Enock, Outdoor Accessibility Specialist, shares his not-so-successful day on a series of trails in southern Maine.
Hey fellow hikers! I have been going out on trails since the end of May when it isn't raining... so not that much! I saw someone say that it actually rained 18 out of 20 days, and it is raining as I write this.
I had quite a few run-ins with obstacles, as well as descriptions that didn’t quite capture the true difficulty of the trails I chose. With some truth in advertising, I wanted to show you that plans don’t always work out and that is why I always have a back up plan. Sometimes even the backup plan needs a backup plan.
I have been exploring more of southern Maine between where I live and Kittery. One of the trails I decided to check out said this in the description, “The Boardwalk Trail leads from the kiosk through a forested wetland.” I thought given the name it had to be easy. It started out with a bit of an obstacle, but not an insurmountable one, I was able to push over the rocks with some effort. As you can see in the picture, the boardwalk looked pretty good and plenty wide enough for me.
About 500 feet into the trail I hit the no-go obstacle. For some reason there was a bog bridge in between two sections of boardwalk. There was clearly no way around it, so I had to turn around and head on to the next trail.
My next stop said this in the description, “The trail is mostly flat and easy." (Please note, the description on MTF has since been edited accordingly.) Unfortunately, I never got to see the actual flat part of the trail, as I attemped to get to the trail but was met with obstacles. First, I had to navigate down a steep washed out hill, which I did do in the interest of making sure I did my due diligence. But after getting down the hill, I ran into the no-go obstacle for this trail, a set of log steps. I definitely wasn't going to try that by myself.
Once I encountered the steps, I had to turn around and attempt to get back up that washed out hill. I sat at the bottom and thought about how I was going to make this happen. I decided to try switch backing. I made it to a flat spot on my first swing to the right and after a few more back and forth switch backs, I made it to the top.
After making it back up that washed out hill, I moved on to the next stop on my list. This one said this in its description, “A 300-foot section of accessible trail," and that part was as described.
After doing that, I decided that I would try another trail on the property, since the accessible section was so short. This trail through a field had some pretty significant cross slope but it was manageable for me. I made it about 1100 feet before I came to a bog bridge that had no way around, it was super wet and muddy on both sides. To be fair, the description did say there was bog bridging at this location, so it wasn’t a total surprise. I just wish I had made it a bit further.
My next strike out was marked as accessible. (Yes, I know this is trail number four, the title sounds better with "three!") I chose this location based on this description,”The trails are wide and flat, with a grade of no more than about 2%, and suitable for many with mobility challenges. There are no bog bridges or other notable obstacles on these primary trails, though the surface may become soft in wetter seasons”. All of that is true, except the part about being suitable for people with mobility challenges. The trail consists of a mowed path through a field and is quite soft through most of the trail. (Please note, the description on MTF has since been edited accordingly.)
I chose to try the trail through the woods as well, but wasn’t expecting that to be accessible, and it wasn’t. I had fun though, it was a fun challenge!
The last strike-out was a state park that I had passed on my way to another spot. I thought it must have something accessible, and I was trying to salvage my day. I needed something good to write about! I was wrong again. If I had read the entire description of the trails I would have realized it wasn’t going to be doable, but I stopped after reading this part, “These trails offer a wide variety of experiences, from a relaxing stroll, to an aerobic workout; restful solitude, or fun with family and friends. Hikers will find some trails along steep slopes, while benches at scenic overlooks offer a chance to rest and enjoy scenic river views.” The relaxing stroll part is what got me.
If I had read further, I would have known, ”All of the trails are accessed by descending a steep slope. The trails are wide with a natural surface, with large roots in some areas.” They definitely were not lying. Not that steep slopes have ever stopped me or ever will, but I would have at least given it some thought.
Every trail I tried to access was down a super steep incline. I did finally try one and ended up getting help to get back out. Thankfully a man came along behind me and offered. The picture doesn’t do the slope justice.
Once down the incline, however, the trail was quite amazing. It was very wide and had really wide, excellent bridges.
What I am hoping you take away from this post is that things don’t always work out. I know sometimes on social media it seems like everything always works out, because we only post our best moments. I hope that by doing this work and including the not-so-great moments, we can have better and more detailed descriptions, and better communication of that information on websites, kiosks, and anywhere else we access trail information.
The main details I want to see are:
Including such information for all trails would go a long way toward allowing people to choose what is accessible to them.
Thanks again for reading fellow hikers, and let us know in the comments what things you would like to see in trail information!
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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