Monday, November 16, 2009

Noah Rondeau: A Day in His Woods

Many an article and book is available describing the life of Noah Rondeau and his hermitage. Interactions with the few hikers who ventured into his area portrayed a favorable gentleman who loved the company of some people as well as his solitude. Pictures are worth a thousand words and attach emotion to the text. A walk to the site of the former hermitage, however, allows a person an even deeper perspective and appreciation for the “Last Adirondack Hermit” and his way of life.

The easiest way, among many, to Rondeau’s old stomping ground is via a ten and one half mile walk from Coreys Road located between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. A mixture of trail and old truck trails winds through hardwood forests, around the Seward Range, past Mountain Pond and over the Essex County Line as evidenced by a decaying wooden sign on the ground. An alternate and much harder route for those interested in orienteering, bushwhacking and exertion would be up Mount Donaldson via Caulkin’s Brook, over to Emmons, down Emmons Slide to Seward Brook and subsequently the Cold River just south of the old hermitage.

Once upon the Northville Placid Trail, regardless of direction, you’ll encounter a faded divergence. The quickly overgrowing old main route, leads straight. The current main route leads up to the height of land. Various relics such as stove parts, pails and unidentifiable metal objects adorn the base of one of the many beach trees growing on the peaceful site. A nearby plaque commemorates Rondeau’s life.

A quick study of the area, shows why Noah chose the spot for his home. It’s relaxing, beautiful and strategically placed for a self-sufficient life deep in the Adirondacks. A short walk southeast leads down a steep embankment to the Cold River and, what’s left of, an old dam which is still visible on satellite imagery. I was fortunate enough to find an old axe head in the forest duff, which I added to the relic pile. The former home site is high enough to avoid flooding issues from local streams and the Cold River. The river itself is wide with intermittent spots of rapids, calm stretches, eddies, and deep pools: perfect for fish. An eddy between Seward Brook and the hermitage collects layers of wood which would have served as one of many fuel sources for his homemade wood stove. The hardwood forest is loose and harbors many game: deer, bear and grouse to name a few.

I could go on and on describing Rondeau’s plateau, the mood it set and the perspective it unveiled; but these are only words as so many others in print. The next time you’re in the mood for a camping trip and a bit of exercise, consider visiting this historic area of incredible Adirondack beauty.

Picture of Cold River Area from Couchsachraga by Kevin B. MacKenzie


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Kevin MacKenzie is an Adirondack writer and photographer, licensed to guide in NY state and is associate registrar at St. Lawrence University. He lives in the Lake Placid area with his wife, Deb (also a freelance photographer). His articles and photographs have been featured such magazines and journals as Climbing, Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, Adirondac, Adirondack LifePeeks, and Adirondack Outdoors. Many of Kevin and Deb's photographs are featured on the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center's website.

Kevin is an avid slide climber, rock/ice climber, winter forty-sixer, board member of the Adirondack Climbers Coalition and member of Climbing for Christ. His passion for climbing slides and pioneering new backcountry technical ice and rock routes takes him to some of the most remote areas in the High Peaks. His website and Summitpost forum page contain trip reports, photos and video from many of his explorations.

One Response

  1. Tim Rowland says:

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