By Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director, National Park Service
In 1982, I was a young ranger at Guadalupe Mountains National Park when members of Paraplegics on Independent Nature Trips (POINT) arrived in the park to hike the popular – and strenuous – Guadalupe Peak Trail. Three members of the group, Donny, Joe and Dave, made it to the top, undeterred by naysayers, or by those who turned back early, or by the conditions on the hot, rocky trail that ends at the highest point in Texas.
Their trek took five days, not the customary three hours, and they stayed focused throughout, helping each other achieve their goal. I will always remember that truly glorious moment when they reached the summit; I keep only a few photos in my office from my 37-year-career in the National Park Service, one is of these amazing adventurers.
Getting to know these men was one of the most profound experiences of my life. At their base camp in the Pine Springs Campground, they encouraged me to get into one of their wheelchairs and see what it was like to maneuver through narrow spaces, over gravel and around obstacles. It made a lasting impact on me and inspired a lifetime commitment to improve accessibility in the parks.
Everyone should be able to enjoy America’s national parks, whether it is a leisurely tour along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park as Steve Wampler outlined in his blog entry or visiting the hallowed ground of a Civil War battlefield.
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