Forestry Camp 1969 Chippewa National Forest near Wirt, Minnesota

Year: 1969
Location: Chippewa National Forest near Wirt, Minnesota
Instructors: Dwight Bensend, Joe McBride, Victor Smith, and Ervin Schuster. Cook: Rachel Colwell

Completely Unofficial Reminiscences of Forestry Summer Camp-- Filtered by 48 Years of Other Events:
CCC Camp near Wirt, Minnesota, July 1969
by James A. Stewart, B. S., Outdoor Recreation Resources, 1972, Iowa State
November 1, 2017
©James A. Stewart, 2017, with permission to publish granted to Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

                                              Summer Forestry Camp 1969 group photo                           Author James Stewart in front of a CCC Barracks building labeled as “Bat Cave”

Introduction:  After Summer Camp and before graduating, the author changed his major from Forestry to Outdoor Recreation Resources.  He was subsequently drafted into the U. S. Army fewer than two months after graduation, so he never worked as a professional in either discipline.  Regretfully, many of the important details of Forestry Summer Camp 1969 are lost.  For example, what WAS the duration of the camp--4 weeks?  6 weeks?  What DID the restroom/shower facilities consist of??  Similarly, only fragments of the names of fellow students (and professors) remain.  Some of these memories, however, remain Very Clear!

                                              Summer Forestry Camp bus, students unloading a trailer nearby                           Iowa State students and bus parked at the Mississippi River Canoe Travel Area

Dr. Dwight Bensend was the Camp Director.  Transportation to Minnesota, as well as the trips to everywhere we visited, was on the official Iowa State bus (see photo).  (One would THINK the bus trip itself would prompt at least one memory, but seeing the picture generated:  NADA.)  All the students, about 30?, were male.  As an aside, after Summer Camp, my parents picked me up for more family camping (and I know we visited Lake Itasca then).

Setting:  Wirt, Minnesota.  The town of Wirt (population:  25??) was composed of a small general store/gas station, two or three bars, and not much else.  It appears to be 442 miles north of Ames (Google Maps suggests the trip would take 7 hours and 17 minutes).  The former CCC Camp, possibly out of town on Bass Lake Road, must have taken quite a bit of clean-up and other preparation to get it ready for us.  (Upon reflection, I BET the Summer Camp faculty did the lion’s share of that preparation work!)  Maybe it had been used (not-all-that-many-years) previously for Summer Camp?  We had a Camp Cook, but I do not remember if the students had a rotation of duties as kitchen helpers.  That said, I **do** recall Dr. Bensend (repeatedly) insisting that we take extra care to sterilize the metal trays and utensils before and after mealtime use.  The last complication he wanted was a communal bout of dysentery or other sickness!

Iron mine    Students sitting inside mining-scale shovel bucket, approximately 10 feet wide    Post and pole plant   

Chippewa National Forest headquarters    Snow fence plant    Paper pulper

Industry Visits:  Most of the photos I took were of the various “field trips” taken by students away from camp.  At the time, I had no idea of the distances, but I really doubt if we took any overnight trips away from Wirt.  Did we??  Pictures reveal we went to an open pit iron mine (Mesabi Range?), Chippewa National Forest headquarters, a pole plant, a snow fence manufacturing facility, and a Kraft paper mill.  In addition, I remember that photos were specifically forbidden (industrial espionage was the reason given) on the visit to a Diamond Match manufacturing plant.  (Just to verify, I **did** see an old-fashioned box of “Diamond” kitchen matches on grocery shelves this week!)

Hydraulic tree cutter        Bald eagle's nest

We saw a demonstration of a hydraulic tree cutter (8 - 10” pine trunks snipped right off at ground level!).  I no longer recall if using the hydraulics for harvesting timber (for pulpwood?) was an “innovation” in 1969--or if it was just new to ME.  Also, either at a US Forest Service or Minnesota Forestry Department site, we watched a demonstration of the use of a bulldozer to prepare a fire line.  Also, out in the field, we visited a “Lost 80” (acre) plot which was the result of a surveying error -- probably because the initial “surveying” was inaccurate due to being performed inside a bar rather than in the field.  Imagine that!  We also saw the huge nest of a Bald Eagle.

No pictures, but I also recall that some of the wildlife habitat enhancements involved explosives consisting of a mixture of nitrogen fertilizer and diesel fuel.  They would just “blow a hole” into the marshy surface and it would create a water source for wildlife.

Formal Classes:  For me, the classroom work is less memorable, but I am sure I took my portable Olivetti typewriter along to submit assignments.  (I hope to goodness none of THOSE works remain un-shredded!)  Regarding one surveying assignment, if my memory is right, we were at least threatened with the task of finding surveying checkpoints which would be IN the lake--not at water’s edge! 

I also recall that a lumber crayon was on the supplies list!  I do NOT remember grading/marking any logs, but we must have had some exposure to grading logs. Are those kinds of crayons still in use???

Clear Lake, Minnesota, viewed through trees    Students wading into the Great Falls    Lake water front

Recreation:  The camp must have been beside a lake, because we spent a fair amount of time swimming, mixed with plenty of general horseplay.  We must have gone into town (beyond Wirt!) at least some of the weekend evenings, too.  It might have been over the Fourth of July weekend (and it is almost unbelievable to me to write this now), but I hitch-hiked into Bemidji (50 or so miles;  with NO plan for food or lodging).  Of course, Black Duck, MN was on the way--guess what THEIR oversized roadside icon is.

Unrelated to Forestry:  One of the Forestry students, a ham radio operator, knew enough technology to rig up an antenna and capture and display either a distant television signal or some kind of video feed of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  (He must have brought along most, if not all, of his own necessary equipment, too!!)  Nearly everyone crowded around to watch the grainy black-and-white video of that historic event -- “One small step…”.

Conclusion:  I would be remiss if I didn’t offer slightly(??) belated THANK YOUS to everyone involved with planning and conducting ISU Forestry Summer Camps over the years.  It seems like Camp usually rotated from one site to another--rarely (maybe never…) did two consecutive camps go to the same place??

If someone would have asked me, ‘Do you have any photographs from ISU Forestry Summer Camp?”, I would have replied, ‘No, I’m pretty sure I don’t.’”  However, after several moves (which I would rather NOT total up!), it was time to go through boxes.  Guess what I found…  So, looking at my 35mm slides prompted lots of memories, which resulted in this write-up.  Even though I didn’t make a career of “natural resources ecology and management,” the 1969 ISU Forestry Summer Camp experience was applicable to the on-campus coursework -- and tremendously informative.  Clearly, lasting memories were created!

Students walking through the forest of Jack Pine Plantation    Students crossing a flooded break in the road caused by beavers    Students at Mando experimental planting, near a sign