Thursday, July 22, 2010


Only certain people have the fantasy of becoming a hermit. Most people are too social to ever consider this drastic decision to be left alone with them selves. I am one that has fantasies of becoming a hermit. I have desired this since I was a teen, though the thought is more and more fleeting as my age advances and I really enjoy a good bed and a hot shower.

When in my 20s I became fascinated with Noah John Rondeau, the Adirondack Hermit of the Cold River Valley. Noah was born in 1883 and learned the craft of surviving in nature in the Adirondacks from Indians. He visited the Cold River Valley and built a hermitage for his visits. He started staying there year round at the age of 46 in 1929, which was no small task considering the brutality of the winters in the Adirondacks.

Though he was a hermit he was pretty social. He welcomed visitors that wandered his way and would even entertain them with his violin. He was literate with a cabin full of books. He’d venture into town for supplies and would visit with folks on his arrival.

Noah had his first run-ins with the Conservation Department, the predecessor of today's New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He had problems with one particular game warden who would cause him problems for years to come. To survive he had to hunt animals and fish that were out of season.

Noah’s decline began with a big wind storm in 1950 where much of his Cold River Valley was leveled by fallen trees. The Conservation Department closed the Cold River Valley for the next three years. Noah ended up living in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake for the final 17 years of his life. Noah died at the age of 84.

Noah John Rondeau was never granted his final wish: to be buried at his hermitage; his remains lie in the North Elba Cemetery near Lake Placid. His grave marker is a stone from his Cold River home.


Blogger darev2005 said...

I could be a hermit, but not without amenities. If I had a windmill and solar panels and internet access, people wouldn't see me until I ran out of food again. The best I can do now is keep piling stuff in front of my office/cubbyhole to make it harder for people to get back there.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be impossible to guess how many guys we're employed on my grandfather's ranches back in the day. Most of them were temporary with names forgotten, but stories of real characters survive coming down with the family lore as well as loyal men who lived out their lives working for the family and earned a spot to be buried in our family plot. My favorite was an old German Jewish man who's last name I've forgotten but his first name was Levi, but will always be known as "Bismark". Bismark was a sheepherder and when America entered World War I towns people were down on folks of German origin. One day in town Bismark was given a hard time and threatened by some of the local ruffians. It scared him enough that he never went to town again. He took to the hills and lived out his life staying with the bands of sheeps at various camps on the ranch as well as further up the Blue Mountains on leased government ground. He was a good hand and kept an eye out for everything like rustlers, poachers, squatters and such. There was plenty of game-deer, elk, upland birds and fish up there. He knew the edible wild plants and herbs and was quite self sufficient. He was good at scaring tresspassers and would even go barefoot in the snow to leave impressive foot prints to impress interlopers and tales from town of a "wild man" on the loose around the Johnson place were great entertainment for the family. Anyway, that is as close to a hermit that I ever learned about. He eventually died up there and is still up there buried in some little canyon. My old aunt knew where the grave was and told me where it was and encouraged me to find it to keep it marked with a pile of rocks but I could never be sure where it was.

11:14 AM  
Blogger g said...

Dad built a house by the Jehovah witness church in Astoria. We lived in the house for about 7 years or so. Above the house is a forested area. There was a trail between my house and the middle school. Being a youngster (I was about 6 when we moved in), I spend a great deal of time in the woods. Along this trail there was a crude cabin in which a hermit lived. I would visit with him on occasion. I remember he always wore a hard hat. I think my dad was a little more tuned in to what he was up to and I will never forget when dad told me the hermit had died. Eventually the cabin basically disintegrated back into the ground.

6:27 PM  
Blogger mark said...

The idea of living out my final years as a hermit has some appeal. Some days it has LOTS of appeal. I'm thinking an off-grid 40-year-old single-wide near Jewell or Naselle might suit my needs.

9:53 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Darev,that sounds like a hermit with a touch of hoarder.

Anon, great story.

g, ask your father about him now. See if he recalls anymore about him. Very cool.

Mark, Jewell will be hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. Naselle will be more moderate, but wetter.. Better yet, live in a Winabago and alternate locations on your mood

6:42 AM  

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