History meets hospitality at Maine sporting camps, and no more so than at Bradford Camps on Munsungun Lake in the north woods. Guests from all over the northeastern United States once traveled five days to get to the camps, beginning on a train, transferring to a buckboard, and for the final two days, paddling canoes up river. Today many guests fly there in a float plane, or travel up to Ashland and take a leisurely drive through the north woods to the lakeside camps - paradise.
As we drove into the yard, we stepped out of the vehicle and back in time. Log cabins dot the shoreline, made from logs that were floated across the lake more 100 years ago. In all that time, the camps have had only five owners. Igor and Karen Sikorsky knew immediately, after searching the state for years, that these were the camps for them, and they’ve been providing the age-old sporting camp experience for 20 years.
On the wall of the lodge, I recognized the famous photo of Will Atkins with a canoe full of moose heads. Atkins built the original camps here in the 1800s. And while the camps retain the old, including the gorgeous log siding, they offer modern day comforts including full bathrooms in each cabin. Gas lights and instant hot water are nice features, too. Chad, who has worked here for 21 years, helped us move our gear into the cabin and we settled in.
Before we knew it, the dinner bell was ringing. Yes, they have the traditional dinner bell. Chef Tiffany, originally from Dexter, is a great cook. This far off the grid, and more than 50 miles from a grocery store, you have to be imaginative, and she is all of that.
One thing I love about sporting camps is that you get to meet so many interesting people and always leave with new friends. There was one group of four guys from South Carolina who come here twice a year to fish and hunt. But they spend their first and last days in camp, relaxing. Smart! As we gathered around the hole in the ground to watch Igor drop in the kettle of beans that would bake there all day, and later that night enjoyed a skillet tossing contest (alas, won by the guests from Massachusetts), I recognized that there are many reasons to visit a sporting camp!