Jan’s Camp Nelson Diary

Tuesday July 29 — Wendy Dame and Don Doerr left for Wallowa County to make sure everything was ready to go for camp. Early that morning, I drove John to Rent-A-Wreck so that he could drive the infamous pickup truck to the lodge. Back at the lodge, ten of us watched Jim Clarkson drive in with the Penske truck. Ivan made a trip to fill the propane tanks. All of the camp gear and supplies were stacked on the lodge floor. John directed a quick and efficient loading of the truck. Norma went for cold drinks for everyone.

Wednesday July 30 — At 6:00 a.m. with Bob Huntley driving the Penske truck and John Jacobsen driving the pickup truck along with two cars, we lumbered out the Obsidian drive. Others in the caravan were Pat Adams, Ethel Weltman, Don and Leif Burton. We picked up Chris Minarich at an I-5 Rest Stop. It was a long drive but all of us kept in touch with our two way radios. Leif and I listened to six of twelve Harry Potter tapes. Around 5:00, we arrived at the Coverdale Campground, greeting Wendy, Don, Lana Lindstrom, Richard Hughes, Melody and Jim Clarkson, Ivan Vanderberg, Gloria Gunderson, Ardemis & Kieran Walsh. While all of the new arrivals put up their tents, Richard and Lana quickly set up the beverage table and stove making it easier for Gloria and me to serve a spinach salad and soup.

Thursday, July 31 — Since the temperature would be in the 90s by afternoon, the crew was up around 6:00 to begin unloading the truck, assembling the tables, tarps, showers, and setting up the kitchen. It was amazing to watch camp go up piece by piece. They even figured out how to pump the non-potable water up to the dishwashing volcano. Don and Wendy drove the pick up truck into town to fill the water bladder. By the end of the day, everyone was ready for a hot shower and dinner. It was apparent that dust was going to be a problem. It was going to be difficult to keep the table coverings clean. I do believe that this camp was one of the dustiest! Our clothes were dirty and our socks were no longer white.

Friday, August 1 — The owners of the grocery store in Halfway arrived with their vehicle loaded with food. Lana, Donald, and Effie Neth methodically checked in the food and stored it in coolers in the truck. Everyone was busy taking care of last minute details. Thankfully by 1:00 when the temperature hit 95°, camp was up. Leif set up some yellow jacket traps. Some of us left to check out a few short hikes. Donald and Leif served dinner that evening. Everything in the kitchen worked. After dinner, each of us shared how we managed to end up on the set up crew. John and I had the most experience with 19 years. The other members of the crew had four years or less. Some of us made a quick drive to Hells Canyon Overlook so that Donald would have an opportunity to see it.

Back in our tent, John and I talked about how we missed the Wes Prouty, Bob Dark, John McManigal at camp setup. Who would have thought that we would be the old timers when we attended our first camp in 1983.

Saturday, August 2 — The weather forecast was accurate: it was cooler. We were almost ready for the camp to increase to 110 campers. Wendy and Don put up signs. The most popular were the signs on the outhouses that read “in use” and “open.” The cheerful greeters, Ardemis and Ethel, were ready to welcome everyone at the camp entrance. The upper campsites became known as the Coverdale Heights. The twelve camping vehicles had to park in designated areas to prevent fires. It was a bit cramped for those 23 people! There was plenty of space for tent dwellers who fanned out looking for shade. People were asked to drive slowly and park their cars near the entrance to cut down on the dust. There was one flat tire that day which seemed to be a signal for a few more during the week.

John, Wayne and I did an 11 mile shuttle hike from Lick Creek to Imnaha Falls. I am not sure that Wayne thought it was a fast pace but I did. Our trip report must not have been too spectacular since no one else attempted it.

Donald served Spinach salad, chicken or tempeh parmesan, penne pasta, sesame broccoli, pear/apple crisp with creme chantilly.

