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For generations, people have escaped to the Maine woods. Way back, they came on steamboats and on railroads, fleeing the clang and squalor of big cities. Today, they come by plane and car, dragging themselves away from the tap of keyboards, the yammer of cell phones and the 24/7 chatter of the digital age.
But just as they did a century-and-a-half ago, smart escapees drop their bags and settle down on the porches of Maine’s sporting camps and wilderness lodges. Deep in Maine’s woods, these historic Maine lodges allow people to disconnect and nestle into nature. They paddle canoes, cast flies, eat home-cooked food and grab a nap or two as needed. It’s hard to worry about deadlines if you don’t have any.
Many camps and lodges are deliberately low tech. Some have fancy-pants features like Wi-Fi, but others have cabins without electricity (you’ll have propane for lights). Remember, you’ve come to the wilds to digitally detox, not search for a signal.
The sporting camp tradition in Maine dates back to the 1860s. Today, you’ll find the Maine wilderness virtually unchanged since those times. The concept hasn’t changed either. You can get about as rustic and bare bones as you like with your cabin, or you can opt for a few more creature comforts. The hunting, the fishing, the pristine waters, the pine forest air — same as it ever was.
Are wilderness lodges different from sporting camps? It’s really two ways of looking at the same thing. Some accommodations are cabins. Some, with a little more elbow room and amenities, are lodges. The important thing is the main lodge, the place where even the most rugged individuals can get together for meals (home-cooked most often), sharing stories (some true, most embellished) and enjoying a beverage or two.
Pick Your Season
Many sporting camps and wilderness lodges are open during the spring, summer and fall. Others stay open all year, expanding their offerings to include things like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice fishing. Check individual websites for seasons and programs.
Camps and lodges often offer different outdoor experiences. Some have hiking, boating and ski adventures, while others lean more toward guided fishing and hunting. Many have on-site Registered Maine Guides, state-sanctioned experts on all things outdoors. A few properties have float-plane flights, both for scenic tours and for trips to special fishing spots.
Camps and lodges are spread throughout the Maine woods. For example, Red River Camps, Libby Camps and The Bradford Camps are tucked into far-northern Maine. Bald Mountain Camps, Grant's Kennebago Camps and Tea Pond Lodge & Cabins are in Maine’s western mountains. Weatherby's Fishing and Hunting Lodge is in the DownEast and Acadia region.
If you’d like to hike, ski or mountain bike to your lodging, the Appalachian Mountain Club and Maine Huts & Trails have just the place. In north-central Maine, AMC has three historic wildland camps: Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins, Gorman Chairback Lodge & Cabins and Medawisla Lodge & Cabins. They offer lots of hiking, paddling, fishing and trails for skis and mountain bikes. In summer, all lodges have car access. In winter, you’ll have to bring your cross-country skis, snowshoes or fat bike to get to Little Lyford and Gorman Chairback (but boy, what fun).
For more information on all of the above, be a sport and check out the Maine Sporting Camps Association.