Return to Camp Woody: 1996 to 2005


I was far away in California for eighteen years, and wondered if I’d ever get back to Kodiak and Woody Island.  Thus it will be someone else’s job to tell the story of Camp Woody in the 1980s and 1990s, and we’re already halfway through the first decade of the new millennium. But I was to eventually return to Camp Woody, and even work there.  Debbie and I visited Camp Woody with our kids in the summer of 1996, showing our family all the familiar places. It was wonderful to see the place still in action, and looking fresh with all the improvements. We tried the swing, and even posed beneath the same tree where we were married. (Debbie held a bouquet of wildflowers that Sarah Adams and our daughter Kirsti had collected for her).  Then in the summer of 1998, I was asked to be chaplain (pastor) of the Junior High camp, and I enthusiastically accepted. It was a rare and eerie feeling to be asked to take on a role that my own father had taken for so many years, and I don’t think I did half so well.  But the campers seemed to hear what I had to say, and often came to me with questions, so I probably did ok.  One of the most meaningful occasions was when my old friend and mentor, Yule Chaffin, came down from her cabin just to hear me do a chapel service.  That was a great honor.  Camp Woody will always have a very firm hold of my heart, and I’m delighted that I can sometimes still be involved with it.  –Timothy Smith, web author (all photos are mine except as noted)



This article chronicles my first visits to Camp Woody since the late 1970s.  For accounts of my more extended service in 2006, please see the articles, “Camp Woody Today” and “Camp Woody Words 2006.” 


1996: Photos of a Return Visit


The main camp building as it looked in 1996, forty years after I first arrived there in 1956 for its first season.


After a hike to Sawmill Beach, I rested and took a look around at the familiar yet ever changing shoreline.  I was more than pleased that Woody has preserved every bit of the beauty I remember it having.

Our daughter Kirstin checks out Sawmill Lake on a cloudy day in 1996.


Tim and Debbie Smith stand under the same tree in 1996 where we posed for our wedding picture in 1977.   Tanignak Lake is in the background.  Our daughter Kirstin and Sarah Adams collected the flowers for us.


A Landmark Disappears:

One recent change in the landscape that I have not appreciated is the removal of the venerable Navy Wireless building, a concrete reminder of Woody’s storied past that stood for most of the last century across the lagoon from camp.  These photos chronicle just a tiny part of its history.


The famous old concrete FAA building, part of the original Navy Wireless station on Woody Island in the 1910s, as it looked in 1996.  This building was part of the view across Mirror Lagoon since the days when the Mission had orphanages on Woody.  (See it peeking through the trees in the first photo of this article)


This photo from the archives of, taken in 1942, clearly shows the landmark Navy Wireless building to the far right.


The old Wireless Station building was the first thing that would pop into view as hikers rounded the point toward Camp Woody at the end of the ’round the island hike.  Here a group of campers in 1971 seek a dry way to cross the lagoon outlet and make it back to camp.  Travis North photo


The old building as it looked inside in 1998, nearly abandoned, used only to garage a rarely-used FAA truck.  Soon it was torn down, replaced with an utterly charmless metal shed.  The government was afraid that the building was a mass of toxic waste, but no contamination was found.  An important link to Woody’s storied past was lost forever.


The little FAA shed on Woody is just a sad reminder of the picturesque old Navy Wireless building that once stood there.  2005 photo


1998: A Chance to Serve

I was camp pastor for one camp in the summer of 1998.  I loved it, and it was an honor to stand in my father’s place as he had done for so many years.  Mike Mooney, my co-musician in the Stone Table String Band, was a counselor (and served as a pastor for one camp as well).  It was also a remarkable experience for a couple of other reasons.  My son Nathan got to be a camper that summer, and loved the island as much as I did.  (He was a counselor at Woody in 2006, making him third generation Smith camp staff!) 


Mike Mooney (left) and Tim Smith lead worship in the chapel in 1998.


Here Mike leads singing at Garraboon Point on a round-the-island hike.  I’m preparing to lead a short devotional before we start hiking again.


This photo of the same service is so good that I used it on the cover of the CD “Lift Jesus Higher” of camp music recorded 1971-1977 and 1998. 


Continuing the hike: our son Nathan (with camp director Erin Spear to the left) pauses for his always camera-ready dad in 1998.


The Arch was just as I remembered it, and it was fun to walk through it again in 1998.


Here’s the arch as it looked through my wide-angle lens in 2005.  An eagle soars between it and the rest of the island.

Another reason I loved working at Camp Woody in 1998 was that I struck up a lasting friendship with Father Andrew, a monk of the Order of Saint Herman.  He was over at camp that summer as a counselor.  I have since visited him many times at the monastery on Spruce Island (the subject of future web articles).  I always enjoy his fervor for the Lord and his love of books, music and especially people.  He and I had many long talks as we hiked from place to place, and he gave me a book of Orthodox prayers which are amazing. 


Tim Smith and Father Andrew on Chabitnoy Beach in 1998.  Father Andrew prefers the old country hymns to many of the newer choruses, and that’s right up my alley, too!


Here Father Andrew leads a discussion group in the summer of 1998.


