September’s arrival in Maine is emotional. It means summer is ending. Some would say it’s over already, although the fall equinox is still 22 days away if we want to get technical.
And sure, the deciduous trees in our yards and forests are still suffused in green, but hints of red are beginning to appear. Those fall colors will continue to proliferate. Air temperatures will cool, the days will continue to shorten, and then it will be snowing and we’ll be wearing long underwear to bed and struggling to remember what it felt like to walk outside unencumbered by mittens and puffy coats and spikes on our boots.
For the record, I think fall rules. And I love winter. Maybe you do, too. But when September rolls around, we’re faced with a harsh truth: our flip-flop-wearing, kayaking, swimming-hole days are numbered.
We owe it to ourselves to make the most of these final warm-weather days.
One solid way to do that: an End-of-Summer Camp (for grownups!) at Evans Notch Lodge in Gilead from Sept. 23-25.
This weekend is packed with summer-camp essentials like hiking, paddling, arts and crafts, campfires, and s’mores. Could there also be ax throwing? Absolutely. And since this camp is for adults, there will also be cocktails.
It’s a welcome opportunity to adventure in a stunning part of Maine, meet people, and try something new. It’s also a weekend to chill the heck out on the heels of what can be a hectic time of year.
You’ll be treated to a pretty cool base camp, too.
Evans Notch Lodge was established in 1939 as a roadside tourist cabin court and an ideal launch point for fishing, biking, paddling, skiing, and hiking in the area. In 2017, Jen Clark and her husband bought the property and began reviving it after several years of neglect. There’s a main lodge with a kitchen and space to hang out, plus several cabins, a lawn full of games, a bonfire pit, and additional space for campers to pitch tents.
Clark is also the creator and host of the Guides Gone Wild podcast, which showcases women who guide in the great outdoors – mostly from Maine, but also from elsewhere in the northeast. It’s rife with adventure inspiration and good humor both for beginners and experienced outdoor enthusiasts.
The End-of-Summer Camp weekend brings the podcast to life, inviting people to a safe and pressure-free space to gain skills and experience the outdoors alongside an experienced guide.
“Since the early days of the podcast, I’ve been dreaming of the day that I could both support the businesses women guides are building and create opportunities for women to come into community around being outdoors,” Clark said. “There’s something special about trying things together and having the space and time to rehash the shared experience afterward without having to rush home to families and day-to-day obligations.”
For the End-of-Summer Camp, she teams up with Registered Maine Guide Ashley “Tall” Leedberg. Not only is Leedberg well-versed in outdoor pursuits (with a particular bend toward sea kayaks, paddleboards, and white water rafts), but she also likes to flex her creativity with jewelry making and wood burning. She’s also a load of fun.
“All of the weekend’s activities – paddling, crafts, as well as any spontaneous fun – will be geared toward the experience and comfort level of all who attend,” Clark said, adding that End-of-Summer Camp is also a chance to “refresh, relax, recoup on your own terms.”
While there is an itinerary, you’ll have lots of freedom to shape your weekend in a way that suits you, including where you sleep. Campers have two options for accommodations: a shared room/cabin or camping in a tent.
“That’s the beauty of having a base camp like Evans Notch Lodge,” Clark said. “There’s comfy space for people who like to rough it and for people who want a ‘real’ bed and a private bathroom.”
Whatever your preference, everyone gets to spend the days and evenings together having a grand time. There’s even an option to only join in the daytime activities if you live nearby or opt to stay elsewhere.
The weekend begins Friday night with snacks and drinks around the campfire as folks arrive and settle in. (You’re welcome to arrive earlier, too. Clark has plenty of suggestions for area hiking, biking, and paddling. Or just take some time to decompress with a book and an Adirondack chair.)
On Saturday, you’ll take to the water with Leedberg. If you’ve been curious to try paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking, Leedberg will offer plenty of safety tips and instructions.
Once on the water at a local lake, all paddlers will appreciate the excellent scenery (and emerging fall colors) from the water, not to mention some spirited camaraderie. There will also be a break for lunch because every adventure should be accompanied by good food.
Back at Evans Notch Lodge, you’ll have free time to relax, take a nap, play games, or go on another independent adventure. Then things will get a little crafty. Leedburg will bring the tools, supplies, and guidance for you to create a pendant or ring to take home, made using local Maine “gems” recovered from the tailings of nearby tourmaline mines.
The fun-filled day winds down with a well-earned dinner and campfire, plus cocktails, mocktails, and s’mores bar. (This is camp after all; s’mores are essential.)
On Sunday morning, you’ll feast on a hearty breakfast before departing, high on adventure pride.
The End-of-Summer Camp is a way to say an official so long to summer in the best way possible: on the water and around a campfire with fellow adventurers.
“And if it rains,” Clark said, “it’s bingo time by the woodstove.”
Shannon Bryan is a writer and outdoor enthusiast who lives in South Portland. Find her at shannonkbryan.com.