I had the immense privilege of a 2 night trip into the Kananaskis with my father (Big Al), and the dogs recently. We stayed at the William Watson Lodge, an accessible way to experience Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. There are cabins, campsites, a hut, a trailer, over 20 kilometers of paved walking paths, and picnic sites. They are all accessible! I was able to go for one big wheel down a ramp to a lookout, and back up again. That was my main adventure but I will be back to the Lodge again for more…
We stayed in the Ida Nelson cabin, which houses a maximum of 3 people. Dogs are allowed in some of the cabins. There are a few brand new cabins being constructed right now, and Al says they looked quite luxurious. I assume the older cabins are the ones designated as dog-friendly. To check in, my dad just went to the main lodge where they were expecting us. I stayed in the truck, and there were no problems checking in. The parking lot for cars is a bit far for me. They have a driveway to the cabins so people can be dropped off right at the door.
My dad did all of the work for the trip, from packing to driving to cooking to cleaning to dog walking to unpacking. His full-time assistance was essential to making the trip possible. I think I said thanks about a few dozen times. Al also had to comfort the dogs because they weren’t too sure what was going on. My mom, Tobe had to be in Toronto for my Bubbie. So there was quite a bit of stress floating around the house, then Tobe left, my Bubbie passed away, and then we “moved” out to a small cabin. It was quite a whirlwind of a time actually.
It was thoroughly enjoyable to get a change of scenery, and for that scenery to be the Kananaskis. Thanks to this trip, I achieved some personal goals as well. There were some things that made these goals possible.
I am less fearful of my proximity to others. This allowed me to share the back seat with both dogs on the car ride, and interact more or less normally with a nice man and his little dog. I was also able to live in a small space for 3 days with my dad and my dogs without much stress. That is certainly a positive change.
I am less vibration sensitive, so I was able to use a wheelchair on pavement, a very bumpy surface that still triggers exceptional amounts of pain for me. I was able to go down to a platform, look out at Mount Indefatigable, calm my body down, and hang out for a bit. I made it back up the ramp by myself as well. Being less vibration sensitive also allowed me to know I could make the ride out and back. I used to have to space out things like outings/ car rides by a few days otherwise I would become flared up. In the cabin itself, there were loads of vibrations as well. There was a time where I would have had to leave because of that.
I am less fearful in general of things I can’t control. My body doesn’t go on high alert when people walk by me now. Not like before anyway. I’ve been able to accept more the danger of other people causing me pain, because for me even the brush of someone’s hand at the wrong time can floor me. I’ve trained myself through exposure to sort of get used to this. I still have a ways to go, but the good thing is there are no shortages of public places where I can train myself to be around people.
I am less sound sensitive as well. I needed quiet very often at the beginning. I am so glad this has changed, because as I have mentioned before I can listen to music again! The radio was even on for part of the ride back.
I am better at knowing what I need, and asking for help when I need it. I’m less self-conscious and guilty about needing help. I’m even better at pacing myself to avoid a flare up.
The last couple of years has seemed like my successes get further and further apart. From my perspective I think it’s hard not to feel that way, when I still feel trapped in a body that oozes pain and sucks up my mobility. It’s not that often I get to say “I did it” full stop. I do my best to count my gains and celebrate them, but there still seems to be a lot of things I can’t even think of doing.
None of the trip was easy, though I did better than I thought. Unfortunately pain is with me all the time no matter what, so there were still parts of the trip that were very hard. My goals for this trip were: to not spend the whole time crying because of a pain flare, to wheel down a trail at least once, and also to try and enjoy myself as much as possible. I accomplished these goals, and the takeaway is that I did it. I did it with loads of help and support, but I did the damn thing.
I DID IT. And it feels fucking great.
If you are interested in the William Watson Lodge, check out the links below. There are some criteria that must be met to reserve spaces there. The rates are very reasonable at about $30 a night for a cabin. I strongly encourage you to make a donation to the William Watson Lodge Society if you like what they are doing and can afford it. Guests of this lodge are without a doubt paying below cost. It is a truly amazing resource for people like me to get out again. There are quite a few pictures to check out on the Lodge Society site.
Please keep in mind I am not any type of photographer. I included some pictures because I want people who are considering going to the William Watson Lodge to get a little preview. Also, smiles and dogs. Everyone needs more smiles and dogs!