Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc.

Log in


  • January 04, 2012 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Friends of Larry Whitmore,


    Larry Whitmore passed away on January 1, 2012. He had been battling cancer for several years. My remembrances of Larry will not be about his health issues, but rather the unique person who was my good friend and colleague.


    On Thursday, January 5, 2012, there will be a visitation with family at 5 pm and a "celebration of life" remembrance service at 7pm held at the Heritage Funeral Home in Sioux Falls, SD.


    Many of Larry's friends are geographically spread out, so we expect many will want to "stand up and say something" from a distance. Please leave your thoughts and memories about Larry by adding your comments on the bottom of the page or on the Obituary page (Adobe Flash required).


    As near as I can figure, we met over 45 years ago, when we were both Boy Scouts in the Sioux Council Order of the Arrow ceremonial team.  The Order of the Arrow is a brotherhood of honor campers in Scouting, and as the ceremonial team, we took our duties seriously. We wore special buckskin Indian garb, carefully memorized our lines, including lots of Indian words that we probably butchered in their pronunciation.  We conducted a nighttime ceremony where we "tapped out" new honor campers after paddling into camp at the shore of a lake, skillfully lighting a campfire with a flaming arrow.  All of this had been carefully rehearsed to maximize the impact of the solemn ceremony. Larry and I shared a respect and reverence for Indian ways, and I suspect our feelings go back to our time in the OA.


    Also as Scouts, Larry and I spent time together on a wilderness canoe trip through the Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base near Ely, MN. It was a great experience. We both ended up getting jobs there the next year, first getting trained and then working as wilderness guides. Each subsequent summer, we took 5 or 6 Scout crews into the woods for ten days at a time, paddling hundreds of miles, portaging between lakes, and "delivering the Wilderness Experience". In between trips to the woods, Larry would play his guitar, usually drawing a crowd around his locker in the guide's quarters. Some of his songs were folk songs, some were songs of the day - some of my favorites were written by Bob Dylan - and some of Larry's songs he had written himself.


    Larry guided canoe trips at the Sommers Canoe Base for seven years, much longer than most guides who might last a year or two - maybe three or four at the most. Larry generally got excellent reviews from his crews - his trips were always an adventure, and that's what they came up to the Base for. Remarkably, he also got excellent reviews from his adult advisors - who weren't always there for an adventure in the woods - many were just there following up on their commitment to the boys - and Larry somehow got them into the spirit of the wilderness treks - thus earning their respect and admiration.


    Larry had lots of friends in the days he was guiding - and why not? He was an adventurous voyageur among fellow voyageurs. ...someone to look up to hang out with aspire to be like... and he could sing and play guitar and tell stories all night long.


    After our days guiding, I sort of lost track of Larry for a few years, even though were were both within a few miles of Sioux Falls. We were busy working our jobs and raising our families. We did hunt together once in awhile. My God, could that man shoot a shotgun. I understand he was a champion trap shooter. One of my favorite stories is how he got to be a "hired gun" for some of the ranchers who hosted goose hunts out on the Missouri River. Everybody paid the rancher for the experience of hunting in the "pits" based on how many geese they brought home. Larry's job would be to take the end pit, patiently waiting for everyone else take their shots, and then make sure that none of the honkers got past him. For his trouble, Larry's fee's were generally waived. I think they had his phone number on speed dial for the times when they expected a hunting party with questionable shooting skills.


    Years later, Larry began to develop a series of health problems that seemed to consume his energy and change his spirit of optimism and adventure. For those of us who knew him in the good old days, he always seemed to have time for us - to laugh and sing and recall tall tales and great memories. I think it became harder and harder to change gears and be the Larry that we grew up with. The crowning blow may have been when his fingers became so numb that he couldn't play guitar.


    I believe Larry is playing his guitar again now, singing, and sharing stories with his friends. In my mind, I can picture his spirit enjoying some of the many places he visited, bringing in some pheasants or catching some fish for supper. He was my great friend, and I will always remember the times we spent together.


    Dave Greenlee


  • November 23, 2011 7:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The SAA announces this year's recipients of the Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program.  The program provides qualified individuals with post-secondary assistance of a total up to $3,000. Recipients must exhibit both academic competence and exemplary ongoing service to youth.

