Each fall, photos from the previous summer are compiled to create a picture book for prospective campers, current families, and alumni. Below are a few favorites that are worth sharing, enjoy!
2016 Newsletter # 7
Greetings from the sun-drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! As we begin the last week of camp, the most oft-heard words from campers and counselors alike is, “I can’t believe this is the last week of camp! Wow! The summer has gone so quickly!” Indeed, another summer is reaching its final days, and we will be extremely sad to bid the boys adieu in just three day’s time. In the blink of an eye, the leaves will begin to turn red and gold, the evenings will become cooler, and we will all rejoin our families and reconnect with our home-away-from-Pemi.
As I type this note from the West Wing of the Senior Lodge, I can hear the yells of excitement and encouragement down at Senior Beach, telltale signs that Pemi Week is in full swing. Swimming, sailing, and archery championships, Games Day, Woods Dudes’ Day, two evening performances of Pirates of Penzance and, of course, Final Banquet are all on the week’s schedule as our summer climaxes with a crescendo of events. Pemi Week is a wonderful opportunity for the boys in each cabin to work, play, and bond together, and for all of us in the Pemi community to celebrate what has been a particularly sunny, active summer in the Baker Valley.
When I consider all of the things to be thankful for in the summer of 2016, right at the top of my list is the well-prepared, delicious, and bountiful food we have enjoyed this season. We consider excellence in food to be at the very top of our to-do list in preparing for each summer, and this year we have not been disappointed!
While I will mention others who have helped to tackle the Herculean task of feeding a community of 250 hungry souls three times a day, credit begins at the top, and my first “shout out” goes to Tom Ciglar, our Director of Food Services. As you may recall from the email we sent last fall, part of our reshuffling of the staff deck included dividing responsibilities in the Mess Hall in a new way and creating this new position. The world of food service has become infinitely more complex at summer camps, schools, and even at our own family tables than it was twenty of thirty years ago. Tom was hired for this newly constructed position last October with the idea that he would concentrate his efforts on creating the menu, ordering the food, managing the front room where the campers and counselors eat, and overseeing individual dietary requirements. While, of course, Tom has also seen plenty of time at the stove this summer, we recognized that having a single head chef oversee all of the responsibilities of the kitchen, and do all of the cooking, is an antiquated model that needed to be updated to attend to all of the demands of a modern camp kitchen. Creating this new position was the first step in rethinking how we prepare food and manage the dining operation at Pemi.
To say that Tom has hit it out of the park in his new role this summer would be an understatement! The reviews from boys and staff alike have all been overwhelmingly positive, and Tom’s love and aptitude for cooking and managing others has been at the top of the list of reasons why the boys have been so happy with the food this year.
When asked about his goals for this summer, about the things he thinks are important in cooking for a boy’s summer camp, and also about his love of baking bread in particular, here’s what Tom had to say:
“This summer has been a very satisfying one for all of us in the kitchen. My goal for the season was to take care of everyone and serve meals where all of the pieces come together so I see a whole community well fed. This is tremendously satisfying for me. A few years ago, Pemi helped me attend a baking class at King Arthur Flour Company, in Norwich, Vermont, where my love for baking really took off. The bread baking started as a way to supplement the meals and it just took off from there. The rest is history, I guess you could say.” Tom calculates that he has baked 1,000 loaves of bread this summer, or about 50 pounds a day, and that he has used a ton of flour! Wow!
When I asked Tom about the most exacting demands involved in cooking for 172 boys each day, he replied, “The biggest challenge is to serve a healthy meal three times a day, but with a good variety of things that the boys love to eat. Our boys love their meat, potatoes and bread; the test is not just serving the food, but also planning for variety in the menu and seeing that they enjoy what we serve.”
I also asked Tom if anything had been a surprise this summer. “Well, it’s not my first rodeo, so it’s hard to surprise me at this point. I guess if I had to identify something that I have been especially pleased with, it’s been the very positive reception we’ve received from the dining room this summer. The support and great feedback have been amazing and have been another example of Pemi’s big heart.”
Finally, I asked Tom if there was a dish he had served this summer that was especially satisfying. “The pot roast we had for Sunday lunch. The pieces all came together, and the Mess Hall was actually quiet for a few minutes!” Well, that silence spoke volumes about everyone’s appreciation of Tom and the kitchen staff’s efforts and skill. Silence in the Mess Hall is about as common as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series!
Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say, so I asked a few of our campers if they had any thoughts about the food this summer. As you might guess, they had plenty to say!
Braden Richardson in Lower Six said that he really loves “the mashed potatoes and meat loaf. They’re so tasty they remind me of my mom’s cooking, and she’s the best cook in the world”! (Tissues for Lisa Coleman, Braden’s mom, please.)
Gray Klasfeld in Lower One said, “I love how diverse the meals are. There’s always great variety. My favorite meals are the soups, the pasta, and especially the chicken fingers!”
Ian Hohman in Upper Three, noted that, “Tom spends so much time making sure we are all happy and full. I really love the BBQ chicken!”
Luke Bass in Lower Five really loves, “the Sunday Sleep-in pancakes. The toppings are amazing, especially the chocolate, strawberry, and fruit syrup.”
Jonah Reay in Lower One said he loves, “having Tom’s bread at so many meals because it’s homemade and tastes so fresh!”
Grady Boruchin in Senior Two thinks that, “the “food this year has been so healthy, with lots of vegetarian options.”
Obviously, feeding the boys three times a day is not a solo task. Tom has a crew of ten others helping him in the kitchen, including six young men from overseas (four from Poland and two from Turkey), two early-morning sous chefs, assistant chef Rachel Preston who works at Tilton Prep in the winter, and Tom’s second-in-command and main chef Judy Harrington, back for her second summer in front of the ranges at Pemi. Judy offers not only excellent food preparation but also a maternal warmth for the boys as well. “I love feeding my boys,” she says. “The look of joy on their faces when I described Sunday dinner, roast pork and potatoes, is the kind of thing that makes all the preparation worthwhile.”