I was on dishwasher duty. Dawn Newsom with Keith’s help supervised dishwashing. To try and make sure dishwashers could get to the campfire on time, we started washing dishes at 5:30. Since we were no longer using paper plates, all 110 people had silverware, plates, cup, and even bowls to wash. Dawn did a great job of organizing the new procedures. With the sun setting early, we needed to start the campfire at 8:00. It was a difficult task even with 5 dishwashers (one more than last year.) There are lots of suggestions on how to improve this for next year.

There was no campfire because of fire danger. Chris Grandy, Glenn Gordon, Roy Lisi, and Anne Dhu McLucas were the special “Golden Notes” who led singing before every campfire. Wendy and Don hosted the fireless campfire with introductions, announcements and other camp procedures. Since the campfire site was near the roaring Imnaha River, Wendy used a microphone.

Sunday, August 3 — Camp Boss: Melody and Jim Clarkson
At 6:30 a.m. the lunch crew had the lunch tables ready to go for everyone to make lunches. What a selection! Was sandwich making a scene from Animal House? There were some new people on the lunch crew committee. Ed and Ann keep saying it will be their last year to be in charge of lunches.

The new stove at the beverage table was purchased with the late Lloyd Plaisted’s donation to the Summer Camp Fund. It is hoped that another stove can be purchased and a sign posted that reads “Lloyd’s Beverage Table.” It was a popular place to be in the morning not just for coffee drinkers. Richard and Ann-Marie Askew kept the water boiling and the cups filled.

Donald and Leif served baked fritata with sherried mushrooms, cheddar and artichoke hearts; American fries, fresh fruit and hot cereal. Did we need lunch after that tasty breakfast?

It was a cloudy day but that did not deter anyone from hiking. Some headed for Hat Point but there would not be a dramatic view. Mike Bebout, Sylvia Harvey and Wayne Deeter rode their bicycles to the Hells Canyon Overlook. It rained but they assured us that it was refreshing.

The 2nd annual social began at 5:30 with a huge tray of appetizers prepared by our cooks. At the campfire, Ethel instructed all of us to mingle and tell each other one lie and one truth. It was twenty minutes of laughter and amazement. Trip Reports followed. Chris Stockdale recommended Bonny Lake and Dollar Pass. Effie told a funny story about throwing dollar bills at the ceiling of the Imnaha Store on the way to Hat Point. Bill Montgomery’s trip report of his 44 mile trail run from Eagle Cap to Ice Lake and Wallowa Lake was actually true!

Monday, August 4 — Camp Boss: Ardemis and Kieran Walsh
It was a sunny day and everyone was anxious to get out of camp! Mark Slipp led a climb of Eagle Cap. John and I led a hike to Dollar Pass. Chris was right! It was a spectacular hike and one of the most popular at this year’s camp. That afternoon, there were long lines for the showers. Some decided to take a quick dip in the Imnaha River.

At the campfire, Diane and George Jeffcott, Peter Rial, Roy Lisi, Andrew Blumm, Brennan Hackett, and Madeline Schriver portrayed the Jordan family taking the boat from Lewiston on the Snake River to Kirkwood Bar in 1933. Was this the evening that George Jeffcott gave a long trip report about a bear sighting and did his bird imitation?

Tuesday, August 5 — Camp Boss: Rick Ahrens
I was on dishwasher duty again. Breakfast dishes even with lots of bacon pans turned out to be easier than the evening dishes. Ellen and Steve Johnson were in charge of breakfast dishes. They worked hard to make sure that dishwashers made it to their hikes on time.

Pat Adams and Kieran Walsh made a water run to Halfway but the fuel pump failed. It could not be fixed until Wednesday. The Camp Host, Bob Foisey, had to drive an hour into Halfway to rescue Pat and Kieran and drive them back to camp. Luckily everyone had water. Wes Prouty dropped by to check on the camp. He gave his approval! The Camp Hosts, Bob and Lucille ate dinner with us.

