The task ahead of me was monumental, some might even say epic. The challenge? Descend a near vertical cliff face through clutching mud in blistering rain, the trail dangerously exposed, before traversing miles of devastatingly slick boulders to reach the final goal of my pilgrimage: the shores of the Pacific ocean. Well, at least that’s what a short quarter-mile hike in a light drizzle down a trail at Olympic National Park felt like to me, a seriously gimpy dude with multiple sclerosis.
The park rangers suggested Ruby Beach had the easiest access for someone who is handicapped—“it might even be accessible for someone who was pretty good with a wheelchair” they intoned. I guess by “pretty good” they meant a Paralympian with tree-trunk arms and no fear since there were many, many steps. So, possible, yes. Realistic? Hahahaha.
But I like a challenge. I was pretty sure I could make it down with my forearm crutches, I told Laura. She nodded.
“I’m sure you can make it down, too. I’m just worried about the whole ‘up’ part.”
She did have a point. When I bonk, I really bonk and need rest… a lot of rest. This hike, a total of a half mile, could take hours. I figured, bah, there was a light breeze that easily carried any caution (and perhaps sanity) away.
The trail was a touch muddy, but not sloppy. The trail in places was a bit steep, but not steep steep. The stairs were many, but not too many. The pebbles on the beach were tricky, but not too tricky. Best of all there were places to rest all along the way—a bench, a rock, a perfectly placed log.
When I finally made it to the beach (and since you are reading this, made it back without the help of EMTs), it’s hard to relay my elation for such a small victory. I just sat there with Laura and took in the Pacific and all of its vastness as the afternoon unwound, the regular trappings of my disease the furthest thing from my present.
For some, small victories might elicit a shrug--remembering that coupon in your wallet to save you $1 off your kids’ Happy Meal or guessing the right TV channel in your hotel room on the first try. But small victories when you have a disability are just like big victories, only without the fanfare. And we have to celebrate them. Be proud of them, no matter how insignificant they may seem to an outsider. They all matter in their own way. We are all champions.