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How Accessible Is Accessible: Sand Dune Arch

Photo by Randy Martinez ©2023

When I was in a wheelchair for 3 years, one of the things I really missed and wanted to do again, was walk on sand. For years I visualized myself walking towards the beach or in the desert towards the mountains, and imagined what the sand would feel like beneath my feet.

I remember the first time walking on sand again in Lake Tahoe! With every step, I cried tears of joy. I didn’t stop to think about the pain, because I didn’t want it to stop me from moving forward as I carefully made my way into the water. Some people may think that walking on sand is “Easy” or maybe people don’t really think about how your ankle rolls, or how your body moves with every step. Before my accident, I was one of those people who never really thought about what it takes to stand, walk, hike… but now that I live with disabilities, I’ll never take those things for granted ever again!

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

While visiting Arches National Park, one of the reasons I decided to do Sand Dune Arch, was because it is rated “Easy” on the park website, in the park brochure, and in the visitor guide. I wanted to learn for myself just how “Easy” this trail really is, what makes it “Easy” and if it is “Easy” for me.

Personally, I did not find this trail to be “Easy” nor is it wheelchair accessible. When using a wheelchair, I faced different obstacles with sand, but as this trail is not wheelchair accessible, and I did this trail standing on my own two feet, I'm going to focus on what I experienced doing this trail. I hope by sharing my journey, I’m able to bring awareness about some things that that could be improved on.

Trails should not be rated as being"Easy". Whenever I see trails being rated this way, again I have to ask: Who is rating these trails? Who is it “easy” for, and what makes it “easy”? My suggestion for the people writing about or rating trails, is to write informative detailed descriptions about the trails on the websites, brochures and in the visitor guides, rather than just putting labels such as “easy, moderate, or strenuous”.

Every BODYs ability is unique, and having access to information, so that we can all make decisions based on our own individual abilities, is part of what it really means to have an inclusive, and accessible world.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

The first part of the trail is mostly flat as you walk along a sandy, rocky path leading you to tall sandstone fins. It had rained recently, so I noticed some of the sandy areas seemed a little more compact, and the rocky areas were very slippery. Once you enter the area where the tall sandstone walls are, the trail gets extremely narrow! If you are claustrophobic, have a disability or injury… you may want to reconsider doing this trail! I had to carefully maneuver through the slot canyon, up and over sandy and slippery rocks.

Thankfully my man was there to assist me. You can not fit a wheelchair through this area, even if you could, it would be challenging reaching the arch on the other side, because once you reach the other side of the slot canyon, you have to hike thru deep sand, before reaching the secluded arch tucked away in sandstone rocks.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

This hike was challenging for me, but I’m really glad I was able to do this trail and share how my experience was. I made a video while hiking this trail, and you can watch it on tiktok here

If you’ve been following my journey in my blogs, than you may have already read about my experiences doing some of the other trails at Arches National Park. If not, you can read about what I’ve covered so far here:

Photography By Denise Vasquez ©2023

When writing about my project, I make sure to mention the FREE Lifetime ACCESS PASS every chance I get, because too many people that I've mentioned it to over the years, did not know about it! The ACCESS PASS is available to disabled people, you can learn about it in my blog here and inquire about it at the entry gate or at the visitor center.

I started my project four years ago while I was in a wheelchair, using rolling walker and from time to time I’m still using my walking sticks, because personally I’ve discovered while visiting the parks, that many places that are rated accessible or “Easy”, are usually not for me!

Rather than be discouraged, angry or frustrated, I’ve discovered over the years that sharing updated information not only helps me, other disabled or elderly people with limited mobility like me, it helps bring awareness to people working at the parks and on the trails.

How do I know, because many people at the parks have reached out to me over the years, have continued to consult me over the years, and have thanked me for what I’ve been doing over the years!

It takes a lot of time, money and energy for me to keep this project going, I have put my heart, soul and everything I have into it, and knowing that what I’ve been doing has been making a difference inspires me to keep it going.

✅ If you would like to support my project, by making a contribution, Pay what you can! Donations are accepted in any amount because any contribution is never too small! Donations help support my time, research, planning, travels, gas, accommodations, scouting, photography, memory cards, hard drives, content created & info shared in Captioned YouTube videos, blogs, instagram posts, tiktoks & so much more.

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