A Look at Pemi’s Day-to-Day Nature Program

2016 Newsletter # 5

by Larry Davis, Director of Pemi’s Nature Program

In years past, I have used the opportunity to write a newsletter as a chance to wax philosophic about the importance of getting children out into nature, about the excitement of some of our special activities (such as caving), or about the history of natural history at Pemi. It has been a while since I described our day-to-day program. So, for the rest of this newsletter, that’s just what I’ll do.

Each week we offer 14-17 different nature occupations. Some of these are available every week and others may appear only once. You’ll find a glimpse of this week’s offerings at the end of the newsletter. All told, 35-40 nature occupations are available over the course of a summer.

Our scope is broad and includes both natural history topics—such as ponds and streams, forest ecology, rocks and minerals, and butterflies and moths—along with related fields such as nature photography and drawing, orienteering, bush lore and “weird science.” Much of what we teach is available at both beginning and advanced levels so that a Pemi camper can continue to explore new aspects of the natural world as he progresses through his career at camp. What follows is a description of just a few of our offerings.

Beginning Occupations

Our beginning activities follow a set lesson plan and are typically offered every week during the summer. They are designed to serve as an introduction to one or more aspects of nature. Topics include, Butterflies and Moths, Non-Lepidopteris Insects (that’s everything except butterflies and moths), Rocks and Minerals, Ponds and Streams, Digital and Darkroom Photography, among others.

Nature at PemiOur overall introduction to the program itself, Junior Environmental Explorations, is required for all new juniors. The lesson plan was written by former Associate Head of Nature Programs, Russ Brummer, as part of his Masters Degree program at Antioch-New England. Russ is now head of the Science Department at the New Hampton School. The objectives are to get the kids comfortable outdoors, to get them observing, and to get them thinking about how what’s going on “out there” is related to them. Each day of the 5-day week, the campers explore a different aspect of the natural world. One day is devoted to the forest, another to our streams, others to our lake and swamp, to insects, and to rocks and minerals. The activities are outdoors, in the forest, in the stream or lake, and experiential. We look, explore, feel, smell, and listen. For example, in the forest, we ask the boys to lie down on their backs and look at the trees and sky above them. How many colors can they see? What sounds to they hear? What does it feel like when they dig their fingers into the soil?

We hope that by the end of the week, they’ll be interested enough to come back for more, and most do. Frequently, in their free time, they’ll head back, on their own, to some of the places they visited during the occupation, and explore further. If this happens, then we’ve succeeded in accomplishing our objectives.

Beginning Butterflies and Moths

We start out in the Nature Lodge asking the question, “What is an insect?” To answer this we use models and our extensive reference collection of insects from our area. Campers find out that insects have six legs, three body parts (the head, the thorax, and the abdomen), two antennae, and compound eyes (ones with many lenses instead of the single one that humans have). To demonstrate these, we have special glasses that a boy can wear to help him experience what it is like to look through compound eyes. We even have a little song that helps campers remember all of this. I wish I could sing it to you, but you’ll have to be satisfied with just the lyrics for now. Ask your son to sing it when he gets home.

Head, thorax, abdomen
Six legs!
Head, thorax, abdomen
Six legs!
Compound eyes and two antennae
Head, thorax, abdomen
Six legs!

DSCI0005Once we know what insects are in general, we can explore several different kinds—beetles, bugs, flies, dragonflies and so on. This finally gets us to the Lepidoptera (scaly wing in Latin), that is, butterflies, moths, and skippers. With a hand lens, campers can look at the scales and see the difference between butterflies and moths. All of this takes two days. In the meantime, they are encouraged to come in during free time to begin construction of an insect net. These are still made the same way as they were 75 years ago, with some mosquito netting sewn together for the bag, the bag sewn to a wire coat hanger bent into a loop, and the whole contraption attached to a stick made from a cut tree branch. Not particularly elegant, but quite utilitarian. Towards the end of the week we go out to our traps and local fields to collect. This gives us the opportunity to discuss the difference between collecting and accumulating, the reasons (scientific) for collecting, collecting ethics (one specimen only of each type), and methods for preserving and labelling collections.

As with all our beginning occupations, once a camper has taken the introductory occupation, he is ready to move on to more advanced topics. He might choose, for example, to continue learning about butterflies and moths or perhaps he’ll choose to explore in-depth a different category of insects, such as beetles, dragonflies, and ants. Most beginning occupations are open to all campers, from Junior 1 to the Lake Tent and most have a wide range of ages enrolled.

Advanced Occupations

DSCI0015Our advanced activities are designed to take campers to the next level. Most do not have set lesson plans but rather are more freeform, and hence can be taken repeatedly. For example, an advanced butterfly and moth class will involve considerable observation and collecting. We might explore (in the field, of course) such topics as camouflage, insect defenses, flight characteristics, mating behavior, feeding behavior, predators, and more. Of course, as summer progresses, the species that are in our surroundings will change so, even if a boy takes the advanced class every week, the class will still be different.

Wetland Ecology

Wetland Ecology follows the beginning occupation, Ponds and Streams. We are fortunate to have excellent wetlands right on our campus. Our “Lower Lake” (to the left of the bridge as you enter camp) is actually a separate body of water from our main lake. It is a glacial kettle formed as the ice retreated. A block of ice was probably left behind, buried, and when it melted it created the lake. It provides a perfect setting for our Wetland Ecology occupation. Here we can see a textbook example of pond succession. Over time, floating plants trap sediments. These, in turn, provide a substrate for marsh plants such as sedges and rushes. These trap even more sediment which allows woody plants such as sweet gale, meadowsweet, and alder to grow. Finally, the decaying mass is sufficiently elevated that swamp plants, such as red maple can take root. It takes several thousand years to convert the open waters of a shallow kettle lake into a wooded swamp with a stream flowing through it. But since the conversion works from the outside in, at any point in time along the way, we can see the processes unfolding.

