January 21, 2012

Carey Kish: It's just a five-minute hike to get away from it all

Tucked into the forest, high on a ridgetop in the hills of Montville -- about 20 miles west of Belfast -- is a unique and comfortable spot to spend a winter's night, known as Goose Ridge Yurt. Easily accessible via a five-minute hike, snowshoe or ski trek uphill from the parking area off Halldale Road, the yurt feels amazingly remote, as if it were miles deep in the woods.

click image to enlarge

Glen Widmer and his son, Isaac, stand outside the Goose Ridge Yurt in Montville. It offers overnight stays in the wilderness without needing to travel to the deep woods.

Carey Kish Photo


• Pleasant Mountain Yurts, Shawnee Peak, Bridgton, www.shawneepeak.com or 647-8444

• Frost Mountain Yurts, Brownfield, www.frostmountainyurts.com or 935-3243.

• The Birches, Rockwood, www.birches.com or 800-825-9453

• Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson, www.hvnc.org or 586-6752

Long on my to-do list, I finally made time to connect with owner Glen Widmer, and my wife and I joined him and his young son, Isaac, for a tour of the yurt. The temperature hovered in the single digits, but inside the woodstove was cranking and it was warm and cozy while we sat around the table and chatted over a pot of tea.

"Living in the round" is how Widmer characterizes staying in a yurt. "Because of the unique shape, there are no corners, so they're spacious and heat very well. People even tell me they feel more centered."

The modern yurt is an adaptation of the portable, bentwood-framed structure dating back to the 13th century and used as dwellings by nomads on the windswept grassland plains of Central Asia. The more permanent Goose Ridge Yurt is twenty feet in diameter and rests above ground on a wooden platform. The walls and roof are made of heavy, waterproof vinyl fabric. Stairs lead up to the front door.

The interior is simply furnished with all the necessities for a night in the woods. In addition to the table and four chairs, there's a queen bed, a small gas stove, pots, pans and utensils. There's also two lanterns, a bookshelf with plenty of reading material, cards and a few games. A clear dome window in the center of the peaked roof lets in plenty of cheery light by day, and stars by night.

Outside is a fire pit, a big stack of firewood and a homemade outhouse.

Guests need only bring warm clothes and food for their stay, although sleeping bags are recommended on really cold winter nights. A plastic sled is available for shuttling stuff to the yurt. Prior to arrival, Widmer or his wife, Kim, hauls in a five-gallon container of water and kindles a fire -- all part of making everyone feel right at home at this small, family-operated business.

"Yurt is a very friendly four-letter word," noted Widmer.

If you've haven't yet camped overnight in a yurt, well, this is a great place to give it a try. People tend to equate yurts with being removed from civilization, so they often attract people looking to get away from it all. But you don't have to mount a big expedition or travel very far to enjoy a fun experience at Goose Ridge Yurt.

Once you are settled in to the yurt you can choose to stay put and relax, or venture out on the nearby ridgeline trails, some formal, some not. More than 25 miles of marked trails, maintained by the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance, connect Goose Ridge to Whitten Hill, Bog Brook, and Hogback and Frye mountains, so there's plenty to explore if desired.

In addition to great snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter, the area offers hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and bird watching in summer.

"Montville doesn't have the highest mountains, but it's a peaceful place that nobody knows about," Widmer said.

Goose Ridge Yurts is open year-round. Reservations are required. For more information, go to www.gooseridgeyurts.com or call 382-6034.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is an avid hiker, camper and freelance writer. Comments are welcome at:



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