07 February 2011

Wisdom of our Forefathers

It never ceases to amaze me, the amount of wisdom that can be found in the thoughts and words of our forefathers gone before. Nessmuk (George Washington Sears) penned a wonderful small book called Woodcraft, and The Adirondack Letters over one hundred years ago. He wrote for Field & Stream magazine and he was the father of 'ultralight' backpacking, canoeing, and camping, he was also a devout conservationist before the word was commonly used.

He stood five foot three and weighed in at just over one hundred pounds. His favorite canoe weighed less than eleven pounds, in which he completed a two hundred and sixty six mile trek through the Adirondacks.

He was the eldest of ten children and the smallest. He had an Indian friend as a child whom he knew as Nessmuk, the pen name would later become synonymous woodcraft and the favorite of many wood's bums everywhere, yours truly included.

Sears penned Woodcraft in 1884 and it has never gone out of print. It's now part of the public domain so if you don't want to purchase a copy you can download it for free from several sources.

Nessmuk has been an inspiration to me since I first read Woodcraft when I was a small boy. The fascination with field, forest, and stream has never left me, a true constant my whole life. There is something to be said for a foundation built about the wild places. A certain preservative of character is distilled from misty mornings, campfires, crystal streams babbling secrets in unknowable tongues and still, quiet, serene snow. Wild places for a wild boy, none should do without.

Sear's was possessed of a quiet logic and wisdom and he passes it along in his works which are still very much worth the read.

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.
And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd--
But he shuns the shadow of oak and pine.


George Washington Sears 1821-1890

You may have faded from us old friend, your spirit has not.


  1. Interesting fellow, I've read the book mentioned. Would love to read more.

  2. A great read,I have read his book over and over.

  3. Do you know of a link to a source where I can download it?

  4. Here you go:


  5. Hmm. I don't think it's brick and mortar that breed filth and crime. It's people that do that. And since more people live in cities than out in the wilderness, it follows that there's more crime and nastiness of all kinds. If as many people lived in the wild as live in the cities, trust me, crime would shoot up among the pines, along with the number of people shooting up.

  6. Living in proximity to multitudes in an environment that prohibits freedom is the problem. Cities by their very design are a blight on the planet in more ways than most people can even fathom. From personal freedoms to societal freedoms, from sheer environmental impact to ultimately being parasites utterly dependent on the raping of some far away place to sustain it.

    I'll still with Nessmuk, the whole concept of a city is nothing more than an illusion to reality, filled with all the things the world can do without.

    There is a reason the "Grouch" is part of the name.