Appalachian Mountain Club’s Medawisla Lodge
The Appalachian Mountain Club’s newest lodge, Medawisla Lodge and Cabins, serves as a home base for exploring the 100-Mile Wilderness and provides meals and access to AMC’s lodge-to- lodge trail network.
It’s approaching peak foliage season, and my sister, Jillian, and I know we’re almost at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Medawisla Lodge and Cabins when we hit the dirt road just past Kokadjo. There’s still enough daylight to see the beauty of the property, the destination for our getaway weekend. Medawisla, which opened this past summer, is located in the 100-Mile Wilderness region, part of 70,000 acres of forestland conserved by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) through its Maine Woods Initiative.
My sister is the first to enter the expansive main lodge, and head chef Nathan Laird, accompanied by fellow staffer Duncan Nobile, greets us with a grin and a “Hope you’re hungry!” We find our seats at one of the Maine- made modern farmhouse tables in the family-style dining room. We discuss our adventure list for the weekend, must-sees and must-dos, and compare notes while getting to know the other diners. The post-and-beam building is impressive and gorgeous. It feels like being in an L.L.Bean home showroom.
Tonight’s dinner is baked salmon, sautéed veggies, strawberry and goat cheese salad, and homemade bread. Wine and local craft beer is available to boot. We decline the homemade blueberry pie and ice cream but soon regret that decision. Before leaving the table, the staff brings out lunch bags and crayons to check off trail-lunch orders for the next day.
Olga Gachkova, the manager of the lodge, offers us a tour of the main building before we retire to our cabin for the night. In the middle of lodge’s main room, separating the common area and library, is a slate and stone fireplace surrounded by gorgeous leather sofas and club chairs to unwind in. The lodge incorporates eco-friendly technologies, with solar panels lining the roof and composting toilets. There is a deck with hand-carved duck posts by a local artisan and a wood-fired sauna as well.
Our adorable cabin is just next to the main lodge along a woodchip pathway. There are two bedrooms and room enough to sleep six. There is a full bathroom, screened porch for outdoor gear, a beautiful Jotul woodstove, and yes, electricity. Sleep comes quickly, thanks to the peace and quiet of the woods.
I awake at 5:45 a.m., knowing that if I pull myself together quickly I can catch the sunrise from the dock at the boathouse. I run into the lodge with my Nikon over my shoulder. Coffee is hot and ready to go for us in the early riser’s club. I take a mug and walk to the dock around the corner from the main lodge to find a stunning pink sunrise over Second Roach Pond. I can see Mount Katahdin in the distance over the glass-like pond. There are paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks for guests to use. I’m feeling confident after half a cup of coffee and take a board out, fully clothed, to welcome this new day.
Breakfast is served at 8 a.m. It includes a spread of fruit, yogurt, nuts, and granola, along with pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, and fresh orange juice. After more conversations with other guests, my sister and I grab our ready-made packed lunches, and we’re off for the day.
My sister heads back to the cabin to relax and read a novel she borrowed from the lodge library, and I head off for a quick trail run up Shaw Mountain, which is a little over a mile from Medawisla. The road there is well maintained, with bridges newly built by AMC. The organization is replacing old culverts that have blocked trout and salmon from swimming upstream to their spawning grounds. Crews have restored 20 miles of streambed so far. I’m amazed at the condition of the trail, which is wide, well marked, and groomed. After hiking in New England for years, I know how unforgiving some of our trails are, with their roots and jagged rocks. It seems like scrapes and bruises are just a part of hiking in New England, but this is pristine. At the top are panoramic views over the surrounding ponds and Baxter State Park.
After I return to the cabin, my sister and I take the Hinkley Cove Trail around the border of Second Roach Pond and up to the Hinkley Connector Trail and back with our lunches in tow. The trails are wide enough to walk side by side. Before dinner we grab paddleboards and head out onto the pond. It’s only about five feet deep in most spots, and the temperature is perfect for dipping our toes as we glide along the shore of Second Roach Pond.
Dinner begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails and new friends in the main lodge. We compare trail notes and discuss our favorite spots of the day, what wildlife we came across, and our plans for tomorrow. I’m sitting with Jenny Ward, the business manager of AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges. She gives me a rundown of Medawisla, a $7 million project that offers a variety of outdoor activities, including lodge-to-lodge cross-country skiing trips between the AMC’s three Maine lodges, as well as fishing, mountain biking, and hiking. The lodge and two of the cabins are also wheelchair accessible.
We begin our last morning here with a beautiful quiche and every side you could imagine. Upon checkout I say goodbye to Gachkova and the rest of the staff. We make one final trip around the property to take photos of the cabins, boathouse, outdoor pavilion, and fire pit. I’m already planning the trips I want to make back here, ready for more relaxation, rejuvenation, and exploring.