Envisioning barrier-free outdoor adventure

Local athlete paddles and hand cycles 250 kms for a documentary on accessible outdoor recreation.

Invermere’s Tanelle Bolt paddled and hand cycled 250 kilometres from Revelstoke to Nelson in early July as cameras rolled for a documentary which is tentatively titled What If?

She and Ethan Krueger, both adventurers with spinal cord injuries, took part in the intensive trek to showcase what is possible regardless of their physical abilities.

“What if there were no barriers?” Ms. Bolt asked. “How far could we go?”

Their friend Mike Riediger, who is the executive director of the Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association, came up with the idea for a documentary about the trip after seeing the barriers blocking those in wheelchairs from participating in things they would otherwise love to do and wishing that everyone could go wherever they pleased.

“It’s a bit of a letdown when you see obstacles in their way all the time,” he said. “Together we are looking to make an inspirational and realistic video showing adventure sport in the area.”

Ms. Bolt, who runs RAD Recreation Adaptive Society, said the documentary and partnership with the Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association is about “everything I’m pushing for: inclusion in the outdoors.”

The friends sought out a trip that would be “physically doable” for Ms. Bolt and Mr. Krueger with the help of their support team. While most of the trek was accessible, the adventurers came across barriers from a campground beach that was only reacheable on foot to narrow switchbacks that wouldn’t accommodate a hand-cycle bike to a barricade meant to stop ATVs that could also prevent those with adaptive equipment from using the trails.

“It’s accessible but you have to have the entourage,” she said, adding that the trip would have been twice as hard without help getting up the boat launches, setting up tents and navigating past man-made barriers.

One day Ms. Bolt hand cycled for 11 hours in the rain. Battling a headwind on the lake another day she needed to bail out her kayak six times. Other days were long and hot. A chunk of skin on her back wore away from paddling so much and she developed a pressure ulcer. But she persevered.

“How hard was it? I didn’t cry. It was alright,” she said. “It’s my idea of a vacation.”

Ms. Bolt hopes What If? will “make people aware that there are barriers and we need to start thinking about removing them.”

Mr. Riediger plans to release the documentary in the fall and intends to have a showing in Invermere. To see the trailer or donate to its production and distribution, visit the GoFundMe page for Adaptive Trek – West Kootenays.

“It was an epic adventure. It was tattoo worthy,” Ms. Bolt said, displaying her new ink of a nature scene with no barriers, just the sun shining down on a mountain, water and trees.

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