With hushed celebratory internal fanfare, Marcia and I passed through the Togue Pond Gatehouse at Baxter State Park on Columbus Day weekend. We’ve been here many fall weekends before, but this time was unique. This will be our first time at Katahdin Lake.
We brought no printed reservations for our two-night stay at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps. I was asked to share my name, and the answer to “How many nights?”, and was immediately handed a pass to place on my windshield. We drove up six miles on the dusty Roaring Brook Road , where we parked at the old Avalanche Field group camping site, and prepared to walk 3.3 miles on the Katahdin Lake Trail to get there.
The walk in was magnificent.
It looked like peak foliage, with abundant fiery red leaves still thick on the deciduous trees. The beeches are bursting coppery, and yellow luminous.
The air is cool, but not cold. The footpath is relatively flat, with puncheon walkways meandering through the wetter sections. Streams are occasionally sounding in the distance, as is the rustling of the leaves.
The first night, we rented a furnished cabin for $63 ( Friends of Baxter State Park discount).
Our second night we splurged and bought into the meal plan, instead of cooking in the cabin. Our place had dry firewood, fresh water, a big cooler with a frozen gallon of water in it (refrigerator), three propane lights, and a gas cook stove. A wood heat stove, and a rubber tote bin with clean dishes and silverware rounded out the amenities.
There were four beds inside: two doubles downstairs, and two single beds set up in the loft.
The Camps are private, and are still holding on to a 20 year lease for these 30 acres on the southern shore of Katahdin Lake, the most recent ( 2006) acquisition to the Park in many years.
A brief history of these classic old Maine hunting/fishing cabins are featured in John Neff’s “Katahdin”. The Camps were established in the late 1880s, when they served men who lived in Eastern seaboard cities who wanted to hunt moose, caribou, and bear. The establishment was dealt an economic blow when moose hunting was banned by the 1918 Legislature. For a number of years, the camps were abandoned, but revived again in the mid 1920s. In 1925 a group of businessmen from New York set up a lease on the camp and ran it as a private fishing cub with rights to 12,000 acres surrounding the camp. Then the Depression hit and that venture ended. Around 1921, the Cobbs acquired the lease and after extensive remodeling and improvements, ran it for the next 32 years. The Camp leases were transferred to other individuals in 1965 and then again in 1970.
I was surprised to see the age on this cluster of buildings. They are ancient! A staff member guided us down a path to Purgatory Lodge, our cabin for the weekend, with the shore of Katahdin Lake not 50 feet off the front porch. We learned that this was one of the two oldest log cabins, dating back to around 1900. It is still solid, but thoroughly patched, with old pieces of newspaper plugging some of the holes and cracks around the window frames, new tarpaper shingles nailed to places around the sills, and ample use of insulating foam evident both inside and out.
These camps have no electricity, running water, or cell phone coverage.
Staying at these camps in a huge step backward to a time when one left the hustle and bustle of life to get away from it all, with guests arriving by buckboard from the Roaring Brook Road, by pontooned floatplane, or by walking.
Except for the buckboard and a couple of solar panels on the Lodge’s roof, nothing much has changed.