While there are many aspects of the Pemi program and the Pemi day that we feel offer excellent experiences for the boys, it is particularly satisfying to include the Mess Hall meals among them. The food at camp is an important part of everyone’s day, and the rich experience of our dining together is enhanced by the delicious, plentiful, and nourishing food we have enjoyed in 2016. We look forward to continued success and happy days for Tom and his crew this summer and beyond, and we feel grateful and extremely fortunate to have this particular crew bringing us such consistently scrumptious and plentiful meals this summer.
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.
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.
Our 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
Head, thorax, abdomen
Compound eyes and two antennae
Head, thorax, abdomen
Once 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.
Our 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 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 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.
This 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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 down 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.
Summer 2015: Newsletter # 3
This week’s newsletter comes from Kenny Moore, Assistant Director and Head of Program.
For as long as I can remember, Pemi has always offered occupations in the morning, giving us structure to start off each day. Three hours of instruction in music, nature, athletics, woodshop, art, and water sports work in unison, like a finely-wrought watch, to keep Pemi moving forward. Occasionally, we will have schedule changes that provide moments for improvisation; a gorgeous New Hampshire day often acts as a trigger for Tom to send off day trips to nearby Mt. Cube or Rattlesnake. But all in all, an occupation morning has a rhythm that keeps building momentum as the day unfolds.
Our routine changes each afternoon, with a variety of optional activities. Daily options are announced in the Mess Hall during lunch, and each boy chooses which activity will occupy his afternoon. While we do not require official sign-ups for our older campers during these afternoon events, we do ensure that all boys are engaged in some way or another, either in an organized camp event, or perhaps in a more quiet afternoon with a good book while folded up in a strategically-placed Crazy-Creek. All Junior campers have assigned activities, ranging from Waterskiing, to Baseball, to Woodshop. They sign up each week for the period following rest hour (4th Hour), identical to how Occupation sign-ups operate, and attend those activities for the duration of five days. This makes sense to us, as we work with our youngest on how to make wise choices and also to manage free time.
Balancing assigned activities, chosen activities, and free time is vitally important for us at Pemi, as we continually strive to provide the best environment for our boys to thrive. Boys flourish in balanced environments, feeling comfortable within the structure of morning occupations, empowered with the decision of choosing activities during the afternoon, and confident as they learn to make the most of their free time. For the afternoon periods, the counseling staff initially facilitate the decision-making process, guiding each camper to make his own choice during these afternoons. It certainly helps that our engaged and active counselors offer fun activities to capture the boys’ interest.
JJ Strnad, our favorite St. Olaf football player, hosted two such activities this past week: Beginning Juggling and Chess. Ben Popkin, Kai Soderbeg, and Teddy Foley each practiced with specially-designed juggling balls, and once they found the rhythm and technique, they moved on to tennis balls. A larger group joined JJ for his Chess Clinic, which began with a talk about strategy and subsequent games for the boys to show off their moves. Nine-year old Brian Wolfson won all of his matches against some fairly stiff competition. Alex Volpe, Lucas Gaffney, and Nathan King thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon in the library.
Many afternoons are anchored by athletic events organized by Charlie Malcolm, who works in tandem with our neighboring camps to craft many opportunities for our boys to compete as a team in a positive atmosphere. On any given day, we send two to three sports teams to compete in friendly round-robin tournaments. This past week, Pemi competed in four tennis tournaments, two soccer tournaments, one basketball tournament, and hosted both the Annual Baker Valley Track and Track and Field Meet & Archery Meets. In the 11s Tennis Tournament, held here at Pemi, Ben Casperson won all of his matches at third singles, securing Pemi’s 2nd place finish overall. Luca McAdams lost a nail-biting final match 8-7 at first singles, and exhibited great sportsmanship to his opponent. Later that evening during evening announcements in the Mess Hall, Luca took over the role of Coach to report on the event!
In Track, we witnessed several spectacular performances by the Senior Team. Patterson Malcolm ran a blistering 5:08 in the Pemi cross-country mile, while tent-mate Ezra Nugiel exhibited excellent form to win the Shot-Put. Kai Soderberg ran a flawless 440 to take first, and Johnny Seebeck won both the High Jump and the 60-yard dash. (Stay tuned for details of this talented group’s performance at the Tecumseh track meet.) To prepare for many of these competitions, coaches call team practices on the days leading up to their tournament. Both players and coaches, alike, enjoyed this extra time for learning technical skills and the chance to build teamwork. A great use of an afternoon!
Time in the afternoon also works perfectly for extended trips, so Larry and Deb took full advantage, offering afternoon trips from the Nature Lodge. Nicky Harwich and Tanner Howson loved the chance to collect rocks and minerals at the Palermo Mine, a local gem (get it!) that grants exclusive special access to Pemi boys. The hand-sized clear quartz samples highlighted the trip. And speaking of Geology in your face, Deb and Danny led a van full of Uppers and Seniors to Mt. Willard to witness one of New Hampshire’s best views, Crawford Notch, just to the southeast of Mt. Washington. As the group emerged from the trees, eyes popped and jaws dropped as the stunning symmetrical glacial valley unfolded before them.
Chase Gagne, a wetlands expert on our staff, led a group of budding ecologists to our own swamp to collect specimens to display in tanks in the Nature Lodge. Nick Gordon and Eli Brennan, along with another six friends, gathered bullfrogs, tadpoles, and a huge supply of crayfish. Continuing on with the discovery theme, the Junior Camp, led by Division Head Wesley Eifler, traveled en masse to the Squam Lakes Science Center one afternoon. Consensus was that the black bear and coyote exhibits were the best, along with the nature-themed interactive play-scapes. The predator-prey adventure area gave Doc Nick’s Wonders the chance to take on the role of a red-squirrel, burrowing through tunnels and balancing on rocks and logs.