At the campfire, Rick Ahrens arranged for a guest speaker, Frank Conley, a local naturalist. He presented information about the area. He talked about the Columbia Basalt that could still be found on the top of the Matterhorn. What a treasured piece of information for those that climbed the Matterhorn later in the week.

Wednesday, August 6 — Camp Boss: Lenore and John McManigal
Lenore and John graciously stayed in the deserted camp all day babysitting their granddaughter. It was the cook’s day off and everyone departed for long hikes, sightseeing, and dinner in town.

Rick Ahrens took Donald on a Hells Canyon raft trip along with some other Obsidians. Steve Johnson led 9 people up to Sacajawea. They planned to cross over to the Matterhorn but there wasn’t enough time and the ridge looked a bit dicey. Effie Neth led a group up Eagle Cap. Wayne Deeter led a backpack trip to Ice Lake with a climb of the Matterhorn the next day. John and I hiked to Ice Lake and decided that we had enough time to climb the Matterhorn. We were on top by 2:15. On the way down, we met up with Wayne at Ice Lake. It was a long, 11 hour day. However, we were not the last ones back to camp. I think the last group made it back by midnight.

Wendy and Don had the job of driving the repaired pickup with the water bladder back to camp.

Thursday, August 7 — Camp Boss: Wendy Dame & Don Doerr, Jack & Joella Ewing
John and I took three people to discover the dramatic views of Hat Point and two stops at the Imnaha store. The locals entertained us with many stories while we enjoyed root beer floats (draft root beer with dixie cup ice cream.) The backpackers arrived back in camp in the afternoon. They had a successful climb of the Matterhorn and they, too, decided not to cross the ridge to climb Sacajawea.

Rick Ahrens arranged the guest speaker, Joe McCormack, a Nez Perce Indian. It was interesting to hear how the area where we were camped was used by the Nez Perce Indians. Other guests were Joseph and Amy Minato and their son.

Friday, August 8 — Camp Boss: Janet & John Jacobsen
This was the last day. We said good-bye to the twenty people who left camp early.

Most hikers headed for Duck Lake and a swim. Three hiked up the ridge on the other side of the road. There was one last hike to Imnaha Falls and Dollar Pass. Donald served clam/salmon chowder and a vegetable chowder to those who remained in camp. There were craft supplies on one of the tables for people to make awards. It was impossible to thank everyone, especially all of those people who worked quietly behind the scenes. Don, Wendy, Lana, Effie, Ivan, John, and responsible people were always there! Our cooks, Donald and Leif were fantastic! How could we thank them enough. Did we thank Leif enough for those terrific desserts?

After dinner, people presented these humorous and personal awards:

  • Colleen Milliman: Camp Mom and Miss Congeniality
  • Doug Nelson: Star Leader
  • Ed Lichtenstein: Best Lunches
  • George Jeffcott: Best Bird Imitation
  • Anne Dhu McLucas: Helping Hand in the Gondola
  • Effie Neth: Adams Peanut Butter, no Skippys.
  • Kieran Walsh and Pat Adams: _______ Water Run
  • Kieran Walsh: Replacing bent nails with hooks, and a Fish that got away
  • Pat Adams: Innovative replacing the drying table with lattice board.
  • Chris Grandy, Glen Gordon, Roy Lisi, Anne McLucas: Golden Notes
  • Norm Benton: 1000 stories on the Trail
  • Bill Montgomery: Trail Angel
  • Dawn Newsom: Hot Hands for Health, Superior Service
  • Keith & Dawn Newsom: Dish washers extraordinaire
  • Janet Jacobsen: Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year
  • Wendy Dame and Don Doerr: Congenial Co-Chairs
  • Ann-Marie Askew & Richard Hughes: Coffee Hosts with a Smile

I was so sorry that the evening dishwashers had so much to do that they were either late or missed the tea. There are so many dishes on the last night in camp.

