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Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc.

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  • August 13, 2009 9:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Enter the 2009 staff photo contest online at

    Award of Excellence: $200 visa gift card
    Awards of Merit (2): $100 visa gift cards

    Deadline: September 15, 2009

    Put your pixels up against the best! Entering is quick, easy and free!

  • July 19, 2009 9:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Butch Diesslin sends in a Duluth News Tribune story about Dorothy "Ma" Harry who took the first canoe trips with her Girl Scouts that evolved into the Northern Lakes Canoe Girl Scouts Canoe Base.  Early on Harrys sought the advice from "Charlie Guides" at located at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base including Butch:

    Learn more about the Northern Lakes Girl Scout Canoe Base at the Northern Lakes Canoe Base Alumni Association's Web site:
  • July 04, 2009 2:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Broken CanoeIt is hard to believe it was ten years to the day the Boundary Waters "Blowdown" occurred; often referenced by alumni as the "4th July Incident".

    On July 4th, 1999, Northern Tier staff was aware of an oncoming storm and while finishing lunch in the dining hall when the storm hit. The wind and rain was immense to the point you could not see out the windows.  When the storm cleared staff looking out the glass pane window towards the dining bell finally realized the extent of the damage: "Wasn't there a large tree there before?". The Sommers base was left strewn with fallen trees and without power or phones. Likewise the eastern part of the Boundary Waters was also devastated with fallen trees. While equipment, portages, and campsites were left covered with trees amazingly injuries were minimal.

    CabinsBelow you will find links to material and photos describing the incident.

    Where you on staff or in the Boundary Waters at the time?  Post your memories below!


    Road to Northern Tier

    Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association Newsletter Summer 1999
    - Includes post storm photos of base
    - Article:  "July 4, 1999: BWCAW, Sommers Canoe Base, Hit by Destructive Winds"
    - Article:  "Alumni Work Project to help Base Recover from July Storm"

    Storm DamageCharles L. Sommers Alumni Association Newsletter Winter/Fall 1999
    - Includes post storm clean-up photos
    - Article "Give A Hol-Ry And They Will Come"

    Minnesota Public Radio:  Mainstreet Radio Special - Boundary Waters Blowdown
    -  Listen to radio segments and view slide show (bottom).  Includes interview with former Northern Tier General Manager Doug Hirdler.

    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:  Boundary Waters Blowdown Pages
    - Photos of damage


  • May 22, 2009 8:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The Reflections Winter/Spring 2009 newsletter is now available. It's now in full colour! View it online.
  • May 12, 2009 7:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Erik SimulaFollow Erik Simula (and his dog Kitigan) on a 1,000+ mile, 4-month solo journey in his 14-foot birch bark canoes. His route (the "Arrowhead Journey") is from the mouth of the Pigeon River on Lake Superior to Duluth, up the St. Louis River, across the Savanna Portage, up the Mississippi River, down the Bigfork River, up the Rainy River, and back the border route to Grand Portage.

    Erik Simula was on Northern Tier National High Adventure's summer and Okpik winter camping program staff from 1982 to 1984.  In 1984 Simula paddled to Hudson Bay. Currently Erik is a Park Ranger at Grand Portage National Monument.


    Map of Erik’s incredible journey:

    Erik was in the news today as he had to be rescued!
  • May 06, 2009 7:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alumni Wilderness Voyage CrewHol-Ry,

    The Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc., and the Northern Tier National High Adventure Programs are sponsoring the Third Annual Alumni Wilderness Voyage from June 12 to 19, 2009. This is your opportunity to:
    • Re-Visit the canoe country in a Northern Tier "Crew"
    • Re-Connect with other former "Charlie Guides"
    • Re-Fresh your understanding of the Northern Tier canoeing program by experiencing it with a current Interpreter
    Participants will be divided into normal sized Sommers crews of up to 8 participants, and will travel under the guidance of a current Northern Tier Interpreter for the entire voyage. This will give each participant the opportunity to experience the current Northern Tier program trip, to experience how current procedures differ from the past, and to re-live some of the experiences of past wilderness canoeing voyages.

    Crew PhotoEligibility Requirements:

    The Alumni Wilderness Voyage is an opportunity for members of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association (SAA) or the Philmont Staff Association (PSA) - or a participating member's immediate family to be crew members on a 7-day canoe trip with a Northern Tier Interpreter. The Wilderness Voyage is open to 16 participants.