Of course, that is just the big picture. Each habitat, open water, marsh, bog, swamp, has its own set of plants, fish, insects, birds, and mammals. They are all there for us to observe. Some are quite exotic such as the insect-eating sundews that inhabit the bog areas, or the orchids that are sometimes found in the transition between bog and swamp. Throughout the occupation week we can explore and make the connections between the elements of the food webs and see what changes over time.

Specialized Occupations

Specialized occupations are those at the highest content level. For example, last week we had a class that focused only on Lichens. We’ve also had classes this year on ferns and decomposers, which match the special interests of some of our nature staff members. In years past, we had specialized occupations focusing on ants, caddisflies, dragonflies, and bees and wasps. This year, in week 3 (to be offered again in week 6) we taught Geo Lab, which consists of a series of field trips to sites of particular geologic interest-trips that usually last the whole afternoon. We did gold panning in the Baker River, explored the caves and glacial features of the Lost River Reservation, travelled to the Basin and Boise Rock in Franconia Notch, made a special geologic trip to the Palermo Mine, and visited the Sculptured Rocks area. These specialized activities may be offered only once or twice a summer, and each with 4 or 5 participants. They provide new challenges for our most interested campers so that even someone in his 8th summer can still find new and engaging areas of the natural world to investigate with us. Some boys have followed their passions into careers in the natural sciences. All seem to develop an interest in something that can give them pleasure throughout their lives.

Hybrid Occupations

DSCI0009This category includes activities that combine nature and art, such as photography, nature arts and crafts, and environmental sculpture, and activities that combine nature with outdoor pursuits, such as bush lore, wild foods, and orienteering. With photography, we are following in the tradition of a long line of famous artists such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter and, in some sense, this is literal since we do black and white film photography (we have our own small darkroom) along with more modern digital photography. We try to go beyond snapshots so the campers learn to consider composition, light, shutter speed, focus and exposure when creating their photographs. The best negatives are printed in our darkroom and the best digital photos are printed out for display. Many will appear in our art show at the end of the summer.

The combination of nature and outdoor pursuits has its roots in the skills needed for survival in ancient societies. The first class in each week’s Wild Foods occupation focuses on what it might have been like to live here 600 years ago. We imagine that we are part of the band of 20 or 25 Native Americans that might have been living here then. What food resources would we have had available to us? How could we store our food so that it (and our band) could last through the long New England winter? Who knew what plants were edible, and which were poisonous, and where and when were they available? How did they pass this information along? We continue to consider these questions as we enjoy whatever nature offers us that week. Last week, for example, we collected blueberries and had blueberry/cornmeal pancakes with maple syrup (made in Warner, NH by Pemi alum Bob Zock). We also made fritters with milkweed flowers and ate boiled young milkweed pods (and you thought milkweed was poisonous, right? It just has to be cooked properly to remove the toxins. Who found this out, anyway?) This week we’ve gathered some ripe chokecherries. These too are almost inedible when raw but delicious when cooked. They can be dried, like raisins, or made into a jelly, or even (just found this recipe) made into a soft-drink syrup that can be mixed with soda water to make a cooling summer drink. Speaking of drinks, we’ve made mint tea, birch tea, wintergreen tea, and rose hip tea, this from rose hips gathered here at camp last fall and dried. Later this summer we’ll make sumac tea, which tastes just like lemonade. Interestingly enough, all of this has had some practical applications for some of our campers. Boys on last week’s Allagash trip—of whom many were past Wild Foods occupation participants—reported that they found a large patch of mint and made themselves a big batch of refreshing mint tea.

Conclusion

I hope that this brief summary has given you a peek into our varied instructional program. To find out more, why not ask your boys when they return home? Better yet, head on out into the woods, the lakes, the streams, and let them show you. Here at Pemi Nature, we always think that showing is better than telling.

 

Nature occupations offered during week 4 of the 2016 Pemi season. The numbers in parentheses indicate the maximum enrollment for the occupation. Notational symbols indicate age and experience restrictions.

Nature occupations offered during week 4 of the 2016 Pemi season. The numbers in parentheses indicate the maximum enrollment for the occupation. Notational symbols indicate age and experience restrictions.

Sunday Meeting: Reflections on Al Fauver

2016 Newsletter # 4

How it happened so quickly we don’t know, but today we reach the mid-point of the 2016 season. While the eighty-five full-session boys plunge and slither at the Whale’s Tale water park in nearby North Woodstock, their eighty-five cabin mates call an end to their season and return to their homes (or perhaps head off to Nantucket or vacation points even more distant) for the remainder of the summer. It’s been a great three and a half weeks for them, marked by sunny weather, some stunning mountain and river trips, and an overwhelmingly successful athletic season. Add in the huge range of occupations Kenny Moore documented last week, a steady run of lively and entertaining special events, and scrumptious and copious output from our revitalized kitchen, and it’s no surprise that some of the farewells this morning have been especially wistful. Tomorrow, of course, brings us eighty-five eager new faces, and we ramp up again for the final session. We’ll be more than ready to go.

