Camp Woodland Blog

The “True” Story of the Lake Gnomes

Posted by on July 2, 2024

Any Woodland alum will tell you that they have heard the infamous lake gnome story as told by Peggy Forester in 1973. If you close your eyes, you can probably envision Anne Jordan holding a piece of gold/yellow Woodland stationery with a brown logo and print in her hands, reading the words formed by a typewriter (not a computer) at Wednesday night campfire.

Down at the beach on campfire night, the sky displays streaks of pink, purple and orange as the sun sets to the west followed by the moon rising over the horizon and blazing its almost walkable trail across the lake. As if on cue, loons call to one another from one end to the other. The loudspeaker from Menominee rattles off in the semi-distance. Canoes are turned over for the day, sailboats are happily moored, and the ski boat has been tucked in for the evening. A light breeze gives the halyards an opportunity to play their melody on the tall masts.

Cabins have taken their turn by sharing a song or a skit. A few brave souls offer up a challenge or a joke. Younger campers are snuggled up next to their counselor as eyes grow tired. Mrs. Jordan (now JoAnne) begins the iconic tale…

**Long ago, before hula hoops, or even super balls; yes folks, even before gym shoes were invented, Sand Lake was clear and free of leeches (not to mention Camp Woodland), there was a coffee factory.

Sing (Maxwell House Coffee tune): Down yonder green valley, where streamlets meander, when twilight was fading…

It produced the finest coffee for miles around. Its reputation was renowned. People would travel for days for one taste of this marvelous drink. Mysteriously enough, back in those days, this factory suddenly disappeared. It is thought that the lake gnomes, jealous of this prosperous town, came in one night and moved the factory piece by piece to the bottom of the lake. The only trace remaining is the stairway above Hilltop. This arduous procedure took only one dark night. No, there was not even a clue as to who it was who stole the factory.

The town’s prosperity ended. An eon or so passed. And one day, many years later, Sand Lake changed colors. It caused a great uproar among the people. Imagine where this brownish color was coming from?! The darkness increased until the lake was the darkest black. The chief counselor at that time remembered back to the days when his town was prosperous because of the coffee factory. He went to the chief of the lake gnomes because he wanted to be fair. One must always be FAIR he said to himself.

He asked the chief lake gnome what had happened. But the gnome falsely denied any knowledge of it. So to this very day, no one know for sure just how the lake turned brown. But, we’re pretty sure…

Why about 5 years ago, Jack was a-salting a leech and the truth came out. Leeches are really lake gnomes traveling incognito…lake gnomes in bondage. They were punished long ago by their leader for letting the secret of the coffee factory leak out. Their only escape is to be salted.

So each time you get a leech, remember, it’s a lake gnome trying to get free. Pouring salt on him sets him free. Free a lake gnome today!**

Questions/thoughts to ponder:

–Since Jack was “a-salting” a leech in this tale, I wonder if the lake gnome tale was actually crafted BEFORE the Jordan’s bought Woodland (and it became a camp for girls)? History has it that Woodland was a coed summer camp prior to 1970.

–Who else besides me was not a fan of the wiggly little leeches? As a former waterfront director, I can remember running with the carton of salt to any campers/staff who would “scream” when one would find its way onto a foot or leg (or some other body part). Fun fact: Woodland currently has very few leeches because of the compounding effect of the annual dump of a truckload of sand at the beach that has infiltrated the shoreline and beginner swimming areas over the last 30 yrs (more sand = less rocks and places for leeches to “hideout”).

–If you could rewrite the lake gnome story, what would your version be to explain how Sand Lake got its brownish color? Maybe it really wasn’t the leeches and coffee factory after all…

*For a chance to rewrite a tiny piece of Camp Woodland’s history, send your explanation/version of how Sand Lake got its brownish color to