Imagination and Improvisation at Pemi

The following article comes from Dwight Dunston, counselor in Senior 3 and Bean Soup co-editor.

I believe that in all aspects of camp life, and life outside of camp as well, there may be situations when one needs to be able to think and react quickly. Thus, the importance of a fun occupation that I teach: comedy improvisation.

During the second week of camp, I had the opportunity to teach the comedy improv occupation with counselors Wesley Eifler and Jeremy Keys. In a class with about 14 boys ages 10-15, we played a number of different games that often required us to create our own worlds in which we would act out a scene, most of which ended up being a bit ridiculous but were still very entertaining. There was one game in particular which required all of the boys to work together to make a story simply from a title suggested by the group. When one of the counselors pointed to a camper, the camper began narrating the story and would continue to do so until the counselor pointed at someone else. The next boy would first have to finish off the word or sentence of the previous participant, and then add his own twist to the story. Needless to say, the stories didn’t always relate to the initial title, but the entertainment value was much higher than the care for attention to detail. Although each game had certain guidelines and rules, the main goal was not to see how well the kids could play the games– we simply wanted the boys to be as creative and innovative as possible even if it meant looking a bit silly.

Comedy improv forces an individual to use his imagination, to react in a timely manner, and to be comfortable with looking a bit silly. If the boys took nothing else away from the occupation, I hope they learned that improvising is a way to better the imagination. And I hope that they had a laugh doing the occupation, as well.

-Dwight Dunston

Summer 2010: Newsletter #6

Download this newsletter as a PDF.

This week’s newsletter comes from Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s veteran Director of Athletics.

Last Friday, Camps Pemi and Tecumseh squared off in their annual and hotly contested rivalry.  The two of us have competed against each other for over a century, the last forty-three years for the coveted bronzed hat of former Tecumseh Director George Munger.  Mr. Munger was a highly competitive man who led the University of Pennsylvania football to eighteen consecutive winning seasons.  To this day, his competitive spirit has driven the Tecumseh camp program.  The story of Mr. Munger’s “Hat” is worth highlighting, for it captures one of the philosophical underpinnings of the day.

In 1967, Pemi and Tecumseh competed, as they had for a half-century, on two separate days.  Tecumseh won the first day convincingly 9-3 and scored many of their wins in swimming.  Legendary Pemi waterfront coach Terry Sweetser convinced his lads that they could reverse the outcome if they were willing to put in the time and effort to improve.  Tom Reed Sr. wrote in this very newsletter about the boys who accepted the challenge and eventually led Pemi to an exciting victory in swimming that pushed Pemi over the top on Day Two.  “What price work, sacrifice, courage, conditioning, self-respect, and respect for teammates?  We submit that no Pemi swimmer involved and few Pemi spectators will forget these races for a long time.”

Tom Sr. then describes the moment the Hat was introduced to the rivalry and the values that forged the tradition. Amidst the Pemi throngs assembled in the messhall, “cheer after ear-splitting cheer for teams, for individual performers, for coaches and two spontaneously for our hard-fighting rivals, Tecumseh.  And then, unaccountably, silence.   Here are all the Tecumseh boys on our porch; their director, George Munger, takes off his familiar straw hat, gives it as a token to Tom, and turns and leads a deafening Tecumseh cheer for Pemi….In a flash, it points up for everyone what athletic competition ought to be and these days so seldom is.”

While “The Hat” has shaped and motivated competition for the last forty years, for the first decade of competition the Pemi boy woke up at four in the morning to walk four miles to the Wentworth-to-The-Weirs train.  At Weir’s Beach, the boys boarded the steamer Governor Endicott to cross Winnipesauke and land at the Tecumseh swim docks.   After spending the night under the stars, contending with the mosquitoes, the boys woke up to a full day of competition involving both campers and counselors.  The Pemi community would spend a second night there before returning to the shores of Lower Baker.  Clearly, the strenuous life of Teddy Roosevelt carried the spirit of the endeavor.

