What’s A Sikorsky Weekend?

by Jim Bildilli

Anyone remotely familiar with aviation recognizes the name “Sikorsky” as the surname of the individual responsible for the creation and subsequent evolution of the practical helicopter. But did you know that there’s a place where you can go to spend an entire weekend learning about Igor Sikorsky, his inventions and personal collection of photos and memorabilia? It can’t be found at a symposium or at your local aviation museum, but rather deep in the woods of northern Maine at a place called “Bradford Camps.” If you want to drive there, there’s over 50 miles of commercial logging roads from Ashland. It’s much easier and faster and in many respects cheaper to take a floatplane from Millinocket or Presque Isle, Maine.

Bradford Camps was established in 1890 by Wil Atkins and has only had three other owners before being purchased by Igor Sikorsky III and his wife Karen over 15 years ago.  Although both Igor and Karen had successful careers, both decided that life would be more rewarding if they cast off the mundane happenings of the urban life and carved out a new venture as the owners of a hunting and fishing lodge located on Munsungan Lake.

Life in the wilderness was a new experience for Karen who grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, but Igor had spent several summers living on Cobb’s Pierce Pond Camps in western Maine.

While you can go to Bradford Camps anytime during the summer months, one weekend in July is set aside as “Sikorsky Weekend.” Guests arrive on Friday between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, so they can unpack and enjoy their cabin and the lake throughout the afternoon or perusing through a large collection of books, videos and artifacts of Igor’s grandfather. Immediately following dinner, the first half of a slide show and seminar about the famous inventor is held in the lodge.

Although you can rise at your leisure on Saturday morning, don’t plan on sleeping too late because breakfast is only served until 8:00 AM. After breakfast, the library, videos, artifacts and photos are available for viewing throughout the day. If you are more adventurous, you can choose to do a little fishing or kayaking or take a guided tour of the trails and perhaps do a little moose and wildlife watching. For those more interested in a “birds-eye view” of the area, float plane tours conducted by Igor can be arranged. If you stay in camp, lunch will be provided in the lodge. However, for those opting for the great outdoors, a picnic lunch is provided. The second half of the slide show is shown after supper, along with lectures and a discussion by Igor III, his father and other members of the immediate family.

As with Saturday, you can rise at your leisure Sunday morning, but again, breakfast is only served until 8:00 AM. Guests are welcome to stay through mid-afternoon to enjoy the surroundings, guided trips and the Sikorsky library.

Even though Bradford Camps is located miles from civilization, it offers quite a few creature comforts that one wouldn’t expect in the wilderness. Each cabin has comfortable beds, running water, hot showers and flushing toilets. If it becomes cool in the evening, there’s a wood stove in the corner with an ample supply of split firewood. An electrical generator provides power during the day, but at night, all illumination is by kerosene, propane or battery powered lights. All meals are served in the lodge, which also acts as the gathering place for social activities and the library.

Although most items have to be transported to the camp, Karen and Igor cultivate a significant portion of the food on the premises. With the rather short growing season and competition with wildlife, it sometimes becomes quite a challenge to get a harvest.

For those of you who have access to a floatplane, Bradford Camps is listed as ME3. If you have a GPS, the coordinates are Lat: North 46-23’, Long: West 69-00’.  Visiting aircraft are advised to monitor 122.85 north of Katahdin Mountain. If you are flying in from the south, you will traverse much of Baxter State Park and Katahdin Mountain, which is also the northern trail head of the Appalachian Trail.

For those without floats, you can fly to Millinocket Municipal Airport (78B). Jim Strang of Katahdin Air operates a C-206 floatplane service from Spencer Cove SPB (70B) a few miles away. Also available is Northern Maine Regional Airport at Presque Isle (PQI). In all cases, you can contact Igor Sikorsky III to make the necessary arrangements.

The cost for the weekend is $340/person, double occupancy, which includes all meals, lodging and full use of all facilities including boats, motors and kayaks. Bradford Camp’s website (www.bradfordcamps.com) is quite complete and will answer many of your questions. If you plan to contact them by phone, the numbers are listed, but service is not always guaranteed. However, leave a message and either Igor or Karen will return your call or send you an e-mail.

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