PATTEN, Maine — For as long as he can remember, Enock Glidden has been drawn to one of Maine’s greatest assets — its rugged outdoors.
Glidden was like most youngsters growing up in the small community of Patten. He loved being outside and would spend hours exploring the vast wooded area of his family’s 11-acre homestead.
It mattered little that Glidden was doing so from the confines of a wheelchair.
As a child born with spina bifida, Glidden quickly learned that he had to do things a little bit differently than his friends. Thanks to the use of adaptive equipment and encouragement from friends, family and teachers, he overcame those challenges quickly.
“My dad was always taking me hunting or fishing, or we would be exploring Baxter State Park,” Glidden said. “It really just evolved naturally.”
Now a resident of Bethel, Glidden, 44, is returning to his hometown at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15, to speak to the Patten Area Woman’s Club at the Lumberman’s Museum. His presentation will focus on how people with disabilities can still enjoy Maine’s great outdoors, while also trying to drum up financial support for a planned excursion to Mt. Rainier in Washington.
“Throughout my life I have been fortunate to have many adventures,” Glidden said during a phone interview. “These adventures were inspired by people I grew up with in Patten.”
Glidden attended Katahdin High School, graduating in 1996. It was two people in particular who set him on his life’s path, he said. His physical education instructor Bob Dyer was a huge inspiration for Glidden, opening the door to things like wheelchair basketball and rock climbing. One of his good friends, Nick Hall, went on to become a rescue ranger, losing his life while trying to rescue a person on Mt. Rainier.
“His death really spearheaded this whole thing,” he said. “Hopefully by next June, I will be able to climb Mt. Rainier.”
Through an internship related to his studies in computer science, he traveled across the United States and visited several national parks. He culminated his internship experience in California with a five-day ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in 2016.
Glidden has partnered with Maine Trail Finder to provide his expertise on trails around the state that are suited for people who have disabilities. His journey with Maine Trail Finder began in the summer of 2021 and he has spent the past year and a half serving as the group’s “accessibility ambassador,” where he assesses trails in Maine for their accessibility to people with disabilities.
His findings are often featured as part of a blog for Maine Trail Finder named “Enock’s Adventures.”
Maine has a vast network of trails and thus far, Glidden has explored more than 90 of them. Transportation to those trails is often the top hurdle for those with disabilities experience, he said.
Some of the things he looks for when assessing a trail are parking, handicapped accessible bathrooms and how easy the trail itself is for those who may be in a wheelchair or need to use a walker.
Glidden, who is also an avid lover of tennis, basketball, paragliding and skydiving, said he recently had an opportunity to do the Riverfront Park trail in Houlton and was pleasantly surprised at how accessible it was. He was also impressed with the Presque Isle bicycle path trail.
“There are definitely a lot of options around the state (for those with disabilities),” he said. “Unfortunately, those options get less and less the farther north you go.”