President’s Tea — Friday Evening

All week, hikers and climbers listened carefully to President Doug Nelson. Everyone was trying to find out something about Doug that could be used for the tea. He is such an impressive Obsidian having served as Climbs Chair, 2nd term on the board, and a leader of so many climbs. It was his first summer camp and his first President’s Tea. We could tell he was a bit nervous about it. For months, Old Timers shared anecdotes about the President’s Tea from years past that were true or not so true. We were delighted to find out that Doug recently purchased a Harley motorcycle and considered riding it to summer camp.

An Honor Guard of former Presidents, Gene Thaxton, Bill Montgomery, Jane Hackett, Don Payne, John Jacobsen, Janet Jacobsen, Vi Johnson, and Rick Ahrens crossed toilet signs, Obsidian signs, brooms, limbs and walking sticks to provide an archway for President, Doug Nelson. He was escorted to his throne which was a large rock with a pine cone path edged with rocks and rock cairns. After Doug was comfortably seated on the rock, Bill Montgomery presented Doug with a helmet decorated for a punk biker. Norma Lockyear gave him a rock gavel that would make plenty of noise. She told him that he was Mayor of the 4th largest city in Wallowa County.

Mark Slipp presented Doug with his own ice ax for a scepter. After an IQ test, George and Diane Jeffcott offered a scepter found at the bottom of a lake. Jane Hackett gave one of Bob Dark’s old buckets for Doug to hold his many gifts.

Obsidians then sang Climb Every Mountain while a few climbers pantomimed the actions. During the song, Andrew and Madeline Blumm, Brennan and Madison Hackett frequently broke into a cheer waving their pompoms.

Oh Whoa!
Start Really Low!
Yeah! Yeah!
Climb Real High!
You can do it!
You can do it?
Climb up to the Sky.

Anne Dhu McLucas sang a Three Fingered Jack Song in appreciation of how Doug helped her climb the infamous mountain.

Wayne “stole” an apple from Colleen Milliman’s tent so that Doug would have his apple a day.

Carolyn Higgins organized a group of women to perform a Fan Dance. After a bit of twittering, all of the women turned their fans so that Doug could read, ”I’m a fan of President, Doug Nelson.”

The highlight was the appearance of the Rocketts. Thanks to director and costume consultant, Marilyn Kerins, three climbers were dressed for a killer dance. The audience sang Rock Around the Clock while Bill Montgomery, John Jacobsen, and Mark Slipp kicked up their legs in women’s clothing. It was the highlight of the evening. How did Marilyn persuade those three guys to wear wigs and women’s clothing and kick up their heels?

The audience sang “He’ll be Going up the Mountain” with repetitive words of “Puff, Puff, On Belay, Rock, and Snore, Snore.” An “I Survived Hells Canyon Summer Camp” T shirt was given by Carol Petty, Colleen, Janet, Mary Croson, and Mel Zavodsky.

Janet also gave Doug an old Obsidian T-Shirt that had the logo on the back and a pocket on the front. That should be perfect for motorcycle riding to promote our club. Doug said that his wife would usually be in back of him so our free publicity would not work. Jean Ridone told a tall tale hunting story that involved Doug. Shirley Froyd graciously gave the Indonesian coin that she found on a hiking trail. John Jacobsen gently gave Doug some goat hair found on the climb of Matterhorn. This had something to do with Hair of the Goat. Bill and Becki gave Doug an Oregon Lottery Harley Scratch. Bob Huntley presented the Presidential sidearm (squirt gun). Now who gave Doug the “native Loofa?”

Rick Ahrens gave Doug the elk necklace while John presented the original deer necklace. Last year John forgot to bring the necklace for Rick so a new one was made. Both Rick and John wore latex gloves to fasten the necklaces around Doug’s neck.

Carol, Scherer, Don and Genevieve Bienvenue sang a song to the tune of the Brady Bunch. It was also presented to him in a written format.

