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The Phoenix Rises

The old Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Likely one of the last photos taken of it before it was replaced

From the Ashes of Our Beloved Bull Rush Bay Lean-to’s Old Cedar Logs

Life Anew Rises!

The new Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63 Middle Saranac Lake
Likely the 1st photos taken of it as it was still under construction when we took these photos

Meet “The Phoenix”

Thanks to the DEC crew’s most excellent efforts. Bull Rush Bay’s new cedar log home.

     As most folks who’ve been following my stories by now well know, my family has long loved the lean-to at Bull Rush Bay. For the past half-century we have looked forward to shared camping trips there. It has been our summer home.

     When my brother Ray and I recently became aware, through comments in the Adirondack Almanack, that DEC plans were afoot to “destroy and replace it”, we immediately became quite distraught.

     Feeling somewhat desperately like “Who’s from Who-ville” we each reached out with our respective voices, loudly expressing our concerns, praying one of us would be heard.

     I wrote a story for the Adirondack Almanac entitled “Those Cedar Logs”. Many folks saw it and commented.

My favorite Inscription warning on the old Bull Rush Bay lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
My favorite inscription saying on the Old Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
An example of the inscription history I captured for posterity in pics
Old Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake

I’m going to have to have a chat with my nephew about this one

     My brother Ray called the DEC Operations office and shared our concerns and questions directly with them.

     Then we both watched, waited, worried, shed more than a few quiet tears, hoped and prayed. Watched and waited.  Worried some more.  Shed and shared a few more tears. Watched and waited.

My brother Ray,
Saying “Farewell” to our lifelong summer home
My brother Ray & I, saying farewell to our lifelong summer home friend
Old Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake

Plaques mounted on the Old Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
I’m not sure where they are now

     I booked one more fall camping trip near the end of September. Based on what the DEC told my brother over the phone, I had made the reservation believing that I would be the first one to experience the new lean-to.

     However, that did not happen. Instead, I got to spend one last fall farewell camping trip with my loyal old cedar log friend. The opportunity for one last long goodbye hug did not at all hurt my feelings.

My farewell camping trip
Site 63 Old Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Middle Saranac Lake

     My brother called the DEC again, their schedule had changed. Now they were going to wait until after Columbus Day weekend and the end of the reservation camping season. The water on the lake was quite low, so we began to think it might not happen until next spring, if at all. So, we just kept on waiting and watching, hoping and praying.  Had the DEC actually heard our small Who from Who-ville voices? We did not know.  

     My brother lives locally, keeps his boat docked at his property on Lake Flower. He boated in to Bull Rush Bay and checked periodically. It appeared nothing was happening.

     Then this past weekend, my son and I had our annual father/son fall duck hunting trip planned. Last year we were amongst the first to camp in the new Martha Reben lean-to.

Our fall duck hunt/camping trip
New Martha Reben Lean-to
Site 81 Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2020

However, given the weekend’s wet weather report, this year we had opted for the conveniently comfy accommodations of Tupper Lake’s Park Hotel.

     Early Saturday morning we worked our way down the shore of the lake in our trusty canoe. Storm clouds, winds and whitecap waves became increasingly ominous. The ducks were far smarter than us. They had correctly read the incoming weather and made themselves quite scarce.

1st Island & Norway Island
From the Shore of site 63
Bull Rush Bay Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021

Stony Creek Mountain
From the Shore of Site 63
Bull Rush Bay, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021

     As we came to the mouth of the river, we looked skyward. Discretion being the better part of valor, we decided to forgo any upper river hunting plans, and instead pay one more visit to our favorite lean-to.

     We knew something was amiss the minute we pulled ashore. There were several neat stacks of lumber, shingles and boards that had not been there before. We looked up towards these beloved cedar logs. Much to our surprise, instead of that familiar weathered greyed longbeard cedar log hue, we were staring at what appeared to be shiny new brown stained cedar!

“Under construction”
New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021

New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Our 1st view
Fall 2021

New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to Side View
Logs from the old lean-to stacked for removal, rehab & reconstruction elsewhere
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake, Fall 2021

     Long story short, we were most pleasantly surprised!  The new lean-to had been built! The DEC’s team of lean-to elves must have snuck in sometime during the middle of the night to do it. Judging from the immaculate condition inside and out, the fresh sawdust and neatly stacked piles of wood debris all around, the stacks of unused lumber by the lake, and the tarp over the freshly mortared fireplace, they could not have finished more than a few hours before our arrival.  Sneaky devils, those lean-to elves. They must practice some secret form of little-known mountain magic.

Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
New Lean-to front view
Fall 2021

     The winds picked up. The clouds grew dark. It began to rain. So, we decided to take an early rest break and unloaded our gear into the lean-to to ride out the storm.

New lean-to interior view
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021
My son RJ in the new Lean-to
We were duck hunting that day
He’s a 2020 Paul Smith’s College graduate

New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Check out those support rocks!

     As rain sprinkled down through the cedars and pines, we examined the new lean-to.  About the same size as its predecessor, it sat up nice and high on some carefully placed and impressively large boulders. I would recommend treating whoever was responsible for placing them thusly with a fair degree of respect.

New Bull Rush Bay lean-to
Support rock close-up

New Bull Rush Bay lean-to
Side roof/overhang view

      It had more head room inside than the old lean-to had, the overhang towards the fireplace was larger, which was nice, and it looked like it had been moved about a foot forward, both small but strategic improvements that immediately met with our hearty approval.

New Bull Rush Bay lean-to
Side view
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021


New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Side/front view Fireplace was re-mortared
Still curing under the tarp

    The DEC crew that had built it had clearly taken great pains. It was beyond a professional job. Handcrafted interior cedar branch hooks and sturdy cedar log shelves. It was beyond my wildest expectations, a true masterpiece. Beyond words perfect. A real work of art.

New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Interior View Left

New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Interior View Right
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021

     Most importantly though, the DEC had listened! Our voices had been heard. It sat in the same orientation footprint in relation to the lake and fireplace as our beloved old cedar log friend.

     My son had a quick snack and took a short nap while I snapped photos, called my brother Ray and my wife to share the news, and take in my first tube fed cancer survivor’s meal, sheltered from wind and rain in the perfectly oriented confines of the new Bull Rush Bay Lean-to.

My son RJ
waiting out the rain in the New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021

A tube fed 3x cancer survivor’s essentials
My 1st meal in the new Bull Rush Bay lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021

     Thus, this story’s chapter ended more than happily. Unfortunately for my son and I, we still had the rest of a stormy day on the lake to weather. An Adirondack Outlaw adventure in canoeing survival. But that’s a separate chapter in the tale, to be dealt with another day, elsewhere.

    For now, in this moment, my brother Ray and I, my son RJ, and our family, just wish to give heartfelt “Thanks”.  To the DEC crew who constructed this magnificent woodcraft work of art, and to the supervisory hands who direct them. Beyond a job well done. It’s truly a work of art. Beyond words magnificent. I love it.

     From the ashes of our beloved Bull Rush Bay lean-to’s old cedar logs, rises “The Phoenix”.

     Our children’s grandchildren will enjoy this for generations to come, as part of the fabric of life, Adirondack.

    Our family will celebrate our 50th  Bull Rush Bay summer camping season next year in it.

To the DEC from the very depths of my cedar log heart soul;

“Thank You!”

My son RJ & I
Saying: “Thank You”
New Bull Rush Bay Lean-to
Fall 2021


Until Our Trails Cross Again:

Raising a toast to the new Bull Rush Bay lean-to
Site 63, Middle Saranac Lake
Fall 2021


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