Value of a Manito-wish Experience – Fall 2021



Summer Camp 1957

Dear Manito-wish:

Since I am now 76 years old, and was only 11 when I registered t o go to Camp Manito-wish, the birthday post card that you just sent me was quite a surprise indeed! I hope you get enjoyment out of the attached 2 photos of the paddle which I made at Camp and still use. You can barely make out the “Camp Manito-wish” on the second picture. I retired as an economics professor in 2010, and one of my hobbies is building or restoring small wooden boats (kayaks, prams, canoes); so when I restored an early 1940’s Penn Yan Kingfisher rowing canoe (which we also paddle), I of course had to use my wooden Manito-wish paddle.

I have very fond memories of my three weeks at camp, especially the one-week canoe trip that we took. We packed all of our supplies in heavy backpacks and seemed to travel thousands of miles (I mean that in a good way) on pristine rivers and lakes, portaging from one body of water to another. That trip gave us a real sense of independence and self-reliance. The funniest part was when the truck picked us up at the end of our adventure and it only took us about an hour to get back to Camp! Those rivers certainly do meander. I also cherish the wonderful new friends t hat I met at camp, and our many contests and activities.

Thank you for rekindling those memories.

I sincerely hope that the camp is doing well in spite of Covid and t hat many new generations of kids will have the opportunity to experience the wonders of camp life. It was one of those youthful experiences that will stay with me forever.

Best wishes,

Alan Boese


Summer Camp Staff 2007-2014

I can’t even. Speechless. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud.

On one hand, it’s just paint on a boat. On the other, this means more than I can probably express here. Let me explain for those who might not immediately recognize why it would have such significance for me.

This is a classic aluminum Grumman canoe at Camp Manito-wish YMCA in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. I took a summer job there in 2007 after applying to an email on t he UVM Outing Club (which I wasn’t even really a part of) email list from Kit Cahill saying there was some camp I had never heard of looking for staff.

I had decided that winter that I had wanted to be a camp counselor, seemingly out of the blue, since though I went t o summer camp a couple of times many years before, I was far from a die-hard type camp kid. I found the whole t hing pretty intimidating for my little introverted self, and mostly went to archery all of the time, was terrified of t he cool kids playing tether ball, and dreaded mandatory daily swim lessons in the lake.

Anyway, I applied and then heard nothing for a long time and forgot about it. I had decided against another camp’s offer and had gone home after school ended, wondering what my summer was going to look like. I got a call on a Thursday evening from Brandt Christopherson “Hey Noah – We want to hire you as a counselor-what do you think?” “When would I need to be there?” “Monday” “Can you guys help with the last-minute plane ticket?” “Yup” “OK, I’m in.”

This decision would significantly change my life.

Phone call done, I packed up and took a ridiculous itinerary to a tiny airport in a state I’d never been to and after a ride from Ryan Collopy, I arrived somewhat bewildered at this beautiful lake-side expanse under towering pines whose gorgeous aroma infused the entire sprawling property.

I spent the next 7 summers making some of the best friends of my life, honing my wilderness skills, and coming to appreciate a part of the country I had almost no awareness of before I was suddenly knee deep in deep fried cheese curds, log cabin- themed everything, and an endless stream of shenanigans.

Manito-wish is not just a summer camp, but also a renowned wilderness tripping and leadership t raining establishment. Over the years, I led countless trips and experiences with all kinds of people in Summer Camp, Leadership and Outpost Programs – from my first trip, an overnight co-led with Ben Mitzner, up to a 45-day backpacking trip I co-led with Alex Liethen in the Brooks Range in Alaska, and in between those there were solo led backpacking trips to Montana, the Porcupine Mountains, the Superior Hiking Trail, and Isle Royale on Lake Superior, a few short sea-kayaking trips, and more canoe trips than I can remember off hand. I could write books about the characters I got to share these adventures with, let alone the beautiful, hilarious, and sometimes deeply and rewarding-ly challenging things that happened along the way.

These orange canoes are the ones taken out directly from Camp and paddled and portaged on routes that snake through the hundreds of lakes in the immediate surrounds (not an exaggeration). One is honored with the name of the leader painted upon one after they lead a trip called a Canuck, which for me was an unforgettable 30 day solo-led excursion in the wilds of northern Saskatchewan with Jason Carlson, Peter Quaintance, Xavier Strange, and Sam Vuchetich, aka The Dingdongs.

Check out the photo of our last day on trail, paddling through the morning fog.

I kind of never believed this day would come. I am so glad to see that my exploration partner, Cooper Holcomb Schulte’s, (our explorer alter egos are Merriweather and Cornwall) canoe and my canoe are there together like we always dreamed of. Ready to go out and help a bunch of wide-eyed kids get into some deep mischief and exploration. Thank you so much Jay Creagh for sending me this picture. It made my night, it made my day, and…I don’t think this feeling is going to fade.

My years at Manito-wish (which will never be over) turned me into the camp person I never thought I ‘d be, gave me a community of people and a place that I love more than I can even handle, and a set of experiences that I cherish and am more proud of than perhaps almost anything else in my life. I love that this might read like a corny college entrance essay (minus the obligatory “passions” and “plethoras”-well, now there’s one of each for ya), because that’s how I feel being transported back to 2007 with the curtains of a whole new unexpected chapter of my life about to pull open.

So, like, thanks everyone.


