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.

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 (

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The dining hall mural

At the risk of busting open a hornet's nest, I've spent the last while going through all the photos I have that show the mural in the dining hall.

For almost 40 years it was a fixture in camp, something that everyone saw, but few took the opportunity to really look.

Former camp director Hal Studholme painted it in 1961, to the right of the kitchen food-serving-hasher window, to accurately depict the traditional dress of Canada’s First Peoples.

Click here to see the album I've put together: 
Dining Hall Mural
It appears the mural - Hal painted similar ones in the old rec hall, also included in the photo album - may have been painted over in the late 1990s before the dining hall was repanelled.

However, no one, at least so far, can say with any degree of authority if that actually happened.

Perhaps Hal's mural was merely covered up by pine tongue and groove.

Is it worth looking to find out? It would take minimal effort to remove a couple of board's to take a peek. If it's still intact, perhaps then we can have a proper discussion about whether to preserve it.

Frankly, we've done a pretty poor job of keeping camp artifacts. We cram old plaques into boxes and what we think is too old and useless we either sink in the lake or burn.

Maybe this is our chance to make amends. Maybe.

"Leave it covered," Says Hal. "I did the thing with nothing but the deepest respect for the First Nations people it represented. I still hold that respect as my hallmark. Someone suggested that ‘good intentions’ don’t matter. If that is true, what else guides us? My conscience is clear in this regard. 

"I will bring along to the 125th a B&W photo of the mural and have it displayed near the wall to show what once was there, just for the historical record," Hal adds. "I have loved and tried to serve Stephens for 56 years. That must count for something, maybe good intentions?  

"Bless you all. Hal”

Below is a Facebook discussion on this topic that took place over several days more than a year ago.

- Bruce Owen

I don't understand Facebook but I discovered a picture that shows the Indian mural I painted in 1961, the year the dining hall was built. It was covered up in the 1970s(?) because a school teacher thought it was 'racist' and complained. I'd love to see it uncovered again before i pass on and at least get a photo. It took all summer to paint, after lights out with one 40 watt bulb for light! Thanks for the reminder. Hal
Ken Mason I can make some inquiries to see if anything can be done. Sadly, it may no longer exist, and at best it would be very difficult to access. The dining hall was re-recovered and finished in 2002, and likely a time or two between that one and the '70's. But there is no harm in asking. I'll speak with Wayne who would have overseen the 2002 work and Mike who is currently responsible for Camp.
Ken Mason Wish me luck, I'll do my best.
Brian Robert The mural was/is wonderful. As a staff person I watched HBS do the painting. It took a long time Hal but it was a wonderful contribution to Camp and one part of an Aboriginal education program at CS for many years. The mural as I recall depicted the various tribes and cultures of our Aboriginal ancestors from across our great nation.
Lynda MacIntosh I asked this question then(when it was covered up) and I ask it again now. What exactly is racist about celebrating the various tribes and cultures of our Aboriginal ancestors? This was a travesty and an injustice then and if the mural is lost for good, we have lost a piece of our history.
Amy Hawkins-Bowman As far as I remember it was still present in the '90's. Lots if of discussion about covering it at that time.
Heather Heinrichs If it is found, it would be great for some in depth discussion that includes the indigenous communities that it depicts about if it is appropriate for camp to have up or not.
Carol-Ann Magee funny, I was just thinking yesterday about the loss of that camp treasure, it always makes me sad that it was destroyed and I'd love to see it reconstucted if possible
Hal Studholme Not sure if this will reply to all who responded to my “Plea” about the murals, but anyway…My understanding is that they were simply covered up by layers of plywood as a compromise to painting them out. I have one black and white photo of them taken li...See More
Jen Wetherow To my knowledge, it has been covered (twice) but not painted over.
Michael Oldroyd I'll have a look through my pics from the 90's Hal. I'm certain I've got some partial colour images of the mural somewhere.
Megan Kumar I'm pretty sure it was covered but not painted over at that point. Perhaps Les Robinson or Maxime Caron remember?
Michael Oldroyd Alan MacKenzie posted this image just the other day with a partial of the mural Hal. Looks like the staff back in those days were allowed to bring their kids to camp smile emoticon
Alan MacKenzie That was camp director Doug McCewen (sp?) who lived there with his wife, kids and dog.
Jock Mc It was covered up in 1993 or 1994 I believe. I remember talking to Smitty about it at the time. I belive Megan Kumar is right, it was covered, not painted over.
Don Cochrane I'm pleased to hear that it probably wasn't lost. I do recall some initial discussions about the mural and whether it should be removed. I don't think that anyone was objecting to the fact that it was supposed to celebrate native heritage - it was some...See More
Don Cochrane Here is a photo from a desecration that took place in the 80s...
Maxime Caron I remember covering the painting with Les Robinson. Can't recall the year. We instaled plywood over the painting to protect it. If that would be removed I would imagine the painting to be in very good condition.
Brian Robert Don: Good memory, I too remember the signature, and how special it was. Thanks
Les Robinson Well it looks like I should weigh in. If memory serves, and I apologize if it does not. Hal's art work was covered in 1995. The staff of the time were not equipped to translate it's relevance to the current programing nor were they equipped to speak of...See More
Don Cochrane Les - thanks for this. I knew you'd likely know. I'm glad to hear that some thought was put into preserving this bit of Camp history. If memory serves, it likely takes up 3 sheets of plywood, maybe more, so perhaps something that could be relocated els...See More
Michael Oldroyd Sorry Hal. Could only find a couple of grainy partials I'm afraid. Both from 1991. This one a Hillbilly Ho-down. With Me, Sean Ryan,Matt Hannay, Jeff? Ron Tomasson and Patrick BergstromBibs LaFleche also features in this priceless beauty!
Michael Oldroyd This must have been 1991 final summer session with Camp Birchbark as Geoff Leggatt was at Camp - possibly running sailing camp?
Michael Oldroyd Hal, I remember you and some of the others, includingLynda, coming to camp and speaking to us during our staff training week in the early 1990's. The stories you folks would tell were brilliant and it was a real pleasure to hear them. It was certainly...See More
Ursula Wehner I am willing to speak with some of the elders from treaty3 as I am involved thru work with both bimose tribal council and Kenora chief advisory if the mural is uncovered regarding their thoughts on it.
Hal Studholme Wow. An old guy like me could be easily overwhelmed by the action . my simple question/comment generated. I even noted a comment or two about uncovering it might in itself create controversy if ,in fact, it is seen as 'racist.'. This, like my original ...See More
Ron Tomasson hope to see you on the island Hal
Les Robinson Looking forward to it Hal.
Hal Studholme Let me know if this gets thru’


