BEVERLY SHORES, Ind. — Almost 11 years to the day after he lost both his legs in an industrial accident, Jim Dolph once again hit the hiking trail.
“It was great. I never thought I’d be able to go through the woods on a trail again. I didn’t think it was possible,” Dolph said as he emerged from the Glenwood Dunes Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park on Sunday, July 28.
Before his accident, Dolph, a LaPorte, Ind. resident, was an avid hiker with 1,800 miles of the Appalachian Trail under his belt. Dolph was invited for Sunday’s hike by co-worker Pat Fisher, president of the Harbor Country Hikers who planned an outing emphasizing hiking with a physically disabled partner and the difficulty of maneuvering trails most consider easy.
During what he called “a fantastic experience,” Dolph was astride a Freedom Trax, an all-terrain motorized wheelchair attachment that is steered by a joystick. Park Ranger Kim Swift, chief of environmental education, was on hand to lead the way and explain the use of the Freedom Trax. The unit is available to check out on the Paul H. Douglas Trail in Miller Woods and is housed in the Douglas Center at 100 N. Lake St, Gary, Ind. Information is available by calling 219-395-1824.
By the end of the hike, Dolph said he was thinking of adding the Freedom Trax to his Christmas list, which he said was more comfortable going uphill than downhill, the same sensation as when he was learning to walk with his artificial legs.
Dolph was soon recounting some of his hiking adventures, a sport he began as a Boy Scout while camping at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. Keeping with his tradition, he made sure he wrote down the names of those joining him for his return to hiking.
“I like to keep a record of who you meet because you meet so many interesting people on the trail,” Dolph said.
Harbor Country Hikers events are open to all and children are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Membership ($20 for individuals or $30 for families) is encouraged. For weather cancellations, further information about HCH or to request a membership form, visit harborcountryhikers.com.