Summer Camp 1998-2000 Outpost participant 2002

My name is Ryan Lonergan and I am a proud Manito-wish Alumni. I attended Camp for 4 summers growing during my adolescence. I did t wo 3-Day/2-night Canoeing trips, ironically they were the exact same. I did one 5-Day/4-night trip. Then my last was 9 Day/8-night hiking on t he Superior Hiking Trail.

I grew up fast and took all that experience with me into the Army. Deployed to Iraq in 2009. The skills of packing food, portaging canoes, hiking, preparing camp, and teamwork were all very similar to the military and my job.

I still have my canoe paddle that I bought and etched the “M” with the year 2000. Paddles represent teamwork and responsibility. If everyone isn’t paddling it’s going to get hard and you won’t go the direction you need to go. Making sure you have your paddle and not loading it is important also.

Thank you for a lifetime of memories and stories. It has been close to 20 years since I’ve been at Camp…I plan to visit soon with my daughter.

I know help fellow veterans with transitioning and employment services in Wisconsin. I have been helping the MIL/Vet community for 14 years. Thank you for making a huge positive impact on my life.


Summer Camp Staff 1975-1983


If you give a girl a Manito-wish experience, she learns a myriad of outdoor skills, discovers new strengths and interests, and becomes inspired by the people she meets.

If she discovers that she is physically strong enough to pack, paddle and portage a canoe, she becomes comfortable in her skin and in her outdoor surroundings.

If you give a girl confidence to live outdoors and travel via canoe through the wilderness, she soon organizes her own trips and finds solace and beauty in the Northwoods, the Boundary Waters, the Quetico and Bowron Lakes Provincial Parks. She thrives on her ability to live simply and benefits from living outdoors for days on end where she becomes refreshed before the intensity of a new school year.

Since she learned to paddle a canoe, she was honored to be invited to participate in Tribal Journeys for several summers with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe Canoe Family in WA state. The tribe recognized the importance of her participation because their children were in her classroom and it enhanced her understanding of their culture. Honoring their culture in the classroom built a sturdy bridge between school and the tribe.

If she pulls (paddles) with the PGST, she joins them on an especially lengthy tribal canoe voyage to t he Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, BC, where her life is immeasurably enriched by Native American and First Nations culture.

If she meets Pam Lidington at Camp Manito-wish, she has loads of fun and laughs in her life, learns t he proper way to wear a hairnet, and sneaks around doing harmless little pranks at camp that will never be revealed even today.

If she meets KT Foley, she becomes inspired and encouraged to enter her first cross-country ski race, even though she is not nearly as skilled as KT!

After she sets goals for her first race, does not fall at the start or finish line, and completes the race, she yearns to train and improve.

When she feels more confident, she enters The American Kortelopet, falls often, and later, completes two American Birkebeiners, where she falls less often.

When she one day moves to Norway, she completes the Norwegian Birkebeiner-rennet by skiing 55 km over the mountains from Rena to Lillehammer.

When she skis the Birkebeiner, she realizes she can ski across Hardangervidde, the place where Roald Amundsen trained long ago before being first to the South Pole. She rates this trip with friends during Easter break as a highlight of her years living in Norway.

When she broadens her interests and capabilities, she strives to become a proficient rock climber, t hen spends her weekends climbing at Devils Lake.

If she climbs on the weekends, her stress abates and she feels renewed before returning to her classroom on Monday mornings.

After she becomes a proficient rock climber, she desires to try mountaineering.

When her mountaineering capabilities expand with courses and practice, she co-leads the Girls Western Backpacking Trip of Camp Manito-wish with Jeanne Johnson through the Absorokas of Montana.

Later she tackles the challenge of climbing Mt. McKinley with two like-minded Norwegians and is exhilarated by their success.

If you give a girl a Manito-wish experience she becomes inspired by the people she meets who have traveled abroad on The European and The Scandinavian.

When the people she meets inspire her, she yearns to travel to Europe, but recognizes the reality of this not happening on a teacher’s salary.

When she yearns to travel to Europe, she first lands a job in Colombia, because teaching in Europe is competitive.

When she lives and teaches in Colombia, she learns to speak Spanish and travels the length and breadth of the South American continent.

After she successfully lives and works in Colombia, she earns her masters degree at UW-Madison and soon lands a teaching position at Stavanger American School in Norway.

When she lives and teaches in Norway, she finds her happy place on skis, on rock walls, in the mountains, and traveling around Europe to her heart’s content during her time off.

When she has become enamored with life abroad, she later does a teaching exchange in Australia and travels the Australian continent from the outback to the coast and back during school breaks and holidays.

If you give a girl a Manito-wish experience, she will reflect on how her life has followed a rich and rewarding path and she will realize it began with Judy and Joe Conlin at UW-Whitewater when they recognized something in an ordinary Midwestern college girl and recommended her to Bob Telleen for a summer job in the craft shop!

Nancy Meyer is a retired elementary school teacher living in WA state. She began working in the craft shop in 1975 after graduating from UW-Whitewater. In the ensuing years, she directed the craft shop, became a cabin counsellor, and then co-led the Girls Western Backpacking Trip. She is deeply grateful for the opportunities Manito-wish afforded her. Although if you put a canoe on her shoulders to portage in the Quetico when she is 66YO, she stumbles in the rain and mud and drops it . More than once. But still…