Great stories from a Maine bush pilot

Jake Morrell offers many great stories in his book, Hardscrabble Lodge. I got to visit with Jake at an authors’ event in Boothbay Harbor and eagerly grabbed a copy of his book.

Jake and his wife Beth lived an interesting and unusual life as the owners of Hardscrabble Lodge in the north woods. They purchased the abandoned and dilapidated remote camps and turned them into a popular destination.

Jake loved flying, and most of the stories feature his flying adventures and challenges. And yes, some were scary. Glad I wasn’t in the plane that time his engine quit – twice! His story of a trip to northern Quebec brought back my memories of fishing in that same region.

Not all stories are about planes. Wait ‘til you read about that time millions of blue insects surrounded the camps! There are also some great color photos in the book.

I was especially interested in his story of the Baxter Park fire when he and other pilots were told to dump water on firefighters who were trapped by walls of fire. And several times he took off at night looking for guests who got lost.

I enjoyed talking with Jake, because we were friends with a lot of the same people, including the wonderful Jack McPhee.

After they sold Hardscrabble Lodge, Jake and Beth enjoyed many other adventures, much of them featuring flights from France to the Caribbean. Jake even created a runway on Maine’s Swan’s Island, a favorite place of Linda and me. We’ve written a number of our travel columns about that wonderful island.

Jake is still flying, with a grass landing strip next to their house in Sangerville. He says he doesn’t miss “flying every day, hunting twenty-five days a year, and fishing whenever the mood struck.” Most days, he takes “a lazy 15-minute flight and enjoy looking down.”

If you ever get a chance to talk with Jake in person, I can tell you that all of his great stories are not in this book! But you will really enjoy the ones that are in the book.

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.