It began in 1960 as a mission of Mennonite community to bring inner city kids from Portland into the wilderness. Over the next 50-plus years, Drift Creek Camp would welcome thousands of visitors from around the state, including summer campers, schools, churches, families and quilters.
What keeps campers coming back? While baked-from-scratch food ranks high on the list, most would say: it’s the trees. Giant, old-growth spruce and hemlock tower over the rainforest like reverent watchmen. Because the camp is surrounded by a horseshoe bend of Drift Creek, the 12-acre site was never logged.
“It’s pretty incredible to be able to walk out of your car and you’re standing next to a giant tree,” says Tony Kauffman, who directs the camp along with his wife, Brenda.
Although the ever-present rain nourishes colossal trees, it also degrades camp facilities more quickly. With a long list of needed repairs, Tony and Brenda secured a 2015 grant from the Gray Foundation and accomplished much of the work using a dedicated crew of volunteers. They removed an old diesel tank, made fire safety upgrades, replaced windows, upgraded kitchen equipment, cleaned out the sceptic system, added bridge safety signage and improved the safety of stairs outside the lodge. In particular, repainting the four-story lodge made a big splash with campers.
“It makes everything look fresh,” Tony says of the paint job.
Getting ahead on preventative maintenance has opened up camp staffers’ time to focus on other priorities.
“We knew we had all of these things we needed to get done,” Brenda says. “To be given this gift, it just felt like a burden had been lifted.”