Here’s to 2014…

Summer 2014: Final Newsletter of the Season

It’s Sunday morning, August 17th, and a gentle rain is falling in the Lower Baker Valley. The clouds are low, and we have to take it on faith that the top of Pemi Hill is still there. Aside from the occasional call our local loon, the place is unbelievably quiet, having said farewell to 170 campers yesterday morning and currently bidding fond farewells to dozens of staff members this forenoon. We hope that our previous blog postings have conveyed something of the quality (and diverse activities) of the 2014 season, which we would certainly rank in the first echelon. For this, our last epistle of the summer, we’ll revert to our recent formula and conclude with a transcript of Danny’s toast at the final banquet this past Thursday evening and Clive Bean’s (that’s Clive Barnes’s New Hampshire second cousin, thrice-removed, on his aunt Petunia’s side) glowing review of this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, H.M.S. Pinafore. And so, with no more ado…

Danny’s Banquet Toast – August 14, 2014

May I propose a toast…?

Here’s to the summer of 2014 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 107th in Pemi’s rich and storied history, a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, nine weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic the Life Guard Training Clinic and the first ever shop clinic, and 14 weeks ago for the grey beards who met in Gloucester, Mass way back in May to begin sharing our dreams, ideas and inspirations for this 107th Pemi summer.

Danny Kerr, Final Banquet

Danny Kerr, Final Banquet

Here’s to a summer that concludes about as late in August as a summer at Pemi can end, with days growing shorter, leaves turning an autumn tint, and boys playing roof ball in the evening with barely a shred of daylight light, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible by the collective efforts of the Pemi men and women in this room.

Here’s to the 259 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, 86 of whom were here for the full session, the largest number in my short tenure at Pemi, campers from 27 states of the United States and 8 countries around the world. And here’s to the new flags representing campers and staff from Poland, Colombia, Sierra Leon and Monaco that Larry added to our collection in the mess hall this summer. Here’s to the 81 campers who made the decision to attend sleep-away camp for the first time this summer; and, yes, Charlie Scott, Harry Tuttle, Per Soderberg, Ezra Nugiel, Patterson Malcolm and Andrew Virden, here’s to campers in their eighth.

Here’s to the talented and dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2014, to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors, ten of whom are former Pemi boys returning for their first summer back after a year or two or more away, the young men who shared closest quarters and become family with the boys, and who, for some magical reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways even their own parents and we senior staff cannot.

Here’s to the influx this summer of young professionals and young families to our staff, to their wisdom, and experience, to their appreciation of community and also to their very young children who graced our community this season; is there anything more heartwarming, pure, and innocent to behold than watching those beautiful children explore the wonders of Pemi, dance unabashedly to Pemi songs, and remind us that camp is, after all, a child’s world.

Here’s to the hard-working crew that Reed Harrigan leads so vigorously and affably each day; Jeremy, Ruth, Sam, Kenny and Chris, the folks who allow us to take full advantage of this beautiful campus…to Office Manager extraordinaire, Heather, who never gets enough credit, and to Kim, who masterminded our ACA accreditation process this summer and deserves most of the credit for the 100% we received on those 200 plus standards. Indeed, no camp is perfect, but on August 5 Kim had us as close to perfect as you possibly can be for our ACA visitors.

Here’s to our magnificent kitchen crew—our blushing bride Stacey, Pappie, Nancy, Betty, Dale, Servacs, Bonifacs, Victor, Michael, Zybenek, and Micoh—who spoiled us with their herculean task of providing delicious and plentiful meals three times a day; something tells me we’ll have a chance to thank them again later this evening.

And a special shout out to our remarkable young nurses, Emily and Megan, whose enthusiasm, great cheer, and warm care was so vital in battling the virus that made its way through the ranks this summer. Thank you Emily and Megan for remaining so upbeat, positive, professional and resolute despite the unexpected curveball that was thrown your way in your very first summer as camp nurses…bravo!

Here’s to the amazing program at Pemi, to Kenny, the ”kid from Cleveland” who masterminds it all, to Laura down in Art World who proved to us that there really is life after Deb Pannell, to Charlie and all the coaches in the athletics’ program who always put values such as sportsmanship first….boom! To Tom and the trippies who sent us tramp, tramp, tramping each day out to the majestic mountains and the mighty rivers nearby, to Dorin and the beautiful music she and her staff helped us produce, to Olivia, Paige, and Emily and all the safe fun we had in the water, to Harry O in the shop, Chris on the courts, Larry and Deb in the Nature Lodge, Jonathan on the archery range, Sam down in Lax world, and all of the other teachers who brought major energy and mojo to occupation periods every day!

Here’s to Dottie – for anything and everything!

Here’s to the weather this summer, so many glorious and beautiful NH days, the crisp, quiet mornings, those blazing July and August afternoons, and the peaceful, golden haze across the Lower Baker Pond at day’s end that never gets old to behold.

Here’s to the things that made Pemi 2014 feel unique: “FAST” weeks and stick ball tournaments, a new Upper 4 and a newer Upper 5, ten-year ties, more barrel ball and chess than anyone can remember, sculling, Uncle Ed, the new path out of the Messhall, the morning sound of the “bangers and screamers” that kept the geese away, yogurt-gate, Lebron returning home, Jon Bernthal walking live for a visit, Pemi Westers being sent off by Pemi Easters, our new song book and the beautiful face lift in Senior Lodge that allows us to collectively gaze over the glassy, reflective lake beyond.

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we laugh at ourselves and anticipate “things to look for,” Campfire when we entertain ourselves to the setting sun, and to Sunday Meeting when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as the great Messhall fire of 1965, the flood of 1973, Roland, our knight with the unexpected star on his shield, and how one at-bat changed everything for the Red Sox Nation.

And of course, here’s to our 15-year-olds, to their three wins on Tecumseh Day, to the leadership they provided, and to the lifelong friendships that they have created. I know from personal experience that some day you’ll participate in each other’s weddings, be Godparents to each other’s children and, hopefully, become the next generation of counselors at Pemi.

And of course, here’s to the Reed Family and the Fauver Family who, in their loving, wise, and supportive ways, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from each of us every summer and who see stewardship of Camp Pemigewassett as their chance to make the world a better place, one boy at a time.

And finally here’s to our firm belief that Pemi is a place where, with every new summer, campers have another opportunity to be the person they want to be, to meet challenges with success and pride, to thrive in an inclusive community, to learn independence, to gain confidence, to become fine young men and adults.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2014.

Good luck, long life, and joy!

 

Clive Bean Reviews Pinafore

The Wentworth, New Hampshire dramatic season came to a triumphant climax this past Tuesday and Wednesday evening with this year’s Pemigewassett Gilbert and Sullivan production, H.M.S. Pinafore. The directing debut of first-year Head of Music Dorin Dehls, the show was marked by strong ensemble singing and acting and exceptional performances from a number of talented leads. The first operetta ever produced at Pemi was this same Pinafore back in 1951. And, in answer to the Beatle’s timeless question, we can say with absolute certainty about G&S “Yes, we’ll still need you, yes, we’ll still feed you, when you’re sixty-four.”

Toes

Details, details…

Ms. Dehls was the emblem of patient persistence all season long as she brought both the “girls’” and sailors’ choruses up to a very high standard indeed. The whole show turns on a dramatic moment when Captain Corcoran finds himself as exasperated as Ben Ridley discussing the theory of general relativity with Alex Duval—and consequently lets out an explosive D-word. Both choruses are meant respond with a complex, syncopated expression of musical horror and, while this reviewer has been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 20 Pemi Pinafore’s, he can never remember the cast getting it perfectly right until Tuesday night. And, damme, if it wasn’t perfect Wednesday night as well. Sir Joseph’s band of adoring female relatives, featuring Graham Purcell, Eli Brennan, James Minzesheimer, Owen Lee, Walker Goodridge, Henry Moore, Matt McDonough, Tucker Jones, James Kemp, and Matt Cloutier, were as flawlessly musical as they were beautiful—especially once “Matilda” Cloutier had shaved off her Middlebury mountain-man beard. Opposite them, Alex and Jon Duval, Harry Tuttle, Pierce Haley, Hugh Jones, Michael Kerr, Theo Nichols, Will Katcher, Sam Seymour, and Fred Seebeck manned the Pinafore and courted the girls with all the energy and excitement of male pit bulls at a poodle fashion show. Strutting the boards for the first time this season was Director Danny Kerr, seeking temporary refuge from the stress and loneliness of all-camp command by fleeing to the nautical mosh pit that was the ship’s forecastle. We’re sure his wife Julia was happy to see that Danny’s tattoo featured her name and not something really silly—like “Uma.”

Sailors

Sailors

Sisters, cousins, and aunts

Sisters, cousins, and aunts

 

Nick Gordon as Bill Bobstay

Nick Gordon as Bill Bobstay

Tom Reed, Admiral;  Dan Reed, Captain Corcoran

Tom Reed as Sir Joseph Porter and Dan Reed as Captain Corcoran

This year’s leads were equally strong. Andrew DeGaetano turned in a solid performance as Carpenter’s Mate Bob Becket (no relation to Samuel), handling the bass line of the “British Tar” trio with singular volume and assurance. Nicholas Gordon literally rose from his hospital bed to give us a compelling Bill Bobstay, Boatswain’s Mate. Despite a fever in excess of 102 on Wednesday night, he sassed Dan Reed’s Captain Corcoran with the edginess of Lindsay Lohan back in traffic court again. Becky Noel was as winning on stage as she has been at campfires all summer, finally snagging Sir Joseph as a husband and proving that persistence gets you what you want, even if it involves a marriage so tight it would be illegal in any of the lower 48 states. Speaking of Sir Joseph, Tom Reed returned to the role he must have done ten times if he’s done it once. Never before, though, had he been able to bolster his dismissive attitude towards Captain Corcoran with all of the real-world frustration built up over the years trying to get son Dan to turn off lights in the Reed house in order to save the planet. Or at least trying to have everything else his own way.

Larry Davis as Dick Deadeye

Larry Davis as Dick Deadeye

Will

Will Henry as Little Buttercup

Larry Davis was never better as Dick Deadeye, especially on Wednesday night. Even though Larry finally has internet-access in the Nature Lodge and has every reason to feel blissfully happy, he managed to play with total conviction a character so dark and bitter he makes John Boehner seem like Kermit the Frog. Stealing the show more often than not, however, was Will Henry as Little Buttercup. From the time he first stepped out onto the stage to sell Gold Bond, Skittles, and Axe body wash to the amorous sailors, Will and his hairy chest were absolutely unforgettable elements of the production. So alluring was Mr. (or is it Ms.?) Henry that van driver Kenny Morrell confessed directly after Tuesday night’s show that he’d fallen in love with the dude. -Ette! Ah, the power of art!

