In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, three generations of the Crego family worked as wilderness guides in the Western Adirondacks. Along the way, they raised families, worked for prominent employers, adapted to new forms of transportation, and helped lay the groundwork for the conservation movement in New York State. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Adirondack Guides’
Plenty of entertaining statements are attributed to Orsen “Old Mountain” Phelps, the over-commercialized Betty Crocker of Adirondack Mountain guides.
I don’t know exactly who Phelps was, but after 30-plus years in the journalism business, I recognize the type: He wanted to be a lot of things, and was pretty good at it, but lost something of his identity in the process. His Swiss Army Knife approach to life led him down paths not just as a guide, but as a writer, scientist, geographer and philosopher-at-large.
The one thing he seemed pretty clear on, and I can relate, is that he did not want to go through life as a manual laborer. He cut trails, sure, but in Phelps’ world this was no more work than writing is to me.
Phelps was no intellect, but neither was he the semi-literate hayseed he passed himself of as when trying to land a guiding gig. I always fantasize that Phelps talked like Sir Kenneth Clarke when he was at home, but broke into a full hillbilly rag on the job, ladling in heaping helpings of dagnabbits and conswarnits to impress the clientele. » Continue Reading.
Men have dominated the craft of building guideboats ever since the middle of the nineteenth century, when the first guideboats were made. The only known female builder is Allison Warner from Lake Clear.
Warner’s interest in wooden boats dates back to when she paddled wooden canoes while growing up in southern Texas. As a young adult, she moved to the Adirondacks and began working with AmeriCorps as a carpenter’s helper at Great Camp Santanoni under Tupper Lake carpenter Michael Frenette, who introduced her to boat restoration and guideboats in 1999. » Continue Reading.
Building a traditional Adirondack guideboat is a complex task, with ribs carved from spruce-tree roots and with thin hull planks held in place with several thousand tiny tacks. It can take many weeks to complete one.
“I grew up working with wood one way or another, and these are by far the most complex, demanding things, by a long shot, I’ve ever built,” said Rob Davidson, who started building guideboats a few years ago after moving to the Adirondacks from Oregon. » Continue Reading.
Cunningham has run afoul of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulations on several occasions. In June 2015, DEC staff refused Cunningham’s request to renew his license.
Cunningham appealed that decision, but it was upheld by Administrative Law Judge Michael S. Caruso the following November after a hearing. Caruso said the department had ample reasons for denying Cunningham a guide’s license.
From its founding in 1893, and over the next 30 years, the Beaver River Club was the destination of many of the visitors to the Stillwater area.
It was the summer retreat of wealthy and influential families from Syracuse, Utica and to a lesser extent from throughout New York State. The decision to enlarge the Stillwater Dam and create today’s Stillwater Reservoir utterly destroyed this glittering outpost in the wild. Here is its story. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Guide Smith Brett Lawrence passed away on Thursday, June 30, every bit as much an icon of Keene, NY as Giant Mountain, Noonmark Diner, and the old red barn at the bottom of Spruce Hill (at the junction of routes 73 and 9N).
His full white beard and his red truck from which he flew the American flag gave Brett presence. He was also one of the last visages of an era that stretches back to the early days of the 19th century, and of a family that for four generations made their living as a guide and caretaker. » Continue Reading.
Orson Schofield “Old Mountain” Phelps (1816-1905) was the archetypical Adirondack guide.
Guide historian Chuck Brumley attributed this to the wide literary attention Phelps received from early city visitors to the High Peaks, including Verplanck Colvin and Charles Dudley Warner. Phelps was painted by Winslow Homer. He became a stock character in the guidebooks of E.R. Wallace and S.R. Stoddard.
Phelps certainly had the requisite outdoor skills to be a well-known Adirondack guide, and he cut many High Peaks trails still in use, as well as naming a number of high peaks. But it was his personality and aphorisms that caught the imagination of many of the “city men” he guided. He amused and impressed his clients with rustic humor and philosophy.
It is this aspect of Phelps that is apparent in a previously unknown collection of papers recently acquired by the Adirondack Research Library of the Kelly Adirondack Center of Union College. » Continue Reading.
Recently, I attended a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) class provided by Adirondack Wilderness Medicine (AWM) to keep current on the first aid requirement for my New York State Guides License. This was my second wilderness first aid class. The first was an eight-hour class taken through the New York State Outdoor Guides Association, this new one was much more comprehensive and twice the length. » Continue Reading.
There’s nothing wooden about a tree, a friend who happens to be a poet once remarked. The same could be said about a true Adirondack guide-boat. There’s nothing wooden about it. The offspring of this region’s woods and waters, it is the most elegant rowing boat ever built. Handled properly, an anonymous sportsman once wrote, “it obeys the prompting of every impulse, and is so easily propelled in smooth water you need never tire.”
Easier said than done, of course. But even clumsy rowers, or those who have only rowed a metal clunker, find themselves besotted by the guide-boat’s lines, workmanship and history. Ask any one of the millions of people who have visited the Adirondack Museum, whose guide-boat collection is among its most popular attractions. » Continue Reading.
Alvah Dunning was perhaps the most famous of Raquette Lake guides, said to have helped lead the first excursion of sportsmen to Raquette Lake at age eleven. Born in Lake Piseco in 1816, he lived there until 1860 when he was forced to flee after beating his wife.
From that moment on, he removed himself from society in favor of the freedom of the wilderness. » Continue Reading.
I recently discovered an article written by Alexander Byron Lamberton, one of Old Forge’s earliest historical figures, that was published in Forest and Stream in March of 1876.
The article describes the first large-scale stocking of fish on Fulton Chain waters. Lamberton had only recently taken over as owner of the Forge House, and his story reads like an adventure tale: » Continue Reading.
“That’s too far, you’ll never make it before dark,” our guide responded – although his words went unheard as the raft disappeared around a bend of the Upper Hudson River.
More rafts followed with a half-dozen young men and women waving and laughing as they paddled by our campsite, seemingly oblivious to the set of whitewater rapids they were about to encounter. » Continue Reading.
What is believed to be the first summer camp on Long Lake was built on Birch Point in 1870 for Senator Orville Hitchcock Platt. Platt was born in Washington, CT in 1827. His father was a farmer who also served the community as deputy sheriff, judge of probate, and a school teacher. Platt’s parents were both active abolitionists and their home was a station on the Underground Railroad.
As a youth, Platt helped his father on the farm and also enjoyed roaming the countryside hunting and fishing in the woods and streams of northwest Connecticut. He attended school in Washington, CT, the student of abolitionist Frederic Gunn. When a pro-slavery group forced Gunn to close his school he and Platt (as assistant teacher) moved to the abolitionist stronghold of Towanda, PA. Orville Platt spent a year there and met a young lady who would later become his wife. » Continue Reading.
Before railroads and automobiles, travelers depended on the quality and skills of North Woods guides to show them the region’s natural beauty, to feed them and provide the best in hunting and fishing. Often, guides were entrusted with taking ladies in the woods.
The guides, especially those not aligned with large hotels, depended on per diem fees for subsistence and quality reputations for honesty, dependability and woodcraft benefited all guides. So when two guides brought dishonor to the profession, guides hoped people realized these two were the exception. » Continue Reading.