porpoises; gray, humpback and Minke whales; sea lions; dolphins; seabirds; and bears.

“All of our clients need to have a sense of adventure, be flexible, and love the wilderness and learning about all that comprises that wilderness,” says naturalist Kimber Owen, owner of Sea Wolf Adventures. “We have fun kayaking and hiking and can offer alternative kayaks or activities at most times for those who cannot hike.”

Owen describes the accessibility modifications as “visitability versus ADA,” explaining that “ADA is nearly impossible in a retrofit.”

The Sea Wolf features three wheelchair-accessible rooms, side decks a minimum of 32 inches wide, and 32-inch-wide access doors with straight-in or 90-degree entry from the deck. Accessible bathrooms are equipped with roll-under sinks, shower benches, reachable shower controls and remote shower wands, and 17- to 19-inch-high toilets with space to the side for transfers. Lifts make kayaks and skiffs accessible, and there are wheelchair lifts to each deck suitable for chairs without an extended wheel in front. (A transfer chair is available for chairs that don’t fit.)

Descriptions of four-, six- and 10-day tours, and adventure dates can be seen online at www.seawolfadventures.net. For more information, call (907) 957-1438 or e-mail seawolfadventures@earthlink.net. Most book one year in advance.

The cat’s meow

To satisfy your taste for the exotic, experience the wonders of Africa at Safari West, a 400-acre wildlife preserve located near Santa Rosa, Calif.

Tour the grounds by foot, wheel or Jeep, where you’ll see the familiar — cheetahs, giraffes and zebras — and the not-so-familiar — Indian hornbills, blue wildebeests, bongo antelope, springbok, waterbucks and African spoonbills.

“A wheelchair generally can go along the whole of the walking tour,” says Safari West Director of Communications and Marketing Aphrodite Caserta. “Sometimes it can be difficult getting in and out of the aviary, but with a friend or staff assistance, it’s usually not a problem.”

Wheelchairs aren’t allowed on safari vehicles, but guests can ride in the front seat, with support from a caregiver if necessary.

Scimitar at Safari West
On a drive through the 12-acre Extreme Africa Exhibit, guests may observe ostriches, giraffes, gazelles, scimitar-horned oryxes (pictured), and other species of African antelope coexisting in an exotic savannah setting.

For a closer look, schedule an animal encounter where handlers present a selection of birds, reptiles and mammals. See spots with a cheetah presentation, or, if wine’s on your mind — you’ll be in the heart of California’s wine country, after all — combine the two and sign up for “Cheetah and Chardonnay.”

At night, you’ll be serenaded by the chirps and chatter of the preserve’s animal residents as you fall asleep in a traditional canvas African safari tent. Two of the 31 tents are wheelchair accessible with ramp access, roll-in showers with shower seats, and grab bars near the toilets.

The accessible tents are requested often, Caserta explains, so book a minimum of two weeks in advance.

You can find out more about Safari West online at www.safariwest.com, or by calling (800) 616-2695.

Everything under the sun

Kathy on Horse
Visitors to Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch may choose to ride in the desert or in an arena. A custom-built ramp makes mounting up easier for wheelchair users.

If the idea of a slower pace and connecting with the Old West appeals to you, give Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch a whirl. There you can relax and ride horses, or check out opportunities for fishing, rafting, hiking and even hot-air-ballooning nearby.

Inspired by their daughter, Amy, who has cerebral palsy, owners Dan and Carrie Rynders built the completely accessible, barrier-free ranch in 2000, in Yucca, Ariz.

The Rynders take accessibility seriously, and have created a place where people can enjoy a ranch experience regardless of their abilities. Stagecoach Trails features hydraulic lift access to the pool and hot tub, flat and level ground with no curbs or stairs, and a specially designed ramp to help guests with disabilities climb astride horses. The spacious guestrooms — all of which are accessible — are equipped with roll-in showers or ADA bathtubs, and fully ADA-compliant bathrooms.

“We’ve had an excellent response regarding our accessible features, and have hosted many individuals and groups with disabilities,” Carrie says. “They have been really pleased to find that we really are fully accessible and often return over and over again.”

Although lodging may be available on short notice, Carrie recommends booking reservations four to six months in advance; eight to 12 if you plan to visit during holidays.

Learn more about what Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch has to offer by visiting www.stgr.com or calling (866) 444-4471.

For more travel resources, click here  or contact your local MDA office (800-572-1717) and requesting a printed copy.

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