I was saddened to learn of the passing of Adirondack legend and staunch environmentalist Anne LaBastille on July 1st at the age of 75.
I was introduced to LaBastille through her 1976 autobiographical book, Woodswoman. In it she relates her experiences of building her own cabin at the northeast end of Twitchell Lake, near Big Moose Lake in New York’s Adirondack mountains. She chronicles the trials and tribulations of living self sufficiently – and alone – in a remote place with honesty, as her chosen lifestyle was often physically and emotionally difficult. On leaving her marriage and building her cabin, she writes that she came to the Adirondacks to “sit in my cabin as in a cocoon, sheltered by the swaying spruces from the outside world.”
Her writing sparked my imagination and fueled my belief that anything is possible, and that women doing “men’s work” does not mean they’ve lost their femininity. Her stories inspire independence in the outdoors as well as in all aspects of life. Because of her courage I realized I did not have much to fear in the woods if I was sensible and prepared and consequently have spent plenty of time confidently tramping around solo in the Adirondack mountains. Living alone in a cabin without running water or electricity has been a decades-long dream for me – perhaps hatched when I first read Woodswoman.
In an obituary this week, long time Adirondack guide and outdoors writer Joe Hackett described LaBastille:
“Following the publication [of Woodswoman], LaBastille became an instant role model for thousands of young women all across the country. Her story offered evidence that a lonely life in the forest can foster great confidence. ”Her story proved to be an inspiration for a generation of female outdoor enthusiasts, and it empowered them to be more independent and self-reliant in their enjoyment of the outdoors. ”In the process of paddling, hiking and camping throughout the Adirondacks, she became an icon of the mountains she wandered. Undoubtedly she cultivated her image, and it didn’t hurt matters that she had blonde hair, a fit figure, a bright smile and a tangible sense of independence. She exuded an air of confidence, and whether she was walking into a diner or paddling across a pond, her presence turned heads. She recognized it and enjoyed it.”
Although I’ve re-read Woodswoman a number of times – and will again, I’ve never read her other books about life on “Big Bear Lake”. I now feel the urge to visit the library and check out Beyond Black Bear Lake (1987), Woodswoman III (1997) and Woodswoman IIII (2003).