Last weekend, I traveled to Blue Mountain Lake in order to attend the Adirondack Museum's Wilderness Elegance Benefit Gala. The event, hosted annually by the "Smithsonian of the North," drew a wide crowd from all across the North Country.
I don't get down that way so often anymore. It's too bad because I ran into many old friends and met plenty of new ones while dining in the open air under a grand white tent set up on the museum's grounds.
A jazz band from a local music camp entertained guests as they sauntered around the grounds while examining a huge array of authentic Adirondackana.
This authentic Adirondack guideboat, constructed by the Adirondack Museum’s boat builder-in-residence Allison Warner, fetched $25,000 at a recent benefit auction in Blue Mountain Lake.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
The evening featured a silent auction of all things Adirondack, ranging from guided fly fishing trips and rustic furniture to Kevlar canoes and an authentic Adirondack guideboat constructed by Allison Warner, the museum's boat builder-in-residence.
Bidding on the sleek, pine, spruce and cedar boat captivated the audience as the price jumped by thousands of dollars. Following an entertaining session of back-and-forth bidding for the boat, the gavel eventually sounded at a sum of $25,000.
A slight moan could be heard echoing off the nearby hills as long-departed local guideboat builders rolled over in their graves at the mere mention of such a price.
My purpose in attending the event had nothing to do with bidding on the boat, though I wish I could've. However, it was just a bit to rich for my meager wallet.
I actually went down to learn more about the status of Anne LaBastille's estate. Anne was an old friend whom I first met in the mid-1970s, when I arranged for the Plattsburgh State Outing Club to host her lecture. She was a striking blonde who had traveled widely, but it was her environmental ethic that truly captivated the asssembled audience of students and faculty.
Over the years, our paths would cross in the woods and on the waters, and at various conferences ranging from the annual Guide Rendezvous to Adirondack Park Agency meetings, where she served as commissioner for many years.
Although she slipped out of the public eye late in life, I would often run into her at the local Blue Seed Feed Store in Elizabethtown when I was over that way. We'd usually sort through a variety of topics and agree to get together again the next time I was around, which we usually did.
Although Anne traveled extensively in younger years, she spent her last years living on a old farm near Wadhams, where she remained until moving to a retirement community in Plattsburgh.
While considered a controversial figure at times, her series of "Woodswoman" books helped to launch a wave of brave new outdoorswomen who were both confident and competent in the outdoors.
At the same time, she brought new prominence to the guiding profession and helped to change the public image from a grizzled old Adirondack guide to an environmentally astute woodland companion.
She was surely the most notable Adirondack guide of the modern age, and through her research and advocacy she was responsible for helping bring the issue of acid rain to the forefront of the public eye. She spent a good part of her life advocating for action on the threat. Brook trout, and the fine folks that chase after them, will be forever thankful!
Following the auction and presentation of the 2014 Harold K. Hochschild Award to Frances Beinecke of Long Lake, Adirondack Museum Co-Chairwomen Jane McGraw and Hilary McDonald announced Ms. LaBastille's estate had bequeathed the wilderness cabin from Black Bear Lake to the museum. The estate also included a donation of $300,000 to move the cabin and reassemble it on the museum grounds.
Anne had built the cabin and wrote about it in her first "Woodswoman" book. It is now considered a monumentally significant environmental artifact along with many of her personal effects, and it will join other such buildings as Noah Rondeau's Cold River City cabin and his wikiups which are currently on display at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.