Charcoal gray clouds rolled overhead, thunder clapped not too far off and a light rain began to sprinkle down. If we were going to get back to camp before the inevitable deluge of rain, well, it was probably time to go.
But here on the shore of Second Little Lyford Pond, I found it hard to leave, excited as always about watching a moose, my umpteenth of this lifetime. The big cow was lazily feeding in the shallows of the weedy cove, ducking under occasionally, a splash and a shake providing brief respite from the early summer bugs.
Such are the small pleasures of time well spent recreating in the 100-Mile Wilderness, the vast 750,000-acre region of woods, waters and wildlife that ranges from Monson north to Katahdin; from Greenville and Moosehead Lake east to Route 11 and Brownville Junction.
The rains came, of course, and we had to skedaddle back to the first pond and the canoe. Some quick paddling landed us on the other side, then a short hike led us back to the comforts of camp and our cozy log cabin at Little Lyford Pond Lodge and Cabins, one of the three remote lodgings operated on land owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club.
This was my first summer trip back to Little Lyford since June 2005, then just a short year and a half into the AMC’s presence here and the launch of its Maine Woods Initiative. This bold land conservation project was designed to have an impact on the ecological and economic needs of the 100-Mile Wilderness region through expanded outdoor recreation opportunities, natural resource protection, sustainable forest management, and cooperative partnerships with the people, schools and businesses of the surrounding communities.
AMC purchased the 37,000-acre Katahdin Iron Works Tract in 2003. Six years later the club bought the adjacent Roach Ponds Tract, 29,500 acres in size. This second acquisition was significant not only because it increased AMC’s land holdings, but because it was the key piece that created a continuous corridor of conservation lands extending from Moosehead Lake to Baxter State Park.
“AMC was looking for a place for a landscape-scale conservation project,” said Walter Graff, AMC senior vice president. “We wanted to find a place in need of conservation, where we could grow and have a big impact. It was a big idea that needed a big place, and the Maine Woods property was perfect.”
Ten years into its Maine Woods Initiative, AMC can count a good many successes on its 100 square miles. It has conserved close to 70,000 acres in the heart of the 100-Mile Wilderness, land open and available for a range of recreational uses, from hiking, camping and paddling, to hunting and fishing; from cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling to mountain biking.
An 80-mile network of trails leads into the Barren-Chairback and Whitecap mountain ranges, to the waterfalls of Gulf Hagas, and to a host of pristine ponds and a handful of remote campsites.
Three full-service lodges with private cabins preserve the Maine sporting camp tradition, providing guests with comfortable lodging, friendly staff, hearty meals served family-style, hot showers and even wood-fired saunas.
Nearly a third of the AMC property is designated as ecological reserve, protecting important wildlife habitat while allowing the forest to regenerate. And sustainable timber harvesting produces operating revenue while supporting local jobs.
With an eye to the future, AMC is helping local children connect to the natural environment, develop a sense of stewardship and gain a greater appreciation for the Maine woods.
“Some kids have never spent time in the woods or climbed a mountain,” said Shannon LeRoy, AMC outdoor programs manager. “We get them unstuck from their technology for a while, get them outside and moving, and seeing what’s in their own back yard.”
Join AMC in celebrating the Maine Woods Initiative this year with a visit to this very special place. For more information, go to www.outdoors.org.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Send comments and hike suggestions to: