Sends us your email and ideas

We have more than 300 emails for camp alumni, but over the last couple of years some of you have moved or changed your email accounts.

Please send your new email and emails of other alumni to so that we can update our list of camp alumni.

If you have an idea for a blog entry or wish to contribute other material like letters, recipes, diary entries, trip maps. . .send them my way.

If any links are broken, please tell me.

And don't be bashful. It's OK to comment. Really. It's OK.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Goodbye Depot

The old depot is no more.

Here are a few photos of the demolition of the trail depot/shop building earlier this week. They were taken by Camp Director Mat Klachefsky.

Mat says the plans for the new building aren't available just yet.

"I can tell you the new design is going to feel pretty familiar," he says. "A lot of the bold ideas that were being thrown around were abandoned in favour of something simpler."

A new depot has been in the works for about three years as the old building, known as the boathouse when it was built in 1966, was becoming overcrowded and no longer suitable for today's standards.

A new shop building was built between the dining hall and wellness centre about a year ago.

Here are three close-up photos of the old depot I took a year ago. . .

. . . and some more I've collected over the years.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Memoir ~ YMCA Camp Stephens - Memories of the 1960s

Former camp director Hal Studholme says his memoir of camp in 1960s reflects a time in the world when so much was uncertain, but at camp you could find a temporary calm.

"I thought it was a very unique era in the world because we were talking about a nuclear war," Hal says. "And then you went down to Stephens and you were in a totally different world of kids and fun and the lake.

"It was so special that I thought I should write down about the people and the experience and share it with others."

Dedicated to camp cook Alfred "Davey" DavidMemories of the 1960s focuses on the lives of young people touched by time on the island.

"There is such an opportunity to forget yourself and immerse yourself in a world that helps children grow and where you grow yourself," Hal says. "And it's that experience that is unique to camping - it doesn't just have to be YMCA camping, it can be any camping - where  you get the chance to live in the outdoors and experience that, and then at the same time work with children and each other for growth and development."

He also says despite the passage of time and the changes at camp, there is still much the same.

"It allows you to find out who you are in the present an allows you to explore the possibilities of becoming whatever you might be and watch others become themselves as well."

Hal's memoir is available for $12.50. Hal has several copies available. Send him an email at

The book is also available online for $12.50 plus shipping. Click here to order.

For a selection of Hal's memoirs, see The History of Toilets.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"There is nowhere I'd rather be" - 1991 Girls Three Week Journal

The 1991 Girls Three Weeker: Left to right: Nicole, Heather, Shannon, Janice, Jessie, Lori, Jenny, Sophie and Cathy.

Here's the journal of the 1991 Girls Three-Week trip. 

Former camp director Bob Picken sent to me a couple of weeks ago. 

"I was cleaning out another filing cabinet and found the attached journal," Bob says. "I forgot I had it stashed away.  I thought it might make a good post on the alumni page.  I will have the original brought to camp this summer."

Our memories of these years on trail and at camp dims with the responsibilities of getting older, the challenges of being a parent  and our careers - and all the things life throws at us.

It puts a lot of distance from then to now. 

What doesn't change is the friendships.

"Trail is a chance for one to find oneself," Nicole Fenton writes on page 23. "It's also a chance to make the kind of friend you don't or almost never make in the city. A friend with whom you can be yourself, perfectly natural. They've seen you at your worst and at your very best."
Enjoy, Bruce

Trip "plaque" hanging in the depot.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wildlife survival - If it moves eat it!

Culinary trailblazers.

I don't recall this ever happening, but then I'm getting older and perhaps I just like to remember only the stuff I like to remember.

So back in the mid-70s the powers-that-was sent us kids out on canoe trips armed with this cookbook and this advice: If you ran out of food and were caught in "survival situation" there was plenty of good eating to be had all around you.

Squirrels, chipmunks, birds and rabbits were just some of the tasty smorgusboard offerings you and your trail mates could chow down on when things got desperate--and so you didn't immediately eye up the littlest kid for the frying pan.

"Rabbits are easy to clean; pinch up enough of loose back skin to slit by shoving a knife through. Insert fingers and tear fragile skin apart completely around rabbit. Peel back lower half like a glove, disjointing tail when you come to it, and finally cutting off each hind foot."

Easy, peasy, huh?

"Do the same with the top part of the skin, loosening it and finally cutting off the head and forelegs. Then pull animal open at the ribs and flip out the entrails, retrieving heart and liver. You can also cut out the small waxy gland between the foreleg and body. Roast or fry the remaining meat."

Just serve with a sprig of rosemary and room temperature Merlot.

Bon appétit!

Wait. There's more. The forest is a veritable buffet.

Who wouldn't want beaver on a plate?

"Beaver tail is especially full of oils," the trusty Camp Stephens trail cookbook opines. "All parts of animal should be used; e.g. bones in soup, blood in broth, etc., because they contain many vitamins and minerals."

This handy cookbook also offers advice on what bugs and plants you can eat.

Word of caution: It's important to not overcook your stinging nettles.

So if you're planning canoe trip this summer--heck, if you're just camping with the kids in the backyard and want them to experience Scuzz Eggs and Rice and Raisins--download your own copy of the 1975 Camp Stephens Trail Cookbook.

Any poser can run down to MEC and fork over some big bucks for a few pouches of Backpacker's Pantry Chicken Vindaloo, but it takes true grit to bite into hunk of Klik fried in lard that was dropped on the ground and covered in pine needles.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Here We Are At Camp Stephens

Here we are at Camp Stephens for an island tour during the 100th anniversary of camp.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Camp Stephens 125th Anniversary Chapel Service ~ July 31, 2016

Back row left to right: Burton Boryen, Puncj Jackson, Laurie MacIntosh, Grant Platts, Kelly Picken, Hal Studholme, Bob Wettlaufer;
Middle left to right: Bruce Owen, Lynda MacIntosh, Marg Law;
Front left to right: Stefan Schaible-Shur, Lisa Malbranck; Margo Granda and Dylan Fiske (Missing: Mat Klachefsky)


“VOICES”   ASSIGNMENTS (In order of appearance in narrative)

NARRATOR/LEADER:  (Hal Studholme)


A MOTHER IN THE EARLY 1900’S:  (Marg Law)


WILLIAM, “BILL” ALLDRITT:  (Mat Klachefsky)

ALFRED DAVID, ‘DAVEY’:  (Punch Jackson)

NELSON MCEWEN:  (Burton Boryen)

FRED HUBBARD: (Bruce Owen)

RON WATSON (Bob Wettlaufer)










Good morning and welcome to Chapel. Over the decades of 125 years, Chapel has always had a significant place in Camp Life, for Worship, Thanksgiving, and simply expressing the joy of the Stephens adventure. Today’s Chapel will be an amalgam of all these elements, for together they capture the meaning of camp for campers and staff who have had a very special and unique life experience. 