Each afternoon, Lower Baker Pond too is full of activity. Molly Malone, Pemi’s new and brilliant Head of Waterskiing, keeps the boat moving throughout the day, accommodating all types of water-skiers and wake-boarders. Down by the boathouse, a group of boys have recently taken up paddle-boarding. Using a windsurfing board and a canoe paddle, Will Leslie, Robert McNamara, Simon Taylor, Jackson Morrell, Ben Pigeon, and Emmanuel Abbey started a new popular trend! Dozens of boys enjoy boating each and every afternoon, and boat fleets move back and forth throughout the afternoon. Over on Senior Beach, Paige Wallis and the Swim Staff offer daily activities ranging from stroke work for the competitive swimmers, to fun water-basketball or water polo, and even volleyball on the shore. Lucas Jansky and Sam Beesley, to name two, took full advantage of optional waterfront time to improve their swimming strokes.
Warm weather and abundant sunshine provided the perfect backdrop to our first of many (hopefully!) trips to the “Swimmin’ Hole” in nearby in Rumney. A deep pool forms at the bottom of a small waterfall, allowing swimmers to slide down a natural waterslide or jump safely off nearby rocks. You can even swim underneath the waterfall! The group of 14-year-old Uppers, along with yours truly and Max Livingstone-Peters serving as lifeguards, couldn’t contain their excitement and pledged to get back the next chance we have.
Rehearsals for this summer’s Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado, occur each and every afternoon in the Senior Lodge. Dorin Dehls and Luke Raffanti strategically rehearse key scenes, asking for specific leads and choruses to participate. Jed Cutler also offers an Open Jam Session for those born to rock, down in the Junior Lodge. Patrick Snell, Simon Taylor, and Dash Paris regularly attend these daily rehearsals, and they performed this past Sunday during the all-camp cookout. Special kudos to Nathan King, who joined the group on trumpet!
And finally, the resurgence of Frisbee Golf! The 1992 Pemi Open course, re-laid in terms of a chart found in the depths of the archives, allowed Jivan Khakee, Reed O’Brien and Matt Edlin the chance to test out the course designed by Charlie Malcolm and former Pemi Staffer, Sam Martin. The par 7, 6th hole proved daunting; it includes a toss over the tennis courts (a major hazard!), but the boys prevailed. Jivan even recorded a score under-par, and now with the green jacket in hand he has become the pied-piper of the FOLF movement. (It helps that he’s a skilled jazz clarinetist!)
What a fun week of afternoon activities for the boys and staff alike, discovering new places and new activities. Be sure to ask your favorite Pemi boy about his afternoons once you see him next, and stay tuned for further updates on Pemi happenings.
Welcome to the first quarterly installment of the Pemi Alumni Newsletter. Our aim is to connect Alumni to camp and each other with updates throughout the year. A particular thank you to the Alumni who completed the communications survey distributed earlier this year. Your feedback was invaluable!
This first edition comes just before the launch of Pemi’s 108th season, and will give you a glimpse of the summer ahead. It’s been an active off-season at Pemi, and the details follow.
Pemi’s buildings and grounds team is supremely talented. Reed Harrigan, Head of Buildings and Grounds, and his crew’s diligent work throughout the harshest of New England seasons is truly inspiring, and while many of the projects are out of sight, literally below the surface, the B and G team’s efforts allow the Pemi program to enrich hundred’s of boys lives.
Last fall, the team spent substantial time beautifying the Intermediate cabins to make them look as sharp as the now one-year-old Upper 4 and Upper 5. Many of Pemi’s electrical and phone wires received upgrades and were placed underground, allowing unobstructed natural views throughout camp.
Over a record-breaking winter this year, the main area of focus for Reed and crew was building a new staff residence, in the Junior Camp. This cabin is placed strategically in the hillside where the Junior Tent once stood. Ken Morrell, Pemi’s in-house master builder, created this two bedroom, lofted cabin with a screened-in porch overlooking the Junior Stream. It has quickly been highlighted on Zillow as the most sought after housing option in the town of Wentworth.
Those lucky to be with us this summer will quickly notice improvements in Pemi’s water system, with new accessible water fountains dotting the Pemi landscape. A new roof for the Rittner Fountain, a new waterski dock, and new kayaks will greatly enhance our program. And cars and joggers alike will experience jaw-dropping awe with the newly paved entrance off of Route 25A.
Here’s to Reed and his team, for a job well done!
Pemi experienced a strong enrollment season, hitting capacity in January. We are thankful for the families who continue to place their trust in us; we take the care of their boys seriously and we strive to provide the best environment for young men to thrive. Special thanks to current Pemi family members who shared a kind word about the magic of camp to their friends and family. Our word of mouth network is strong due in large measure to our parents and Alumni.
Two hundred fifty-seven boys will make Camp Pemi their home away from home in 2015, with eighty-seven boys staying for the full season.
Of those boys eligible to return from 2014, 86% chose to do so. Sixty-six boys, roughly 25% of our campers, will be in their first season at Pemi, and on the other end of the spectrum, another 25% of campers will be in their fifth or more summer.
We also have a great balance of legacy campers, those who have had a family member who spent a summer on the shores of Lower Baker as a camper or staff member.
Our camper population represents 9 countries and 23 states, and of those states, over 120 different municipalities are the winter home to a Pemi boy.
Staff Profile – Erik Wiedenmann
In just a few short weeks, the traditional staff introduction newsletter (now available through this blog) will shed light on the entire Pemi staff for 2015. We are very excited about this year’s staff, which offers a great balance of Pemi veterans mixed with newcomers, each one bringing a keen interest in working with boys and, together, a myriad of talents.
70% of Pemi’s program staff from 2014 will return, and nearly 80% of our cabin counselor staff have spent at least one summer at Pemi. Three program heads, Archery, Sailing, and Waterskiing, are entirely new to Pemi, and will infuse fresh ideas and teaching techniques to their program areas, continuing our standard of excellence.
