Accessible Country Heaven

By Dawn Ziegler ~

Locating accessible lodging can be a challenge.  Your options become even more limited when you are looking in rural settings away from the noise of city life and busy highways.  Dustin Palenshus was searching for just that.

Dustin grew up loving the outdoors… hunting, fishing, and camping are just some of the things he spent most of his time doing.  After a diving accident in 2007, which left him with a C6/7 spinal cord injury, his preference for the quiet outdoors didn’t change.

When Dustin wanted to take his family for a weekend vacation last summer, he had one thing in mind.  “I was searching for a cabin in northern Wisconsin that was out in the middle of nowhere,” he explained.  “Somewhere we could also build a fire and have access to some fishing.”

Besides the location, Dustin also needed a place to be accessible.  “The most important thing to me is to have a large roll-in shower and hard surface floors,” he described.  “I traveled to my hometown of Elkhorn, WI, and the hotel we stayed at was supposed to be accessible.  Well, it was NOT,” he recalled.  “We told the manager and they reimbursed us for the rental fee…  And yeah, it was that bad.”

That is when Dustin’s search led him to Rock Creek Disabled Outdoors (RCDO), a non-profit organization established in 1999 to provide recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.  RCDO organizes one of the largest disabled deer hunts in Wisconsin, along with other events and fundraisers.  A portion of the funds they raise goes towards maintaining the Sunset Pines Resort.

Located on 80 acres in the rural countryside of Willard, Wisconsin, Sunset Pines has three accessible barrier-free cabins, a stocked pond, and graveled nature trails through the resort’s 40-acre hardwood forest.  Designed by the late Dale Petkovsek, a C4/5 quadriplegic and the founding member of RCDO, every effort was taken to meet the needs of travelers with disabilities….

Read the full article in the July 2017 issue of Able Outdoors magazine. Subscribe today!