Monday, January 5, 2009


There was so much material accumulated during the five days spent in the Greater Gurney/Hurley/Ironwood area of northern Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan this weekend, that it may require a week of posts to get through it all. When the group from the deer camp collides with the SKOAC Renegade crew it can be a volatile mix. I guess New Years Eve at CampO might be as good a place as any to start.

Its been decades now since we began gathering at CampO for New Years Eve. The camp was originally built as a retreat for the mine owners that were extracting iron ore on the Gogebic and Penokee Ranges back in the middle of the 20th century. One would have to guess that plenty of lliquor, gambling, and partying took place, accompanied by the famous ladies of the evening from Hurley. The camp was sold when the mines petered out and was used as a Peace Corp training base in the early 60's. It then became a sports camp, one of those places where a kid was sent for a week of intensive training and physical abuse in whatever sport they were interested in. It was also the scene of biathalon training for the US team and the site of a couple dual meets before the winter olympics in '68 and '72, and as the resulting trails made it a great cross country ski destination when that sport began to take off. After a steady decline it was acquired by a group of my northern Wisconsin friends, many of which are also members in good standing of our deer camp. Lots of money, sweat, cursing, arguing, and hard work got it to the point it is at today.

One of the reasons its a great spot for a New Years Eve party is because once the camp is reached, at the end of a seemingly endless five mile dirt road, there is no reason to get into a car again until its time to leave. A few beltheads in the group might jump on a snowmobile but thats usually short lived. The other reason its great is because a giant bonfire can be built, an event you can't pull off just anywhere. My friend Woody, south of Madison, always alerts the neighbors and the volunteer firemen that he's having his annual birthday party at the end of January. That way, no reports of a house or garage on fire will be called in when he ignites the pile. This years fire at camp was an excellent one. Planning is essential for a fire of this nature. A years worth of construction waste, slash from cutting firewood, and anything else that is combustible is placed on the pile in anticipation of 31 December. The crowd seems to really enjoy burning recognizable objects like old dressers, couches, etc. I have no thoughts on why this is the case. Maybe some students of psychology can comment.

This years fire came off nicely and was large indeed. The photo at the top of the post is noted musician, RawhidePhil, in one of the ugliest jackets I belive I've ever seen. It takes a guy with considerable self esteem to consciously put something like that on and then go out in public. The video clip is of RP and the KingOfIronwoodIsland attemping to shove a large frame on to the fire. It was believe to be either a bunk bed frame or an old duck blinddepending on who was yelling about burning it. No one was sure about anything other than wanting to watch it go up in flames. Which it did. RP and the King avoided being immolated, although they had to use poles to get close enough to the blaze due to the intense heat. It was a great New Years Eve. Enjoy the fire.


Silbs said...

I agree, nice fire, bad jacket colors. Next year invite Smokey THe Bear.

bonnie said...

That jacket may be something but DennisG has picked up your thrown-down gauntlet...

bonnie said...

Oops. LINK!