Some of Maine’s best-kept wilderness secrets are lost in translation. Literally. Take this 18.5-mile loop in the Debsconeag (deb-SCON-egg) region to Nahmakanta Lake. In the Abenaki tribe’s language: Hike from “ponds at the high place” to “plenty of fish” lake. Pack a rod, hit the Fourth Debsconeag trailhead (1), and head down a jeep trail. Bear left at the fork and north onto the blue-blazed Debsconeag Trail (2). Follow it 1.4 miles over three easy stream crossings to Stink Pond (3). As you climb above the pungent aroma, look southwest to 2,524-foot Farrar’s twin peaks, and south for 2,905-foot Jo-Mary Mountain’s rounded top. Dip into a creek-filled gap, then rise to views of Nesuntabunt (translation: “three heads”) Mountain and marshy Seventh Debsconeag Pond. Turn south at mile 4.6 and camp near the shoreline (4).
Next day, continue to Sixth Debsconeag Pond, turn west at the junction and head downhill .7 mile to Nahmakanta Lake (5). Cruise the shoreline for 1.3 miles (stopping to cast for landlocked salmon) with views of 1,560-foot Nesuntabunt’s slope ablaze with fall foliage in early September. Turn west on the West Trail (6) at mile 8.5, and continue .7 mile (with a shallow ford of 15-foot wide Rainbow Stream) to a jeep road. Go west for .4 mile to a bridge over Pollywog Stream (7) and turn right on the Appalachian Trail.
At mile 10.6, take the 150-foot side trail (8) to view 100-foot-deep, 300-foot-wide Pollywog Gorge. Horseshoe around Crescent Pond (9), cross a road at mile 12, and reach views of 3.5-mile-long Nahmakanta. Climb through old-growth red spruce and white pine to a minor summit on Nesuntabunt (10), where a 75-yard side trail leads to a view of Katahdin and the last stretch of the AT 15 miles away. Start downhill and reach the wave-lapped beach (11) in 3.8 miles. Camp or continue to a dirt road (12), turn northeast, cross Nahmakanta Stream, and close the loop’s final .9 mile.
Get there From Greenville, take Lily Bay Rd./Main St. north 18 miles to Kokadjo Trading Post. When the pavement ends, bear left at the fork and zero your odometer. Turn right at 1.8 miles. Turn left at miles 6.6, 14, and 18.4. Turn right at 19.3; park at 24.3 miles.
Gear up Northwoods Outfitters, 5 Lily Bay Rd., Greenville. (866) 223-1380; maineoutfitter.com
Maps USGS quads Nahmakanta Stream, Rainbow Lake East, Rainbow Lake West, Wadleigh Mountain ($8, store.usgs.gov)