Shaw’s Lodging in Monson, Maine has had over 50,000 hikers as guests, mostly Appalachian Trail thru-hikers or section hikers. I’ve always heard great things about it from other hikers and I wasn’t disappointed when I started my 100 mile wilderness section hike there last week. Dawn and Sue, the owners, run a tight, but relaxed ship, and have lots of experience catering to the needs of long distance hikers. The Inn is also staffed by Gary, who’s hiked throughout Maine and in Canada and Newfoundland and part-time volunteers Emerson (aka Dawn aka Warraghiyagey) and Jenn who are rabid hikers and come up in the summers to help out.
A funny anecdote here. When I pulled into the driveway at Shaw’s last Friday night and started walking into the place, someone called out “Are You Philip Werner?” Oh my god, I thought. My cover is already blown. Turns out that Jenn and I know each other. She had given me some useful advice online before my Long Trail end-to-end last year, we’re Facebook friends, and she had recognized my name on the Inn’s reservation list. It was good to meet her in person finally, and I also saw her about 72 miles up the trail later in the week, as she was doing a southbound. Small world.
Shaw’s is not like any B&B you’ve ever stayed at: it is totally optimized for hiker comfort and convenience. The first floor has common rooms for hanging out and eating breakfast and there’s a hiker fridge and washer/dryer to clean up your gear or dry out. All of the bedrooms are upstairs or in an attached building. You can get a private room if you want but you can also stay in a bunk room with a group of other hikers if you want to save some money. All of the bathrooms are shared with free soap, feminine products, fluffy towels, and plenty of hot water in the showers. The mattresses are new and firm and the place is very clean which is an impressive feat given that filthy, muddy, foul smelling hikers are passing through all the time.
Shaw’s also runs relatively inexpensive shuttles in the area which is very remote and are a big help. Driving distances are hugely exaggerated due to lakes and mountains ranges and most of the backcountry roads are a maze of unmarked gravel logging roads that are easy to get lost in. They also have a small stockroom on premises with food, fuel – including canisters, and some basic gear and there’s a general store in town where you can get other resupply needs including ice cream. The store owner, who’s always wearing a bush hog hat, is a really nice guy who will go out of his way to help you out, and of course there’s a post office in town for food drops.
Breakfast at Shaw’s in an institution and hikers even come from surrounding lodges to eat there before hitting the trail. Coffee is usually available by 6:30 and you can drink cup after cup with Half & Half and all the sugar you want. At about 7 AM, Sue makes the rounds and takes orders. The menu is simple: you can pick a 2, 3, 4 or 5. For example, I picked a 2 and got 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, 2 blueberry pancakes, 2 sausages, 2 scrambled eggs and 2 servings of hash browns. The thru-hiker across from me ordered a 5, and for seconds he ordered another 5! I forget his trail name, but he make a funny remark about what he was going to do when he finished his hike which was only about a week away. He said he wanted to put some more muscle on his arms because the lower half off his body had eaten the upper half.
Monson itself is a nice little town (pop. 666) and I was lucky that I arrived on a Friday night when there is a pick up jam session at the general store. Musicians and audience started showing up around 6 pm and tuning up. Toby, one of the fiddlers, invited me inside to listen and I felt right at home. A guest book is passed around and people sign in and the musicians take turns calling songs. There were 13 gathered there that evening including 2 fiddlers, a percussionist, a flutist, a guy playing the harp, in addition to the usual gaggle of banjos and guitars.
Sitting there brought back some special memories for me: a very unexpected bonus. I learned how to play the fiddle, mandolin and guitar some year back and hold Sunday jam sessions at my house, in my living room and in the garden outside. I’ve stopped playing because of hearing problems (put a fiddle next to your head and you’ll understand), but sitting there with all those welcoming people brought back a gush of fond memories for me and about how much fun I used to have with music and my friends.
The best way to contact Shaw’s is by phone 207.997.3597. They have a web site and they’re very good about the phone and very nice, so give them a call if you’re headed up that way.