This is a story ’bout a man
named Nelson, president of the Obsidians,
where they camped on the Imnaha River,
just like the Nez Perce Indians.

This is a story ‘bout a gal named Wendy,
with her microphone and her loudspeaker,
she always has announcements, ‘bout signing in and signing out
and doing chores.

Obsidians, Obsidians, that’s who we are at Camp Nelson
One hundred people, plus or minus and their cook, Don, and his helpful son, Leif.
Here we are a-hiking and a-biking while our feet are giving us lots of grief.
Obsidians, Obsidians, that’s who we are at Camp Nelson

The tea ended with a rather moving rendition of Auld Lang Syne. This quote is from Doug: “I really did enjoy my moment in the spotlight and got a great kick out of all the creative and hilarious gifts, songs, dances, etc. You can be sure that I will never forget my first summer camp or the President’s Tea!.”

Saturday, August 9 — It was up early to take down tents, eat breakfast, wash dishes, and take down camp. Around 60 people stayed to help. At 10:30 the trucks drove out of camp. They were back at the lodge by 10:30 p.m. There were no mishaps.

Monday, August 11 — Twenty-six people showed up at 9:00 to unload and clean. The trucks were returned. Everything was put away. The floor was swept. The lodge was ready for the camp rally in September.

It was a great camp and there are so many people to thank, especially Wendy and Don. As usual, I want to go back and have more time to explore the area. Each camp is unique and we always have suggestions for next year’s camp. My suggestion is for all of us to remember that summer camp is a group experience. It is a way to share outdoor experiences, meet wonderful people, and renew friendships. Trip Sign up sheets provide so many opportunities for people to mix and meet. I thank the 34 people who posted the 41 hikes/climbs/trips. It provided a way for 272 “sign-ups.” Let’s try for more next year.

Blue Hole, Imnaha Falls, Bonny and Dollar Lake, Fish Lake, Twin Lakes, Hat Point, Ice Lake, Duck Lake, Bike to Hells Canyon Overlook, Arrow Lake, Hurricane Creek, Hells Canyon Dam/Stud Creek, Chief Joseph Mountain, Mirror Lake, Freezeout Saddle, Pine Lake, Ridge across the road.


  • Wallowa Lake Tramway to 8,200 foot summit of Mount Howard, a 20 minute journey on the steepest 4 passenger tram in North America. Many Obsidians hiked in the area and saw lots of wildlife.
  • Hells Canyon Overlook
  • Chief Joseph Monument Cemetery, Wallowa Lake
  • Downtown Joseph with its stores, public sculptures, galleries, museums, bronze foundry.
  • Imnaha Store: Root beer floats, throwing dollars to the ceiling, meeting the locals. It was an old fashioned stop. The store is for sale for $400,000.
  • Rafting down the Snake River and returning on the jet boat: The Duncans, Murdocks, Lichtensteins, Rick Ahrens, Don Burton, Fred Felter, and Linda Cheney enjoyed this adventure in the Hells Canyon.
  • Hat Point Lookout: Climbing to the Lookout to meet with the ranger was a treat.
  • 1884 boomtown of Cornucopia. After visiting derelict buildings, some hiked to Pine Lakes.
  • Wallowa Lake State Park Showers


  • Matterhorn: Doug Nelson, J. Scott Hovis, Wayne Deeter, Mark Sipp, John and Janet Jacobsen, Chris Stockdale, Rich Romm, Pat Adams
  • Sacajawea: Steve Johnson, Steve McManigal, Chris Minarich, Pat Adams, Roy Lisi, Bill Montgomery, Beki Ries-Montgomery, Bob Burnett, Chris Stockdale, Rich Romm
  • Eagle Cap: Effie Neth, Lana Lindstrom, Mary Croson, Bob Huntley, Mark Slipp, Doug Nelson, Wayne Deeter, Steve Johnson, Rich Romm

Jan Jacobsen

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