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The Deep Adirondacks

These mountains can offer solitude or fear. It all depends on you.

Many times have I found myself on this mountain top. You cannot see the valley below. The mountains are too tall and the valleys too deep. All you can see are the eagles soaring in front of you. And if the eagles are not there it is an omen. That is when the fear comes.

But these dark and mysterious mountains offer more solitude than fear; if that is what you are seeking. There are times when solitude is all we seek. And no place is better to seek it than the Adirondack Mountains of the North Woods.

The best part of this is that you may choose your place of solitude. My own, most often, is on a trout stream. But when I have been beaten, lost, destroyed, and there is no hope, I seek the mountain peak, the alp, the acme.

When on the heights you can see the whole world clearly; the slopes, the granite walls, the tree line, the clouds, the eagles, the place where you belong.

It refreshes your mind and tells you that you can, once again, go down into the valley with a clear mind, a clear goal, a clear plan, the future that you thought was lost.

Seek the heights of your own solitude and imagination; where the eagles fly.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Dark and Silent Rapids

Dark and Silent Rapids – – – They are the frightful.

They surround themselves with barriers, to keep the seekers at a distance.

They speak not loudly, that they may not be challenged.

Their pathways are protected by rocks and briars.

They are dark and foreboding.

When approached, they foment and churn.

Their edges hold their driftwood, debris and cast-offs.

Nothing grows alongside for lack of roots.

The rocks are swept clean of all that wishes to attach itself.

All this creates a mysterious presence to keep others at bay.

You cannot read them unless you find yourself thrown into them.

They become open and welcome, they embrace the seekers.

They offer their depths and speak with confidence.

The rocks and briars are not at their centers.

The darkness disappears as the light shines through them.

When approached, they offer new insights.

Their depths hold hidden gems and granite polished by loneliness.

Bitter roots are swept away.

The crevices collect soil for new attachments to grow.

The mysterious and dark presence is replaced

by the languid pool that forms its base.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Morning offers anticipation; new opportunities, new insights, new adventures – – – a new beginning. God has given you one more day to make that improvement on this earth; the one you have been promising to make.

Noon is your last opportunity to work at it. You have used half of your day to make progress toward what you had promised yourself; a chance to make adjustments and corrections to your course.

Nightfall is about to be presented to you. The darkness will weigh heavy on your attempts to sleep. Questions of “what if” beleaguer your thoughts. But night has not yet come. There is one last opportunity to review your day. A time when all is quiet and the sounds of night do not play games with your mind.

That time is dusk. Dusk allows you to be proud of your day’s labor, time to bask in the good decisions that you have made, a time to sit back and enjoy the self. It is not a lonely time even if companionship is not present in your evening. It is a time when the weight of life can be set down beside your backpack, a time when you can pull up your achievements alongside your canoe, a time to watch nature telling the birds and yourself it is time to rest.

You wonder what life is really about. The dark clouds of dusk open and the remnants of the sun shine on your next goal. You can see it clearly yet it is distant and still unknown. Your heart leaps and you do not know why. Your thoughts are obscured by a feeling of joy. Logic no longer exists at this moment. Emotion reigns; and you do not know why. You do not understand. Where does the joy emanate from? Thoughts go to your loved ones. They create joy – – – but no, this joy is something separate, something different, something that thought and logic cast no light upon.

The fire is lighted and darkness descends. The comfort of your blanket roll matches the satisfaction of your day.

Now it subsides into night sounds and sleep.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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End of a Guides Day

The guide has returned his wards back to their lodge. It has been a good day. The ladies’ parasols have kept the sun off their milky white shoulders. The sports have, by this time, eaten their catch; thanks to the lodge cook.

The guide has observed that evening scene over and over. The ladies are clustered around a table discussing the various attributes and faults of their men. The men are hunched over a table of poker chips and are doing their best to fool each other while getting drunk.

The guide has no need to visit those scenes one more time. His need is solitude and preparation for tomorrow. The morning will bring yet another group of visitors to his lakeside.

His work is not finished but darkness arrives. He builds a fire of pine boughs to light up the area around his guide boat. A rusty can holds some pine pitch. A split limb is used to apply the pitch to a new leak in his boat that he has noticed that day.

An old rag is dipped in the lake. It will suffice to clean the mud off the boat floor. The ladies do not appreciate the mud. This reminds him to lay some new pine boughs on the path to the boat. This may keep most of the mud off the ladies high-top buttoned shoes.

