A few weeks ago, I was invited to spend a night at the Maine Huts and Trails lodge at Flagstaff Lake. I left Michael at home because he is like dessert to mosquitos and instead asked my dad and sister to come with me. My sister and her boyfriend are uber-outdoorsy and it was so helpful to be joined by someone who knew what to pack! I was pretty clueless – the last time I’ve done anything remotely like camping was many, many years ago.
Maine Huts and Trails is a growing network of lodges in northern Maine that offer meals and overnight stays for guests. The whole set of lodges is exceptionally eco-friendly, with wood powered underground heat and even the coolest (albeit only) composting septic system I’ve ever seen. They source all of their food locally, and the family-style meals are delicious and energizing for all the adventuring you’re doing!
We stayed at the Flagstaff hut, which is set on Flagstaff Lake, a 20-mile long man-made lake. In the 1950′s, the Maine power company decided they wanted to dam the river that ran through the mountains to create electricity. So they bought up all the houses and eventually created this lake. In the autumn, they let the water level drop and you can see the foundations of the houses that used to be there! I’d love to go back and see that, it sounds incredible.
Because Flagstaff is a man-made lake, there really isn’t any vegetation in the lake. Instead, there is an incredible amount of driftwood from the trees that used to stand where the lake now is. If I lived in Maine you can bet my house would be full of those giant pieces of driftwood! Living in Ireland, a place with comparatively few trees, I’m almost completely deprived of driftwood. I was glad to see the Flagstaff hut decorated their lodges with big chunks of it, though.
That’s my sister all geared up for our hike!
There’s a communal lodge space with a reading room, bathrooms and showers, the dining room with a cosy wood stove and a porch. It kind of feels like you’re living inside an L.L. Bean catalogue in the most wonderful way! It also feels like you’ve arrived at summer camp, which I also absolutely loved. That pine smell will never get old to me.
We were really excited to try out the water activities while we were there. Since Flagstaff is quite shallow and filled with fallen down trees, there aren’t many power boats or jetskis, so it is incredibly peaceful. And the perfect place to try out stand up paddleboarding for the first time!
Lani, the recreation director, gave us a little lesson and we decided to go out at sunset. Sunset! It was just as amazing as these photographs, but probably even more so. My Dad snapped these photos from a canoe paddled by Lani’s husband, a champion canoe poler. Lani and her husband are both Registered Maine Guides, and their family business brings tours of people through the Allagash on canoe and fly-fishing trips. And in her spare time, Lani competes in adventure races around the world. I was a little in awe of their general outdoorsy-sportiness!
And of course, then Lani tried this out and I was even more in awe! Stand-up paddleboarding headstands with the mountain sunset in the background!
After completely wearing ourselves out on the paddleboards, we headed back to the hut for an evening campfire.
The next day, we kayaked and canoed over to visit the dam responsible for the lake. It was a little choppy but the view was breathtaking. I’ve spent a lot of time on Maine lakes – I grew up on a smaller lake south of Flagstaff (called China Lake, if you can believe it! ;), but our lake often has at least a few motor boats or jet skis zipping around. It’s surprising how different a lake feels when there are no machines zooming around you, and Flagstaff doesn’t even have houses along it because most of the surrounding land is nature preserve. It’s so quiet and feels beautifully remote.
One of the few things I really appreciate about living away from Maine is returning and getting to play tourist in my home state. We usually head straight for the ocean for our exploring, but this was such a good taste of the beauty and different landscape inland Maine has to offer.
Maine Huts and Trails are really inexpensive for what a wonderful offering they have. You sleep in bunks that are perfectly comfortable, warm in the winter and surprisingly cool in the summer. Flagstaff hut has canoes and kayaks to use, and there are extensive hiking and mountain biking trails that branch off from hut to hut. We were *thisclose* to seeing a moose – we even saw fresh tracks – but it was a little too warm for them to be out in the middle of the day. But I bet any other time you went you’d be almost guaranteed to see one!
Special thanks to Lani for giving us the best tour of the area! And of course, thanks to my fearless adventuring companions. It was a wonderful 24 hours.