Speaking of readiness, eagerness, and going, the twenty Senior camp participants in this year’s Allagash expedition climbed into two of our Ford Transit vans at 6AM this morning and headed off to Millinocket for what is sure to be a highlight of their final year as campers. The party is sufficiently large that we’ve had to break it into two groups. George Cooke, Ethan Elsaden, Lucas Gaffney, Henry Jones, Nolan Katcher, James Minzesheimer, Reed O’Brien, Pierce Haley, Andrew Kanovsky, and Dash Slamowitz with paddle under the vigilant eyes of staff members Charlie Malcolm (finally getting to one of those peskily resistant on his bucket list) and Jackson Reed. Travelling within radio range, and often within eyesight, but by park regulations as a separate group, will be Reed Cecil, Sam Beesley, Nick Bowman, Jake Cronin, Rafe Forward, Thaddeus Howe, Tucker Jones, Jackson Morrell, Will Adams, and Nick Carter, led by veteran Trippie Harry Morris and first-year Kiwi outdoorsman Zacc Dwan. Their four-day paddle will take them through Chamberlain, Eagle, and Churchill Lakes and then down the moderate rapids below Churchill Dam to their pull-out in Umsaskis Lake. Look to their letters for more details, but count on their having a transformative experience, complete with bald eagles, moose, and myriad other unforgettable memories.

Al Fauver in his classic red truck. 1978.

Al Fauver in his classic red truck. 1978.

Pemi’s Allagash outing was inaugurated close to a half-century ago by Director Al Fauver, about whom many of you have heard. Al was the son of Pemi co-founder Edgar Fauver, and for many years counted the supervision of trips among his countless (and tireless) contributions to camp. As recounted in the Pemi blog, Al died this past winter at the age of 100 after a long and wonderful life. Hundreds of us were fortunate enough to have celebrated his century mark with Al last August, and as a second movement in our tribute to this transcendent Pemi figure, yesterday’s Sunday meeting was dedicated to telling the present camp population a little more about the man. Among the speakers were Peter and Jon Fauver, Al’s sons, and Larry Davis, head of our Nature Program. Their words overflowed with warmth and appreciation for Al’s contributions to every aspect of Pemi’s program and physical plant. Also sharing their thoughts and memories with a rapt audience were Tom Reed, Kenny Moore, and Al’s grandson Jameson Fauver. Their digitally-captured words follow.

First, Tom:

My father, Tom Reed, Sr. loved the hills and high peaks, but it was Al Fauver who made them my favorite part of the planet. Al had a vast knowledge of the White Mountains, something he consolidated as a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s elite Trail Maintenance Crew. Driving Al’s knowledge was a deep and abiding love for the New Hampshire wilds, something that must have played a part in his joining the history faculty at The Holderness School in Plymouth, just sixteen miles from here, where he made his off-season career.

Al ran the trip program at Pemi for over 35 years, having taken it over from his uncle, Doc Win Fauver, in the nineteen-forties. Al’s tenure was in an age before cushy frame packs, Gore-tex jackets, and lightweight backpacking stoves. The trips he ran were “old school” – blanket rolls and ponchos, high-top basketball sneakers, tarps instead of bug-netted tents. There was no tech craze for Al. He taught us to make do with the simplest equipment – adequate with no frills. A week of campcraft instruction preceded every three- or four-day outing, and we learned how to select campsites, how to tie knots, how to cut spruce boughs for our beds, how to string up a poncho to defeat the rain. You sometimes felt you were heirs to a school of wilderness survival that stretched all the way back to Lewis and Clark.

Flat Rock, Pemi Hill, day trips up Cube and Moosilauke, overnights at Greenleaf Hut or canoeing on the Connecticut River, three-days in the Kinsman’s, four days in the Mahoosucs – Al perfected them all. Even after severe arthritis kept him from hitting the trail himself, Al clearly loved sending others out to the rivers, and ridges, and high peaks that he had explored and loved as a younger man. He always sought you out personally after a trip, asking how it had gone, relishing every detail of weather and view and event. “Is that old fire warden’s cabin still standing south of Smarts?” he’d ask. Or “Did you find that huge pot-hole down beneath the falls?” The sparkle in his eyes as he listened told you everything you needed to know about the man’s passion. 

I was flattered beyond words when Al asked me to step into his shoes as Trip Head back in the 70s, and even now I constantly ask myself, when the trippies and I are discussing a route or something unanticipated pops up on a trip, “What would Al do?” In some ways, what I came to appreciate most about Al was his amazing sense of logistics. Working with two and a half trucks (remember what I said last Sunday about his little red pick-up!), he could get more trips bouncing around the White Mountains than I can generally manage with three vans and two big buses. If General Eisenhower had known about Al, he probably would have signed him on to help plan D-day.

Somehow, Al got to be known around camp at The Weatherman, not only our best prognosticator but also personally responsible for whatever happened with the sun and clouds and wind. What amazes me, in those days before satellites and computers and Doppler radar, is how often Al got his forecast right, fitting a half dozen trips into an eighteen hour slice of fine weather in between torrential rains.