That summer was also one of my last opportunities to see Yule Chaffin and sing for her in her cabin.  We had loved doing that so much as a camp staff in the 70s, and it was fun to invade her cabin again in 1998.  Debbie, Kirstin, Nate and I, my mom Joyce Smith, Ty and Questa Harper and Yule enjoyed a memorable meal and impromptu sing-along in her beautiful cabin.  She also got to come and hear me speak at one of the chapel services, which was a great honor.  I hope to someday write about her great influence on my life, and share some of the letters she sent me over the years.  Besides being a well-known author, she was always taking time to write to friends young and old in her distinctive left-handed cursive.  Being with her in the summer of 1998 was almost as special as getting to serve at Camp Woody.


Timothy Smith (Left) and Kelly Smith (right) pose with Yule Chaffin and her pickup truck near the  Woody Island dock in the summer of 1998.


Yule Chaffin shared a meal with us in the camp dining hall in 1998. 

Yule Chaffin in 1998, sitting where she could look out to Garraboon Point.


Some songs for Yule in her cabin (this was from my visit in 1996).  I loved to sing and play those old country songs, and she often requested numbers that she’d heard me play before. 





More Memories of 1998:


Erin Spear, camp director in 1998, made it easy for me to get back into the swing of things after twenty years.  She is a wonderful person with a great heart, and did a splendid job as director while I was there.


The camp managers in 1998 were Ty and Questa Harper.  I’d known Questa when she began attending camp in 1974, and it was wonderful to see people like her in positions of leadership at Camp Woody. Ty is my hero for restoring my old buoy swing, and we also blazed a new trail to the swim lake and created a merry-go-round swing on a cliff in the woods behind Yule’s place that summer.  This photo was taken the day the Smith family and Harper family had a feast in the manager’s cabin in 1998.  Questa is a wonderful cook.


Caedmon Harper poses for me on a rainy day in 1998.  I always have a soft spot for kids who join their parents at Woody, since I was a camp kid from my first summer on!


This photo from the Camp Woody collection shows me giving a talk at High Inspiration Point on the first night of Junior High Camp, 1998.  What an honor to follow in my parents’ footsteps!


A kitchen crew of girls ham it up for my camera in 1998.


Boys can do dishes!  Son Nate is at the far right.


Nate tries the swing, using Ty Harper’s nifty platform, in 1998.


I take a turn (in 1998) on the famous buoy swing I helped to design and build in 1970.


Mike Mooney plays his guitar on his last day at Woody, 1998.  We later went on to make an album, “The Love and the Mercy” as the Stone Table String Band featuring two songs he wrote, and containing four classic Camp Woody songs. (The CD is available at this website)


2005: Family and Friends Remember Rev. Norman Smith

When Rev. Norman Smith passed away in 1996, one of the things Joyce Smith wanted to do was to create some kind of memorial to him on Woody Island where he had served so long and faithfully.  In 2005, with the help of Anne Jones at the Kodiak Baptist Mission and some volunteer workers, a memorial bench was placed near the Camp Woody sign.  Joyce, Kelly and I were able to have a dedication service that was attended by people from many years of camp’s history.  It was a multigenerational celebration of Norman Smith’s life, and even more, a celebration of the fact that the ministry he helped to begin is going strong.  The following photos are from the dedication service in late July of 2005, just after the last camp ended.


Ron Quilliam holds the plaque that was attached to the memorial bench.


Rev. Joyce Smith prays at the dedication of the bench in honor of her husband and my Dad, Rev. Norman L. Smith, on July 31, 2005.  She also participated in the Fiftieth Anniversary in August of 2006.  She passed away three weeks later.  The family plans a memorial in her honor as well, somewhere on camp property.


The two youngest Smith kids, Kelly and Tim, flank Joyce at the conclusion of the bench dedication.

We all walked from the lagoon shore to the dining hall for some cake after the dedication service.  This photo shows the new dining hall extension, first used in 2005.


Safeway did a splendid job on the cake, which I described to them on the phone from California!  Kelly, Joyce and Tim Smith pose in the camp kitchen after the dedication ceremony.


Kelly helps Mom Joyce walk back from Inspiration Point in 2005.  Mom loved to come to camp to see it still bustling, still growing, still maintaining its witness.  Her presence at the Fiftieth Anniversary in 2006 was a memorable part of that event, as she reminisced with people from all the previous decades.


The author, Timothy Smith stands in the middle of a group of campers (who were sitting down to relax after a vigorous game) in the summer of 2005.  Israel Valdovinos, camp director, is on the far right. It has been wonderful to return to camp and see that it is still going strong and still blessing people!


Campers enjoy the new dining hall extension, first put to use in the summer of 2005.  It has a spectacular view of Mirror Lagoon on three sides.  The food is always good, too!


As this is being written, I am scheduled to help as a chaplain at two of the camps at Camp Woody in 2007, after helping out with two camps in 2006. This time, my wife Debbie, who first served at Woody in 1975, will be joining me, serving as a cook!  I’m grateful for the success of the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, which was held in August, 2006.  And our son Nathan is scheduled to be a counselor for the second time at camp, marking the third generation of Smiths to serve at Camp Woody.  It is a wonderful thing to see how Camp Woody has kept going, and to see how God has been using and blessing other young people through the years just as he blessed me.  Camp Woody is a tool that God has used (to amazing results) for over half a century now, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.


The beautiful forests around the camp buildings on Woody Island help to make it a unique place to serve.

Ron and Mabel Quilliam were camp managers for many years.  Here they stand in the old BOQ, which now serves as a recreation hall and chapel for the camp (the population of campers is now just too big for the little chapel by the lagoon).


Tim and Debbie Smith head back to Kodiak in the camp skiff in the summer of 2005.  We get back to Woody whenever we can.



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Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to:

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