Sporting Camps get guests from hell

DSCN9162No matter how much they tell them, serve them, or pamper them, Maine’s sporting camps, inns, and restaurants all get customers from hell. Some people are just determined to be unhappy. Others are simply inept. And then there are those who just aren’t prepared for the experience offered.

The latter are especially prevalent for remote sporting camps. Despite camp owners attempts to make sure guests know what to expect, they find some mystified that there is no WIFI, cell phone service, television, and oh yea, those outhouses can be a big surprise.

Fortunately, guests from hell are few and far between, but some of the stories sporting camp owners told me, as I was writing a book on Maine sporting camps for Down East Books that will be published next spring, are really hilarious.

Josie McPhee at Macannamac Camps, one of my favorite places in Maine, told me a couple of great stories.

One guest asked for the most remote camp they had, and he got it. It sits on a knoll above a beautiful pond, surrounded by forest, and the camp is the only one on the pond. It’s quite a drive from Macannamac’s lodge and headquarters, so Jack McPhee got in his vehicle and told the customer to follow him to the camp. So far, so good.

Jack even brought along a bucket of bait so the customer would have a great fishing experience. But the guy seemed a bit out of his element, and quite nervous,  so Jack flew over to the pond the next morning to make sure he was ok. The bait bucket was still on the porch, right where Jack had left it, and the guest was gone! Apparently he’d freaked out and left. And they never heard from him again!

Most sporting camps have wood stoves in their camps. When Linda and I stayed this year in one of Josie’s camps, we were surprised by the very detailed instructions in the camp for how to build and maintain the fire in the wood stove. When I asked Josie why it was necessary to provide such detailed instructions, she told me that they had a guest one time who built his wood fire in the oven of the gas stove! Holy smokes!

One of my favorite stories came from the folks who own Shining Sails Inn on Monhegan Island. John was at the dock to meet his customers when they arrived on the ferry. The gentleman got off the boat holding a bag of golf clubs and a tennis racket. His wife stepped off the ferry elegantly dressed and wearing high heeled shoes.

John introduced himself and kindly told them that there is no place to play golf or tennis on the island, and it would be very difficult to walk around in high heels. He quickly phoned the Samoset Resort in Rockport, booked the couple a room there, and put them right back on the ferry for the return trip to the mainland. Now, that’s customer service!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.