It was actually one of the times Al got the weather wrong that he showed what a great boss and kind soul he was. He’d sent my cabin out for an overnight at the base of Mt. Carr (the big mountain you see from the messhall porch) predicting we would stay dry. We awoke at about 5 AM with raindrops plinking on our closed eyes. No sooner had we had a chance to contemplate how challenging it would be to start a fire in the mounting deluge – something big enough to cook our breakfast over – than Al sauntered into the campsite with a half dozen dry split logs in his pack. “Guess I didn’t see this coming,” said Al with a smile. “Thought I’d join you for breakfast.” Within fifteen minutes, Al had a roaring blaze going and proceeded to cook up the best batch of scrambled eggs and bacon any of us had ever tasted.”

Al was that kind of guy. You came to care about what he cared about. You came to love what he loved.

Next, Kenny:

Al Fauver.

Good Enough is the enemy of the best.”

A slogan taught to me by Al Fauver back in 2001. That year, I began work as Head of the Dock Crew, and Al was integral in teaching me the basics of building a safe swimming area, the nuts and bolts of dock work. He explained the process, very specific in nature on how to tackle this herculean task. The challenge: place two perfectly parallel and straight dock piers, exactly 25 yards apart. “Aim,” he said, “for the white birch just to the left of the notch on Sugarloaf (the hill on the far end of Lower Baker).” “If you follow that mark, the docks will be straight,” he finished with a glint in his eye. I stood there on the beach with the other rookie members of dock crew, and gazed towards the other end of the pond, searching for that white birch. I challenge all of you next time on Senior Beach to see how close this year’s dock crew was to Al’s white birch.

Al joined us that summer, hammering in the first pipe (“leg” in dock vernacular) when he was in his mid 80’s. We all stood around the dock, holding it in place, as he wielded the sledge with remarkable precision, landing the head of the hammer squarely on the pounding cap, sending the leg through the bracket and into the floor of Lower Baker. And when the feet, the pipes that sit on the sandy floor of the lake, were in place, we cranked the set-screw on the bracket to set the dock.  

“Is it level,” he asked. “Good enough,” someone in the group said. Al replied, “Good enough is the enemy of the best.” His comment, that slogan, resonated instantly with all of us. We suddenly realized we didn’t just want good enough, we wanted to achieve the best. That’s the standard that Al set in every task that fell to him. “Any task that’s worth doing is worth doing well,” Al would say. If you spend time and your energy, don’t you want it to speak well for you? Your hard work? Your dedication? Your work is a direct representation of you. That’s the standard Al set, and what we all worked towards.

Dock Crew is usually comprised of 6 counselors, each with a role, and if everyone works together, the task becomes very efficient. You have your sight guy, someone for legs, feet, ankles, the hammerer, the deep-water man, the leveler, and the setter. The rhythm of putting each dock in place requires each person to play his part, and when it’s all done right, it’s a beautiful thing. While the task may at first seem impossible, the challenge when embraced by all becomes a rallying cry, a goal for all to work for. But that’s the fun of it, too – working together towards a goal, with all members carrying their own weight.

Whenever Al tackled a task, he brought that good nature and fun spirit to the job at hand. I can’t tell you how many Alums speak to me about their experience on Al’s Crew, a collection of campers and young counselors who worked with Al on a variety of projects. They all comment about the life lessons that Al taught them: how to approach a task, how to work cooperatively together, and how to have fun while working hard.

At the end of each Pemi season, during the Staff Banquet, Al would always comment about how the docks were stacked for the winter at Senior Beach. The Dock Crew would disassemble the docks and stack them in very precise, neat piles, near the road. That way, they would be protected in the winter from the ice rising in the lake. Al would say after his annual inspection, “I know the quality of the Pemi Staff this year was strong, as those docks are perfectly stacked. This must have been a great summer”

The Dock Crew knew that Al would be looking, checking to see if they had the energy and pride in their work. Did they do just a good enough job, or did they strive for the best, even though stacking the docks is a tiny part of the many things done at Pemi? Think about what it represents: the attention to detail; the pride in finishing a task to the best of our ability; the teamwork necessary for accomplishing the goal. Those are the important things. Those are the symbols of Al’s legacy.

I will always remember Al for his good nature, his grandfatherly presence and advice to me in my years on staff, and his love for Pemi. If we all love Pemi, then we all love Al, as he was key in forming the ethos of the camp we cherish.

Finally, Jameson, his words delivered under the smiling gaze of Bertha Fauver, Al’s widow, sitting in the front row.

My name is Jameson Fauver and I spent eight summers here as a camper and three as a counselor. Al Fauver was my grandfather, and when I think of him, I think of a great man who took advantage of all the things and places the world had to offer. 

Al played the Tuba. Al was a swimmer at Oberlin College. Al was a sailor. Of course, he was an avid hiker and outdoorsman. And, some of my best memories of my grandfather are from sharing time on the golf course.

He lived to 100 years because he was blessed with good health, but also because he kept busy doing not just one thing but many different things. So, perhaps one lesson you can take away from looking back on Al’s life is that a true life – a full life – is about filling it with many different people you love but also finding many different things that you love to do.

As we all know, one of the things that make Pemi a special place is the huge range of program offerings. Not many places you can spend your summer offer the opportunity to explore Nature, Sailing, the Arts, Athletics, Music, and Hiking all in the same stretch of time, and for many of you, in the same day! Yet, an expansive program does not mean much unless you take advantage of it. After just a day and a half here on my current visit, I know that the spirit to trying new things is definitely alive and well here, something that would make my grandfather very proud.  

Yesterday, Danny asked me to coach the 15’s baseball game. I said “of course.” And then he said, “Most of the team is away so you’ll have to find some players!!” We were in fact two ballplayers short of nine. Fortunately, I was sitting with Emmanuel Abbey and Alex Zapata. They hadn’t played baseball in five years, but when I asked if they would play, they said, “Why not? We’re game. Who knows how well we’ll do or even if we’ll have fun! But you never know, unless you try.”

