Will the Real Paul Bunyan Please Stand Up

As an interesting counterpoint to the dominant narrative of industrial decline and the resultant disinvestment in the typical sorts of structures such as factories, schools, and the like that most of my other posts deal with, I offer this example of yet a new manifestation of the faded glory of the once-great Michiganian Empire in the form of something that has gone abandoned for a lack of humans to justify its existence: a Boy Scout camp.


Yes, the school districts and catholic parishes are not the only institutions facing the reality of being forced to close down and consolidate their facilities, the once-proud and vastly popular Boy Scouts of America have been forced into cutbacks too. Once they operated large camps all across the wide state of Michigan, but in the past several years have been forced to idle or close some of their camps, simply because there just aren't as many Boy Scouts anymore.

Sure, there are plenty of things to blame besides a declining population in Michigan--the battered image of scouting in the face of political kerfuffles regarding the exclusion of gays, religious conservatism, and of sexual abuse allegations (whether true or paranoia-based), as well as a general decline of interest with the outdoors in our youths. You can blame smart phones and video games too, I won't stop you.


You could blame the fact that boys who are interested in scouting are often stigmatized with the stereotypical "Boy Scouts is gay" rap by their jocky peers, even though the skills Boy Scouts presumably learn makes them ten times more manly than those lazy sacks will ever be (try it sometime--ask some haughty jock bully to start a fire in the rain without gasoline, navigate through the wilderness without a smart phone, or perform first aid in an emergency. It will be hilarious entertainment, I promise). Personally I blame today's lazy, worthless parents, but it doesn't matter--scouting is on the decline.

By this point you have almost certainly guessed that I was a Boy Scout. More importantly, while I was a scout I spent a lot of time at this very camp, during a very formative part of my life. It was the experiences I had there over the years that helped forge me into who I am today--gave me the appreciation I have for the outdoors, the hunger for exploration, and the love of the Great Lakes State that I call my home. So this is going to be a rather sentimental post.


Paul Bunyan Scout Reservation is located deep in the woods of the northern Mitten, in Oscoda County near Mio. I have to admit I was a little heartbroken upon learning recently that it had been closed.I was always excited when June rolled around, not just because school was letting out, but because it meant that soon I would be heading up there for a week, where I would be granted a measure of personal freedom that I was not afforded at home.

I was raised pretty strict by today's lackadaisical parenting standards, so this was a big thing for me to be let to wander freely in the woods for a week. I also loved it because it gave me the chance to use the rifle range and rowboats that were there, but I think most of all it was about exploration. Every year I wanted to check-off new areas of the huge camp that I had not been to yet.

I realized it had been over 17 years since I had last been to Paul Bunyan. I was somewhat afraid that I might find it drastically changed, or in poor condition. It had only been closed down for about a year, so it was probably in decent shape still. Once I spotted the old, motionless petroleum well that sat near the road leading into the camp, I knew we were very close. The rain cast a gloomy feel over the day's decidedly nostalgic proceedings, but I wasn't about to back out.


As our truck pulled up the long sandy drive from the main road and I saw the yellow gate with the big unmistakable letters "PBSR" welded into the posts, my heart jumped suddenly in recognizance. This was it...I was back.


It was like being in a dream. Of course it was locked, so we would have to park and walk from here. I was concerned that a guard or caretaker might be lurking somewhere within, but I felt confident that if they had any shred of human compassion they would understand an old scout's desire to see his old camp once more before it fell into complete ruin (for what it's worth, recent tire tracks we found within the camp indicate that it is regularly patrolled).

Before the trip, I had somehow miraculously found my copy of the camp map, which happens to be dated June 1995, but like a dumbass I managed to forget it at home, so I would have to navigate by memory.

Click for full size
It turned out that we had actually somehow arrived at the service entrance to the camp instead of the main entrance, which might be why I couldn't find the huge Paul Bunyan-shaped sign welcoming scouts to the camp. Right away I saw something that I didn't recognize, some bran-new modern toilet and shower building:


This was definitely a recent addition, because when I camped at PBSR, there were never any flush toilets anywhere, and our shower building was very crude indeed. I guess modern scouters just can't hang?

