An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry

Exploring the North Woods by float plane, canoe and on foot to discover the Norwegian spirit of friluftsliv and turn a weekend in nature into eternity

An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry

Author

Christian Løvenskiold

Photographer

Alexander Beal

Presented by

Set in the farthest remote reaches of the United States' northeasternmost state, the North Maine Woods is a 3.5 million-acre playground for those seeking a break from the usual hectic and stressful work week grind. These vast landscapes contain no roads, no cell service or wifi, and, most importantly, no stress, making it the perfect location for an Amundsen Field Test.

Getting there isn't easy, but after extensive Googling (and numerous rejections from transporters), we stumbled upon Bradford Camps. This family-run lodge has been in the North Maine Woods since 1890, with the sole purpose of offering guests a good dose of friluftsliv—the Norwegian philosophy of disconnecting and living simply in nature—in the forests of New England.

Amundsen-Maine-1-Float-Plane

Prior to our arrival in Maine and just 10 hours before our planned seaplane pick-up, we found ourselves in the streets of New York City. Loaded down with our lives on our backs, we navigated traffic and sidewalks while simultaneously confirming where and when to meet the plane. This adventure was not about the city though; vehicle acquired and with no time to lose, we set a course north towards Pittsfield, Maine.

The next morning, the noise of propellers buzzed in the distance beyond sight of where we were told to leave the car for the weekend near a runway and waterway. Finally the plane arrived and our host, Igor Sikorsky, greeted us welcome and we began to load up, strapping our wooden skis onto the aircraft and buckling in for the flight farther north.

Amundsen-Maine-2-Float-Plane

"In nature the quantity of harvest doesn’t matter; it’s all about the quality. This is the Norwegian philosophy of friluftsliv."

Amundsen-Maine-4-Cabin-Exterior

Our air route into Bradford Camps took us over Mount Katahdin—the tallest peak in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail—and then beyond into and over the Allagash Wilderness before revealing our destination, Munsungan Lake. Tucked into the trees on the northeast shore there's a cluster of century-old log cabins, our HQ for the weekend.

With our weekend finally underway, we headed to nearby Bluffer Pond, where Bradford Camps has an outpost cabin, to spend a few secluded nights. In these forests there's no power and no cell service, two realities that set the tone for the days to come, which would be filled with roaming, fishing, bushing, and hunting.

Amundsen-Maine-3-Cabin-Interior

With our location on the water, fishing became an easy way to enjoy our time. Igor had set us up with gear and we spent hours on the lake guessing where the fish would bite, patiently waiting. More than once, we were lured to believe we had hooked the largest fish ever caught in the lake only to realize we'd simply snagged the bottom.

Then, suddenly, a real bite. The intensity rose in the boat immediately; we knew it might be the only fish we'd see on the trip. After a short struggle, the fish surfaced and we got it landed for a moment before giving it a goodbye kiss and releasing it back into the pond (too small to find its fate on the grill). Feeling accomplished, we spent the night around the campfire, soaking in the fresh forest air.

Amundsen-Maine-5-Campfire

"We wanted to 'get lost,' to roam the forests without a plan and see where we ended up."

Amundsen-Maine-6-Campfire

Amundsen-Maine-7-Coffee

On adventures, mornings should always include the bright-and-early highlight of darkly roasted coffee. Lighting the fire and having a few cups while the early day puts on its show is one of the small details that makes life outdoors so special. After a (lengthy) breakfast of eggs and bacon, we strapped on our backpacks, loaded our shotguns, and got underway with the day.

Today we wanted to "get lost," to roam the forests without a plan and see where we ended up. But we did have one mission: We were after an appetizer for dinner and a local grouse would do the trick to complete the menu. With the density and crookedness of these forests, stalking these birds proved to be more difficult than we'd imagined. Up and down, under and over logs, hooking our skis to branches, and stumbling into creeks, we made our way around.

As it'd been with fishing, it's when you least expect or believe anything might happen that it suddenly does—a grouse took off from a log just to our left and we took the shot. We only got one, but it was the one we needed. Back at the cabin, we butchered the bird before grilling it to medium rare and enjoying it by the fire with a sip of beer. Another day completed with hours spent in nature—friluftsliv—where the quantity of harvest doesn’t matter; it’s all about the quality.

Amundsen-Maine-8-Porch

Amundsen-Maine-10-Woods

The following morning, full and juiced on coffee, we yet again strapped our lives on our backs and headed out on our way “home.” There aren't any trails in these forests; around here you trust your instincts—and the combo of a compass and overview maps. Bushing around, up and down again, over creeks, getting stuck in the mud, we finally cracked through the last branches along the shore of Munsungan Lake. A canoe had been placed along the shore for us to complete our trip back to camp. Once we found the vessel, we loaded our packs and began to paddle. Igor and Karen, our gracious hosts, were waiting on the shore of the camp to welcome us back.

As we loaded the float plane for our departure, the past two days seemed like an eternity. Sense of time and place disappears in the wilderness, even on short trips like this one. Maine's North Woods weren't easy to get to but they did their job; with refreshed minds and souls, we headed back to the concrete jungle.


Amundsen-Maine-11-Float-Plane

Related articles
Field Mag Releases New Film Photo Zine FMO2: WINTER
FM02: WINTER Is Here! Our Second Film Photo Zine Is Now Live

The follow up to our sold out SUMMER edition delivers 70 color pages of 35mm and medium format film photos from 35 of our favorite photographers

Experience the "Real Japan" by Hiking the 1,000 km Michinoku Coastal Trail
Michinoku Coastal Trail Guide: What to Know About Japan's New 1,000 km Trail

This scenic trail winds through rugged coastlines, dense forests, and historic towns, helping revitalize a region still reeling from the 2011 tsunami

Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Vans Pipe Masters on Oahu's North Shore
Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Vans Pipe Masters Surf Competition

35mm and medium format film photos from the legendary Hawaiian surf competition where the world's best surfers compete for $500k in cash—and glory

Searching for Surf and Safe Passage in the Gulf of Alaska
Photo Essay: Searching for Surf and Safe Passage in the Gulf of Alaska

A two-week boat trip through surfing's final frontier brings snow-capped mountains, icebergs and sea lions, hot springs and epic vistas

Battling Altitude and Ego While Hut Hiking in the Italian Dolomites
Battling Altitude and Ego While Hut Hiking in the Italian Dolomites

Faced with the unyielding effects of thin air, one hiker learns to let go of self expectations and what should be to enjoy what is

Polaroid I-2: A Striking, New Instant Camera for Modern Film Photographers
Polaroid's All-New I-2 Is a Striking Instant Camera for Modern Film Photographers

15 years after officially shuttering, the king of instant film is back with an analog camera sporting a 98mm f/8 lens, manual controls, and autofocus

More articles
An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Alexander Beal

Back to article
Get Free Shipping on our New Photo Book!

Meet WINTER, a fine art photo zine full of adventure inspiration

  • 70 pages of beautiful photography
  • 35 international contributors
  • Limited-edition & hand numbered
  • Printed in NYC with love
  • Use code "ZINEME" for free shipping
Shop Now
Get Free Shipping on our New Photo Book!