Ashfield author’s book charming, compelling
Special to The Recorder
“An Adirondack Passage: The Cruise of the Canoe ‘Sairy Gamp’” by Christine Jerome (Breakaway Books, 320 pages, $14)
In 1883, nature enthusiast and writer George Washington Sears (who wrote under the name Nessmuk) traveled through the Adirondack river system in a diminutive canoe he named the Sairy Gamp after a character in Dickens’ “Martin Chuzzlewit.”
A hundred years later, in 1988, another nature writer, Christine Jerome of Ashfield, came upon the canoe in the Adirondack Museum. Struck by the boat and its story, Jerome thought about Sears and the Sairy Gamp for months. Eventually, she decided to retrace their journey together — and to write about the experience.
“An Adirondack Passage” is Jerome’s chronicle of the trip she took in 1990 through the Adirondack Park in her modern-day replica of the Sairy Gamp, which she christened the Sairy Damp.
She and her husband, John, paddled where they could and walked where they had to, alternating between camping and staying with friends and at motels. They followed Sears’ route as well as they were able, immersing themselves in what Jerome calls the “odd, brooding beauty” of the area.
The book has just come out in a third edition with a new afterword, photos and maps.
Its story meanders like the waterways Jerome traversed. In part it is a biography of sorts of Sears, a private man who nevertheless delighted in kindred spirits and who had a passion for life in the wild. In part, it simply and honestly describes the joys and occasional perils of Jerome’s own journey.
It also explores the history of the Adirondack Park and its lakes. Sears’ time on the Sairy Gamp coincided with the popularity of Adirondack camps, increasingly elaborate residences in the wild in which city folk delighted to rusticate, surrounded by friends, guides and servants.
Jerome relates the history of some of these enterprises, most of which are long gone. She touches on the biographies of the people who built them. Some of these, true to the “boom or bust” mentality of the turn of the 20th century, came to ends almost as spectacular as the fires that consumed many of their Adirondack homes.
Along the way, she talks about the complex public/private interaction that has long characterized the Adirondack Park and the ongoing struggle to keep its waterways clean and open to the public.
Jerome’s tone is confiding and conversational, gently bringing readers along on her journey and sharing the mood and the wildlife as well as the history of the area she explores.
Her story is informative, charming and compelling. When Christine Jerome’s boat ride is finally over, she clearly misses the park, the water and George Washington Sears. So does the reader.
Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” (www.merrylion.com) and the new “Pulling Taffy” (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books by Franklin County authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.