Accessible campsite made trip possible after wife sprains ankle

Posted Feb. 01, 2012, at 6:44 p.m.

BOISE, Idaho — Many campers don’t realize the importance of accessible campgrounds or campsites until they have to use them.

My wife, Julie, recently suffered an upper ankle sprain and torn ligaments, and now she is using crutches, a wheelchair and knee scooter to get around while her leg is in a cast.

It wasn’t a skiing accident. It was a fishing accident. OK, let me explain. It can happen.

We were steelhead fishing in the Salmon River when I hooked a fish and started reeling it in.

Julie sprang out of the front seat of the drift boat and jumped across the ice chest to get the net. We really get excited when we hook into a steelhead.

There was still frozen rain on the cooler, and her foot slipped off the cooler and hit the floor of the boat the wrong way.

She knew something was seriously wrong, and we got the boat to shore, packed up camp and headed to the hospital.

Oh, by the way, it was a bull trout, and I had to release it. After all the trouble, there would be no steelhead fillets in the freezer.

Julie’s injury hasn’t stopped us from camping. We camped at the Slate Creek Campground between White Bird and Riggins, Idaho.

Although fishing was slower in that part of the river, we picked the area because of the accessible campground.

We could have fished upriver from Riggins where fishing was better, but most of the camping areas are undeveloped, and moving a wheelchair across sand, and river rock can be pretty difficult.

The Slate Creek Campground was recently refurbished by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and crews did a really good job.

We’ve camped there before, prior to the new facilities, so we know how well the campground was improved.

We took the accessible campsite, which was paved and had a shelter with concrete pathways around the picnic table. We have a temporary disabled parking permit while her injury heals.

When you’re in a wheelchair or on crutches, you see firsthand the value of accessible facilities.

The campsite has concrete pathways to the grill, fire pit, garbage can and also the water spigot, which was pressurized and not operated by a hand pump.

The pathways made it easy to use the picnic table or sit by the fire pit in a wheelchair. The paved pathway to the restroom also proved to be convenient for wheelchair access. And another thing, the campground and restrooms are kept very clean.

OK, the point is, many able-bodied campers and outdoors folks probably wonder why agencies go to all the trouble to make access improvements. Well, it makes an incredible difference in the lives of the elderly, injured or those with a disability.

Thanks, BLM.

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