Adventure on the Allagash

2016 Newsletter # 6

[This week’s communiqué comes from Director of Athletics Charlie Malcolm.]

Each summer I am asked to write a newsletter on Tecumseh Day. This year, our boys from Pemigewassett ran into a very deep, talented, and well coached Tecumseh camp and lost the day 5-14-1. The shining exception to the general order of the day was the Pemi tennis program, which won four of five contests. Under Chris Johnson’s masterful leadership, our tennis players consistently won tight contests with nerve and grit.

Tecumseh Day provides the community with a fascinating challenge and an annual philosophical conundrum.   For a full week, we ramp up our preparation while at the same time we send kids out for hiking trips, exploring bogs, and keeping our general program moving forward. While camp gets on with business, many of our Seniors begin to sense that camp and their time as boys here are finite and they desperately want Tecumseh Day to be a crowning achievement of this journey.   As I mentioned last year, they look for opportunities to lead the younger campers and search for the right message for a range of ages and levels of commitment to athletics.

At Pemi, the Senior division has several experiences that are coming-of age-opportunities able to create life-long lessons and memories. I am often struck by how many of the lessons and experiences garnered while pursuing athletics nonetheless apply to a plethora of settings. For example, I recently joined our 15s on the annual trip to the Allagash Wilderness in Maine. For well over twenty years, I have jealously watched the Pemi 15s leave for their adventure on the Allagash Waterway just outside Baxter State Park. The Allagash is considered the capstone experience for the Pemi trip program, but it was not available when I was in Senior 3 in 1980. In the 1990s, legendary trip counselor Reilly McCue led Pemi boys deep into the wilderness with Senior counselor Phil Burnett, and their stories and the joy the boys showed when returning home to Pemi only stoked my longing to come along for the trip.

As Athletic Director, I usually sneak out of camp for one trip a season. Last year, I went to Madison Hut and walked along the ridge of the Presidentials. It was a great experience until the long, steady march down tested this old timer. When openings remain for a given trip, I’m quick to tell the potential participants that I can only remember a handful of athletic contests from my time as a camper in the 1970s, but I can tell you in detail about my three-day trip to Osceola, my four-day through Zealand and Franconia Falls, and my many walks along the Franconia or Presidentials ranges.

Not unlike our 15s, as I step into my fifties, I can feel the jaws of time gnawing away at some of my trip dreams. I won’t use the word “Bucket List” for I don’t want it to sound like I just want to check off some list without genuinely appreciating the experience. Nor do I want to make this sound like a midlife crisis blog; this trip is clearly a “coming of age” opportunity for the boys willing to embrace the Allagash’s power” it was also a “coming of age” for me, but for a different reason.

I was at breakfast when Ken Moore and Tom Reed made me the offer for the Allagash; they needed a van driver to navigate the seven-hour drive and knew I would jump at the opportunity. With an extremely light athletic schedule during “changeover” week, it was an ideal opportunity to send me along with the Pemi 15s to the Allagash. After a few days with the boys working on my C and J strokes, I declared myself ready for the sojourn; however, I did wonder if I was up for the challenge. I’m fairly sure several of the boys were having similar feelings as they struggled to master some of the critical canoeing skills.

Allagash packing

industryOn Monday morning, the vans left Pemi at 6 AM and we headed down Route 25 to Portland, Maine, then headed north on route 95 to Millinocket. You can’t help but notice the challenges small businesses face in the seasonal tourist industry when you’re passing along this route on an annual basis. After a long drive north along Route 95, we arrive at Millinocket, an old mill town and the gateway to Baxter State Park and the Allagash Wilderness. Over the last ten years two of the largest mills in town closed as digital media’s declining demand for paper hit this aging town fairly hard. Signs along the main street captured a debate over whether to make Baxter State Park a National Park. Many of the young people have left town to find work from Bangor to Boston. Those that remained found a community wrestling with limited employment opportunities and the opiate scourge that shakes many of our rural and declining urban areas.

We arrived at Katahdin Outfitters just as a storm was rolling in and we quickly loaded the trailers and vans with our gear. The boys worked together unloading our U-Haul Trailer and selected their paddles and life vests that were soon wrapped in a big blue tarp. The outfitter vans left Millinocket and within ten minutes we were out of cell reception and heading down logging roads, deep into the wilderness. Our driver Paul has been hauling Pemi into the wilderness for the last twenty years and quickly asked for an update on Reilly McCue. I let him know that Reilly was running an incredible fishing and hunting guiding service out of the North Shore of Boston. Paul shared a story about how he “accidently” hit a few partridges on the road and Reilly jumped out of the van and quickly de-feathered and zip -ocked the meat for the first meal of the journey. Ten jaw-dropping Pemi boys had watched with a range of emotions as Reilly made quick work of the game.

As we drove deep into the back woods, Paul shared with me the process of timbering the region, and some of the local struggles living in this far-flung locale. I asked how climate change was affecting the Allagash region and he provided three examples. The moose population was significantly down because tics have been moving further north and emaciating the moose. He had never seen turkey vultures in this region before, and bass were now populating trout-only lakes. While we talked, the boys watched the pine trees rush by and a raven carry away an unlucky red squirrel. Deer scampered, and the dust from the dry roads churned as the vans surged deeper and deeper into the wilderness.

