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Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc.

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2023 Reunion - 100th Anniversary - One Century of High Adventure

Join us for a reunion at Northern Tier High Adventure’s Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base near Ely,  Minnesota from Thursday,  August 24th to Sunday,  August 27th. Together we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America’s oldest National High Adventure program!

The wilderness high adventure program began in the 1920s when the first Scouts paddled into Minnesota’s Superior National Forest.

Over time the program was known under several names, including Region Ten Canoe Trails. In 1942, the program became the Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base. Expansion in the 1970s continued by offering canoeing programs in Ontario at Donald Rogert Canoe Base and Manitoba at Northern Expeditions Canoe Base and Okpik winter camping in Minnesota.

The program would grow further in 1982 when it absorbed the now-closed Northern Wisconsin National Canoe Base and became known under the current name of the Northern Tier National High Adventure program. Maine National High Adventure Area would also become part of the program until its closure in 1991.

The reunion in 2023 will feature an extended format starting earlier than before, on the evening of Thursday,  August 24th. There will be more activities and a dedicated recognition dinner at Sandy Bridges Program Center on Friday, where we will present the George D. Hedrick Volunteer Service Award. The banquet for the 100th anniversary will occur on Saturday in Ely at the Miners Dry House.

We encourage you to arrive Thursday afternoon or Friday morning to take advantage of all activities. Advance reunion registration is required to participate in the reunion activities, including recognition and anniversary banquet dinners. Member registration opens on Wednesday, March 1st. Members can register their family members, including their significant other, as their guests.

Reunion registration includes:

  • Reunion t-shirt and 100 Years of High Adventure emblem patch
  • Recognition Dinner and Reception at the Sandy Bridge Program Center
  • 100th Anniversary Banquet Dinner and Auction in Ely
  • Activities on Friday and Saturday 
  • Meals from Thursday dinner to Sunday breakfast
  • Cabin lodging on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights

Lodging at the Reunion

Your reunion registration includes optional lodging at Northern Tier for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. You will be lodging in cabins used to trail crews and staff. These have lights and an outlet that can handle basic electronics. There are two to three steps to enter. You need to bring bedding and a towel. For bedding, bring linen (sheets, blanket, pillow) for a twin bed or a sleeping bag. 

Shower and restroom facilities in the vicinity of cabins. The shower and bathroom facilities are private suite style. We recommend you bring shower shoes. 

For individuals, self-assigned cabins for a specific gender will be available. We try to keep cabin capacity at two to five people (depending on cabin size).

As it is the policy of our host, the Boy Scouts of America, only those of the opposite gender who are married and their families may share a cabin. Cabins for married couples and families are pre-assigned. You may also choose to lodge elsewhere in Ely or Moose Lake Road.

Lodging in Ely

You may also choose to lodge at an establishment in Ely or on Moose Lake Road. You are encouraged to reserve off-site lodging soon. Please note we have not reserved blocks of rooms. 

A complete list of lodging options is available through the Ely Chamber of Commerce.

A few lodging options:

The reunion Plan

Wednesday, March 1st

  • Reunion registration opens! Registration will be on a first-come, first-serve basis for members. Remember, there will be no walk-in registration for the reunion or activities.

Thursday, August 24th

  • Arrive. Arrivals begin late in the afternoon. Enjoy a leisurely dinner.

  • Open the vault. Join us after dinner on Thursday in The Lodge to view archival films of the program. We will bring the film projector and the popcorn!

Friday, August 25th

  • Outdoor activities at The Base. Enjoy outdoor hiking and canoeing in the Great North. There will be behind-the-scenes tours of The Base. We will be providing takeaway lunches for your adventure.

  • Recognition dinner. Join us for a recognition dinner on Friday night at Northern Tier. This event will include a presentation of the George D. Hedrick Volunteer Service Award and other recognitions. The dinner will feature a reception on the deck overlooking Moose Lake!

  • Fellowship campfire. Join fellowship around the campfire behind The Lodge. The campfire will feature songs and entertainment. 

Saturday, August 26th

  • Group photos. After breakfast, join us in front of The Lodge for the traditional group photos. 

