Finding True North

A History of One Small Corner of the Adirondacks

By Fran Yardley

Subjects: Memoir, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438470528, 338 pages, July 2018

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1. Into the Wilderness

2. Splinters in Our Fingers

3. Rooting and Growing

4. One Swipe at a Time

5. Unraveled

6. Balancing

7. Finding True North

List of Illustrations
Selected Bibliography
About the Author

An evocative and personal history of a unique historic place in the Adirondacks.


Silver Winner, for Regional Nonfiction, 2018 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards

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.

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 cofounded 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.


"…a remarkable blend of history and memoir … Punctuating it all are passages of fine, perceptive nature writing that bring the idyllic setting to life. " — Adirondac

"…[Yardley] recounts the people and places in her Adirondack life with the genuine warmth of a master storyteller. " — Hudson River Valley Review

"A mixture of modern stories and historical research, Fran Yardley's book has done a wonderful job weaving them together to tell the story of this corner of the world. " — Manhattan Book Review

"With a flow of lovely language and imagery of lush pines, full moons, and clear Adirondack lakes and skies, Finding True North is a testament to the unique spirit of preservation, regeneration, and place. " — Foreword Reviews

"The book is a gift linking past and present. " — Adirondack Daily Enterprise

"It's a fun read that combines memoir with the fascinating history of this remote part of the Adirondacks. It includes numerous photographs of the hard work that went into bringing this beautiful place back to life. " — Albany Times Union

"Fran Yardley is a superb storyteller, and this is a superb story—of a camp and of a marriage, illuminating a key corner of the slightly out-of-time paradise that is the Adirondacks. " — Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance

"Fran Yardley has given us an emotionally moving book, combining memoir and Adirondack history. With a singular and powerful voice, in a tightly organized narrative, she deftly weaves together two distinct strands: her own remarkable story and the history of Bartlett's Carry. " — Philip Terrie, author of Seeing the Forest: Reviews, Musings, and Opinions from an Adirondack Historian

"Fran Yardley—storyteller, actress, writer, and stalwart Adirondacker—takes us behind the balsam curtain to a truly magical place on the Saranac Lakes. Finding True North is the tale of families, forests, tragedy, and triumph told from the heart with deep insight. It's a terrific, immersive read. " — Elizabeth Folwell, editor-at-large, Adirondack Life

"Gifted storyteller Fran Yardley has harnessed her many voices to the printed page in this remarkable memoir. Yardley interweaves her firsthand experience hinged to historic documentation with her imagination as she reveals the lives and ways of those who went before and coexisted with her and Jay Yardley at Bartlett Carry. Finding True North is a must-read love story about Adirondack place and people. " — Caroline M. Welsh, Director Emerita, Adirondack Museum

"In Finding True North, Fran Yardley has produced an immediate and necessary addition to the body of Adirondack literature and history. Long in the making, it is beautifully written, authoritative, and moving. " — Christopher Shaw, author of Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip with the Gods and former editor of Adirondack Life

"Author and master storyteller Fran Yardley tells of the early history of the aquatic Adirondack crossroads known as Bartlett Carry, the later history of the place as a club for families eager to swap conventional orbits outside the mountains for the natural world within, and the reinvention of the place by the author and her visionary late husband, Jay. The stories that flow together here touch the heart and bring the reader to tears and laughter. For lovers of the Adirondacks and particularly for those keen on understanding how the past shapes the present and the future, this is a must read. " — Ed Kanze, author of Adirondack: Life and Wildlife in the Wild, Wild East