When it comes to enjoying peace, solitude, and the natural beauty of northern Maine, Mike and Hannah Elliot know what they’re doing. They have a proven strategy that involves strapping on snowshoes, donning packs, and hiking six miles to a small, rustic cabin on Daicey Pond, in Baxter State Park.
In 2021, the Elliots invited me to tag along on one of their winter escapes, and the experience was nothing short of spectacular. After meeting in a big parking area on the Golden Road west of Millinocket, just before the Abol Bridge, we loaded a pair of sleds with enough gear and food for a few days then headed west along a section of the Appalachian Trail.
Roughly a mile down the trail, we left the AT and picked up the Foss-Knowlton Trail, which led us over frozen Foss-Knowlton Pond, Lost Pond, and Daicey Pond, all of which had plenty of safe ice. It’s important to keep track of the temperatures and ice thickness before attempting this hike. If you are unsure about the ice, you can skirt the edge of the ponds, although this will add more time to your trip. Winter conditions can be found on the Baxter State Park website.
Hikers should be in fairly good shape for the trek to Daicey Pond, especially if pulling a sled. If you need to break trail through fresh snow, things get even more strenuous! Fortunately for us, other hikers had already packed down the snow over the last day or so. Even so, pulling the loaded sleds along uphill portions of the trail had us sweating within minutes.
Which brings up another consideration: Make sure to dress in layers of breathable, wicking garments for this hike, so you can remove outer layers when you heat up, and add them on rest breaks as you cool. Also, bring lots of water and energy snacks.
It took our group a little over three hours to reach Daicey Pond and the series of small cabins on its western shore. The uninsulated cabins are very rustic and sparsely furnished with a wood stove, a table, a propane lamp, and beds with bare mattresses. Firewood is provided free of charge during winter, and is stored in a large, centrally located shed. Food and water can be heated on the wood stoves, but a portable propane stove is recommended.
Visitors must also pack in sleeping bags, plates and utensils, headlamps, sanitary wipes, and just about everything else. Water can be obtained in the small stream flowing out of Daicey Pond or in the pond itself (as long as you bring a hatchet to hack a hole), but must be boiled or filtered. Restrooms consist of vault toilets.
Park rangers will occasionally stop by the campground on snowmobile, but their assistance should not be counted on. And you can forget about cell phone service or WiFi. In other words, you need to be self-sufficient.
So, what does one do at Daicey Pond? Relax, read, paint, contemplate nature, sleep, eat, and take side trips on nearby trails, such as the one leading to Big and Little Niagra—a set of frozen waterfalls.
By the way, it’s also possible to crosscountry ski into Daicey Pond, but we’ll leave that for another adventure!
If you are interested in staying at Daicey Pond or other Baxter locations during winter, visit the park’s reservation page on its website. And be sure to follow the instructions on how to safely prepare for your adventure.