Today, we wake up at a leisurely 6:30 AM to the rousing cheers of our senior campers, who often play a Rocky theme song.  A brisk breakfast at 7 AM and onto the yellow school buses at 7:30 AM.  Kenny Moore masterfully keeps the 11-, 12-, and 13-and-Unders on target for smooth, organized departure.  After an hour bus ride, the Pemi contingent arrives at Tecumseh with 50 minutes before the starting gun, serve, or kick-off.  Meanwhile, at Pemi, the final dragging of the senior infield takes place, Jeff Greene rolls a few courts, water is delivered to each venue by the “Trippies,” the game balls are in place for the contests, and last of the breakfast tables are cleared.  The moment of anticipation builds as the Pemi home contingent of 10- and 15-and-Unders await the unmistakable rumble on the bridge from the arriving Tecumseh buses and vans.

The first morning contests were under way at 9:30 AM at both camps.  At Pemi, the 10-and-Unders found themselves locked in a tight baseball game.  Chris Houlihan mowed down the Tecumseh line-up in the first.  In the bottom of the first, Patterson Malcolm worked a two-out walk and Houlihan hit a deep shot to center that found a well-positioned Tecumseh fielder for the final out.  Unfortunately, Tecumseh scored five runs in the second when their number-nine hitter delivered a gapper to left center that scored two runs.  Three more runs unearned runs would follow for a commanding five -run lead.  Pemi battled against a very strong Tecumseh pitcher, but they could not find a hole in a very confident defense.   The 15’s Tennis team also found themselves in an equally competitive match.  The highlight of the match, and maybe the day, was Nick Barber’s victory in number-one singles.   After winning the first set, Nick dropped the second and ended up in a super tiebreaker and down by three points.  He was cool, calm, and focused as he skillfully dispensed of his talented, spirited, and flamboyant opponent.  Pemi ended up losing the match 5-2 with Austin Dorsey winning his match at 4th singles.

The second morning events at Pemi were the 10-and-Under soccer match and the 15-and-Under baseball game. The 10’s displayed amazing determination after their set-back in baseball.  The game was an up-and-down affair on the big, steamy field. Pemi scored first when Mikey Suski found an opening and blasted a shot that bounced off the goalie’s chest and into the goal.  Tecumseh evened the score when they scored on a free kick just outside the box, knotting the game at 1-1.  Pemi nearly pulled ahead when Patterson Malcolm’s free kick sent Jackson McNear in alone at the back post, the redirection nibbling the edge of the post.  With the wind at Tecumseh’s back in the second half, our visitors put us on our heals for a fair amount of the second half.  Sam Berman was brilliant in goal, making several game-saving stops. Malcolm, Johnny Seebeck, Owen Freid, and Jackson Welch defended a flurry of attacks and bought time for Pemi to mount dangerous counter-attacks. With Tecumseh committing three defenders to stop him, Suski whistled a shot just past the top right corner, and another rolled along the goal line before the Tecumseh keeper sprawled back for the ball. The game ended with a fair 1-1 tie, with both teams displaying incredible focus and commitment.

While the 10’s battled their way to a tie, the 15’s baseball team played in a “classic.”  Tecumseh rolled out one of the most polished three-pitch lefties seen in “camp” baseball.  However, Pemi received an equally impressive effort from Tecumseh Day warrior Danny Murphy.  Murphy entered the game 3-1 when pitching against Tecumseh and always finds his best game on this day.  Tecumseh scratched out a 2-0 lead while taking advantage of a few Pemi miscues. Undaunted, the Pemi nine hustled their way to a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth; Stan Barlow stole second and then scored on Owen Gray’s prodigious shot to straight away center.  If the ball had been hit to left, it would have hit the laundry room; if it had been hit to right, it would have cleared the tennis courts; unfortunately it was hit to dead center and rolled toward the tent-drying area. After coach Kerr called aggressively for the steal of third, Pemi could not deliver the tying run.  In the top of the seventh, Tecumseh loaded the bases with no outs, and Pemi miraculously escaped damage when a fly-out to center, a poorly timed tag-up at third, followed by a diving tag of a wayward runner resulted in a triple play.  In the bottom of the seventh, with lunch waiting on the table, Pemi could not scratch home the tying run.  Win or lose, it was clear that everyone who played or watched the game felt the intensity of the moment and the dominating respect for the game, and came away with a deep appreciation of the value of the day.