Robert Loeser as Ralph Rackstraw

Robert Loeser as Ralph Rackstraw

Jacob Berk as Josephine

Jacob Berk as Josephine

Speaking of art, first-time leads Robert Loeser and Dan Reed were flawless in their roles as Ralph Rackstraw and Captain Corcoran. Robert managed to deliver with perfect clarity lines of dialogue as tangled as a junior cabin’s rope in the Woodsdudes’ Day bear-bagging event. The part of Ralph is fraught with notes most people would have to sit in ice water to reach, but Robert nailed them with the ease of a Pavarotti – proving that he’s a clone of more musical mega-stars than just Adele. Meanwhile, Dan Reed gave us the simple but well-meaning Captain with a singular dramatic flair, making the show especially relevant for Junior campers with short attention spans by making it clear that Victorian sailors, too, worried about things like yogurt rations and Tecumseh Day. Dan was onstage for the bulk of the second act, and his capacity to deliver number after demanding number with undiminished energy, precision, and dramatic flair speaks well to his potential for starring in the next Baz Luhrman filmic extravaganza, The Walking Dead Learn to Run. Rounding out the principals was Jacob Berk, for whom this was not actually the first lead. He had shared the role of Celia in last summer’s Iolanthe, playing the first night before being whisked off for an exclusive gig with Cher at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. This summer, though, he had Josephine all to himself, and he positively owned the role handling his solos with dramatic flair and pinpoint musical accuracy and easily matching Robert/Ralph in their icy hot duet, “Refrain Audacious Tar.” It clearly hadn’t hurt that Jacob had previewed his performance at Greenleaf Hut for an enraptured audience from a local girls’ camp.

We have already mentioned rookie director Dorin Dehls remarkable job whipping the show into such impressive shape. One-man orchestra Josh Hess was masterful at keyboard, even though it was rumored that he had refused a thousand-dollar bonus had he been willing to sport a nautical tattoo on the back of his shaved hear. Deborah Fauver’s weeks of hard and creative work as wardrobe mistress and backstage manager contributed incalculably to the success of the show. And, perhaps for the first time ever, the set and lighting drew appreciative applause from the both nights’ audiences as soon as the curtain first opened. We understand that special thanks are owed to Reed Harrigan and Ken Morrell for their invaluable technical assistance in these to realms.

Will Clare and Dan Walder, guards

Will Clare and Dan Walder, guards

Finally, a special shout out to curtain-pullers and nautical bouncers Will Clare and Danno Walder, who somehow managed to steal the show by standing there and trying to look stern and impassive. There must just be something about these two guys that makes it absolutely ridiculous when they try to act serious. In any case, it was two nights truly to remember. Looking forward to the 2015 production of The Mikado, we advise you to book early. Tickets are bound to fly out the door as quickly as Mitch McConnell leaves a meeting with President Obama. Until then, happy theater going!

~ Clive Bean

With thanks to Clive, we’ll close the last official newsletter of the 2014 season. It’s been an excellent year, and as we begin (unbelievably) to put Pemi to bed for the winter, we thank as well all of you parents who entrusted your boys to us for the summer. We hope to see all of them who can return in June or July of 2015. To that end, look for applications to be made available to veteran families on or about October 15 (and to new families towards the end of the month.) For now, goodbye, and have a wonderful Fall.

~ Tom and Danny

 

 

 

Field Trips Near and Far: Pemi’s Nature Program

Summer 2014: Newsletter # 7


EXCURSIONS

by Larry Davis, Director of Pemi’s Nature Program

Pemi’s Nature Program has many facets. One of these is our program of instruction. This summer we offered forty different nature occupations ranging from classics—Beginning Butterflies and Moths and Beginning Rocks and Minerals (both available every week)—to more esoteric activities such as Mushrooms/Mosses/Lichens, and Bees/Wasps/Ants offered just once apiece. New this year was the “GeoLab” series of advanced geology occupations focusing on topics such as Plate Tectonics, Water and Geology, and New Hampshire Geology. Along the way we also made good use of our dark room, our microscopes, our wildlife camera, and our wild foods “kitchen” (ask your boys what was on the menu).

I want to use this opportunity, however, to highlight another aspect of the program: the afternoon (or longer) field trips that we take away from camp. Some of these are to nearby old mines for mineral collecting or to nearby fields for butterflies. Others are to more distant localities such as Franconia and Crawford Notches here in New Hampshire or to the cave region in Schoharie, New York.

Crawford Notch

Crawford Notch

This summer, in addition to the mine and butterfly trips, we enjoyed several of these longer excursions. Two went to the Notches (one each to Franconia and Crawford), one to Quincy Bog in nearby Rumney and one to New York State for caving. In addition, our new GeoLab occupation included field trips to Sculptured Rocks in Groton, NH, Plummer’s Ledge, here in Wentworth, Livermore Falls in Campton, NH, the bluffs and terraces along the Connecticut River in Fairlee, VT, and the Baker River, where we panned for gold, and one special excursion to the Palermo Mine (a regular stop for us) for our GeoLab campers that focused on local geology. I will use the rest of this newsletter to describe some of these trips for you, and have provided links that give the locations of most of the sites. With the exception of the Palermo Mine, they are all open to the public.

Quincy Bog (Rumney, NH)

Marshes, Bogs, Swamps- Bogs are wetland areas dominated by sphagnum moss. Swamps are wetland areas with trees growing in them. Marshes are flooded areas dominated by floating plants, grasses, and sedges. Quincy Bog is not just a bog. It is a beaver swamp and pond. Regardless of the name, this is a special place, not only because of what’s there, but also because of how it came to be preserved. This is what they say in the trail guide:

Quincy Bog is a special place. The forty-four-acre Natural Area includes the remains of a post-glacial lake (now reduced to a one-acre open bog pond). Its bog pond, sedge meadow, red maple and alder swamp, sandy flood plain, granite outcrop, and typical central New Hampshire cut-over woodland present a rich diversity of plant and animal life that we invite you to contemplate and explore.

Beavers, still very active today, formed the “bog” itself. Along the trail that circles the flooded area, you can see their dams, lodges, stumps (both new and old) of trees that they’ve cut down, and skid ways that they’ve used to move the trees to the pond where they can float them to the dams or lodges. You also experience the entire ecological community that exists because of the beaver’s transformation of a stream. Visitors see turtles sunning themselves on logs, a huge variety of birds, frogs, along with an abundance of plants—ferns, trees, mosses, flowers, sedges, grasses, and the fungi that “infect” them.

Quincy Bog

Quincy Bog

The trail itself changes elevation so that you move from a wetland community that includes red maples, sedges, ferns, and floating plants, to a hardwood forest with oak, beech, white pine, and wintergreen in only a few vertical feet. It is a good lesson in how small changes in elevation can lead to big changes in plant and animal communities. At one point there is an old stone wall and a very old oak tree—at least 150 years. In another, there is a rock outcrop covered with “rock tripe” (a lichen). There are large glacial eratics and a flowing spring. If you walk the trail clockwise (any we usually do), you come, at last, to the large beaver dams (old and new) that help to form the pond.

Equally interesting is how this “Natural Area” came to be protected. As you drive here, you pass through what looks like a typical suburban subdivision. Indeed, this was supposed to completely surround the bog, which, in turn, was going to be partially drained. A group of citizens became alarmed and moved to protect it. One of the leaders of the group was a man named George Wendell. George was a retired Plymouth fireman living in Rumney. He also was, for many years in the 1970’s and 80’s, Pemi’s “shop guy.” Today the bog is owned by a non-profit, “Rumney Ecological Systems,” that has a large board of directors composed mostly of Rumney residents. The community lovingly cares for the bog and there is even a nature center where nature programs are presented monthly. It is truly a place of pride for the citizens of Rumney.

Palermo Mine (North Groton, NH)

In a 1994 Pemi newsletter, I wrote the following about the Palermo Mine:

Huge piles of shining rock glistening in the hot afternoon sun. The light reflected off these rocks is almost blinding. The road fairly sparkles with flakes of mica. In every direction are more dumps, more piles of rock, more shafts—on the hills, in the impoundments in the woods. Scampering over the dumps are the figures of excited campers. They look dark against the white quartz and feldspar. Their arms too, sparkle with mica flakes. The sound of clanging rock hammers are accompanied by excited shrieks of “Larry-look what I found!” We have visited this mine over 75 times in my 25 years here. It was the first one that we went to (and it was also the site of our most recent trip). It never fails to delight and it still yields new treasures. Palermo has launched many a Pemi camper’s career in Geology.

Palermo Mine

Palermo Mine

This description is as accurate today as it was twenty-one years ago. It is, in fact, a world-famous mineral locality. There are about 120 minerals that occur here including about 10 that are found nowhere else in the world. It is an exciting place to visit. The owner, Bob Whitmore of Weare, NH is still working the mine for mineral specimens. In addition to the rare minerals, which are of interest to collectors, it yields beautiful, gem-quality aquamarines, commercial quantities of quartz (the concrete at Boston’s Prudential Center contains crushed white quartz from Palermo), mica, and beryl, nice apatite crystals, and many, many other easily found and identified minerals. It was originally opened in the 1870’s for mica, which was used in stove windows (still is, in fact) and automobile windshields. It was also a source of feldspar, which was used in the large refractory (pottery) industry that existed up and down the Connecticut River (there were rich clay deposits from Hartford, CT up to St. Johnsbury, VT).

We are very fortunate that Bob is a friend of Pemi. The public is not allowed in, but we have a key and can go any time we like. We generally visit every Thursday but we have also taken some additional trips. This year, as part of the GeoLab occupation, we went with 3 older campers to look at the geology in some detail and to collect from parts of the mine that we do not usually go to. Bob has also donated some spectacular mineral specimens to us. These are displayed in a case (that Bob built for us) in the Reed Memorial Nature Library.

