Our cabin, known as The Tinker, once rang with the sounds of girls yelling and laughing while they got ready for swimming in Deer Lake, playing tennis or horseback riding in the woods near Grand Rapids, Minn.
Built with the help of a local carpenter in 1968 by camp owner Maxine Gunsolly (nicknamed Gunny), the simple 20-by-40 cabin held eight to 10 girls and two counselors sleeping in camp cots. The central bathroom was down the trail, and the century-old log lodge was up the hill.
At Sherwood Forest Camp, the buildings all were given names from the “Robin Hood” story. There were Alan a Dale, the Glen, the Greenwood, Windle Wisp and Lincoln’s Green. Girls came to Sherwood from all over the country. Now, as mothers and grandmothers, they return to visit their remembered cabins.
When Gunny decided to retire in 1990 after 40 years of hands-on running the camp, our family had the opportunity to buy a part of the property, including two cabins and beautiful double tennis courts. We were part of the “Sherwood family,” beginning when I was a camper and then a riding counselor in the ’50s and ’60s. Daughter Anne became a camper and counselor in the ’80s, and our whole family spent many weeks at family camp through the years.
Gunny died in 2013 after a long illness. A funeral held in the lodge included many mementos. A larger memorial service held on the beach last summer was attended by 150 former campers, friends and family. Now, our three granddaughters sleep in the same narrow, sagging cots. And they wear their Sherwood Forest Camp T-shirts and run down the trail to the beach. Although we have “improved” the Tinker with kitchen, bath and laundry to the comfort level required at our age, the girls stay in Alan a Dale, with graffiti still on the walls from decades ago. We know that “Betsy slept here” and “Elaine was here in 1978.”
The beauty of Deer Lake and the camaraderie of the other families we have known for generations connect our family to the heritage of a memorable, life-changing camp experience. Our simple cabins remind us of the real joys of summer: spending time together outdoors.
Mary Meland, Minneapolis