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When her mother was immobilized by cancer of the spine, Helen Hecker learned about the difficulties of traveling with the physically challenged firsthand - compounded, she found, by a lack of helpful resources. Now Hecker, a registered nurse, is writing books for disabled travelers ("Travel for the Disabled," "Directory of Travel Agencies for the Disabled" and the recently released "Directory of Accessible Van Rentals") and runs the Disability Bookshop.

The Bookshop is a mail-order book service that stocks titles of interest to the disabled, including a wide variety of health topics. Hecker selects the titles for ease of use (whenever possible, the books have large type and lie flat), and the catalogue itself - containing more than two dozen travel-related titles - is comb-bound and is also available on two 90-minute cassette tapes .Hecker also runs the Traveling Nurses' Network-a free referral service matching disabled travelers with travel companions who are RNs, physical and occupational therapists and even MDs worldwide. For information: P.O. Box 129, Vancouver, Wash. 98666-0129, (206) 694-2462. For orders: (800) 637-2256.


Feathered Friends: There's more to Native American crafts than feathers, and there's more to featherwork than just North American headdresses. Just how much more is the subject of a new exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania's University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, "The Gift of Birds: Featherwork of Native South American Peoples."

More than 330 feathered objects are on view, from 31 South American native groups, some from the Amazon rain forest, such as the Cashinahua of eastern Peru and the Bororo of Brazil. Using brilliantly colored feathers from tropical birds, these include exquisite armbands and earrings - and headdresses - and ritual objects such as masks and rattles, from pre-Columbian times to the present. The exhibit looks at the distinct cultures of the Indians through their featherwork, and how the tradition lives on today.

"The Gift of Birds" will run until May 1994 at the museum at 33rd and Spruce streets in Philadelphia; hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Suggested donations are $4 for adults, $2 for seniors and students with ID, free for children 6 and younger. For more information call (215) 898-3447 (a recording) or (215) 898-4000.


Dogged Pursuits: Jeff Ulsamer's Dog Sled Adventures in Olney, Mont. - about 20 miles north of Whitefish - are as close as you may get to playing Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Ulsamer and his four-legged teams take riders gliding through the woods at the "speed of dog," which sounds a lot more romantic than snowmobiling, we think - bundled up in deer and elk furs and watching the winsome Montana woods whiz by. And those who've tried it say it's more exciting than some theme park thrillers.

Ulsamer learned the art of dog sledding when a badly broken leg forced him to give up skiing. He uses it as an opportunity to do some recycling of his own - adopting dogs from the pound and turning them into team players. When he finishes with them, the dogs know the way to carry the sleigh. A 10-mile loop through the Stillwater State Forest takes approximately two hours, depending on snow conditions, and costs $85 per couple. Reservations are required, and rides are offered through April, or as long as the snow's out. For information: Dog Sled Adventures, Box 34, Olney, Mont. 59927, (406) 881-2275.



Quebec City Winter Carnival, Quebec, Canada, Feb. 6-16.

38th Annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Society Show, Arizona, Feb. 12-16.

National Date Festival, Indio, Calif., Feb. 14-23.

Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 15.

Humana Festival of New American Plays, Louisville, Ky., Feb. 18-March 28.

Wintertales Storytelling Festival, Oklahoma City, Okla., Feb. 21-22.

Maymont Flower & Garden Show, Richmond, Va., Feb. 21-23.

Coffee Harvest Festival, Yauco, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, Feb. 29.