Panning for Gold (Baker River, Wentworth, NH)

Gold Panning

Gold Panning

Yes, there is gold in New Hampshire! In the 1840’s there were actually active gold mines in Lyman and Lisbon, about 40 miles north of here near the Wild Ammonoosuc River. These never amounted to much, but you can still find “placer” gold (loose gold particles mixed in with the other sediments) in that river and in the Baker, which runs from the slopes of Mount Moosilauk through Warren and Wentworth to join the Pemigewassett River in Plymouth, NH. During a GeoLab excursion last week, Deb Kure and 3 campers tried their luck. They used old-fashioned gold pans leant to us by maintenance staff member Jeremy Rathbun who pans for gold as a hobby. He also suggested a good location for our first attempt ever: in the river just by the town ball field in “downtown” Wentworth. The idea of gold panning is the gold is very, very heavy compared to the rocks and minerals that comprise the river gravels. As the stream slows in spots, the heaviest sediments drop out first. So the search for gold begins in the river’s pools. You scoop up gravel, sand, and water with the pan and gently swirl it around. The lighter materials go to the outside and the heavier (gold?) stay in the middle. What you’re looking for is called “color” by those in the know. Our group did see some “color” and picked out tiny grains with equally tiny tweezers and put them into (you guessed it) tiny glass vials filled with water. Needless to say, nobody’s fortune was made, but it was so much fun that we’ll try it again next summer. I hope you’ve enjoyed these “nuggets” of information about New Hampshire gold (sorry-couldn’t resist a pun).

Plummer’s Ledge (Wentworth, NH) and Sculptured Rocks (North Groton, NH)

Sculptured Rocks

Sculptured Rocks

These are two, state-owned, “pocket” parks that are outstanding locations to view the work of glacial melt water. Sculptured Rocks still has water flowing through it (the Cockermouth River), while at Plummer’s Ledge the glacial features are high and dry deep in a New Hampshire woodland.

Pothole Formation

Pothole Formation

Today’s mountain streams, here in New England, are crystal clear. That is, they contain no suspended sediment (which would turn them cloudy or brown). Without these sediment “tools” almost no erosion of our hard bedrock could take place. Not so in glacial times. Not only was there orders of magnitude more runoff, but it was loaded with sediment from silt to boulder size. The swirling waters flung the sediments against the bedrock of channel floor and walls smoothing them and carving flutes, chutes, and deep potholes. At Sculptured Rocks, these are clearly visible along the modern course of the river over a few hundred-foot long span. At Plummer’s Ledge, the potholes are big and surrounded by woods.

Giant Kettle Formation

Giant Kettle Formation

While potholes dominate both of these sites, their formation was different. Sculptured Rocks was probably formed by glacial melt water out in front of the glacier. Had you been there at the time, you would have seen the rushing stream pouring out from the front of the ice, carrying huge amounts of sediment of various sizes from small (silt) to large (cobbles and boulders). These formed the potholes that are visible today. At Plummer’s Ledge, the melt water was on top of the glacier. It plunged down a crevasse (also known as a “moulin”) into a plunge pool in the bedrock below. Both sites are excellent reminders that the hills and mountains of New Hampshire were once covered by ice almost a mile thick a mere 15,000 years ago…a very, very short time when placed on a geologic time scale.

River Terraces, Flood Plains, and Faults (Connecticut River, Orford, NH/Fairlee, VT)

Many of you have probably crossed the bridge over the Connecticut River between Orford, NH and Fairlee, VT.  It is a quirk of political geography that the state line is actually on the west (Vermont) side of the river, rather than down the middle. So, the whole width of the river is actually in New Hampshire.

Terrace Formation

Terrace Formation

This is one of the best places that I know to view river terraces. These are also products of glaciation. In this case, their origin lies in Connecticut, at Rocky Hill, where a plug of glacial outwash dammed up the ancestral Connecticut River creating a lake in front of the retreating glacier. This lake, known as “Glacial Lake Hitchcock” eventually stretched as far north as St. Johnsbury, Vermont. As lake levels went up and down, the adjacent flood plains became stranded creating terraces. There are at least 4 distinct levels that can be seen on both sides of the river. In the early 1800’s, Orford was a center of commerce and a crossroads on several major trading routes. Retired sea captains built spectacular houses on one of these terraces. They are classics of the federalist style and were designed by Asher Benjamin, an architect in Charles Bullfinch’s firm in Boston. Bullfinch was the designer of the Massachusetts State House in Boston and the U.S. Capitol building in Washington.

Fairlee-Orford

Fairlee-Orford

Over most of its course, the Connecticut River actually follows a major fault. However, a body of unerodable granite forced the river to divert to the east around it. It now appears as a cliff (“Mount Moriah” or “Mount Morey” depending on which map you look at) on the Vermont side. It is an important nesting location for Peregrine Falcons, which can sometimes be seen from the parking lot of the Fairlee Diner (an excellent place for breakfast or lunch). As you can see from the map, Lake Morey is actually located along the fault. If you are driving south on I-91 from St. Johnsbury, looking south a couple miles north of Bradford (Exit 16), you can clearly see, straight ahead, Lake Morey and the valley that follows the fault while the road turns east to follow the river.

The fault is a major geologic divider. The rocks in New Hampshire (east of the fault) are mostly igneous (hence the nickname, “The Granite State”). To the west, in Vermont, they are mostly metamorphosed sedimentary rocks that were deposited on the floor of an ancient (~ 400 million years ago) sea. The cliffs at Fairlee are geologically part of New Hampshire despite the fact that they are politically part of Vermont.

Livermore Falls (Pemigewassett River, Campton and Plymouth, NH)

This dramatic set of rapids and falls along the Pemigewassett River has a complex geologic history and an interesting human one. It is the “type locality” (the place the rock was originally found and described) for the rock “Camptonite,” a kind of basalt that has been found worldwide.

Livermore Falls

Livermore Falls

Geologically, you have a weakly metamorphosed rock (once sea-floor sediment) that has been injected with magma (molten rock) of two types. One is iron-magnesium rich, which produced the camptonite, the other was silica rich, which produced a type of rock known as “Aplite.” Both of these rock types have formed narrow tabular (like a tabletop) bodies that are almost vertical. These are known as “dikes.” Since the dikes cut through the metamorphic rock, they must be younger (if you’re going to cut a cake, the cake has to be there first). The dikes, however, are not metamorphosed. So the mountain building events that altered the original rocks must have happened after they were deposited but before the dikes were injected. In one or two places you can see that the aplite dikes cut through the camptonite dikes so they must be younger still. This yields a sequence of events for the region: first the sediments are deposited. Then the mountain building forces metamorphosed them. Next the camptonite dikes were injected and finally, the aplite dikes formed. This is how geologists go about figuring out the “story” behind what we see and Livermore Falls is a great place to teach about it.

The river also illustrates how these ancient features influence modern landscapes. The camptonite is weaker, both chemically and physically, than the metamorphic rocks. Geologists would say that it “weathers” more easily. So, where the dikes are exposed in the river’s channel, it has cut “slots” into the surrounding rocks. These are clearly visible on both sides of the valley. The presence of these weaker dikes, which cut perpendicular to the river, is probably also responsible for the falls being here.

From a human standpoint, the falls lead to the development of a water-powered mill here. According to the Campton Historical Society, this was a paper-pulp mill. You can clearly see the remains of a diversion dam that funneled the river into the turbines within the factory (also clearly visible). The mill was built in 1889 and was in production until the 1950’s. In 1973 a flood (Hurricane Agnes) destroyed the dam. This is the same storm that produced the famous “Pemi Flood” which forced us to bring campers in on boats on opening day that year.

There is also a wonderful old iron bridge, built in 1886. It is of an unusual “pumpkinseed” design. It stands 103 feet above the river and is 263 feet long. It was closed in 1959.

~ Larry Davis

 

2014 Tecumseh Day

2014 Newsletter #6

This week’s newsletter comes from Charlie Malcolm, our longtime Director of Athletics. It was he who oversaw our recent competition with our arch-rivals (and very good friends) from Camp Tecumseh. This storied rivalry, dating back to our founding in 1908, is surely one of the most august in American camping, and predates some of the most noteworthy squarings-off in collegiate sports. For many years this was a twice-a-season, home-and-away affair, and the camps used to travel to each other’s shore via a combination of foot-travel (for us, a 4-mile hike to the Wentworth train station), rail (to Weirs Beach), and mail steamer (to Tecumseh’s scenic cove on the shores of beautiful Lake Winnepesauke.) In line with the current softening of the American lifestyle, we now travel door-to-door by van and bus. At the same time, the new once-a-year format, which finds half of each camp going to the other’s campus, allows us all to share meals together in our respective dining halls. The resulting hospitality and conversation has leant Tecumseh/Pemi Day an increasingly friendly tone. While the intense competitiveness of the early days lives on unabated, it is now balanced by ever-greater levels of good sportsmanship and respect. And with that as a general introduction, on to Charlie’s account.

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6:30 AM, Lower Baker Pond….the bugle blows and it is quickly replaced by rock music as the Seniors wake up the Intermediate Camp. After camper-led calisthenics and a quick Polar Bear, the boys quickly make their way to the dining hall with their bags packed for a long day at Tecumseh. By 7:35, the buses are rolling with the 11’s, 12’s and 13’s age groups. At Pemi, the finishing touches are made on soccer, baseball, and tennis courts, while the 10’s and 15’s anxiously await the arrival of Tecumseh. By 9:15, the first serve, kick, pitch, and start were initiated. The day had begun.

The morning events were conducted in cool temperatures with very competitive matches on display at both camps.  At Tecumseh, the 13’s swim team—behind the strong efforts of Timmy Coe—paced Pemi to an exciting victory. The 12’s soccer team found themselves down by a goal two minutes into the game but battled their way back to a tie on a Dean Elefante goal. Sasha Roberts and Tate Suratt never stopped running for their teammates in this incredible match. Despite victories by Eric Bush in 4th singles and the doubles teams of Kevin Millar–Jaime Acocella and Felix Nusbaum–Graham Winings, 11’s Tennis lost a heartbreaker 4-3 on a decisive tiebreaker.

Pierce Cowels, 10s baseball

Pierce Cowles, 10s baseball

At Pemi, the 10’s baseball team fell to a very strong Tecumseh side 8-2. Pemi received outstanding pitching from Pierce Cowles, who settled down after a nervous first inning. Pemi enjoyed good hitting from Elliot Jones and Oliver Giraud but could not put together a big inning to get back into the game. The 15’s tennis team, winners of the Lakes Region Tournament earlier in the season, jumped out to an early lead when Jack O’Conner won his number two singles match, followed by Carson Hill’s surgical win at number one singles. Pemi would cruise to a 6-1 victory as the Duval brothers delivered singles victories followed by a doubles victory from Owen Fried and Robert Loeser. After round one in the morning, the day was tied 2-2-1.

