Return to Camp Loll
The summer after I graduated from Bear River High School, I wanted to go on an adventure.
My short-term plan was to attend a semester of college in the fall and submit my mission papers by November so I could receive my call by the time I turned 19 in February.
Until then, I needed a change of scenery from my part-time job at a local fast food restaurant. I needed to get away from house chores and normal routines and do something different. Hopefully, I could also make a little money in the process.
When I was in the Boy Scouts, our troop had gone to Camp Loll, a BSA camp located somewhere between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It was a solid 4-hour drive, but we had some fun, memorable, character-building experiences among the tall trees by the pristine lake.
Additionally, I had grown up reading books about mountain men and the wild American West, and I relished the idea of spending some time in the wilderness, living like a pioneer.
With that fertile ground, the seed was planted. One day I was talking with Leonard Hawks, my student council advisor. Graduation was months away and I was telling him that I wanted to do something adventurous for the summer. Mr. Hawks had spent many summers as camp director at Loll. He suggested I would make a great commissioner/high adventurer guide.
To make a long story shorter, I ended up applying for and getting the job. It would take a long time to recount all that happened that summer and how it blessed my life, so I’ll leave that story for another day.
But this is why it’s relevant. In recent years the Camp Loll personnel have reached out to staff alumni like myself and invited us to bring our families back to camp for a visit.
Having not been back in almost 20 years, I committed to go Aug. 1-2. I went with my father, Greg Toone, and son, 12-year-old Trevin. When I told my older brother I was going back to Camp Loll for a visit, he texted me his favorite troop yell:
“In days of old, when scouts were bold, and toilets weren’t invented, I left my load upon Camp Loll, and went away contented.”
Driving over the ruts, rocks and bumps into camp brought back a flood of memories. Ahh, camp life. Babysitting Boy Scouts in camp and on marathon hikes. Finally hitting the target at the rifle range. Learning to chop firewood and build a respectable fire. Coaxing a young scout to rappel off a tall rock for the first time. Swatting at one mosquito and lifting your hand to see you had actually killed 10. Taking a cold shower once a week. Wearing the same soiled and sweaty scout uniform every day. Swimming a mile in the frigid Lake of the Woods and being the only one NOT to get hypothermia. Participating in several priesthood blessings for people injured or suffering from hypothermia. Living in the wilderness for almost three months and only communicating with home through handwritten letters. Good times.
Camp hadn’t changed too much. They now have a large lodge and a water heater for the showers. The water was really warm even as you turned it on. These scouts are so spoiled.
Nevertheless, it was fun to walk around and see things in pretty much the same place.
Each meal was provided by the camp, which was very generous. We attended a flag ceremony where staff alumni from the 1970s to present day were introduced. Many people had worked at camp for multiple summers. I was proud of my one summer, 1996. It was fun to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in years.
After the flag ceremony, we walked down to the campfire bowl and enjoyed a nice program. They even retired a flag.
More memories flooded back.
Following one of the best night sleeps I’ve had in some time, we had breakfast and marched back to the campfire bowl where they had an LDS/interfaith sacrament meeting overlooking the lake. It’s a rare treat to admire the beauty of nature while taking the sacrament and feeling the Holy Ghost.
As I listened to many people relate their camp experiences, testimonies and feelings about God, I counted my blessings and the lessons learned from my own Camp Loll experience. Here are a few that stood out.
- Sometimes all you need to be happy is shelter from the elements, a good fire, water and food.
- Friendships forged at camp can last a lifetime.
- It’s good to learn how to do hard things at a young age. “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
- “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it (Camp Loll)” (Alma 30:44).
I’m grateful I was able to share this return trip with my father and son.
I don’t know when or if I will make it back to Camp Loll again, but because of the special experiences I had there, I will always consider it to be sacred, holy ground.