SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Enock Glidden has spent his life asking one question: "How can I?" Born with spina bifida, Glidden has relied on a wheelchair to get where he wants to go his whole life. As a child growing up in the rural town of Patten, Glidden felt supported.
"I was the only kid in a wheelchair so everybody knew me. I always had a pretty big community behind me. I was able to ask for help whenever I needed it. Along the way, I have had a lot of people behind me to get me where I am today," Glidden remembered.
Today he is an accomplished extreme adventurer. Without any feeling or use of his legs, Glidden rock climbs and ice climbs with Paradox Sports, a company that offers adaptive climbing across the U.S. Glidden is an ambassador for Paradox Sports and climbs with them in New York state and in North Conway.
In 2016, Glidden spent six days and five nights on the granite face of El Capitan, and after more than 800 pullups a day he successfully pulled himself up the 3,000 vertical foot granite rock in Yosemite National Park.
Glidden has taken flying lessons, he paraglides, hang glides, and has gone skydiving, he skis and hikes: basically, if there is speed or adrenaline involved, Glidden is there. "I have always pushed my wheelchair past the point of where it should go," Glidden explained.
The confidence to tackle any adventure he could think of came, in part, from a junior high gym teacher named Bob Dyer.
"The first day I met him he asked me if I could do 20 pushups in my wheelchair and I said, 'I can do 40.' I don't think I had ever done 40 but I did it. After that (Bob) didn't treat me any differently, he treated me like everybody else," Glidden said.
Dyer's role as a teacher became one of mentor, as he got Glidden involved in wheelchair racing, encouraged him to join the basketball team, and took his student hunting every year.
"He really set me on a path of not saying 'I can't' but asking 'how can I?' and answering that question. And I don't think I have ever found a moment when I couldn't answer that question," Glidden said.
In the outdoors, Glidden has always found refuge, and it's something he wants to share with others regardless of their ability. For the last year, he's been working with Maine Trail Finder, a website with more than 5 million users that lists more than 1,000 trails across the state.
The website started in 2010. Over the years, it's heard from different groups wanting more specific information about the accessibility of trails for people in wheelchairs, or of varying ability levels Clair Polfus of Maine Trail Finder said.
Polfus said Glidden was a perfect fit because he knows the specific information wheelchair users need before they go out on a trail. So far, Glidden has accessed about 30 trails mostly in southern and western Maine.
I joined up with him on an overcast day in May to walk the trail at Scarborough River Wildlife Sanctuary. He wheels over large rocks, fallen tree branches, and up a small but long hill with the ease of someone well-acquainted with the outdoors and his chair.
His reviews of trails on Maine Trail Finder are detailed because he doesn't want hikers to have any surprises. He understands that giving people who might already be challenged by the outdoors the most accurate information will help empower them to get outside. On top of extensive descriptions of the trail, Glidden also rates trails from "Wheelie Easy" to "Wheelie Strenuous" and blogs about them.
"People need to find their own way of doing things because we all do things differently. We all have our own experiences so if you try to do it your way you'll always be successful," Glidden explained.
Glidden is quick to acknowledge the community of people that have helped him on his many adventures, as he works to inspire others to get outdoors and to answer the question "how can I?"