Category: Cool to Be You in ’22

A tribute to Dan Montgomery, Camp Woodland Chef Extraordinaire

If you have ever spent a summer at Woodland, you know that the food is beyond good, it is exceptional. First timers tell us that they had no idea how wonderful the meals would be. For a total of 22 years since 1990, the person we can attribute this amazing dining experience to is none other than our very own, Dan Montgomery. 

Dan was working for a sorority at the University of Illinois in Champagne, IL, when he responded to an ad placed in the school paper for a cook at a camp in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Both Anne and Jeff Jordan met Dan on campus for an interview as Jeff was a student there at the time. It didn’t take too much convincing that spending the summer in Wisconsin was a good idea. So, Dan along with his 3 kids, who were twelve and under, made their way north to what would be the first of many summers at Woodland and Towering Pines. 

Dan has worked in a variety of food service roles and started at a very young age. His parents ran a Burger Chef when he was growing up in Florida, and he could be found polishing the pipes under the sink, emptying trash, or doing a number of odd jobs when he was 7-8 yrs old. 

Dan studied culinary under a German chef at a hotel restaurant and banquet facility. When things slowed down and times were tough, Dan took over running the place because he had a knack for turning businesses around. He had a keen eye for seeing what could be better and simplifying processes. Dan was good at utilizing the strengths of people for the betterment of the team. It is not surprising that Dan’s next move was to run four major restaurants and a banquet hall with a seating capacity for up to 6000 people at a Holiday Inn Convention Center. 

It became evident that after working 20 hour days; however, Dan was ready for something with a more “reasonable” schedule. Thus, he came to manage the Hendrick House that had 400 rooms in its twin towers and 33 fraternity and sorority houses at the University of Illinois. He also mentored interns at Eastern Illinois University and taught them various recipes and techniques. Dan shared that the “key to being a good chef is knowing how to use seasonings. Bringing everything together is a feeling that you gain from observation and experience. Over time the ability to check for acidity or salt becomes natural.” I’m struggling to see how this new adventure was “more reasonable” as it appears to be way more hours than before!

Dan loved the challenge of coming up with new dishes under a budget. He has a “million” ways to prepare chicken and does this by changing up toppings and sauces. Another trick for this “kitchen magician” is that Dan can make a side out of just about anything. He is also known for his attention to detail and cleanliness and has been known to hide $100 bills under equipment to see if his workers were doing the same.

If it is possible to imagine, Dan shared with me that at some point in time he became “bored”. This is when he started to dabble in baking. Imagine the smell of artisan breads and fresh homemade cookies coming from the open oven door. We most definitely enjoy Dan’s homemade cookies throughout the summer. Dan also makes the annual birthday cake from scratch to celebrate another trip around the sun for Camp Woodland. I always look forward to the homemade frosting that is at least a mile high! 

At another time, Dan dove full force into the gingerbread house business. One of his most elaborate displays included 9 different houses to make up part of a town. He created a church with stained glass windows and a tower, then added a barbershop, bank, and post office to complete his make believe (and edible!) village. There was a river through town that glistened from blue corn syrup and included a covered bridge. Gumdrops could be found on chimneys with cotton candy smoke, roads made of licorice, and Andes mints used as shingles. This masterpiece was showcased on Thanksgiving morning and then was “opened” on Christmas morning to discover candy completely filling the inside much to the surprise of the recipients. 

Another adventure took Dan to manage a seafood restaurant/department within a grocery store (Schnuck’s) in St. Louis. While there, Dan showed customers how to make recipes with seafood. He was then recruited to Niemann Foods where he was the chef for the seafood department where he had a budget and equipment unlike he had ever seen before. With virtually no limits, Dan could really put his creativity to work to come up with some extraordinary dishes!

When I asked Dan what his favorite meal of all time is to cook, he responded with, “shrimp, sausage, and chicken gumbo.” Per Dan’s usual, the first time a new recipe is tried, he makes it as the recipe is intended. After that, any future iterations are nothing like the initial dish. Dan “makes it his own” with seasonings and other twists. Dan’s favorite camp meal to make is actually the favorite meal the campers and staff enjoy too. He loves putting together his infamous lasagne and knows the importance of getting it right each and every time! 

Another pearl of wisdom Dan shared is to “never push something out of the window that you wouldn’t serve to your grandmother.” I would have to agree with that statement 110%. While kids are not grandmothers, they can be pretty tough customers. When a 9 year old camper orders fettuccine alfredo at a restaurant following a summer at Woodland, you know the food has to pass the taste test (check!) AND be kid friendly enough to encourage exploration of “fancy” dishes (double check!). 

Thank you, Dan and team, for giving us another summer of fuel for busy camp days, sustenance to keep us healthy, and a dining experience that brings our community together for three meals a day throughout the entire camp season.

We look forward to year #23 in 2023!

p.s. If you need anyone to be a guinea pig the next time you are “bored,” you know where to find me.

