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Paige Emerson & Chubby Hiker Reviews

February 29, 2024 Enock Glidden & Paige Emerson
Enock's Adventures, Chubby Hiker Reviews, Accessibility, Faces of MTF

Hey fans of the outdoors! You know that Maine’s outdoor spaces and users do not always welcome and support all people. Maine Trail Finder is committed to creating tools that invite all people to have trail experiences. Our tools connect people with each other, with the places they want to go, and with nature; provide more accessible walking and biking routes; and cultivate a sense of place for residents and visitors. We envision a future where all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age, have unencumbered access to and unfettered joyful experiences on the trails and green spaces of every community.

Over the years, Maine Trail Finder has shared the stories and experiences of different trail users in Maine, most as one-time stories like Tony’s recent ice fishing story. You’ve come to rely year round on Enock’s Adventures for fun and honest trail reviews for people of all abilities. We are excited to join forces with Chubby Hiker Reviews to bring ongoing trail reviews and experiences of plus sized outdoor adventurers to the Maine Trail Finder community. Enock and Paige Emerson, founder of Chubby Hiker Reviews, sat down last week to talk about the outdoors and providing trail reviews for the public.

 


 

Enock: I want to introduce Paige Emerson, from Chubby Hiker Reviews on all your favorite social media platforms. Paige is our newest Maine Trail Finder Ambassador. She will be sharing trail reviews and experiences as a plus sized outdoors person and a Registered Maine Guide. I spoke with Paige recently to find out more about her story as an outdoors person and life in general.

Welcome to the team Paige! We have actually talked a few times on Instagram about getting out to hike before this ambassador team even became a thing. It is great to finally start down the trail of getting to know you and working our way toward a hike together. First, I need to know how you got into hiking.

Paige: Growing up, I considered myself outdoorsy. My family enjoyed doing many activities outdoors when I was a kid. However, I never considered myself a hiker. I had gone hiking a few times, but it really wasn't my thing. I have always been a bigger person and growing up I never saw anyone who looked like me on hiking trails, so I never thought of it as something I could do.

In the Spring of 2020 I found myself stuck at home during the pandemic, as many of us were. While looking for things to keep myself occupied, a friend invited me to go hiking.

We chose a few trails that were labeled as “easy” but we quickly found that these reviews were not accurate for us, as the words “easy” or “hard” are subjective and based on a particular person’s body type, fitness level, and experience with hiking. We found ourselves frustrated by the lack of realistic reviews and I commented that I wished there was someone that looked like me reviewing the trails we were interested in. My friend stated that if there wasn't someone already doing that, then maybe I should. That day I began reviewing trails in Maine from the perspective of someone who is plus sized or fat (as fat is not a bad word, just a descriptor). In the last four years, I’ve been able to review over 60 trails in Maine.

Enock: Wow! Paige, our stories are very similar. I never saw anyone like me doing outdoorsy things either. It took a teacher who stepped up to show me that I could do those things, and that set me on the path I am now. I totally agree with you about the trail ratings. I have had the same problem while doing my work with MTF. I could do 10 “easy” trails and they are all extremely different, or half easy and then get really difficult. 

Were you an outdoors person before you decided to start Chubby Hiker Reviews?

Paige: Yes! I went hiking a few times growing up, but my favorite activities were camping, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.

Enock: I have always been an outdoors person as well. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid, but not necessarily doing outdoor activities. I was just outside most of the time playing. I did some camping, fishing, hunting, and those sorts of Maine things with my dad. I also spent time on trails but never really thought of it as “hiking” until recently.

Have you always lived in Maine?

Paige: Yes. I was born in Rockport, Maine and have lived in many places in the state in my 28 years of life. 

Enock: I am a life long Mainer also other than a stint in Vermont for college. When you review a trail, what is your process?

Paige: Typically, the work starts at home. I research a potential trail and look at things like elevation, trail length, and others’ comments on it to see how it compares to trails I have done in the past. When I arrive at the trailhead, I make note of things like the parking lot size, availability and accessibility of bathrooms, cell service, and if dogs are allowed. While hiking, I think about how my body feels while on the trail, and I notice any things that may be difficult for a plus size hiker. These could be things such as seeing if there are narrow spaces that I may not fit through, or things that may be difficult to climb.

When writing my reviews, I discuss these things as well as my experience while hiking the trail, and what I would rate it as for difficulty. I think about things like how long it took me or whether I needed multiple breaks.

Enock: I have a similar method but I also think I could add some things based on your method. We should definitely collaborate! Have you noticed a shift in acceptance of plus sized people in the outdoors?

Paige: The answer to this one is definitely yes and no. I’ve seen a lot of people becoming inspired by what I do and learning that everyone can hike. I’ve had people reach out to share that they didn't ever think of themselves as a hiker until they saw someone who looked like them doing it. It’s super important for people to see themselves represented in outdoor spaces. 

On the other hand, doing my reviews and posting my content on social media has brought out a lot of critics that believe that fat people do not belong in the outdoors. There have been many harsh and negative comments. 

Enock: I have had a similar experience with my Enock’s Adventure blogs. Not in the sense of negative comments toward me or people with disabilities directly, but I have had people say that making trails accessible is a waste of money. I have had them ask, “Well, are we just going to make everything open to everyone including the backcountry?” I have had a lot of comments about the aesthetics of outdoor spaces and how accessible trails harm that aesthetic. I tend to ignore the critics unless there is a conversation to be had. I just keep pushing to make things better, knowing that those critics will appreciate those trail improvements someday.

Do you have a favorite region of Maine you like to hike?

Paige: I think Acadia and the Downeast region will always have my heart. 

Enock: I totally agree! I love the coastal hikes, but I think sometimes it is just because it is different from where I live and what I see every day of my life. 

Do you have advice for other plus sized people who want to get started but may not know how?

Paige: I would say if you want to start hiking, just start where you're at. You don't have to have fancy or expensive gear. Most of us already have what we need to get started. Grab yourself some water, a backpack, and some sturdy sneakers and you’re almost there. When choosing a trail I would say start small and build up. I wouldn't immediately start with a mountain. Pick a local trail system that is well marked and always keep safety in mind by telling someone where you are going. You may even want to go with a buddy for additional safety. Once you've mastered the local trails and feel comfortable, you can slowly start adding length and elevation. 

Enock: That is perfect advice for anyone and everyone. I would say the same thing to people with disabilities. Thank you again for joining the team and I can't wait to get outside with you soon!


Check out Paige's blogs and social media at:

 


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