Hal Studholme May have been the basic drawing I worked from for the mural (?) found in old Indian Lore files. Hal
Zoë Herbert Routh From what I remember of the conversations there was a lot of strong sentiment that the First Nations programming, and the murals, were really akin to "playing Indians" and it felt somewhat wrong to be doing so - no matter the intention to show respect ...See More
Hal Studholme Lynda, See my last comment under my name (if I did it right!! Best to you and Laurie and thanks for your kind words Hal
Bruce Owen What was covered up can be uncovered. Perhaps this is a project we can get our collective wits together to preserve a bit of camp history not so much to celebrate it, but to continue this conversation leading up to the 125th.

If memory serves, there ...See More

Eric Adams At the risk of prolonging this interesting thread, I thought I would make a few remarks. I was the Program Co-ordinator in 1995/96 and part of the Senior Staff that decided to preserve but cover the dining hall mural. There was, in our discussions lead...See More
Eric Adams Sorry, I posted before completed...
Eric Adams But by 1995 it was time to reevaluate and change our program, not because the previous programs had been intended to be disrespectful or racist, but because thinking had changed about the appropriate way to respect indigenous peoples in a context of on...See More
Jen Wetherow Thanks Eric Adams. Quick redirect of the topic here. Zoë Herbert Routh, you mentioned the removal of the six week plaques. I was at the helm during that period and made the final call to bring all the plaques down. It wasn't an attempt to create equali...See More
Alan MacKenzie Times do change. I don't suppose that the song involving a "Chinaman" and rolling down the hill like an aspirin pill is a current favorite. As for me, I'm still wrapping my head around wearing helmets and pfds and including girls...
Les Robinson Thank You Zoë Herbert RouthEric Adams, and Jen Wetherowfor your contributions to this thread and your service to the Camp community, we are better for it.
Zoë Herbert Routh Jen thanks for clearing that up! I can get off my never-needed soapbox now. The photos is a grand idea. That would be awesome! Eric - thanks for adding your eloquence to the recollection.
Punch Jackson Wow so many voices and decades heard from. The last "Council" was held in 1970 when Doug McEwen turned over the head dress to me as the incoming "Chief". That was the last Council. The staff team (1971) made a decision that we were not doing justice to the education side of the program. In all fairness I was not comfortable playing the Chief role.
Hal Studholme I sometimes get the sense that I should apologize for me service at Stephens. I am sorry I started this whole issue. Please let it die. Put it down to an old man and his reminiscences of another time best forgotten. Hal
Punch Jackson Jumping forward to 2015 I think we have a tremendous opportunity to utilize the murals as the starting point for a renewed relationship with the local Band and elders. Oral history tells us that Davey had a good relationship with local first Nations pe...See More
Alan MacKenzie I don't know you, Hal, but don't think anyone feels you did anything except contribute to Stephens. Your mural is and was much appreciated and the great sensitivity that has developed around it and related issues reflects our times. We were all part of...See More
Michelle Wilson Gougeon If there are plans to incorporate Aboriginal education and Aboriginal perspectives I would love to be a part of that.
Aaron Stechesen Ah the wonderful world of PC Camp politics. Now I remember why I haven't been back in decades.
Patrick Bergstrom I have lived on a reserve for 10 years. I think it is great. I grew up seeing that painting.