Ineffable: The Camp Woodland Experience

Ineffable is my new favorite word. I actually came across this word as the name of a boat at a marina in the coastal town where I live. To be honest, I had to look it up because I was not familiar with this word or had any clue about its meaning. Usually words with “in” as a prefix such as inadequate, incapable or inaction have the opposite meaning of the base word (adequate, capable or action). When I consulted with my “friend”, Merriam Webster, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that ineffable means “too great to be expressed or described in words”. Therefore, if something is “effable,” it can be explained.

In my opinion, “ineffable” is actually more powerful than its root. The first thing that came to mind when I thought of what could possibly be “too great to describe,” I immediately thought of camp. Hands down. Without any hesitation. Now that the summer of 2022 is behind us, and I reflect on its many happenings, I came up with quite a list of those things that are so wonderful they are hard to explain or describe even if one has a long history with camp.

  • Being surrounded by nature 24/7
  • A brilliantly colorful sunset that streaks the sky above the pine trees
  • A full moon and its trail across Sand Lake
  • Loons calling to one another
  • Looking at the incredibly bright star-filled sky and Milky Way from the tennis courts
  • An eagle soaring high above the trees
  • Deer darting in and out of the forest
  • The whinnying of horses
  • The geese, chickens and bunnies joining us at Farm Zoo

  • The freedom of being unplugged from the real world for 6 weeks
  • The strong bonds that form between camp friends
  • The love and caring that counselors and staff extend to campers
  • The feeling of belonging to a place and connections with the people
  • The absence of being judged
  • Acceptance for being who you are (It’s Cool to be You!)
  • The refreshing limitations of the “stuff” we brought with us to camp


  • Canoeing across the lake for an overnight with your cabin, cooking over a fire, and sleeping in a tent
  • The pull and release of the bow sending an arrow to the target
  • The feel of the smooth wood as you go round and round on the uneven bars
  • Wearing Crocs with your favorite Jibbitz shoe charms
  • Adding glitter to any art project just because
  • Having the wind in your face as you sail across Sand Lake
  • Feeling the sand between your toes at the waterfront
  • The relaxation that comes from each stroke of the knife against wood when whittling
  • Going to sleep while your counselor reads a bedtime story
  • JoAnne sharing the tale about “warm fuzzies” at campfire


  • Dan’s lasagne or the new Asian bowls on the menu this year
  • Toasting a marshmallow to the perfect level of “oo-ey goo-ey”
  • Cathy’s ice cream (especially chocolate peanut butter)
  • The smell of a campfire burning, hearing its snap, crackle, pop, and seeing the outline of a pinecone in the flames contributed by a Woodland girl making a very special wish at the beginning and end of summer
  • Pieces of birch bark/wood used for cabin contracts, birthday medallions, and banquet wishboats
  • The smell and taste of mint at the water’s edge
  • The greeting and warmth of a fire blazing in the lodge on a chilly morning
  • The sound of laughter as campers transition to the next round of activities
  • Boisterous singing after meals, at campfires, and in activities
  • Reading a book or writing a letter

While there are images and memories that can be conjured up with each of these items on my list, I can honestly say that even though they are so amazing and bring a smile to my face and a warm feeling to my heart, each one of them is too great to find the words to adequately describe or express. The summer of 2022 was INEFFABLE. One for the books. A summer like no other. Only the people who were here would completely understand. We send every good wish to the campers and staff of Camp Woodland for living “It’s Cool to be You” in ’22 in every possible way. We look forward to the 2023…another opportunity for an INEFFABLE experience.

The Woodland Staff

When we look at the staff who were at Camp Woodland this summer, we recognize that not too long ago, a few, some, many, or all of these people were strangers. It is quite possible that they now know each other better than people at home, work, or school.

The Woodland staff…

are teammates, co-workers, friends, and camp family. They are the people who have spent the last several months doing one of the most important jobs on the planet – impacting the lives of the next generation.

The Woodland staff…

Lived in the cabins with campers, taught activities, drove golf carts, vans and boats, made airport runs, ordered food, prepped, cooked and served meals, cleaned and tidied community spaces, cared for the physical, mental, and emotional health of all who lived here, communicated with parents, planned evening programs and Sunday special events, coordinated Olympics, took photos and videos, sorted the mail, made trips to town, stocked the canteen, lifeguarded, comforted homesick campers, played games, cooked over a fire, put up tents, cared for the horses, maintained the property, fixed things when they were in need of repair, sang songs, and SO MUCH MORE.  

The Woodland staff…

Laughed, cried, smiled, worried, loved, cared, faltered, persevered, problem solved, trusted, persisted, overcame, shared, listened, supported, empowered, succeeded. 

