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Adirondack Wilds (2013)
by William J. OHern

Bette and Jay OHern went on their first backpacking trip in 1964. Once they began having children (five in all) there never seemed to be time for them to backpack together again. In the fall of 2007, with the children grown, Bette joked that it was time that she and Jay enjoyed a "Senior Citizen Survivor Outing."

Adirondack Life magazines September/October 2009 issue headlined an excerpt from the book this way: "True Romance: Rekindling the Spark on an Adirondack Backpacking Trip." Duck Hole, Cold River Valley, Noah John Rondeaus former hermitage and Ouluska Pass were major destinations to which the OHerns hiked. There, and at many of Rondeaus "secret" places, Jay shared stories.

Adirondack Wilds is a chronicle of the OHerns trip interspersed with never-before-published information about the Cold River hermit. It includes tales and recollections about Rondeau told by woodsmen and women who knew Rondeau well, letters Noah wrote and received and scores of photographs, including vintage Adirondack scenes and those the author captured during their trip.

As OHern and his wife explored the backcountry, they reinvigorated their relationship and discovered what so many are able to find only in a wilderness setting: a sense of what is truly important, what is worth keeping and remembering.

This book is a fascinating retrospective on 20th-century Adirondack lore as well as a gentle but persistent reminder of the important restorative role wilderness can play in ones life.


Some of the other projects William J. O'Hern is working on:
Adirondack Echoes, a Portrait of camp life in the Mountains a Century Ago
by William J. O'Hern

Brief Description of the Future Work: This is a book for anyone who has ever longed for the sanctuary of mountains, lakes and woods. Echoes of Camp Life is a story about discovering the special kind of freedom and refuge and freedom that can only be found in the natural world. It captures the spirit of America's wilds.


Fishing Black River headwaters

Its stories come from real life experiences, captured by an author who has spent a half century in the Adirondacks. Because he describes life at a slower pace, you the reader may find yourself taking the time to really take a look at your surroundings, take stock of who you are and what you are doing. This is a journey through a wilderness universe. Your own private world that consists of whoever is at camp with you, the adventures, the jokes you share, the camaraderie and idle chatter, and tall tales -- slices of life at a lakeside deep in the forest.

A. L. Byron-Curtiss' Adirondack life experiences began when he arrived in the mountains in 1892. In the company of scamps, sinners, renegades, and saints, B-C mixed comfortably with his motley back country neighbors. Learning from skilled guides, he mastered the fine points of wilderness camping, sporting, and traveling afield. Seeking a retreat from the stress of his workaday world, B-C searched for adventure as he began his quest to acquire his own piece of wildness real estate.


A favorite past time of female guests at Nat Foster Lodge

Adirondack history's following is drawn from all parts of the globe; people in or from small hamlets and towns; people from big cities; people from outside the United States, all kinds of people. To attract and hold so wide and varied an audience requires an extraordinary knack of making readers an intimate part of the story. William J. O'Hern's style of writing projects an authenticity about the people studied. It is just this believability that makes them so captivating and memorable to everyone who "meets" them through the pages of O'Hern's books. Packed with superb photographs, old-timey ways, and great stories that cleverly weave together wilderness philosophy with narratives of a lifetime of experience and adventure, this is a book that has all the ingredients of a true Adirondack classic. Written in a way that will make you feel as if B-C is right there telling you the story, you are sure to enjoy this fun read.


History of the Moose River Plains
by William J. O'Hern

Brief Description of the Future Work: There is another Moose River Plains Recreation Area, a little-known one with a social lore, a long way off from what today's New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's official map and guide describes. It's past history lives in a collection of photos, on reels of tape recordings, jotted in camp journals and personal diaries, and in the hearts and memories of a generation whose parents and grandparents called the wild, flat heartland the "Indian Clearing."


Laura and Gerald Kenwell, Moose River Plains, 1890s

Its history flourishes in the woodland, the crevices some call "caves," in the bramble former lumber camp clearings and along derelict logging roads, on the shores of the lakes and ponds, at the site of former dams, hidden under layers of forest duff and along its streams and rivers. It is the hidden history, the gathering of generations of men and women drawn to the Moose River Plains by its wildlife, its beauty, its birds and butterflies, the herbs and grass plains, and the recreational


Early campers near the Indian Clearing, south branch of the Moose River

opportunities. All who have come hold an attachment to it and to one another borne of their shared ties to its past and the great influence of its varied terrain from the flatness of the glacial flood plain to the varied gentle and steep pitches of the adjoining forested ridges and low, rounded mountains. The ingredients form a natural glue that bonds humans and the environment together -- these meet for all who choose life along the south branch of the Moose River.

This social history of an Adirondack past will make today's generation long for what they missed.


Remembering Adirondack Hermit Noah John Rondeau, an American Legend
by William J. O'Hern

Brief Description of the Future Work: Sit back, Adirondack affectionis, the time machine has just cranked -- perhaps -- the last comprehensive human interest inspired work that will ever be written about one of the most interesting characters to rise out of Adirondack Mountain lore.

