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Finding True North

Posted on: July 6th, 2018 No Comments

By Fran Yardley.

In 1968 Fran and Jay Yardley, a young couple with pioneering spirit, moved to a remote corner of the Adirondacks to revive the long-abandoned but historic Bartlett Carry Club, with its one thousand acres and thirty-seven buildings. The Saranac Lake–area property had been in Jay’s family for generations, and his dream was to restore this summer resort to support himself and, eventually, a growing family. Fran chronicles their journey and, along the way, unearths the history of those who came before, from the 1800s to the present. Offering an evocative glimpse into the past, Finding True North traces the challenges and transformations of one of the world’s most beautiful, least-celebrated places and the people who were tirelessly devoted to it.

With thanks to Fran and SUNY Press, we are able to offer an excerpt:



We arrive on October 25, 1968. Now, as we drive up that road so familiar to me from the movie, I’m not watching a black-and-white slow motion picture on a Colorado kitchen wall. Instead, I am immersed in burnt umber, dark green, faded red and orange. Jay has informed me our cabin will not have electricity.

            “But hey!” he cheerfully adds. “At least part of the cabin has a basement, so I think we might be warm in winter.” I do notice that by the time we turn off the main road, we have traveled eleven miles from the last sign of civilization.

            We drive around another bend—more trees, moss, ferns. How long is this road?

            “Oh wow, I recognize this from your movie!” I say this as much to brighten my spirits as anything.

            “Okay, this road goes into the family camp. It’s about a half mile. It ends at Middle Saranac Lake.”

            “But what about the Bartlett Carry Club?”

            “Back at that last curve off the main road, you go right about a half mile on the gravel road and then across the river. We’ll go see it soon.”

And then after having the promised tour of the property . . .

            I stand still. How will we even begin? I have so much faith in Jay, he seems so sure, but this? It’s huge. Will we get help or try to do it alone? We have Al Tyrol and Chuck Phillips, a native Adirondacker, working as handyman for the Club and family camp, but that hardly seems enough.

            We have looked at the three-story Main Lodge with hotel-size kitchen, living and dining rooms, reception area, and dormitory space for the help; the icehouse; the Rec Hall; a laundry house; at least three boathouses; a motor boat and numerous canoes and guide boats; a dam and power house dispensing DC electricity; a caretaker’s cottage; an enormous, old barn; a 1955 long-bed Chevrolet pickup truck; a Model 40 John Deere Crawler; and twelve individual houses with two to eight bedrooms each, baths, living rooms, and rudimentary kitchens, one with a caved-in roof. Every one of them screams for attention. Some will need to be demolished. The rest need to be re-roofed, re-wired, re-plumbed, re-stained, and completely refurbished. With the help of Al and Chuck, we plan to do the work. My head swims; I have to go back to our manageable little cabin and take a nap.

Fran Yardley is a writer, actor, and nationally known storyteller and workshop leader. With her late husband, she renovated and managed the Bartlett Carry Club for sixteen years. In 1999 she co-founded Creative Healing Connections, a nonprofit organization offering retreats for women veterans and women with cancer and chronic illness. Originally from Buffalo, she is rooted into the shores of Middle Saranac Lake, where she lives with her actor/photographer husband, Burdette Parks, and her dog, Merlin.

Fran has been leading tours into the Bartlett Carry Club for Adirondack Architectural Heritage for several years and they are always among our most popular and requested.  For more information on this outing, visit our website HERE.

Finding True North is available through:

$24.95 paperback ISBN 978-1-4384-7052-8

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