    The 2011 Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program recipients are:
    • Erin Beaton
    • Tim Botranger
    • Collin Cooper (Christopher D. Breen Memorial Scholarship)
    • Mark Dierauer
    • Paul Docimo 
    • Jacob Dowling (Terry J. Wall Charles Sommers Scholarship)
    • Gail Ferguson
    • Matthew Hall
    • Robert Hinrichs
    • Adel Huemiller
    • Erik Huemiller (Cliff Hanson Scholarship)
    • Erik Keeler
    • Seth Marple (Dave Hyink Scholarship)
    • Corynne McCathie
    • Matthew McGonegle
    • Adam Neuman
    • Scott Page
    • Bryan Patterson (Erickson Memorial Scholarship)
    • Trevor Santy
    • Ryan Sievert (Butch Diesslin Scholarship)
    Congratulations to this year's recipients! Learn more about the scholarship program at:
  • August 17, 2011 7:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Read Summer/Fall 2011 edition of the Reflections Newsletter online to learn all about what is occurring.
  • July 25, 2011 8:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    On Saturday, August 27, 2011, the new Program Center will be formally dedicated in memory of Clyde S. "Sandy" Bridges, visionary General Manager and Base Director. 

    You are invited, as a member, friend, and supporter of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc. and Northern Tier High Adventure Program, BSA, to gather at Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base on the shores of Moose Lake, and join Cherie Sawinski and members of Sandy's family, together with dignitaries and guests from the Boy Scouts of America and the Ely community to dedicate the Sandy Bridges Program Center.

    The dedication will commence at 10:00 a.m.  There will be a brief reception, program and dedication ceremony, followed by tours that will wrap up the festivities at 2:00 p.m. Lunch will be served, so please R.S.V.P. by Friday, August 19thTo R.S.V.P., please contact Karen Berg.
  • July 25, 2011 6:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Exchange Program Goes International

    The Exchange Program of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Philmont Staff Association, and the Sea Base Friends and Alumni Association is pleased to announce the first-ever Exchange Program event to take place outside the United States.

    The 2012 Alumni Wilderness Voyage – August 22 to September 1 -- is an exciting 9 day, 8 nights-on-the water paddling adventure where you will be able to experience the extremely remote interior of the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. This is a place where few others travel.  

    Voyageurs will begin their voyage near Atikokan, Ontario where the Northern Tier’s Donald Rogert Canoe Base is located, and will paddle in Canadian waters until the end of the trip when they cross the international boundary and finish the trip at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base near Ely, Minnesota.  The voyage offers various routes ranging from easy to strenuous with lengths between 80 to 95 miles.  Voyageurs that complete the trip will be awarded a participant’s patch from both the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base and the Donald Rogert Canoe Base – what could be a better deal?
    Voyageurs will arrive Wednesday evening, August 22 (5 p.m.) at the Northern Tier’s Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base for dinner.  After dinner voyageurs will begin outfitting and route planning and will spend the night at the base.  The next day at 6:30 a.m. voyageurs will depart by shuttle to the Donald Rogert Canoe Base in Atikokan.  Participants will enjoy a brief tour and lunch at the base. 

    The voyageurs will then proceed to Nym Lake to begin their voyage. The voyageurs will spend the next 9 days and 8 nights (Thursday to the following Friday) exploring the wilderness and solitude of the Quetico – a place where wolves, bears, moose and bald eagles abound. (The fishing is rumored to be good, too.) On Friday, August 31 the voyageurs will arrive back at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base.  Upon arrival, the voyageurs will be greeted by the beginning festivities of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association’s “Rendezvous” reunion.  After breakfast on Saturday voyageurs have the option to stay for the Rendezvous weekend or head home.

    Voyageurs will be responsible for:

    • Participation fee.  Includes Northern Tier program and Quetico Provincial Park camping fees.
    • Passport Book or Card.  It is very important you apply well in advance.
    • Personal gear.  After you register a packing list will be provided.  Northern Tier provides most items including tents and stoves.
    • Crew gear.  Individuals will be asked to contribute a few items the crew must provide (first aid kit, etc).
    • Transportation to and from Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base (Ely, Minnesota).  As it takes about 5-6 hours to drive from the Minneapolis airport to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base, voyageurs should plan flights which land no later than 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 22. It is even suggested that voyageurs travel to Minneapolis on Tuesday night. On-time arrival by 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Charles L. Sommers Base is very important. Car pooling will be organized to assist voyageurs in getting from Minneapolis to the base.  Hotels are available near the airport and downtown, which is easily accessible by light rail.


