Yes, it’s time to think about winter. We like to break up the dreary, cold, icy, oil-burning months with nice trips. Here are a few from the past — and (hopefully) the future.
Last year’s winter getaway to Matt and Wendy Polstein’s New England Outdoor Center, 10 miles west of Millinocket, was spectacular. Dining in their exceptional River Drivers Restaurant, staring across Millinocket Lake at snow-covered Mount Katahdin, reminded us of why we love Maine winters — especially when we are enjoying a fine dinner — inside! There is no prettier dining spot in Maine.
Matt and Wendy have renovated the cabins at Twin Pine Camps, but we stayed in one of their six new environmentally friendly houses scattered along the shore of Millinocket Lake. With three bedrooms, two full baths, and a huge kitchen and living room, these houses can accommodate a lot of family members and friends. And you can snowmobile right up to them.
River Drivers has been the region’s top restaurant for many years, and last year Matt and Wendy moved it to a newly constructed building at Twin Pines. With its two-story windows offering jaw-dropping views of Katahdin along with creative culinary treats, this place is very special (don’t miss the Pork Ossobuco if its on the menu).
We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon snowmobiling with Matt, Wendy and their children, to the other side of the lake where we snowshoed toward Katahdin into a bog to enjoy lunch. It was a weekend we’ll never forget — and will probably repeat this winter!
Our winter weekend at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Camps, 13 miles east of Greenville, was another amazing experience. This is high-end comfort in a remote setting at reasonable prices — just the type of adventure many of today’s travelers seek — good food and historic camps in the heart of the 100-mile wilderness.
Most visitors ski in and out, although you can hitch a snowmobile ride if you are unable to ski the 6 miles to the camps. We skied, snowshoed, were captivated by flocks of colorful White-winged Crossbills, ate hearty meals served family style, got to know other guests including a group of mostly nonresidents enjoying an LL Bean Discovery School adventure, and had all the comforts of home in one of the new camps that include indoor plumbing. The less expensive older camps are also comfortable, but guests must trudge to the lodge for toilets and showers. Been there. Done that for many years. We’re into pampering now! The weekend went way to quickly.
But we got over our disappointment of leaving the camps by stopping for lunch on our way home at Mike and Kim Witham’s Spring Creek Bar-B-Q in Monson. Once you’ve feasted on their homemade barbecued meats, you’ll put this place in your GPS and never drive by it.
My pastrami sandwich, with a good dollop of Morse’s sauerkraut and Raye’s Old World Mustard, was astonishing. Mike’s pastrami is cured for two weeks, then smoked.
As we completed our meal, enjoying Mike’s stories throughout, we traded the soreness of our long ski out of the woods for the serenity of good food and good company. All was right in this winter world.
OK, not every winter adventure needs to be in the north woods. Because we didn’t get to the Bethel Inn as planned last winter, or enjoy a meal at 22 Broad Street and do some cross country skiing in the area, it’s on our must-do list this winter.
Bethel Inn Resort offers very comfortable rooms and suites, a ton of activities and special events, an impressive health club with a pool, sauna, a lot of exercise equipment and spa treatments, and a restaurant and pub. It’s become “our place” in Bethel and we really appreciate the friendly personal service there.
Bethel’s 22 Broad Street stunned us with the high quality of our meal and experience. This has to be one of Maine’s top restaurants. Don’t miss the eggplant lasagna when you dine here.
Finally, we’re hoping to enjoy a weekend close to home at Augusta’s Senator Inn. Sure, it’s only 20 miles from home, but who doesn’t enjoy a nice hotel suite, awesome spa treatments and a world-class Sunday brunch. Now, that’s our kind of winter weekend!
I’ve enjoyed the relatively mild weather we’ve experienced lately. It’s amazing that we now think it’s an extraordinary day if the thermometer hits 60. Soon it will feel warm when that thermometer hits 40. Which is just to say that winter is around the corner. We know Mainers are tough, but that doesn’t mean some of us don’t go a little stir crazy when the weather gets freezy.
Last winter was a pretty active one for us, and got us out of the house and into some great new activities. I hadn’t been cross country skiing in years and George suggested we visit Gorman Chairback Camps for a weekend. It sounded wonderful, but then he mentioned that we would need to ski the 6 miles out. After obtaining good equipment from Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville, I was up for the adventure.
If you haven’t seen Mount Katahdin covered with snow, make a point to do so this winter! With good meals served at the lodge, we had the whole weekend to just enjoy the outdoors. What a great experience, reminding me how much I loved being out on those snowy trails in the woods.
We had a great winter, but I was disappointed that we didn’t get to Bethel. I love that area in all seasons but it must be so beautiful in the winter. I’d love to try getting out on some of Bethel Inn’s trails with snowshoes or skis. Maybe we can even try to fit in one of the many workshops (like the Shaker chairs one, last winter.) And I’d love to get back for a dinner at 22 Broad Street.
Last year convinced me that winter flies by much faster, and I appreciate it a whole lot more, when I can enjoy some outside activities. Feel free to try some of our ideas or create your own adventures.
Let us know when you find something great — we’d probably be up for trying it.
IF YOU GO . . .
New England Outdoor Center
Check out the webcams on their website.
AMC’s Gorman Chairback Camps
22 Broad Street
Open Thursday through Monday at 4:30 p.m. for dinner.
Senator Inn & Spa
622-5804 (inn), 622-3138 (spa),
Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.