I have often mentioned Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest between Yellowstone and the Tetons. Camp Loll made today’s D-News for still being in winter mode. I can personally attest to that.
The staff was originally slated to head up there on Saturday, June 14. When some of the senior staff drove up there the week before that, they found themselves driving through blizzard conditions and eight inches of new snow until they arrived at a six-foot deep drift that stretched down the road for some distance about six miles from camp.
They next planned to go up on June 17, but the forest ranger called on the evening of June 16 to say that the road was still impassable. The senior staff drove up again a few days later to discover that, despite a lot of meltdown, the road was still blocked with oodles of snow.
Finally, some of the staff drove up on June 23. They had to park their truck more than five miles from camp up against a five-foot deep drift of heavy slush and ice, but they were able to hike into camp. They felt certain that they could make the trip on June 26. The high adventure staff went to Yellowstone for training by park rangers on June 25. They managed to get to camp and sleep there that night.
Early last Thursday, the anxious staff finally loaded up in a small bus and various 4WD vehicles. I volunteered to drive. The trip went well until we arrived at the spot where the staffers had parked their truck on the 23rd. It was quite warm — around 80°. The five-foot snow drift was gone. In its place was a couple hundred yards of mud. The 4WD vehicles could make it, but the small bus and the large panel van full of equipment definitely wouldn’t.
We spent the next 2½ hours manning shovels and hauling rocks from the forest to restructure the road base by hand. Finally, we sent the first 4WD truck through. No problem. The next truck was hauling a sailboat on a trailer. That was a bigger challenge, but it made it. The bus driver rammed the passenger-free bus through the muck and emerged on the other side. The panel van survived the first portion of the bog, but sunk in the second portion. After much digging and pushing and pulling with 4WD trucks, the panel van made it to the other side.
The next five miles were alternating stretches of dry dirt roads, mud, and snow. Finally, we came into sight of the roof of the lodge. Everything was going OK until I watched the panel van slouch to the side as it sunk into a mud hole. I thought it would tip over. We ended up unloading it halfway (which was six pickup loads) until a 4WD could pull it out. After that, it was work, work, work, as the staff unloaded gear and moved gear to where it needed to go.
I walked around the camp taking over 150 photos. I was told that there had been significant snow melt since last Monday’s visit. But the amount of snow there was astonishing. I have tramped all over that camp many times during my lifetime, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I made sure to take photos of most of the spots where I have pitched tents. Every one of them was covered by at least two feet of snow, but some had more than five feet.
With the exception of the campfire bowl (which was dry), where there was no snow there was water. With the temperature being quite warm, all the melting snow has to go somewhere. While they ended up canceling the first week of camp — which would have been this week —they should be able to run the program next week. A few campsites might prove problematic, but one of the staff’s main duties right now is clearing snow so that they can set up their own tents and so that troops will be able to set up camp next Monday.
Camp Loll’s mosquitoes are quite renowned for their size and number. They produce well as long as they have good breeding area, which is what the snow drifts and water puddles provide. This season promises to provide plenty of mosquitoes until everything dries out. I garnered a number of bites, even while wearing repellant that is 99% DEET.
I left my son up there to fend for himself along with the other staff members. The staff consists of hard working, high caliber, dedicated individuals that don’t make much money. 16-hour days are the norm, but they love it. I still recall with fondness the time I spent working on staff up there as a teenager. That’s why I go up and volunteer to work on projects for the camp when possible.
The camp season will be shorter this year at Camp Loll. There will be a number of challenges, thanks to Mother Nature. But they’ve got the right crew up there to address those challenges. I’m sure my son will have a great summer.