The Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins is the newest facility of the Appalachian Mountain Club and the latest accomplishment of its Maine Woods Initiative, an effort to create multi-day outdoor recreation experiences, support sustainable forestry and jobs, protect ecological resources and attract nature-based tourism to the region.

The new lodge and renovated cabins, in a dramatic setting on Long Pond within AMC-conserved land in the heart of the 100-Mile Wilderness, are set to open to the public on Jan. 27.

Late last winter I had a chance to visit the camps for a preview and can attest to the special qualities of this place.

Skiing from the camps across the frozen expanse of the pond, I was treated to a spectacular vista of the Barren-Chairback Range rising just beyond; the long mass of Barren Mountain, Fourth, the square shape of Third, Columbus, and the stepped profile of Chairback Mountain.

To the north, the snowy bulk of the White Cap Range and its four high peaks dominated the skyline, and at once I could sweep the horizon and trace some 25 miles of the undulating route of the Appalachian Trail. This is wild and rugged country for sure; a perfect backdrop to these remote wilderness camps.

With the setting sun casting a pink and orange glow on the pretty scene, I wanted to linger and wait for darkness and the stars, but dinner with friends and a warm cabin beckoned.

“This is another opportunity to enjoy a wonderful piece of the Maine woods that will forever be open to public access for recreation,” said Rob Burbank, AMC director of media and public affairs. “And it’s a great step to be able to make the Maine sporting camp experience available to more people.”

The cabins were originally built in 1867 and have been a private residence and a commercial sporting camp over the years. They came under AMC ownership with the 2003 purchase of 33,000 acres of surrounding forestland. In 2009, the club added the adjoining 29,500-acre Roach Ponds Tract to its conservation holdings.

The new lodge is a model of backcountry comfort and hospitality, sporting a spacious dining room where hearty family-style meals are served, a library and sitting area with a wood stove and hearth, and hot showers and a wood-fired sauna.

Large windows allow for plentiful natural light as well as a fine view of Long Pond.

“The lodge is LEED-registered and will be operating in an environmentally sustainable manner,” Burbank noted.

LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Some of the green features include solar power for electrical needs, radiant heat floors, a high level of insulation throughout, and double-glazed argon-filled windows.

Guests at Gorman can rest easy in one of eight private log cabins that dot the picturesque shoreline. Rustic looking but oh so cozy, the cabins feature comfortable beds, wood stoves, gas lights and cold running water. Blankets, towels and sheets are provided.

The upgraded cabins are tight and heat up quickly with a blazing fire in the stove, much appreciated when the weather is cold and snowy.

Gorman Chairback is the fourth destination in the AMC lodge-to-lodge ski route, which now extends from Second Roach Pond to Long Pond and includes overnight accommodations at Medawisla and Little Lyford Lodges and the privately owned West Branch Pond Camps.

“This is the only place in the East where you can ski and stay at traditional sporting camps, have your meals prepared, and enjoy a shower and sauna,” Burbank said. “It’s a unique experience.”

Adventurers can tackle the entire ski route with light packs over four or five days, while having their gear duffle shuttled ahead by sled each leg of the journey.

Throughout, you’ll marvel in the quiet beauty of the winter woods, replete with bird and animal life and outstanding wilderness scenery.

Or you can stay close to Gorman or one of the other lodges and take advantage of nearby trails for hours of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing fun. Either way you’ll enjoy warm lodging and good food and company at day’s end.

“If you prefer to go with a group and a guide, trips of varying lengths and locations can be arranged,” said Burbank. “You can even hire a musher and do the lodge-to-lodge on dogsled!”

To make reservations for a ski and lodge adventure, and for more information on AMC Maine conservation lands, go to www.outdoors.org or call 603-466-2727.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments and hike suggestions to:

[email protected]