It seems that every year a Pemi alumnus, after years away from Lower Baker, decides to re-join the staff and 2015 is no different. Erik Wiedenmann is returning after five summers away and will serve as the Division Head for Senior Camp. We’ve decided to share his story, a unique and engaging one, for the entire Pemi community to enjoy.
Erik, a native of Berlin, Germany, was a camper at Pemi for four summers, before joining the counseling staff in 2010 as the counselor of Lower 4. He attended Tufts’ five-year, Dual Degree program (BA/BFA) with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, studying Comparative Literature and Visual Arts (Illustration and Animation). After this summer at Pemi, his plan is to move to New York to work in publishing with the goal of writing children’s books.
After receiving a grant from Tufts in the fall of 2014, Erik took to the road to write a children’s book based on traveling throughout South America. He intended to travel for seven weeks, but stayed several months, becoming immersed with the local culture and practicing his Spanish. Erik took advantage of his surroundings, including a trip to the Chilean Patagonia with new friends. “Because I was the most experienced of all of us, I basically became a trippie, taking charge of packing lists and food supplies. Pemi instilled a certain appreciation for nature in me.”
Near the end of his stay, Erik began teaching English as a second language in Buenos Aires and discovered a newfound passion. “It was very fulfilling. I had never really studied education and teaching before, and I found myself really enjoying the new material at a deeper level.” Erik’s thirst for travel continued well after the grant money disappeared, and he decided to continue his year of travel with a second trip, now to Asia.
The first stop on his Asia trip was India, followed by Nepal, which Erik loved, finding peace hiking through the Himalayas. His hiking continued in Thailand, where he made his way from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, in order to catch his flight to Japan where he would spend the last seven weeks of his journey.
In Japan, Erik also taught English as a second language to both adults and children. “Though the Japanese are said to be fairly reserved and shy, the students were so warm-hearted and enthusiastic, it was truly such a pleasure to teach them. I also learned so much about Japanese culture in speaking to them. Of all the countries I visited, it is perhaps the one that left the greatest impression on me.”
His trip re-affirmed his conviction to work with children, a passion first felt back in 2010 as a counselor at Pemi. And with the 2015 summer ahead of us, Erik is thrilled to be returning to the place where it all started. Keep your eyes out for his first (hopefully of many!) children’s book that is currently a work in progress. To follow Erik on his journey, visit his website, www.erikwiedenmann.com, and to meet this fine young man, visit Senior Camp in 2015.
Special Event – Al Fauver’s 100th Birthday!
Each and every Pemi summer is memorable, yet 2015 offers a genuine “once in a lifetime” event. On August 15, current Pemi board member and former director, Al Fauver will celebrate his 100th birthday! Alumni are invited to join the grand celebration the following day, Sunday, August 16. For further details, click here, or to RSVP.
As always, we encourage our extended Alumni family to swing by to see Pemi firsthand, should your travel plans point you towards the shores of Lower Baker. We’d love to stay connected in person, or virtually, and I invite all Alumni to actively participate in our growing Alumni network. Please submit Alumni Notes, attend Alumni Events, and help connect us to ‘lost’ Alumni. Interested in being featured in the fall’s newsletter? Let me know! Have personal or professional news to share? E-mail me, and you will be included in the winter release of Alumni News.
Good luck, long life, and joy!
Comfort foods. We all seem to have them and we all seem quick to characterize them, too. Try asking a group at your next gathering. You’re bound to hear: “Something warm!” “No, cold!” “It’s gotta be salty!” or sweet…smooth…crunchy…tangy…whatever that magical something is that manages to make us feel soothed. Like we’re safe, secure, and at home.
Such is the anticipated sensation when word gets out that Stacey’s meatloaf is to be served in the messhall. Vegetarians aside (who’ll have their own yummy version), most carnivores among us respond like Pavlov’s favorite subjects when the bugler blows “first call.”
And so, during these winter months when perhaps a little comfort food is called for, Stacey offers her tricks of the trade to bring some smiles to the table. Perhaps it’ll make you feel right at home, just like you’re back in the messhall at Pemi.
And now, in Stacey’s own words…
Meatloaf is an iconic American recipe that people either love or hate, with generally no in between. Since meatloaf is versatile and can be prepared in many ways, those who love it seem to have found their “perfect” recipe. As always, I stress the importance of each family’s taste profile and preferences. Use only the ingredients that they will love.
This recipe is similar to the one served at camp. The only difference is that I have pared it down considerably. We use 120 pounds of ground beef at camp for one meal!
3 pounds of ground beef. (I like ground chuck)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 cups bread crumbs
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 peppers, red or green or both, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 TBS Kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups ketchup, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
• Preheat oven to 375.
• Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onions, peppers and celery until golden, add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragment and lightly colored. Set aside to cool.
• Mix ground meat, eggs, bread crumbs, milk, parsley, 1 cup of ketchup, salt and pepper. Add the cooled vegetables. It’s easiest to mix with your hands. A bit messy but you can control the mixing so much easier.
• Mold the meat mixture on a baking pan. A long, flat loaf will cook faster and more uniformly. Bake for about 45 minutes until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of at least 155. Time may vary due to your oven. At this point, remove it from the oven and pour off any fat from the baking dish.
• Mix the remaining ketchup and brown sugar and brush on the top of the meatloaf. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes.
• Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.
Meatloaf can be created from many different ingredients. Experiment and create a recipe that will please you and your family! The ground meat can be any of the following, alone, or mixed with the ground beef: ground pork, ground turkey, Italian sausage and even ground venison (if you do use venison, add a bit of pork for the fat content because venison is very lean.)
Seasonings can vary, too. Are you planning a thematic meatloaf? Once again, choose those ingredients that your family will enjoy!
