George

What would you hope to find at a favorite sporting camp? Maybe historic camps of varying sizes, all restored for your comfort without losing the original features? Perhaps a deck with lots of rocking chairs, overlooking a beautiful lake with mountains beyond? How about a beach, with plenty of room for the kids to frolic? Would you enjoy a fantastic restaurant right on the grounds?

I’ll bet you would enjoy hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation land, with terrific hiking trails, within a few minutes’ ride of the camp. Of course, if you are me, you’d look for one of Maine’s best places to hunt and fish.

Well, Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc has all of this and more. Linda and I were particularly fascinated by our visit to the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, just a mile up the road from the camps. It’s filled with amazing historical items from this region’s famous hunting and fishing past, and manager Bill Pierce is as friendly and engaging a host as you’ll ever find.

Steve Philbrick spent a lot of time at Bald Mountain Camps when his grandparents owned them, and he later purchased the camps from his wife Fernlyn’s parents. Now their son Tyler has joined them on the management team. They rebuilt the lodge first, adding space for events, celebrations and conferences, and then reconstructed all the cabins. The restaurant/lodge is particularly beautiful, with lots of mounts spread throughout the three rooms. Linda and I both particularly loved the bobcats at the top of one of the rafters.

We had only a short one-night stay on a night when highly-regarded chef Brian Anderson was off and the restaurant was not open for dinner. But Steve, who cooked here for more than 20 years, stepped up to prepare a wonderful meal for us. We particularly appreciated Amanda, our server, who came in just to serve us that evening. She’s got a wonderful story, too, having moved here from Massachusetts simply because she loved her trips to the Rangeley region as a kid. She met the mother of Sue Anderson, Brian’s wife, who handles reservations and other details for the camps, at the local laundry, and that led to Amanda’s job here.

We enjoyed a stunning sunset from our table overlooking the lake. My barbecue ribs were perfectly cooked with a very tasty maple barbecue sauce, and I also really enjoyed the corn salsa. The portion was huge, so I got to enjoy some of the ribs the next day for lunch at home. The menu is extensive, and I really need to return to try the Caribbean fish tacos. Several of our friends told us that Chef Bryan is very creative, and they are right. The restaurant here has developed a great reputation.

Linda

We had stayed at Bald Mountain Camps more than 10 years ago, so the details were a sketchy memory. It was a cloudy day with showers when we headed out on our recent trip. But when we arrived, the clouds parted and the clear beauty of the grounds and lake sparkled in the sunshine.

While George was busy taking pictures, I strolled down to the dock, planted myself in one of the chairs and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings. As I sat there overlooking the many boats owned by the camp and the mountains in the distance, I thought: It doesn’t get any better than this.

This pattern continued during my stay here. I took a lot of relaxation time in rocking chairs on the outside porch of our camp. I thoroughly enjoyed early morning with that outstanding view of the water. The birds were very active in the trees by the camp, and the quiet beauty is reason enough to visit here.

But the spectacular lodge, open for public dining, is something you must experience. The two large dining rooms have log walls and the sporting tradition is a clear theme. There’s even a full-size canoe suspended from the ceiling. Our window table was so close to the water I could have thrown a stone into the lake.

Steve cooked a delicious meal for us. I started with a nice garden salad and ended with an entree of rib-eye steak, baked potato and Brussels sprouts. The rib-eye was massive.

On the regular menu, I noticed a good variety of appetizers, four nice salads and several entrees. Offerings included fillet and ribs, duck, pasta and burgers as well as many nice fish and seafood options. Choose the “American Plan” if you want meals provided with your reservation, or dine here as you wish during your stay. The restaurant is open to the public year-round and is a popular destination for snowmobilers.

Bald Mountain Camps also has a great indoor and outdoor facility for special events, including weddings. And it’s not that long a drive if you want to come up here for dinner some night. The ride up is especially nice in the fall, with stunning views of the forests and mountains. We drove up from Farmington through Rangeley, then home from Oquossoc through Mexico across the Highlands. Absolutely spectacular.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

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