A Man, A Woman and an Accessible Wilderness Lodge

Dan and Judy Bauer with Candy Harrington at the future site of the Accessible Wilderness Society lodge and campground.

Dan Bauer has a dream – an inclusive wilderness facility with barrier-free campsites, yurts and even a rustic lodge. And until he met his wife Judy that’s all it was – a dream. Says Judy, “I’m a action kind of person, so I told Dan that he either had to start working to make his dream happen, or stop talking about it and move on.” Says Dan, “And since there’s no way I could stop talking about it, I had to get moving and take some action.” And so The Accessible Wilderness Society was born.

Truth be told, Dan is more at home in a kayak than at a business dinner, but he sucked it up, put on a suit and started networking. Call it kismet or karma or just good timing, but soon he had land on Roberts Lake on Vancouver Island for his wilderness lodge. Today he’s working on his three-to-five year plan and hopes to have phase one of his dream — the accessible campground component — completed in time for the 2014 summer season.

The campground will include campsites, yurts and of course the infrastructure – all built using the principles of universal design, so everybody can enjoy it. Not only will the campsites be accessible, but valet service (to haul your gear to your campsite) will also be available.

Make no mistake though, this project won’t be a special camp only for disabled people – it will truly be for everybody. “It’s going to be a wilderness lodge with lots of outdoor activities first. Accessibility will be just one of its features. The focus will be on inclusion, not segregation” explains Dan.

When completed the project will boast a 16-room lodge, six cabins and 20 campsites (including some yurts); and offer accessible kayaking, fishing, sailing and adventure tours. And since the focus is on independence for people with disabilities, the Accessible Wilderness facility will also be energy independent, with wind solar and micro-hydro power.

“The Accessible Wilderness Society is all about what you can do,” says Dan. “Too often post-injury we focus on what we can’t do any more, and that’s just not healthy. My payment will be seeing folks — who (like me) were told they can no longer be active and enjoy the outdoors — roll off the pontoon boat, fish in hand with big grins on their faces.” “That,” he added, “will make it all worthwhile.”

Kudos to Dan and Judy for forging the way for a more accessible wilderness experience. Hopefully this will be the first of many accessible lodges across the country, and even around the world.

Stay tuned for the grand opening of phase one next year – Charles and I will be there with bells on!