1-minute hike: Little Hurd Pond, Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area near Millinocket

Difficulty: Moderate. From the Golden Road, the it is 3.3 mile on the Appalachian Trail to the lean-to at Hurd Brook and the campsite near Little Hurd Pond.

How to get there: Travel on I-95 to Exit 244. Turn west on Route 157 and travel through Medway, East Millinocket and Millinocket. Proceed through both traffic lights in Millinocket. Bear right at the three-way intersection after the second traffic light. Bear left at the next “Y” intersection, staying on the main road, which has many names (Baxter State Park Road, Lake Road or Millinocket Lake Road). Drive towards Baxter State Park on this road. Drive about 8 miles and take a left at Katahdin Air sign, just after a store, and cross over to the Golden Road. Continue north on the Golden Road about 10 miles to Abol Bridge (which is only big enough to take one vehicle at a time), as well as Abol Bridge Campground and Store. Cross the bridge and park at the large parking area to the left, immediately after the bridge. Walk to the trailhead to the Appalachian Trail southbound, which is about .25 mile farther down the road (away from the bridge) on the left. The trailhead is marked by a small reddish sign that is set into the woods a bit. The A.T., marked with white blazes, is easy to follow year round. Though in the winter, hikers are more likely to have to deal with downed trees blocking the trail.

Information:  Little Hurd Pond, along with the bigger Hurd Pond, is located in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, a 46,271-acre preserve that was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 2002. The area is located beside Baxter State Park, to the southwest. Hurd and Little Hurd ponds are connected by Hurd Brook, which the Appalachian Trail crosses over. An A.T. campsite and Hurd Brook Lean-To is located near Little Hurd Pond. Traveling by the A.T., the site is 3.3 miles from trail access at the Golden Road, a road leading out of Millinocket that is heavily used by loggers.

The trailhead at the Golden Road is considered the north end of the 100-Mile Wilderness. A Maine Appalachian Trail Club sign not far from the trailhead reads, “Caution. It is 100 miles south to the nearest town at Monson. There are no places to obtain supplies or help until Monson. Do not attempt this section unless you have a minimum of 10 days of supplies and are fully equipped. This is the longest wilderness section of the entire A.T. and its difficulty should not be underestimated. Good hiking!”

The hike in to Hurd Brook Lean-to is a good way to experience a bit of the 100-Mile Wilderness without taking on the challenging week-long trek through the wilderness. The trip in and out if 6.6 hilly miles, making for a moderate hike and a more strenuous snowshoe because of the distance the the likelihood that you’ll have to break trail in this more remote location. Southbound, the trail is more uphill than downhill. So when you turn around to come back out to the Golden Road, you can enjoy the downhill miles.

Debsconeag means “carry place,” named by the Native American people for the portage paths through the woods on which they carried their birch bark canoes between safe water. The Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area contains the highest concentration of pristine, remote ponds in New England. Except for some areas around pre-existing camp lots, the area is managed as an ecological reserve for conservation and study of ecosystems.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and bodies of water. Supported by more than 1 million members, the conservancy works in all 50 states and more than 30 countries, and has protected more than 119 million acres of land and thousands of miles of rivers worldwide. For information about The Nature Conservancy, visit www.nature.org.

The Appalachian Trail, currently 2,184 miles in length, spans from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine. For information about the trail, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website at www.appalachiantrail.org. In Maine, the majority of the trail is maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. For information about MATC, visit www.matc.org.

Personal note: From my two trips into the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, one in the spring and one in the winter, I’ve come to the conclusion is a special place in Maine. What characterizes the land for me is the abundance of vibrant green moss, the many impressive boulders scattered throughout the woods, and the many ponds and lakes.

I hiked the Appalachian Trail to Hurd Brook Lean-to in snowshoes on Jan. 10, 2013. Judging by the lack of human tracks, hiking buddy Derek Runnells and I were the first to visit the trail since the previous snowstorm. We took turns breaking trail for the 6.6-mile hike, which turned out to be quite a workout. Along the way, we usually followed the tracks of white-tailed deer, and we also saw the tracks of rabbits, snowshoe hare and a moose.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.