While Pemi found themselves down 0-3-1 at home, the 11’s, 12’s and 13’s started off their morning with clear momentum.  The 13’s swim team won a tight match-up 29-26. Will Oberlander took the butterfly with an impressive 34.58, and Will Nuelle won the freestyle.   The meet came down to the final relay race, and Daniel Traver, Sompy Somp, Oberlander, and Nuelle delivered a powerful performance and outswam Tecumseh by five seconds for the victory. The 11’s tennis team lost a heartbreaker 4-3.  Pemi received victories from Mitchell Cornell at second singles,  and doubles victories from the Duval brothers and Malcolm Roesser and Colin Alcus.  Thomas Bono lost 8-6 in a determined effort as the 11’s fell just short of helping Pemi sweep the early round of action at Tecumseh. Perhaps the most exciting match of the day at Tecumseh was the 12’s soccer game.  Despite holding 70% of the play, Pemi found themselves down 1-0 with eight minutes to go in the game.  With the tennis and swim teams cheering their side on, Julian Hernandez-Webster, “Man of the Match,” beat several defenders down the left flank before rifling a shot off the corner cross bar. The ball careened down into the box and Tecumseh was called for a handball. Hernandez-Webster buried the PK to tie the game and seize the momentum. With the defense of Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Charlie Parsons, and the inspiring Nat Healy shutting down Tecumseh’s attack while center mid Max Pagnucco ran the midfield, Pemi kept up a withering attack. With three minutes to go, Pemi served a corner kick into the box, and Will Robbins alertly jumped on the loose ball at the 18 and delivered a stunning volley “side netting” for the 2-1 victory.  After the final whistle sounded, Pemi held that same 2-1 lead at Tecumseh and had clearly built some momentum heading into the second round of events.

Our opponents at Tecumseh are rarely unnerved by athletic challenges. They spend two straight weeks preparing for Pemi Day. Each practice is held in the exact order and time of their future Pemi Day contest.  The Day marks the end of their inter-camp sports schedule, a crescendo event with tremendous build-up and pressure to win.  Each year they arrive with a wide range of Mohawks to celebrate the day, and their campers embrace Munger’s competitive drive that often pushes their teams forward during critical stages of the game.  The 11’s baseball team ran into a well-prepared Tecumseh nine that delivered a convincing 9-0 victory.  Colin Alcus pitched well for Pemi in defeat,  as we were unable to get our bats going.  Defensively, John Galbreath, Jamie Nicholas, and Mitchell Cornell played particularly well in the field.  The 12’s tennis team dropped an exciting match 4-3. Pemi garnered victories from Arthur Root at third singles and doubles victories from Will Robbins and Charlie Parsons along with Ben Chaimberg and Max Pagnucco.  Andrew Coe fought gallantly in defeat at first singles.  The 13’s Soccer team played perhaps Tecumseh’s top soccer team.  Pemi’s defense led by Carl Pohlman, Hartwell Green, Oliver Kafka, and a spirited Daniel Traver (whose hustle and determination set the bar for Pemi) held Tecumseh at bay for much of the first half.  Ben Nicholas and Oliver Gronloh orchestrated a creative attack, while Eric Gronloah and Sompy Somp put Tecumseh on their heels with strong dangerous runs.   Tecumseh scored first, but Sompy Somp delivered a goal to tie the game before half time.  Eric Rolfs was simply brilliant in goal for Pemi to keep the game tied at 1-all.  In the second half, Tecumseh flooded the flanks with dangerous athletic runs that put Pemi on their heels and eventually jumped on the scramble for loose balls in the box for the 3-1 victory. With Tecumseh’s impressive 13’s soccer triumph, they now held a commanding 7-2-1 lead on the day.  However, of the ten events, only one game was truly a lopsided affair.