  • Explore. We will transition to Ely and Winton for various activities, including museums and historical walks. Takeaway picnic lunches will be available to enjoy on your adventure. We hope to highlight a few locations significant to Northern Tier! 

  • Banquet dinner and auction. We are looking forward to the excitement of our biennial banquet dinner and auction! The event will be at Miners Dry House on the north side of Miners Lake (Ely Arts & Heritage Center at Pioneer Mine). At this event, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Northern Tier program! 

Sunday, August 27th

  • Memorial service. Join us at Felton’s Landing for a memorial service remembering those who have come before us. 

  • Departure home. “We have been Up North. And part of us always will be.” – Sam Cook.

    Registration Policies

    • Registration Policy: The primary participant must be a member of the SAA in good standing when registering and attending the event (learn how to become a member). If you are not a member now, you must join before registering. For planning purposes, all participants must be registered for the reunion in advance. 
    • Registration of guests is for family members, including significant other.
    • Payment Policy: Payment is due at the time of registration (major credit and debit cards accepted). Registration not paid within 15 minutes of sign-up will automatically be canceled.
    • Refund Policy: Registrations canceled on or before July 23rd, 2023 receive an 85% refund. Cancellation requests received on or after July 24th, 2023 are not refundable. Contact the SAA.
    • There will be no walk-in registration for the reunion or banquet.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    When does registration open? Registration will open for members on March 1st, 2023.

    Who can attend the reunion? The reunion is open to all members in good standing. Membership is open to anyone who wants to support the Northern Tier program. You can learn how to become a member here. New annual memberships received in November and December of 2022 will automatically be extended through the end of 2023. 

    Will walk-in registration be available? No. We are unable to accommodate walk-ins to the event.

    Can I visit the Base or attend an activity without registering for the reunion? We ask that you register for the reunion if you plan to visit or participate in reunion activities. Those registered for the reunion make use of the facilities and activities possible through their support. During the reunion, the Base and other reunion activities are for those attending the reunion.

    What will the cost of the reunion be? We will announce the registration fee later. To attend any of the activities, you will need to register for the reunion, which includes all activities.

    When should we arrive and depart? We encourage you to arrive on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning to take advantage of all activities. Arrivals begin on Thursday around 4 pm. We ask that you do not arrive before the start time to allow our volunteers to complete the setup for the reunion. The reunion will conclude by 9 am on Sunday.

    Can I bring my children? Absolutely! There will be plenty of activities at Northern Tier and in town for the family. Families are assigned a cabin of their own.

    Can I register as a guest? You are allowed to register your family members, including your significant other, as your guests. Those not part of your family (i.e., members and alumni) should register for the event themselves.

    Can I bring my pet? No. Pets are not allowed at any time at Northern Tier or other reunion venues. Only service animals are allowed (dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities). You may consider making lodging arrangements at a neighboring property that allows pets. Please note many pet-friendly accommodations in Ely require someone to attend to your dog at all times.

    What are the lodging options? Attendees of the reunion stay in a crew or staff cabin. You may also bring your tent. One family/couple per cabin or two to five individuals of the same gender. To enter a cabin unit, there are two to three steps. There are electrical lights and an outlet that can handle basic electronics. For those who want to stay in a hotel or full-service cabin, the Ely Chamber of Commerce lists options availableWe highly recommend you book off-site lodging well in advance.

    Do we need to bring bedding or a towel? You need to bring bedding and a towel. For bedding, bring linen (sheets, blanket, pillow) for a twin bed or a sleeping bag. We also recommend you bring shower shoes or similar to use in the shower.

    What are the shower and restroom facilities like? 
    Shower and restroom facilities are in the vicinity of most cabins. The shower and bathroom facilities are private suite style. There are several accessible units. We recommend bringing shower shoes or similar. Bring a swimsuit if you plan to use the sauna (subject to current regulations).

    I have a mobility impairment. How can I get around? Those with mobility issues can use their vehicle to allow them to get to and from locations. For others, we do not allow it because of the safety hazard of vehicle traffic. Please be aware there are two to three steps to enter a cabin unit.

