Barbara (Rietzke) Edwards
I was the daughter of a YMCA employee, and during a couple of summers as a pre-teen, my family lived at Widji in the summertime when my father was the acting camp director until Armen Leuhers was hired. I couldn't wait until I was 13 to be old enough to go on my very first canoe trip as a camper.
In 1954 I turned 13 and finally was able to be a camper! I was so excited. My throat started to get sore before we left on the trip but I never said anything to the nurse. We were out on the trail for a couple of days and I began to run a high temperature. The counselor stayed with the group but our guide paddled and portaged to the nearest forest ranger station and sent a message for help over the "wireless". The seaplane came in the next morning and I was flown back to the seaplane port in Ely.
The pilot had to go fight a forest fire on Sugarloaf Mountain, and gave me some money and instructions to use the pay phone on the shore by the sea plane dock. I called Mackie's resort, told them I was a Widji camper and was at the seaplane dock in Ely, and they sent a seaplane from their resort to come and get me. When we arrived at the resort, the camp director and nurse ("Whitey" Armen Leuhers and the nurse Ginny whom he later married) were there to pick me up and take me back to camp where I ended up in the infirmary until I was well.
A couple of days went by and then I heard that our guide, Lauren (I think that was his name) had slipped and cut his knee badly on a sharp rock. He was also flown in by sea-plane for medical help. Someone else went out to continue to guide the group of campers and counselor on our trip.
That winter we had a reunion, and our story ended up being the talk of that reunion. In both of those medical situations, the safety plan was carried out -- I was brought to Ely and then to camp safely, and Lauren was brought to the hospital in Ely safely.
As sad as I was that I didn't get to go on the entire canoe trip, I did get to fly in two seaplanes, and for a thirteen year old girl, that was pretty exciting, in spite of my temperature!
Late June, 1957, we were on day 2 of our 13-day long trip when the wind forced us ashore in the main body of Basswood Lake. We stayed about 3 hours--and found ripe blueberries atop the hill. We picked a large bunch and carried them in a sack made of a shirt with the sleeves tied. Later at camp, Ned Therrien, our counselor, made blueberry pie by rolling out crust on the canoe bottom with a can and baking the pie in the reflector oven. Never before or since have I enjoyed a pie so much!
I was a summer camper at Sherwood Forest Camp in Grand Rapids MN and twice I took a boundary waters canoe trip with Sherwood Campers arranged by Widjiwagan. I can remember every detail from being one of the few campers tall enough to carry a canoe, to a campsite on an island between two water falls where a lake ran in to a river. One time at this site we found an injured young man with his father,who sat him on a rock so he wouldn't bleed on the camping gear. We were all dumbfounded and I paddled with the guide across a lake to an emergency phone...no satellite or cell phones then. A plane was landing on the lake to evacuate him by the time we got back. I like to think that we might have saved his life. I developed a good deal of self reliance on these trips where your responsible behavior was vital to the success and safety of all. Certainly lessons that have carried me throughout all of life's ups and downs. Thank you Widjiwagan!