After a very competitive morning at Pemi, followed by a late lunch, the 10’s tennis team and the 15’s soccer team met their respective opponents.  The 10’s fell quickly to a very talented Tecumseh team 7-0.  Patterson Malcolm, Ted Orben, Jackson McNear, and Sam Berman battled tough Tecumseh opponents in singles for Pemi.  The 15’s soccer game is one of the more keenly anticipated affairs between both camps’ “varsity” teams. Tecumseh scored first when soft Pemi marking left their left mid wide open at the 18, and he delivered a deflected shot through a screen of players that eluded Pemi keeper Dan Fullham.  In need of some mojo, Pemi unleashed Dana Wensberg and Danny Murphy up top, and their hustle and determination created some much-needed energy for the blue and gold. Eventually, Peter Ionno delivered the charging Murphy a perfect through ball, and he was taken down in the box. Ionno thereupon coolly struck the PK home to knot the game at 1-1. Tecumseh came out and played a very spirited second half; however, the defense of Owen Grey, Gus Walsh, Will Meinke, and Alex Fauver kept the Tecumseh attack at bay. Meinke played flawlessly at the sweeper position, while Alex Fauver single-handedly shut down his flank with crushing tackles and alert outlet passes. When Tecumseh did unleash shots, Fulham kept the ball out of the net and delivered long, towering kicks deep into Tecumseh’s zone. As Pemi stepped up their effort, they unleashed dangerous counter-attacks to the inspired Matt Cloutier.  With five minutes to go, Cloutier nearly scored the game-winner on a partial breakaway. Although the match ended in a 1-1 draw, the level of play displayed by both teams would reach the level of most high school varsity programs.

The 10’s and 15’s then made their way to the waterfront after a long day of heated contests. The 15’s met a very talented and deep Tecumseh swim team, but Peter Montante, Michael Montante, Daniel Fulham, and Buck Baskin swam a great free relay race despite being in a lopsided meet. The 10-and-unders were led by the dynamic swimming of Chris Houlihan, Byron Lathi, and Tanner Nugent.  The meet came down to the final free relay, but the gallant team of Houlihan, Lathi, Ted Orben, and Owen Freid fell just short, as Tecumseh pulled off the meet 30-25.

The afternoon events at Tecumseh continued a trend of disappointing losses for Pemi. The 11’s soccer team played one of the more impressive tactical matches of the day, as coach Cory Fauver played an “umbrella” defense with an extra defender to keep Tecumseh’s talented team at bay. Will Harned was spectacular in the net behind the defense of John Galbreath, Will DeTeso, Will Jones, Nick Pigeon and Harry Tuttle.  In the second half, Pemi countered with great midfield play by Jamie Nicholas, Thomas Bono, Mitchell Cornell. With only a few minutes left on the clock, Tecumseh was awarded a curious free kick after a ball was played out of bounds due to a Pemi injury. Tecumseh took advantage of the opportunity to seize the victory 1-0. The 12’s baseball team was also locked in a nail-biter, as Ned Roosevelt pitched a gem for Pemi (nine strikeouts and two walks), but the team could not deliver the key hit despite having runners on base in every inning.  Charlie Parsons and Nat Healy delivered two hits apiece in the losing effort. 13’s Tennis fell to a very strong Tecumseh team 7-0. Pemi received an excellent effort from Daniel Traver and Alex Baskin at number one doubles, and from Andreas Sheikh at two singles.

The final events at Tecumseh were the 11’s/12’s swim meet and the 13’s baseball game.  While the 12’s received a great effort from Julian Hernandez-Webster in the breast and IM and from their relay team of Max Pagnucco, Patrick Sullivan, Florian Dietl, and Cole Boland, they fell to a very strong Tecumseh team. The 11’s meet, like the 10’s’, came down to the final relay race. Tommy Witkop won the 25 butterfly by several lengths, while Colin Alcus and Thomas Bono went 1st and 2nd in the breast.  In the final and crucial free relay, Pemi lost by .06 seconds to drop the meet despite the heroic efforts of Witkop, Andrew DiGaetano, Alcus, and Bert Oberlander.  Amazingly, this was the third meet out of five that was decided on the final relay race. The 13’s finished the afternoon with an impressive 6-1 victory in baseball. Will Nuelle led Pemi on the mound, while Will Parsons and Daniel Traver provided crucial offense. Pemi played flawlessly in the field for coach Ben Walsh, who led his second team of the day to victory against Tecumseh.

