Where can you go to get away from it all, even if you already live in a place like Bar Harbor where other people flock to do just that? How about looking for a Maine deeper in?
When it comes to really escaping the hustle and bustle of daily life there’s no better place than a spot far from where the pavement and power lines end. It’s in a corner of Hancock County so far away from the shire town of Ellsworth that it takes two hours to drive there. The area’s on the map, but it doesn’t even have a name — just a number, T3 ND.
What kind of establishment can you expect to find in such a remote place?
Look no further than the Nicatous Lodge.
Located some 65 miles north of Bangor, yet still part of Hancock County, which is considered a “coastal” county, Nicatous Lake is one of Downeast Maine’s scenic and natural gems. The Native American name for the lake is Kiasobeak, which means “Clear Water Lake.” With just a handful of private camps on the edges, the lake boasts some 34 miles of shoreline, numerous sandy beaches and 76 islands devoid of evidence of human occupation. Loggers first entered the area in the late 1800s. Some 22,000 acres of the surrounding forest is now a preserve.
Nicatous Lodge sits at the far northern end of the lake where the bridge for the rustic dirt access road crosses the outlet stream, which teems with trout. It is the quintessential Maine sporting camp — proud yet bearing the scars of withstanding all that the elements can throw at it. It is rustic, yet has all the comforts of home.
Established as a camp for boys in 1928, the lodge today features the authentic log main building containing a spacious lobby, small library, the dining room and restaurant-quality kitchen.
Out front, a broad porch affords views miles down the lake. A large fieldstone fireplace is the building’s centerpiece. Split logs standing on end provide the warm coverings for the walls. There are several guest rooms located on the second level.
Out front are the docks that service fishing boats, a handful of small pleasure craft and the lodge’s fleet of canoes, kayaks, a sunfish sailboat (free for use by guests) and the swimming beach and float.
Surrounding the main lodge and nestled in the trees are nine unique cabins, all complete with kitchens, porches, hot and cold running water and a varying number of sleeping areas and bed configurations.
Many of the cabins overlook the rushing waters of Nicatous Stream, which arcs around the camp in one broad, sweeping curve.
Like many of Maine’s historic camps, the style is far from what you’d find in a designer catalog. The decor for most is a unique blend of one part estate sale and another part L.L. Bean — with a pinch of grandma’s attic. The floors will creak and you can see all the pipes in the bathroom (the better to keep them from freezing in winter). In colder months, the camp crew installs woodstoves that are removed by summer so that the fireplaces can function.
In the cupboards are coffee cups that don’t match and pots and pans that didn’t begin life as part of an expensive set. What you will discover is that the sheets are crisp and clean, the blankets warm and anything you prepare in one of their vintage cast iron frying pans will be delicious — in short, utility and authenticity. There are no radios or televisions in the cabins, although there is one set hooked to a satellite in the lodge.
When it comes to nightlife, you’ll have to “settle” for the calls of barded owls, the breeze whispering in the tall pines overhead and the haunting cries of loons out on the lake.
Be forewarned, however. The one thing you won’t find anywhere, no matter how hard you look — pretention.
As the seasons change, the cabins become home base to a shifting blend of visitors that can include fishermen, paddlers, hikers, hunters, ATV riders and snowmobilers. And many folks like to stay at Nicatous Lodge just to do nothing, just for a chance to get away from it all. Take that book you’ve been meaning to finish? Just head down to the screened gazebo at the shore and see how fast the afternoon disappears.
Most folks renting cabins do their own cooking, although meals can be taken in the lodge dining room, which also is open to the public at various times of year.
Although the power lines stopped many miles down the road, electricity is provided by the camp’s powerful yet quiet generators. In addition to powering circuits in the lodge and cabins, they also charge a giant battery bank so no motors can be heard running at night or at other times during the day.
While there are plenty of amenities at Nicatous Lodge, it’s what they don’t charge for that most folks value the most. Waves lapping at the shore are the traditional way of marking time. Peace and solitude abound as sunlight filters through ancient pines to dance and play on the ground. At night, the brilliant arc of the Milky Way high overhead is the only bright light you’ll have to contend with.
For those who can’t stand the thought of being “off line” for too long there is free Wi-Fi in the main lodge. Cell phone service is spotty at best.
The only guaranteed “connection” you’ll find at Nicatous Lodge will be with Mother Nature.
Getting there: The lodge is reachable by road via State Road from Burlington (Howland exit off I-95.) The last section of the access road to the camp is dirt, although it is regularly and well maintained. Float planes also can arrive and depart from the camp’s waterfront.