The Wonderful Balance Between Accessible and Acceptable



Grasping all the joy that can be found in between.

“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.” — Henry David Thoreau

I see my friends’ sadness and disappointment for me when they realize I can go no farther; whatever the obstacle may be. I smile and am so happy that I made it that far…..urging them to go enjoy that moment of which, I hope they know, I will live vicariously. I am already fulfilled simply by bringing them to these joyful places.

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And so I…or we…go…

I can’t imagine a more fine way to explore the Mount Tamalpais (just north of San Francisco) area for a night or two than headquartering out of Steep Ravine cabin number one.

The cabin, perfectly accessible, has the best view of the ocean, a wood-burning stove, big windows, a large table, prep area, grill outside, and room for five. Old, rustic, and solid. Bring plenty of warm clothes, blankets, binoculars, and your own wood; they do sell it there as well.


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Around the cabins and campground there is a short loop you can make in your wheelchair as the only “hiking” available. You can’t get down to the beach, but this is yet another one of those moments of having acceptance in our life of limited ability.


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Depending on how long you are going, and just how much you want to do, I’ll give you a busy itinerary and you can pick and choose.

Upon exiting the 101 at Sausalito, heading toward Mill Valley, there is the turn for Tennessee Valley Trail. If you have not gathered all your food, for the day or stay, be sure to head to the amazing health food market just up the road. Good Earth Natural Foods.


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At the parking lot and trail head of Tennessee Valley there is a place to picnic before, or after, the hike. This trail to the beach has some steep sections of the fire road, but definitely doable in a good power chair or anyone in a manual chair with strength, stamina, and some help.

There is a beautiful lagoon just before the beach where a blue heron posed near the reeds. The beach is not accessible, but that is completely acceptable(for me).


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Whether you attempt Tennessee Valley or not, you head up and over Mount Tam next; toward Muir Beach. When you arrive it may be a perfect time to have lunch at the Pelican Inn. One of the finer British pubs in all California, and a great place to meet up with friends and other hungry and thirsty hikers.


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Before you have a pint though, you might want to head on a stroll toward Green Gulch Zen Center. Just head south from the Pelican Inn parking lot on the trail; there will be an obvious left-hand turn to get you to the gardens and see how they grow their beautiful vegetables.


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You will be near the resting place of Shunryu Suzuki and Alan Watts. This is the respectful entrance to this peaceful community. Please make sure you remain quiet if you go through the gate.

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If you want to reserve a beach wheelchair at Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, or get one to take with you to other sites within Golden Gate National Recreation Area, you may make arrangements to pick up a chair at the headquarters building in Fort Mason, San Francisco Monday – Friday between 8:30am – 4:00pm.

I have not been to Muir Woods since they put in the reservation system, but this is where our limitations improve our accessibility. We do not have to take the trolley and there is plenty of wonderful parking right at the gate. The best piece of advice is reserve the latest entry you can. That way you may have the woods all to yourself before you absolutely have to leave.


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Thoreau’s Walden struck me deep. Above all else, remember this and you will “suck out all the marrow of life” —

“…..I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary…

…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…..if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” —Thoreau


Reservations are not easy to come by so keep checking often.

I am not sure if they still offer the 50% discount for those that carry the disabled discount pass, so check with them when you call.


  • The accessible 0.75-mile-long Verna Dunshee Trail at East Peak has fantastic views. Accessible tables, restrooms and drinking fountains are nearby.
  • Spectacular vistas may also be seen from an accessible 0.4-mile portion of the Old Mine Trail from Pantoll Station and 0.25 miles of the McKennan Trail.
  • Pantoll and Bootjack each have accessible camping, restrooms and parking.
  • Cabin #1 and environmental campsite #7 at Steep Ravine are accessible.
  • The Mountain Theater has a wheelchair platform on the right side of the theater. The Mountain Play Association offers signed performances and descriptive services during the first three play performances each season. For more information, call the Mountain Play Association at 415-383-1100.

View of Angel Island from Mountain Theater during Sound Summit:


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Ryan Voss

After college I got into the restaurant industry and lived in L.A. for five years, SF for four, Lake Tahoe five, Maui for a year and a half, Greece for a summer, Lithuania for a winter and spring, Santa Fe for four years, Napa for seven, and now Redding.

I've done everything on a "physical" level I've wanted, so now I counsel new injuries, write, do graphic design and still get into nature as often as possible. I volunteered in palliative care for a year before starting Mustard That Matters.

So it happened in Santa Fe(2005). I just finished a beautiful mountain bike ride with both my brothers and then we came upon a skateboard park. I dropped into it without having any clue how to do the transfer and flipped over on top of my head from about 10 feet. I immediately knew I had broken my neck and knew my life would change forever. Thankfully I had spent many years studying Buddhism and impermanence so I was immediately able to accept this new reality. I was never to move again, but after two months I finally moved my thumb. Spent another three months in rehab and regained some trunk control and a small amount of useable movement in my legs and arms. Just really glad that I can actually feed myself, drive, and be content with the limited physical ability.

It has been 14 years since the start of this amazing experience in adapting to, and living with, a spinal cord injury(C/5). There is a deep feeling of gratitude that runs through me in seeing the selfless, altruistic spirit in all those that have been a tremendous help and support in my recovery all the way down to the stranger that drops everything to open a door so I may proceed unobstructed. I've lived a grand life. It never ceases to amaze and impress me.

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