We invite you to take a pause in our reunion celebrations to give yourself over to remembrance, thanksgiving, sharing and worship. Close your eyes….. for a moment let your senses be open to all that surrounds you on this fabled island. Hear the breeze in the tree crowns and the lapping of waves on the rocky shore.  Smell the scent of pine and spruce and moss. Let your mind reach back over the years and hear the shouts and laughter of a happy host of children as they play. Open your hearts to the spirit that inhabits every part of this place we love. This is Camp Stephens. Once experienced, it never leaves you. Once lived, it guides your life.



Why are we here today? What has drawn us back to Copeland Island? Is it the chance to reunite with old friends from our days at camp? Perhaps it’s to revisit this special place and relive fond memories…of a special cabin, the lodge, the depot, Lone Pine. So many places, each with a million memories. Yet, something intangible calls us. Something that, if you asked anyone from any time in the past 125 years, they would express an idea that you would understand and recognize in yourself. I call it, THE SPIRIT OF STEPHENS. This is what we are exploring this morning in our Chapel gathering.

The Stephens we experience today has only existed since the lake was freed from winter’s ice this spring. How can I say this knowing 125 years have passed on this very Copeland Island? Think about the nature of camp. Camp is a creature of our creation each season, indeed with each period of campers or school group, and each staff company. That is why we must never forget those who played significant roles over the more than 12 decades of Stephens, because each time a new community takes residence, camp becomes a new adventure. This is what makes Camp Stephens so unique, so special to everyone who comes here. You become part of the history of camp, part of its continuing creation and part of its evolving future. You become part of THE SPIRIT OF STEPHENS. 

First and foremost, from its very beginnings, Stephens has been about the growth of people in Spirit, Mind & Body. In the early years and for several decades that goal was expressed in terms of the Christian faith. YMCA  leaders saw camp  as a place to experience the handiwork of God in both nature and each other. They believed fervently in a God of love who bid them to love one another. In many ways camp is still the same,  a place to learn to love one another.

VOICE OF CHARLES COPELAND: “I’m Charles Copeland and to be very honest, it is very hot and I’m tired of rowing. My colleagues, Messers Richardson, Bayley and Ball and I have been searching for a new site for the YMCA Bible Institute for two summers. When Mr. Browne first started the Institute in 1898 we didn’t realize how quickly the Keewatin Beach area would grow. The new saw mill has brought many workers and there are even new summer residents beginning to build near the beach. Yet we are confident that the Lord will guide us to where he wants us to be. This is the farthest out from Keewatin that we have come. Just one more island to explore and then the long row home. ……..Oh Lord, look at that beach between those two islands. The Lord has surely blessed us in leading us to this place, for I believe we have found ‘God’s Paradise’ and our new wilderness home. We must pause and give thanks.”

For the first twenty years of Stephens, it was predominantly an adult and family Bible camp. 

VOICE OF A MOTHER:  “Good Morning, my name is Maude Cameron., It was a long row out from Kenora for my husband, poor dear, but now that we’re here we are agreed that it was well worth the effort. My son and daughter are so excited that they unloaded our food and other supplies without any complaint. When they began the Bible Institute a few years ago we never imagined that it would become so popular. Why, there must be more than a dozen families here this week-end. These islands are truly a gift from God. There is talk that they will name them after Mr. George Stephens whose paint company has been so generous in establishing the camp. The children are off now gathering wood for our cooking fire. We have been granted a tent with a wooden floor that will accommodate us all. Now I must prepare supper and after that there’s to be a camp-fire with hymns and prayers and an inspiring talk led by a minister, from Knox Church. We have heard news that a fine steam boat may be purchased for next summer’s camp. The men will be happy for that boon. I must hurry with supper.”

It wasn’t until 1911 that the first boys’ camp was organized at Camp Stephens The parent YMCA was recognizing the importance of development work with young boys and what better place than in a camp setting. Men like T.D. Patton, H.R Hadcock and Fletcher Argue gave it leadership.

VOICE OF GEORGE PRATT:   “I’m George Pratt. At last, I’m old enough to be a camper at the new Camp Stephens!   This is going to be the best time of my life! Even the train ride from Winnipeg was fun as we sang songs and hymns. They made us walk down the hill to the dock for the camp boat, but we all wanted to run. The Pastime is a new steam launch and the trip out was exciting, sailing past all those islands. Camp is miles away from everything way out here.  A lot of my buddies from the YMCA are here too and our gym leader, Mr. Hart will be here tomorrow.  My friends and I found our tent; we rolled out our bed rolls and stowed our bags as instructed by a senior boy. They call him a counsellor. Now we’re ready for lunch. I hear we start with home baked bread and soup and then there’s Bible study and a prayer group, led by Mr. Daly, the director. He said we might have a campfire after supper tonight. Perfect! 

