Just Taylor doesn’t like to be told “You can’t.” After enduring two failed knee replacement surgeries and more than two years of mobility challenges and pain, the Phoenix hiker had to make a difficult decision. “My options were to fuse my leg straight, or do another revision and forever give up my active lifestyle, or elect amputation. I elected to amputate.”
Last July, Taylor’s left leg was removed from above the knee. The process was an emotional roller coaster, but Taylor was determined to get back on the trail.
With the help of twice-weekly physical therapy sessions and the support of her partner, Samantha Nickel, Taylor climbed into her wheelchair and began exploring the Mogollon Rim’s Rim Lakes Vista Trail – a “barrier-free” path with no impediments to deter physically challenged hikers. “It was so different, and it felt good to feel alive,” the former certified nurse aide says of her first wheeled adventure.
Now Taylor is being fitted for a high-tech “smart leg” prosthetic that will enable her to hike upright again. “I’m sure there will be some learning curves. However, there’s a freedom most won’t understand, unless they live with or have lived with chronic pain. I’m ready to do this.”
Taylor’s altered body hasn’t deterred her goal to be walking by Nickel’s graduation from Arizona State University next year, and to attempt the Half Dome at Yosemite. “We all need to have realistic goals, but dreaming big is good for my soul.”
Valley-area barrier-free trails include:
Jane Rau Trail – McDowell Sonoran Preserve, scottsdaleaz.gov/preserve
Judith Tunell Accessible Trail – South Mountain Park, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/south-mountain
Skip Rimsza Paseo – Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/sonoran-preserve