Living Well Takes an Adaptive Trip North
One of the best things about life in Minnesota is that we get to experience the great outdoors all year round. With 10,000 lakes to enjoy, miles and miles and miles of trails and waterways to explore, and a park system that is the envy of everyone who gets the chance to visit—we know we are lucky to live here. And perhaps at the top of the list of outdoor adventures is a trip to the Boundary Waters, to canoe when the water is flowing, and for winter sports when the lakes freeze.
This beautiful area is a playground for the active, and with its crystal-clear water, majestic conifers, abundant wildlife, and gorgeous views, it often feels more like a meditation than a destination. Accessible primarily by canoe, but walkable when ice is present, the Boundary Waters in northeast Minnesota is one of our country’s most exquisite outdoor destinations. The vast wilderness takes up 150 miles along the U.S.-Canada border and covers over one million acres, boasting over 1,100 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes. All of this makes the area incredibly popular, attracting more than 150,000 visitors annually. But anyone who has been to the Boundary Waters knows, to truly understand this incredible place, you must experience it for yourself. And at Living Well, we believe EVERYONE should get to partake in the beauty of this magical wilderness.
Which is why for almost two decades we have taken winter trips to the area, to show the people we serve that life is full of experiences, to help them find new things to get excited about, and to prove to them— and the world—that they can do anything with a little help and a lot of confidence. With that spirit of adventure and lots of warm clothes, in early January a Living Well group of 12 headed north to fully immerse themselves in the beauty that is the Boundary Waters. They hit the road for a five-hour road trip to experience a dog sledding adventure fit for the heartiest of Minnesotans. There were wheelchairs and adaptive devices, but more importantly, there was abundant enthusiasm.
In partnership with Wilderness Inquiry and Camp Menogyn, located off the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, our group of explorers were treated to the same adventures as anyone—just with staff helping to adapt the activities to fit various disabilities. There was dog sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, and dips in the water, as well as game play, shared meals, and smores by the fire. There was also an annual talent show, that is by far and away the biggest hit, for they feel the joy that comes with applause from a new group of people. The trip is both an opportunity to get out and experience life in a different way, as well as a chance for staff and the people we serve to be a part of something they might never have even dreamed of trying.
“For me, what makes trips like this special is seeing the joy on the faces of the individuals accomplishing something they wouldn’t normally get to do,” says Program Manager, Annette Ripley. “It changes their reality for a weekend, sometimes even just a day, and that feels special,” she adds. Ripley says going on a 45-minute hike and stretching their legs and abilities shows them what they can accomplish and how far they could travel in the snow. She says many like the freedom of being on a sled behind the dogs, and reports that smiles are a big part of the experience. It becomes clear in a hurry that it is important for people who are not around this type of thing, and never even knew they could ask for it, to get the chance to participate in these adventures.
Getaways like the one to Camp Menogyn provide a mini vacation from the monotony of the day-to-day activities during the long winter months, and we are grateful to provide access to enriching trips. Time away from home opens all of us up to new experiences, and as part of our mission of providing exceptional services for adults with disabilities, we cannot imagine a more refreshing way to break up the winter blues than spending time in the wild with friends.
Big thanks to our Living Well staff for making these trips possible, and to Camp Menogyn and Wilderness Inquiry for creating adaptive trips like this—allowing all people to lose themselves in the beauty that is the Boundary Waters. May we all eventually find ourselves under a beautiful moonlit sky surrounded by nature and friends.
“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson