DUSTIN BERG GREW UP HIKING, HUNTING, CAMPING, AND SKIING throughout New Mexico. After a 2003 motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, everything in his life changed—except for his love of the outdoors. Berg spent much of his months-long recovery in the hospital talking to Robyn Simms, another spinal cord injury survivor, about their shared passion. Soon, he was adapting to life in a wheelchair and melding it with his desire to explore the outdoors by fly-fishing from riverbanks and navigating downed trees while hunting elk in the Gila National Forest. A Rio Rancho resident, he founded Global Opportunities Unlimited in 2005 to help others access those experiences, starting with fishing trips for kids and expanding to include a fleet of hand-pedaled mountain bikes and a drift boat for fishing the San Juan River. In February, Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy organization, recognized his efforts with its Pathfinder Award.
GROWING UP, my friends and I would ride our bikes down to the river and go fishing or do a bunch of mountain biking after school.
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE. The only time we were inside was while eating dinner and doing homework.
ABOUT A YEAR AFTER I GOT OUT OF THE HOSPITAL, Robyn invited me on a birthday trip up to her family’s ranch, by Chama.
I DIDN’T KNOW how I’d be able to get around, but I just said, “Let’s go find out.”
IT WAS REALLY THE FIRST TIME where I got back in my element.
THERE ARE HERDS OF ELK out there in this beautiful high-mountain country. We went and did some fishing on the Brazos River. That reignited my passion for doing those things.
I JUST MADE THE DECISION that I don’t have to give up. I don’t have to give those things away. I can still figure out how to enjoy them and adapt them to my situation.
I WAS GOING TO A SPINAL CORD INJURY SUPPORT GROUP and realized there were a lot of us longing for that outdoor activity. I decided I was going to do something about it.
I GOT TO GO DOWN to the Gila, close to where I hunted with my dad. We were camped out on the edge of this meadow, and the elk would come out into the meadows at night. They’d be bugling and fighting.
ELK ARE SMART. They’re tricky to get close to, so it was challenging with my wheelchair, but after four days, it all aligned, and I was able to harvest a nice little bull elk.
COMPANIES ARE CREATING these three-wheeled hand-cycles with suspension. They’re operated with your arms. You don’t have to have lower-limb mobility, and these things are enabling us to go ride the mountain bike trails in the foothills of the Sandías.
THAT’S SOMETHING I REALLY ENJOY these days. I’ve got a 15-year-old son, and he and I can go ride mountain bikes together. It’s fantastic. That gives us something physical that we can do together. It’s just liberating because you leave the paved path.
THAT’S MY FAVORITE place to be.
YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL what you can control. What we can control is our effort to adapt and our determination. Then when we run into an obstacle, or a challenge, we can control whether we just give up or if we try to figure out how to overcome this challenge.