It’s five hours from Boston, Massachusetts, to Greenville, Maine, the last town en route to our destination, and it’s still another hour beyond there — on broken paved roads and dirt logging trails — to Little Lyford Pond Camps. These narrow byways are rutted and full of potholes. On the better sections, you might try speeding up to 35 mph, but you’ll soon give up. Keep your eyes open for moose. The other large beast to be wary of is logging equipment.
These trucks can come barreling down the center of the road at any time — and on a dry day, a cloud of dust is your only advance warning. You’re deep in the woods; you have to want to come here.
Originally a logging camp from the 1870s, then a sporting camp, Little Lyford Pond Camps is now owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club as a rustic retreat. In the heart of the region known as Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, the property is 300 acres of forests, ponds, streams, and trails, including access to the Appalachian Trail and Gulf Hagas — a gorge known for its waterfalls.
At Hedgehog Checkpoint, a small cabin nestled in the woods from which a rope is strung across the road, we stop to pay an access fee to the couple who live here with only wildlife for neighbors. Approaching Little Lyford, we pass the only traffic: a couple with their canoe strapped to the top of their car, heading home to Newton, Massachusetts, from the camp. “It’s luxurious — heated bathrooms and hot showers,” they tell us. “We didn’t want to leave.”
We can see why as caretakers Chuck and Rosemary James greet us at the main lodge and show us to our private log cabin. Tucked in a gully are seven of these rustic accommodations, plus a bunkhouse and a main lodge with dining room and common areas. A contemporary facility offers composting toilets, showers, and a sauna (fired for use only in the winter).
The camp’s canoes are lined up on the shore of First Pond, a few hundred yards through the woods from the cabins. There’s a view of Laurie’s Ledge, overlooking the water — a possible hike for later in the day. We set out paddling to fly-fish for wild native brook trout. Brookies leave the waterway’s deep spring holes this time of year and move up for food as surface temperatures cool. We’re counting on their being hungry for our flies. At the other side of the pond, there’s a spot to leave the canoe and hike, with paddles and rods in hand, over a small ridge to Second Pond, where another canoe awaits. By the end of the afternoon, we’ve caught and released seven fish.
Low-hanging clouds cling to the branches of the trees, tinged with fall color; mist rises off the water, and a rain picks up. Back at the cabin, a fire is already burning. We stoke it to dry out our clothes and succumb to the comfort and romance of reading beside the woodstove.
After a home-cooked dinner served family-style in the main lodge, we make plans for tomorrow: fishing the shallows of the West Branch of the Pleasant River; hiking Gulf Hagas on a slick trail that’s impressively sited at the edge of a canyon; or walking through The Hermitage, a 35-acre stand of majestic white pines, some of the oldest in the state. How can we go wrong?
Little Lyford Pond Camps, Greenville, ME. 603-466-2727 (reservations), 207-280-0708 (lodge); outdoors.org/lodging