Roughing It Deluxe

You like the idea of getting back to nature, you really do. But why can’t a quality pinot and an aromatic peel be part of the package? It can!

By Alison Miller

As any biologist will tell you, we animals love “edge,” that boundary between land and sea, forest and meadow, mountain and valley. Vacations make a kind of edge as well. It’s an in-between time, when we can have our cake and eat it too—on a beach. Vacations aren’t about either/or. They’re about both/and.

That may seem obvious to you, but it took my wife and me 27 years of marriage to figure it out for ourselves. I like water; Dorothy likes dry land. I prefer a week without seeing a soul; she wants to socialize. I think the most delicious meal on Earth is a fish you caught and cooked yourself; she thinks any meal is delicious if somebody else cooked it—preferably without showing her the carcass. Tomato, tomahto, let’s call the whole vacation off. She would pack the kids up and go somewhere comfortable while I strapped on a backpack and went off into the wilderness.

After our children grew up and moved away, we felt ridiculous. “We’re happily married,” Dorothy said. “Why can’t we be happily married when we’re not working?”

So I searched for things we both liked. I offered cruises, luxury resorts, even shopping trips in New York and Dallas. “You hate shopping,” she pointed out.

“But I love you,” I said. (I’m not above scoring a few points.)

“Still, vacation shouldn’t be a sacrifice,” she said. “Find a way that I can see people and you can get away from people; where we can eat really well and maybe I can be pampered a little bit. Find all of that, and we have our perfect trip.”

It sounded like more of a perfect paradox. And yet I actually found a solution—one that could change your vacationing life.

In my case, the solution lay in the nonprofit Appalachian Mountain Club, which owns three wilderness lodges in Maine. You stay in little cabins by remote lakes. The staff feeds you breakfast and dinner and gives you fixings for a packed lunch. I wasn’t sure if it was for Dorothy—electricity is sparse and most of the cabins don’t have bathrooms-—so I booked a week at one of the camps, followed by a weekend at the cushy Blair Inn in Greenville, Maine. All week I went off in a canoe while she sat in an Adirondack chair and read. We got together for cocktails and dinner in the evenings. After that, we luxuriated at Blair Hill, where we witnessed a double rainbow over Moosehead Lake just before our gourmet breakfast. We had reinvented vacation for ourselves: roughing it, followed by deluxe.

Is it possible to have your cake and eat it at the same time? That is, experience the wonders of nature and the big outdoors and get a massage on the same day?


Hells Canyon, ID

On select overnight rafting excursions, Outdoor Adventure River Specialists enlists a wine expert and culinary team to satiate its guests. The Hells Canyon tour takes you down the stunning Snake River, which borders Idaho and Oregon. Between rapids, you’ll stop to eye Nez Perce pictographs and an early 20th century homestead. After the nightly, wine-paired multi-course meal, unwind in the “living room”—a ring of camp chairs set up round the fire pit. Five-day trip, all-inclusive