We soon passed what looked like a standard troop campsite, a cleared area with a stack of wooden platforms meant for erecting the tents on:


I'll admit that having wooden floors was one grand luxury we did enjoy, though I suspect it may have also just been a way of giving us the extra responsibility of being required to constantly sweep them. Anyway, one other bonus was that you didn't have to bring a tent to PBSR, they supplied all the tents that were meant to go atop the wooden platforms--a large heavy-duty army style canvas job that went together with wooden poles that were big enough to be Roman infantry spears.

One of the first jobs upon getting out of the car was dragging all the heavy platforms into place and setting your patrol's tents up. That's where we lived for a week. There were also steel army bunks that we put inside the tents to put our sleeping bags on. These luxuries sure made up for the other things we had to sacrifice on. A wooden outhouse was nearby for our toilet needs, and a water basin with a crude faucet provided us with water, though I suspect that they may have been spring-fed, based on the artesian geology of the area:


A pipe bent over the basin with holes in the bottom of it that sprayed down into the basin, which allowed it to function as a group hand-washing sink. A bar of soap hung from it in a nylon stocking.

Finally, I found one of the big signs along the entry road that greeted visitors into the camp:


It says, "50 YEARS OF SCOUTING, 1962-2012; PAUL BUNYAN SCOUT RESERVATION, LAKE HURON AREA COUNCIL." What a blast from the past for me. The last time I saw this sign was in 1996 or '97. The only history on the camp that I can find comes from Wikipedia, and states that PBSR embraces 600 acres of pristine land bordering the Huron National Forest, close to the AuSable River. It was purchased in 1959 and opened as a summer camp in 1962. According to a plaque near the Waterfront, PBSR was founded by Arthur E. Henry (and seems to imply that the Lake Huron Area Council was once called the Paul Bunyan Council).

Unexpectedly, we came upon the designated Shooting Sports area, one of my favorite places to hang out in camp, and I instantly got excited:


The geography of the camp is quite varied, topographically. The forest floor is sandy, but pockmarked with giant crater-like depressions called ice block pits (or "kettle holes"), some of which have filled with water. They form when a block of ice from a retreating glacier is stranded, and after it melts away a kettle-shaped depression is left around where it used to be. The shooting ranges are set up down in one of these kettles, so as to make it easier to ensure that no stray bullets would be going anywhere they're not supposed to.


This cratered geography was another thing that made PBSR so fun to explore. If you found a remote kettle to climb down into you could achieve complete solitude, because sound waves from surrounding areas pass right over the top of the depression without going down in, so even if someone is making a lot of noise close by, all you will hear is complete silence. A friend and I found this out the hard way when we were off exploring one day near our troop's campsite; our Scoutmaster had rung the bell for us to assemble and march to dinner, and because we were down in there we couldn't hear it, or any of the people shouting our names, so we got in a little trouble for it.

Along the steep climb down into the crater, the first stop was the archery range:


I was only perennially any good at archery, so I didn't spend a whole lot of time here; like any American teenager, I was into guns by this time. 


Here, several archery targets lay stacked on a picnic table under the shelter:


We also took this opportunity to get out of the cold autumn rain for a moment.


It was very unusual, and a little unnerving for me to be here this late in the year; I knew Paul Bunyan as a place of green leaves, warm daytime summer temperatures, and sunny azure skies. Today's drab palette, autumnal chill, and falling yellow leaves made for a decidedly moribund atmosphere to accentuate the loneliness and desolation of the now-abandoned camp. The occasional broken fence or unattended fallen tree laying across the path also served as an eerie reminder that this place was slipping into disuse:


I can't deny feeling a definite sadness at seeing what had once been such a cheery place now in such dour disposition.

Approaching the bottom of the long curving stair, I could see the rifle range come into view. The flagpole next to it was for signaling when the range was active and for visitors to be cautious, as well as quiet and respectful of those trying to shoot:


It was here at this range that I learned how to shoot, and to respect the deadly power of firearms.


It was also on this range that I shot targets that qualified me as Marksman 1st Class under the NRA system.


I think the distance was only 50 feet, and we only used .22 rimfires. We also could do trapshooting next to this range, which we of course used shotguns for.


The numbers on the beam above the shooting stations were used to call out commands to us instead of the range master having to know our names.


