We turned from Riverside Street to a baseball field across from Outer Forest’s Ave”s Hannaford. We parked at the trailhead for Riverside Trolley Park.
“We are going hiking,” I told my son Gabriel, transferring him for his carseat to his stroller. It had been a long time since I’d gone hiking, and I was eager to reinvent my image as a stroller mom. My friend Holly had never been to Riverton Trolley Park, and I hadn’t really ventured far into it.
This didn’t stop me from telling her that the trail was “a little intrepid, but we can handle it.”
We pushed our strollers onto the wide path. The boys clamoured for “poofs” – dandelions that have gone to seed. Clutching the stalks in their chubby toddler hands, they were content to remain in their strollers.
“This is gorgeous,” said Holly. “I had no idea something like this was in Portland. It’s so private.”
When we reached a fork in the road, we elected for a steep downhill path that zig-zagged down to the Presumpscot River. The path was slick with clay. As soon as we headed down, the strollers lunged forward. The boys leaned out, arms and heads dangling. They giggled as we bumped over rocks, kicked sticks out of our way and preformed wheelies over gnarled roots. We walked very quickly, not for fitness, but because the grade of the trail wouldn’t allow for anything else. At the bottom of the hill, the path became narrower. And more uneven. Our biceps burned in our efforts to keep the strollers on the trail. The kids were thrilled.
“I’m sure this will be the next Hollywood mom’s fitness craze,” said Holly.
“Stroll your baby-off road!”
“Angelina Jolie could do it in Africa.”
She turned her stroller around and backed down the trail behind it. We crossed a mini bridge of planks. I dragged the stroller up the rise in the trail. My feet slipped and I grabbed the front of the stroller before its wheels went over the trail’s edge.
“Perhaps we should go back.”
Holly wiped sweat off her forehead. We headed back up, grimy and grimly. When we reached the top off the trail, however, we didn’t go back. A sunny, smooth path beckoned. We walked, slowly relaxing our minds, if not our muscles. The kids clamoured for chaos, and they recieved little. Only a few tree roots marred our peaceful walk. Then we noticed several dangling vines, some within reach off the strollers. Poison ivy.
“Let’s not go back yet,” I pleaded. “This is nice.”
We admonished the boys not to touch anything and soon reached a sun-dappled clearing. There was also a fence-topped off with circles of barbed wire.
“Where are we?” I asked Holly.
“I’ll find out,” she said. “Watch the boys.” She scrambled over a ditch and peered through the fence.
“It’s the Portland Dump,” she announced. Mutually, we decided to head back. Down the sunny, smooth path, through the shady woods on comparativly mild terrain. When we reached the parking lot, I was sad to leave, but I knew I would return. By myself, with my hiking boots and a can of bug spray. Or with running shoes. Maybe even with a fishing pole. And in a few years, with Holly and our sons. In fact, I thought, maybe we could all just go back for a picnic… of course, we will be sure to stop before the dump.