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If you are looking to sniff around an outdoor adventure this summer that has a tail-wagging ring to it with a touch of celebrity, then “Survivor Bob’s” Maine Forest Yurts is for you. Located on over 100 acres on Runaround Pond in Durham, it’s the perfect dog friendly Maine year-round outdoor escape for people looking for a rustic vacation that meshes wilderness adventure with cozy cabin-style comforts. Durham is only 15 minutes from L.L. Bean, in Freeport Village and a five minute drive to dog friendly Bradbury Mountain State Park. If you are coming from Portland, you can head up I-295 north towards Freeport, but I prefer the nose-out-the-window, countryside route via ME-9E which is about a 35 minute trip.
Camping with benefits aka glamping.
Going camping with your dog sounds like the quintessential weekend escape but sometimes it feels like a lot of work by the time you pack-up everything, set-up camp and then break it all down at the end. Maine Forest Yurts gives you and your wag a chance to feel like you’re “ruffing it” but with a touch of top dog class – aka “glamping”. Spacious accommodations for six are set inside a Yurt; a durable round structure that looks like a cross between a cabin and a tent that is modeled on the former ancient shelter used by Central Asian Nomads for centuries.
Fisher Ridge Yurt was the first Maine Forest Yurt to open to visitors in 2013 and now it’s sister Yurt, Hemlock Ridge, is ready to roll for the 2014 summer season (stays start at $125 a night; kids and dogs are free). The yurts each sleep 6 and are a roomy 450 square foot open plan with lots of natural light from the surrounding windows. The cone-shaped high roof is capped with a large clear acrylic dome that is your eye to blue skies and starry nights and can be opened for extra ventilation.
A survivor’s dream come true.
Maine Forest Yurt’s is the vision of “Survivor” TV Series winner Bob Crowley, his wife Peggy and three adult children. The Crowley family, who lived in South Portland for 30 years, have been gradually accumulating the wilderness acreage in Durham since the 80’s and secured the final land parcels to make it a grand total of 105 acres just before “Survivor Bob” became a living room name in 2008. The family used to spend much of their Maine winters “hanging out by the campfire.. eating hot dogs and ice skating on the pond”. In addition to having a passion for wilderness life, Bob and family always had a longstanding fascination with Yurts. When Bob won his Survivor (Gabon) series – the 1 million dollar prize pool and his public notoriety certainly helped Maine Forest Yurts come to fruition; although Bob’s ingenuity and survivor instinct are what keeps the outdoor retreat moving forward.
When you arrive at Maine Forest Yurts, you’ll be greeted by Bob at the “Ranger Cabin” where you will most likely leave your car and be transported by him, in his 4-wheel Polaris Ranger, 600 feet up the trail to your private Yurt. You might be lucky enough to meet Bob and Peggy’s 4-paw forest rangers – Hawsey and Birdie. Hawsey is a rescue dog thought to be an Australian Shepherd, Border Collie Cross with maybe a whiff of Bernese Mountain Dog. The Crowley family fell in love with Hawsey’s online rescue puppy profile when they were staying at Frost Mountain Yurts in Brownfield, Maine and dreaming of their own yurt adventure business. Birdie, a spaniel mix lass, was an addition to the family in February of this year. Hawsey and Birdie were happy to give me a tour of there wilderness playground during my visit to their neck of the woods.
“We as humans can’t appreciate all the smells of the woods like a dog can” – Survivor Bob.
The 100 plus acres of wilderness will have your dogs senses in over drive. You can sniff out the trails down to Runaround Pond which is a picturesque pond with 2 shallow river-like tributaries where your dog can take a dip or join you on a canoe trip that immerses you in the abundance of nature that surrounds. You will want to take appropriate measures to ensure your dog stays in the canoe with you on your paddle travels – beavers, otters, osprey, kingfisher, heron, turtles, bass and pickerel all call this place home. Bob suggests putting any cellphones in a plastic bag, just in case your dog rocks the boat – life preservers are provided.
After a day of exploration, your yurt dog can lie on the maple wood floors by the glowing wood-stove and watch the evening meal preparations in the well-equipped kitchen with a full gas stove range. Outside, adjacent to the Yurt, there is an immaculate composting outhouse; no need to hold your nose these are upmarket “King of the Woods” style thrones – and there are two “thrones” side by side if you like company. You can scrub up for dinner in the separate gravity fed shower shack; Bob will give you the scoop on getting the perfect warm-water mix. After dinner, you can bring s’mores and doggie treats and sing by the campfire. When it’s time to crash, comfortable “Bob” made bunks will let you peacefully slumber in your wilderness Yurt paradise without wondering if Yogi bear might crawl into bed with you.
You can navigate your sprawling woods playground with the help of the Crowley property map and your “dog nose best” compass. Your dog might lead you down Fisher Ridge to Walkabout Pond or check out the Stump Coral where Survivor-like challenges take place at an annual event that raises money for the Durham Warriors Project, a non-profit corporation which covers the costs of offering a Maine Forest getaway stay for veterans, active duty military, other deserving individuals and their families. Bob recalls during last year’s first survivor-style challenges at Walkabout Pond, “Contestants were sling- shotting tennis balls from one side of the pond to the other” and Hawsey, his dog, was right in the thick of it with the catchers – “tennis balls were flying – Hawsey was in his element”.
When you head out on your Maine Forest Yurts adventure weekend, you won’t need to be in “Survivor” mode, worrying about winning immunity or outsmarting other competitors. You and your wag can simply inhale the moment and feel like top dogs sniffing around the Maine woods hosted by Survivor winner, Bob Crowley and family. For More Information: visit Maine Forest Yurts