In order to go onto the firing line--or for that matter in order to even approach this structure, one had to request permission to enter from the range master. If he was not busy.


If you failed to ask permission and you just waltzed right in, you could expect to be barked at pretty harshly, and kicked out of the range for the day.


Moving on from the shooting ranges, we headed back up to the central area of camp, where most of the buildings would be. There was a big crossroads there, and a map kiosk that I don't particularly remember.

Not far away however, I could see the shape of the Dow Lodge coming into view. That was the mess hall where we ate most of our meals:


That was another luxury of weeklong summer camp. We were expected to be kept busy with earning merit badges, so in order to free up more time for activities we did not have to prepare our own meals like we would at any other camp, and instead we were marched to the mess hall where it was cooked for us.


We formed a line to get our food from the kitchen by this wash basin, where we (presumably) were expected to wash our hands:


I am not sure exactly where the name "Dow Lodge" comes from, but obviously the Dow name looms large in the annals of Michigan's history, so I am forced to wonder if the Dow Chemical Co. either donated land or money to help found Paul Bunyan, or if it was named after some other person named Dow. I also considered whether the famous Michigan architect Alden B. Dow had perchance designed it, seeing as it bears a few familiar conventions of his and was built in the correct era, but I don't have a good enough eye to say for sure. In any case it probably would not rank amongst his most glorious achievements.


It essentially consisted of an enclosed cabin at either end, connected in the middle by an open-air dining shelter. One end was the kitchen, the other was the camp administrative office. This is the dining area, which was filled with long tables and benches when I was here last...today it was strewn with old dead leaves that had obviously been there a long time, as well as the fire brigade wagon, apparently set here in storage:


Another thing that stands out in my memory is that each troop present in camp had their troop flag mounted from the beams of this structure, and whichever table their flag hung over was the table they ate at. Here is a photo of what that would have looked like:

Courtesy of Troop 87
These white panels cover the "IN" and "OUT" doorways to the kitchen:


This photo is taken from just about the exact spot where I always sat at our troop's designated table:


Here are the 12 points of the Scout Law, one of the things that all scouts had to memorize, along with the Oath and the Motto:


Evidently the rustic old wood-carved map that was here when I was a scout has been replaced with some computer-generated modern crap:


Pardon me for a moment, but I suppose it is possible that some readers who did not grow up in the Great Lakes may not have ever heard the tall tales of the legendary lumberjack, Paul Bunyan. Paul Bunyan was a giant of a man who lived in the days when the great primeval forests of Michigan were being logged.

He was so tall that his head stood in the clouds, and with his axe he could fell more timber in one day than a whole crew of men with chainsaws. His companion was Babe, the blue ox. Paul was strong enough to change the course of mighty rivers with his bare hands, and even dug Lake Michigan as a watering trough for Babe. His exploits became the fodder for fireside tales passed between lumbermen on long winter nights.


Many towns claim to be the home of the true Paul Bunyan, a character who some claim originated from a real historical figure. The state of Michigan has designated Oscoda as the official "home" of Paul Bunyan, because it was the Oscoda Press that published the first Paul Bunyan story, in 1906. Other Michigan towns with claims to Paul Bunyan history are Bay City, Saginaw, Grayling, and Ossineke, as well as several in Minnesota and elsewhere, but it is pretty well established that he is a Michigan man.

Those who claim the character developed from a real lumberjack most often point to Fabian "Joe" Fournier, a native Quebecois who worked the forests of Michigan from 1865 until his death 1875. A character named "Saginaw Joe" is often listed among Paul Bunyan’s crew in the stories, and it is said that this was a reference to Fabian Fournier, but it is simultaneously claimed that once again he could have also served as the human inspiration for the larger-than-life character Paul Bunyan himself.

The original Paul Bunyan tale that was written down may or may not have evolved from an older spoken lumberjack legend, but one thing is certain--that first printed tale in the Oscoda Press did not describe Paul as a giant; that was something that came about later as the tales became more popular. And as with any tall tale, it got bigger with every retelling.