W.E Davidson was succeeded by W.H. Moor who was director when World War I began in 1914. This  brought hardships to all of Canada as hundreds of young men answered the call of “King and Country”.  Even camp faced difficulties like food rationing and some of the favourite camp leaders were overseas. In 1918 there were not enough men to act as counselors and camp closed for that season.
VOICE OF BILL ALLDRITT:  “I’m Bill Alldritt and I’ve just returned from overseas in Flanders. I volunteered in 1915 along with many of the men from the YMCA. I didn’t think I would be so moved, returning home to Camp Stephens after that terrible war. The mud and cold and the thunder of those big guns, I wondered at times if I would survive it all. I still waken at night shaking, not so much with fear, but simply because of the horror of it all. Yet, one of the things I dreamt of often in the trenches was Camp Stephens. They actually gave me a medal for bravery. I’m not sure I deserved it; there were so many brave men over there. And yet, here I am in a place that is all beauty and peace and blessed by the Lord. Still I have a deep sense of loss; 53 of my camp friends are left in graves in Flanders. I thank the Lord I was spared. The YMCA has honoured our men by naming two of the new cabins after our successes:  Hill 60 and St. Juliens. Little do they know how much those victories caused us. I really look forward to working with the young lads. Perhaps I’ll dedicate this summer of 1919 at camp to the friends I left behind.”
By the end of the 1920s family and adult Bible camp gradually phased out. Boys’ camp became the prime focus, still with a large element of religion, but with new emphasis on the natural setting of camp, and skills in water craft and canoeing. The first cabins and the original dining hall were built. This was the era when a camp legend arrived and began to weave his personal magic. Alfred David, ‘Davey’ is remembered and revered, he gave the camp heart and soul.

VOICE OF DAVEY:  “I’m Alfred David; most of the lads call me Davey. This afternoon I did my little trick again, cured another junior of homesickness with a slice of my blueberry pie and some words to cheer him up. Hope it lasts. I came here in 1920 and already twelve years have passed at Camp Stephens. Like some of the older counsellors, I did my stint in the big war. But after only a few weeks of fighting, up came a bunch of the Boche and I spent the next four years in a prisoner of war camp. I sure wouldn’t try any of the food I got there on this camp gang, too much of that cabbage and wurst sausage stuff. But I survived. I was lucky that the YMCA gave me a job at camp as cook in the summer and in winter at Central Y as a janitor. 

At camp I’m up before first light, to bed at 9, seven days a week. It’s a good life. 
But what I love most about this Camp Stephens is the young lads. When they gather in the dining hall I love the chatter and their happy faces. And sometimes I help with their troubles. Makes me feel good to do that. Oh they say I’m a terror in the kitchen, but ‘my boys’ as I call them, like the food, especially my blueberry pies. Today’s Sunday so I think I’ll slip down to see what’s on at chapel this morning. I don’t get to chapel too often. I like to sit on that big rock at the left of the pulpit. Sometimes the boys fall over on the benches. That always brings a big laugh from everybody except the Director. I guess God has a sense of humour. I hope He lets me stay a lot longer in this place.”

Davey did stay, for forty-one years. He passed away in 1961 and is buried in Brookside Cemetery. He was succeeded by his assistant, Al Wilde. In 1966 the chapel was rebuilt and named in honour of Davey. I think he would get a chuckle out of that but he would be pleased to be remembered. And he is.

VOICE OF NELSON MCEWEN: “I’m Nelson McEwen, It’s 1926 and this season I’m allowing a provincial girl’s group to use camp for the last two weeks of August. The weather is so bad at that time I felt it wouldn’t matter. Besides, they are so enthusiastic. Girls should have a chance to enjoy camp.  But some old timers keep reminding me that Camp Stephens belongs to the Young Men’s Christian Association. I’m quite pleased with the new cook I’ve hired, Alfred David. ‘Davey’ as the boys call him is turning out to be a favourite already.  Camp added four new cabins this year and we made new rules against tobacco and playing cards and unregulated swim times and boating. We inaugurated the Order of the Quest for older campers who spend a night’s vigil on Nanton Island. There were two eight day canoe trips this summer covering 50 miles each!  Oh yes, and Flossie, our milk cow continues to serve the camp with cream for cereal and tea.

VOICE OF FRED HUBBARD:  “I’m Fred Hubbard, it’s 1927 and I’m proud to succeed Nelson as Director. But I told him of my disappointment that “Flossie” the cow has disappeared! We now must bring in cream from Kenora; it often sours with the ice house as our only refrigeration. They tell me that “Flossie” swam away last fall but I doubt she could swim and there are rumours of a fine banquet for staff at camp closing. We introduced new programs for the boys of camp-craft, bird lore, camera club, fishing, basketry, sketching, knotting, and gymnastics to name the most popular. Two hundred boys are registered this summer, a record. Three canoes, a punt and a sailboat were added to the camp fleet. Four new cabins allowed us to discontinue the tents. And a local Ojibway group constructed an authentic birch-bark canoe on the island.
Camp endured scarcities in the Depression but directors H.T Williams and S.T. Smith saw it through Some staff actually volunteered to work. The Second World War began in 1939 and many young men from camp join the military. From 1941 to 1945 Charlie Forsyth was director. Charlie was registered to come to the 100th anniversary in 1991 at the age of 90 but withdrew as his wife felt he should be home for his 65th wedding anniversary. Charlie was succeeded by Gordon Hearne, D.D. Hills and Fred Hoffman.

The war changed the world and camp. Program became more responsive to the setting of Lake of the Woods. To traditional mass games a greater interest in cabin based activities arose. Camp Stephens stressed the Y’s tradition of development in Spirit, Mind and Body . But as boys came to camp from different faiths and non-religious traditions the overtly Christian flavour waned. Counsellor training became more sophisticated, focused on growth and broad-based development.

Reverend Fred Douglas, camp director in the early 50s stressed that the motto “I’M THIRD” arose out of the Christian maxim to “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR,” Ross Bannerman and the Owen brothers, Alex and Bill,  directed camp in the 50’s,. Bill Owen redeveloped the Indian lore program into a major camp theme stressing the dignity of aboriginal people and honouring them for their lore of the natural world. Starting with his time as a camper, Bill likely had the longest camp experience of anyone in any era save Punch Jackson as both worked their way to directorship. Both had profound impacts on all aspects of camp.