Likewise with vegetables. Choose the ones that you will enjoy. The only rule is use fresh and cut into small pieces. Always sauté them. The heat will bring out the flavor and color. This is also a great sneaky way to feed those fussy eaters some veggies!
Binder is important to the meatloaf, essential for holding it all together. I use breadcrumbs. My mother used oatmeal. Some people use crushed cracker crumbs, some use whole bread or croutons. It’s your choice entirely. Just remember to even out the ratio between bread and liquid.
Enjoy experimenting. Perhaps you, too, will create that “perfect” family recipe in the process!
~ Chef Stacey
September was a spectacular month at Camp Pemigewassett; blanketing morning fog that eventually gave way to clear warm afternoons, and the leaves turning towards their powerful autumn glow. Pemi as a physical place has never looked better and should be enjoyed by all. Please enjoy a walk through camp with our first photo blog. Stay tuned for further updates this fall, winter and spring!
Hello again from Wentworth, where we are well into the fifth week of the 2013 season. As many of you veteran readers will recall, our storied rivalry with Camp Tecumseh is customarily renewed at the end of every Week Five, and this summer is no exception. We have engaged with our esteemed and talented rivals from Lake Winnepesauke virtually every year since 1908, and there is no question that this is the most important day in our entire athletic schedule. Think Harvard-Yale; Michigan-Ohio State; Red Sox-Yankees; Redskins-Cowboys. Think Super Bowl, but with over 150 boys from each camp competing in four sports (baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis) in five age groups (10-and-under, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 15-and under.) True, we pride ourselves on being a well-rounded camp. But Friday is the athletic equivalent of the Allagash Canoe Trip for the Trip Program – or the Advanced Caving Trip for the Nature Program – or the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and Annual Art Opening for the Arts and Music Program. As with these other events, even boys who are not participating take a keen interest in what their cabin-mates and colleagues are doing, living the truth that community can sometimes be as much about respectful attention and support as about personal participation.
Next week’s Newsletter is slated to come from Charlie Malcolm, our inspirational Director of Athletics who spends the off-season teaching History at Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, where he also coaches the boys’ varsity soccer team. This week’s, though, largely comes from Trip Counselor Dan Reed, recently returned from said Allagash canoe outing. Before we turn to Dan’s account of this most ambitious and wild of Pemi expeditions (barring, of course, Pemi West, which recently wrapped up after a spectacular 3-plus weeks in the Washington State’s Olympics including a succesful ascent of the eponymnous peak!!!), let us indulge in a little historical segue.
In the early days of camp, the pilgrimage to Tecumseh itself smacked almost as much of the trip program as of athletics. The event began with Pemi campers and staff packing sports gear, bedding, and clothing for three days and then walking the three and a half miles to the train station in Wentworth. A two-hour journey brought them to The Weirs, where they boarded the steamship Governor Endicott and travelled another hour or so to the cove where Tecumseh has its waterfront, then shuttling in small boats to get to shore. There, they established camp on the sandy beach and grass verges of the big lake, where the Four Docs built cooking fires and supervised the preparation of supper. After an evening of song and, no dount, heroic tales of past Pemi-Tecumseh clashes, everyone bedded down on the beach for the night. Shades of Henry’s troops before Agincourt (perhaps). Word has it that the mosquitoes were brutal, and rumors routinely spread that the Tecumseh management had specially ordered in millions of the tiny pests to suck the blood from their opponents of the following day. Current Pemi Nature Director Larry Davis assures us that the concept of mercenary mosquitoes was as unlikely then as it is now, but sound sleep was evidently hard to come by for our aspiring warriors on the shores of Winnepesauke. Then again, when Tecumseh journeyed to us (as they always did in what was then the home-and-home annual exchange), the tables were turned and our lads may have had the advantage of a miniscule version of blood doping. In any event, once the day’s competition was over, it was another supper and night on the beach, re-embarkation on the Endicott, a return to the train at The Weirs, then back to Wentworth for the long walk home to Pemi. You’ve all heard those stereotypical tales of how our parents or grandparent walked every day to school through five-foot snowdrifts – and uphill in both directions. In this case, there’s hardly any exaggeration involved. But, while the modern Pemi kid rides to Moultonborough Neck in a plush school bus and dines, shoulder-to-shoulder, with his Tecumseh rivals in their screened dining hall, the competition is no less intense or fulfilling. Stay tuned for Charlie’s detailed account in next week’s missive. (Read Charlie’s 2012 newsletter recounting Pemi’s 11-8-1 win!)
Now for Dan’s rendering of the Allagash trip.
It was a glorious week of paddling, bald eagle sightings, great food, and the sense of total independence from the rest of the world. The Pemi Trip Program offers campers incredible opportunities all summer long. We hike in the White Mountains. We go caving in Schoharie, NY. We explore natural wonders both local and distant. And, for our oldest campers, we send an annual canoeing trip to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine. Someone with an appreciation of puns might call this the “flagship” of our Trip Program. This term also accurately describes the journey’s significance, as it is a celebrated trip open only to Pemi’s full-season 15-year-olds. This year the trip was populated by ten young men – Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Nick Bertrand, Bryce Grey, Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, Matt Kanovsky, Daniel Bowes, Jack Green, and Ethan Pannell – and led by former cabin counselor and division head Andy Kirk and current trip counselor Dan Reed. The adventure was comprised of four full days paddling the Allagash, with a day on either end spent driving the 8 hours between Wentworth, NH and Allagash, ME.
