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 week I had been thinking a lot about trying out some designated accessible trails. I was planning on doing a cluster of them around Portland, Maine but realized that wasn’t necessarily helpful. In order to be truly helpful to people I decided it was best to check out all the trails that I can at every property.
With that in mind I checked out the Maine Trail Finder map and decided to visit the accessible trail at Pleasant Hill Preserve in Scarborough. The description on the website is a bit outdated as there are some new trails that aren’t listed.
The preserve is located in the middle of a residential area which makes it easy to access. There are not any bathrooms at the trailhead. Keep that in mind when planning your visit. The parking lot is very flat and easy to get around with one accessible space closest to the start of the accessible trail. Unfortunately I am still getting used to documenting properties that I visit and I forgot to take a picture of the actual parking area.
The accessible trail is called Eleanor's Trail. It is 0.3 miles in length and winds along the edge of the field closest to the road. Even though the trail is fairly short, it didn't feel that way. I felt as if I was very secluded and in another world. The trees, flowers and other greenery along the sides transforms the trail into a tranquil stroll in the middle of a town.
The surface of the trail is extremely smooth. My family noticed that it felt a bit slippery under their feet. I checked it out with my hand and it felt a bit like wax. I am not sure if it is meant to be some type of waterproofing to prevent erosion or not. It definitely made pushing on the trail very easy. It could possibly use some sort of fine gravel to add some grip for walking but for me it was amazing. Hands down the easiest push I have made that wasn’t on pavement.
Another aspect of this property that I found to be really well done is the amount of effort put into making boardwalks. They were found throughout the trail system and were very well-constructed. I should caution, however, that the boards have some gaps that would potentially allow a cane or crutches to slip through.
At the end of Eleanor's Trail you will encounter the old barn mentioned in the description at Maine Trail Finder. There is also a really beautiful sitting area with views of the entire farm.
After a short rest at the sitting area and checking out the barn we decided to explore the rest of the 135 acres offered at the preserve. If you return to the intersection before the barn and sitting area and then take a right you will be on Monty’s Trail Loop. This is a 1.25 mile loop that traverses the fields of the farm or as we like to say in Maine the back 40. The trail is not considered accessible because it is literally just a mowed path through the field. It was definitely more difficult than the accessible trail, however I found it quite easy to push on.
There are ruts in some areas that are a maximum of 4 inches deep. They are easy to navigate around thanks to the wide trail.
I also encountered some wet and muddy areas, but for the most part the trail was relatively smooth and dry as a field can be. After a lot of rain, these might be more difficult to cross.
Boardwalks are widely utilized throughout Monty’s Trail Loop, making the trail easily navigable with almost no help at all.
There is one short section when Monty's Trail Loop that enters the woods and becomes quite difficult to maneuver through with a manual wheelchair.
Not long after circumventing this rock I came to a spot that had a particularly large amount of roots. I came to a stop and assessed the situation. I determined I had 3 paths. One would be to just continue over the roots. Another to the left had fewer roots and the third to the right was mostly soft ground and leaves. I chose to go to the right and it was quite an easy transition.
At the end of this woods section I was pleasantly surprised by another really long boardwalk that meanders through a beautiful forest area.
Upon leaving the woods the trail enters a field again and leads right back to the end of Eleanor's Trail. Just before the end of Monty’s trail the terrain gets quite steep and has some hard to navigate ruts. I had to have a push at this point because I was tired but also because it was a bit too steep for my chair.
After that it was clear sailing back to the van. Eleanor's trail is slightly uphill on the way back but very gradual and easy to push.
On a side note this is what my hands look like when I forget my gloves. I am definitely going to try not do that again!
I highly recommend visiting Pleasant Hill Preserve. I did 2.12 miles of trails and found them to be rated Wheelie Easy with a section of Doably Difficult in the woods on Monty's Trail Loop.
A trail that is easy to push on, has very few obstacles, and is mostly flat.
Only attempt if you're looking for a major workout and some risky moves.
If you have a different type of mobility issue or a totally different disability and you try out this property, 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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