Opening camp this summer is unlike any other. Mim and Charlie Erdmann experienced a couple of relatively empty summers after retiring in 1979 while renting camp to previous counselor Dave McCracken and then to Dick Lyons of DePauw. We notified camper families in mid-May that camp sessions were canceled due to COVID-19. Subsequently, most of the Minnesota camps we have counseled with have followed suit. We will miss each and every camper and staff member who was signed up this summer and we hope that they will join us again in a year.
Even in the absence of campers, counselors are heading north to help open and manage camp over the summer months. A dozen families have inquired about family canoe outfitting, since their boys cannot attend Voyageur this year. We will meet the families who have quarantined at the trail head with food, packs and canoes, as they enter and exit the Boundary Waters. Trip director Alex Kvanli will work out the details, suggesting entry points based on folk’s objectives. We are unable to host people in camp at this time, that may change later.
Endless lists of chores, maintenance and cleaning are obvious at this time of year. Some alumni work campers will drive up over the weekend to attack specific maintenance chores. Plumbing supply pro Kevin O’Kane will hook up toilets and an “on-demand” hot water heater at the sauna… Imagine! Jim Burgman will tend to Edna the dishwasher again, arriving on Saturday with Mike Miller’s 16 foot Hobie Cat in tow. Dave Reddinger, a 3M engineer, will test his skills on various tasks.
Two big projects will require our attention for the next couple of weeks, as counselors arrive. The Cabin 6 roof collapsed this winter on top of our prized collection of wood and canvas canoes, including the Thum’s red Chestnut, which they paddled from Lake Athabasca to International Falls, the yellow canoe Joe Seliga of Ely built for Charlie in 1967 and the last remaining Old Town from Camp’s original fleet. It looks like the Seliga took the brunt of the roof ridge and we can sneak the others out through the screen, and then saw the shingled roof into small sections one guy can carry.
We have begun writing and implementing a plan for mitigating the threat of COVID-19 on the peninsula. So, the good news is that we are here, getting started as we have since Mim and Charlie drove up from Greencastle in 1950 to take possession of Voyageur Camp, as it was previously known. There’s plenty to do and we wish you could help. But for now, please respect the required (social) distance and keep the Spirt of Voyageur alive in your neck of the woods. We have included a few pictures around the peninsula to tug on your heartstrings. The weather is perfect, but it’s way too cold to hop in the lake.
John and Deb Erdmann
Alumni are encouraged to reach out to John and Deb if they’d like to volunteer this summer. Some limitations will apply.