Our first day started at the ripe hour of 4:30am, when the yawning but excited crew loaded into a van at Pemi and started the long drive north. We were soon greeted by the sunrise, and enjoyed a beautiful morning on the road. Around noon we stopped for a refreshing lake dip in Maine’s Baxter State Park, and quickly followed with lunch at a local pizza joint. Then we met the able crew of Katahdin Outfitters, who supplied us with canoes, paddles, and life jackets. They drove us the final three hours along backcountry logging roads to Churchill Dam, where we set up camp for the first night. We were greeted there by our friends the blackflies, deerflies, and horseflies, who would keep us company for the entire trip. After setting up our tents and enjoying a dinner of burgers, spaghetti, and fresh vegetables with ranch dressing, we went down to check out the river that would carry us the entire 62 miles over the next five days. With Andy lifeguarding, we enjoyed a belated polar bear before zipping ourselves into our tents and enjoying our first night’s riverside sleep.
As we would for the next several days, we pulled up on shore for lunch around midday. We refueled with sandwiches (ham/kielbasa/pepperoni and cheese, sunbutter and jelly, etc.) and a candy dessert, took a quick dip in the river, then set off across Umsaskis Lake. Our campsite at Sandy Point was at the far end of the lake, and we pulled in at around 4pm. Like the first night, we set up camp and enjoyed some time swimming in the river. Dinner was plentiful with a huge pot-full of spaghetti with meat sauce. The ever-helpful boys gladly finished off the pot and offered to clean dishes. Another camp group pulled in and stayed at the next site over. Our experience with them and with subsequent groups reminded Andy and me of how Pemi boys’ maturity and respectful behavior on trips really sets them apart. No wonder the AMC staff in the White Mountain huts is always happy to see a Pemi group come through!
After another good night’s sleep, we started the third day with toasted English muffins, bacon, and fried eggs. The weather looked promising at first, but the clouds darkened as we made our way across Long Lake. We took a break on a beach covered with flat round stones – so the obvious response was to have a rock-skipping contest. Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, and Zach Leeds ended the session at the top of the heap, each with a toss of around 20 skips. As we paddled the latter half of the interminable lake, the skies broke open and treated us to a downpour. Fortunately we had all our gear packed in waterproof bags, and so could enjoy the free shower, the sound of the rain on the water, and the perfect symmetrical splash made by each rain drop as it hit the surface of the river. But New England weather is predictably unpredictable, and the sun was out and shining brightly by the time we stopped for lunch. We enjoyed a sunny afternoon, with the occasional sighting of a bald eagle overhead or a river otter alongside the boats.
We pulled up to the Outlet campsite on Round Pond in the mid-afternoon, with our camp setup accelerated when we observed some threatening thunderheads on the horizon. We unearthed what we affectionately termed the Tarp Mahal, a huge 40 ft. x 24 ft. blue tarp, which would for the next few days protect our eating area from the occasional deluge. Indeed, soon after we began making the dinner of couscous and chili, a massive thunderstorm moved overhead and parked itself there for an hour or so. We enjoyed our immunity from the rain while eating dinner, and then settled down to sleep, enjoying the sound of the rain on our sturdy tents.
Our third full day was a long one: fifteen miles along the river to majestic Allagash Falls. We saw our only moose of the trip that morning, lounging in the river about 150 yards ahead of us. The sight of twelve humans staring in awe must have made her self-conscious, because the moose climbed up the riverbank and disappeared into the forest as we came closer. The day continued with many sightings of bald eagles. In the minutes leading up to our arrival at our campsite that afternoon, we paddled to the growing roar of the falls ahead of us. After having come ashore well in advance of what would have been an exciting but perhaps ill-fated waterfall experience, we set up camp and headed down below the falls for a quick swim. Here the water is deep with a fast current, and we let ourselves float downstream a few times before calling it a day and enjoying a dinner of beef stew, mashed potatoes, and homemade tortilla chips with cinnamon and sugar.
Our last full day on the river started with more heavy rain. We kept dry under the tarp during breakfast, and the short day of paddling ahead of us meant that we could stay put and wait out the downpour for a few hours. During a lull in the rain, we carried our canoes and gear down the quarter-mile path to a safe launching point downstream of Allagash Falls. We went swimming once more beneath the falls, this time jumping from riverside rocks into the deep pool gouged out over time by the falling water. A short 2-hour paddle brought us to East Twin Brook campsite, where we would spend our last night on the river. There we ate an early dinner of leftovers, then went to bed along with the sun.
A dark, pre-sunrise morning greeted us as we got up on our last day. By now experts in campsite setup and take-down, we quickly packed up our tents, tarp, and other gear, and got onto the river as the sun came up. We only had an hour’s paddle to our destination, where we came onshore, packed our gear into our waiting van, and started the long drive south. Ten hours later we pulled into camp, greeted by both the familiar and new faces of Pemi’s second session. After a week of brilliant canoeing, we were all excited to be back home. Thanks to all the Allagash guys for a fantastic trip. Now our attention turns to the enjoyment of the final few weeks of the summer, back on the (often) sunny shores of Lower Baker Pond.
Many thanks to Dan for this evocative account. We should say in passing that one of the pleasures of the outing for both staff members was that, thirteen years ago, Dan was an eight-year-old camper in Andy’s cabin, Junior One. Little could either of them have predicted that, over a dozen years hence, they would be co-leaders on Pemi’s most celebrated trip, Dan sharing van-driving duties with his former mentor. That’s one of the joys of Pemi, though – that longevity and continuity regularly allow for this kind of “years later” serendipity. It’s one of the things that makes us feel as much like a family as anything else.
That’s it for now. Come Friday, keep an eye on the ticker at the bottom of your ESPN screen. Win or lose, though, we’ll be throwing ourselves wholeheartedly and joyously into one of the great and timeless rituals of Pemigewassett.