The far end of the Dow Lodge housed the trading post during my time, but more recently it seems to have been converted to the first aid station. Delightfully, aside from the red and white cross sign, nothing else has changed about its appearance:


I used to spend a lot of time here too, since it was where you could buy snacks like candy, jerky, and peanuts, and ogle other scoutly items for sale such as pocket knives, compasses, or flashlights. I think it was also a place where you could buy merit badge handbooks if so needed, or any other uniform parts you may have required.

Unfortunately it was well sealed, so I couldn't take a peek inside.


Anyway, the main reason I hung out here so much I think was mostly to talk to the kindly lady that ran the counter, who took an interest in me and always asked how I was doing on my activities. Now that I think about it she was the only female interaction that any of us ever had here, and as such we probably subconsciously sought out her motherly attentions, since being away from home for a week can seem like a very long time for a young kid.

Just down the back of the hill from the trading post was a trail that led to both the chapel, and the lake. The chapel sat at the bottom of another steep "kettle hole," which as I explained earlier lends it an incredible privacy and acoustic isolation from the rest of the world beyond its protected bowers. The sign reads, "ENTER, TO WORSHIP":


The quiet isolation made it a perfect sanctuary for religious service, which we attended briefly on Sunday mornings. 


There was no camp chaplain to my knowledge; usually our own Scoutmaster would lead non-denominational services, as on any other outing. Clearly it is not big enough for everyone in the entire camp to attend at once, so I assume it was scheduled one troop at a time. I would imagine that PBSR was big enough to accommodate at least a couple hundred scouts at once.


Once again, the presence of downed branches left strewn about gave the impression that the camp was being let go to the mercy of the elements, and would soon be descending into ruin.

The pulpit and altar, depending on how formal your troop liked to get with service:


Our troop was based out of a public school, not a church, so we generally kept our religious activities to a minimum.


Now our path turned toward Lake Paul, which I had been itching to see.


Taking photos in the rain was very uncomfortable, but I had driven a long way to get here so there would be no pussing out. The north end of Lake Paul:


More downed branches blocked our path...down that way to the right is the area where the "Nature Area" marked on my map is located:


My memory of it is rather fuzzy, but it was where you would spend a lot of time if you were going for the Environmental Science merit badge as I recall. There was a nice wetland back there to study.

At the very north tip of Lake Paul however was the "Fire Bowl," where camp-wide gatherings would be held. Benches were built into the slope overlooking the placid water and the fire pit on the beach, which on a summer evening was an incredibly gorgeous scene. It was from here that I saw my first meteors.


I think there were usually a couple campfire evenings per week, where there would be the usual skits and songs and stories. I was never much of a public speaker or showman or anything to do with being in front of other people, but nonetheless each patrol had to put on skits for the whole at least once. Let's just say I was J.C. Penny.

We started back up the hill toward the Dow Lodge again, where I wanted to see the old camp flagpole:


This was probably the most military aspect of the camp, in that every morning before breakfast, and every evening before dinner, we were expected to march to the flagpole circle and fall into formation around it for raising and lowering the colors, accompanied by the appropriate bugle calls, during which we saluted. Afterward if there were any announcements that needed announcing, we continued to stand at attention while they were given before being dismissed to chow. As a result, "Reveille" and "To the Colors" ended up stuck in my head for most of the week since that was really the only music available (I didn't have a Walkman).

Not sure what this nearby area was called:


It had a cool totem pole, which I seem to remember. Of course carved with all kinds of apocryphal scouting-related symbols whose meanings I am sworn to secrecy on, haha.


Anyway, this shelter was the Handicrafts Area, where merit badges involving manual skills were taught. I remember it for the time I spent there for the basket-weaving, woodcarving, and leatherworking merit badges.


The signs under the main sign read "ASK TO ENTER," and "NO SLUSHY ZONE." I don't remember there ever being slushies...what the hell kind of operation are they running these days, a fat camp?!

And yes, that is a vehicle parked under the shelter...when I spotted it I got nervous that maybe there was a caretaker around here after all, but it clearly had not moved in a long time:


This truck would've been fresh off the assembly line the last time I set foot at this camp.


Apparently they recently added pottery to the list, because I am not sure I remember the kiln over there:


Or this pottery wheel:


I also seem to have a vague notion that the wooden shelter itself didn't exist back then either, and that we actually were doing crafts under a large fly, but again my memory is pretty hazy.


