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.
UNION RIVER WALK
Hey fellow hikers! I have been trying to make it to Ellsworth to check out the Union River Walk Trail at the advice of the folks from Heart of Ellsworth. I ended up parking across the street in the public municipal parking lot. I would recommend parking behind the building across the street as there is a very steep hill getting down to the trail. The parking still needs to be improved to be considered accessible which is in the works.
This is a very short trail, about a quarter of a mile, but it takes you to a really beautiful view of the river. There is also a nice place to sit and just enjoy the river.
After hanging out at the Union River Trail, I had quite a bit of time left before sunset. I set off to find more trails and explore. I did have some in mind.
First I wanted to check out Indian Point Trail. On Maine Trail Finder the directions include a map in which you can click on the parking icon to get directions; in this case the directions were taking me to fire road. It looked like someone's driveway so I kept driving back and forth a few times to see if I missed it. I never did find what I thought would be the correct entrance. Of course now that I look at the written directions after the fact, I think I may know where it is. [Google is misleading for this location; accurate GPS coordinates for the trailhead have since been added to the trail listing.]
I moved on to my next choice. Actually my next choice was a random find, when I was driving back and forth looking for the Indian Point Trail I found Jordan Homestead Preserve. This is a very new trail system. I saw the sign and pulled into the parking lot. I figured I should check out MTF before trying to embark on this trail. The trail begins in a field before entering the woods. To the left of the trail in the fields, visitors can view a historic family cemetery and heritage garden. Once within the woods, the loop portion of the trail begins at a fork. To the right, the trail passes Whittaker Brook and winds down to the Union River, before looping back. The winding trail traverses bog bridging, stone staircases, and a wooden bridge, with a peaceful and secluded feel. You see that section in bold. Yup strike two. There was no way I was trying this one on my own. If I had someone with me I might have.
On to the next choice, Branch Lake Public Forest. I did know this one was moderate ahead of time but I still had to check it out just in case. This was another trail for which clicking the parking icon in the MTF map didn’t take me to quite the right place. But I knew where it was so I just kept driving past where Google maps told me to stop. The sign is very easy to see on ME-3. The parking is about a mile drive down an old logging road. The road is mostly smooth but there are rough areas to keep in mind. I made it to the parking area and found a gate that I couldn’t possibly get through or around. If you are counting, this is strike three!
I had one more place in my back pocket for this exact situation, Birdsacre Sanctuary / Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary. This is an amazing outdoor oasis in the middle of the shopping district in Ellsworth. It isn’t that far from all kinds of stores and restaurants but once you are there that all disappears.
First I checked out the accessible boardwalk. What an amazing spot. They did an excellent job constructing this short boardwalk. I think it is maybe a quarter of a mile long. I didn’t get an exact measurement. It doesn't pass through a beautiful section of woods and can be lengthened by taking the Pinkham Path back to the beginning. The Pinkham path is not accessible.
After checking out the boardwalk I went back to the parking area to explore the area more and see where other trails started.
I checked out the map to plan out my next trails. I also always take a picture of maps so that I have it with me just in case.
I decided I could try the red trail and then connect it with the Pinkham Path and the accessible trail. I made it to about number 19 as you can see on the map.
(Click map to view larger.)
It was definitely moderate and not accessible up to that point but it sure was a lot of fun! I had to turn around because I saw the dreaded bog bridge in the distance and there was definitely no way around it.
I did notice there was a connector trail not too far back from where I turned around. This would get me to the accessible trail.
The connector trail was similar to the red loop in the sense that it has lots of roots and obstacles to get around but it was just as fun too.
Once I made it to the pink accessible trail I was very impressed. It is a really well done path.
There are a couple spots that may need to be fixed. For instance a culvert sticking up through the ground. The trail is so wide though that it is easy to get around anything that may cause an issue.
Once I made it to the duck pond, this is where things went awry and I made a huge navigation error. I decided to push myself around the pond next to the fence to get a better look at all the ducks. Well, this is not where the accessible trail actually goes.
As you can see in the pictures, I came across some pretty serious obstacles for an accessible trail. That was because I wasn’t on the accessible trail anymore.
I emailed the people in charge to find out if I had the right trail assuming I didn't, and they confirmed I had gotten off track. They told me, “The correct accessible path - we are refining markers, etc, - begins in the upper parking, skirts the pond, passes the gazebo onto the Pinkham Path and down to the lower end. There would be a flat bridge that skirts around the lower pond. However, it has become a bit one way at this point, due to the evolution of the space for birds.“
So as you can see, I royally messed up. Oh well, it made for a good adventure!
To get out of the duck pond area I attempted to climb a very steep hill. So steep that the people in charge said they are thinking of blocking it off. I did make it up the hill but I had to do a lot of quick switchbacks.
Hey, accessible trails are too easy for me. I had to make it hard somehow, haha!
Sorry for the lack of pictures of most of my stops. I was in such a hurry to find a place that I could hike before sunset that I apparently forgot to take them.
Until next time, be on the lookout for snow, I want to go skiing!
This year I am hoping to get some group or one on one hikes together. 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.
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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