    • Wednesday, August 22 – Arrive at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base (Ely, Minnesota) by 5 p.m.  Dinner, outfitting, sauna and a good night’s sleep.
    • Thursday, August 23 – Depart by shuttle at 6:30 a.m. to Atikokan, Ontario.  Tour Donald Rogert Canoe Base, eat lunch, check-in, and begin voyage on Nym Lake.
    • Thursday to following Friday – Paddle the Quetico Provincial Park.
    • Friday, August 31 – Arrive back at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base on Moose Lake. Another sauna.
    • Saturday, September 1 – Breakfast.  Stay for the weekend reunion or head home.


    As this voyage is longer than previous voyages – and in the Quetico – the cost is higher than past voyages.  The adult participant fee includes $139 in Canadian fees; the youth fee includes $75 in Canadian fees. 

    The total fees are $750 per person for adults, $686 for youth under 18 for the full duration of the trip. The deposit fee to reserve your spot is $250 with the full amount due by the registration deadline of July 1, 2012.  We'll accept registrations after July 1st if there is space available.
    The fee includes the shuttle to Atikokan, trail food, canoes, paddles, most crew gear and a Northern Tier Interpreter.


    • Primary participant must be a member in good standing of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association at the time of registration and participation.
    • All participants must be current registered members of the Boy Scouts of America.  Contact the association if you have questions regarding this.
    • All participants upon arrival must provide a completed Northern Tier medical form that has been approved and signed by their medical provider.  Participants must be in good physical shame and  meet Northern Tier weight requirements.
    • All participants must be at least 13 years old by December 31st, 2012.
    • Have a valid Passport Book or Card and permitted to enter the country of Canada.
    • Before arriving pass a “BSA Swim Test” as a “Swimmer” and provide a Northern Tier swimming certification form signed by a Lifeguard or other qualified individual. Non-swimmers are not allowed.
    The swimming requirements are simple: jump feet first into water over your head, swim 75 yards in a strong manner using a forward stroke, turn over, swim 25 yards using a resting back stroke and then float motionless on your back for one minute.

    Prior canoeing experience is not required, but it is helpful. If you do not have canoeing experience, pick up and carefully read (several times) the Canoeing Merit Badge book.

    Voyage-eligible family members are your spouse, child or step child, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or in-law who meets the eligibility requirements above.


    Registration cut-off is July 1, 2012We'll accept registrations after July 1st if there is space available. It is very important that you apply for your passport well before the refund deadline so you know if there are any issues.  There are no refunds after the deadline even if you are not able to attain a Passport or are denied entry into Canada.

    Questions about the Voyage?

    Contact the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association.

    Triple Crown of High Adventure Award:

    Upon completion of your voyage, you will be one step closer towards the Triple Crown Award, the award given to those who have earned participant’s awards at all three of the BSA High Adventure Bases: Northern Tier, Philmont, and Sea Base.


    • Cancellations prior to the registration deadline of July 1, 2012 will receive a full refund.
    • Cancellation after the registration deadlines will not receive a refund. Monies paid can be used for another SAA or Exchange Program event (prior to the end of 2013) or can be contributed to the General Fund.
    • In exceptional cases – which do not include lack of a passport or denied entry into Canada – Executive Committee can authorize full refunds for cancellation after the registration deadline.
  • April 29, 2011 11:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Alumni Work Week:  May 29-June 10

    This is your chance for some sweat equity and camaraderie with your fellow alumni members and current staff, and to make your mark on this priceless asset, Northern Tier. This year promises to be the largest ever, with 240 seasonal staff hired, and the new Sandy Bridges Program Center in operation!

    “Work Week” is May 29 to June 10.  We can use help for a day or a week, so come as early and stay as late as you can! Bring your skills and enthusiasm; we will provide on-the-job training.   The work will involve continued  restoration of the Lodge building. This large project is intended to preserve and enhance the Lodge as a museum and interpretive center for the base. The completion of this project is in sight!

    Meals and accommodations on the base will be provided at no cost. You will have the added bonus of participation in training week activities as your interest and time permit. On June 10, we are planning a volunteer alumni dinner.  Consider contacting your fellow alumni to participate with you and make your own reunion part of the fun.

    • Arrange your Work Week participation in advance with Dick Shank.
    • Early sign-up is strongly encouraged to help Northern Tier with planning (the base will be very busy with 240 staff!).
    • Be a member in good standing of the SAA.  Join online at
    As in prior years, some of our alumni have worked a few days and then headed out on the trail. The base will be glad to help outfit you if needed (advance arrangements with Northern Tier are required).

