An eMagazine about wheelchair-accessible events, sports & locations in Arizona

Off Roading in Arizona – Adaptive Style

Disabled Explorers

Back in the day I used to poke around Arizona in a CJ5 Jeep.  It got me eveywhere including many trips into the Tonto National Forest which is the area north of Phoenix.  A favorite spot for us was Sheep’s Bridge which crosses the Verde River.  Its a rugged road that requires plenty of ground clearance.  You can make in with a 2×4, but for real exploring, having 4 wheel drive comes in handy.

So when I bumped into Lance Blair, who founded Disabled Explorers (, and learned about its goal to get PwDs back into enjoying nature and exploring the outdoors, I hit him up for a ride back out to Sheeps Crossing.  Lance had not been back there in 20+ years as well so we agreed to make a day trip from our homes in Phoenix.

Disabled Explorers owns a pretty impressive full-size 4×4 Ford van. Last year Lance worked with Sportsmobile to outfit the van for off-roading and to include adaptive equipment for people in wheelchairs, etc.  Its definitely a well-built rig.  We put it through about 100 miles of pretty aggressive driving. The van is comfortable on the highway, bouncing down a dirt trail, and in the mud and sand.  The vehicle has a power wheelchair lift, and two captain seats that swivel for easier transfers. In back there’s a fold-out sofa, refrigerator and sink.  The van has hand controls, but for this trip I rode shotgun and snapped the photos.

Sheeps Crossing is by no means an accessible destination.  The foot bridge itself is ok, but the landings aren’t too easy to traverse, and there is sand and rocks most everywhere.  I crossed the bridge and enjoyed a great view.  Lance makes for a good guide. He’s been exploring Arizona for many years and has a good understanding of offroad equipment and adaptive technology.  He also works in the medical field as an RN, which makes such trips more safe for those who are beginning to explore nature with a disability.

Disabled Explorers has one basic mission. That is to expose people with disabilities to all the great places we have to see in and around Arizona and the southwest.  There isn’t too much required to get involved.  Step one is to contact the group and come up with a plan. Step two is to just do it, and finally the last step is to pay it forward and find someone else who would benefit from the experience.

Lance and team are pretty easy to find.  He and his adaptive off-road toys can be found at many outdoors and disability-related expos, conferences and events.

Forest Service Info About Sheeps Crossing (link)

The foot bridge is about 36" wide. Pretty easy for wheelchairs.

Trecker's lunchLance and I crossed the bridge to the east side.  The van is in the background.

It was a good day trip.  Plenty to write about. Plenty to reflect on . . . . . . . .

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5 Responses »

  1. Great article! Looks like a fun place to go with or without that amazing vehicle.

  2. Jene, I thought you got hauled off or something. It is a very cool truck. Hang on tight ‘cuz Lance drives it like he stole it! We have been cooking up a quad camping excursion. Hollar if you want to quadticipate.

  3. I have a 2 wheel drive Titan, will it make it? also, I walk with a wheeled walker, can I get around up there with this? Thanks….I really hope to be able to explore. Thanks,Brian Johnson

  4. Yes, baring bad weather you should be fine in 2WD. Is the walker 2 or 4WD? 😉 Id say it depends mostly on your balance. There is sand at the shoreline but plenty of gravel paths.


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Accessing Arizona is primarily designed for people who are looking for wheelchair accessible events, locations and activities. If you have paralysis (paraplegic or quadriplegic), Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Bifida, or if you are an amputee, Accessing Arizona has information about an active lifestyle.
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