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Camp Pow Low turns 50

Kelsie Coccia, a Girl Scout alumnus and a leader at WednesdayÕs Troop Camp at Camp Pow Low in Gwinn, talks to Scouts about the proper items to carry with them on an outdoor trip. The camp is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

GWINN — Girl Scouts took part in traditional camp activities Wednesday, such as a scavenger hunt and making s’mores, in a most traditional setting: Camp Pow Low.

Scouts from around the Upper Peninsula converged on the organization’s 43-acre camp, which is located along Mehl Lake near Little Lake and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

A Troop Camp “sampler” offered Scouts a day full of activities such as flag ceremonies, building a campfire, tying knots and knife safety.

Leslie Bek, Girl Scouts fund development manager, helped oversee Wednesday’s events.

The day was part of the entire anniversary celebration, she said.

“To make the season a true celebration, we wanted to make sure that we did some things that drew in some Girl Scouts from out of the area that don’t always get an opportunity to come here,” Bek said.

The 50th Anniversary Weekend will kick off with a Friends of Camp Pow Low and Volunteers event, for adults only, from 3 to 9 p.m. Aug. 23. Another Troop Camp is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 24, with Family and Community Day set for 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 25.

Carol Romback, chairwoman of the Girl Scouts Fund Development Committee, also was at Camp Pow Low on Wednesday.

“It’s an introduction to camping and to the camp sites,” Romback said of Troop Camp. “Most of these girls had never been here before.”

If they liked what they saw, they might want to continue their outdoor pursuits in this setting.

“Our objective is to inspire them to want to come back and to encourage their leaders to come back, even though for some they’re traveling from Iron Mountain or they might be traveling from Newberry,” Bek said.

In 1969, Camp Pow Low began as a “rough it” camp, but through the years volunteers transformed it into a site that was home to a main lodge, latrines, tent platforms, storage facility, shelter pavilion and Adirondack cabins.

A bathhouse addition and upgrades to the lodge took place in 2015. Since that year, upgrades have taken place with the camp’s outdoor equipment, particularly the platform tents.

A Wednesday scavenger hunt, then, served as a way to get them familiar with the setting, which includes large woodlands and a lake pier.

Songs — apart from singing from a bird known as a wood pewee — also were to play a part in the event.

“Singing is a major part of Girl Scouting,” Romback said.

One session focused on how the girls should be prepared for camp and what items they should bring when spending time outdoors.

Leading that session was Kelsie Coccia, a Girl Scout alumnus.

Staples such as bug repellent, water, compass, map and first aid were mentioned, but so was an extra pair of shoes

“If ours get wet, it’s no fun to run around in wet shoes,” Coccia said.

The girls also learned that making two short blows on a whistle is a signal for help, and that boiling watering, adding special tablets or using filter cups are ways to purify water on the trail.

A little impromptu entomology lesson was thrown in after a girl was started by a jumping grasshopper.

“Grasshoppers are our friends,” said Coccia, who talked about beneficial insects.

With all the activities that took place on Wednesday, some of the most enjoyable ones probably were the simplest.

As she ate her ham-and-cheese sandwich during lunch break, Juliet Newman, 10, of Iron Mountain was asked what part of the day had been the most fun so far.

“Eating,” the girl replied.

Sonia Donnelly, Girl Scouts membership engagement coordinator, noted a large group from Dickinson County, which includes Iron Mountain, came to the event.

“It’s huge for us because most of the girls haven’t made the trek to camp before,” Donnelly said.

Just having the exposure to camp — particularly the Girl Scout camp — and the outdoors is good for them, she said.

“These girls are so in love with Girl Scouts,” Donnelly said, “and seeing another facet of it, other than the meetings and the community service and the volunteer work and everything else that we do, is just huge for them.

“Especially right now in this age of digital media and everyone’s on iPads and phones all the time, it’s great to take these kids outside and just have them in nature all day.”

Camp Pow Low is open year-round, and non-Girl Scout groups and families are welcome to rent it. For more details, email camppowlow50@gsnwgl.org.

Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes is based at 712 Chippewa Square, Suite 202, Marquette, MI 49855.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.