Noah John Rondeau, most famous hermit of the Adirondack Mountains, became a legend before he died in 1967. From early twentieth century's sporting public to Clayt Seagears, who put him in a New York state Conservationist magazine article, Rondeau was celebrated as the "mayor of Cold River city -- population one," and a woodsman.


Noah sitting in one of his wigwams

But until he was the age of 30 Rondeau was just one more hemmed-in barber who cut hair and trimmed beards and every year saw his savings account at the Lake Placid bank remain at zero. He was an unimpressive figure, of short height; simple in lifestyle and dress; his voice could be quaint when telling a tale but turn sharp when expressing his abrupt vocal straight forward criticism toward authority. This turned his normally composed nature a bit ostentatious. His piercing eyes were a signal for the view of intention and detachment in them. For he had a fancy of a remote valley, a secluded separatist fur trapper's life in the woods, without the hassles and care, boredom of an ordinary job and the rules civilization required.

Cold River, flowed beyond the Sawtooth and Seward mountain ranges, more or less uninhabited wilderness save for the occasional logging camp. Few men had ever been there except loggers and trappers.

On a late summer morning in 1913, Rondeau set out determined to reach Coreys -- a remote hamlet at the end of the "Indian Carry," his jumping off place into the wilds.

There, he made the acquaintance of pioneering families who managed to eak a living on the edge of a vast forested territory. People bent toward scandalmonger, speculated Rondeau might have had something to hide or to hide from. The quixotic gambled that he was living a romantic life of freedom. The vast majority of mountain folk simply paid little or no attention to the long black bearded stranger who rarely appeared in public.


1940s trail sign

Hardened, self reliant, skilled in woodcraft, capable of surviving nature with the benefit of crude technology, Noah John Rondeau made a life for himself in the mountains where others less skillful might have failed.

Once, he killed a bear with five arrows. He cooked unbelievable concoctions he termed "Everlasting Stew" in a big iron kettle and roasted field mice. He guided parties and could let off a hearty laugh as he shook the hands of mountain climbers he led to the summit of Couchsachraga -- "Cou-a-cra-ga or the Dismal Wilderness"

Rondeau accepted the trials associated with a desolate way of life. There was plenty of game in the forest and fish in the river. Survival required hard work. Thirty-seven years of living in the woods free the need to earn wages, pay taxes, hearing men wearing "Roman collars," and listening to "Jackass Democrats" provided ample time for the reflective ex-barber to explore what he called his "dozen points of failure" to focus on what mattered most to him and to invent a code that stumped cytologists. The diverse landscape of the Cold River country afforded the backdrop for the hermit to develop an affable philosophical outlook that his friends found most pleasing.

This book is about Noah John Rondeau and how his friends knew him. It was the author's purpose to rely on primary sources of information to provide a view of Rondeau that has not been documented. It is also about the Adirondack Mountains. Its face. Its environment.

Many of the Adirondacks champions have been fanciers of Noah John Rondeau. Remembering Noah uses extensive quotes from Rondeau's journals, interviews with journalists and acquaintances. Additional insight is provided in antidotes that have come from Rondeau's circle of friends. Through their eyes, the 'Mayor' is seen pure, not in a pseudo-folksy image but as he was known by those who were there, the people who knew him best.

Through a succession of incidents, stories, recorded conversation of humor and adventure ( run-of-the-mill as one might think the doing of a hermit were), Rondeau's unique choice of blended words convey the peacefulness he had found living in the wilderness. Having escaped the borders of civilization where he felt failure at every turn, Noah John Rondeau regained his sense of direction, self esteem and learned how to live well with those things wild. The simple peace engendered was exactly what his admirers who lived in crowed cities could only long for until their long awaited once-a-year experience in the Cold River country.

The hermit of Cold River followed his own leisurely path throughout life. Some have voiced their opinion that Rondeau did nothing with his life, he was simply "a man who throughout his life worked at nothing other than being himself." Yet, it was through his living that he captured the hearts of so many.


In the Adirondacks: Flapjacks and Lumberjacks, Logging Days Scrapbooks
by William J. O'Hern

Brief Description of the Future Work: This is a series of three books that cover the stages of logging in the Adirondacks.


Typical logging days sluice dam

It contains hundreds of never before published pictures including Gould Paper Company's Adirondack operations. The rich first hand remembrances of men and women who worked in the lumber camps make this limited edition a valuable historical collection.
 


In the Adirondacks: Depression Years and the Civilian Conservation Corps
by William J. O'Hern

Brief Description of the Future Work: Determined to establish a conservation work program for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt directed the secretaries


Duck Hole CCC side camp

of interior, war, and agriculture to work out the precise details of the large public works program known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. This book is an informal history. It includes first person narratives from some of the native Adirondack women the Outsiders met and reflections from men who worked in a number of the CCC camps in the Adirondack Mountains.

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