    Wilderness Voyage Registration

    Important:  The registration deadline is May 31st!

    The cost for the Wilderness Voyage is $450 per person.  This fee includes: BWCAW camping fees, trail food, canoes, paddles, PFDs, packs, group equipment, on-base lodging and facilities use plus all of the on-base meals. Participants are responsible for their own personal gear and transportation to and from the Charles L. Sommers National High Adventure Base near Ely, Minnesota.

    For further information or questions, contact Butch Diesslin at


    ("Paddling at Sunrise on Duncan Lake" by Travis McCormick)
  • May 01, 2009 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hol-ry cow camp!

    Trek sales sizzle: 72% slots sold.

    Philmont Scout Ranch allocated 60 slots for the coming Trek. As of May 1, 2009, 43 of these slots have been sold, or 72% of the total. This figure is phenomenal, considering that the “hot” month for filling Trek slots, May, is only beginning.

    Eight of these slots of have been claimed by participants from your Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association! 

    If you are going to join these SAA participants on their 6 day, five night, portage, you need to act now. In theory you have until June 15 to register, but the Trek appears headed for a sell-out, and when the slots are gone, they’re gone.

    Your SAA Trek at Philmont is scheduled from July 26 – August 1. SAA Trekkers are strongly encouraged to arrive at Philmont or other high altitude location by Saturday, July 25, to be eligible for better itineraries and adjust to the altitude. The Trek will be preceded by the Philmont Staff Association Annual Reunion and Meeting July 24-26, which you are welcome to attend. Your Trek fee includes the Reunion.

    Trekkers will gather at the Philmont Welcome Center at 9:00 a.m. Sunday, July 26, hit the trail on Monday, and come off the trail Saturday, August 1. You will earn the Philmont Arrowhead Patch. Participants who have participated at the Northern Tier and Sea Base will be Triple Crown Award eligible.

    You and your Trek-eligible family members will be required to present a completed Philmont Medical Form prior to hitting the trail. (This is a little different from the Northern Tier form.) Your Trek-eligible family members must be 14 years of age by January 1, 2009. You must be an SAA member and all participants must be registered with the BSA.

    The cost of the Trek and Reunion is $375. You can send in your check using the form below. You can also register on-line, but there is an additional charge.

    For further information, contact Lee Huckstep at or Butch Diesslin at

    (Baldy from Philmont's buffalo pasture, taken by Douglas Fasching)


    Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc.
  • April 02, 2009 6:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The following is an update we received in early March but forgot to post (sorry!) from Vern Miller the Okpik Chief Interpreter a Northern Tier:

    Okpik Staff 2008-09Greetings from Okpik!

    Things have been going well this winter. The cold weather in November and December allowed for the lakes to freeze before any heavy snows came, which set us up for ideal conditions to go winter camping. Staff training began mid-December and the first crews arrived for the Holiday Stay program on December 27th. The trips were successful and were a good start to the season. We have a great staff on board who have been working hard and making several improvements around base.

    We have endured a very cold and snowy season, but we are nearing the end. There are only two more weekends of program left for Okpik this year.

    (Photo Description:  Okpik Staff 2008-09 season, click for larger photo.)

    The Okpik staff at Northern Tier also created their own snow sculpture at this year's Ely Winter Festival:


  • March 05, 2009 6:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Trading PostNorthern Tier National High Adventure has launched a new online store similar to Philmont's "Tooth of Times Traders".  Called the "Northern Tier Trading Post" the online store provides the opportunity to purchase most items available at the actual store located at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base.  Previously it was only possible to purchase items in-person or by mail order.  Items available for purchase include patches, jungle boots, maps, paddles, and clothing.

    Visit the Northern Tier Trading Post by going to
  • February 28, 2009 5:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    video.jpgLooking back you can see what has and has not changed at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base and the Northern Tier program over the years.  Many of the buildings have been replaced and new bases have opened but the program to this day fundamentally remains the same. One of the best ways to see this is by viewing the old material about the program. 

    Last year Chuck Rose (staff 1980-85, 87-89) sent in a few films used to promote the program.  The films include "A Canoe Expedition" (1950) and "By Pack and Paddle" (1981) with manuscript written by Base friend Bob Cary who has since passed away.

    Be sure to view the films on our Web site.  It's the far northland that's a callin' me away...

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