The final score on the day was Tecumseh 15, Pemi 3, with 2 ties. As you can garner from the details of the day, the majority of the contests were spirited, close affairs. However, beyond the results of the individual contests, Pemi and Tecumseh’s athletes played with determination and incredible sportsmanship.  In the mess hall at noon and in the evening, players comfortably mingled and shared stories of the day and made connections. At Tecumseh, Jim Frazier presented Danny Kerr with a framed Tecumseh jersey embroidered with Thomas L. Reed Sr.’s name.  Jim, a former Denver Bronco, shared the deep respect and admiration he had for Tom, dating back over Jim’s sixty years of competition between the two camps.  While at Pemi, I spoke to our communities about how much Tom Reed appreciated competition and sportsmanship, especially the importance of respecting our opponents. I am confident Tom would have been very proud at the overall commitment of both camps to the true spirit of the day. Each individual is a guardian of a most honorable tradition, and I know we collectively met the challenge of competing with determination and grace.

~ Charlie Malcolm

Director of Athletics

Summer 2010: Newsletter #5

We wish you could all have been here this morning as another spectacular summer day dawned on Lower Baker. It was hard to imagine Pemi looking any more beautiful than it did last night after Taps, with a just-past-full moon washing the grounds in its velvet light. But shortly before Reveille this A.M., as we looked down on the pond from the hilltop, vertical wraiths of mist drifted down the still water on the slightest of breezes, translucent with the rising sun. Five or six feet in height, they could have been pilgrims wending their tranquil way towards some holy site. As it was, they vanished silently with the sun’s rising heat just as the boys broke from their cabins and charged into the lake for their Polar Bears. A mystical moment while it endured, and all the more so for its fleeting tenure.

As many of you know, our annual competition against Camp Tecumseh is renewed this Friday, and much of our energy this week has been going into preparations for that august day. Given the breadth of Pemi’s program, though, we haven’t abandoned music, art, nature, or trips. As we write, Jack Davini, Matt Fazekas, and Caleb Tempro are practicing piano in the Lodge, Dottie Reed is immersed in yet another Dyeing Wooly Critters occupation, and Deb Kure is enthralling yet another gaggle of our youngest campers in Junior Environmental Exploration. The Lake Tent and Lower Six have just trundled out of camp for a day trip up Mt. Cube (2800 feet), and three overnights involving Juniors and Lowers will be summiting Mts. Cube , Cardigan (3200 feet), and Carrigain (4700 feet) as well. (Now there’s an alliterative array!) What better time, in fact, to scribe a newsletter about our Trip Program?

Pemi has always tried to offer campers activities they can’t necessarily pursue at home, and our prime location amidst New Hampshire’s White Mountains lets us offer a range of wilderness experiences that might be hard to come by during a boy’s school year. Our hiking options range from day jaunts on local peaks (like Cube!) to extended backpacking trips in the Franconia or Presidential Ranges, and even as far away as Mt. Katahdin, in Northern Maine. Among the highlights for older boys are overnight stays at the high mountain huts run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, located at or above tree-line in spectacular alpine settings. Many a Pemi boy has consolidated his love for the high peaks at these rustic hostelries, watching the sunset with his mates following a hearty and delicious meal, then ducking back to the hut for a game of cards and a cup of hot chocolate before lights out. Outings closer to home include overnights at the Adirondack shelter on Pemi Hill directly behind camp (there’s one tonight for Upper Two!), or a paddle by canoe or kayak across the lake for supper at one of our sylvan cook-out spots (two tonight, for Junior One and Lower One!) We also run a number of paddling trips on local rivers, but the capstone of the Pemi canoeing program is the annual trip to the Allagash Waterway in Maine, where eight or ten of our seniors spend four days on remote and unspoiled lakes and rivers where they’re more likely to see moose grazing on the flora along the shore than encounter fellow travelers of a human sort.

