Best known for its hut-to-hut hiking system in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is now setting its sights north. The 90,000-member outdoor recreation and conservation organization has purchased three historic sporting camps--Chairback Mountain Camps, Medawisla Wilderness Camps, and Little Lyford Pond Camps--and partnered with the West Branch Pond Camp, all in the 100-Mile Wilderness Section of Maine. Guests can hike and canoe a 25-mile corridor of pristine wilderness backed by the mountains of the Appalachian Trail and laced with hidden ponds and rivers that are populated with far more moose than humans.
"Imagine the possibility of waking up in the morning at one camp and hiking for five miles to where your canoe will be waiting on the shores of a lake, then paddling another three miles to the next night's stay," says a buoyant Andy Falender, executive director of the AMC.
If a camp-to-camp jaunt sounds a bit too adventurous, consider spending several nights at the affordable Little Lyford Pond Camps. Originally opened in 1873 as a lumber camp, Little Lyford became a cozy overnight for anglers and hunters in the early 1900s. Today, helpings of pancakes, baked beans, and fresh vegetables are still served family-style in the main lodge. Lining the green meadow are seven revamped rustic cabins, which sleep one to six people and have porches, woodstoves, and gas lamps.
A short walk brings you to Little Lyford Pond, a majestic gem backed by the peaks of Baker and Indian Mountains. Other trails lead to the West Branch of the Pleasant River, a churning stream teeming with trout, and Gulf Hagas, where the same river plunges through a narrow canyon, creating waterfalls and swimming holes. Good for a bracing dip, Maine-style. 603/466-2727,outdoors.org. Little Lyford starts at $92 per person per night, including lodging and all meals; reservations essential. A three-night camp-to-camp cross-country skiing package starts at $405 per person.