I think Al had that spirit in spades, and he would be happy to see how many of the people sitting in this room are taking advantage of the opportunity life gives us every day to try something new, speak with someone we don’t know, or to explore unchartered territory in every sense of the word. So please, in memory of Al, whether you have just a day left at Pemi this summer or three and a half more weeks, make sure to try something new.

Thank you all — and special thanks to Bertha Fauver, who fueled Al’s lively spirit for so many years.

And so we celebrated, with a clarity and forcefulness that no one could miss, the memory of a man who gave as much as anyone possibly could to the camp he loved so well. As you’ll gather from what Tom and Kenny And Jameson had to say, Al’s remarkable legacy is alive and well at Pemigewassett.

With that we’ll close. We look forward to being in touch again in a week’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occupations

2016 Newsletter #3

[This week’s Newsletter comes from Assistant Director Kenny Moore. Kenny heads up our general program, and he offers here some observations on daily “occupations,” as we have long called our instructional activities, and on community service at camp as well.]

Each new week of Pemi occupations starts on Monday, although planning has begun the previous Tuesday. First, the Program Heads meet to map out the upcoming week. We’ll look at the pre-set general camp schedule; which trips are heading out, the athletic calendar, or other special events. These help determine what individual offerings each of Pemi’s Programs will be offering for the boys. The Program Heads will then reach out to their instructors to discuss occupation possibilities, and return their schedules to me. Combining them is a puzzle, as I balance options for every division each hour, and ensure that instructors are not double-booked. What results is a pretty amazing collection of choices, as evidenced by Week 3’s Occupation Choices. Click the link, take a look, and choose wisely!

Counselors review the week’s offerings with each of their campers individually to pick out a First and Second Choice for each hour of occupations. As you can see, some popular and space-limited occupations are deemed first-choice only: Waterskiing, Woodshop, Sailing, and Archery are extremely sought after and fill up quickly. Not a good idea for a Second Choice. Having a good back-up is essential!

More than 1,000 occupation choices are input for our 170 campers, and through a variety of filters, the result is 170 individual occupation schedules. Next up, staffing. Understanding how many boys are in a particular occupation – say Track & Conditioning with 22! – will help guide the number of instructors given to that occupation. Our teaching staff is comprised of a shade under 60 people, with some specializing in one program area and others being generalists who fill much-needed roles in a variety of areas. Camper-Counselor ratios dictate placement for water-related activities, as safety is always the priority.

On Monday mornings, all the hours and days spent planning the week come to fruition, as the entire community heads off to first hour, each with his individual plan of action. The occupation week lasts for five days, before we begin the process again. Once the hour is up and running, the opportunity to walk around camp and see the interaction between campers, counselors, and instructors is priceless. Witnessing boys trying something new and different, older boys assisting younger campers, and the joy of being together, outside, in this beautiful location shows the program in its most vibrant form. The dynamism truly gives the camp its energy. Here’s a peek….

woodworking at Pemi

Ian Hohman’s “inspection wheel”

Upper-Senior Woodshop is a two-hour block of time for our oldest boys to create and develop projects. Noah Bachner was in the midst of sanding his beautifully crafted Adirondack Chair, a project that he started last week under the guidance of Harry MacGregor, Pemi’s Head of Woodshop. Emmanuel Abbey appeared close to finishing his small chest, awaiting further help from Harry. Counselor Michael DiGaetano assisted Ian Hohman by hanging up Ian’s project, a job board for his cabin (U3). Ian wood-burned each of his cabinmate’s names on the wheel, along with various Inspection jobs on the mounting board, promising a daily spin to improve the efficiency of cabin clean-up. A Wheel-of-Fortune for tidy living spaces. Smart thinking, Ian!

Staying within our Art Program, a trip to Laura’s Art World illustrated a pretty spectacular scene; the interaction between our oldest campers and our youngest. Campers in her Hemp/Paracord Occupation ranged from Senior 1 (Patrick Snell & Suraj Khakee) all the way down to Junior 3 (Sam Young). Laura provided instruction for their first day’s lesson: learning how to braid. Next, I took a trip down the road to Junior Nature Book, a classic Pemi occupation dating back multiple decades, and found another group of campers of all ages. Lake Tent denizen Pierce Hayley assisted Juniors Kieran Klasfeld & Augie Tanzosh, picking up leaves of red-oak and striped maple for their books. Pierce, who has completed his Junior Nature Book (JNB), is studying for his JNB Field Test, a requirement for the Pemi Brave.

Nature drawing at Pemi

Henry Jones in Nature Drawing

Just up the road from the Junior Nature Book Occupation, I found Jack Cottman out in the field for Advanced Digital Photography. Jack was in search of insects for his macro-photography assignment, aiming to get as close as possible. Inside the Nature Lodge, Ray Seebeck led a group in Nature Drawing, another mixed-age occupation. Senior Henry Jones worked diligently on his dinosaur drawing, meticulously matching the image from his book. Walker Bright and Nate Broll followed his example, drawing the “eye of the tiger,” looming within a grassy landscape. The group is first practicing the skill of drawing from nature by sketching from a book. Later in the week, they will add color and choose a subject outside in nature itself.

