A group of mostly nonresidents were enjoying a spectacular L.L.Bean Discovery School adventure when we arrived at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Camps, 13 miles east of Greenville.

This is high-end comfort at reasonable prices, just the type of adventure that many of today’s travelers seek. Good food, historic camps, in the heart of the 100-mile wilderness. We rented equipment from Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville before arriving at the camps on a Friday night in March, and feasted on our way home Sunday afternoon at Spring Creek Bar-B-Q in the heart of downtown Monson.

It was a weekend to savor, and remember — until we return for a summer adventure!

When George said he’d like to stay at the Appalachian Mountain Club camps, I was intrigued. When he went on to explain these are very comfortable camps, I was excited. But when he said people ski into and out of these camps, I was a bit panicked.

We used to cross-country ski when the kids were young, mostly on Mount Vernon’s snowmobile trails.

Then, thanks to Coach Steve DeAngelis and the Maranacook cross-country ski team, our kids, Josh and Hilary, really learned how to ski.

George kept up with them for a while (until they left him far behind). I, on the other hand, continued to shuffle along on my skis and soon felt like a grandma far before my time! I decided I liked snowshoeing much more, and my skis gathered a decade of dust.

My old skis with the three-pinned bindings now stand out as antiques. I couldn’t even locate my poles and ski boots. So George reserved appropriate equipment for me in Greenville, at Northwoods Outfitters. I credit those top-of-the-line skis and boots to my success in skiing that weekend for sure!

After such a mild winter, it was great to see the perfect winter scene at Gorman Chairback. The older sporting camps sit on the edge of Long Lake, while four new camps are located just in back of them. 
The Discovery School participants, some who had never skied or snowshoed before, were in good hands. What a great way to have a winter adventure! Learn how to snowshoe and ski, visit a spectacularly beautiful area of the state, stay in comfortable camps and have somebody cook for you for the weekend!    

Our weekend was full of exercise. Knowing that I needed to practice skiing — so that I could actually make the 6-mile ski out — we found the well-groomed trails just beautiful. We didn’t break any speed records because of the breathtaking mountain views, and the fact George had to stop to examine every animal track, but it was so much fun. After enjoying our bagged lunch back at camp, we went snowshoeing.

Everyone had spent a busy day like that, and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such thankful diners as those in the lodge that night. We indulged in a turkey dinner that will live in my memory for a long time. We were starving and the chef must have known it. Platters of turkey, potatoes, fresh green beans and carrots, and the best cornbread stuffing I’ve ever eaten.

After a hearty breakfast Sunday morning, we struck out on the epic ski back to the winter parking lot. I was a bit worried that my knee wouldn’t hold up but it did, and I remembered how much I loved being out on those snowy trails in the woods. It was spring skiing that day — warm and absolutely perfect.

And though I certainly felt it the next day, I knew I’d welcome the chance to do it again.

I didn’t think we’d get to breakfast on our first morning, because the ground in front of the beautiful $2 million lodge was covered with colorful White-winged Crossbills, birds we hadn’t seen all summer, and Linda insisted on watching and photographing them as my stomach grumbled.

The food here is definitely worth waiting for. Served family-style at breakfast and dinner, there was plenty for all. They pack lunches for you to enjoy wherever your daily adventure takes you.

Folks gather in front of a fire prior to meals — giving us a good chance to meet and visit with others including a nurse from Portland, L.L.Bean guides from Bath and Monson, a family with teenagers from Cape Cod, a senior citizen from Boston, a Maine couple with a camp nearby in Brownville (their second visit here in a month), and the very friendly staff. This place offers outdoor opportunities without regard to your experience or expertise.

As darkness settled in on Friday night, we drove the 13 miles from Greenville to the Gorman-Chairback winter parking lot (in the summer you can drive right to the camps). From there we were transported in a coach behind a snowmobile — a rather wild ride.

On Saturday we skied above the lake in the morning, enjoying stunning views, and snowshoed along the enchanting Henderson Creek in the afternoon.

We opted for one of the new camps that included indoor plumbing. The less expensive older camps are also comfortable, but you must trudge to the lodge for toilets and showers. Been there, done that for many years. We’re into pampering now.

Gorman Chairback is one of three AMC camps in this area. The others are Little Lyford and Medawisla. I’ve stayed and fished at Little Lyford, catching 30 colorful wild brook trout on one hot sunny afternoon. Your entire stay can be at one of these camps, or you can travel from one to the other.

In addition to the above, here’s what I loved: the toasty warm cabin on our arrival — thanks to the fire the staff had started for us.

The smell of the pine walls, my feet up while reading on the couch, beating Lin at cribbage, the view across the lake toward the mountains, the amazing breakfast frittata in a huge, cast-iron skillet, the old fishing photos on the walls (anglers really dressed up to fish in those days! And caught huge fish!).

On Sunday, we skied 6 miles to our Subaru (our longest ski ever), and then enjoyed the mud run the rest of the way to Greenville. The next day, almost a month early, AMC closed their camps because the roads were breaking up.

It was a carefree, in-the-woods weekend of relaxation, outdoor exercise, great meals and a comfortable cabin — with just one problem. It went too quickly!

IF YOU GO . . .

AMC’s sporting camps
WHERE: Maine’s 100-mile wilderness 
ON THE WEB: www.outdoors.org/lodging/mainelodges/index.cfm
PHONE: 603-278-4453
The camps are now closed for mud season and will reopen the end of May, ready for your summer adventure!

Spring Creek Bar-B-Q

WHERE: 26 Greenville Road, Monson
ON THE WEB: springcreek
PHONE: 997-7125
HOURS: Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or until the food is gone!).
Days and hours subject to change, and probably will expand during the summer.

Northwoods Outfitters
WHERE: Maine Street, Greenville
PHONE: 866-223-1380
ON THE WEB: www.maine

Visit George’s website: www.george
smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

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