He checks the old milk pail to see if he has enough bait worms for tomorrow’s customers. He does; and then he checks a hand-made box to see if there are enough grubs also. He smiles, knowing that he will not have to pick nightwalkers tonight or turn over old logs tomorrow morning to find more grubs.

His work is complete. He now sits on a rock and lights up his briar pipe. The sounds of the owl and the loon slide over the water. A moon keeps him company on his night-watch. There is an ever-so-slight reflection of the forest on the smooth surface of the lake. This is the payment he receives for his work.

The “sports” give him a few cents when they catch a fish and this makes him happy. The ladies hike up their long skirts when they get in the boat and that makes him happy. But the end of a busy day and the knowledge that all he purviews is his, that is what really pleases him.


Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Geese at Night

It was a typical October night. You could feel the cold in the air but there was no wind. Darkness had fallen over Forked Lake but it had little effect.

The fall sky held two layers of clouds. The layer closest to the earth blocked out the lower half of a new moon. The upper layer of clouds was mottled. There must have been a wind up high. The mottled clouds were moving quite rapidly. They were heading east to meet the ocean. I wondered how long it would take them to get there.

The scene was eerie in a nice sort of way. It was peaceful with the moon and the clouds playing tricks on each other. In another way it did not rest well within my soul. I sat there for quite some time thinking about everything and nothing. I pulled my well-worn jacket up around my nape and buttoned it at the front to ward off a breeze that was beginning to stir.

I heard voices – – – or was that a pack of dogs working a raccoon’s trail? The sounds came and went for several seconds before my eyes locked on what may have been the source of the voices. There was a small formation of geese high in the sky. The longer I watched the geese the more apparent it became that they were the source of the sounds.

Two shotgun blasts broke my mood. The sound came from behind me. As I turned I could see two figures leaping over broken limbs lying about. I knew immediately that it was the Burkoff boys. No one could leap like a deer, see at night like a deer and avoid tripping like a deer except for the two Burkoff brothers. They stopped a short distance from me and began searching. Soon, one of them held up a large raccoon by its tail.

My mood was broken so I ambled over to where they were.

“Evenin’ Tahauwas” said Burky, the older one.

“Good evenin’ to you also Burky” I responded. “And to you also Epinetus” I continued.

“Good evenin’ to you Tahauwas” answered Epinetus, the younger brother.

“Were you afraid we was gonna shoot ya?” asked Burky.

“No, I know you boys have good night eyes” I answered. “The minute I saw you chasin’ down the coon I knew who it was. But your shootin’ did scare the hell out of me. I was watchin’ the geese and thought I was alone.”

“You know we are all over” said Epinetus. “No moss growin’ on our moccasins.”

I smiled at his joke and repeated “Nope, no moss on you Eppy.”

The two boys called their dogs in and we stood there without saying anything.

Burky asked if they could join me to see if any more geese came along.

We found a nice long log and the three of us sat down. Eppy and I lit up a pipeful. Burky didn’t smoke. The dogs sat in front of us waiting to get scratched behind the ears.

As we sat in silence a flock of around fifty geese flew southward.

“Our father will miss the geese this year” offered Eppy.

“Yep, he sure loved those geese a flyin’ overhead” added Burky.

Their father had been crushed to death tending to a log jam on the Raquette River that spring. It had been some time since that occurred and I was not sure whether I should say anything. It appeared as though they were slowly getting over his death.

We sat there quietly until our smoking pipes were done.

The Burkoff boys got up, silently waved goodbye, gathered their dogs and went home to care for their mother.

It was a different night.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Beneath the Birches

I know a little brook that has the nicest flow of water. It never gets too high or too low.

It must be because of the large beaver flow. Years ago the beavers had a nice sized damn on this brook. Fields now exist where the beaver lake once was. I say “lake” because the area is much larger than a pond.

The water is now gone except for this brook that wanders aimlessly through the old flow. I don’t think it goes more than twenty feet in any direction before it changes its mind and heads back the other way. Before it is done it has covered most of the field that it runs through. I suppose that is why this little brook never seems to flood in the spring or run dry in August. It has plenty of room to spread its wings or draw on its reserves.

I was thinking about the way it changes direction. It reminds me of some people who wander aimlessly through life; but then if there is anyone who constantly changes his mind it has to be me.