    Where will we be eating? Meals at Northern Tier will be in or outside the “Sandy Bridges Program Center.” The banquet dinner on Saturday will be in Ely. The menu is yet to be determined. If you have a dietary restriction, please note it when registering so we can work with our caterer. 

    How do I donate an item for the auction at the banquet? We ask that you bring the item to the reunion and provide it during check-in. There will be a form in the future to donate an auction item to collect the description and photo of the item. Advance arrangements can be made to ship an item (please do not send it to our PO Box).

    When is the next reunion? After 2023, the next reunion will not be until 2025.

    Do I need to register for the reunion if I will be on the seasonal staff? You will need to register for the reunion if you will not be working for Northern Tier during the reunion. Please directly consult with Northern Tier regarding your letter of employment. Seasonal staff working during the reunion are welcome to participate in the recognition dinner on Friday and outdoor activities.

    What if I will arrive at Northern Tier late at night on Thursday? It would be helpful if you let us know a week in advance. We will post information on cabin assignments outside the Sandy Bridges Program Center.

    Can I bring my recreational vehicle (RV)? Possibly, but you must make advance arrangements by contacting the SAA. We cannot guarantee availability or approval. Please note there are no utilities. We suggest camping at a nearby property, such as Canoe Country Campground (RV sites include water, sewer, and electric hookups) on Moose Lake or Fall Lake Campground (RV sites have electricity). 

    What are the closest airports? We recommend flying to Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) or Duluth International Airport (DHL). Flying to Minneapolis may be more cost-effective and avoid potential connection delays of flying to Duluth. The drive time between Northern Tier and Minneapolis airport ranges from four and a half hours to five and a half hours. The drive time between Northern Tier and Duluth airport is about two and a half hours. Plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your domestic flight departs. 

    What hotels do you recommend near the Minneapolis airport to stay in before or after the reunion? There are many hotels located just south of the airport. Some offer an airport shuttle or are within walking distance of a light rail station to reach the airport, Mall of America, or downtown Minneapolis. You may be able to drop off your rental vehicle the night before flying home. 

    Is there a shuttle from Duluth or Minneapolis? We are not planning to provide a shuttle and recommend renting a vehicle. Some outfitters offer airport shuttles. It is less expensive if picked up in Duluth and when traveling with a group. Options include Spirit of the Wilderness (218-365-3149) and Northern Lights Van Shuttle Service (218-780-2556). If taking a shuttle to Northern Tier, you will still need transportation between Northern Tier and Ely for activities, as we cannot provide this. 

    What attractions can we visit before or after the reunion? As there are many attractions, we recommend reviewing Northern Tier’s Sites and Attractions page. Please note some attractions in Ely will be part of the reunion experience. We will announce these activities at a later date.

    Can I take a canoe trip before or after the reunion? Yes! We recommend getting off the water by Thursday afternoon when the reunion starts or heading on the water on Sunday late morning after the memorial service.

    The Ely Chamber of Commerce has a directory of outfittersIf you are uncertain which outfitter you will use, we suggest selecting the Kawishiwi Ranger District as your permit issue station (open 8 am to 4:30 pm). If using Northern Tier as your permit issue station, you should make advance arrangements since its office hours are limited.
    Northern Tier also offers the Alumni Rental Program if you want to use its equipment or facilities (including landing). You must arrange this in advance by submitting the form at the bottom of this page to make a request. Members are responsible for acquiring their permits and following the program policies.

    Please keep in mind:

    • Overnight camping requires a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Quetico Provincial Park permit. Those entering Quetico Provincial Park need to self-issue a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness day permit for their trip to and from Prairie Portage. BWCAW permit reservations for the 2023 season will be available beginning at 9:00 a.m. CST on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
    • Entering Quetico Provincial Park requires a camping permit from Ontario Parks, Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) permit for each individual, and a valid passport for each individual. Upon return from Canada, each individual must check in with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Ely.
    • The SAA and Northern Tier cannot provide assistance or logistics should you have planning, permit, or trip issues.

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