VOICE OF RON WATSON:  I’m Ron Watson Youth Director at Central Y.  After being a counsellor and staff at Stephens in the 50’s, the Y had enough faith in me to appoint me camp director. This year I have some real characters on my staff, all of whom make for a great team. I don’t know one who isn’t loved by his kids. This year we got everybody singing and Hal Studholme revived the Indian lore program. We even got a new launch, the Canadianna to replace the old Y’s Man. Camp sure seems strange without Davey. Last year was his final year. I remember the phone call that announced his passing that winter; it marked the end of an era and of a camp legend. His funeral saw men from the 1920’s to the 1960’s come to pay respects. If anyone was a perfect example of “I’m Third” it was Davey. 

But not all camp funerals are sad. This summer we had six straight days of rain. We tried everything, even celebrated Christmas with a tree and presents and singing carols. The rain kept on. So Hal & I decided to hold a wake and a funeral for Gertrude, the invisible elephant, the camp mascot. We sang songs, and paraded around the island. I did a eulogy and many Juniors actually cried. All camp gathered for her burial, at sea, in the front bay. Actually what we tipped over the side of the Y’s man was a grey tarp-covered Hobart dishwasher that didn’t work. Camp has always had many ways to honour its friends!

Doug McEwen & Punch Jackson succeeded Hal Studholme as camp directors and continued the evolution of Stephens. The 70’s were years of many physical and program changes at camp.

VOICE OF PUNCH JACKSON:  I’m Punch Jackson and I may be the oldest living camper here this week-end…. 60 years at camp starting as a camper in 1956. I may not have been here in body all those years, but in spirit and heart, I’ve never left. I even got my nick-name ‘Punch’ here, from Bill Owen and Ron Watson, two terrific mentors.  I picked up from Doug McEwen after his great rebuilding program of the cabin line and especially most program elements. It was also when I put together and we began of the Voyageur program, the predecessor of Wilderness and Trail. When I became Camp Director in I had a dream of a major expansion of camping programs, inside and outside the Winnipeg Y. With the support of Don Phalen and Hal Studholme, we created the Camping Branch. Our team of Brian, Stubby, Law, Jim King, Larry Austman, John Macbeth, Alice Neville, Laurie MacIntosh and Bob Paterson we put together a five element branch: Stephens, Wilderness, Outdoor Education at Stephens and Manitou, Manitou Day Camp, Log cabin Sales and Wilderness Two. We wanted to be the best in the Canadian Y, and we were! Yet, as much as we expanded and developed, our focus never wavered, KIDS, PARENTS, THE COMMUNITIES WE SERVED, STAFF AND COLLEAGUES IN AND OUTSIDE THE Y. We built relationships and we strove for leadership development at all levels. 

Perhaps my one regret was ending the Indian Lore program. It ultimately was not working for its original purpose, to create understanding of and relationships with Native people. We have to find better ways to recognize them through camping and we will with their cooperation and input. I have always been convinced that through camping and wilderness programs we can open up fantastic experiences for kids. I will continue to be a part of Stephens and Y camping and contribute to this goal. Like I said my heart is here!

Tuck, Lynda Keep, fought for the rights of girls to go to camp and with Sheila Gawley and Ardis McLennan they braved the end of August and proved that they were right!

VOICE OF TUCK:  “Hi I’m Lynda MacIntosh, maybe better known by my camp nickname as “Tuck”. Well, it took a long time and a lot of pestering, annoying and demanding of Punch and Hal by me, but here we are, at long last, Stephens has a session for girls! I remember when I set foot on the island in 1962 for the very first girls’ camp. We only got the last two weeks in August and nearly froze to death. But I loved it. Polar Bear club, hours of singing, a chance to take out the canoes and great campfires, even the boys on staff who stayed to look after camp thought we were great! I was hooked! On my last morning I went to Lone Pine Point and promised myself that I would do everything I could to make sure every girl would be able to have an experience at Stephens like this for all the years to come – just like the boys have had for 70 years. In many ways, the Y has been a second home for me. I was a kid at old North Y and eventually became a leader for kid’s programs. But when I discovered Camp, I knew I had to be a part of it. Even after my family moved to California I managed to return in the summer to keep my Winnipeg Y roots. And Girl’s camp was always my goal.

I’m pretty pleased that they’re using the concepts for girl’s camp and canoe tripping that I developed while I was in University in California. Oh there’s probably a few of the ‘old boys’ complaining about “Girls in camp!” But we did it! We persevered! It makes me so happy that from now on women and girls will have the same life-altering experiences at Stephens that gave me my start. Our spirits, our minds and our bodies now have a chance to build a “million memories” at Stephens. And my personal promise is to live by the camp motto “I’M THIRD” every day. 

And we must not forget that, like the army, camp runs on its stomach! Some of the most memorable leaders at camp have been its cooks, Davey, Al Wilde and ‘Mac.”

LAURIE MACINTOSH: I’m Laurie MacIntosh, just plain “Mac.” at camp. It’s 1974 and year four as Chief Cook.  What I love best about this place, next to cooking up dishes that they gulp down with gusto, is the singing. The boys are great, but the girls at the end of August are fantastic. They sing all day and everywhere! And I’m especially pleased that they’ve even created something called the Lasagna Song. 

That’s a tribute and it all makes up for those really hot days in the kitchen! One more thing, I think I’d like to get to know that ‘Tuck’ gal a little better soon!  
This was another era. Jim Leggat was Director from 77 to 79 and was succeeded by Grant Platts. Some of the most profound changes occurred at camp in this era, both physically and in the actual make-up of camping at Stephens. Alas we lost Jim in 1993.

GRANT PLATTS: I’m Grant Platts, Camp Director from 1980 to 86. My dream job! I’ve happily survived being a camper, Voyageur, CIT and staff and in my very first year as Director the change to Co-ed camping. The old guard grumbled and said it would never happen, but it did. Even I had personal misgivings, but it has turned out to be a great success. Luckily we had some great girl leaders led by Marg Law as Program Director, and Nancy McGregor as head cook. I also experienced the building of Lount Lodge, The Clivus composting toilet system, a shower house and a new water treatment system, all under the leadership of Burton Boryen. 

