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Those Cedar Logs

Author’s Note: This story appeared in the September 9, 2021 online edition of The Adirondack Almanack.

“Adirondack lean-tos are so much more than simple cedar log structures built in the woods.”

The Bull Rush Bay lean-to is scheduled some time later this month to be demolished and replaced.”

     This news hit me like a heavy weight title fight sucker punch in the gut. I’ve been barely able to catch my breath since I first heard this news in a reader comment to my most recent Adirondack Almanack story, “Smoke on the Water”, posted just last week.

     My parents first introduced my brother & I to the lean-to at Bull Rush Bay shortly after we moved to Saranac Lake, circa 1972. I was 9.  Our family has camped there every year since.  Next summer’s camping trip would have represented our family’s fifty year anniversary camping in that lean-to. Now that will not happen, because that cedar log home I grew up in has been scheduled for demolition.

     That special cedar log lean-to, so perfectly placed and oriented. It catches each day’s sunrise, sunset and wailing call of every Middle Saranac Lake loon just right. It’s angle and distance from the stone fireplace that serves it is, whether by purposeful measure or simple happenstance, spot on exact. The breeze off the lake blows bugs & wood smoke right on by, while those cedar logs catch and hold for its occupants the evening’s flickering flame fed firelight warmth.  

     Those cedar logs have provided me solace, comfort and shelter as I grew from a boy to a man. My brother and I recently calculated that we have each, individually, camped and slept for over two full years of our lives under the roof of that lean-to. I have spent many a night camped alone in that lean-to, just me, those cedar logs and my private thoughts by the light of night’s fire.  Now, just like that, without warning, someone has arbitrarily decided it is time to destroy and replace it.

     Those cedar logs have stood strong these many years, sheltered untold numbers of families, fishermen, canoers, hunters, hikers and campers.

     Those cedar logs have weathered many winters and storms. Our family, like so many others, has been in camp during some of them, sitting under the shelter that lean-to provided, as the heat from the fire in its rustic stone fireplace dried rain-soaked shivers and warmed many a damp, weary bone.

     So many memories are etched into those walls:

“The He- Man Group was Here”

“SHABOOM” (Whatever that means)

“Wind is Good for You”

“Smith family ’77”

     Now all the memories those cedar logs hold will soon be demolished.

     My dad taught me to identify the various trees from that lean-to, how to split wood, tie a fisherman’s knot, clean & scale a northern pike, how to paddle a canoe. Right there, from that lean-to, those same skills passed through three generations to my own son.

     Our family’s children were all almost literally born in that lean-to. I remember when playpens, baby bottles & pack-n-plays were standard camping equipment. Now our children are all grown and our family had all been looking forward to raising our next generation within the familiar comfort of those same cedar logs. Now that shall rather arbitrarily and abruptly forever not happen.

     I recall the day thirteen summers ago when my brother Ray ferried me across the lake to that Bull Rush Bay lean-to for what I feared might well be the last time. I was headed for Sloan Kettering in NYC for last ditch effort life saving attempt cancer surgery. I hid private tears as we crossed the lake that day, but found the strength I needed to survive that ordeal within the cloak of that familiar Bull Rush Bay friend and its sturdy cedar log walls.

     We’ve admittedly both grown a bit grey together through these many years, that Bull Rush Bay lean-to and I. Our hair has thinned, the soles of our hiking boots have become well worn. We could use a new roof, and some flooring perhaps, but our cedar log life force frames are still solid and strong.

“Your house needs a new roof and some new floor boards, so we’re simply going to destroy it and build a new one.”

“Wait! Excuse me? What did you just say? Who made that decision?  Why…What!?!”

     But alas, all that will very soon be gone, vanished forever, “demolished & replaced” in one perhaps well intentioned, but thoughtlessly cavalier moment.  However, I want whoever is in charge of such things to realize, understand and know:  

      While they may have the power and authority to “demolish and replace” that Bull Rush Bay lean-to with a simple wave of a few saws and hammers, they can never fully replace the lifetime of memories those cedar logs hold. Every protesting creak, groan, and snapping grain of that lean-to’s destruction shall echo forever through my family’s life, heart, and soul.


Until Our Trials Cross Again:


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