The soft light of dawn is filtering through the cabin windows. Despite the winter chill outside, the room is cool but not cold. I should get up and stoke the woodstove, but it’s no easy task when you’re toasty warm beneath flannel sheets and a down comforter. Instead I lay content for a while, listening to the quiet of the place, and admiring the artifacts adorning the log walls, which have comfortably sheltered many an outdoorsperson since the late 1800s.

My cabin and base camp for this long weekend adventure is at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins. Situated on Long Pond in the heart of Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, it is one of the three traditional sporting camps on 66,500 acres of conservation land owned and managed by the club. Eight cabins hug the shore of the pond; four more are tucked into the woods above. Adjacent is the beautiful timber-framed lodge, the social hub of the place.

Access to this remote location in winter requires an eight-mile trek on skis or, if you choose, snowshoes. Several routes are possible, but for my wife and me, a day of bright sun and blue skies dictated skiing in the open across Long Pond, which offered extensive views of the Barren-Chairback and Whitecap mountain ranges en route.

Dressed and ready for the day we trundle over to the lodge, where the coffee is on and the aroma of sausage links and French toast wafts through the light and airy space. Fellow guests gather with mugs in hand in the comfy living room before settling into the adjoining dining area. After breakfast, hearty bagged lunches are set out, to be stowed in our packs for midday sustenance on the trail. There’s good food here and plenty of it, expertly prepared by the chef and able staff.

A snowshoe hike through the scenic gorge along Henderson Brook is the morning plan. We eventually merge with the Appalachian Trail to cross the West Branch of the Pleasant River before arriving at The Hermitage, a stately grove of tall white pines. Lunch is enjoyed overlooking the river, a light snow falling.

In the afternoon, we ski off west of the lodge to tackle the loop trails extending to Moose Point and beyond. Miles of trail radiate from Gorman Chairback, so options for skiing and snowshoeing abound. You can choose a route up to Third Mountain and the AT, explore the cliffs and waterfalls of Gulf Hagas, or head north to Little Lyford Ponds. Many trails are groomed (but not tracked) while others are left in their natural state to be broken out as you go.

A full day in the outdoors behind us, it’s time to relax in the cabin. Then we saunter to the lodge to join our fellow adventurers. The pink light of the setting sun fills the large glass windows and sets the natural wood walls aglow. There’s beer and wine available so happy hour is just that and the place is abuzz with lively conversation. Some choose to play card games, some delve into a book.

We treat ourselves to a hot shower, while other folks spend quality time in the wood-fired sauna. Both are true luxuries, albeit energy-efficient ones, that you’ll find at Gorman Chairback, where roughing it in the wilderness takes on a whole new meaning.

Dinner is served family-style, a delicious affair of rainbow trout, rice, fresh bread and soup. Dessert is an over-the-top chocolate mousse cake. For the backcountry this is good living for sure.

Outside it’s a brilliant starry night, but the air is frigid and we retreat to our cozy cabin early, add several logs to the fire and collapse into bed. Deep sleep arrives quickly.

The following morning our gear bags get loaded on a snowsled for hauling to the trailhead. We’ll ski out with light packs, same as the trip in. We then bid a reluctant adieu to the wonderful crew. I stop to sign the guest book and note with a smile the comments left by other visitors, like this one: “A perfect weekend — amazing views, great amenities, gracious hospitality, new friends.”

To plan your own winter or summer adventure to AMC Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins, go to: www.outdoors.org/mainelodges

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the 2012 AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Send comments and questions to: [email protected]


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