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Legendary guide Jim Goodwin dies at 101

April 11, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

KEENE VALLEY - Legendary Adirondack guide Jim Goodwin, who led his first trip up Mount Marcy at age 12 and was an honored guest at a guides' convention in Lake Placid just two weeks ago, died Thursday from complications of pneumonia. He was 101.

Those who knew Goodwin described him as a humble man with a big heart who loved helping others. For much of his life, from fall through the spring, he taught at Kingswood School in West Hartford, Conn. In the summers, he stayed in Keene Valley, eventually moving there full-time in 2002 to live in the cabin he had built in 1940. A few years ago, he moved to the Keene Valley Neighborhood House, a senior citizens residence.

During his summers in Keene Valley, Goodwin both cut new trails and maintained existing ones while also guiding many aspiring 46-Rs up and down the peaks. The trails he cut include Porter Mountain from Keene Valley in 1924, Big Slide from the Brothers in 1951, Hedgehog in 1953, Ridge Trail to Giant in 1955 and the Pyramid Gothics Trail in 1966. His long association with the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, as both director and trail maintainer, led to the new 1998 trail to Rooster Comb being named in his honor.

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Jim Goodwin, at age 9, stands on the top of Hopkins Mountain, the first peak he ever climbed.
(Photo provided)

Goodwin is also considered a pioneering rock and ice climber, and is credited with many first ascents in the Adirondacks. He made the first winter ascent of Mount Colden's Trap Dike in 1935 and became the 24th Adirondack 46-R in 1940.

Despite all those achievements, those who knew him said his favorite outdoor activity was helping others enjoy the Adirondacks.

"I think his favorite outdoor pursuit was guiding people on hiking trips," said his son Tony Goodwin of Keene, author of numerous Adirondack guidebooks. "It was something that he enjoyed, and he enjoyed it more when he was helping someone else enjoy the same activity."

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Jim Goodwin led guided trips for decades and even attended the New York Outdoor Guide's Association annual meeting as the guest of honor on March 26 in Lake Placid. He guided his first person up Marcy in the summer of 1922 at the age of 12. The young guide charged 50 cents a day during this period, his son said.

Marcy became a special place for Jim Goodwin. It was a place where he took numerous clients over the years, sleeping at Slant Rock on overnights during the early years.

"Though I continued in later seasons to guide on all of the popular mountains, Marcy became my speciality and even a Holy symbol. By 1995, I had climbed it 195 times," Jim Goodwin wrote in his autobiography, "And Gladly Guide."

Tony recalled climbing Marcy with his father when he was only 7 and his younger brother Peter was only 5. Their father told him stories about when he was a child leading clients up the mountain. One of those stories was about an Englishman who didn't take his father's advice. Near the top of Marcy, Jim Goodwin warned his client to walk around an area that was especially muddy. Not heeding the advice, the Englishman walked through the muck and slipped down to his waist, declaring the mud was "9 yards deep," Tony recalled.

"When he took my brother and I up there, we couldn't wait to get to 9-yards-deep swamp," Tony said. "This seemed like the most exciting place ever."

Tony also recalled a trip up Marcy about 16 years ago.

"When he was 85, my brother said we ought to do the trip again," Tony said.

So Jim, his sons Tony and Peter, and several grandchildren ranging from 5 to 11 spent three days in the woods and hiked to the peak of Marcy. It was Jim Goodwin's last hike up the mountain.

As a teacher and guide, Jim Goodwin had a way of reaching and influencing children. One of those people who looked up to him was his nephew Jim O'Brien, now 67, whose mother Peggy O'Brien was Jim Goodwin's sister. As a child, O'Brien spent three or four days every week in the summer with his uncle, he said. There was often a group of 10 or 12 kids.

"What he taught us, it was like a six- or seven-year Outward Bound experience," O'Brien said. "He taught us to rock climb. He taught us to find our way in the woods, how to survive, and he also, probably more important - I think what more of us remember most is he taught us about life. He taught us that we all had unique gifts and talents and he taught us to always put other people first because that's how you kind of survived."

Keene Valley resident Brett Lawrence concurred with those thoughts.

"He was a guide in more ways than one," said Lawrence, a hunting and fishing guide for more than 40 years. "He didn't guide people just up the mountains. He guided them in the ways of life. He guided them spiritually. Jimmy was Jimmy. He was very humble about everything. He didn't want any recognition for anything. He was just such a fine man."

Lawrence brought Jim Goodwin to the guides' meeting a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him. Lawrence recalled a simple but special time the two had together last summer during a hot summer day.

"Jim was walking up through with his cane. I said, 'Hey, Jimmy,'" Lawrence recalled. "I said, 'Why don't you come up here and sit on the front porch with Mary and me for a minute, maybe have a drink of cold water or something.' 'Well, my golly,' he said, 'Maybe I will.'

"So I walked over, and he didn't want any help. But I kind of helped him across the road, and he sat on our front porch in one of those Adirondack rockers that is a hundred years old."

Instead of getting water, Lawrence offered Goodwin a beer, which he accepted.

"So I went in there and got a Lake Placid IPA, and I bopped that and gave us each a little 3-and-a-half-ounce juice glass," Lawrence recalled. "We sipped that for quite some time, and Jim said, 'You know, Brett; you know what warms an old man's heart.'"

Harrison Caner, 83, of Keene, knew Jim Goodwin for nearly 50 years. The two spent time hiking and camping in the woods but were also friends outside of them.

"What made him great to me was his unassuming, helpfulness and modesty in everything he did," Caner said. "Even when he was in his 70s, he always carried as big a load as the youngest members of any group he took camping."



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