Hey fellow hikers! If you are following along on my adventures, I've finished up my trip down east. I love that part of Maine, but I love every part of Maine. We have such a unique landscape that it is hard to pick a favorite area. However, I do hold a particular fondness for the next region of my adventures. I grew up in Patten, Maine, on the edge of Penobscot and Aroostook counties. This is where I headed next, to the County!
My first adventure in the County took me to Presque Isle, more specifically to Mantle Lake Park. I actually visited the park when I was a little kid with my mom. She grew up in Presque Isle, and that is where my grandparents still lived when I was growing up. We spent much of our summertime in the area, and this park was one of our favorites.
This location also happens to be part of our school trails initiative that we started this year for MTF. We are locating trails within a half-mile of schools, and seeing if they need improvement to make the trails more inviting to all the kids who attend the schools.
When you drive into the park there is a beautifully done gate as an entry to the parking lot, that has two paved accessible parking spaces.
Just off the parking lot is the beginning of a one-third-mile paved walking path, which is literally named "Paved Loop." There is a chain across the path, with a side trail between the sign designating the path and the chained gate. The gap is plenty wide enough, but the surface has some issues. People walking around the gate have worn down a very narrow path, with grass built up higher on the sides. It is easily passable in a wheelchair, but just be aware the surface here is not flat and even.
I decided to check out the paved path and beautiful park area before embarking on the woods trails.
From the paved path there is access to an accessible bathroom, which I found to be very well maintained. Yes I took a picture of the bathroom! Haha!
From there, I made my way down to the aptly named Mantle Lake. Which, by the way, has an interesting history as to why it is named that; a man named Mantle dug the lake in 1887. The lake includes an accessible fishing pier/dock, which kids are allowed to fish from, and the lake is stocked.
There are also many other structures available for use, such as tennis courts, playground equipment, a two-acre grassed play area, eight family picnic shelters, and a large kitchen and picnic pavilion that can be rented for functions.
After spending some time taking in the views of the lake, I ventured off toward the trail system and found one of the most amazing trail signs I have ever seen. Check out how they describe the trails.
Recreation trails for hiking, snowshoeing, and biking:
• Red Lake Loop Trail Narrow and Rough (½ Mile)
• Blue Lake Loop Trail Wide and Even (⅔ Mile)
I love that. Most people can get a picture in their head based on those words of what they might encounter. It also lets you know the distance and that it is a loop, which means the distance is the total distance back to the sign.
The sign also describes in the same way the trails that lead away from the lake, the Orange, Green, Yellow and Cross Trails. Unfortunately, they don’t really describe the inclines of the trails, but this is a very good start and much better than most signs I have encountered.
There really aren't any other signs once you are into the trail system, but there are color coded spots on the trees for help with navigation.
I tried to stick to the blue loop since it seemed like the most accessible, being wide and even, but I ended up not really sticking to it. I found myself cut off by obstacles here and there. In one instance, I came to a hill with roots everywhere. It was just too steep to try doing alone. To the credit of the land managers, they did have a bench at the top of the hill for resting.
I then went on a different route and found a super muddy area. I also met a man and his dog at this spot who informed me that he walks there a lot and never goes that way because it never dries out and is always muddy.
The man told me that if I followed the path he was on it would take me back to the entrance with no problem. He was totally right. The surface of most of the trails is flat and smooth, with a few small roots and rocks, but nothing greater than an inch or so in diameter.
This park is an amazing resource not only for Pine Street School, but for the community of Presque Isle. It offers a variety of challenges from easy paved trails, to the more adventurous but generally accessible woods trails. There is always room for improvement with mitigating the muddy areas, and maybe making a more roundabout route around the hill. I would highly recommend visiting Mantle Lake Park the next time you are in the area. Maybe bring a fishing pole for the kids, and spend the day just taking in the views of the birds, lake, and everything in between.
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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