Active Outdoors: Rebirth of the Medawisla Lodge in northern Maine

  • TOP: The new Medawisla Lodge where guests gather to socialize and eat is beautiful. ABOVE: A pleasant hike on a newly-cut trail took us to this view overlooking Second Roach Pond, a wonderful place to paddle and swim. Tim Jones / EasternSlopes.com photos

  • Medawisla Cabin: The new cabins at Medawisla are clean, comfortable, rustic feeling and weathertight with screened front porches that are a pleasure to relax on. They even have a small fridge, stove and sink. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Roach River Bridge. The trails at Medawisla are being cut with cross-country skiers and mountain bikers in mind. This bridge crosses the Roach River just below the cabins. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Medawisla Lodge 1. The new main lodge building where guests gather to socialize and eat is brand new, and beautiful. The lodge and some of the cabins are fully accessible to people with physical challenges. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Medawisla Lodge 2. The new main lodge building at Medawisla is set on a knoll overlooking Second Roach Pond and the start of the Roach River. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

For the Monitor
Sunday, July 23, 2017

A big deadline was looming in my day job. After recent rains, the collection of weeds and random grasses I call my lawn looked like a long-neglected hayfield. We’d moved a year ago and there are still boxes in the basement that need unpacking and thousands of objects that still need to be organized and stored where we could actually find them when we want them.

In other words, it was a perfect time to chuck it all, get away for a few days and enjoy some concentrated outdoor time. They don’t call it recreation (re-creation) for nothing. Fortunately, we’d already made reservations to spend two nights at the AMC’s brand new Medawisla Lodge in northern Maine about 25 miles northeast of Greenville.

My Sweetheart Em and I are big fans of the three AMC Maine lodges. They are in beautiful settings, miles from any distractions, and offer comfortable beds, great food that you don’t have to cook yourself, good company among like-minded outdoor people, and plenty of hiking and biking and paddling to keep you active so you have an excuse to relax.

For those of you who don’t know the history, the Boston-based Appalachian Mountain Club purchased three old-time Maine sporting camps Little Lyford Pond, Chairback and Medwisla sometime between 2004 and 2006 with an idea toward refurbishing them and using them as focal points to help preserve vast swatches of the “100-Mile Wilderness” along the Appalachian Trail.

I first discovered Little Lyford in May of 2006. The main lodge building and the bathhouse were brand new, the log cabins where guests slept were comfy and quaint and being refurbished one at a time. The food was excellent, the blackflies were fierce, moose were everywhere and the trout fishing was just superb. I was hooked. It’s only gotten better since.

In early 2007, I visited the area again and cross-country skied at the old Medawisla, spent the night at West Branch Pond Camps run by fifth-generation owners Eric Stirling and his wife Mildred Kennedy, then skied to Lyford Pond and overnighted there. That was the first of several camp-to-camp ski adventures for both Em and me, including a ski from Lyford to the then-brand-new Gorman Chairback Camp in 2011.

In 2014, we stayed Chairback for the first time in the summer and loved it! The weather was hot and humid and we’d done a lot of hiking the previous two days, so we hiked a little in the early morning and spent the days swimming, paddling and lounging in the shade on the porch. Great getaway.

The weather forecast wasn’t looking promising as we packed for our recent visit. A series of fronts were dropping in from Canada bringing some pretty hefty thunder storms on some days and plain old rain on others. So we packed waterproof gear for hiking and paddling and a couple of books we’d been meaning to read and headed out. The drive up was rainy, and it was still raining hard as we stopped for an excellent pub lunch at the Stress Free Moose in Greenville, but by the time we left town the clouds were breaking and it didn’t rain again until we were packing the car to head home.

The new Medawisla looks very much like the other AMC camps except that at Lyford and Chairback they were able to save some of the old cabins, but there’s not a trace of any of the “old” Medawisla left. While not “old-timey,” the new cabins are clean, comfortable, rustic feeling and weathertight with screened front porches that are a pleasure to relax on. The cabins are grouped in two well-spaced clusters, one cluster waterside near the outlet to the lake and one on the hillside above. We stayed in the waterside area. The new bathhouse with showers and indoor plumbing was less than a minute’s walk away.

The new lodge, where meals are served, is simply beautiful, set on a knoll above the lake. The dining room is flooded with morning sunshine. We enjoyed a superb pork roast with apples and onions one evening and teriyaki salmon the next. Vegetarians had their own dishes; we are gluten-free and they accommodated our needs with no issues.

There’s a wood fired sauna in the main lodge that I’m already looking forward to enjoying in the winter .

A number of hiking and mountain biking trails start right at Medawisla. Em is very particular about her hiking trails and we found a couple that she thought were perfect for an outing before breakfast or a sunset stroll. If we had more time, I’d have climbed some of the hills nearby.

There’s a dock on the lake (Second Roach Pond) with canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for guests to use. I swam, paddleboarded in a brisk breeze (a real workout!) and went out for a paddle alone after dinner and saw loons, an eagle, beavers, a couple of families of mergansers, and a pair of mallards. Another paddler had seen a moose that morning but all I saw was fresh moose tracks on the edge of the pond.

The inevitable complaint with a getaway like this is that it doesn’t last long enough. We stayed two nights, but I really could have used another day or two to fully de-stress. And next time I go in summer, I’ll bring a fast touring kayak to explore the whole lake and my mountain bike to see more of the trails. Maybe we’ll see you there next time!

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

(Tim Jones is the Executive Editor of the online magazine EasternSlopes.com and writes about outdoor sports and travel. Email him at timjones@easternslopes.com.”