Those years of new ventures and big changes turned out to be all round development experience for us all. Stephens has had a profound influence on my life. I’m fortunate to have stayed connected to camp to this day through friendships and the camp Alumni.
BURTON: I’m Burton Boryen. Most people don’t realize how close we came to ending up in jail over Lount Lodge. We cut the wrong logs and got some people very upset, but I think the good Lord was with us and we managed to cut 250 of the right ones, float them to camp, create some unique construction methods, and over three years of hard work ended up with a pretty good result.  

GRANT: I’m glad it turned out so well. What with the noise of chain saws from dawn to dusk and losing a big chunk of the campus I have to admit that the project nearly drove me nuts.   

BRUCE: I’m Bruce Owen and I think Mr. Graham Lount would be pleased with what his money created. Burton’s crew was me and Bob Picken, Bruce Backhouse, Colin Ledger, Dave Wright, Pam McLean, Mitch Campbell and Don Cochrane. He worked us hard and long but it was a great experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  But I would be remiss if II didn’t recognize and give a big thanks to the dozens, campers and staff alike, who peeled logs, carried cedar shakes and sod and tons of stuff that we unloaded from the barge. They too are to be honoured as CREW!

BURTON: Well, despite some risky moments and a lot of sweat, we’re proud of what we accomplished. Truly,I think God was watching over our project, guiding it and keeping us safe. We should credit Him as the ultimate architect and construction chief!

Wilderness, or as it eventually came to be known, TRAIL, became one of the strongest elements of camp. Two, Three, four and six week trips for both boys and girls became the norm. The latter proved to be a great training ground for counsellors and staff. Trail also demonstrated the character-building rewards of the program. 

KELLY PICKEN: I’m Kelly Picken. Me and my brother Bob are long time dedicated Stephens people.  I didn’t realize how little I knew about life until my first six week trip. Every time I took out another one I lived a new life, a deeper life. No experience has such a profound effect on the young men and women who challenge the wilderness of woods and water. We all grow in every way. It isn’t just the physical challenges, which are great, it is the effect on you emotionally, and yes, even spiritually. You bond with the wilderness, you become one with your fellow travellers, you become friends in a way that changes your life forever. I forget sometimes that it’s Camp Stephens that makes it all come about. The spirit arises on that island with people like Punch and Tuck and Grant who paved the way.

Every kid, boy or girl, who ventures out on the trail enters an experience that teaches them about themselves and what it means to look after yourself and those around you. You find a deeper, more aware, more spiritual you. I am blessed to have had the chance to live it.  

As an old timer, I have come to think of the 80s, 90s and 2000s as “Modern Times.” Succeeding Directors, in the 80s to the present: Bob Picken, Ian Smith, Jason Bowers, Jen Sulkers, Marlene Penner, Leighanna Shockley, and Steve Allen kept the traditions, created new features and adventures and gave thousands of boys and girls the chance to grow in Spirit, Mind and Body. And now Mat Klachefsky is carrying the torch. Sitting here on this deck overlooking such a glorious vision of the lake and taking in the magnificent Lount Lodge, the new cabin line and swim dock features, it is easy to think of our history in terms of its physical development. From five forested islands and a few tents, we now have this modern, fully equipped camp, fleets of watercraft, a ropes course, climbing wall and prospects for more development to come. The future is bright. We can even got lost in the beauty of this Lake of the Woods setting and indeed, the wilderness that is on our doorstep for decades more of exploration and discovery. But there is always more to camp.

LISA MALBRANCK & MARGO GRANDA:   Hi, We’re here to speak of the days when REM, the Indigo Girls, Sarah McLaughlin, the Tragically Hip, the Spirit of the west and the Beasty Boys helped create the sound-track of our camp lives. From section songs to Depot parties, to campfire tunes to singing songs while duffing a canoe…camp was always music to our ears. If you can feel what we’re feeling right now, then you’re experiencing a musical masterpiece! Copeland Island drew us in in so many ways in the 1990s and 2000s. We learned from our peers and nature, laughed ‘til we peed our pants, made the best of friends a kid could ever ask for until it was time to go home for a rest. 

Mass Days, Island swims, Food Waste, ECDCICA, and Women’s Ceremonies all helped craft amazing memories for us in this magical place. What an empowering experience for a teenager to solo a canoe, cook over an open fire and climb Raspberry Rock. You felt all grown-up, hanging with your best buds at El Gamo or just hashing a table. It was not until many years later that I realized the best thing camp ever did for me was to help me take my life seriously or sometimes, less seriously.  The island developed a mystique somewhere between the summer of CIT’s and first year as staff. How fantastic that you and your cabin mates are now actually running the place! Learning to comfort a homesick junnie, or to motivate a senior for Polar Bear swim, how to balance doing laundry and busting a move at the Milltown in K-Town, all this capped off by some night swimming. And yet, camp in our era was still much like the experience of all those who came before us, the kids, your buds, the island and sitting on the swim dock watching the  constellations reveal themselves one star at a time. Fortunately the important things never change.

I’m Marg Granda and I’m Lisa Milbranck and we believe this place is heaven to no one else but us…..and of course every other camper and staff who has set foot on this island.

But since 1911, Camp Stephens has been about kids.  The future of camp itself lies in their hands… No, it lies in their hearts and dreams.

STEFAN SCHAIBLE-SCHUR:  Hi I’m Stefan Schaible-Shur and I have a big fact for you, CAMP STEPHENS IS AWESOME! That’s like in stone! I’ve been going to camp for four years and every year was better than the last. The whole experience is fabulous, the activities and especially the counsellors who are always by your side to give you tips and guide you. After my first year I was begging my mom and dad to let me go again. There’s always something new, like Trail pizza: that’s with nann bread with cheese and klick! Sound good?

People ask me, “what’s your favourite thing about camp?” To be honest, I don’t know. There are so many things, canoeing, sailing, ropes course, water trampoline, I could go on forever. I love canoeing and I’ve been on trail 12 times so far. The stories about Trail make me want me to do more, maybe even do the inspiring 6 week! Like Dylan, generations of my family have been to camp from my eight-year-old cousin to my grandfather who is in his 70s and went on a canoe trip many years ago. I hope I can keep coming back to camp like so many of you have done. I can’t wait to be a counsellor! Thank you Camp Stephens!

