I have been coming to this area of Maine since birth. I learned to swim at the Town Park before the geese moved in. I climbed through the ranks at Ecoventure camp from Grasshopper to Bobcat. I learned archery at the Rangeley Region Guides & Sportsmen’s Association. I even had a brief foray in theater with the local teen drama camp as a spider.

In the midst of these youthful activities, I remember spending a day at the Cupsuptic Campground on the north shore of Cupsuptic lake. My sister and I spent the day with a friend of ours from camp, and we enjoyed swimming in the shallow waters and jumping off the floating dock. I revisited the campground this year during the concert weekend of July 30th. I suspected the grounds would be packed with campers attending the concert, and that it might give me some opportunity to interview a variety of campers for a travel feature.

Upon revisiting, I began to reflect on my previous visit. There were the same swinging benches as well as the wooden deck that reaches into the lake. But I did notice a few improvements, such as an extension on the trail that begins at the edge of the campground. This trail leads you over wooden planks into wetlands on the shore of Cupsuptic lake. A decade ago, that was where it ended. Now it circles back inland through a stand of trees. Walking the extension, Frogs jumped up from the mossy floor and a brown rabbit darted across the pathway.

Cindy and Tom Fylstra enjoying some down time. Leah Watson

“I’ve been coming up here since ’89” said Stew Meins, a regular visitor to the campgrounds. He remarked how beautiful the campgrounds remain. “It’s unique,” Mein said, “and old fashioned. They preserve it very well.”

In 2011, the campgrounds were taken over by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust (RLHT) after being privately owned for decades. “It was getting a bit rundown,” said Amanda Laliberte, the program and communications director at the RLHT. The trust jumped at an opportunity to get involved with the campground that was so much a part of Rangeley tradition for so many years. Since the RLHT purchased the Campgrounds, there has been a complete overhaul. “The bathhouse, pavilion, and campground store were built around ten years ago,” said Laliberte.

Cupsuptic trail Leah Watson

Conservation is extremely valued at the campgrounds. “We go through extensive planning anytime we do any sort of changes, because we do want it to feel like the same campground,” said Laliberte. When the campground had to take out some old trees, they made it their mission to find similar ones to replace them with to keep with tradition. “As those trees age along with our campers, it will seem like the same place,” said Laliberte. Despite the changes that were implemented when the RLHT took control of the campground, they make it their mission to preserve and conserve the property so it remains a consistent experience.


Cindy and Tom Fylstra traveled three hours from Augusta to escape into the wilderness around the campgrounds. Here they enjoy a variety of camping activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking. This is the Fylstras’ fifth visit, and each year in January they are given an opportunity to book the same camp slot as before. “You start to see the same people,” said the Fylstras, remarking on the sense of community.

The Fylstras admire the campground because there isn’t a lot of commercialization. “There are no playgrounds or pools,” said Cindy Fylstra. “Just pine trees.” People hear about the Cupsuptic Campground through word-of-mouth. Asked if the campground advertises at all, Laliberte said “there might be an advertisement in some camping magazine, but I doubt it.” The goal of the Cupsuptic Campgrounds is to create a unique and consistent experience. It is because of this experience that people continue to return to the campgrounds.

“It’s quintessential Maine,” said Cindy Fylstra. “With the sound of loons and the pine trees,” added her husband, Tom. “This is camping.” Even though many of the lots are filled with RVs and campers, there is an overwhelming feeling of quiet and serenity. People sit in their lawn chairs, reading books by the water. A couple relaxes on a pair of inflatable chairs in the cool water. Kayakers in the distance slowly make their way closer to shore. There is the soft hum of insects in the grasses. An invisible loon calls out on the lake. A woman rummages through the trees hunting for mushrooms. She picks them up and places them in a plastic bag. “I’ve got lots of boletus and button mushrooms,” she says as she opens her bag. “Yesterday I cooked up some chanterelles and ate them like chips.”

The campgrounds have 16,000 acres of conservation land right at their doorstep for visitors to explore. As I sat at a picnic bench under some pine trees, I watched as the afternoon sky turned into dusk. Light gray smoke and the cindery smell of campfires filled the air. The lake became calm and as I looked up into the trees, the sounds of chattering squirrels grew louder. People gathered their belongings and migrated from the beach towards their campers and tents for dinner.

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