Years ago when I worked on staff at Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp in the wilderness between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, we used to sing an alternate version of the Wood Badge song, Back to Gilwell. I’m sure that some dyed-in-the-wool Woodbadgers would object to this. (For the record, I used to be a bobwhite, and a good old bobwhite too....) But I think our use of the song wasn’t too irreverent. We’d sing:
“Back to Camp Loll, happy land. I’m going to work at Camp Loll, if I can.”
I spent this past weekend at Camp Loll, rubbing shoulders with other former staffers and their families at the third annual Camp Loll Alumni Reunion.

The reunion is a relatively simple affair. Attendees show up on the first Saturday in August after the scout troops that have been at camp for the week have departed. They set up camp in the campsites. The current staff graciously provides meals and activities. After enjoying lunch together, the current staff spends the afternoon manning their program areas just like they do for the scouts on most weekday afternoons during the season.

Reunion attendees are free to enjoy the rifle range, climbing rock, archery range, waterfront (provided they bring current BSA medical exams), handicraft, and other program areas. Alumni can recall the days they spent staffing those program areas. Their children can see what their dads used to do back in the day. Part of the whole experience is for staff alumni to see their younger selves reincarnated (and improved) in the current staff.

In the evening after dinner, attendees gather for flag ceremony as the staff sings. They then head off to the campfire bowl to watch the staff perform some of the same songs, skits, run-ons, and cheers that alumni performed when they were on staff. On Saturday evening we were pleased to see a bald eagle fly over us during the campfire. Then it’s back to the lodge to watch ‘movies’ — photos of staff from years past made into DVD movies.

Sunday morning breakfast is serve-yourself cold cereal, just like always. Then we head to the campfire bowl for church. I’m not sure why we don’t use the chapel. You’d have to ask Delose about that. But the view of the Lake of the Woods from the campfire bowl is stunning. The last 15 minutes of the worship service is reserved for staff alumni to make remarks.

Following church yesterday, alumni met in the lodge to discuss service opportunities. Last Labor Day, we went up to camp and replaced the footbridge down the trail from the shower house that spanned the swamp over to the trail by the Blackfoot campsite. This new, much sturdier structure is designed to last for many years, perhaps decades. Delose posted about it (including pics) in this blog post.

This Labor Day weekend we are again going to construct a footbridge across the swamp. This one will span the swamp from the trail by the Crow campsite to the trail by the Piute and Sagwich campsites. Some people will go up as early as Thursday, Sept. 2. Most of the rest of us will get there as early as we can on Friday, Sept. 3. We will work until dark on Friday and will start as early as we can on Saturday. We hope to have the work mostly done by Saturday afternoon. Most will head home then.

We could use all the manual labor we could get on this project. Cordless drills and saws, and good wheelbarrows would be useful too. Although skilled labor is handy, we need mostly general labor — the kind of work staffers do regularly. While the focus has mostly been on former staff, any good help would be accepted. Food will be provided, as long as organizers know how many to plan for. Workers will have to provide their own sleeping bag and pad.

Labor Day weekend is a good time to work at Camp Loll, weather permitting. The biting fly population is significantly decreased by that time of the season. Nights are quite cool (which is not a problem, because we sleep in the lodge). Daytime temperatures are pleasant. Working on a project like this is a great way to “give back more to Scouting than it has given to [you].” Send an email if you’re interested in helping.

I have thought about the years I worked on staff at Camp Loll. Ever since then, it’s as if Camp Loll occupies a permanent spot in my soul. Those summers were a foundational experience that helped determine who I am today. In 2007 when my oldest son spent the summer working on Camp Loll staff, I wrote the following poem that I titled, “‘Round the Lake of the Woods.”

Those glorious days ‘round the Lake of the Woods,
We frolicked, we toiled, and sang.
The woods nearby heard the loon’s cry
And with the echoes of young voices rang.

The clear starry night and the thunderstorm
Are things of beauty that I’ve loved,
With the deer’s casual canter,
The chipmunk’s fierce banter,
And the eagle’s flight above.

Oh, the games that we played,
The songs that we sang,
And the service with steadfast friend
Will glow in my soul as the campfire’s last coal
When we joined hands and sang at the end.

But summer’s now past,
I’m back in the city
And life goes on as it should.
Still, my heart often wanders
To those glorious days
‘Round the Lake of the Woods.

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