At Tecumseh, the 13’s soccer team rode the wave of momentum from their impressive swim victory right into their soccer match. Last year, this particular age group was beaten quite handily 12-1. This year, however, was different. With Nick Bowman in net, Timmy Coe anchoring the defense, and the soccer gods in attendance, the Pemi 13s fought gallantly to a 0-0 draw, a spectacular result against a team loaded with academy-level players. The 11’s baseball team fell 8-3. The hero of this match was George Lerdal who came on in relief with the bases loaded and struck out the side. Finally, 12s Tennis cruised to an impressive 5-2 victory behind singles wins from Spencer Hill, Suraj Khakee, and Quinn McConnaughey, and doubles victories by Scott Cook–Dean Elefante and Eli Barlow–Ryan Bush.

15s baseball

15s baseball

At Pemi, one of the most inspiring contests of the day was turned in by the 10’s soccer team against a very deep and talented opponent. Despite facing heavy pressure from the opening whistle, Walker Goodrich flawlessly protected the Pemi goal with Elliot Jones and Luca McAdams shutting down the middle of the pitch until Isaiah Abbey raced behind the defense to give Pemi a 1-0 lead. The boys played their hearts out, but Tecumseh pushed home two goals in the last two minutes to win the game. While 10’s fell in glorious defeat, the 15’s baseball team defeated Tecumseh 5-3 behind the stellar pitching of Jack Wood and timely hitting by Patterson Malcolm and Will DeTeso. The highlight of the game was a bases-loaded, 1-2-3 double play to escape a critical first inning jam. With the day knotted at 4-4-2, the boys entered the Pemi and Tecumseh dining halls with energy and excitement.

5_Talbot

Danny Kerr and Jim Talbot

At Pemi, Danny Kerr presented retiring Tecumseh Director, Jim Talbot, with a canvas photographic print celebrating Jim’s role in the tradition of fine competition and sportsmanship between the two camps. Since 2001, Jim has been an outstanding ambassador for Tecumseh. He retires with record enrollment, a dedicated seasoned staff in place, and with the competition between our two camps as solidly grounded in sportsmanship and goodwill as it has ever been. We wish Jim well in his next adventure and will do our best to make sure this day of healthy competition remains cemented in friendship.

After lunch, amidst rising temperatures, Tecumseh brought their own heat to Pemi in the remaining afternoon contests. At Pemi, the 10’s tennis team was swept 7-0 and the 15’s soccer team also fell 3-0 to a Tecumseh team that simply played with more determination. Tobey Suratt played particularly well for the 10’s before eventually losing in a tiebreaker. For the 15’s soccer match, Patterson Malcolm, Elliot Britton, and Sam Berman did not back down while anchoring the Pemi defense, and netminder Will Harnard made several critical saves to keep the game close. At Tecumseh the results were similar as the 11’s soccer team fell 3-0 despite the scrappy efforts of Will Ackerman and Eric Bush. The 12’s baseball team ran into a terrific team boasting players headed off for the Little League World Series and were no hit. Fortunately, Suraj Khakee and Ryan Cowles held Tecumseh to three runs over six innings to give Pemi a chance to get back into the game. Despite winning efforts by Timmy Coe and the battling Andrew Kanovsky, who came back from a 5-1 deficit, the 13’s tennis team fell 5-2. By sweeping all five of the initial afternoon events, Tecumseh guaranteed a tie, and their clear momentum carried over to the remaining fixtures.

Oscar de Haut de Sigy; 10's swimmer

Oscar de Haut de Sigy; 10’s swimmer

At Tecumseh, the home team won both the 11 and 12 swim meets as both camps struggled to maintain their energy at the waterfront. Pemi’s 13’s baseball team also fell, 9-3, facing another Tecumseh side loaded with exceptional talent. James Minzesheimer led Pemi’s offense with two hits, but Tecumseh’s timely hitting was too much for Pemi. At Pemi, the 10’s swim team fell 33-27 as Simon Taylor delivered first place in butterfly and backstroke and anchored a free style relay victory. Oscar de Haut de Sigy also delivered first places in the free style and breaststroke. The 15s shook off their disappointment following their soccer game and delivered an outstanding effort, securing our only afternoon victory. The highlight of the race was Noah Belinowiz’s extraordinary leg in the Medley Relay where, despite his having recently been down with a stomach bug, he reeled in a half lap with an impressive breaststroke. With victories by Harry Tuttle in the backstroke, Andrew Digaetano in the butterfly, and Robert Cecil in the free style, the 15s finished the day with an impressive 32-28 victory.

Home

Home

While we lost the day by a significant margin of 13-5-2, one only had to be at the Pemi waterfront to see the triumphs the day nevertheless involved. It’s hard to find words to describe how inspiring it was to watch our 15’s push aside their collective disappointment to swim their last races of the day with all they had—and, at the same time, enthusiastically cheer on their Junior little brothers to do the same. Any former 15-year-old Pemi athlete can tell you there is a hugely rich if bittersweet moment when the last race and competition of his camper days are finished and he has to come to terms with this own journey. Whether the last race is at Winnipesaukee or on the Shores of Lower Baker, the oldest boys sense something deep and transcendent as their formative boyhood days slip a little further away. As the buses return from Tecumseh and the camp community gathers in front of the Lodge, many of the fifteens are overcome with the emotion of the moment as they warmly greet their fellow campers after an incredibly long day. As in previous years, our fifteens rallied the camp in preparation for Tecumseh Day and went on to deliver victories in three of their four events, a noble accomplishment. It is with this momentum that these boys leave for their Allagash wilderness adventure in Maine, focus their final efforts towards a run at becoming a Pemi Chief, or practice for a culminating stage appearance in next week’s Gilbert & Sullivan H.M.S. Pinafore. Their determination can take your breath away.

Thanks to Charlie for this compelling account. Come back next week for Larry Davis’s latest word on Pemi’s celebrated Nature Program.

Tom and Danny

JimTalbotSM

 

 

Survey says…My Favorite Pemi Moment

Summer 2014: Newsletter #5

Hello once again from Wentworth, where we are now (almost unbelievably) a full week into the second half of the 2014 season. Since we were last in touch, 80-odd first session campers have said their good-byes for the year and an equal number of lads have taken their places – a great new crew brimming with eagerness to start their 25-day sojourn in the White Mountains. Sad as we were to say farewell to the group that has gone on to other involvements and climes, we are always hugely energized by the influx of new boys. Not to be too wed to athletic analogies, it’s a bit like being Germans at the World Cup final and watching Miroslav Klose leave the pitch while Mario Goetze sheds his warm-ups and trots out onto the field. There are great things in store, and there’s nothing like “fresh legs” to make sure they come to pass.

SoundPainting

Sound-painting performance

Naturally, the whole Pemi operation has been in full and energetic swing since our Changeover days. The trip program, about which we spoke in our previous number, took special advantage of the beautiful weather at the end of last week, sponsoring outings near and far under inspiringly cerulean skies. On just Friday, for example, more than eighty of our campers were involved in an outing by foot or by canoe. Music has been bolstered by the week-long visit of former Music Head Ian Axness (who has offered both the always popular “Sound Painting” and “Percussion Explosion”) and the first-time residency of Kenny Moore’s uncle-in-law, Eddie McKendry (teaching a week’s worth of Advanced Guitar.) Meanwhile, of course, rehearsals continue apace for this year’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore, with Dorin Dehls and Josh Hess doing a stellar job getting choruses and principals up to speed.

Nature occupation

Nature occupation

Down at Art World, Laura Bubar has introduced Origami for what we think is the first time at Pemi – that on top of ever-popular activities like Mask Making and Duct Tape Art. Andy Bale is also in the second week of his residency and has already had a number of boys out after taps for his remarkable Light Painting Photography workshops. (Perhaps you saw examples in the past photo postings.) As for Nature, Conner Scace has a group of campers positively riveted with the inaugural “Bees, Wasps, and Ants” occupation of the season, while “Geo Lab” begins its second week, as Dan Reed and Deb Kure introduce their charges to the fascinating details of plate tectonics. And while the athletic schedule has been relatively light this week, given the arrival of the new boys and the necessary reforming of the various teams, we have started to gear up for our big annual competition with Camp Tecumseh, scheduled for August 1 and very much our equivalent of Harvard-Yale, Duke-North Carolina, or Red Sox-Yankees. (More on this next week from Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm.) So, as you can see, for all of our Thoreauvian pond-side residency, we have hardly been twiddling our thumbs.

First Session camper surveys

First Session camper surveys

After this quick peek at what is keeping our energetic little community hopping, we figured it might be interesting and informative to look back at what some of your sons made of the first half of the season. Shortly before they left, first-session boys were offered the chance to fill out a survey on their experience. As we pored through the results, it occurred to us (those of us, at least, who endeavor in these newsletters to convey how it actually feels to be here at camp) that one way to open a window on the Pemi experience is to let the boys speak for themselves. All of you, of course, have been hearing from your sons on a weekly basis (although how copiously we have no way of knowing.) But, since each of us (or so we are told) comes at life with his or her own perspective, there is arguably value in hearing what lots of people are saying. So, with that as a prologue, let us let you in on what 80-plus first-session campers had to say about their “Favorite Pemi Moment.” (We also, by the way, asked them what their “Least Favorite Pemi Moment” might have been. Let’s just go with the favorites, though. For some reason, that seems to make sense.)

From the Juniors (8-10 years old):

“My favorite Pemi moment was finishing my distance swim and after my campfire performance.”

“Winning inspection for the third time.”

“Meeting my counselor was exciting because that was who I would be with for three weeks.”

“They were all awesome.”

“Seeing all my friends again.”

“Waterpolo with my friends.”

Bean Soup [our weekly version of The Daily Show] and P-rade [the 4th of July parade].”

“Pretty much all of the F.R.B. [Frisbee Running Bases] games. It’s really fun. The way it works is there’s three bases and the kids try to run from base to base. And not get touched by the Frisbee that the counselors are throwing.”

“Waterskiing, because it felt like you were flying on water.”

“When I first got here, being able to go fishing and being with other boys my age.”

“When I played my first F.R.B. game.”

“The P-rade.”

“Getting to know my cabin mates.”

“In the middle of my distance swim, when I knew I was going to make it.”

“Climbing Mt. Stinson.”

“When I went to Camp Robin Hood for the archery tournament.”

“The first Bean Soup when I was just laughing with everyone else when I didn’t get half of it.”

“The Counselor Hunt [on July 4th, when ‘found’ staff must ‘walk the plank.’]”

“Playing F.R.B. in Juniorville with all my friends and taking the risk of being hit by a Frisbee.”

“When I got up to the Pemi Hill shelter for the night and I saw the view.”

“I loved going up Pemi Hill.”

From the Lower Intermediates (11-13 years old):

“Doing the P-rade skit.”

