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migis lodge

Postcard from Maine

By Linda Wells Departures Article - Postcard from Maine

I AM BREAKING A PROMISE right now, and for that I apologize. At dinner during my first night at Migis Lodge. I ran into Suzy, a friend from my days at Vogue magazine. About half a second after "hello," she grabbed my arm and said, "You can't tell anybody about this place."

I'm sorry, Suzy. Migis Lodge, in South Casco, Maine, a 45-minute drive from Portland, is too good to keep secret. And besides, it's not easy to get into, given that anyone with any sense reserves a cottage six months in advance. Families have returned, generation after generation, since the lodge opened in 1916. (Suzy started considerably later, at birth.) I'd heard about Migis (pronounced My-giss) from a friend who had escaped the Hamptons one August, weary and desperate to walk on a beach without bumping into P. Diddy or Paris. He described it as Ralph Lauren does rugged.

Some might find Migis a little too rugged. I overheard a couple complaining of this one afternoon as I lay on a chaise under the pine trees. Good. They can stay away. Perhaps they would prefer a resort with minibars, chilled towels, and heated Jacuzzis. Migis, which sits at the end of a country road on 100 leafy acres, is a lodge with a group of wood-and-stone cabins clustered near a gorgeous, calm lake. It's a triumph of the fine art of rustic luxury, or luxurious rusticity, with none of the discomfort of actual camping and all of its outdoorsy, wood-smoke pleasure. The indulgences come in 100 percent natural organic form.

Such as: air as clean and energizing as pure oxygen, lake water that feels almost creamy against the skin, a wood-fired sauna in a log cabin, a vintage Chris-Craft to ferry you to lunch on a private island, a massage in a tent in the middle of the woods from which, prone on the table, you can hear the wind swish through the trees-a sensation so thoroughly relaxing that it almost makes the massage redundant. Almost.

It is camp for grown-ups and their children, if camp served stacks of blueberry pancakes outdoors at breakfast, cocktails at sunset, plump lobsters and thick steaks for dinner, and then tucked you into a bed made with handsewn quilts and 350 thread-count linens (not short-sheeted). To me, it is paradise, albeit one that does not accommodate the four pairs of Manolo Blahniks I had foolishly brought along. My feet needed a vacation, too.

The spirit of Migis is so sweetly intoxicating that you start to behave a bit like a camper - or at least I did. I spent several afternoons at the waterskiing dock comparing the merits of Justin Timberlake and Chad Michael Murray with a group of 13-year-old girls, none of whom was my own. Suzy and her friends invited me to join their swim-sauna ritual, which involved paddling from the main dock to the beach, baking in the sauna for as long as we could take it, swimming back to the dock, and doing the whole thing over again. It made every pore in my skin seem completely toxin-free.

After dinner one night, my family joined in a fierce game of bingo. Another night, my husband and I gathered with a group around the upright piano in the main lodge while our new friend Ned played song after song after song.... Pretty soon we were belting out the Stones, Michael Jackson, Captain & Tennille-it didn't matter. We finished at midnight and walked back to our room, the loons crying somewhat more harmoniously in the distance.

Perhaps what Migis shares most with summer camp is its pervasive and contagious sense of benevolence. There are times when it seems almost too good to be true. The children on the dock cheer for one another when they learn to water-ski. If you want to go sailing, you simply swim or row out to one of the moored boats, climb in, and haul up the sails. You can play tennis barefoot if you want to. The gym is open to the air on three sides; the breeze keeps you from ever really breaking a sweat. The fishing guide, a man with wild red hair and a Grizzly Adams beard, recites poetry and does bird calls while executing a perfect cast. His name, I kid you not, is Brooke. I've had a fantasy of summer in Maine for as long as I can remember. I pictured clear skies, brisk water, cool nights, the smell of balsam, and the kind of quiet that New Yorkers dream about. Migis is all that come to life. And now the secret is out.

|$| Rates, $285-$385 per person in summer, including all meals and most activities; 207-655-4524; www.migis.com.

Departures Magazine