Posts Tagged ‘Orsen Phelps’

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Words Of Wisdom From “Old Mountain” Phelps

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.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Around The Campfire With Old Mountain Phelps

Orsen PhelpsOrson 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.