We think that the trip program represents a crucial aspect of the broad Pemi program. Boys learn to reap the rewards of sustained effort in what can sometimes be demanding conditions. They learn the benefits of advanced planning as they organize gear and supplies for what can be days away from civilization. They learn a different kind of teamwork than they witness on the athletic field, including collective decision making skills and a sense of responsibility for the welfare and happiness of the entire group. And they also learn to appreciate both the power and the fragility of their natural environment, becoming wiser and more ecologically responsible in the process. Year after year, Pemi alumni tell us that the time they spent in the White Mountains was one of the most life-enhancing components of their camp experience.

This has all been pretty abstract. Let’s dip into specifics with accounts of recent Pemi outings penned by the participants themselves. First comes the record of Upper Four’s overnight at Greenleaf Hut in Week Three, as recalled by Abby Reed, Co-head of the Junior Camp who leapt at the chance to go on what is one of the very best of our mountain offerings. The second comes from Lake Tent denizens Mason Challinor, Teddy Gales, and Nick Barber, recently back from that banner Allagash expedition mentioned above. Abby’s account is fairly straightforward. The other is, well, rather Bean Soup, filtered through the inventive brains of some of our oldest and most spirited campers. Enjoy!

First from Abby: On July 14, 2010, the first-session members of Upper Four (plus a few lucky staff tag-ons) embarked upon the Old Bridle Path, a trail snaking up into the Franconia Range of the White Mountains. Our destination was the Greenleaf Appalachian Mountain Club Hut, a high-altitude hostel perched on the shoulder of Mt. Lafayette (5,260 ft.). Encouraged by the prospect of good company and a hearty, home-cooked meal at the hut, we began hiking in the early afternoon, led by U-4 counselor Sam Seymour. Following him were campers Brendon Armitage, Sam Davitt, Max Livingstone-Peters, Danny Murphy, Ben Nicholas, Carl Pohlman, Zach Popkin, and Nate Williams, as well as BUNACer Nick Ridley (counselor of many of the boys during the 2009 summer) and me. As we gained altitude, the warm deciduous forest gave way to the smaller flora of the slightly chillier subalpine zone. Our collective breath was taken away by the first real view, on a rocky outcrop affording a spectacular panorama of the ridgeline we were to traverse the following day. Although the very top of the ridge was shrouded in clouds, the view gave us a real sense of the altitude we had gained and the ground we would cover come tomorrow.

After one more hour of steady hiking, we emerged from the alpine treeline into a rocky clearing commanded by the sturdy Greenleaf Hut. While certainly not luxurious—no hot showers or turn-down service here—Greenleaf is spacious, clean, and comfortable, boasting a large kitchen/dining area with four long tables and spectacular views of mile-high Mt. Lafayette. Flanking this communal space are three rustic but comfortable bunkrooms (each bunk with a pillow and three wool blankets) and two basic bathrooms, complete with composting toilets and cold running water. Not bad for an inn so high that it’s literally in the clouds!

After claiming their bunks, the Pemi boys offered their assistance to the hut Croo and set the tables for dinner. Afterwards, we headed back outside to listen to the hut naturalist explain the ins-and-outs of maintaining a high-altitude hostelry. Among the hut’s distinctive features are its solar panels, wind turbine, and composting toilets, all of which decrease the hut’s reliance on propane. As the naturalist explained measures taken to deter an over-inquisitive black bear from the hut’s compost heap, we all appreciated the challenges posed by running an altitudinous B&B far from the conventional comforts of civilization.

By 6 o’clock, our stomachs were starting to grumble and we gratefully sat down to a hearty dinner prepared by the Croo chef. Along with the other hut patrons, we feasted on curried lentil soup, salad with homemade dressing, bread fresh from the oven, honey-baked ham, rice, and veggies. A quick rain shower passed through as we ate, but the sun came out just in time for dessert (fudge bars), bringing a vibrant rainbow with it. After dinner, several of our group walked to a nearby rocky lookout to watch the sun set over the valley, and many took advantage of the hut’s small retail shop to purchase synthetic Greenleaf t-shirts as souvenirs (and as extra layers for the next day’s breezy summits). After playing a few card games and writing a group entry in the hut log book, we headed to bed, pleasantly full and sleepy.

