This is a guest post written by Enock Glidden, MTF Accessibility Ambassador, Public Speaker, Adaptive Athlete, and Adventurer. To learn more about Enock, please visit his website.
This year I am hoping to organize group or one-on-one hikes . I would love to interview other people with disabilities about their experiences in the outdoors. The more perspectives we can get the better the information will be and the more progress we can make.
Hey fellow hikers! I just did my first guided hike at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park. This was a joint effort between me and the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England. I don't remember if I have mentioned this in a previous post but I was born with Spina Bifida. This is why I use a wheelchair.
Before the big day I went to the park to do some reconnaissance and get a sense of what people might encounter on the trails. I wanted to make sure I knew ahead of time what to warn people about. I also wanted to know what to point out as highlights of this beautiful park.
The accessible trail is named the White Pines Trail. The trail is a half mile long and winds along the coast of Casco Bay. I started by the bathrooms just off the parking lot. The first accessible feature I came upon is a water fountain. The park really did seem to try to think of everything to make this place the most accessible it can be.
The White Pines Trail continues to the left. To the right, the Casco Bay Trail is also actually accessible all the way to the osprey nesting view point. There is an osprey nest across the water on Goggins Island. The day I did my research the osprey wasn't there, but like magic it showed up during the guided hike! I told everyone I called ahead to have them put it there - haha.
After we took pictures and hung out watching the osprey we continued back to the White Pines Trail, which follows along the coastline. There are a number of paintings by famous artists along the trail as well. We stopped and checked those out as we made our way around the trail.
There are a couple of well-made bridges from which hikers get a great view of the water and surrounding area.
Near the end of the White Pines Trail where it turns back toward the beginning, the North Loop Trail starts to the right. When I was by myself doing my reconnaissance, I decided to try this trail. I was hoping to give a non-accessible option for the families to try. I wanted them to see that there are more possibilities than a fully accessible trail with a little thought and effort. The North Loop has a lot of roots. It is so wide I was able to pick my path around them.
I ended up going a bit too far down the North Loop and had to crawl a short distance to get myself out of the mess I was in. I could see that boardwalk at the bottom of the hill but I couldn't see the steep hill on the other side. I went down the side of the trail to where I finally saw the steep hill. I decided there was no way I was doing that by myself. I had to turn around but I had gotten myself a bit stuck. I hopped out of my chair and crawled a few feet in the wet leaves back to the trail.
I eventually made my way back to the White Pines Trail. I decided I had to try to get at least one person in a chair to try part of the North Loop with me. I lucked out on the guided hike as there was a teen who was a lot like me. When I asked if anyone wanted to try a short part of the trail she instantly said "Me!"
Her father accompanied us as we did just a few hundred feet of the trail. As she was bombing over the roots I was explaining to her dad how I manage these types of trails. I think they will be trying a lot more trails in the future.
This is what I love about doing hikes with other wheelchair users. I get to see that moment when they find adventure and their face lights up. I wish I had gotten that in video or pictures. I hope to be able to do a lot more of this.
At the end of the hike we all gathered for lunch and I gave a little talk about our work at Maine Trail Finder. I handed out new stickers of the accessibility badge that can be earned on MTF. The families all said they had a great time and we are now planning more hikes for next year. I can’t wait to get more people out on trails.
The White Pines Trail is definitely accessible. I would also recommend taking the right on the Casco Bay Trail to check out the osprey nest while you are there. Wolfe's Neck Woods is one of the most accessible places in Maine. They really have thought of just about everything.
If you have a different type of mobility issue or a different disability and you visit this trail or others, please comment on this post and give us your feedback. The more knowledge we gather and share, the more people we can get outside using the trails of Maine!
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