By Corey Kunes
Photos by Daring Adventures
A massive blue sky, clustered with mashed potato clouds that look so close you could reach your spoon out and take a bite. The smell of fresh air and pine trees permeating with every deep breath. Steady breezes pass through the needles and leaves, bringing peaceful thoughts. And of course, a crackling fire warms familiar faces to an almost demonic orange glow.
These are experiences that anyone fortunate enough to explore Northern Arizona’s backcountry can relate to fondly, and most would agree everyone has the right to enjoy. For some people, there are just a few more challenges to overcome to get there.
Maria Favela came to Daring Adventures this July with the urge to explore that all adventurers share. She came across a flier for a backpacking trip to the Mogollon Rim during one of her workout days at the Ability360 Sports& Fitness Center. For her, this was an opportunity of a lifetime; at 35 years old, Maria had never gone camping or even experienced a campfire. Her diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy required her to use a wheelchair for most of her getting-around needs. Thanks to the Safari Chair, a modified wheelchair capable of traversing the rugged terrain on a backwoods trail, Daring Adventures was able to provide this experience for Maria.
Even with the benefits of the Safari Chair and essential equipment provided by Daring Adventures, Maria was still understandably nervous as the trip date approached. “I didn’t really know what to expect” she related afterward. “I had never done something like this before and didn’t want something bad to happen.” After the orientation, she started feeling a little better as she was able to meet the staff, volunteers and participants attending the three-day excursion. Her thoughts turned more to “what type of food do I want to bring?” and “who are these crazy people who are willing to pull me through the forest?”!
The day finally came for the trip, and Maria was the first one to arrive. She had everything she needed: a packed bag; lots of food and water; and an unforgettable smile. A few hours later as we turned onto the forest road and reached the trailhead, Maria thought to herself, “I can’t believe I am doing this!” The fear was gone; the only thing left was the beautiful sights, sounds and smells of the Mogollon Rim. Maria spent the next three days enjoying everything as much as possible, always with her trademark smile.
“The hardest part of the trip was that it came to an end,” Maria shared, “but everything has a beginning and end.” For her, the most memorable part of the trip was all the care that she received and the way everyone came together. Maria had these words of advice for anyone else who was nervous about being able to do a trip: “Just go for it. Now I know there are no limitations!”
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call (585) 474-2793. For more information, visit our website at www.daring-adventures.org
Corey Kunes is a program coordinator for Daring Adventures and a recent graduate of the Therapeutic Recreation Program at ASU.