CAMDEN — With the fire roaring in the wood stove and their treasured axes at the wood pile, the three Boston-area men looking for a wilderness escape savored the forest view outside and the insulated cabin they hiked to in Camden Hills State Park. They said the backcountry experience was unlike any in New England.

“We call this the Ritz-Carlton of cabins,” said Mike Landenberger of Arlington, Massachusetts.

What is called the Ski Shelter at Camden Hills State Park is unique in Maine because it is the only cabin in the state park system – which also makes Maine unusual in New England.

Except for Rhode Island, every other New England state offers many cabins for rent at state parks. Connecticut has 38 cabins, Vermont has 25; Massachusetts has 10 cabins and 33 yurts in its state park system. New Hampshire has 16 cabins at its state parks (a total that doesn’t include the cabins in the White Mountain National Forest).

Massachusetts men Jon Klerowski, left, of Ipswich, Mike Landenberger of Arlington and Jim Gennece, right, of Watertown, warm themselves by the wood stove at Camden Hills State Park’s Ski Shelter. The three like to visit a couple times during the year to escape city life.

All four states also offer cabins that are ADA compliant and accessible for people in wheelchairs.

Camden’s cabin is not handicapped-accessible. And it takes some work to get there, with a 2-mile hike up Mount Megunticook along a carriage road that can turn slick with ice in the winter. But without the leaves on the trees this time of year, the view is better than in the summer, with long looks out to the islands off Camden and Lincolnville.


The cabin also is insulated, which is not always the case in basic log cabins offered at state parks.

The cabin that first stood here was built by the Civilian Conservation Core in 1938, said Camden Park Ranger Kevin Shields. It was used and then abused for years and finally burned down 15 years ago.

Camden Hills State Park Manager Bill Elliot wanted to rebuild it.

Using grants from MBNA, the credit-card company that once had offices in Belfast, Elliot bought all the materials other than the lumber, which came from harvested wood on the 6,200-acre state park. Elliot found the blueprints for the original cabin at the state park office, and using volunteer labor, rebuilt it in 2005.

Other than the stone floor, fireplace and foundation, nothing is from the original Ski Shelter. But it looks similar.

“The original Ski Shelter was post-and-beam construction. The Ski Shelter (was) rebuilt using regular framing, but the appearance is very close to the original structure,” Elliot said. “A stone mason rebuilt the fireplaces as they looked in the 1930s. I’m a fan of CCC projects and like to see the work they did preserved. The Ski Shelter is located in a lesser visited part of the park. It seemed like a good opportunity for that part of the park.”

The cabin is off the beaten path.


“Most people don’t go by it, most go to Mount Battie for the ocean view from Mount Megunticook,” Shields said.

Ryan Linn of Portland has stayed in the cabin before. The 32-year-old long-distance hiker who grew up in Belfast also has stayed in the Appalachian Mountain Club cabins in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, as well as at the backcountry cabins in Vermont on the Long Trail.

He prefers the Camden cabin.

“Mostly, the Camden Hills cabin is appealing to me because it’s close to home, in a place that I already care quite a bit about,” Linn said. “And it’s such a treat to hang out at on a cold winter night.”

The wood shed is fully stocked at Camden Hills State Park’s Ski Shelter.

For the likes of Landenberger, Jon Klerowski and Jim Genece, it was heaven. The three men, who all live around Boston, trade the city for the mountains at least twice a year – and more often if they can pull it off.

They’ve stayed in cabins in New Hampshire and Vermont with four others in their band of outdoor friends. Klerowski also has camped in state park cabins out West.


But never in the past 10 years that they’ve camped together have they stayed anywhere as posh as Maine’s only state park cabin. Everything about the cabin is idealistic, they said of the stained-wood pine boards on the ceiling and walls, the modern wood stove and the four simple but ample bunk beds.

They want to return and rent it for a holiday with their families next year.

“We got up here at night, and the fire was going and the cabin was warm. Bill came up and got the fire going for us,” Klerowski said of the park manager. “We hiked to a similar cabin in the White Mountains in Jackson. It was cold out, and in the single digits. There was a wood stove inside, but it pretty much was the same temperature in the cabin.”

The hike up to the cabin, pulling their sleds in the dark after their drive up from Boston and arriving at an isolated cabin, was the perfect fix for the fast-paced city life they lead, said Genece, of Watertown, Massachusetts.

“Every two to three months we start to feel it,” Genece said. “If we haven’t been in nature, we need that release and we need to go camping. The campfire, the propane light, no cell service, this is the exact opposite of what we live with every day. We live in rooms with computers, TVs and cellphones. On average, we take three to four camping trips a year.”

It’s the highlight of their year.


“We bring out gear in sleds, and by gear, I mean beer,” Landenberger said. “We have a saying, you gotta earn your beers. We plan the day around a big hike, so we can earn our beers.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or::

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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