Johns Brook Lodge branding iron
Johns Brook Lodge branding iron

If you have been to Johns Brook Lodge you may have noticed the peculiar use of a backwards J in the acronym JBL.  For many, this may just seem like another odd tradition of an organization that likes to cause confusion with odd or misspelled names, such as Adirondak Loj.  I will refer the reader to an earlier post on how the peculiar spelling of Adirondak Loj came to be.  The story behind the backwards J is one of developing a unique brand.  I will leave it to Bob Grimm, prior JBL Committee Chair, to explain.


When I first assumed the chair of the J B L Committee, I also became its unofficial historian.  The timing, though coincidental, could not have been better, since many of the original caretakers and managers of Johns Brook Lodge driving forces creating that resource for ADK were still living.  Through Madeline LaPine, former property manager and Keene Valley native, I gained access to some of the correspondence of Peggy O’Brien, a former JBL Committee Chair.  In them, I found an early 1950’s post card from a man in Peru, advising Peggy that he had made a small branding iron with the initials, “J B L “ and delivered it to the Lodge.  Sadly, I do not recall his name. (The card also mentioned his intent to make one for “LOJ” and deliver it there.  That one, to the best of my knowledge, has never been seen. Whether or not he ever made it, and if he did and it wandered off are open to conjecture.)   Upon my closer inspection of the one at J B L, I noted that when used, the imprint of the iron yields a backwards “ J”; the ‘B’ and ‘L’ are correct.

My theory, and mine alone is that, when viewed, the figures on a branding iron, no different than a rubber stamp, are backwards, or a mirror image, that the craftsman concentrated so hard on that, that he did in fact make the “J” backwards.

People attracted to the backwoods tend to cherish folklore.  The J B L image with the backwards “J” has since become part of J B L’s letterhead and appears frequently on J B L tee-shirts, ball caps, coffee mugs and similar memorabilia.

JBL t-shirt
This year’s JBL t-shirt

So there it is, around 60 years ago a well intentioned craftsman decided to make a brand for Johns Brook Lodge.  In doing so he made a small error, ever since this error has lived on.  In many ways the backwards J represents the true Johns Brook Lodge brand.  Given the major logistical challenges of operating a full-service lodge in the backcountry, we must embrace our imperfections for what they are.  We are also welcoming to any and all that arrive at our doorstep, no matter the minor errors they may have made along the way.  Finally, we hold to tradition wherever possible, so don’t expect to see a proper J at the lodge anytime soon.

The original branding iron can still be found at the lodge.  The brand is used to mark JBL furniture and on occasion a staff or volunteer will brand an ax, pack, or other article.  If you would like to support the JBL brand you can purchase a Johns Brook Lodge t-shirt at the lodge, the sleeve will be “branded” with the backwards J.  Johns Brook Lodge t-shirts purchased elsewhere will not have the brand.

Johns Brook Lodge is open for full-service operation until Labor Day (Sept. 2nd).  During full-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided.  Rates range from $69 – $79 per night per person.  From Labor Day to Columbus Day the lodge operates under caretaker service, which means guests bring their own food but have full access to the JBL kitchen.  Rates during caretaker service range from $33 – $40 per night per person.  To make reservations call 518-523-3441.