A glimpse into the evolution of an
Adirondack hermit's life.
William J. O'Hern
John Rondeau was a man of the past. A native Northern New Yorker who, disgusted by
"Civilization," turned his back on society "American
Big Business and Industrial Slavery." He took a leap of faith -- backward, into the
vast wild of the Cold River country and searched out the comfort of the Adirondack
Mountains. It was a desperate man's quest for peace of mind, away from people, life's
pressures, taxes and authority. He loved it. There he lived, communing with nature for
was what he was, a castaway from the world. A hermit. A survivalist before the term was
ever coined. Home was positioned at the head of Cold River flow, site of Big Dam and a
dilapidated Santa Clara river driver's logging camp. Two tiny ramshackle cabins and three
wigwam woodpiles constituted his residence. The setting was stunning. A high bluff with a
view that would have moved Thoreau to beautiful words. Satisfied, Rondeau was isolated
from the Outside by high mountains and a fourteen-mile rough woods trek he resided alone
from 1913 to 1950.
the 1920s hearty "sports" men and women who were up to the challenge of fishing
the trouty waters of his "Handsome World" first discovered him. A new breed of
recreationalists, climbers, rediscovered him in the 1930s, designated his hermitage as
the "Town Hall" and made infrequent
pilgrimages to "Cold River
Had Noah set off on a lonesome journey,
searching the world in all directions to see what kind of life he could find, only to
return to Cold River and recognize the mountain air that fed his soul was all he needed to
calm his uneasy blood. Noah John Rondeau found within the wrap of natural world his
"Street of Gold."
In today's hectic world a large number
of Moderns feel they, too, need a place to find themselves. Nature's back paths to nowhere
often are a cure for stress, city lights and life's concrete main roads.
(Photographs Courtesy of Adolph Dittmar and William J. O'Hern.
Reproduction is forbidden without expressed written permission.)