So what do you get when you mix up three amputees into a group of well-experienced overlanders who want to show off the wonders of the outdoors? What happens when you promise a group some fun in the sun, splashing in creek crossings and fire-roasted hot dogs for lunch? Well you get a Disabled Explorers Ride-Along event and it was a blast.
Our first event was on a perfect day in Arizona, just enough of a breeze to keep the pre-summer heat at bay. We had a great turn out of drivers including our Long Distance Winner Jerry from San Diego (who is an amputee himself).
Other amputees included Michael from Mesa with his lovely wife Amy and Lance from Phoenix (not pictured).
The range of vehicles was equally diverse from Jeeps (including one with an amazing Adventure Trailer), to Toyaota Tacomas, FJ Cruisers and a classic 4Runner driven by prosthetics builder Gary, and even Overland Journal’s Brian M with his expedition slick Land Rover.
The group started the morning with some time for getting to know each other and looking over the various trucks outfitted with everything from roof top tents to laptop navigation to custom storage solutions.
Then a mandatory Tread Lightly Talk with reminder cards for everyone and a brief drivers meeting before firing up engines and radios to hit the highway toward Table Mesa.
Many in the group, including one amputee, were interested in hitting some geocaches along the way. This is a hobby of treasure seeking that uses GPS devices to add excitement to backcountry explorations. It also gave the group a chance to stop at a number of beautiful sites along the way. Jerry the amputee from San Diego remarked a number of times on the scenery in this area just north of Phoenix and how “I just love the variety in the desert; it is so different from Anza Borrego where I normally go”. Others commented on how the area had recovered from the fire of a few years ago. There were even a few wild flowers left from spring to see along the trail.
While this trail doesn’t offer any serious challenges to the experienced overlander, it does have enough interesting obstacles to help improve driving techniques, especially after the winter flash floods removed a section of the road.
Of course the water levels were low to none so close to summer but for desert dwellers any water is something exciting to see. This was also a good chance to talk about the importance of spotters to help guide you and how there is nothing wrong with asking for an extra set of eyes to point the way. In addition a good spotter will help lower your impact on the trail and often prevent costly damage to your vehicle and the trail.
Even with frequent stops for pictures and those ever elusive geocaches it was only a few hours before the group arrived at Seven Springs Campground. Handicap accessible restrooms, big shade trees, picnic tables and BBQ grills made for a great hot dog cookout. This also allowed the group to share experiences and talk about future trails for Disabled Explorers to travel.
After lunch was settled the group dispersed to different areas of town vowing to come together again in the future to offer passenger seats to those interested in using a 4wd to explore the backcountry.