    We hope to hear from you!  For more information and to arrange to participate contact Dick Shank.
  • February 27, 2011 6:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Great Dane Pub
    2980 Cahill Main
    Fitchburg, WI

    Saturday, March 12 @ 6:30pm.
    People will gather for dinner and fellowship.

    Come join members from the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association and Philmont Staff Association for an evening of sharing stories and making new friends who love High Adventure. Bring photos and other mementos. We all will initially gather at the bar, then be seated as a group. There is no advance reservation, but one of us will arrive early to arrange seating.
    We are looking forward to seeing you and your family, and sharing our love of Northern Tier and Philmont.

    This same weekend Canoecopia, a large paddler expo hosted by Rutabaga, will be held in Madison, WI on the weekend of March 11-13, 2011. This event is held at Alliant Energy Center. Industry experts, educators, suppliers, and Northern Tier High Adventure will be at Canoecopia. There will be over 20,000 attendees over the weekend. The hours of events for the weekend are: Friday – 4pm to 9:00pm, Saturday – 9:00am to 6:00pm, and Sunday – 10:00am to 5:00pm. Cost for attendance is $15.00 for the weekend. More information is available at

  • February 27, 2011 3:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From the Northwoods

    Dear Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association Members:

    Northern Tier and the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association (SAA) are excited to be teaming up with the Philmont Staff Association (PSA) and the Sea Base and Friends Association (SBAFA) to promote the 25th Annual PSA Trek – the Silver Trek -- at Philmont Scout Ranch August 7th through 14th, 2011.

    This high adventure experience is a true benefit to the whole family. A real challenge in today’s society is passing the beauty of the outdoors to the next generation. We all, in some way, have benefited from our experiences at one of the BSA High Adventure Bases as a youth or in our adult lives.

    As the General Manager of Northern Tier, I cherish the days the crews arrive in anticipation of an experience that they have planned for 18 months. It is even more rewarding to watch these same crew members return from a 5 – 10 day experience in the wilderness. The expressions of confidence seen on the faces of young people right off the trail who are tired, dirty and longing for a shower and sauna portray the real benefit of a Trek.

    I personally recall these same experiences as I hiked the trails of Philmont on the 2009 PSA Trek with two of my four children. It is hard to say if the Trek was more beneficial to them or to me but we still talk today about the memories we share. Better yet, the interest the other crew members, adult and youth, took ensuring everyone had a great experience is what clings to my memories to this day. Two years later, that Rick, Jeff, Steve, Lee, Doug, Sharon, Alex, Glenn and Joe still ask about my children and what they are doing is amazing.

    Take the time now to bring your family on the 25th Annual PSA Trek in 2011. Go to the Alumni Association Website for details. Time doesn’t slow down and we all have the responsibility to engage youth and adults in enjoying and protecting the great outdoors. It also counts as a trail experience for the Triple Crown Award, a real bonus!

    Kevin Dowling
    General Manager
    Northern Tier Programs

  • December 11, 2010 10:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Read Summer/Fall 2010 edition of the Reflections Newsletter online to learn all about what is going on.

    The Clifford J. Hanson Memorial Scholarship is announced.  See photos of the Rendezvous Reunion.  Did you know a Nuisance Bear was "Bagged" at the reunion?  Learn more about construction of the Sandy Bridges Program Center.  And much more!

  • December 11, 2010 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The SAA announces this year's recipients of the Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program.  The program provides qualified individuals with post-secondary assistance of a total up to $3,000. Recipients must exhibit both academic competence and exemplary ongoing service to youth.

    The 2010 Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program recipients are:
    • Patricia Anklan (Christopher D. Breen Memorial Scholarship)
    • Drew Augustyn
    • Leo Brett
    • John Duke
    • Andy Folson
    • Matthew Hall (Terry J. Wall Charles Sommers Scholarship)
    • Nadia Hassler (Butch Diesslin Scholarship)
    • Matthew Kaney
    • Paul Landers
    • Seth Marple
    • Corynne McCathie
    • Jacob McIntosh (Erickson Memorial Scholarship)
    • Paul Narr (Dave Hyink Scholarship)
    • Bryan Patterson (Cliff Hanson Scholarship)
    • Christopher Rollins
    • Faye Tilley
    Congratulations to this year's recipients! Learn more about the scholarship program at:
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software