Yesterday, I spent the day on the Rapid River in Upton, Maine, one of the premier fly fishing destinations in the Northeast. Despite its remote location and limited accessibility, devoted anglers have been coming there since the late 19th century to fish for brook trout and landlocked salmon.
As on my several previous visits to the Rapid River, I wasn’t there to fish. Instead, I was on a literary pilgrimage: I was visiting Forest Lodge, Louise Dickinson Rich’s former home, where she wrote We Took To the Woods, her 1942 best-seller about living—year-round!—deep in the Maine woods with her family.
Getting there requires driving on 16 miles of sometimes-rutted dirt road (with plenty of twists, turns, and unmarked forks, as well as the occasional logging truck) or, alternatively, crossing Richardson Lake from South Arm to Middle Dam by boat, a distance of several miles, then hiking two miles in on the Carry Road.
This was my first trip back to Forest Lodge since I spent four days there last summer on a personal writing retreat. It was also the first trip I’ve made there without my intrepid brother Steve to lead the way, but I was in equally competent hands for this adventure: I was tagging along on the Upton Historical Society’s fourth annual daylong tour of LDR’s home.
Society members provided not only transportation and camaraderie, but also a delicious box lunch prepared by the Upton Ladies Aid, which we ate on the porch of the Summer House, overlooking the river, in the company of Aldro French, legendary raconteur and “Keeper of Forest Lodge.”
Aldro’s family has owned the place since the mid-1960s, and for many years he has run a guiding and lodging business for fishermen there. Now in his 70s, he has decided it’s time to retire, and has placed most of the buildings that comprise Forest Lodge up for sale.
The members of the historical society in the tiny town of Upton (which has a year-round population of around 100 residents) understand the importance of preserving this unique piece of Maine history, and hope to be able to purchase and maintain LDR’s Winter House as a museum.
I was invited along on the tour in my official capacity as a writer for the Bethel Citizen, to report on their continuing efforts to raise funds through grants and private donations, which I’ll be doing in the next week or two.
I’m also hoping to pitch their story to a wider audience—one that may include potential donors with a reverence for literary history and sporting tradition who will join their preservation effort.