Childhood Nostalgia in Camp Wandawega

Not New, Not Improved, Since 1925

As JC, Julie, and myself (Henry) embarked on our trans-Midwestern sales expedition, we had no expectation of adventure – aside from perhaps shifting through three lanes of traffic to narrowly make an exit ramp or stepping into a fiercely local small-town pub. With the impetus behind the trip being to visit our loyal retailers in the region, our focus lay squarely on these relationships and the presentation of the latest and greatest products Amundsen has to offer. While the external image of Amundsen is often characterized by high-flying ski acrobatics and misty mornings on Nordic lakes, the reality is primarily, for lack of a better word, work.

Like any team would, our crew gradually became drained by the doldrums of the routine – a sensation we began to feel 72 hours into our traverse of the Northern Midwest. But unlike other workplaces, our priority to fuel our personal Spirit(s) of Adventure became paramount, as we felt the call of nature after long days on the road. As luck had it, one of our longstanding retail partners in North America came to our aid; Bill Damberg, of Excelsior, Minnesota’s exceptional Brightwater Clothing (read about Bill and his project) generously gave us the insider’s tip to checkout a mysterious time-portal known as Camp Wandawega. From what we could glean from the internet, the locale appeared to be a destination out of another era – with cabins, fireplaces, and an ice-shrouded lake offering a taste of Friluftsliv.

In classic Amundsen fashion, we sent an 11pm email from a Best Western bed in the hopes that the visionary behind Wandawega, Tereasa Surratt, would get back to us in time for a visit the following day. Not only did she reply the following morning, she generously offered to have us stay at the camp that night. After a few hours’ drive deep into the Wisconsin woods, we arrived at the mysterious camp after dark and were greeted by camp warden, Joe, who welcomed us into Wandawega’s main lodge with a crackling fire.

After only a few moments on site, we realized we had stumbled (thanks again, Bill) into perhaps the most beautifully curated destination we had ever laid eyes on. We had stepped into a lodge – turned- summer camp from the 1920’s (its original function), with every detail down to matchboxes and marbles indicative of an era we’d never known. As quickly as you could imagine, the three of us reverted into our childhood selves – running from room to room, calling out to one another about the treasures we’d discovered. We

were immediately filled with the curiosity, enthusiasm, and imagination that is so potent during childhood – sensations which, if not fostered, become ever more elusive.

You have got to be kidding me. One day can’t do this place justice, we’re coming back!

With every door opened and corner turned, we were inundated with the marvels of a simpler time. We became consumed with a feeling of nostalgia, nostalgia for an era we hadn’t lived – yet, it was strangely familiar to us. Though none of us were born within a stone’s throw of the period that Wandawega represents, the simple pleasures of adventure and play endure across the decades.

With visions of summer days spent tying sailing knots and angling flies, to collecting arrowheads and turtle shells; the oft-forgotten joys of a simpler time filled us with nostalgia for days we’d not known since childhood.

We stepped away from Wandawega with cleared heads, refreshed energies, and a powerful reminder of the importance of making time for our childhood spirits to explore and imagine. Camp Wandawega served as a basecamp for adventure, no matter how small.


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