DYLAN FISKE: Hi I’m Dylan Fiske and this summer will be my third year as a camper at Stephens. In fact I start tomorrow! Like Stefan I absolutely adore this place. It’s amazing that my family has been a part of Stephens for four generations, starting with my Grampa Hal, who was senior staff and finally camp director in the 1960s! Then my mom, Terri, and dad, Bruce, both were campers and then staff. This is my brother Wyatt’s fourth year and my sister Shaye’s second year and my cousin Caitlyn has also been a camper. We all have our paddles painted by grandpa to prove it! Everything about camp is great!  The islands, all five of them, the lake, the big lodge, everything! The things we do are great too, campfires, swimming, kayaking, but best of all are the friends I’ve made from every cabin group I’ve been in. And our leaders are terrific!  I think what I really like best about Stephens is having something new to look forward to every day and every year. I’m hoping that someday maybe I’ll be a counsellor or even go on Trail and be a tripper.  I want Camp Stephens to go on forever because I’m going to be a part of it!

We must never forget that Stephens has been built on the shoulders of ordinary people, men and women who believed that the camp experience could have a profound effect on how a youngster grows and develops. The idea of growing in, in SPIRIT, MIND AND BODY, still has validity today. First and foremost camp is about children …..boys and girls, living and learning to cooperate and share with each other, learning about life in the natural setting of Lake of the Woods, acquiring skills and coming to understand the practical arts of loving the earth and their neighbour. The young adults who work with their young charges also grow to maturity and in their understanding of the same values. It’s a win-win experience. 

SONG:   It was in the 30s that one of the longest traditions of camp was officially dubbed the “CAMP HYMN.” ABIDE WITH ME” was a favourite at chapel and became the hymn that ended all campfires for decades into the 1970s. Some new verses have been added that make it more relevant to camp. Whatever your belief, the words speak to a confidence  that goodness will prevail in life and even after. 


. . .Sit with me on the old front dock, jutting out into the front bay. It’s a warm fall day in September. We swing our legs back and forth like many a camper has done, day dreaming of what has been and may be to come here in our favourite place on earth. We watch little eddies swirl in the cribbing of the dock just below our feet. The bay is calm, just a gentle breeze stirs the waters but it has an edge to it, a promise of harsher days to come. We’re alone on Copeland Island and the mind is free to roam, conjuring up sights and sounds and images that arise out of the times we have known this place. In your mind see the faces of colleagues and campers who have shared camp with you, Listen, can you hear the sounds of children’s shouts and laughter in the breeze?  Are you here with me? I’m home. I come here as often as I wish by just closing my eyes and letting the years fall away. 

Try it yourself. You never really leave Stephens and neither do my friends who shared it with me now more than 50 years ago. I see them striding along with the kids and along with them as they come across the campus I see a special figure who was our friend all the days I was at camp, the Carpenter of Nazareth. His words still undergird everything that camp is about, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. That’s why our motto was I’M THIRD. Either way, Chapel and Camp itself was, and is, and always will be, about building a better world, one kid at a time.

More than two thousand years ago a man named Micah spoke these words:

                       "This is what is asked of you in life, only this,
                     That you act justly
                     That you love with tenderness
And that you walk humbly with your God…"

In whatever way you conceive of the Spirit of Stephens, go in Peace.


Friday, November 11, 2016

The more things change . . .

It's a cliché, I know, but the thing about clichés is they have a ring of truth.

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

The same cliché applies to camp. Those of us who attended the 125th anniversary saw how camp had changed since we last were on the island.

New buildings replacing the old and new programming reflecting current times are two of the obvious changes.

Yet it hadn’t changed, really, that much beneath the surface. The island is more about the people who pass through it, in the past, now, and in the years to come.

The friendships and the memories are the same.

Case in point: These gentlemen. They've been friends for longer than many of us have been alive. What connects them is camp.

One matter of note is the recent passing of Graham Lount, who Lount Lodge is named. 

I met Mr. Lount only once, on the day in 1981 he opened the lodge. 


I didn't know or appreciate it then, but his generosity impacted me immensely, and, in a way, helped me become the person I am today.

What follows are some photos and video of anniversary events supplied by Ryan Smith.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lone Pine

                               Karen Joyce Ashton


Sun and wind,

And moonlit nights,


Ages passing
On these waters.

They came
When I was young,
But old to them.

I am steadfastness,
Yet, I too will pass.

The children and the old,
Will marvel
 That I remain.

I am lone,
But never alone.

                                                                                                                                                              Hal Studholme - August 2016

                                                                                                                Donna Kochie-Gillespie

More photos: 

Lone Pine

Monday, July 25, 2016

Camp Stephens~One Hundred Years Young

In the summer of 1991 camp director Bob Picken took on a little project -- a sort of time capsule to mark camp's 100th anniversary.

Over the course of the summer Bob had campers and staff write a few words of what camp meant to them and then collected each of the letters in a blue binder.

Bob still has the binder. He's bringing it to the 125th this weekend.

He recently scanned it so that if you can't make it to the island to celebrate the 125th anniversary, you can download your own copy.

Here's one of the entries below:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Echoes of Summer

Murray Wild was a small boy with his brother Gordy when these photos were taken. His parents Al and Jean worked with Davey in the camp kitchen and then took over after Davey's death.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Longest Portage and Grave of Ephraim Bergstrand

Have you ever tried to hitch hike on the TransCanada Highway with a canoe?

That’s how this story ends. . .

It begins in the late summer of 1972, when Camp Stephens canoe trip counsellors Rick Prior, Brad Abbott and Bob McColm headed out to scout a new canoe route for the Voyageur program.  

Rick Prior just after being given the ceremonial dunking at the end of one of his trips as the canoe trip leader.
Forty-four years later, some of the details of the trip are a bit vague, but some were so unusual that they are unforgettable.