This building across from Handicrafts was the Quartermaster's Depot however, which I definitely remember. Just like in the army, the Quartermaster was the staffer in charge supplies and materiel. If for some reason we needed to check out or drop off tools or the like, this was where we did it:


I believe he also had the only mailbox in the camp. Which I guess makes him the Yeoman as well. I took a peek through the fence, to see...BABE!


"Babe" was an old airport baggage tractor I presume, cleverly dressed up as a blue ox in deference to the Paul Bunyan theme. They used it to move around the trailers stacked with canoes, and other hauling tasks. When I was at camp, Babe was the only motor vehicle to be seen anywhere. What a blast from the past to see Babe again!


I remember one contest that was the stuff of legend, which involved being in a canoe with the rest of your patrol, and being tied next to other canoes with other patrols in them. Everyone was armed with fire buckets, and the object was to try and sink the other patrols' canoes by bailing water; the last canoe still standing was the winner. Obviously for a bunch of 12-year-olds this was pretty epic stuff.

Here was the old shower building that I remember:


Go ahead, crack your gay jokes about communal showers now. I'll wait.


Anyway, it looks like they're just using this one for storage now, but I remember some pretty hilarious times here, mostly involving a patented method that we taught ourselves on how to make a proper rat-tail out of your towel. Basically it turned an ordinary wet towel into a bullwhip that gave a rambunctious kid the ability to leave horrifying welts on his fellow scouts, and--when wielded in capable hands--even blow holes in particle board walls and break light fixtures. The surprisingly loud, authoritative "SNAP" it made on the concrete floor commanded as much fear and respect as a gunshot. I remember that taking a direct hit from one meant you wouldn't be walking right for quite some time. No soap was dropped.

Anyway, this was what I believe to be the feature marked as "Round River" on the camp map; it was one of the kettles whose bottom had filled with water and formed a bog, sort of like an island in the middle:


It's hard to make out through the trees, but that is a very steep depression in the ground, probably 50 feet deep. Sorry, I didn't have the time or energy to climb down into it for a closer look, so here is an aerial view of what they look like...there are actually several such kettle bogs in the area, one of which is called Eyeball Pond:


You may recognize several place-names on the different camp maps that hearken back to the old tall tales about Paul Bunyan, such as Round River, Big Onion, Pyramid 40, Blue Snow, Feboloson Flats, Ox Bowl, etc., and it's of course no accident. Each one has a story behind it, and especially in the case of Round River, I have to wonder if this very spot is what served as the writer's inspiration for the corresponding Paul Bunyan tale in the first place, since as I mentioned earlier the first known printed version of it originated right here in Oscoda County. 

In 1910, Detroit News Tribune columnist and Oscoda native James McGillivray published the tale "The Round River Drive." It was an extended version of the original tale that was printed in the August 10, 1906 Oscoda Press by an unknown author (but who was most likely either James himself, or his brother Will McGillivray, the paper's editor). James McGillivray was a former lumberjack, having worked lumber camps of Michigan in his youth.

Anyway, the tale of the "Round River Drive" tells of the day that Paul Bunyan and his buddies cleared the “pyramid forty” along the Round River, which refers to a 40-acre lot that is so topographically steep that clearing it of trees it represented a formidable task, equivalent to much more work than any mere 40 acres ought to be. When Paul and his crew had finished the monumental task of clearing the timber and rolling it to the river to be driven downstream to a sawmill, they noticed after awhile that they had rafted past what looked like their own camp at least twice. Eventually they figured out that the river went in a circle and had no mouth, and that they had in fact been going in circles. 

The tale is of course meant as a humorous tongue-in-cheek commentary on the incredibly laborious and seemingly unending nature of logging work. But did this very unique spot at my old summer camp within Oscoda County inspire the author to write the original Round River Drive tale printed in the Oscoda Press in 1906? Or did the Lake Huron Area Council of the Boy Scouts simply name the features of their new camp after the old tales when they bought this property in 1959? I am very tempted to go with the former case.

