Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Westana Letter you have to read ~ Ann Brooks, Troop 3964

To Whom It May Concern,

I'm writing this letter to let you know what Camp Westana means to me. Sometimes when things are taken away or lost, only then does their worth becomes apparent. I value this purposeful introspective, so I can appreciate what we have with Westana, while we still have it. So I know also, what the cost will be to me, if we lose it. Hopefully this will be a bit of premature nostalgia and we can go back to camping at Westana for years to come. So, here's what I noticed over the years.

Camp Westana has a gift to push an individual's preconceived limitations and to promote a troop's team spirit and disguise it all as fun. Our girls began going to Westana when they were six years old. They had preconceptions that they needed electricity, walls, roofs, floors, flushing toilets, and/or vehicle access to be comfortable. We had so much fun without these things that we went back in the winter. We had so much fun in the winter, that we went back, summer and winter, year after year. We had so much fun going back year after year, that we began inviting other troops to come with us. We had so much fun going back with other troops, we began to expand our visits to summer, winter, and fall.

The girls gained from all these experiences. While it's not like they'd ever put, “I could haul all the things I needed for a winter overnighter in on a sled when I was 10 years old” on a resume, it is something that becomes internalized. And when new obstacles confront that girl, what was once “impossible” is now measured with the yardstick of “Oh, I've done things I thought impossible before. And I loved them”.

I gained too. Camp Westana is on Lower Stillwater Lake. In order for the girls to go past their knees in the water I had to become a lifeguard. Swimming was never anything I did in the past and I had a preconceived limitation on my ability to swim 500 yards. Heck, I couldn't even conceive of how far 500 yards was on a lake. But if we were spending time on Lower Stillwater Lake, I'd have to swim 500 yards for the Red Cross certification. So I did. And then as a troop, we pushed the boundaries of what is considered typical and acceptable swimming standards by playing in pure muck. We swam, used logs as rafts, had mud fights, and discovered fish, snakes, turtles, and crawdads. We swam in the impossible (and showered quickly afterwards, I will admit).

Camp Westana has a gift of being a bridge to the community. Before we even got to camp, back in our own neighborhoods, selling cookies door to door, women would tell us about how when they were a Girl Scout 50 years ago, and they went to Camp Westana. They remembered and we felt a bond. And when we got to camp, as remote as Camp Westana is, we never lost that sense of being connected to something bigger. We never could. So many people came together to enhance our experiences there. Teresa at the USFS would set aside snowshoes for us to use each winter, so we could haul our sleds in. Kay would set out the key and tell us how deep the snow was that year. We had
Juliette from the Girl Scouts come out and teach us fire building with a bow-drill. People in the community who love what they do, came and gave us avalanche safety classes, search dog demonstrations, edible food walks, and bird walks. We had tree specialists, water specialists, and wildlife photographers share their interests with us and use Camp Westana as their medium. The community even gave us flags to repectfully retire, which, I must say, made us feel like we were part of something very big indeed.

Westana has a gift of promoting learning by being an excellent outdoor classroom, summer or winter. We learned how to ice fish, build snow caves, make snow sculptures, and how NOT to make spaghetti. We went sledding, swimming, snowshoeing, star gazing, and crafting. We drank hot jello. We learned about hypothermia (hypothetically) and sprained ankles (in practice). The girls went on scavenger hunts, drew maps, and went orienteering. Westana is a safe place to practice being lost.

Camp Westana has a wonderful gift of feeling like home. Each time we go back, there are the familiar things we expect. But as the girls grow up, they can measure the changes in themselves against Westana's reliable surroundings. The girls progress and Westana is there to help. The first time we stayed at Camp Westana in the winter, we sledded our gear in on the most level path and the girls slept in the warm mess hall. The next year we did not plow the parking area, so we sledded in via a ravine. Many a yard sale at the bottom of that. After that year, the girls decided (besides securing items to sleds) to try sleeping outside in the Adirondacks and snow caves, but still cook in the mess hall. Another year they decided to both sleep outside AND cook outside. Each year, they planned out in advance, knowing that what they'd find at Westana would be the same, but that they had changed. They could measure their own growth by visiting their Westana home again and again.

Westana has a gift of being a bridge across time, to community, and to self confidence. All free for girls to access. Realistically we could not have done as many camping trips (or growing), in the summer, fall, and winter, anywhere else. While we live next to Glacier Park, the cost is prohibitive to frequent stays. Our service unit went last September and it cost our troop alone $100 just to drive through the gate and park at a camp site for a two nights, not counting food. It was wonderful, but it sure isn't sustainable for us. I hope there is a way to keep Camp Westana accessible to the Girl Scouts so we can continue to see the growth and have the experiences that are among the many gifts of Westana. Thank you.

Ann Brooks
Senior Troop #3964
Columbia Falls, Montana


  1. A fabulous Girl Scout Camp and a wonderful Girl Scout Leader. Troop 3964 is a great example of learning through Girl Scouts and the growth that comes to both the girl and the adult. Thanks to Camp Westana for being there.

    1. I have to respond to this letter because my girls lived for Girl Scout camp in the summer. They are now young women. Their favourite camps were Westana and Scoutana. It is a shame that the girl scouts no longer want these camp sites. Both my girls have gone back as adult leaders. These camp experiences helped shape my girls as they became adults. I am sure both my girls take experiences from these camps to put to use in their every day lives.

  2. Awesome letter, Ann! Makes me wish I were a girl scout… especially the part about drinking hot Jello.

    I’m sure letters such as these will make a difference in funding the camp. Is anyone talking to the Boy Scout folks who saved the Melita Island camp on Flathead Lake? Could be some donors who pitched in there would pitch in here. Just a thought.

    And a link:


    1. Thank you Michael! We weren't before your post, but now we will be!