None of us can remember whether we were assigned the trip route or we planned it ourselves; we were just grateful to have the opportunity to explore new territory. 

It was a great way to finish off the summer. The journey started in Winnipeg and the drop-off point was approximately 70 kilometres up the Confederation Lake Road north east of Ear Falls. The road provided access to the Uchi mine and not much else, as forestry operations had not progressed this far north in the early 70s.  

The route was an ambitious seven-day trip with some lake travel at the beginning, small creek systems in the middle and a return run to Ear Falls down the Wenasaga River system. The mapped route was 220 km with 36 portages.

As we passed through Ear Falls we stopped at the Lands and Forest Ranger Station hoping that the forestry staff could offer a bit more information about the intended route, but no additional insight was gained.  Our route was planned on a 1:250,000 topographic map (1 inch equals 4 miles) and an Alex Wilson Red Lake Area Vacation Map at the same scale.  The route appeared feasible based on the portages that were indicated on the Alex Wilson map.  Copies of the route were left at the camp; this was the only record of where we were going and where we were to be picked up seven days later. 

The Day 1 route took us north up Confederation Lake, through Washagomis Lake and into Swain Lake where we stopped briefly at Swain Post.  It was a modest cabin that served as a trading post and provisions depot for trappers and prospectors who worked the area. Our memories are faint and we recall very little about any conversation we may have had with the operator.  

We crossed the portage into Shabumeni Lake and camped at the first suitable site, a bit short of our intended stopping point. The next day we needed to make up the 8 km shortfall. We went up Shabumeni Lake and the Shabumeni River and a short portage put us on Birch Lake. After paddling eastward on Birch Lake we passed through Sutterly Lake and late in the afternoon after paddling about 43 km, we started up a narrow winding creek headed toward our Night 2 destination of Bertha Lake, only 4 km further on.

Progressing up the creek we began to encounter numerous spruce deadfalls that were suspended from shore to shore.  It was nearly impossible to pass under them and the banks were clogged with brush and branches; there was no obvious portage around this jackpot.  

We chopped through many trees and squeezed under others, only to go around another bend to find more. As we inched along we failed to notice the sun was beginning to set as the days at the end of August are much shorter.  It was clear we would not make it to Bertha Lake before nightfall and it was too late to back out of “shits” creek to Sutterly Lake so Night 2 was spent camped in a black spruce, tamarack swamp.  

We set up the tent on the moss hummocks which felt like a water bed when we finally settled in for the night. Exhausted we had a bit of trail lunch for dinner but went to bed mighty thirsty as we had no drinkable water in the swamp.

The next morning we had to make a decision; backtrack or press on, not knowing if the narrow creek would eventually become passible, and not knowing if the other creeks further along the planned route would be equally problematic. If our progress was further impeded we would not complete the route in time to be picked up as scheduled, and we had no means to communicate that we would be delayed.  

We examined the maps closely; there were a lot of single line creeks on the map between us and the Wenesaga River and no way of knowing how much difficulty we might have if we pushed on.  We did know we would be at least one day, maybe too days late coming out.  

Reluctantly, we decided to backtrack as we did not want to cause worry and uncertainty if we did not arrive at the pickup point on schedule.  After backing out of the creek and retreating to Sutterly Lake we discovered a trapper’s log cabin and stopped to cook breakfast at the cabin site.  The cabin looked like it belonged to Jeremiah Johnson with trapping gear hanging on spikes and when we peered in the windows you could see blankets hanging from the rafters and cook wear piled on a small table.  

We did not try to enter the cabin as we did not want to trespass, but we did leave the site wondering who the trapper was, and what it would be like to be in this remote location in the dead of winter.
   Bob and Brad - TL for dinner before night in the swamp   
Rick and Bob at Trapper’s cabin
We examined our maps and plotted a new route that would take us back to Swain Lake through a series of small lakes and portages just north of Grace Lake. Early one morning we were headed west passing through one of the unnamed lakes. 

We were paddling close to shore when Rick in the stern called for paddling to stop as he had seen something just inside the shoreline reflect the sun.  We turned around, paddled back but could not see anything. After being certain we had gone back far enough we turned around again and paddled very slowly hugging the shore. 

We spotted the reflection a second time, pulled over to shore, landed and walking in a short distance to discover a grave site.  There was a wooden cross about five feet tall, and in the centre of the cross was a piece of tin with an inscription.  The inscription was created by a series of carefully placed tiny nail holes.  

We took a picture of the cross and recall copying down the inscription in our trip note book, but the notes are now long lost and the photograph is blurred.  The name on the cross was however unforgettable because of its uniqueness; it was the grave of Ephraim Bergstrand.  

Ephraim Bergstrand grave
Often when you are off in the wilderness, you allow yourself to think that you are the first person to ever set foot in that location…and then you find an old rusty bean can…but rarely a grave.  

After passing Swain Post, and the trapper’s cabin and now discovering a grave, it caused us to wonder who these people were and what brought them to this remote area many years before.  

Who was Ephraim Bergstrand? How did he die and why was he buried on the shore of this small unnamed lake?  Perhaps the old mining relics we passed later in the day were a clue?

We resumed our journey, now at a leisurely pace.  We would have no trouble getting to our pickup location on schedule as we had no creeks to contend with, just lake travel. We were now likely to be at our pick up point a day early as opposed to one or two days late. We crossed one portage (not sure which one) that was a narrow foot path bordered by lush green moss as far as you could see. 

   Brad and Rick on the “mossy” portage

The “green” was so noticeable that it caught the attention of three 19 year old guys, when we paused for a short break…so it must have been exceptional. 

 On Day 5 we traveled south down Woman Lake to Woman River and then back to Confederation Lake. Apart for meeting the operator at Swain Post, we did not see any other person on the entire trip.

None of us recall much about the other portages or our campsites on the trip, but our last night made up for the night in the swamp. We were camped on a rocky point with a flat smooth slab of bedrock.  

Although we set up the Marsan tent we decided we would sleep under the stars as it was shaping up to be a clear, cool, bug-free night.  Drinking tea around the campfire, Rick threw out a wild suggestion.  