— Tom and Danny
Hello again to all of our gentle readers. It’s been an eventful week, replete with all the usual activities and also with our annual Fourth of July celebrations and a big athletic day thrown into the mix. The weather continues to keep us on our toes but, once again, there’s not a whole lot that we haven’t been able to do, especially if we’ve been willing to wait out a shower or two and be flexible with our schedule. Today, for example, we’re sending out two backpacking trips that had originally been slated for yesterday (an Upper 4-day to the Carter Range to the northeast of Mt. Washington and a Lower 3-day to the Kinsmans this side of Franconia Notch), four additional overnights (Lower 3-days to Mts. Moosilauke and Osceola, a trip for Upper 4 to Greenleaf Hut in the Franconia Range, and a short hike for Junior 3 up to the Pemi Shelter), and a lunch trip across the lake to Flat Rock (for Lower 1). Lots of boys have been very patient as they’ve waited for the right weather window to get off on an exciting jaunt, and we’ve been extremely impressed by the way they’ve coped with the hard realities of sensible planning.
After a wonderfully indulgent half-hour delay for wake-up on the Fourth, we kicked off the Big Day with our annual Pee-rade. All cabins participated in what is always a dizzyingly creative potpourri of floats/skits that treat the history of the camp, the nation, and the globe – and occasionally risk a glimpse into the post-apocalyptic future of Pemi. The entire Junior Camp made a bid to re-enact the Revolutionary War, half of them dressed in Patriot Blue, half in Tyrannical Scarlet. After being enjoined by what we think must have been an a-historical referee to engage in “a nice clean war,” the two sides clashed thunderously together until cooler heads prevailed – leading to a truce sealed when Kevin Miller and Marco Zapata laid aside their imaginary weapons and shook hands in explicit preparation for being allies in WW II. Given the number of Brits we have on our staff, it was good to see our past national differences so happily set aside.
Amongst the Lower Lowers, Cabin 3 garnered the esteemed judges’ top honors with a highly-topical skit about the Pemi Investigative Agency (yes, we’ve heard about the NSA up here) foiling various murky activities about camp. The highlight was Rafe Forward popping out of a laundry bag to bust a ring of clothing thieves. Also worth noting was the inaugural appearance in Pemi “lore” of Heather Leeds, one of the lynchpins of our office staff. Played in the skit with chilling verisimilitude by Jackson Morrell, Heather can now rest assured that she has achieved mythic status at Pemi. Laurels amongst Upper Lowers were snatched by Lower 5 with “A Pemi Infomercial,” documenting all sorts of institutional mismanagement from Waterfront Head Paige Wallis being more interested in texting than minding the safety of her swimmers to staff members crippling innocent campers in a fierce game of Frisbee Running Bases. Nick Ridley’s boys, led by smooth-voiced narrator Lucas Gaffney, earned a big bag of Skittles for their efforts. Sadly, all of them have been named by Danny in a defamation suit about which you should soon be hearing in the national news.
Upper 3 snatched up a motif from Danny’s earlier Sunday Meeting talk about the musical influences in his life and traced the history of “The Pemi Five” all the way from a 1908 a capella group through the foundation of The Silver Cornet Band. Music does live on at Pemi, and Henry Eisenhart’s boys parleyed that truth into scads of sucrose. Fortunately, the judges were weighing acting talent more heavily than musical chops, as Miles Davis has nothing to fear from Kevin Lewis’s trumpet playing – nor Carlos Santana or Eric Clapton from Caleb Tempro’s or Owen Fried’s chops on guitar. Finally, Senior Three jammed authentic Pemi History into a tried-and-true Hollywood formula with “The Pemi Justice League,” casting things as recent as the Mystery of the Disappearing Pickle Barrel (ask your sons!) and as ageless as our rivalry with Camp Tecumseh into the mode of Super Hero vs. Arch Villain confrontation. Special kudos go to Hugh Grey as the spitting image of Head of Staff and Former Trippie Jamie Andrews – and Matt Kanovsky as a bug-net clad preserver of the natural world. All in all, this year’s Pee-rade made it clear that imagination, energy, and irreverence live on in equal measure in the seething brain of The Pemi Kid!
The afternoon involved the entire camp being divided into six teams (mixed age-groups, with Juniors pitching in with Seniors as equal partners) playing a round-robin tournament in various whiffle-ball venues and competing in such arcane activities as dice-stacking (five at a go, arrangeable only with the assistance of the plastic cup in which they came) and Forehead-to-Mouth Oreo Transfer (look, Ma! No hands!). Maybe you had to be there! The afternoon was sunny and warm, and a good time was had by all – everyone, btw, slathered in sunscreen and hyper-hydrated.
That evening, in the Messhall, Danny awarded silver Revere Ware bowls to the campers and staff for whom this is the fifth year here. We’re always especially happy to recognize folks for whom Pemi has been such an important and constant enterprise. This year’s campers were Andrew Appleby, Noah Belinowitz, Sam Berman, Nick Case, Dylan Cheng, Alex and Jon Duval, Crawford Jones, Hugh Jones, Andrew Kanovsky, Kevin Lewis, Alex Marshman, Tom Moore, Greg Nacheff, Reed O’Brien, Nick Oribe, Dash Slamowitz, Caleb Tempro, Nicholas Gordon, John Stevenson, Graham Cromley, Bryce Grey, Henry Jones, and Nick Toldalagi. 5-year staff veterans included Buck Baskin, Nick Davini, Dorin Dehls, Heather Leeds, Stan Barlow, Nathan Tempro, and Brandon Hendrickson.
Wrapping up the day was the annual Fourth of July Vaudeville, ably hosted by Ian Axness and Teddy Gales. We’ll be sparing with details, as this letter is threatening to run long, but we must mention that the 106th embodiment of the Pemigewassett Silver Cornet Band lived up to every expectation. Among stellar camper soloists were Noah Belinowitz on saxophone, Matt Edlin on French horn, and Emmanual Abbey on drums. Other noteworthy camper acts included Robert Loeser singing “America the Beautiful” (when does Robert ever not stop the show?) and Reed O’Brien with a remarkably skilled piano improvisation. Chopin or Keith Jarrett, watch out. Finally, and almost literally bringing down the house, this year’s iteration of “The Little People” (now known as the Pemi Peewees) made camp history: four wee ones, two boys as always (played by staff brothers Nick and Ben Ridley) and, for the first time ever, two girls (Paige and Bryce Wallis). The theme was Merriwood Day – that flirtatious time of year when our older campers fraternize with the lasses up the valley at an excellent girls’ camp – and the effect of it all was a split-screen look at the fevered preparation on both sides of the gender line. We’re not sure if a Pemi audience has ever laughed harder.
