Winter in the far north isn’t only for Shackelton wannabes. In fact, this 20.6-mile weekender could be the most luxe on your adventure calender. The Appalachian Mountain Club runs a string of fire-warmed lodges (with hot meals to boot).
Day one Sign in at the Little Lyford kiosk at the Greenville Road trailhead (1) and dump a duffle of personal gear (AMC will shuttle). Then shoulder your daypack with snacks and water and glide along groomed trails (with no set tracks) into the mixed hardwoods, staying straight at a junction at mile 1.3 (2). Turn left (north) onto Upper Valley Road (3) and continue past a series of three small kettles (glacier-scoured depressions) where dead trees are scarred by woodpeckers: Oval holes indicate hairy woodpeckers; round, downy; rectangular, pileated. Turn right at mile 5.7, and head .4 mile downhill to Little Lyford Lodge (4) at mile 6.1. Before retiring to your bunk, bundle up and stroll a few hundred yards to the shore of 1st Little Lyford Pond and gaze northwest at 3,521-foot Baker Mountain, a massive black and white face marbled with moonlight on clear nights.
Day two Proceed south on the Camp-to-Camp Trail through boreal forest along the West Branch Pleasant River. After a 50-foot climb away from the river, cross a 90-foot bridge (5). Next, cross Katahdin Iron Works Road (6) at mile 9.6 and kick-and-glide south into the silence of softwoods, arriving at Gorman Chairback Lodge at mile 12.4 (7).
Day three Go uphill (east) from the lodge, then turn right (south) onto Long Pond Trail (8), which bends west in .5 mile. Stay straight along the pond, passing some small sinkholes formed by springs. Pause on the bridge at Long Lake’s gurgling outlet (9) and peer across the sheet of white, then follow the trail along Trout Brook. Take a break at the three-sided Phoenix Shelter (10). Close the loop at Greenville Road (11), turning left (southwest) for 1.3 miles of moderate climbing to the trailhead (12).
Get there From Greenville, go 11 miles east on Pleasant St. (becomes East Rd., then Katahdin Iron Works Rd. when it turns to gravel), and park at the winter lot.
Reservations $273 ($233 for AMC members) covers meals, lodging, and gear shuttle for this itinerary.(outdoors.org)