GREENVILLE, Maine — One of the first things visitors might notice when they approach the main lodge at the recently opened Medawisla Lodge and Cabins near Greenville are the two intricately carved corner posts on the balcony railing, each of which depicts a loon.
That’s not so surprising, considering “medawisla” in the Native American Abenaki language means loon, but what is surprising is how and why the loons were carved in the first place. The lodge is owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club, making it the third Maine Wilderness Lodge the nonprofit owns in Maine’s 100-Mile-Wilderness region.
AMC purchased the former sporting camp in 2006, used it for a few years, but came to realize that the 1950s property needed extensive infrastructure improvements. Rather than renovate, the organization decided to build a new property, with an eye to conservation. Today, the completely off-the-grid lodge, with its nine private cabins and waterfront pavilion, offers a stunning and low-impact setting for outdoor adventures by the shore of Second Roach Pond.
“I think one of the really great things are the sustainability features,” said Dan Rinard, the Maine Woods Initiative operations manager who oversaw the major undertaking. “The insulated buildings feature solar panels, composting toilets and woodstoves. The firewood is harvested off our own property.”
Rinard actually has a long list of things he’s proud of at Medawisla and another major one was AMC’s commitment to hiring local workers and buying materials in Maine whenever possible.
“One of the coolest things of this project was trying to source as much as we could locally,” said Rinard. “We wanted to keep our spending in the state of Maine.”
Everyone and everything, from the local contractors to the bedside tables, has a fascinating story. The dining room furniture was crafted from locally sourced wood and created by Maine Made Furniture Co. in Rumford, while the woodstoves in guest cabins were manufactured in Gorham and bought at Rocky’s Stove Shoppe in Augusta. The bedside tables were made by inmates in the Maine State Prison system, who do woodworking as part of a rehabilitation program.
Perhaps one of the most poignant stories is about those carved loons. From the beginning, the loon was used as a logo for the lodge. Rinard said that when the project was nearing completion, some of the contractors suggested using a local chainsaw artist, Josh Landry, to create the loons on the balcony posts. When AMC found out how much they would cost, they had to decline, despite loving the idea. Independently, a group of the contractors chipped in to pay for the carvings as a gift to the lodge. It’s just one reminder of what makes the property unique.
Another unusual thing about Medawisla is that, unlike AMC’s nearby Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins and Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins, visitors will be able to drive to the lodge almost year-round. The other two popular lodges are ski-in only, so now cross-country skiers will be able to drive to Medawisla in winter, then ski from lodge to lodge via connected groomed trails, if they so choose.
Accommodations at Medawisla are quite varied and include five private hilltop cabins with bathrooms and showers, which can fit up to six people; four private waterfront cabins with shared baths and kitchenettes, also for up to six people; plus one hilltop and one waterfront bunkhouse, each of which can sleep 16. The main lodge features a common dining room, sitting area, deck, and sauna. Most guests opt for a meal package, which includes home-cooked breakfast and dinner, plus a trail lunch.
The amount of activities, including hiking, biking, paddling, and skiing, is extensive. Guests get free use of the lodge’s kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, and can rent fly-fishing gear on site. There are scheduled programs on offer, like campfire conservation chats with a naturalist, as well as custom guided trips led by Registered Maine Guides, such as multi-day canoe camping trips.
Now might be a good time to visit. “Fall foliage is absolutely unbelievable,” he said. He also says fishing for land-locked salmon, wild brook trout, and lake trout is especially rewarding in the fall. If you catch something, you can even bring it up to the lodge’s kitchen for the chef to cook.
And visitors shouldn’t forget the namesake loon: If you’re lucky you might see or hear one calling across the pond.
Lodging rates with full-service (includes dinner, breakfast, trail lunch, and lodging) start at $147 (for adult nonmembers) per person, per night, for a private cabin, plus taxes. Bunkhouse and deluxe cabin accommodations with private bath are also available. Discounted rates apply for AMC members, children, and youth. Registered Maine Guides can be hired for a half-day, full-day, or overnight adventure through AMC Custom Guided Adventures. Guide rates range from $175-$350. 207-717-0270; www.outdoors.org/lodging-camping/Lodges/medawisla/index.cfm#.Kim Foley MacKinnon can be reached at kimfoleymackinnon @gmail.com.