Sometimes I don’t know whether I prefer fishing or guiding. I don’t know whether I prefer laying up a stone foundation or fitting logs together for a lodge. I don’t know whether I prefer to learn things from people or learn things from nature. I don’t know if I am upset with what is happening to the Adirondacks or whether I should embrace progress.

That makes me a brother to the brook. We both meander back and forth.

But here is where I fish; beneath these old birch trees. If offers both the fish and myself a little shade. It also offers me a little solitude. I feel sorry for the fish. It offered them a little solitude also; until I showed up.

It is a restful place. Way up on the other end of the flow Old John DeBesse built his cabin and raised a few sheep. If you look real hard you can see the remnants of his fence. It was meant to keep the sheep in and the wolves out.

It didn’t work.

Old John had to get himself a big dog to do the job that the fence could not do. John had that dog trained real good. It never hurt a single sheep. It killed a few wolves before it died of old age. Lots of scars, yep, that old dog had lots of scars from the fights. Good dog though. Real friendly like. I don’t know if it had a name other than “Dog.” That’s what Old John DeBesse named it; “Dog.”

See that old fir tree half way up the flow? See how it leans sharply to the left? I have been waiting thirty years for it to fall over. Never has. Probably never will. I will probably fall over before that old fir does.

And this big rock right at the foot of the falls? There is always a big old brook trout hiding underneath it. Sometimes it bites and other times you would swear that it has gone somewhere else. But no, he is always there, just like these nice old birch trees; and me.

Lots of memories are stored away under these birches.


Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Adirondack Cataract

This is not the largest cataract that I have ever seen in the Adirondacks; but it is the most dangerous. Look at the teeth on that monster. It is just waiting to chew up its next victim. That is why I call it “The Maw.”

It is dangerous to canoeists because they cannot hear the upcoming danger.

It is dangerous to me because I still think there are nice brookies to be caught at the base of each tooth. The little pockets don’t offer a lot of water for those trout to swim around in. However they do offer a trap for insects and food to get caught in. Any trout that are trapped in these pools are going to be well fed and strong fighters.

You know where I am going with this. Yep; fishing in those little pockets. I wish I had a ten inch brookie for each time I slipped on the rocks and fell or slid down a few of these teeth. It usually keeps me from fishing there for a month or two. As soon as the wounds heal I forget about what happened last time and go right back to challenge “The Maw.”

As I said, there are other cataracts in these North Woods. There is a dangerous but smooth one in the northern foothills near Burke Center. It is dangerous to people who choose to canoe. Once again it is a surprise because the water flows over a large round megalithic precipice. You cannot see it because of the bend in the river. It is a killer on canoes.

However, it is very round and smooth, so not many people have been maimed there.

Be careful of these cataracts.

They remind me of those painted ladies that come here from Boston; pretty to look at but dangerous to be in their midst.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Night Shadows

It was a night just like this.

The moon was unusually low in the sky. So low that it lit up the bottoms of the eerie night clouds. You know those clouds. They skim silently through the sky as if they were trying to sneak up on something – – – – – or someone.

The moon lit up the side of the trees opposite me. My side of each tree, therefore, was dark and foreboding.

The moon did glance off the small stream. It reflected a few barren tree trunks beside my campsite.

The live trees offered no solace due to their dark presence. The dead trees stood out. The bark hung off them like a rotting corpse. The stream was barely moving and offered no life or sound. The forest was dead quiet.

Then, without warning, there was a sound of footsteps somewhere near me. I listened and attempted to match the sound pattern to that of a deer. There was no match. The pattern was not regular. A few steps in the dry leaves and then nothing. Whatever belonged to the footsteps was being very cautious; or maybe it was stalking.

Not me, I hoped.

Were the steps heavy or light? I listened intently for additional clues. They had stopped. I sat there quietly as I could. My breathing had become heavier. I wondered if it could hear me trying to get enough air without making too much noise.

The steps started again and stopped almost immediately. It was a heavy sound, not a skunk or raccoon. Something larger like a mountain lion or a bear. I could not control my breathing. I would burst if I didn’t take several deep breaths.

Nothing, the forest remained quiet. I took the opportunity to fill my lungs.

Off in the distance I could hear the hoot of an owl. I remained silent and frozen for several minutes. Then; the sound of another few steps.

I knew these woods and its animals like the back of my hand. If only the footsteps would be more regular, then I could tell what it was – – – – – and where it was.