Even though the pedigreed university folklorists of American academe (most notably Richard M. Dorson) have contended that the Paul Bunyan tales are essentially "fakelore," I have to disagree. Dorson defined fakelore as stories that were concocted by a profit-oriented print source, instead of being generated organically through the oral storytelling tradition that all true folklore ostensibly comes from. Anyway, I plead immunity from Dorson's proclamation, since I--a red-blooded American too young to know better--grew up under the assumption that Paul Bunyan was as legit a folk hero as they come. Sure, it may likely have had a contrived print-based origin, but what happened in the ensuing 100 years that came after is that it has in fact become something of an organic oral tradition, as youngsters like myself learned the stories by listening to them as they were recited verbally around a campfire, without having ever known they may have been invented in 1906.

Furthermore, I would like to tender these ancient land features as physical ties to a story of a mythical  man, and landscape. Even the shape of Lake Paul and Lake Bunyan when viewed from above, form the shape of a bootprint--not coincidentally, it is said that the bootprint is that of the giant Paul Bunyan himself, made as he strode across the vast virgin tracts of northern Michigan in the days of legend.

Speaking of Lake Paul, here we were:


We scouts added an unofficial place-name onto our own vernacular version of the PBSR map, to refer to the ineffably steep path that led from the trail down to the beach at Lake Paul. We called it "Cardiac Climb"...


Now that I was here, it didn't look quite so steep as I remember it, but then again it was much easier coming down than going back up! Anyway, I was ecstatic to be back on this remote glacial sand beach again where I had so many memories. If I'm not mistaken, Lake Paul may be spring-fed?


Here were the stiles that led down to the swimming area...the two posts to the left used to hold the "buddy board," which I was sad to see missing:


Half of the floating dock sections were pulled in too, and sitting on the beach. They normally would have formed an "L" extending out into the middle of the lake, enclosing the shallow swimming area from the deeper area.


Rowboating was my favorite, because they were bigger and more macho than canoes (which I also liked, but not as much), so whenever I had leisure time I was sure to put in at least an hour or two on a rowboat. There were a few kayaks available as well, but in order to use them you had to be tested first, which involved demonstrating how to safely extract yourself from it while capsized, and get back in. I said f%$# all that noise, I'll stick with my big ole rowboats and stay dry. 

The lifeguard tower:


Since it was no longer off-limits to me, I decided to climb up there and have a look.

There was also the legendary snapping turtle that was said to inhabit the depths of Lake Paul, whose shell was as big around as the hole in a kayak. Some of the swimming counselors had reported seeing it at times lurking in the darkness at the sandy bottom while they were snorkeling, and that it had tried to come after them. Once again, that, and my natural disinclination for swimming in lakes usually kept me in a rowboat or canoe unless I was absolutely required to swim. The aforementioned "Fire Bowl" area is at the far edge of the lake:


Speaking of swimming, I don't dislike doing it but I have a bit of a phobia about being in water that I can't see the bottom of, or that is too deep to stand up in. I also don't seem to float as well in lakes as I do in pools, and I don't like the comparative coldness of lake water, so the lake swimming experience for me has always been an ordeal of necessity. That is, I needed to pass a certain level of swimming proficiency in order to be allowed to use boats, so I did only the minimum I was required to.

That practice worked well for many years, but when it finally came time to advance in rank, there was a point at which I needed to get the swimming merit badge. This meant that I had to do a lot more swimming in deep water than I wanted to, which was murder. I was required to do a certain number of laps in the deep water without touching the dock, then I had to tread water for several minutes. I wouldn't be telling you all of this if I didn't rank it as one of the more traumatic experiences in my life.


The next challenge was to jump into water over my head fully clothed, and without touching the dock remove my shoes, socks, shirt, and pants (so as to avoid sinking), and then utilize my pants as a flotation device by tying the legs together behind my head and filling them with air at the waist. So all of this involved a lot of time being underwater (as well as winded and terrified), and then I had to demonstrate that I could float with my pants like this for several minutes. I just remember the rest intervals between these crucibles as being spaced-out times of extreme exhaustion and sparkling little pixies floating everywhere, brought on by lack of oxygen to the brain. 