We’ll leave our account of the past week at that. Now for a brief word from Danny on one of the more interesting recent developments in the camp program.
Greetings from Lower Baker! It is hard to believe that we are beginning our third week at Pemi and that plans are already well under way for end-of-first-half festivities like the Birthday Banquet and mid-season awards. Despite the somewhat unpredictable weather of these opening days (as we say in New England, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes!”), the first two weeks have been incredibly busy, with our four program areas – Athletics, Arts & Music, Trips, and Nature (so beautifully coordinated by Assistant Director extraordinaire Ken Moore) – all re-establishing themselves as vibrant facets of life here at Pemi. As I walk from the playing fields to the waterfront, from the Nature Lodge to the Art Building, and from music lessons to the archery range each day, it is inspiring to see our talented teachers sharing the expertise and love of their particular activities. Indeed, after envisioning just this scene all winter, it is quite uplifting to see it in action!
One of the most exciting opportunities we offer our boys each summer is the chance to take occupations with staff members whom we refer to as “Visiting Professionals,” the veteran and professional teachers, craftsmen, and scholars who come to Pemi each summer for a “visit” and to share their passion and knowledge in their field of expertise. Most of our Visiting Professionals are teachers, retired teachers, or professionals in their field who would love nothing more than to spend their entire summer at Pemi but who can commit only to a shorter stint because of the demands on their time back in their “real lives.” So, feeling mutually that it’s a “win/win” to have these folks here for part of the summer, we bring them in, tell the boys about the opportunities that await them, and then witness and enjoy the infusion of energy, wisdom, and skill these highly skilled and energetic people bring to Pemi each summer.
Who are these Visiting Professionals, you ask? In the past couple of summers, we’ve had visits from people like Andy Bale, who teaches photography at Dickinson College, Trey Blair, head baseball coach at Kentucky Country Day School, and Phil Laundry, who runs a fly-fishing business in and around his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. In 2013, we are fortunate enough to have four Visiting Professionals join our learning community: Dave Huippi, Jim Dehls, Stephen Broker, and Conner Scace. Let me tell you a bit about each!
Steve Broker is a retired high school and college ecology teacher and current state bird recorder for the great state of Connecticut. Steve joined the Nature Program and spent the first week at Pemi teaching ornithology and an occupation called “reading the woods,” which taught the boys how to unravel the history of our beautiful wooded area through the lingering clues of prior settlement and development, the natural environment, and wetland ecology. Stephen was introduced to Pemi many years ago, as his father Tom was the Waterfront Director here in the 1930’s! When asked about his return to Pemi this summer, Steve offered this: “It was a thrill to finally follow in my father’s footsteps. He always spoke so reverently about his days at Pemi. I look forward to returning next summer and hopefully for many summers beyond.” Sounds good to us, Steve!
Dave Huippi comes to us via Northfield Mount Hermon School, where he teaches math and is the varsity boy’s lacrosse coach as well. Dave’s past includes stints coaching and teaching at both the Salisbury School in Lakeville, CT and the Bement School in Deerfield, MA after having played lacrosse for sixteen years at Milton Academy, Trinity College, and for Finland’s national team beginning in 2005. “I’ve heard so much about Pemi from my friend and colleague at Northfield Mount Hermon, Charlie Malcolm. There’s nothing I enjoy as much as teaching lacrosse, no matter what level my players are. It is a pleasure and honor to join the Pemi community for three weeks this summer!” It’s great having Dave with us, especially given that claim to get as much of a charge out of teaching boys who have never held a lacrosse stick as from coaching advanced players.
Jim Dehls is a former Pemi camper and counselor (1959-1965 and 1968) and now parent to daughter Dorin Dehls who is back for her fifth summer at Pemi. Jim’s passion is music, and while at Pemi this week he will be teaching drum circle, assisting with Gilbert and Sullivan, and teaching a cappella. Jim taught high school chorus in Groton, CT for 25 years and is presently the Director of Music at Christ Church Episcopal in Pomfret, CT., where he also teaches private voice and piano lessons. Jim says about his time at Pemi, “I get more back than I give! I love the place so much, how nice for me to be able to re-join the staff again after so many years away!” Jim, by the way, was a primo water-ski instructor in 1968 and one of his goals for this week is to get back out on a slalom ski after years and years on dry land. That’s just the kind of spirit we love to see in Pemi alums!
Conner Scace is no stranger to teaching at Pemi, having worked here the past three summers. This year, Conner’s teaching and schooling schedule prevented a full summer in Wentworth, but we are thrilled to be able to take advantage of his expertise as an entomologist once again. During the year, Conner is studying to teach science full-time in the classroom. “I wish I could be here full-time again this summer, but I am so excited to at least be able to spend three weeks at Pemi, despite the demands on my time!” We share in his excitement – and only wish you could see how excited Conner is able to get your sons about this or that species of ants. Talk about energizing our awareness of even the tiniest denizens and elements in our valley!
So, while we feel very confident that our day-to-day summer staff provides excellent instruction every day for the boys, this infusion of professional instructors for a few weeks each summer is quite the boon. They bring not only their expertise but also, in each case, a real love of education and an appreciation of all that Pemi does so well.
Well, we reckon that about does it for this week. Farewell for now. When next we write, our first-session boys will almost unbelievably be home – and our second session campers will have just arrived for their own 3½ weeks. We can’t wait to greet them, but we will assuredly miss our companions of these most recent slightly dampened weeks. Here’s to a wonderful rest of the summer for all.
— Tom and Danny