The first two hours of each occupation week provide the best time for our Gilbert & Sullivan choruses to rehearse with very limited interruption. Last week, Major General Stanley’s Chorus of Wards learned their classic tune, “Climbing over Rocky Mountain,” and were asked to sing it without music. I think they fared pretty well. (Check it out for yourself.)  Sounds like they’ll be ready for Opening Night on August 8.

tennis at Pemi

Jamie Acocella

Over in Tennis for 12 & 13 year olds, Chris Johnson officiated a game of Tennis Survivor, a game designed to eliminate unforced errors. Each participant kept track of his own score, aiming to have the lowest possible. Points would accumulate for unforced errors, whereas points would be subtracted if the shot were a “winner.” Players would alternate shots, and Jamie Acocella and Mac Hadden worked seamlessly on one side of the net.

baseball at Pemi

Andreas Geffert

Next up in 12 & Under Baseball, sixteen campers worked between three hitting stations: soft-toss, the batting cage, and live-action batting practice on the diamond. Colgate-bound Zach Leeds threw meatballs to Andreas Geffert and Ollie O’Hara for batting practice, while Gray Klasfeld and Jonathan Gelb helped each other with their hand-eye coordination for soft toss.

soccer at Pemi

Coach Darryl Mainoo

Just beyond the baseball diamond on the Rittner pitch, the 15 & Under Soccer Occupation neared its conclusion. The group was locked in an 8 v. 8 scrimmage, focused on long range passing. Graham Winings did his best Kyrie Irving impression (Yes, I know, wrong sport. Stay with me) by offering up a perfect through-ball to the feet of fellow Clevelander Elliot Muffet, who, a la LeBron James, perfectly placed the ball past the keeper into the back of the net. (This born-and-bred Clevelander had to get one Cleveland Cavaliers reference in here somewhere, right?!) Before the scrimmage, coaches Ben Walsh and Darryl Mainoo instructed their nineteen players in two specific drills. First, partner-passing with increased width and distance, and then the three cone drill, a very precise rotating drill that allows each player to adjust to the varying distance of his passing partner. Tiering instruction by starting with an essential skill, building it up, and then applying it to a game environment is a tried-and-true method at Camp Pemi.

In Beginning Archery, Instructor Steve Clare spends the majority of the first day of each new week reviewing the rules for the range. His current group, he reported, was super attentive,  listening with great interest. This focus allowed the boys the chance to shoot two rounds of arrows with their remaining time. For beginners, Steve replaces the normally colorful Archery targets with blank canvasses, asking the shooters to just think about hitting the target. Aslan Peters did more than that, and had two perfectly hit center shots during the practice. As the group becomes more comfortable and knowledgeable in the coming days, Steve will guide them through sighting, scoring, and pace.

The routine of occupations provides the structure necessary for us to accomplish our goals of learning and/or improving upon a wide range of skills and knowledge bases. Older campers work alongside younger campers, allowing special relationships to form and grow. The connection between an instructor and a camper also strengthens as staff teach not only practical skills, but also other values as well: how to be confident in experimenting with something new, how to help out a teammate when in need, how to treat one another, and how to develop as an individual within our supportive, inclusive community. Occupations really are Pemi magic.

Community Service

In the very early days of Pemi, campers and counselors would arrive simultaneously to work on the facility for the current camp season. Since then, boys have always helped improve the facility by assisting the staff via Camp Aide jobs, or by giving back in other ways. Shop projects or other community-service-type initiatives have dotted the landscape for many years.

In recent years, Pemi campers have taken on a few Community Service initiatives supporting our surrounding communities. This is a great opportunity for the boys to connect with the larger Wentworth, Upper Valley, and greater New Hampshire communities. We’ve talked before about the Cans from Campers initiative, benefiting the New Hampshire Food Bank, which has been tremendously successful in just two years of existence. Other camps have joined the effort, and we anticipate that this project will grow dramatically in the next few years.

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Pemi’s Prouty Volunteers

For at least the last five years, Pemi, under the guidance of Deb Kure, has assisted The Prouty, a fundraising event to benefit Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center. There are many ways to participate in this athletically-driven fundraiser, including golfing, rowing, walking, and cycling. More than 5,000 people participate in this annual event, and Pemi is proud to assist the cyclists that ride 77 or 100 miles. Our Stop And Go (SAG) site, next to the Mt. Cube Sugar Shack on the top of Mount Cube, is at mile marker 25 and has become a crowd favorite of the cyclists, owing to our good cheer and our food, intended to refuel and replenish.

This summer, we’ve partnered with the town of Wentworth to help celebrate our camp-town’s 250th Anniversary.  Pastor Margaret Bickford of the Wentworth Congregationalist Church led the way for the Celebration Committee, which has scheduled events each month for the town to gather together and celebrate their historic anniversary. Back on July 3, a group of Pemi Seniors traveled IMG_6158down to the Town Hall to assist the Committee for their Fourth of July event. “America, a Music Tribute,” was an inspiring performance and a genuine example of the strength of small-town America. Backed by a group of singers performing patriotic tunes, a narrator intermixed snippets of famous speeches in American History. Pemi provided refreshments, and worked to clean up the venue once the show ended. In addition, this week another group of Pemi boys will travel to the Wentworth Green, to paint the road-posts in preparation for the Market Day event on August 6. Pemi’s Silver Cornet Band will take the show on the road to perform at this annual event. And finally, members of the town will be invited to see our Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Pirates of Penzance, on August 9.

