Friday, April 17, 2009

Adirondack Country. William Chapman White.

New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1954/1980.

Why read it? Delightful book. The history of the Adirondacks, the names, the lakes, the peaks, the guides and impressions of the seasons.

Sample Quotes:

“As a man tramps the woods to the lake…he knows he will find pines and lilies, blue heron and golden shiners, shadows on the rocks and the glint of light on the wavelets, just as they were in the summer of 1854, as they will be in 2054 and beyond; he can stand on a rock by the shore and be in a past he could not have known, in a future he will never see; he can be a part of time that was and time yet to come.” p. xi.

“Almost all the Adirondack peaks have those rounded tops, worn by storm and time.” p. 11. ………. “The belief that between two mountains there must be a valley is not always true in the Adirondacks; likely as not, a lake is there instead.” p. 11. ………. “Men have tried to describe mountain scenery and mountain views; it is futile.” p. 13.

“The Adirondack country has more than 1345 lakes, named, and more nameless.” p. 14. ………. “The word ‘pond’ is used as often as ‘lake’; no one knows at what point of decreasing size a lake becomes a pond.” p. 16. ………. “The chief nuisance of the Adirondacks is not a reptile or beast but the notorious black fly…. …appear about the middle of May and stay around for six weeks…at their worst on a hot windless afternoon.” p. 31.

“One of the common phrases is ‘over to’ rather than ‘over at’—‘He lives over to Lake Clear.’ ” p. 38. ………. “The word ‘Adirondacks’ is authentic Iroquois and is supposed to have been a term of derision spat at the Algonquins, who were forced to live on tree buds and bark during severe winters.” p. 52. ……… "Mt. Marcy, the highest peak, named…after the New York governor; Charles Fenno Hoffman suggested, ‘…the poetic Indian epithet of ‘Tahawus’ (‘he splits the sky’)….” ………. “It was important to keep the fire going; matches were not invented until 1827.” p. 68.

Adirondack guide: “A ‘camp’ means more things up here than a porcupine’s got quills.’ ” p. 140. ………. “The Adirondack guide was portrayed variously as a limitless fount of stories and yarns, a tracker with the skill of a bloodhound, a better shot than Annie Oakley, a chef who could take baking powder, flour, and salt and out-cook Delmonico’s, and an all-knowing philosopher.” p. 153. ………. “Each Adirondack guide worked in only one part of the country and took pride in being known as ‘Lower Saranac,’ a ‘Loon Lake,’ a ‘Blue Mountain,’ or a ‘Lake Pleasant’ guide; he never guided a party outside his own district.” p. 157.

Comment: Of course you have to have lived in the Adirondacks to really appreciate their size, beauty and black flies. This is a delightful book. You’ll treasure it. RayS.

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