Monday, June 18, 2012

A Cabin at Camp Loll Gets a New Floor

I got up in the wee hours on Friday morning to take a trip with my brother to Camp Loll. We drove to Ashton, Idaho, where we picked up supplies from Stronks and Sons Hardware. It's a smaller, older place, but the people were great to deal with. That kept us from hauling plywood from a greater distance.

The Ashton-Flagg Road still had a sign saying that it was closed for the season. It hadn't been graded recently. Yet it was in pretty good shape. We made good time. Along the way we passed the food service truck that was bringing provisions to the camp. At the speed it was going we figured the truck would arrive about an hour after our arrival. That estimate turned out to be fairly accurate.

It was overcast when we arrived at camp. It still felt quite cool. Despite it being a lower than average snow year, there was plenty of snow throughout the camp. The staff plans to start shoveling out critical areas tomorrow so that they can be mostly dry for the arrival of troops next Monday. The mosquitoes were about as thick as I expected they'd be, given the ample breeding grounds. 100% DEET repellent kept bites to a minimum.

Staff members were soon helping us clear out the cabin that is closest to the lake. Back when I worked on staff that building was the office, so we call it the old office. When my kids worked on staff they called it the guest cabin. We had a project over Labor Day weekend in 2010 to replace the roof on this cabin. The volunteer crew did a fine job.

This is one of three cabins at camp that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s to support the construction of the Grassy Lake Dam, which is just a few miles from Camp Loll. The scout council made a deal with the forest service back in the early 1960s to allow the scouts to deconstruct the cabins and reassemble them at Camp Loll.

The three cabins have been put to various uses over the years. The one that was the mess hall when I worked on staff is now the dormitory for the girls that work on camp staff. The roof of this cabin was replaced a few years ago, but it already needs some work. The middle cabin is presently known as the Danger Lodge. It is home to some of the ranger staff.

I really went along on this trip just to provide labor. My brother Lynn is an architect by trade. He is also currently the head of the scout council's Camp Loll committee. Not only is Lynn an architect, he's a very handy guy. Lynn likes doing projects, much as did our Dad. Lynn's good at it too. That talent bypassed me. So the best I can hope for when doing construction projects is to follow instructions with marginal effectiveness. Lynn measured out the project last season and figured out how it would go down.

As soon as the cabin was cleared out, we started working to tear out the floor. The floor had been put down by Jed Stringham, who was always thorough. So each sheet of plywood had many nails. It took us half an hour to rip up the first sheet. Then the ranger staff arrived. Eight strapping young men in their late teens and early 20s ripped, heaved, grunted, yelled, and heartily tore out the rest of the floor in about 45 minutes.

Lynn was surprised at the good quality of the floor joists. Still, there were some spacing problems. So we spent the next couple of hours fixing that issue. We finally got to laying the first sheet of plywood. This is ¾" thick high quality stuff. We decided to lay all of the whole sheets first and to lay the cut sheets after that.

The faux wall that was built atop of the flooring presented a problem. It was only held in place by a few nails, so we were able to get it to float free with a little work. But we still wanted to use the wall. So we continually had to jack it, move it, slide material under it, etc. But in the end it worked out OK. By the time the sun was setting we had all but the last course of plywood down.

We spent the evening in the lodge enjoying some of the staff training. It brought back old memories. Delose capped off the evening by reading the Oscar Wilde story of the Selfish Giant to the glow of a candle and a fire in the hearth.

Lynn and I took a quick tour of camp early in the morning. We were disappointed to discover that the foot bridge that we had constructed in the fall of 2010 had again sunk. We repaired it over last Labor Day weekend. But it has again sunk about 5-6" on the one side at both supports. We didn't have time to work on it, so that is a project that still needs doing. The swamp isn't as swampy in the area where we built the other bridge in 2009. That one is still quite solid.

We went back to work and got a couple of sheets of plywood laid before breakfast. We soon had most of the floor covered. But then we had to deal with spaces around the edges. Few log cabins are exactly square, so gaps are to be expected. We restored the wall (better than before) then cleaned everything up. Lynn worked on coating the floor with a protective varnish while I worked on putting away tools and excess materials.

After the second coat was put on the floor, we realized that it would need a third coat. But we lacked adequate materials. Delose promised that the crew that was in town would return with the needed stuff and that one of the two experienced painters on staff would paint the floor. Jody also promised to get some material that could be used for floor boards.

We were on the road back home by lunchtime, sore and bruised here and there. But we were happy with what we had been able to accomplish.

Lynn tells me that we will eventually need to repeat this project in the other two cabins and that the middle cabin will also need its roof replaced. So there is still plenty of work to be done. Any former staffers or others that may wish to help with these projects would be welcome to do so. Contact me and I will put you in touch with Lynn, who will help nail down specifics.

I have thought from time to time about why I keep going back to Camp Loll in my spare time to do volunteer work on the facilities. I guess it's because I remember going to camp there as a 12-year-old boy and then spending two summers working there in my older teen years. A lot of people I never met did a whole lot of work so that I could enjoy those summers at camp. Those summers changed my life for the better. Since I can't repay those workers, I guess I just want to pay it forward and give others the same kinds of opportunities I had as a kid.

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