“Jumping off the high dive in free swim on a sunny afternoon into the cool, refreshing lake water.”

Bean Soup. I liked it because it was funny.”

“When I made paracord bracelets.”

“When I stood in wakeboarding.”

“The Tecumseh track meet.”

“Probably the second Bean Soup. I remember knowing my A. C. [Assistant Counselor] Jack would get Counselor of the Week. It was incredibly funny.”

“When I learned how to get up in wakeboard.”

“When I made a paracord bracelet.”

“When I arrived for my first year!”

“I don’t have one because it was all amazing.”

“When I arrived here to enjoy it.”

“Getting up on water skis.”

“Birthday Banquet and birthday greetings. Hiking.”

“The occupations were the most fun, especially trying new things.”

“Making new friends and seeing my old friends like Suraj.”

“When I was fishing in free time with my friends.”

“Moose Day [competition with our neighboring camp] in the 13’s soccer game. Our team-mates were all friends and we all worked well together. We pulled out the victory and I had a hat trick. So, yeah, it was my favorite!”

“When I had a war in the cabin.” [Ooops! BTW, we didn’t hear about this at the time, nor did subsequent investigation turn up anything noteworthy. Is this a metaphor for tangled sheets? A way of talking about biting insects?]

“When there was pancakes at breakfast and not eggs.”

“When I got on top of Mt. Mooslock [Moosilauke] in a cloud. It was cold and windy, which was nice and refreshing because we had been hiking for so long in the sun. You could see all of the mountains.” [In an intermittent clear moment?]

“Scoring a goal for the 12’s soccer team was a great Pemi moment because my team made me feel amazing about my goal even more.”

From the Upper Intermediates (13-14 years old):

“Singing ‘The Campfire Song’ around the fire at the Senior beach because it showed me the love that binds the Pemi community, which survives the competitiveness of a regular day at camp.”

“When I scored against Moosilauke on Moose Day in soccer because I felt accomplished and it was the final goal.”

“My campfire act and my archery awards.”

“Having to make more friends and to see old ones.”

“I loved driving on the game bus and chanting with friends.”

“Afternoon free time.”

“Trying new things that I couldn’t have a chance to do at home, and meeting new people, and making new friends.”

Bean Soup.”

“The last campfire for me this year. I was sitting next to my friends, just relaxed and enjoying being together and listening to great music.”

“When the whole cabin was stuck in the bunk during a storm and we all played together and talked with Idrissa.” [Idrissa Bangura, our A.C. from Sierra Leone and Brooklyn.]

“I loved slalom skiing and playing baseball. I especially loved catching and our walk-off win against Moose. Also meeting a friend from my town.”

“When lunch ended that one day and Rest Hour started.” [Which had seemed to us to be a daily occurrence! Did we miss something?]

“I enjoyed sitting on the mess hall porch with a plum and looking out on camp.” [during afternoon ‘fruit bowl’]

“Barrel Ball and pick-up events that happen after dinner.”

“On Moosilauke Day I won my tennis match 8-0 then hit a game-winning single in baseball.”

And, finally, from the Seniors (14-15 y.o.):

“Going on a 3-day hike with a group of friends. The overall experience included the hiking, the people, and the adventure that came with the trip. It was amazing!”

“I liked when I played in the lacrosse B.V.T. (Baker Valley Tournament). I made closer friends while doing something I liked.”

“Playing Barrel Ball in the rain.”

Bean Soup.”

“Bonding with my friends on Mt. Washington.”

It may seem like a fairly random selection of “appreciated things,” but we suspect you’ll have seen some patterns emerging. Boys were justifiably proud of their individual accomplishments, be they making it through their distance swims, performing at camp fire, getting up on water skis or wakeboard, or playing well (and as a team) on the soccer pitch or the baseball diamond. Others treasured more communal endeavors and moments, such as winning cabin inspection, reuniting with old friends and getting to know new cabin mates, or sitting with tried and true mates at the camp fire and feeling the strong sense of community that emerges so unmistakably every Saturday night. There were nods to some subtle kind of spirituality, as in the feeling of flying over the water – or, perhaps, in describing how special it is on a balmy summer afternoon simply to be fishing with a few close friends. (Isaac Walton would surely agree.) Pretty much every leg of the Pemi program got noted here: the beauty of a mountain summit and the camaraderie of the “Happy Wanderers” who go up there; the satisfying process and product of making paracord bracelets; the thrill of scoring a goal in soccer and, even more, being celebrated by friends for tickling the twine; and the joy taken in listening to great music as the campfire crackles down at lake’s end. Predictably – and gratifyingly – some of the things the boys relished are unique to Pemi. It’s striking how many times F.R.B is mentioned, together with Bean Soup. And finally (for us; you may have seen other common threads) there is a slight undercurrent on the growth and satisfaction – not to mention the excitement – that can be found in taking on moderate risk. We see that in the repeated mention of trying new things or meeting new friends; or in dashing to a new base in F.R.B. despite the threat of a Frisbee strike; or leaping off the high dive at free swim. Session after session, year after year, the boys find a way to provide the support systems that allow them to extend themselves. It’s a potent formula for self-confidence, growth, and an appreciation for those who help us on our way.

Well, we’re running long now and we’ll close. Thank you, though, to all of the parents who entrusted their boys to us in June and July. We miss them and we hope that they’ve come back to you hale and healthy and perceptibly better for the experience, if only in small ways. Thanks, too, to “ongoing” parents. We’re so enjoying our time with your son and intend to relish every day between now and August 16th. Tune in next week for the latest iteration of our century-plus friendly rivalry with the Boys from Winnepesauke.

~  Tom and Danny

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of the Trip Program

Summer 2014: Newsletter #4

Let’s talk a little about the Pemi Trip Program. Today! It’s a July morning that our British staff contingent would appropriately call “brilliant.” Puffy cumulus clouds cruise briskly across a deep blue sky only recently vacated by as sharply-defined a half-moon as we’ve seen in years. Some recent unsettled weather has obligingly scooted off to the east, and the air is as clear as a Waterford vase.

Visiting Professional photographer Andy Bale has just jumped into his truck with campers Will Katcher and Casey Schack. They’re headed down to the Quincy (NH, not MA) Bog for a lunchtime circumambulation that Claude Monet would die to be on. Look for some artful shots of water lilies, cat-tails, herons, beaver dams, and tranquil pine-shaded peninsulae to show up in the Pemi Week Art Show. The trio might even spy one of the bald eagles that favor the place.

One of three dining groups on Mooselauke

One of three dining groups chooses its lunch spot on Mt. Moosilauke

Andy’s Tacoma rumbled out across our bridge hard on the heels of the bus bearing Dan Reed, Nate Kraus, and the boys of Lower Five and Seven to the Mt. Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, where they will have disembarked and started up the lovely Gorge Brook Trail to the summit of “Moose,” a solitary and (thus) especially imposing 4,800 peak just to our north. Armed with daypacks and a light lunch, they’ll emerge from the shaded river gorge onto a prominent shoulder of this local giant and break the tree-line at about 4,200 feet – and 12:30. The view from the summit will be expansive today, stretching all the way from Mts. Pico, Killington, and Mansfield in Vermont around to New Hampshire’s Kinsmans, Cannon Mountain, and the saw-tooth ridge of the Franconia Range to the northeast. They’ll likely be happy to have brought a fleece and rain jacket, for the wind up there is likely to be perking along at 30 mph plus and, with the temperature at Pemi slated to hit only the mid-seventies, the thermometer is likely to hover in the high fifties or low sixties. They’ll descend the old Carriage Road by which elegant Victorian ladies and gents used to ascend to the since-burned Tip-Top House Hotel via carriage and four, then they’ll drop down the Snapper Trail to complete their loop (formerly Dartmouth College’s Snapper Ski Trail and, as such, one of the oldest downhill pitches in the state.)

Greenleaf Hut

Greenleaf Hut

If Dan, Nate, and the boys had a strong enough pair of binoculars, they could scan the Franconia Ridge for the party from Upper Five and Three that is concurrently walking across the jagged skyline. In the company of staff members Harry Norman and Juan Vela, Uppers Sam Berman, Nicholas Gordon, Kevin Green, Kevin Lewis, Kai Soderberg, Will Thomas, Matt Edlin, and Jack Carter spent last night at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Greenleaf Hut, situated at 4200 feet on the shoulder of mighty Mt. Lafayette. Given the clearing weather, it will have been a cold night up there, but curled up in the three thick wool blankets the AMC provides and stuffed to the gills with an evening meal the high quality of which you really have to have experienced to believe, they will have slept the deep sleep of the tired and virtuous – hearing, when and if they awoke, only the occasional creak of timbers as the shingled building worked in the nighttime wind. The hut had, the night before, hosted the ten boys from Upper Four – and, tonight, J.J. Strnad, T. H. Pearson, and the denizens of Upper 2 will add their names to the logbook Pemi boys have been signing since the 1930’s.

Meanwhile, fifty miles farther northeast, right up near the Maine border, Trip Leaders Harry Morris and Joey Gish are leading an intrepid band of Seniors on a 3-day backpacking trip in the Mahoosuc Range, New Hampshire’s ruggedest. Owen Fried, Will Leslie, Ezra Nugiel, Blanchard Seniff, Griffin Barlow, and Nicholas Pigeon spent last night at the Gentian Pond Tentsite, relieved no doubt that the dark skies that had threatened their van ride to the trailhead began to clear shortly before sunset. Today they are negotiating the rolling contours of the Mahoosuc Trail, seldom traveled by anyone other than Appalachian Trail through-hikers, for whom boulder-strewn Mahoosuc Notch has been dubbed the most challenging mile on the entire 2200-mile footpath. They’ll spend tonight at Carlo Col, having arrived there, hopefully, by mid afternoon – giving them time to scuttle a little farther along the ridge to 3800-foot Goose Eye Mountain before they return to the tent site for a hearty trail supper. Tomorrow morning, early, they’ll descend due north to the Success Pond Road for their van pick-up. The bends and bumps of this rough logging road will do nothing to undercut their sense that they’ve spent the last 36 hours in truly isolated terrain that feels more like Alaska than anything in New England.