Rather than spending the next day as a layover day waiting for our pickup, maybe we should try to hitch hike back to Camp Stephens!  Truth be known, we did have a concern that we would face ridicule for not completing our planned route but perhaps returning to camp by hitch hiking would become the focus of the story.  

We decided to go for it and then settled in for the night, on the rock, under the stars.  We were rewarded by a spectacular show of shooting stars followed by northern lights.  The light show was great…the sleep on the rock not so much!
Brad prior to our night under the stars and northern lights

We got an early start the next morning and made it back to the Uchi mine gate on the Confederation Lake Road…and started “hitch hiking”; three guys, a couple of Woods No.1 Special packs and a Langford canoe.  

After a short wait, an equipment salesman in a car stopped and asked what we were up to.  He said he would gladly offer us a ride but the canoe was a problem.  Along came an ore truck headed to the Ear Falls rail siding. The driver was willing to take the canoe in the back of the truck; one of us rode with him and the other two went with the salesman. 

We unloaded at the railway siding just outside of Ear Falls where we met a railway foreman who offered to drive us to the Ear Falls dam.  At the time there was a single traffic lane over the dam controlled by a traffic light.  This provided a captive audience of stopped traffic that allowed us to attempt to negotiate (a.k.a. beg) a ride.  After a couple of hours a young guy and his dog in a VW microbus from Nova Scotia offered to take us down the Red Lake Road.  We loaded up, climbed in the van and he welcomed us with three cold beers…best beer we ever had.

Our Nova Scotia friend dropped us off in Vermillion Bay at the junction of the Red Lake Road and the TransCanada highway. So there we were…hitch hiking on the TransCanada highway; three smoky, sweaty, grubby guys, packs, paddles and a bright red Langford canoe, that was impossible to hide in the ditch.  We were there for several hours and endured numerous sarcastic remarks from passersby. It looked like we might get stuck there and would have to call the camp to advise them of our whereabouts. 

Eventually, just before sunset, a fellow offered us a ride to Kenora in his pickup truck; two of us in the back holding the canoe and one lucky guy in the warm cab.  Well after dark we were dropped off at Fisherman’s Dock and then we night paddled through Devil’s Gap and down the lake to Camp Stephens arriving about 2:00 am.  We met our objective which was to arrive at camp before the driver set out in the morning to pick us up at the Uchi mine. 

We proudly laid claim to the record for the “longest portage” (approx. 230 km). It was now in the CS record book…and best of all, we faced no ridicule for not completing our planned route.

A week later Rick and Bob were headed to Lakehead University for first year field camp in the Forestry program. About a month later they were introduced to aerial photography and the forestry maps that were in use at the time across the province.  The aerial photography was at a scale of four inches equals one mile; 16 times more resolution than the maps we used on our trip. Had we known at the time, the route could have been planned using these photographs and all uncertainty about the route would have been eliminated.

Today, there are other tools that make wilderness trip planning more predictable and safer. Examination of Google Earth imagery now reveals that the route was doable and had we pushed through the difficult stretch of creek to Bertha Lake, we probably would have been ok for the rest of the planned route, although still probably a day late.  

The imagery also shows that we had other route options in the area (Seagrave Lake to Deaddog Lake to Marsh Lake) that likely would have been a preferred route, but these lakes were just off the edge of our Alex Wilson map. It also shows that a large forest fire started east of Grace Lake and burned eastward over the area north of Bertha Lake and the clogged creek that forced us to turn back.
Today we have GPS technology, satellite phones and SPOT beacons which provide communication capability and the means to deal with safety predicaments or delays with pick up arrangements.  

There are a number of remote tourism outpost camps on the lakes in the area which also provide a way to deal with emergency situations.  Trip leaders of today, should certainly make use of these modern tools, but keep them tucked away in the bottom of the leader’s pack and only used for emergencies.  It is still possible to preserve the adventurous spirit of a trip in the “boonies” by navigating using the old topo maps.

So who was Ephraim Bergstrand?  We had no way of finding out back in 1972, but  today a few hours on the internet reveal that he was a prospector back in the 1930s. His name appears in a couple of 1936 provincial mining reports and one document reports that he recovered “a few ounces of gold by hand crushing and panning” on his mining claims in the vicinity of “Bergstrand Lake”.  

This lake name does not appear on any of today’s maps, but a 1936 Ontario Geological Survey map (P.3118) map was discovered that shows Bergstrand Lake; it was one of the small unnamed lakes we travelled through, and likely the site of his grave. Another intranet site that provides detailed mapping of the position of the sun at any location, year, date and time confirms that the sun’s rays would have hit the south shores of the two un-named lakes early in the morning in late August 1972.

Forestry operations have not yet reached this area, but they are now not too far to the south. So the mossy portage, the trapper’s cabin and Bergstrand’s grave have not been affected by development.  Forest companies are very diligent at protecting known values when planning and carrying out timber harvesting operations. 

So, the closing chapter to this story will be a commitment to inform the forestry company of our discovery 44 years ago, and ask that they make their best efforts to locate the Bergstrand grave, likely on the shore of Bergstrand Lake, and leave it undisturbed when they operate in the area sometime in the future.  R.I.P. Mr. Bergstrand.

Rick Prior and Bob McColm on a canoe trip in Quetico Park in 2006.  We were not quite as lean and mean as in 1972, but could still smoke past any other paddlers that we met during the trip!

A footnote to the story: Rick Prior and Bob McColm have remained good friends over the years and continued canoe tripping. Rick’s home is Thunder Bay, and Bob moved from Dryden to Peterborough in 2009. Brad Abbott’s home is now Toronto and we tracked him down with some internet sleuthing. Memories of the 1972 trip have faded, as have the photographs, but the memorable aspects of this trip and our time at Camp Stephens will never be forgotten.

Rick Prior
Brad Abbott
Bob McColm
June 2016

If you would like more information about the route or the reference documents that lead to Ephraim Bergstrand, feel free to contact Bob McColm (