Bangor Daily News outdoors contributor Sarah Sindo and her dog Drake are pictured during their early days of exploring the trail at the Bait Hole in Millinocket.  Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

The Bait Hole. Between its catchy name and being just down the street from where I grew up, the Millinocket hiking spot has been a favorite of mine for a long time.

Leaving Millinocket on Route 11, one will arrive at the Bait Hole Trailhead — named after the pond west of the trailhead where bait fish were once kept for fishing in nearby Elbow Lake — after driving only a few miles.

It’s a convenient location for locals who are looking for a change of scenery from walking around town and for visitors who are seeking out a quiet hike or an option for when they are short on time.

The trail network attracts folks who participate in multiple sports such as hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing.

Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Sarah Sindo introduces her parents’ dog, Henry, to the Bait Hole, and enjoys looking out onto Elbow Lake from the causeway. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

During my high school days, a handful of friends and I frequently visited the trails during the winter, and that’s where I learned how to cross-country ski. I don’t quite remember the details, but there were many tears of laughter, as well as frustration, during those outings.

Dogs are not permitted on the groomed ski trails during the winter. However, they can enjoy the trails with their humans during the summer months.

Between my family’s dogs and my own pup, I’ve walked many miles with four-legged friends. And it was on these numerous excursions that I thoroughly enjoyed and grew to love walking alone in the woods.

I adopted my dog, Drake, back in the winter of 2014. He was 6 years old at the time and, let me tell you, German Shorthaired Pointers still have an unbelievable amount of energy at that age.

Gone were his absurd running days, but he still enjoyed, and needed, a one- to two-hour walk each day. That first winter and spring with him I was living at my parents house and the Bait Hole was the stomping grounds for Drake and me.

His nose was his navigational tool in the woods and I loved observing him. There were many times when I wished I had a GPS on him only to see how many more miles he covered compared with me.

During the early days, I felt uncomfortable and scared the farther we walked from the trailhead. What was that noise? What if we ran into a coyote or some other animal that would attack us? What if I got lost? What if he got hurt and I couldn’t carry him back to the car?

But Drake and I continued to walk.

Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Sarah Sindo’s dog Drake (left) is shown with two of her parents’ former dogs during a walk at the Bait Hole in Millinocket. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

With each trip to the Bait Hole, I began to feel more at ease and OK with being alone out there. I prepared myself for situations that might happen and for things that were within my control.

As for the rest? Well, I guess they just never happened.

Fast forward eight years, and Drake will be 15 years old next month. We are no longer going for walks at the Bait Hole together. While he’s still fairly mobile for his age, any walk longer than the backyard is too much for him.

It’s been a difficult adjustment for me, and probably him as well. So I’ve stayed away from the Bait Hole. If I can’t bring Drake, why go at all?

However, lately I’ve been thinking that’s not how Drake would want me to think.

So, last week while spending a couple days off at my parents house in Millinocket, I decided to take their 10-month-old West Highland White Terrier, Henry, to the trails.

I thought to myself that even though Drake may miss adventuring, I know he’d want me to introduce the next dog to the fun that the Bait Hole has to offer to dogs.

Initially, Henry proceeded with caution but he quickly felt the sheer joy that comes from going for a walk in the woods. The sounds, the smells, the squirrels — so many squirrels.

I had to bribe Henry with biscuits to stay a few minutes longer as we sat on the causeway, looking out onto Elbow Lake.

Even though Drake wasn’t physically there with us, he was there in spirit and that made me feel good and that I was doing the right thing. It was a way of honoring the tradition of our days together, romping around the trails.

Going for a walk in the woods with your dog offers the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. You get to watch them and see how they take the world in. You have the chance to get outside and enjoy a change of scenery and to notice things that you may not have seen if you were on your own or with someone else.

So, grab your pooch and head for the Bait Hole! A dog is certainly not required, but in an area where it’s a bit difficult to find dog-friendly hikes, the Bait Hole is your answer.

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Sarah Sindo, Outdoors contributor

Sarah Sindo was locally grown in Millinocket. Her love and appreciation for the outdoors took off after college when she hiked numerous mountains with her brother, Nick, including her first ascent of Katahdin....