Crawford Notch Geology hike

Crawford Notch Geology hike

After lunch, Associate Nature Head Deb Kure and Visiting Professional birder Steve Broker will take a van-load of boys up to Crawford Notch for a sure-to-be-memorable geology hike. The highlight will be their suppertime ascent of Mt. Willard, a modest (2840-foot) peak just across from Webster Cliffs at the end of Mt. Washington’s Crawford Ridge. As with Moosilauke’s Carriage Road, the trail they’ll take was once a thoroughfare for buggy and team, so the climbing will be easy. The view, however, will far exceed what they will feel they have earned with the effort they’ve expended. Rather than describing it to you in detail, we will refer you to the Pemi website, where the vista (with a rapturous Pemi lad with his arms outstretched before it) scrolls by for your examination and pleasure. (Is it the third or fourth image?) Suffice it to say that, listening to Deb as she explains the process that created this spectacular setting, the boys will begin to appreciate the incalculable forces and effect of mile-thick ice grinding across a stony landscape.

Leaving about the same time as Deb’s will be another van driven by Reed Harrigan – and towing a trailer loaded with six canoes. He, Trip Leader Matt Bolton, and half of the boys setting off to Maine’s Allagash Waterway next week will be headed to the Connecticut River for a final shakedown prior to their Maine adventure. They will put in near Bradford, VT and paddle down to Orford, NH, pulling out right at the end of our own Rte. 25A. The boys will have a chance to demonstrate the skills they learned during Week One’s Allagash Canoeing occupation – and enjoy, as well, the sublimely bucolic scenery of the stream that separates the Granite State from the Green. Tomorrow, the rest of the boys will do the same – no doubt being as careful to slather on sunscreen as today’s batch. (The forecast for tomorrow is as enticing as today’s.)

Speaking of canoes, come 5:30, Attila Petho, Max Livingstone-Peters, and the boys of Lower 1 will pick up supplies at the kitchen and head down to the boathouse to load into our Grummans and head across the lake for supper at the Pine Forest. As the descending sun casts its rays through the imposing columns of the pines, setting the fallen needles on the forest floor aglow, they’ll gather stray wood, light a fire, and enjoy an al fresco meal of pulled pork sandwiches (avec fromage Americaine), potato salad, chips, celery sticks, apple juice, and cookies. They will hear the singing in the mess hall across the way, no doubt, as the rest of us dine normally – and the bugle of flag-lowering as well. It will be fun, though, to be out of the Pemi mainstream for an hour or two, enjoying each other’s company in a quietly beautiful setting. Ask Jamie, J.J., Jake, Ty, George, Alex, Mac, and Kevin how it was. Ask them if it’s true you can floss with pine needles.

Finally, shortly after supper, the residents of Junior Six – Counselor Eoin Mullaney, Assistant Counselor Michael Kerr, Hunter Bahr, Eli Brennan, Elliot Jones, Luca McAdams, Braden Richardson, Nick Ridgeway, and Angus Williams will pack their bags and saunter up Pemi Hill for the night. We have had an Adirondack-style shelter up there since the 60’s, and we try to get every Junior cabin up there twice a summer. The drill involves a 20- 25-minute climb up through the dusky woods to the shelter, where tonight’s group will toss their packs onto the rough wooden floor of the open-faced hut and smile to realize that there are, indeed, mosquito nets in place where there heads will be lying for the night. While some of them unroll their sleeping bags, others will head up the ice-cold spring for water while others gather wood for a fire. As darkness falls and the first wood thrush trills liquidly a little farther up the hill, they’ll settle down for some hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows, swapping tales about the track meet today, a letter they’ve just gotten from their grandmother, or the night they spent up here last year. Maybe they’ll hear taps down in the main camp, maybe not. Sleep should come easily.

So, that’s today in Pemi trips. We’re feeling especially fortunate that the sun will have shone on all of them. The boys will have put out a little effort and had a lot of fun. They will have learned a little more about each other, about their own limits and abilities, about how to prepare and execute and enjoy, and about the world around them. There will be big strides for some and smaller strides for others. Something like this will happen on 30 or so other days this summer, on over 100 separate outings. This is a big part of what we do at camp, and it’s good to think that many of those who are out on a Pemi trip today will be out on others many years from now. Or remembering days like today.

~ Tom and Danny

 

 

Occupations: Old and New

2014: Newsletter # 3

This week’s Newsletter comes from Assistant Director Kenny Moore, who heads up Pemi’s instructional program.

During the second week of occupations, across four instructional periods, Pemi provided the boys with 75 different activities to choose from.  That averages just over 18 different choices each hour. Many of these occupations, like Tennis, are divided by age groups or by the participant’s base of experience or knowledge. This allows beginners, intermediates, and advanced participants all to receive the appropriate level of guidance and support from the instructors.  In order, for example, to truly understand and appreciate Advanced Butterflies and Moths, one must have the basics gained in Beginning Butterflies and Moths.

Pemi’s in-camp instructional program focuses on sports, nature, music, and the arts.  The trip program stays active throughout most occupation days with day hikes opportunities.  If the weather on a Thursday looks amazing, Tom will, say, send out Lower 1 and Lower 2 to Stinson Mountain and Lower 5 and Lower 6 to Mount Cube. This week alone, more than 8 cabins hit the trail to enjoy the White Mountains! We take every opportunity to immerse ourselves in the beauty of our surroundings, and the occasional break from their occupations can be useful to the boys.

Silver Cornet Band

Silver Cornet Band

For years, Pemi’s mainstay activities formed the base of the occupation program.  Alumni will remember their Ponds and Streams occupations, their time on the baseball diamond, in Silver Cornet Band rehearsals, or even their time constructing a jewelry box for mom in the Wood Shop.  There is plenty of inherent value in these tried-and-true Pemi offerings.  Far beyond the confines of classroom walls, our mainstay occupations allow the boys to investigate traditional interests in new and different ways.

But Pemi’s program is dynamic, and continues to adapt with the addition of new programming that capture the boys’ expanding curiosity. These new occupations are driven by the Program Heads and the instructors. If you are an avid Pemi newsletter reader, I’m sure you’ve realized we are fortunate to have a very talented staff this summer.  Their energy and passion transfer over to the boys, making their occupations buzz with excitement. Veteran campers thoroughly enjoy these exciting new offerings, and new campers have yet another opportunity to try something they have encountered nowhere else.

Visiting Professional Jeanne Friedman

Visiting Professional Jeanne Friedman

Hugh

Hugh assists

Over the past few years, Pemi has brought in Visiting Professionals to help provide added expertise in existing program areas or even in new, untapped areas.  Jeanne Friedmann, the Head Crew Coach at Mount Holyoke College, joined us last week to give lessons on sculling.  Senior campers Hugh Jones, Will Jones, Ezra Nugiel, and Jack O’Connor learned quickly from Jeanne, who managed to line up a few single and dual sculls to grace Lower Baker.  The early morning calm provided a picturesque backdrop, as well as perfect water conditions for the boys to learn various positions and techniques to guide the scull through the water.  Hugh, a quick learner with some previous experience, stayed on to assist with the next group, the Uppers, and helped with the teaching.  We’re so thankful to Jeanne for bringing this long-awaited opportunity to Pemi, and we hope to be able to make this week of instruction a yearly event.

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Callum describes the process

Gift for mom?

Gift for mom?

Down in the Junior Camp, between the Lake House and Junior 1, sits our recently renovated Art Building, where Head of Art Laura Bubar and her team constantly capture and focus the boys’ attention with new and interesting projects.  During the 2nd hour, a group of 10’s worked on their Aluminum Foil Paintings.  Callum McNear explained the process to me. “Start with cardboard and draw your design with a Sharpie, and then go over those lines with hot glue.”  After wrapping his newly sketched lightning bolts with aluminum foil, he pressed down very carefully, creating ridges from the glue underneath. The collection of these paintings, spread out on the lawn to dry, was just so cool!

Graffiti occupation

Graffiti art

While Aluminum Foil Paintings have been popular in the Lower and Junior Divisions, the Seniors love Ben Ridley’s Graffiti Occupation.  One of the most popular occupations over the past the few years, Ben’s unique offering works with the group on elements of design, typography, and stenciling.  Will DeTeso, John Stevenson, and Nate Bluenthal quickly got to work on their stencils down in Art World.  Per Soderberg was designing a sword stencil, taped to a plywood board.  Seeing such a wide range of boys so enthusiastically engaged in the Art World is both remarkable and encouraging, especially in an era when so many school are cutting back on Arts instruction.

Rock Band

Rock Band

Pemi has a Rock Band to complement the traditional Silver Cornet Band.  Led by Ben Ridley and Becky Noel, the group worked this week on a 90’s classic, Zombie, by the Cranberries, taking yours truly on a trip back to my youth! With Ben on the drums and Becky managing the bass guitar, Nick Case provided the real power on his guitar and Robert Loesser piped in on vocals.  After their jam, Ben and Robert coordinated the timing between the drums and vocals, while Nick and Becky worked to find the perfect volume on their amps.  With several participants out on trips this particular day, we had an excellent 1-1 staff-camper ratio allowing for especially intense and profitable instruction!  I’m hopeful we might see the final polished version of this song at an upcoming Vaudeville or maybe even an impromptu show at Sunday cookout.

FAST: Focused Athletic Skills Training

FAST: Focused Athletic Skills Training

Our athletic program, similar to our other key activity areas, has a long history of success in improving the skills and commitment of our athletes. Equipped with the skills and passion developed at Pemi, many campers have gone on to compete at the highest high-school and college levels.  This year, to further improve our coaching and instruction, we created the inaugural F.A.S.T. Program.  During Weeks 2, 3, and 4, we offer Focused Athletic Skills Training (or F.A.S.T) in soccer, baseball and lacrosse.  Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s Athletic Director for more than twenty years, stacked a team of experienced and skillful soccer coaches including two NEPSAC Varsity Soccer Coaches (Charlie from Northfield Mount Hermon and Simon Jarcho, former Varsity Coach at Vermont Academy), two Division 1 players, and one semi-pro player, to lead 37 boys in an intensive week’s worth of 2-hour clinics.  We love that we can offer boys a true Pemi experience but also give them the high level of instruction and field time they desire.  These boys should feel more than confident in their skills when they return home to early fall practices.

After using the first week of soccer occupations as a base for evaluation, the Soccer Staff developed a series of technical and tactical progressions to address during F.A.S.T.  Simon, who played Varsity soccer at Colgate University, developed and managed the talent-laden 11- and 12-year-olds, while Charlie guided our older boys.  Each day, the group progressed from a warm-up that isolated a specific technical skill on to a functional drill.  Passing and receiving to really open up the field of play was the emphasis on Tuesday.  Starting with a 4 v 4 scrimmage, the boys attacked two sets of goals, with the drill evolving to an 8 v 8 scrimmage, designed to add pressure and game tempo.  I’d bet that the individual growth gained during the Soccer F.A.S.T. rivals what a boy could manage at any top soccer clinic.

