Friday, December 6, 2013
If you haven't been camping for a few years, I can tell you that you'll be in for a pleasant surprise if you decide that this is the year to give it another shot. And if you've never experienced the natural pleasures of spending a few nights out under the stars with family or friends (or even on a solo excursion), maybe this is the summer to plan a trip to one of Maine's hundreds of wonderful campgrounds.
To begin with, the gear that's available now is a far cry from the canvas tents and bulky bedrolls of yore. Lightweight and easy-to-pack and erect tents, cozy sleeping bags, and an almost limitless variety of cooking stoves and gear have made spending time camping not only a piece of cake to undertake, but sheer pleasure.
Added to that is the wide variety of destination options, from close to home to the wilderness, and from state and privately owned and managed facilities to our own treasure of a national park, Acadia, with two campgrounds within its boundaries.
As I spend my summer months working at Camden Hills State Park, I'm especially familiar with the quality of the 47 such parks, historic sites and river corridors managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, in addition to the 28 units of Maine Public Reserved Lands. In respect to the latter, I'd highly recommend you pick of a copy of Tom Hanrahan's complete description of the nearly a million acres of managed and accessible public lands, "Your Maine Lands: Reflections of a Maine Guide." A delightful read as well as a helpful planning guide for a trip to the wilds. And access to all of it is free, although there are some North Maine Woods checkpoints on the access roads to some of the Public Reserved Lands where a toll is collected.
Twelve of Maine's state parks have campgrounds within them, from Aroostook in the north to Bradbury Mountain in the south, and from Down East's Cobscook Bay to Mount Blue in western Franklin County.
Two of the parks, Camden Hills and Sebago Lake, have sites with electric and water hookups, as well as dump stations for discharge of on-board holding tanks.
During July and August, especially, I'd recommend making reservations; the more popular campgrounds tend to fill up. There are reservable as well as first-come, first-serve sites. You can reserve a site for up to 14 days as long as you do so at least 48 hours in advance of your arrival, by going to www.campwithme.com, or calling (800) 332-1501, 9 am. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
No reservations are needed for trips into the Public Reserved Lands as sites abound, from the shores of Flagstaff Lake, Deboullie and Donnell Pond, to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Aroostook and Rocky Lake in Washington County.
Many of the campsites in the Public Reserved Lands require hiking or paddling to access them, but therein lies a lot of the appeal to campers who are looking for a true wilderness experience.
There's nothing that compares to a night at one of the platformed sites reached by a five-mile hike along the Cutler Bold Coast, where the reward is a westerly sunset view, with the Little River Light guarding the entrance to Cutler's cozy harbor in the foreground.
While camping in state facilities may strike some folks, especially those with children, as being a little spartan for their tastes (despite the fact there's even free Wi-fi and geo-caching in some of them), amenities in the more than 200 member campgrounds of the Maine Campground Owners Association boggle the mind. In addition to more than 20,000 campsites, you can find campgrounds offering jacuzzis, hot tubs, swimming pools, fish ponds, miniature golf, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, horseshoes, shuffleboard, recreation halls, entertainment, arcades, convenience stores, snack bars, water slides, canoe and boat rentals, and a variety of other diversions to please virtually every taste and need.
Go to www.campmaine.com to get more information and to order the 2013 Guide Book.
As you can plainly see, it's not your grandfather's camping any more.
But for those of us who cherish the experience of simply reveling in nature and getting away from what has been referred to as "the colossal curtain of sound that enshrouds us" as we go through our normal life, there's no better way to spend a few days than sleeping under the stars and watching the dancing flames of a camp fire with peepers serenading you to sleep.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write in Outdoors about places to enjoy beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at: