Lean2Rescue posts guide to preserving and enjoying Adirondack shelters
By Brandon Loomis
A volunteer organization dedicated to preserving the Adirondack Park’s log lean-tos and their unique heritage has created a website to tell its story and help campers find the structures.
Lean2Rescue, which works with the state to build, restore or relocate the shelters, this week launched a site that tells its story and provides an interactive map of 234 lean-tos. Find it at lean2rescue.org.
Some 300 enthusiasts—roughly 40 of them active at any time—volunteer to replace rotting logs or roofs. In some cases they dismantle and relocate a shelter that predates the state’s regulation mandating a setback from lake shorelines. Working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, vocational-education students and the Adirondack 46ers, they have “rescued” 99 shelters. The 100th is happening this weekend with a relocation from Lake Colden in the High Peaks Wilderness.
“It’s an unknown story,” and one with historic meaning in the North Country, said Tom Hart, a Lake Placid volunteer who created the new website. The “Adirondack lean-to,” like the chair of the same moniker, is a unique design known and built far beyond the park’s boundaries, he said. Its three log walls propped up on rocks and its pitched, shingled roof form an icon of the park stretching back about a century, according to the site.
A Lean2Rescue work crew put the finishing touches on a new lean-to at Kiwassa Lake last month, paddling in from Saranac Lake to stain the logs and build a picnic table. They had removed it from its original location on Middle Saranac Lake to replace its rotting base logs and its roof, and had returned a new one, built with the help of students, to Middle Saranac. Over the winter they hauled the refurbished lean-to in pieces across Kiwassa’s ice.
“That roof will last 40 years,” Hart said, unless a tree falls on it.
The pandemic slowed the group’s work last year, forcing members to limit themselves to small crews on shifts for social distancing. For the April gathering, though, nine fully vaccinated volunteers turned out together.
Some crew members work on and stay in as many lean-tos as possible. Others, like Dave Staszak of Saranac Lake, have a particular interest in paddling to lean-tos.
“I can’t say no to this one,” he said at Kiwassa Lake. “It’s so close to my home.” He got involved after hearing about the group at an Earth Day event.
Now, Hart hopes, others will discover and become inspired by the group online.
The website includes a case study of the Chicken Coop Lean-to in the Johns Brook Valley.
As the site notes, the organization finds work for anyone eager to restore that history and willing to trek or boat into the backcountry to do it.
For those wishing to find a lean-to for camping, the map, found under the “L2 Locations” tab, includes precise locations with color codes for those that have been restored, are planned for restoration, or remain as originally constructed.
The locations may be especially useful for people who remember a lean-to’s former location but don’t know it has moved, Hart said. For instance, one of two Beaver Point lean-tos at Lake Colden is now on the other side of the lake, and one of the former Marcy Dam lean-tos was relocated to Phelps Brook.
That’s good information to have before arriving to a site with no shelter on a rainy night. “If there’s an opportunity for confusion,” Hart said, “people will find it.”