More night sounds. This time coyotes; off deep in the mountains.

A mouse scampered through the leaves at my feet.

More time elapsed without any sounds. Suddenly there was a crashing of broken limbs in the trees above my head. I looked up in time to see a great horned owl settling on a large branch.

And then all was quiet again – – – too quiet – – – for too long.

Then a crunching noise, something chewing on something – – – or somebody. My senses were sharpened with fear. Finally the fear had come to a head and I saw my stalker.

A small moose enjoying the watercress that grew in the quiet stream by my campsite.

I got to know a little about myself that night.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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Night Sounds

I often found myself beside a lake at night. Sometimes it was late evening. At other times it was in the middle of the night. It was getting harder for me to sleep through the night. And I could not determine why this was happening.

At first I thought it was being without my mother and father. I had been working on Durant’s lodges and had not been home in a long time.

Then I thought it may have been my work. I was helping to destroy these woods. I was aiding and abetting the deterioration of my beloved Adirondacks. It was so easy that I had not thought about it.

Durant hired me to help build his camps and lodges. Then when he did not want hammering and sawing to bother the visitors I became his guide. My job was to complement the ladies and teach the men how to fish.

The only saving grace was that I was still a young man. I could be proud in my work. The old men were driven to shame and disgrace. All they could do was haul the visitor’s suitcases from the stagecoach to the lodge. They were humiliated. Would that be me when I got older?

Those were my thoughts as I sat by the lake in the middle of the night. Just myself, a pipe full of tobacco, and the night sounds.

The peepers were always near. Their little throats filling with air and then “peep – – – peep.” I may not have noticed one peeper but there were hundreds of them all peeping at the same time. Jenny Mae Strout had been to New York City once. She told me that they sounded like an orchestra tuning up. She also said that the bullfrogs sounded like the tuba during the tuning session. I don’t know – – – never heard one; tuba that is, heard plenty of bullfrogs.

Then there is always an owl someplace within shouting distance. Some of them hoot and it is quite pleasant; “hoot – – – hoot” – – – then silence for a little bit before the next “hoot – – – hoot.”

His cousin, the screech owl, lets you know when he is around also; but not in a pleasant manner. He sounds like the belt screeching on an old buzz-saw when it gets bound-up. It does not sound scary but it does grate on your ears.

The loon; at first he sounds mournful. But when I got to know him he was just another lonely being sitting on the lake. When there is a slight wind the waves pick up and he bobs up and down, sometimes disappearing. Then his wailing allows me to find him again.

After the waves are done with him they come and visit me. Slap – – – slap – – – slap – – – against an old log or a large rock.

It is soothing and soon my pipe is out. Time for sleeping.

Tahawas and Tomosky c




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French Louis Cave Home


“French Louie” Seymour, our very own hermit, has several places to lay his head. Most of them offer Louie some shelter from the wind and rain. This one meets those requirements but does not hold heat. Louie kept a fire going inside this cave when he was there; even in the summer. Maybe it kept the black flies away.

I have no idea if Louie can read or write. I do know that as of the last time I visited him he didn’t leave any hen scratching on the walls of the cave.

Even though Louie and his Indian friend John Leaf have a lot of opposite ideas Louie is good to John. John seems to get sick quite often and when it happens he usually doesn’t seem to be near shelter. I know Louie took him in at the slab shanty a few times. He let John rest and fed him until he was healthy.

One time when I was near Louie’s cave I stopped to visit. Louie was not there but John Leaf was. John was very ill again. Louie had allowed him to stay and even left some food behind for John. That was why everyone liked Louie; he was a kind soul.

For as sickly as John Leaf was, it is really ironic the way he died.

John was not quite the kind soul that Louie was. John was always prepared to be offended about anything so slight. Once offended, John would not back down. So most of us learned that when John was offended and his pride was hurt, then a fight was about to start. The other party had to back down or get in a brawl with John.

Everyone around here knew that. So when someone backed down from John Leaf it was understood that the party backing down was not afraid of John, it was because – – – well – – – John was John and nothing was going to change him.

Strangers did not know that. John never mixed with city folks so that did not present a problem. However, there were a lot of new loggers in these woods who did not know John and his temperament.

The last time anyone saw John was when a pair of calked and spiked logger’s boots did a jig on his chest and head. John Leaf died.

No one ever knew, or admitted to know, who was inside those boots.


Tahawas and Tomosky c



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