We woke at 6:30 the following morning to a song performed by a Croo member, and sat down at 7 to a hearty breakfast. Afterwards, two of the Croo performed a silly but informative skit instructing us in the proper way to fold our wool blankets in preparation for the next patron. The weather was sunny and clear, and after packing up our gear, we began the day’s hike. The first mile was a rocky scramble up the shoulder of Lafayette, and we were rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular 360-degree view of the White Mountains from the summit, including the verdant Pemigewassett Wilderness to the east. After snapping a few photos, we continued on our way along the Franconia Ridge, which, as it coincides with the Appalachian Trail, afforded us a chance to chat in passing with thru-hikers and casual “goofers” alike. As the morning progressed, the trail led us into and above fleecy white clouds, and we summitted Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack in quick succession.

Then, after hiking a solid five miles, we found ourselves at the top of Mt. Liberty. With yet another 360-degree view unfolding around us, we sat down together and enjoyed a traditional trail lunch of pepperoni, cheese, crackers, carrots, raisins, and cookies. With an entertaining story from Nick Ridley to send us on our way, we embarked on the last segment of the trip, a challenging 2.5 mile downhill stretch that brought us back down into the valley. We returned to camp proud of our efforts, with memories of great views, great weather, and great company to sustain us throughout the winter months.

Now for Mason, Teddy, and Nick’s account of the Allagsh trip, led by Pemi veteran staff members Andy Kirk and Noble Macfarlane:

Maine… the final frontier…  This is the voyage of the canoe trip: Pemi.  Our 5-day mission, to explore new waterways, to seek out new wildlife, to boldly go where few campers have gone before.

Star date 7/19/10: Captain Andrew Tiberius Kirk leads an inexperienced crew of 10 into the Maine Wilderness.  After discovering that a U-Haul trailer nullifies the ability to achieve warp speed, the crew began a grueling journey into the unknown.  Ten hours, several bacon, egg, and cheese bagels, and a posse of five-dollar foot longs later, the crew had arrived in what can only be described as Moose Country.  Chief Navigator Andy Kradjel’s intense desire to see “meese” drove him into an uncharacteristic fit of anxiety, which ironically prevented him from seeing the first four moose the crew actually  encountered.  After a meal of herbivoric food made by resident Vulcan Noble MacFarlane, the crew fell asleep.

Star date 7/20/10: The crew awoke the next morning and promptly put into the river.  Chief Navigator Kradjel, overcome with excitement, was no match for the foot-tall rocks of the Chase Rapids.  After turning the canoe back over, Andy and his damp companion were able to catch up with the rest of the crew and join them at Long Lake.  One hour into the trek across the lake the crew spotted their first moose of the day.  Resident dare devils Ritter and Levi managed to get within ten feet of the beast before returning to the rest of the group.  That evening the crew replenished their bodies with the delicacy known as mac and cheese and quickly returned to their resting pads for some much needed sleep.

Star date 7/21/10

The crew awoke to the scent of boiled oats and dehydrated fruits.  After a quick packing check the crew was off for their longest trek of the journey – 24 miles.  The day began with a rhythm of both excitement and good cheer as four more moose were spotted along the riverbanks.   But the good cheer would come to an end when a torrential rainstorm dumped gallons of water on what would have been dry clothes.  But all was not lost for the rain soon stopped and after a meal of oversized burritos, the crew returned to their quarters for some R and R.

Star date 7/22/10

The fourth day of the trip started as an extremely uneventful day for the crew only encountering one moose and going over very few rapids.  The men were getting restless and needed some fun, luckily a water fall and countless hours of swimming revitalized the crew enough to get to the final campsite where they are like kings and played hours of Frisbee.

Star date 7/23/10

The men of Pemi finally reached the end of the river at 8:30am that day and began the long journey home.

All in all it was an unforgettable trip.  Final count 11 moose, 9 bald eagles and 2 rabbits.  Thank you Andy and Noble for this amazing experience.

