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)
MapMaine Mountain Guide ($20; outdoors.org)
Gear up Northwoods Outfitters, Greenville, ME; (866) 223-1380; maineoutfitter.com
Key Skill: Ski varied terrain
Master these three steps and you’ll be swishing through frozen landscapes with ease:
Cruising flats With cross-country or telemark skis parallel, push down and back on the right ski and slide the left ski straight ahead for a short glide, then repeat the process, pushing off of the left ski and shooting the right ahead. Extend the glide a little more with each stride, developing a rhythm. Plant the pole opposite to your leg, as with trekking.
Climbs With ski tips spread wide, tails together, duck-walk up a hill (creating a herring-bone track), weighting the inside edges as necessary to keep from backsliding. Use your poles for additional power and balance.
Downhill Less than a quarter mile from the trailhead, you get a chance to link a few turns on a nice open slope. On these untracked trails, make aggressive moves to get around a turn. If going left, place your weight first on your right ski, lift your left ski slightly and point it directly to where you want to go, then shift forward onto that ski. Push with both poles for momentum. As you finish the turn, pull the skis parallel again, and then repeat the process back and forth a few hundred yards to the bottom, where you’ll resume kicking and gliding along flat terrain.
See This: Winter Wildlife
Many forests go quiet in the cold. Not the 100-Mile Wilderness–it’s full of animals on the move. Here’s where to look.
Lynx: Look for the tracks of this secretive cat near the turnoff for Little Lyford Lodge and near the trailhead.
Moose: They go higher in the winter, and often lurk along the flanks of Indian Mountain.
Otter: Look just before Upper Valley Road and all along the Pleasant River and its tributaries.
Snowshoe hare: You’ll see tracks everywhere. But target dense understory near open terrain to see these four-pound rabbits.
Get an early start, pack some snowshoes or climbing skins (if you use telemark skis), and you can score a sweet view on day one. On the route to Little Lyford, take the five-mile sidetrip (see right) up 2,338-foot Indian Mountain. There you’ll find total solitude, plus an outstanding view of Katahdin, rising alone above the Upper Pleasant River Valley. From the junction with the trail to Little Lyford, affix skins (or don snowshoes), and commence climbing on the diamond-blazed Indian Mountain Trail. Cross a bridge, then bear left (east) up a yellow-blazed snow machine track. Climb to a cluster of RV-size granite boulders, then turn around to see the valley and Big K, less than 40 miles away. Continue to Laurie’s Ledge, a granite outcropping .5 mile from the Indian Mountain Trail, then the summit in another .4 mile. Reach Little Lyford by heading northeast to the Upper Valley Road (a ski track in winter), which leads one mile to a hard left to the Lodge.
On The Menu
Breakfast and dinner provided by AMC
Lunch and snacks
bagels with peanut butter and raisins
A high-calorie trail mix to fuel your tour and keep your insides warm
2 cups granola
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup dried apples
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup M&Ms
At home, add all ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Divvy in zip-top plastic bags. Serves two.
A fire inside your Thermos
1/2 cup instant tea powder
2 cups orange drink powder (like Tang)
3 Tablespoons lemonade powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Mix ingredients in zip-top bag. Add two tablespoons per one cup hot water. Store in insulated bottle (like REI’s Bullet Vacuum Bottle, $25, rei.com).
The Grocery List (Aisle # in Nearest Store Below)
[ ] dried apples (produce)
[ ] dried blueberries (produce)
[ ] dried cranberries (produce)
[ ] M&Ms (1)
[ ] orange powder drink mix (2)
[ ] lemonade powder drink mix (2)
[ ] sugar (3)
[ ] cinnamon (3)
[ ] allspice (3)
[ ] cloves (3)
[ ] granola (4)
[ ] bagels (4)
[ ] instant tea (5)
[ ] roasted peanuts (5)
[ ] cashews (5)
[ ] raisins (5)
[ ] peanut butter (5)
Cross-country skiing burns a ton of calories. Get ’em back with a plate of baby back ribs from the roadside oasis known as Spring Creek Bar-B-Q.
26 Greenville Rd., Monson, ME; (207) 997-7025
NEAREST GROCERY STORE
Indian Hill Trading Post
Route 15, Greenville, ME
(800) 675-4487; indianhill.com