Our hope is that involvement in projects with the town of Wentworth will become a yearly phenomenon, further connecting Pemi with the surrounding community in ways that teach invaluable lessons about responsible citizenship.

–Kenny

Let Freedom Ring (at camp and from every mountaintop)

2016: Newsletter # 2

Pemi celebrated America’s two-hundred-and-fortieth birthday on a flawlessly beautiful day. The strong westerly breeze that had dominated our weather on the 2nd and the 3rd (even forcing Saturday’s campfire indoors) had dropped away overnight. Dawn found Lower Baker mirror-smooth, with wispy wraiths of mist weaving their slow way down the pond. Following reveille, scores of Polar Bears broke the silence with joyous shouts (or were some of them gasps?) as they plunged into the water and the expanding ripples caught the slanting rays of the sun and bounced them up into the trees in a ravishing play of color and motion.

Ironically, the day’s hearty Birthday Breakfast featured Canadian bacon as a complement to good ol’ Yankee scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and cold cereal.  Such as it was, though, the meal’s topical program stressed the virtues of inclusiveness and trans-border tolerance and understanding. Tom Reed, Jr. rose to note that the Fourth was unquestionably a time for celebration but also for serious contemplation of what our country now is and was originally intended to be. The Founding Fathers had not invented democracy, that honor going to the Greeks, but the United States of America came into being as the first great modern experiment in that collective form of government. As with any experiment, ours represents an evolving process. Thomas Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries had nobly declared that all men were created equal. It has nevertheless taken us some time to realize that, to be truly noble, their original concept of equality might well be extend to women, and to people of color, and to those of a different sexual orientation than Washington and Adams. In a time when some honestly question how much “unity” characterizes the “United” States, not to mention the extent to which statuesque Liberty’s arms remain open to the tired and poor and homeless who have done their parts to make this nation great, Tom observed that Pemi can be a place where we can all reinforce the national effort to foster community and inclusivity and mutual understanding. Be it at the end of three and a half or of seven weeks, we can all resolve to go back to our “normal lives” and do everything we can, regardless of our political party or belief system, to further the noble collective endeavor that is every American’s hard-earned birthright.

As the first reflex of communality, mutual understanding, and support, we turned to our dozen-odd friends from the British Commonwealth, staff member and camper alike, and invited them to join us in singing the melody that does very nicely both for “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” and for “God Save the Queen.” All stood in the mess hall as Luke Raffanti went to the keyboard to accompany our joint chorus, and all sang with commendable force and gravity. After we had all filed onto the porch for our daily salute to the American flag (which, as Tom had pointed out, shared the colors of the Union Jack just as the United States shared so many of the tried and true humane principles and interests of the Commonwealth) second-year Brit staff member Charlotte Jones thanked us all for making her feel so welcome. Perhaps, as we like to say here for everything from Lost-and-Found “reunions” to thunderstorm warnings, “the system is working.”

Scott Cook, Steve Clare and Dean Elefante sport their red, white, and blues.

Scott Cook, Steve Clare and Dean Elefante sport their red, white, and blues.

Other staples of our Fourth celebrations? More campers and staff members than one are sporting red, white, and blue apparel today (Junior Camp division head Wesley Eifler indulging in a highly “interested” form of patriotism by donning a New York Rangers sweater/jersey.) Sunday afternoon witnessed the annual Counselor Hunt, moved up a day to allow for regular occupations on Monday morning to avoid a three-day hiatus in instructional activity, given inter-camp sports all day Saturday, a normal Sunday break from routine, and the traditionally altered schedule for the Fourth. While fewer staff members than usual seem to have been caught in the hunt, and thus obliged to plunge from high-dive tower into the chilly pond in whatever regalia they were wearing when found, the boys seemed to love this yearly opportunity to revert to the predatory ways of our tribal ancestors, at least in play. Later this afternoon will come the annual Fourth of July Pee-rade, and after supper the old-time Vaudeville show that always represents one of the dramatic and musical apogees of the summer.

Now, if we may be allowed what might seem a strained segue, let’s bring you all up to date on one of the four principal areas of the camp program. “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” famously ends by imploring Freedom to ring “from every mountaintop.” Pemi’s trip program is not in any overt way political, but the payoffs of careful planning, and hard work, and group unity/decision-making, and appreciation of the fragile beauty of the land around us are among the most important things that boys learn at Pemigewassett. They also drive our broader national identity and values. It seems no accident that John Winthrop’s vision of America’s most alluring potential was for it to become a bright “city on a hill” – a glorious civilization set amidst and reached by an effortful passage through the natural world.

Anyway…Pemi’s trip program got off to a successful start last week. Amongst the first occupation offerings was “Allagash canoeing.” Joining Head of Boating Reed Harrigan and experienced Allagash trip leader Harry Morris on the water for an hour every morning were eager 15’s Will Adams, Sam Beesley, Nick Bowman, Reed Cecil, George Cooke, Jake Cronin, Ethan Elsaden, Rafe Forward, Lucas Gaffney, Pierce Haley, Thaddeus Howe, Tucker Jones, Andrew Kanovsky, Nolan Katcher, James Minzesheimer, Jackson Morrell, Reed O’Brien, and Dash Slamowitz. They learned (or refined their knowledge of) the parts of their boats, tricks of putting in and pulling out, strokes for the bow and stern, management of the canoe in various conditions, single canoe and canoe-over-canoe rescue, and most of the other necessities for the five-day voyage planned for later in July. Sunday afternoon, half of their number travelled to the nearby Pemigewassett River for a taste of the moderate whitewater they will encounter on stretches of the Allagash. Next weekend, the other half will do the same.