Volleyball

Volleyball

New staff members inject life into the Pemi program each and every year, and in 2014, we’ve seen the introduction of Volleyball!  Maggie Boomgaarden leads the charge, providing the structure and guidance for beginners to learn the sport and for the advanced players to improve.  Each day, the group began with passing and setting drills, before they learned nuances of the game to apply to the scrimmage held at the end of each occupation. Foster Piotrow and Ben de Weaver fought hard in the camper/counselor scrimmage by working on their communications skills while Cedar Gadbois and Reed Cecil showed excellent hustle with a few digs.

Archery is a mainstay camp activity, and at Pemi this summer, we’ve offered archery to beginners, intermediates, and advanced bowmen. Jonathan Merrin, Pemi’s Head of Archery for the third straight summer, taught a Tournament Archery class that focused on the upcoming archery meets at Camp Robin Hood as well as our own Baker Valley Invitational.  Jonathan had his group using three arrows to find their aiming point. After the first end (the set of three shots), he asked the group about what they had learned from each arrow, teaching them that a tournament-level archer gains useful information from each shot – and that success results from their diligent concentration. Kevin Green and Nathan King listened attentively, set to improve their routine by incorporating new information from each shot arrow.

Oliver shows off marble

Oliver shows off marble

Each week, Larry and the crew in the Nature Lodge offer over twelve different occupations. New to 2014 is Geology Lab, taught any given week by two of our three resident Geologists. This novel offering provides an in-depth examination of a specific Geology topic: Field Geology, Plate Tectonics, Water Geology, etc. Normally these topics are covered briefly during the Advanced Rocks and Minerals occupation, but we now have a full 5-day focus of study.  During the second week, Deb Kure and Dan Reed focused on Plate Tectonics, investigating how the sections of the earth interact to power the geologic drama that causes many of our natural disasters.  They used models to demonstrate how the tectonic plates move to further illustrate those natural geologic elements.  The success of the Geology Lab is directly linked to the passion and excitement that our resident Geologists exude.

As you will have gathered, some of these occupations provide specifically-focused, advanced levels of instruction while others offer great introductions for beginners in the programmatic area.  In Week Two, all of them were popular with a different group of boys, allowing us to fulfill our mission to ‘inspire and support boys as they find their distinctive path to become successful young men with a passion for all that they do.’

Nate and Drew work on their Junior Nature Books

Nate and Drew work on their Junior Nature Books

Maybe it’s the archivist in me (my other hat being Alumni Director) that is reminded of one of our favorite sayings, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” During a drop into the Nature Lodge to check out the Geology Lab, I saw Larry leading five 8- and 9-year-olds into the forest to collect items for their Junior Nature Book.  This activity, introduced by Larry’s predecessor Clarence Dike over eighty years ago, repeats every summer and still resonates strongly as an invaluable opportunity to engage with the natural world around us.

The Pemi program is all about balance, with offerings in four program areas, instruction for varying levels of experience, and especially with our ongoing effort to introduce new opportunities to complement our mainstay occupations. This balance provides the setting for each and every camper to be active and engaged, each and every day. What a joy to see! Perhaps that’s what alumnus Bill Wyman—who just visited his 9-year old grandson Owen—was referring to when he claimed to our assembled community in the messhall, “nothing has changed since I was here in 1949.”

~Kenny Moore, Assistant Director

July 4th, Pemi-Style

2014 Newsletter #2

Hello again from sunny and temperate New Hampshire, where last week’s steamy and unsettled weather has given way to near-perfect July days – perfect conditions for the first Baker Valley sports day of the season on Saturday. Many of your sons will have participated in the ten contests in five sports against our friendly rivals from Camps Moosilauke, Kingswood, and Walt Whitman (as we trust your boys will inform you in the letters they wrote on Sunday). Occupations got off to a bang last week, and a number of overnights ventured out into the White Mountains as well, all of them coming back happy if a trifle damp. On Saturday, Larry Davis departed for the caverns of Schoharie, New York with first-time cavers Charlie Bonetti, Jarrod Henry, Will Katcher (on whom more later), Will Jones, Hugh Jones, Jack O’Connor, Brandon Somp, and Jack Wood. So Pemi ’14 was off to a rollicking start even before as good an Independence Day as we can remember varied our program last Friday.

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Senior campers Nicholas and Charlie with “little buddies” Ben and Hunter.

Our Fourth was preceded, the night before, by a lollapalooza thunderstorm, which began its slow approach just after supper. While the Intermediate campers and their counselors retreated to their cabins to see how the impending tempest would develop, the Seniors and Juniors hurried down to the Lodge for the first installment of the “Big and Little Buddy” program. The older guys introduced themselves to their younger counterparts and then enjoyed some tasty ’Smores together. More formal entertainment for the evening featured Ezra Nugiel and Nick Case on guitar, Nick performing an amazing medley of numbers ranging from “Hey, Soul Sister” to “Kids.” As some major storm clouds turned down our valley, though, and the raindrops began slapping at the roof, the remainder of the event was called, the Seniors dashing back to their nearby cabins as the Juniors were ferried back home in three vans. For those of you who know our “Marching Song,” their motorized progress down the lakeside was reminiscent of all those “plutocrats in their Cadillacs proceed[ing] on gasoline.” Not especially sustainable, perhaps, but the boys’ safety trumped any environmental concerns.

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Senior 3’s prize-winning Pee-rade presentation, “Inspection”

Now for the patriotic day itself. For the second year in a row, we decided to celebrate American drive and productivity by letting everyone sleep in for an extra half hour. Given the active first week, however, the extra sack time was hugely appreciated. The first special event of the day was the Annual Pee-rade, ably marshaled by Jonathan Merrin and blessedly free of the rain that had been predicted. The energy and creativity of the “floats” was as impressive as we can remember, all the way from the Juniors (who consoled themselves for the US soccer team’s exit from the World Cup by imagining what would happen if we played England, Canada, Scotland, Germany and – yes! – the Vatican City in “real” football on a “real” gridiron) to Senior Three (whose Stomp-inspired rendition of daily inspection set a new standard for rhythmic invention and verve. Watch and listen here! And reminded us that Alex Duval does indeed enjoy his sleep.). Both acts won First Prize in their divisions, each garnering a reward eminently appropriate for America’s Birthday – a bag of Swedish Fish. Other winners were (in the Lower Lowers) L-3, with “The Revolution,” featuring counselor Theo Nickols seeking to impose his tea habit on some feisty colonials, only to be downed and doused by his own highly-taxed beverage; L-7 (in the Upper Lowers) with “America’s Got Talent,” highlighted by Harrison Green as Danny Kerr exhibiting his knack for deodorizing his mellow retriever Bode (played with unnerving doggy-ness by Jackson Morrell); and U-5 with “A Commercial Break” (a hilarious little skit narrated by Kai Soderberg proving that, if nothing else, the spirit of capitalism really has infused the American psyche to its very heart.) This writer was particularly fond of S-1’s “Change of Perspective: G-day,” which turned the tables on our recent efforts to rid the shores of Lower Baker of the beautiful but chronically untidy geese that have paid us court for several years now. In the skit, three aggrieved fowl – “Goose R. Jr.,” “Reed Harrigoose,” and “Kenny” – deployed a distinctly bazooka-like “Big Bertha” and drove a gaggle of tuition-paying Pemi Kids right out of town. Maybe the act was too politically-correct for the judges, though, as Tighe Burnham’s boys garnered no more than Runner-up status.

Look, Ma, no hands!

Look, Ma, no hands!

Elephant race

Elephant walk

Afternoon saw the traditional Pemi Independence Day baseball games replaced, for a second year, by the “Fourth of July Extravaganza.” All campers, young and old, were assigned to one of eight teams and – enjoined to don, variously, red, orange, light green, light blue, black, dark blue, white, or dark green clothing – participated in one of a huge variety of activities. Amongst them were a number of Minute to-Win It-style challenges: “Bouncer” (alternating throws, two players must bounce ping-pong balls into five cups on a table); “Bucket Head” (the bucket is held over a player’s head, and he must toss three ping-pong balls into the bucket, keeping his arm below his shoulder); “Cup Stack” (moving cups from the top of a stack to the bottom, alternating hands, until the odd-color cup is on top); “Cookie Face-off” (contestants move Oreos from their foreheads to their mouths without using their hands); “Scramble” (group puzzle-assembly at speed); “Cup Race” (blowing through a straw, participants move a cup from one end of a table to the other and off the end); “Skittle Carry” (moving one Skittle at a time from one bowl/table to another using only a straw [hint: try suction!]); “Stack ‘Em” (using only a cup, stacking die in a tower, ultimately five-high); and “Elephant Walk” (with boys using a “trunk” made of pantyhose and tennis balls to knock down a series of cones.) The level of hilarity—as you can imagine—was extreme, augmented by staff members whose lively and energetic oversight suggest that, should they someday find themselves amongst recent college graduates without a job, they have a solid shot at replacing Guy Fieri at NBC. Meanwhile, their color-coordinated teammates tried their hand at slightly more conventional activities: Wiffle Ball, beach tennis, croquet, and a special White Mountain variety of Bocce.

Counselors dash off to find hiding spots.

Counselors dash off to find hiding spots.

Hard on the heels of the Extravaganza came the always-popular Counselor Hunt. Popular with the campers, at least. Those of us who hide, while knowing perfectly well that the campers aren’t really out for our blood, sometimes can’t help but feel as we cringe out there amongst the ferns that we’ve awakened from a pleasant dream to discover we are the principals in Lone Survivor. Some seek comfort in coming up with creative outfits in which to hide (and tremble). We remember, when he was last on staff, Sam Seymour hiding in a very flattering purple Teletubbie costume. Unfortunately, Walmart was all out of funky togs in Sam’s size, and he ended up dressing in black acrylic paint styled as a tuxedo. First-timer Teagan Burham, somehow mistaking arctic for temperate camouflage, came captive out of the woods looking like a giant marshmallow garnished with sprigs of dill. T. H. Pearson favored the Gladiator look, sporting lacrosse shoulder and arm pads and a full helmet – none of which particularly protected him when, taking the obligatory plunge off the high-dive as a penalty for being caught, he succumbed to the crowd’s promptings and executed a kidney-stunning back flop. Dana Wensberg, on the other hand, went for the classic belly flop – which, from a height of ten feet, in tantamount to tackling Adrian Peterson in your pajamas. Scotsman Mike McKeand, back for his second year, once again sported his kilt – and, as he leapt from the diving tower, Mike thankfully revealed that some from his country do indeed wear Under Armor beneath their tartans. Special kudos to Andrew Brummer who, even though he’s only visiting for a few days, thrilled the boys by executing a perfect “Egg.” Oh, did we mention that Assistant Director Kenny Moore was caught for the first time in his sixteen years on staff? The aptly- (and afore-) named Will Katcher is the one who did it, ending the longest staff “dry streak” in our memory.

