These Bay Lake Camp pics were taken for a Sunday Edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Do you recognize anyone?
I'm not sure when it became a "thing" but for many years at Bay Lake Camp, it was a tradition to draw names at the beginning of a week of camp and during the course of that week, you were to make a gift to give to that person at the last campfire. It was called a "Christkind" making the gift and the giver "Christ friends." The only rule was that it needed to contain a piece of the island - a piece of wood or a stone...and then painted or carved to reflect a sentiment.
So we're wondering if there are campers or counselors who still have one of these prized items? And would you be willing to take a picture of it and post it to the Bay Lake Camp website, baylakecamp.com or to the Bay Lake Camp facebook page or group? Here are just a few "Christkinds" from days gone by...
This old cement mixer (circa 1932) still serves its purpose at Bay Lake Camp and it still works just fine! Caretaker, Melvin Folley is totally focused as he mixes the cement for the new wood-fired oven on its way to completion.
From the beginning, as people came to Church Island in Model T's changing as many as 18 tires in a single day on the journey up to Bay Lake on dirt roads, it has always been worth the trip! Over the years thousands of children, youth and families have made their way to the island and have not only enjoyed the quiet and wonder of creation, but have also worked very hard providing hospitality for so many who come! It's hard work and yet the skills learned at camp are important life skills that translate into every day life, i.e. cleaning toilets, taking out the garbage, making beds, sweeping and mopping floors, setting the table, cooking and baking, serving food, raking leaves, starting campfires, splitting wood, and so much more. Beyond that, staff have also learned about living with others, working through conflict and making deep and long lasting friendships for a lifetime.
So, maybe even in this century, it's worth the hard work it takes to build a life and doing things the easy way, is not always the best way. As we celebrate 90 years of island life and camping, we look to the future to keep on doing things that take longer, that give a person a sense of pride, that foster beauty, and honor each person's grand ideas. Thanks to all of the staff that have worked at Bay Lake Camp over the years. Your hard work does not go unnoticed! You have been and still are appreciated!
It's hard to believe that it has been 90 years in the making and more... In 1909, a Swede by the name of Adolf Landstrom, after lumbering in Northern Minnesota, decided to go back to Sweden after losing his wife and family. He lived in St. Paul and on his way out of town, stopped at the cleaners to pick up his shirts and asked his friend there if he knew of anyone who might want to own an island and his friend said, "My church might." So, in 1909, Adolf sold what is now called "Bay Lake Camp" or "Church Island" to First Lutheran Church in St. Paul for $1.
After many years of not knowing exactly what to do with this great gift, First Lutheran decided to begin a camping program in the Summer of 1926 and the rest, as they say, is history! Over the years, camping has been happening here with many groups and families and individuals, many of whom never had the opportunity to explore the wilderness of creation in this way. This place has transformed lives and brought so many together in a rich diversity of peoples.
It is our hope that Bay Lake Camp can continue to be a place where families and individuals can come and experience the wonder of creation, the gift of relationship, and the unique quiet and splendor an island has to offer. In this 90th year, all we ask is that you come and see...come and see for yourself the amazing miracle that is Bay Lake Camp!
There is something about life on an island that is unexplainable. Maybe its that you have to leave your car behind along with the baggage of everyday life. It could be that there is not an easy way to leave it once you have been brought over on a pontoon boat. Whatever the reason, spending time on an island is life-giving and renewing to the spirit. Time is automatically slowed down and all that you have to fill your days are your own thoughts and the great outdoors that fill you up with beauty and wonder.
If you have never been, Bay Lake Camp is one of those places on earth that is truly a thin place where the gap between heaven and earth is so very thin that it is possible to actually catch a glimpse of the divine. Whether you hike the island or walk the labyrinth or take a folk school class to learn something new, it does not take long before your heart and your head meet up in a glorious transformation.
All we ask is that you come and see for yourself...
See you on the island, peace out, Chris