Finally, let me confess that I leapt at the chance to drive one of yesterday’s trips to the trailhead – at the base of Mt. Carrigain in the middle of the Pemigewassett Wilderness. Amidst the preparations for Tecumseh, it didn’t “fill,” but we decided to send it anyway. As a result, the staff/camper ration was remarkable – basically 1 to 1, as Trip Leader Hester Tittman, AC Matt Casey, and former staff member Dan Reed teamed up to supervise Tommy Witkop, Nick Bertrand, and Sparky Brown. The ride to the trail lasted over an hour and a half, as we wound our way over the shoulder of Mt. Moosilauke, the gorgeous Kancamagus Highway, and the Bear Notch Road before heading North into Crawford Notch and west up the Sawyer River. No sooner had seatbelts been buckled than Sparky proposed a word-guessing game that kept us all rapt until we rumbled across a backcountry bridge into the parking lot. You may know it. I didn’t. Someone comes up with a word (say, “elephant” — no proper nouns) and reveals its first letter (“e”) and the others attempt to guess what it is. “Is it a purple vegetable?” If the “word-holder” can say “No, it’s not an eggplant,” he’s safe. If he can’t think of a purple vegetable, ANY purple vegetable, beginning with an “e” – and others can – one of the guessers says “Contact,” and then counts to three. On three, if anyone else in the group of guessers also says (in this case) “eggplant,” the word-holder has to reveal another letter of the word. And so it goes, until the word is guessed – and the guesser comes up with the next challenge.

Maybe you had to be there, but the energy and laughter and merriment that filled the van for 90 minutes were amazing, and time honestly flew. It’s hard to recall a time that more fully epitomized the cliché “Fun for young and old.” I have to say that, once everyone had hopped out of their seats and shouldered their packs and started up the road towards the trailhead, it was all I could do not to lock the van and tramp right off into the cool woods along with them, ill-prepared as I would have been. On the best of trips, the rapport we had enjoyed begins to develop a day or so in, as logged miles and rest stops and meals shared around a campfire begin to work their magic. This time, it was all there from the start. Given the majesty of the mountain they’re climbing today – set in the very center of a mammoth circle of 4000-foot peaks – it’s hard to imagine the heights of camaraderie they will achieve. We should all be so fortunate. More mystical moments – the lasting stuff of life-long memories.

— Tom Reed, Jr.

27 July 2010

Caring for a Northern Flicker at Pemi

I was lucky enough to spend 10 days at Pemi this July, and one of my most memorable experiences while there was this: I was walking by the Nature Lodge when some campers called out that they were caring for a baby bird, while supervised by Wayne Scott and Deb Kure. It turns out that the bird had been rescued by Julia Kerr, who saw it fall from a tree after being attacked by what looked like a red squirrel; she picked it up in the interest of keeping her household pets away from it.

It was a Northern Flicker, a type of woodpecker, and over the next few days Wayne (an ornithologist) and the campers cared for it. The bird would hungrily guzzle down bits of worms that Wayne would feed it, easing the food down its mouth with a pair of tweezers. Its strong woodpecker claws would grip tightly onto Wayne’s hand, and all the while it made the most adorable squeaky “feed me!” calls. Its temporary home in the Nature Lodge was a small cardboard box with paper towels in it, which sat within a metal cage to keep any would-be predators away. (Click here to watch a cute video of Deb Kure feeding the bird in July.)

Wayne weighed it each day, and we all watched it grow and develop from a slightly injured baby bird that seemed like it might not survive, to a vigorous-looking woodpecker with brown and gray feathers and a splash of red on the back of its head.

Eventually, Wayne dropped it off with the able people at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. We wish it well– may it have a long, happy life, filled with lots of delicious critters for supper!

-Rob Verger

Editor’s note: We thought we’d explain with a little more detail the process behind caring for the Flicker and then bringing it to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Pemi’s Head of Nature, Larry Davis, explains: “The flicker was brought in and we immediately began to look for a rehabilitator while we gave the bird the care that we could. We did get the list [of rehabilitators] and started calling. Several were already ‘full’ and we finally found one in Madison, all the way across the state. She could not commit to taking the bird for two or three days, at which point we were able to ‘contract’ with the Science Center to keep the bird until the rehab person from Madison could pick it up.”