Pemi's Rock Band

Pemi’s Rock Band

The Fourth wrapped up with an exceptionally well-paced and–performed vaudeville show, the first to take full advantage of this winter’s Lodge renovations. With the audience facing the huge expanse of glass looking out onto the pond and the green hill beyond, pianist Jack O’Connor got the show off to a lively start with a stellar rendition of **. He was followed by Robert Loeser, who gave us a “Star-Spangled Banner” worthy of a World Series game. The next two acts proved that virtuosity is not limited to our older campers, as Gus Bachner tickled the ivory with the always-charming “Linus and Lucy” and Alex Goldman gave his second stirring performance of the year, perfectly channeling Tom Petty in “Free Fallin’.” Next to the mic was hyper-talented Assistant Counselor Harry Eifler, who introduced most of us to the quirky Decemberists’ tune “Red, Right Ankle.” (We suggest you Google it when you have a spare moment.) Owen Fried then whisked us from the quirky to the sublime, delivering a flawless rendition of Mozart’s “Piano Sonata # 16” – before he swopped the keyboard for a guitar, joining the Pemi Rock Band for their stirring “Viva la Vida.” Joining Owen in the rhythm section was James Minzesheimer on drums, while Nick Bowman manned (and crushed!) the tenor sax, Becky Noel the violin, Dorin Dehls the electric keyboard, and Pierce Haley, James Kemp, and Ezra belted out the Coldplay vocals.

Traditional finale to Vaudeville

Traditional Vaudeville finale

The crowd was already bouncing in their chair and Crazy Creeks when five bearded “Wizards” strode into the hall. Looking like Gandalf and Dumbledore but sounding more like Jay-Z or Notorious B.I.G, Eoin Mullaney, Nate Kraus, Matt Sherman, Matt Cloutier, and Dana Wensberg brought down the house down with their customized Pemi rap. It might have seemed an impossible act to follow – but then Ezra Nugiel strode to the piano and out-Adeled Adele with his version of “Skyfall.”  Only “The Little People” could, in turn, have held the rapturous crowd’s attention next. The Eifler brothers—Wesley and Harry—closed the show with reckless abandon. Most of you know the drill—they put shoes on their own hands while two buddies behind them provided their apparent hands and arms—and they ran through the typical Pemi morning routine with a few minor glitches: shaving cream on their cereal, milk on top of their heads, gargling with liquid soap, etc. The act is a Pemi perennial, and seldom has it been done better. Our favorite line? Harry, after a supposed dash from breakfast back to inspection when only his “hands” seemed to move, confessed “Sometimes I forget to move my feet when I run. I sort of just float back to the cabin.” We could all have floated on tears of laughter.

Well, time to sign off. Stay tuned for next week’s missive, from Program Head (and Assistant Director) Kenny Moore. For now, we hope you all had a restful and happy holiday and that the camper letters headed your way are full of engaged and informative detail. Farewell for now.

~ Tom and Danny

 

Summer 2014: Newsletter #1

Rock Band on Junior Point

Rock Band on Junior Point

It’s 3:40 Monday afternoon, and we have just finished the last of the four daily instructional periods we call “occupations.” It is 84 degrees in Wentworth under partly cloudy skies, just warm enough that the thought of jumping into the lake for Free Swim (5PM) is most attractive. At the same time, there is a moderate northwest breeze coursing down the pond, and Olivia Walsh’s sailing class (Andre Altherr, Emmanuel Abbey, Jack O’Connor, Thomas Moore, Will Leslie, and Alex Marshman) has had plenty of wind in their sails to get their Lasers and Sunfishes bubbling briskly along. Overall, seventy separate sections of instruction have been offered today, covering everything from soccer and baseball – through Journal Making and Dragonflies – to Plaster Worlds, Chihuly, and Rock Band. Nate Kraus and the boys of Lower Seven will soon be headed across the lake to the Pine Forest for an al fresco supper, while Will Clare, Idrissa Bangura, and their Upper Four charges will be paddling to the “Flat Rock Café” for the same. Meanwhile, Bean Soup mavens Dan Reed and Harry Eifler have retreated to their editorial offices, sorting out the last spices before ladling up their first serving of Pemi’s comical “food for thought” at 7:45. The 2014 season is well underway!

Veterans and new campers

Cabin group with veterans and new boys

It was wonderful seeing those of you who drove your sons to camp on Saturday. The longer we do this, the more established and rewarding our partnership with you good folks seems to become. Reviews of our recently-modified arrival schedule—with veteran campers rolling in during the morning and new boys in the afternoon—continue to be highly positive. Perhaps the best part of it follows from Danny’s lunchtime invitation to the old boys to play a substantial role in welcoming and orienting the first-time campers in the afternoon. It’s also great hearing longtime camp parents like Tripp and Robin Jones speaking to the new moms and dads about the rigors and rewards of leaving their boys in the middle of the New Hampshire woods for three and a half or seven weeks. One relatively novel but charming experience for one of your correspondents—who was joined by his daughter in escorting the New York/Stamford bus up to camp—was witnessing two dozen coach-riding campers beginning to chant “Pemi, Pemi” as soon as they spied the waters of Lower Baker through the quickly-passing trees. Pemigewassett is never alive until the boys get here, and it is simply incredible how spontaneously and completely they can bring it back to life within seconds of their arrival.

At 7:45 on what was shaping up to be a perfect summer evening, two hundred and fifty of us joined the odd pesky mosquito around the campfire circle and waited expectantly as the veteran denizens of the Lake Tent – Hugh Jones, Will Jones, and Will Katcher (do you see any pattern in the names?) – lit the fire and wished one and all a happy and successful season. Speaking for all the other Seniors, they offered to help anybody reach that goal in any way they could, whereupon the inaugural campfire of the season moved ahead with all the pace and vigor of the Pemi Kid himself. The show kicked off with a best-ever performance by chanteur Robert Loeser, who soon had us spell-bound as he belted out Newley and Bricusse’s “Feelin’ Good” from The Roar of the Greasepaint and the Smell of the Crowd. In between his soulful phrases, you could have heard a pin drop – even on the sandy beach.

Next up was Alex Goldman, familiar to all veterans from last summer’s rendition of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold – most memorable, perhaps, when Alex added to Neil’s “and I’m growin’ old” the wry caveat “even though I’m only ten.” This year, at an august eleven, Master Goldman delivered himself of an extremely finished cover of The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” that would certainly have brought the house down if we hadn’t been outdoors. Alex was followed by Junior Two counselor Wesley Eifler, one of whose winter projects had been to memorize the winningly grim Robert Service poem, “The Cremation of Sam Magee.” Adding immeasurably to the chilling effect of Wesley’s recitation was the thick billow of smoke wafting his way from the camp fire, very much akin to Service’s “greasy smoke in an inky cloak” that “went streaking down the sky” as the titular character cooked.

Wesley was followed by campfire regular Eli Brennan, who varied his customary tales from the Greek and Roman pantheon with an admirably succinct narrative about – as far as we could tell – the Egyptian sun-god, Ra. Eli was so succinct is was hard to tell. In any case, he quickly yielded the stage to staff members Max Livingstone-Peters, Maggie Boomgaarden, and Joey Gish who, to the dulcet strains of Max’s guitar and Joey’s fiddle, offered a spirited version of a longtime Pemi favorite, “Wagon Wheel.” Neither the Old Crow Medicine Show nor the song’s first Pemi performer, Christian Ruf, could have done a better job. Since we’re usually long on guitarists but short on fiddlers, it’s especially nice to have Joey with us this summer. When he’s not out leading overnight trips, we look forward to hearing many more tunes like this night’s “Lazy John,” a traditional old-time fiddle tune that Joey delivered with a singular briskness that suggested the handle “lazy” could never be fairly attached to Mr. Gish.

Nate's annual campfire act

Nate’s annual campfire act

Ezra Nugiel returned to the Pemi soundstage with a particularly finished cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” From his debut as one of our smallest Juniors, Ezra has performed with ever-increasing energy and assurance, and it’s clear this summer will see him adding to his past triumphs. Speaking of acts of long standing, Nate Blumenthal once again dazzled the crowd with his rare capacity to lick his own elbow – instantaneously inspiring scores of wannabe elbow lickers, whose efforts we’ll be sure to keep track of for your sake. And, longest-standing of all, Larry Davis cast off his urban sophistication and assumed the manner and accent of a Down East ironist, telling the wonderful tale of an aspirant hunter’s “Beginner’s Luck.” One Pemi West participant was heard to say, “I’ve heard Larry do that story for nine years now, and it never gets old!”  There are lots of forms of community, but listening as a group to a master story-teller working his magical way through a familiar tale is one of the best.

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Singing the Campfire Song

The evening ended, of course, with everyone rising from their seats, casting their arms over their neighbors’ shoulders, and joining together in singing Doc Reed’s moving “Campfire Song.” As we look forward to making the 2014 season one of the best ever, its timeless words equip us with the question and concerns that will keep our eyes on the prize for the next seven weeks: “I wonder if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said.”

Pemi West send-off

Pemi West send-off

Highlights of other sorts? No sooner had the first boys arrived on Saturday than the first Frisbee-Running-Bases and Roofball games formed up and took fire. Their excitement and energy has rivaled anything we have seen telecast from Brazil. By Sunday morning, as well, a dam had been constructed in the stream by the Lodge – in preparation for the “Pink Polar Bears” of those boys for whom 65 degree lake water is not sufficiently bracing. And finally, right after the Sunday Noon meal, this year’s Pemi West Participants left the messhall and ran through a “tunnel” of raised arms (the whole camp community’s) on the way to their van and Logan airport beyond. It was wonderful having Nick Bertrand, Ben Chaimberg, Matt Kanovsky, Zach Leeds, Will McNear, and Jackson Seniff with us for six days as they completed a Wilderness First Aid course and prepared for the trip. It will be even more wonderful to welcome them back in just under four weeks, after what is sure to be a life-changing experience.

Well, swim call is just about to blow (ably played by Atilla Petho, our first-ever bugler from Budapest.) We will restrain ourselves from suggesting that, on a day as warm as this, his summons to the waterfront will be a true Hungarian Rhapsody. (Well, we tried!) But it does feel like time to sign off for now. Until next week! We wish you all a healthy and happy Fourth of July.

                                                          ~ Tom and Danny

Wish you were here...?

Wish you were here…?