As one of the approximately 12,000 people in the USA with Fibromyalgia, I can personally attest to the need for accessible places. Most of the time, I'm pretty able-bodied and can get around fine, but not everyone is, and frankly, when my symptoms start acting up fatigue and muscle weakness become very serious issues, and my abilities to walk, carry things, etc. need to be ascertained/addressed from moment to moment in times like this. Now for me, walking isn't always easy or reliable when my symptoms flare, but staying home and binging Netflix isn't always what you want to do (or the healthy choice). Having accessible places that you know you can go is really important when you may not necessarily be as able-bodied as other people or don't know how you'll feel from one moment to the next, and fun fact: not knowing places that are accessible for you can be SUPER depressing.
Now personally, I love nature. I love a garden, a nature walk, a hike, etc- but these types of places are not always great when you're symptoms are flaring, walking is difficult, or if you rely on a mobility aid- which is, as you can imagine, just a total bummer (to put it lightly). Now, being a Star Wars fan, I wanted to see where they filmed Endor, so I definitely wanted to go to Muir Woods, a national park about an hour away from me, so you can imagine how happy I was when I saw that Muir Woods was totally wheelchair accessible as they had a boardwalk path serving as the main path of the park.
This meant, no matter how I was feeling, I could enjoy a pretty epic National Park- and this isn't always the case, so I was super stoked! Gardens, a lot of the time, will have some paved/firm paths, lots of benches and fairly close parking, but nature reserves/national parks and hiking trails are not always the most welcome let alone the safest choice when you're flaring or don't know how you'll feel from one moment to the next but NEED to get out of the house, and a set-up like this park had totally gave me the warm and fuzzies.
I’m happy to report that Muir Woods not only has a boardwalk-like path (that goes farther than I could go on a good day!), so if you have a mobility aid or are have difficulties walking, it's easy to get around, but there are also a lot of benches scattered about so if you need to stop and rest you can, which means that you are able to see a lot of the park.
For me, the best part about it all was that the set up felt naturally inclusive, not like, "here is one path for you, and everyone else gets the rest of park," which was HUGE! (Side note/hot tip: being pushed to the side, feeling like an after-thought, and only given partial access to places/things doesn't do anything to make us feel welcome or good about ourselves.) I mean, yes, there are several break-away paths that are not mobility-aid or high symptom day friendly, but they felt more like an add-on experiences than a main feature which helps more than I think a lot of people realize. There is even a cafe where you can get food/water/rest if you need to.
Long story short: if you’re a nature enthusiast and in the Bay Area of CA, I’d recommend a visit for sure, and you can bring pretty much anyone from newborns to geriatrics and everyone in-between!
If you have a favorite accessible place to go, share it with us in the comments!
-FSC Founder and Fabulous Fibro-Fighter-