Simple + Rustic + Beauty
In our business, rustic is a style of design, craftsmanship and décor. When used to describe desirable antiques, the word “rustic” in our vocabulary can just as easily be interchanged with “refined” – at least in reference to a furniture maker’s or an antiques owner’s aesthetic sensibilities. Yet in everyday parlance, rustic also describes something more primitive, whether living conditions or artifacts, which can have their own very tangible appeal.
More in the spirit of the latter than the former meaning of rustic, we recently spent a few days at a remote lodge in Maine where rustic would be an appropriate adjective to refer to a simple – some might call it rugged – lifestyle without electricity, running water, roads or motorized vehicles.
Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps (KLWC) was established in 1885, and the main lodge and some of the guest cabins date from that time period. While our last article titled “Rusticator Repast” featured a style of late 19th century rusticating in the lap of luxury, camps such as KLWC would have catered to rusticators more interested in hunting and fishing than in dressing for dinner. This photograph (from our inventory) of a city couple with their hunting guide is the type of scene we imagine unfolding in a place such as KLWC in its early days.
Katahdin Lake and its surrounding land are now within Maine’s Baxter State Park, and can be accessed via a 3.3 mile hiking trail.
Emerging into a grassy clearing after a mesmerizing hike through mossy woods is unexpected, as are the sights of cabins, garden phlox and apple trees.
While we thoroughly enjoy visiting grand old Adirondack camps and sophisticated contemporary rustic abodes, the old, unadorned cabins at KLWC also have their charms. In fact, thinking of these structures as primitive is relative to your point of reference – simply having four snug log walls, a roof, beds, and a wood stove are downright luxurious after a few nights of camping in tents or lean-tos.
The cabin interiors have simple quilts on the beds and miscellaneous old furniture around the woodstove.
There are lots of camps and cabins like this throughout Maine (and undoubtedly throughout the country), whether hunting and fishing cabins or family camps. A number of years ago at a Maine camp where we spent a week, Jeff was surprised that almost everything, especially the things that would be easy and inexpensive to replace, was broken or downright shabby – an ornery crank can opener with the rubber coating peeled off the handles, dated lamp shades sporting old light bulb scorch marks, a footstool with electrical tape repairing a tear in its naugahyde upholstery. But it all seemed quite normal to Kass who grew up in northern Maine where most folks had some kind of a camp on the water or in the woods. When something in your town house had seen better days, it went into reserve to take “up to camp,” “over to camp,” or “out to camp” depending on the compass direction from home to camp.
But indoor décor was far from our minds at Katahdin Lake, where a visit is all about reveling in outdoor beauty. This beach is just a hop down from the cabins, where we took in our first view of the mountain range that rims the lake.
Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin, is just a few miles as the crow flies from this shore of the lake.
Our sightings from the lake, along streams and beaver dams, and on forested trails leading to even more remote ponds and streams, included bald eagles, loons, moose, and wild edible mushrooms.
But there was no need to cook up foraged food because we had opted for the full board plan at KLWC, so we enjoyed hearty meals in the cozy main lodge before and after our excursions.
We couldn’t have been happier roaming around in the outdoors all day and retiring to our spartan lodgings on the pure moonlit nights we experienced there.
Judging from hundreds of comments in the lodge’s guest book, most visitors share our sentiments about this magical place that provides access to a gorgeous, pristine and protected landscape. We’ve come away with renewed appreciation for the varied styles of rusticating and the diverse meanings of rustic, and with gratitude that all of those dimensions enrich our lives.