Pemi Trip Program

photo by Nicky Harwich

The first trips of the season actually went out last Wednesday in the form of two overnights with our specialty trip staff. Moses Bank, Landon Burtle, Andreas Geffert, and Chris Ramanathan from Lower 1 joined Mac Cottman and Nicky Harwich from neighboring Lower 2 and trip leaders Nick Davini and Thomas Strnad for a three-day trek along the Appalachian Trail just south of camp. They hiked up a logging road to hit the AT just south of Hexacuba Shelter, where they spent the night in the company of a pair of “through hikers” on their way north from Georgia. The following day, in perfect weather, they continued to the summit of Mt. Cube (2800 feet, just northwest of our lake), enjoying lunch on the open ledges before their descent to Rte. 25A, one mile up the valley. While they had intended to spend the second night at our Adirondack shelter on Pemi Hill just above the Junior Camp, a few health issues brought them back early. Nonetheless, as they hiked back onto the grounds, their faces were as bright as their boots were muddy.

Pemi Trip Program

Trip Leader JP and crew

Meanwhile, Trip Leaders Michael Kerr and John “JP” Gorman had headed off to the Waterville Range with a group of uppers that included Eli Brennan, Orson Edwards, Alex Goldman, Garrett Whitney, Nolan Snyder, Teddy Foley, and Elliot Muffett. Their route took them up the Mad River to just short of the notch in which the twin Greeley Ponds nestle like sapphires beneath the converging, verdant slopes of Mts. Osceola (4315ft) and Kancamagus (3728). The Livermore Trail they ascended had been unavailable for years, washed out in Hurricane Irene back in 2011, but the boys enjoyed like their predecessors one of the classic “relaxed” walks in the White Mountains up to their wilderness campsite just short of the ponds. The next day was another matter, involving the remarkably steep climb out of the notch to the shoulder of Osceola. There are a few miles in the Whites that are more exacting, but not many – and when the group summited Osceola’s East Peak (4156) at around 1:30 PM, they were wise to break out lunch, enjoy the view, and call it a day. It may have been a little like making it to the South Col of Everest and not the summit, but a good and worthy day was had by all.

Photo by George Clough

Photo by George Clough

The following day, Lowers 2 and 3 set off up Rattlesnake Mountain, a tidy little peak on the way between Wentworth and Plymouth (and so named, we assure you, not because it is infested by serpents but because of its suggestive profile from the east.) Joining counselors Luke Raffanti and David Lampman were Finn Hayes, Benjamin Herdeg, Drew Johnstone, Henry Simmons, George Clough, Andrew Donnell, Lucas Gales, Oliver Giraud, Ollie O’Hara, Jack Reid, Jack Simmons, and Dexter Wells. Short but steep, the climb yields an unexpectedly “cozy” view of the Baker Valley, just below, its roads and houses parceled out like something you’d see in a basement train layout. No doubt the scores of wind turbines atop the next ridge provoked some conversation about scenic vistas, sustainability, and what it takes to power our many-faceted “city on a hill.” Perfect sunny weather guaranteed the success of the outing, which was only enhanced by a stop at a local general store for a soda and bag of Gummi Bears or Twizzlers.

Photo by Luca Tschanz

Photo by Luca Tschanz

Also out for lunch were Lowers 4 and 5, headed up the west ridge of Mt. Cube for the day. Isaiah Abbey, Ted Applebaum, Stanley Bright, Enrique Mantemayor, Henry Moore, Teddy Nuttal, Andrew Roth, Hunter Goldreich, Charlie Haberman, Elliot Jones, Cam McManus, Teddy Shapiro, Nelson Snyder, Luca Tschanz, and Marco Zapata were thrilled to reach the South Summit, only to run into the boys from Lower 1 and 2, as mentioned above. Fully 4/7ths of the Lower Division were joyfully reunited some two thousand feet above their cabins.

That evening, Dan Reed and Nick Bertrand picked up some supplies in the kitchen and canoed across the lake with the boys of Upper 3 for an al fresco supper at Flat Rock (aka “The Flat Rock Café.”) Helping them collect wood and build the fire were their charges Will Ackerman, Whit Courage, Auguste Dupichot, Luke Hayes, Ian Hohman, Matt McDonough, Sam O’Hara, and Jacob Smalley. As the sun settled into the west, thrusting golden shafts of light into the pine and spruce trees that shade this select lakeside spot, Dan and Nick boiled up the chili then spooned it onto the plates of their hungry companions, some of whom parleyed the hamburger buns and cheese slices into something between a Sloppy Joe and a Philadelphia cheese steak. Potato salad, chips, and cookies filled out the fare prior to the dousing of the fire and the slow, relaxed twilight paddle back to camp.

As we write, two groups of Seniors are assembling their gear for tomorrow’s 10AM departure to two Appalachian Mountain Club huts high in the Presidential Range – Lakes-of-the-Clouds and Madison. These are amongst the best outings we take, and the participants are chomping at the bit, especially given the sublime weather forecast currently in place. Look to their letters for details.

With that promise of further but more personalized communication, we’ll close for this week. Look for Newsletter Three for Kenny Moore’s annual disquisition on this year’s instructional program, “Occupations.” For now, farewell – and happy outings to you all.

At the end of the day…there's no place like home. Photo by George Clough

At the end of the day…there’s no place like home. Photo by George Clough