1972 Camp Cilca, Central Illinois
My mom and dad were nervous about letting me go on this canoe trip. They had purchased all new shorts outfits for me. This was a big deal as money was always tight on the farm. I had a rain coat, sleeping bag, hat and my trusty canteen. I was set to go.
Dad and Mom had seen a flyer at the Lutheran Church in Brimfield, IL about this youth canoe trip through Camp Cilca. It was $90 for a ten day trip. Dad kept telling Mom that he could send me up there cheaper than feed me for 10 days. After all I was a teenage girl that was working like a man on the farm and was eating like one too! I was all of 14 ½ years old. I was nervous about this trip. I didn’t know anyone. In retrospect, I would discover that there was nothing to worry about.
A man named George Krueger was leading the trip and was known to the rest of the group as the “Great Pierre”. There were about 26 of us according to the names signed on my Cliff Wold’s paddle that proudly sits above my art room window. Names like Lisa Tjaden, Jan Faucon, Rhoby Behnke, Big John Marr, Jim Luken, Janice Koshinski, Jeff Rice, Paul Gerike, Kathy Lange, Julie Vogel, Robbie Buth, Mark Gronert and many more that would resurface throughout my life even now!
It was a trip of trips for me a game changer, life defining moments, future planner, and soul deepening developer.
At Camp Cilca, we all introduced ourselves and then split up to ride in various cars to a place called Ely, Minnesota. We would drive all night, get our camping gear, food and canoes and then off into the wilderness we would go. I really had no clue what I was getting myself in for. I don’t remember who drove the car I was in or even who was riding in the back seat– it was a man and it seems to me it was a small car. I remember the kids in the back seat looked cramped while they slept as I sat shotgun.
The sun was rising as we crossed the bridge into Duluth, the skies were alive with color, my life was never going to be the same. The water of Lake Superior was calm, the smell of the shipping docks were subtle but very much in the air mixing with the smell of pine trees. I never slept a wink driving up North – there was too much to see along the way and I wanted to make sure the driver had someone to talk to if he needed it. After all, it was an 11 hour drive minimum.
Once at Cliff Wold’s, things started happening, we had to pack our personal items in a huge plastic bag that would then pack into a green canvas Duluth Pack. The food, the tents, stoves, everything else was packed for us. We would be paddling aluminum canoes, Grumman and picked out our paddle of the trip. George organized us into two groups. I was in George’s group probably because I was not from Springfield nor had I ever attended Camp Cilca before. Technically I was an outsider or so it felt to me at the beginning of the trip. There would be three of us to a canoe. One of us would have to sit on the pack in the middle of the canoe. Other than Camp Tapawingo, I had never paddled a canoe on any great length of water, portaged a canoe over land or packed a canoe.
Our trip was starting at the put in point on the Nina Moose River, also known as BWCA entry point 16. The drive there seemed to take forever but that was just nerves of excitement taking over. As our big white vans followed the curves, the smell of pines soothed me into a slumber. I could relax now, we had made it up there safe and sound and I figured we were in good hands with Cliff Wold. George and Cliff seemed to be like two peas in a pod made out of the same cloth. Turns out it was a good thing I rested as our first portage of the trip, 160 rods just to get to the put in was waiting for us.
Reality was setting in.