News » Features

Wheels Down in the Wilderness

Four disabled children experience Idaho's backcountry for the first time

by

Page 5 of 5

Access to the Land

Corlett started the Wilderness Within Reach program almost three decades ago partially as a response to a group of people who insisted that airplanes do not belong in designated wilderness areas.

He saw it as an opportunity to make a point: If you take planes out of the backcountry, you're cutting off an entire population of people who could never experience Idaho's wilderness without them.

"The certain segment that didn't want airplanes here went on record saying, 'Well those people have other opportunities like public parks,'" Corlett said. "That really got me going because that's just ridiculous. This is a treasure back here."

There are around 75 backcountry airstrips in Idaho, more than any other state in the country. Without them, Sulphur Creek Ranch could never sell enough breakfasts to stay in business.

Through Wilderness Within Reach, Corlett has shown the backcountry to children and adults with disabilities as well as military veterans struggling to readjust after deployment.

"A couple of years ago, there was a veteran with us who had a stroke. He said he laid around a couple of years feeling sorry for himself, then got back to life and found the [Boise Parks and Rec] AdVenture program. Then he saw the Salmon River. He hadn't seen it in 30 or 40 years. He used to be a river guide," Corlett said. "He pulled me aside and he said, 'I never thought I would see this again. Thank you.'"

On the last night of the trip, the circle around the campfire slowly started to dwindle. Leslee and Joe took Alex and Ehnayah to bed. Corlett and the other pilots called it a night as well. Joan got tired and pulled on Emily, who wanted to stay by the fire. Joan asked her if she was sure. She was.

It was a big moment.

"When she wanted to stay up and hang around the campfire by herself, without me, it was great," Joan said. "I want my daughter to not want me around. ... I hope she finds friends like her and wants to go live in an apartment with modified help someday. I hope to see her out in the community. These sort of experiences, outside the family, that's what's going to get her to do those things."

The final morning at Sulphur Creek Ranch was filled with the sound of propellers and high-pitched engines. Each family climbed into separate planes and took off, leaving the backcountry behind.

Meghan Wildman sits under the spectacular sunset at Sulphur Creek Ranch, enjoying the 20 resident horses. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Meghan Wildman sits under the spectacular sunset at Sulphur Creek Ranch, enjoying the 20 resident horses.