I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest. I have been heard regularly saying, “Oh that sounds nice but, correct me if I’m wrong, sounds like that’s an OUTSIDE thing” when someone’s brought up the outdoors and why I have to just have to go hiking someplace or to see some lake or even just go… there. However, for some reasons I won’t disclose (because work) and some others I will disclose in a sec I came across Syren Nagakyrie’s Instagram account @disabledhikers which led me to their website which led me to their guide. (ETA: Syren speaking with Powell’s Books in 2022.)
I cannot attest to the accuracy of their guide. Like I mentioned, I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest nor do I ::ahem:: hike… that is, yet. But this is a five-star book hands down. Not only did I have to buy it (for myself and also for work) but I had to read it and review it. Amplifying Syren, Disabled Hikers, and their guide is far more important than me putting on some Merrills and heading to “the outside.”
Some things: I have a very real chronic illness that will (likely) disable me. I have, in the meantime, invisible disabilities, rather, limitations that make things like hiking difficult. They make things like even standing outside in the direct sunlight dangerous. They make me afraid of the potential of passing out. They make me aware that what others – even the people who love me the most and know all about my limitations – judge as difficult or prohibitive isn’t accurate for me, no matter how thoughtful and considerate they are. If I had Syren’s guide for Colorado though? OMG. My eyes well with tears just thinking about it. The guide itself is a marvel of reference books. (Trust me, I’m a literal expert in this.) It is beautiful. It is thorough. It is full of maps and illustrations. It is detailed and thoughtful. Syren (they/them) literally guides readers through hikes. They give you distances in meaningful ways. They offer you descriptions of terrains. The difficulty of trails is measured in spoons. (If you aren’t chronically ill or disabled that may mean nothing to you. It means everything to us. It’s our language!)
Syren writes in the intro: While this book is written specifically for people who are disabled, chronically ill, or otherwise face access barriers to the outdoors, my hope is that non-disabled people will recognize the importance of the detailed, objective trail information. We all need information to decide whether or not to attempt a trail, and it should be easily available.
Please know that I will not stop until I am able to expand access to the outdoors for EVERY body in ALL our bodies. Syren’s guide is an inspiration for my work. It is inspiring me to find others like them. I have been a disability justice advocate for much longer than I’d ever be certain I’d been advocating for myself, really. I didn’t know. Had I not known, I still would make this commitment. If not for me, then for all the other people who maybe do like “the outside.”