The final, and most terrifying of all the trials was to dive to the bottom of the deep part of the lake, and bring back a handful of sand to prove I had been there. This went against everything my mind told me I ought to be doing in a body of water, but it had to be done or my manhood would be held cheap in the eyes of my peers (who were all better swimmers than I). Just being here brought back some of that nervous knotting in my stomach I felt that day in 1995 as I prepared mentally for this unthinkable feat.

I woke up that morning in a grim mood. By the time I jumped off the dock, I had screwed my mind into such a flinty determination that I imagine I was psychologically in the same place that green soldiers go to when they know they will be entering combat for the first time. When the cold water shocked my body the adrenaline started pumping, but I was still afraid of the blackness below. I was told to open my eyes while I dove, so I could see where I was going, but I didn't want to. There wasn't a single thing down here that I wanted to see. I kept them tightly shut and timidly dove feet-first by waving my arms upward repeatedly.

I became frightened as the weightlessness set in and my feet suddenly felt the water temperature sharply drop as I penetrated downward into the depths where the colder water stayed, and soon I was enveloped in it, panicking now because I had still not reached the bottom yet. The loud clanking sounds transmitted through the water from the floating docks jiggling against each other above me seemed quieter now, making it feel like I was so much further away from the surface, and the world of air. What in the hell was I doing down here? My brain switching over into primitive survival mode, I furiously waved my arms to keep pushing me downward into the freezing blackness...I was running out of breath. My feet impacted into cold sand suddenly enough to startle me, and without pausing I crouched down to grab two huge handfuls of sand, and to use every ounce of strength in my legs to spring upward again as hard as I could.

The ascent into warmer, lighter water took much longer than I had hoped, and I was seriously running low on air. In a last-minute moment of panic I worried that I might be coming up underneath the docks themselves, but luckily reemerged at the surface in almost the same spot I had started. Nearly choking for air, I weakly made my way over to the dock and slammed both clenched fistfuls of sand down onto it in front of the counselor as proof for payment of my fell deed, before pulling myself out of the black lake with shaking arms. I must have sat there on the edge of the dock regaining my strength and sanity for several seconds before going back to the beach to dry off and get dressed. I remember that took awhile too, as I sat for several more minutes alone on a bench staring off into space while the sun warmed me back up. It was without a doubt the most dreadful crucible I had ever surmounted.


Looking to the south end of Lake Paul, there is a tiny inlet through the reeds that you can barely see in the center of the frame, which led into Lake Bunyan:


I was all proud of myself one day because I had actually managed to successfully take a rowboat through it and navigate around in Lake Bunyan. I think it was technically off limits to do that since it is beyond the sight of the lifeguard, but I managed to get up enough steam with the big rowboat to tuck the oars in and coast all the way through the narrow channel, weeds hitting the sides the whole time.

Leaving the Waterfront area, we came across something that was definitely added well after my days at PBSR, a zipline over a kettle bog, named the "Beamish Beast:"


The sign touts the length as 780 feet, and the height as 60 feet. I have to admit I'm quite jealous of the later scouts who were lucky enough to have had this toy at their disposal.

Another merit badge area, which I can see included astronomy, one of my favorites:


I suddenly remembered that in July 1994, the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet collision with Jupiter was scheduled to occur, coincidentally while I was at camp. So I decided to take the astronomy merit badge that year, and we had a telescope that was brought out to the "Ski Bowl," to watch. The Ski Bowl was another huge depression in the ground, but it was it was clear of trees and was the best spot in camp to get a look at the night sky.

Unfortunately it was either too hazy or our telescope wasn't powerful enough, but I don't think we managed to see the event. I do however remember getting hooked into some moronic argument with another scout about whether the explosion would cause some sort of incineration of Jupiter's atmosphere, causing a chain reaction that could destroy the Solar System, haha.


We happened to pass behind the Quartermaster's again, to see that much of the camp's storage space consisted of old semi-truck trailers. I guess that's where the tents and cot frames were stored maybe.

Having seen as much of my old scout camp as we could see in the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, we made our way back to our truck, with a head fully of freshly-warmed memories of pleasant times from long ago. I had experienced the fine reverie I had come for, and now it was time to leave this place and its ghostly memories, and return again to adult life out in the real world.


"Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui."


References:
Geology of Michigan, by John A. Dorr & Donald F. Eschman
Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers, Richard M. Dorson