The Woodland staff…

Are kind, generous, friendly, understanding, giving, unique, talented, smart, fun, thoughtful, silly, adaptable, brave, open, empathetic, respectful, spirited, curious, enthusiastic, creative, athletic, strong, flexible, courageous, energetic, loyal, confident, resilient, steadfast, influential, bold.  

The Woodland staff…

Have something they can do better than anyone else in the world. Have strengths they don’t even recognize.

The Woodland staff…

Are more than any description. Are more than any explanation.

The Woodland staff…

Are special human beings. We are glad we spent the summer with these AMAZING people who are now going back to school, home, or work. We send them every good wish and hope to see them again next summer!

Adapted from: The Person Next To You

To Our Spectacular Campers

Posted by on August 8, 2022

Today we “raise a glass” to our Campers. You are perhaps on the road with your parents or still making your way home. For some, things have settled down, and you are checking the Blog for the first time. Perhaps you are back in your house and sitting alone in your bedroom missing camp. Perhaps you are on an airplane destined for a relaxing ending to your summer vacation before school starts. Whatever the circumstances, the motivation is the same. You want to read what we wrote about the summer and see the photos that tell the story of the past 6 weeks. You should know that our thoughts are filled with memories of you, and we miss you dearly.

You were spectacular…

This summer was great because of YOU.

Our hearts are full and we want to say thank you…

For Embracing Camp We live in a cynical world that is skeptical of the simple message of camp. A world that might poke fun at our routines, standards, and traditions. School is not like camp, yet you embraced our 5 core values (respect, community, growth, responsibility, and safety) from the minute you arrived and kept practicing them till the day you left. We may have had to make a few reminders to get back on track, yet we know that your intentions were good. When we had some challenges early in the summer, you stayed positive and lived each day to the fullest. When we served a meal you weren’t fond of, you didn’t groan (that much). When we announced an evening activity that might not have been what you wanted, you jumped in without reservation despite your misgivings. We love that you love camp so much!

For bringing your best. The various productions at the end of camp showed remarkable talent and remarkable effort. We know you sacrificed a lot to memorize lines, learn the songs and dances, and do the backstage work. The Art Show was jaw dropping. The Horse Show was amazing. The Water Show was spectacular. Thank you for sharing your skills and accomplishments!

For your smiles. You had the best smiles… keep smiling girls. Those smiles will keep us going in the months ahead as we count down the days until we can be together again.

For your Parents. We are profoundly grateful for their support. They entrust us with the responsibility for your care during the summer… know that we deeply appreciate their confidence. It is an honor and privilege to do this “work”. To say camp is here because of them is a fact.

For You, Wonderful You.  A Woodland girl remains true no matter where she is, who she is with, or what she is doing. We know you will take the Woodland spirit with you wherever you go! It’s Cool to be YOU in ’22.

Thank you for being YOU. See you next summer!

Savoring Every Moment

Posted by on August 5, 2022

Camp is overflowing with emotion today. Wake-up, breakfast, cabin clean-up, morning assembly, activities… every moment is infused with poignancy. Mundane details usually ignored are now special, and we are prone to a few tears. The bell rings, and we pause to listen (it is a beautiful sound… unlike anything we hear elsewhere… there are not many 100+ pound brass train locomotive bells rung these days!). Riding class gathers at the barn and there is a pause as the counselors take their positions to lead one last time… everyone knows that the next 60 minutes will not be replicated for a very long time. All over camp, in every setting, in every hour, these moments are appreciated. Deeply appreciated.

Our Smiles…have you ever seen a place filled with genuinely smiling girls? Not fake, forced smiles but wide, face-to-face, shoulder grabbing, hugging, bright-eyed smiles… well, it is awesome (and hard to explain how wonderful it is). And, yes, it is possible to laugh and cry at the same time!

Everything is exciting. The last cream-of-wheat day, the last activity, the last picnic, last mail call, last rest hour, and, of course, the much anticipated banquet, awards and candlelight ceremony. We are especially excited about Parents Weekend tomorrow. The girls have been working so hard to put routines, performances and projects together for the final shows. Our hearts leap in anticipation of every detail… yet it is bittersweet. We are sad to see the summer of 2022 come to an end.

It is always hard to say goodbye to a good friend, but these partings are especially poignant after 6 weeks of camp. We ate every meal, enjoyed every surprise, and endured every hardship with this amazing group of girls for a month and a half. Such familiarity might breed contempt (or at least get very old) but for some reason, it rarely does. The girls love each other… STILL! We see them walking arm in arm, heads held closely in conversation, and truly happy to be together.

Words are not enough to describe the day nor enough to express our gratitude. We are thankful for every single moment we have had together (and for the precious memories yet to be made over the next 24-48 hours).

We look forward to welcoming you to camp. Forgive the “mess”… the last week is always a messy one… we have prioritized having fun!

It has been such an honor to serve, host, and love your girls this summer. They are a-mazing.

Thank you for trusting and appreciating camp… for making it a priority in your family.

It is an honor to be a part of your summer.