Ye Old Menogyn Guides
"One Guide's Memory  of Camp Menogyn in the Summer of 1963",  by Bob Jackson Guide in 1963
(1)  "Trip to Camp Menogyn - First Impressions"

The one memory I have of the trip up to Menogyn in 1963 was having my driving companion, Paul Norton, who had guided at Menogyn the previous summer, point out a small grove of huge pines part way up the road from Grand Marais. They grew on both sides of the road and seemed to form the portal into a different world. 1963 was still a time when it was possible for a canoe group to slip a few portages away from the Gunflint Trail and not see another person for a week. It really was a different world. As the rhythm of the summer progressed, a wonderful balance took hold between the responsibility of taking a group of kids into the utter beauty and relative solitude of a wilderness canoe trip, and the return a week or two later to a raucous and increasingly joyful reunion with great new friends on staff. I loved both sides of the scale.

2)  "Going to Town"

One of the highlights of the down time between canoe trips was going to town. This occasion was never treated as a simple drive to Grand Marais. The return trip to Menogyn might be treated that way, but the drive in was an all-out, frantic race to get there as soon as possible. All my memories are snapshots of pure terror riding in the back of a speeding old pick-up truck hanging on for dear life. I guess it was a camp truck, but I really don’t know. Whoever was chosen to drive the thing always felt the solemn obligation to attempt setting a new land speed record, or at least to establish a new Menogyn record for the camp to Grand Marais route. It was widely accepted that Bruce Ahlquist held the record. At least his driving produced the most terrifying experience for those of us huddled in the back under various layers of wool.

Getting to town in one piece always brought relief and a feeling of accomplishment whether or not a new speed record was claimed. What a wonderful diversion Grand Marais brought! The malts at Papa Lang’s lunch counter. The smoked ciscoes from the fish shop down by the lake. Even doing laundry was a satisfying chore. My town highlight for the summer was meeting a nice local girl named Becky who worked at the takeout burger place. I felt a little self-conscious sitting with her in the movie theatre with the other guys only a few rows behind us. My town lowlight came after I returned from my next canoe trip and learned that, while I was on the trail, my friend Goggin had taken the opportunity to replace me as Becky’s spiritual advisor. Alas, when you choose to wear the black beret, c’est la vie.

3)  "At Home in the Wilderness"

Towards the end of the summer I took a great group of guys from Chicago on a southern swing that eventually brought us to a layover day on Tuscarora. We camped at the west end of the lake on the beautiful sloping site that guards the portage into Owl Lake. It had rained the day before making this sunny layover that much sweeter. The kids spread out their stuff to dry and split up for a day of fishing, swimming, exploring the lake. I took the opportunity to wander off by myself for a couple of hours.

Walking the shoreline north of the campsite, I enjoyed being alone. The sun felt good, and the air seemed cleansed as it does following a rain. After a time I found a comfortable spot to sit above the lake’s edge and look out to the seemingly endless treed hills which rose above the opposite shore. I stayed there silently for quite awhile taking in the scene. Without the constant responsibility of having to think about the well being of the group, my mind was temporarily free to roam. I was totally at ease with my surroundings. Eventually, it occurred to me, sitting there as a young college student unsure of my future, that, no matter what obstacles life might toss my way, I could always return to this magnificent wilderness and feel completely at home. That notion was like a burst of freedom.

After my summer of guiding, one thing led to another, and I didn’t get back to Menogyn as I had planned. Over the years, though, I have returned to enjoy the BWCAW many times with great Menogyn friends or family or simply alone. That notion of being completely at home in the wilderness of northern Minnesota that I realized on the shoreline of Tuscarora Lake forty-six years ago has never left me. I can visualize the scene as if it were yesterday.