After two hours, we arrived at Chamberlain Lake and began to unload the canoes and gear as dark clouds to our south inspired a touch of adrenaline to get the boys moving. Chamberlain is named after the famous Civil War colonel of the 20th Maine that fought gallantly at Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg. We stopped briefly for a group photo, and I wondered how these twenty boys would respond to the Call of the Wilderness. Would they come together as a group and return to Pemi changed by the experience?

Pemi Allagash group

15s: Reed O’Brien, Reed Cecil, Jackson Morrell, Thaddeus Howe, Nick Bowman, Andrew Kanovsky, George Cooke, Nolan Katcher, Lucas Gaffney, Will Adams, Henry Jones, Ethan Elsaden, Nick Carter, Dash Slamowitz, Tucker Jones, Sam Beesley, Rafe Forward, Jake Cronin, Pierce Haley, James Minzesheimer. Staff: Zacc Dwan, Jackson Reed, Harry Morris, Charlie Malcolm.

Fortunately, the storm that hugged the southern horizon moved away and the boys arrived at the Boy Scout campsite with plenty of daylight to set-up their tents and begin the process of preparing dinner. Harry Morris, counselor of Senior 3 and former trip counselor, prepared each group’s supplies, from tents to meals, all while running his cabin and meeting the demands of camp in the waning days of the first half. Anyone who has worked at Pemi knows that these points of transition are fairly time- and energy-consuming, so well done, Harry! As we went to bed Monday night, a nearly full moon began to rise somewhere just to the northeast of Mount Katahdin. At the time we had no idea how important this moon would be to our coming adventure.

Allagash coffeeAt 5 AM on Tuesday, I awoke to the first light of the day and thus began the ritual of the coffee. Unlike my Seniors, I tend to wake at the crack of dawn when camping in the backcountry. The process involves sliding out of your tent as quietly as possible, trying not to wake your tent mate, grabbing a pot and walking down to the lake for water. The birds harken your arrival and a family of loons across the bay peer with mild interest at the stranger on the shore. With the water in the pot, you light the Coleman Stove, boil the water, slowly pour the water through a coffee filter, relishing the smell of the ground beans and the quietness of being the first one awake. For about twenty minutes it is just the birds, the gentle sun, the sound of soft waves, the fresh chill in the air, and the hot coffee warming your hands and soul.

Allagash planningIt wasn’t long before I was joined by Jackson Reed, and Senior counselors Harry and Zacc Dwan. Over coffee, we discussed and reviewed our plan for the day. When choosing to paddle the lake section of the Allagash, you are blessed with a diversity of landscapes and challenges. If the wind is calm and there are no storms to negotiate, the lake route is fairly ideal for paddlers of a range of abilities and provides a diversity of wildlife. If the wind howls, the trip leaders have some fascinating and challenging decisions to make. One of the down sides of battling weather concerns the first night we arrived was that we were unable to knock off a few miles of Lake Chamberlain before setting up our tents. These miles would soon pose a challenge for our respective teams of canoers.

After a hearty breakfast, the lads broke down their tents and loaded the canoes with their gear and twenty buckets of supplies. The weight was evenly distributed in the canoes and amongst the group. As we turned out of our sheltered campsite, we soon realized the wind was going to pose a significant challenge for the group. The first group hugged the south side of Lake Chamberlain while my group decided to cross the lake at the narrowest section and make our way along the northern shore. The wind barreling down the center of the lake made neither option particularly inviting. The first group only made it two of the eleven miles planned for the day when they realized progress was fairly futile in the winds that were now gusting close to 30 mph. My group crossed the lake at the narrowest point and began pulling their canoes along the rocky northern shoreline, a slow and arduous process testing balance and grit. Whenever a point jutted out and cut down the wind, the boys paddled to the next exposed shoreline. We were able to cover 4.5 miles in seven hours; however, by late afternoon it was clear we needed change our plans.

Camp Nugent

Camp Nugent

Jackson and I found a deserted Camp Nugent, a seasonal hunting cottage with a cove protected from the wind and a grassy lawn to take a nap and have dinner. We all settled down to wait out the wind, many boys choosing to succumb to a well-deserved nap as Jackson prepared a meal of pasta and tuna fish. By 8:30 PM, the wind began to significantly die down and both groups decided via radio to push forward to our original planned destination. With a clear night and a full moon just beginning to rise from the east as the sun set in the west, the boys felt refreshed and excited for the adventure. I have to admit, I was tired and sore and was wondering what I was doing on this trip. Some of the boys were feeling and sharing some of their concerns, but the mood of the group began to change. As the moon boldly rose from the backdrop of Mount Katahdin, we all felt our spirits rise and began to paddle with positive energy and a renewed sense of adventure.

sunrise2_sm

Harry’s group crossed Lake Chamberlain and were soon on our tail as we made our way to the Lock Dam Campsite. The moonlight sparkled on the water and the white caps disappeared as the boys made up seven miles in two hours of paddling. There were some anxious moments as we hunted for the Lock Dam in the moonlight but we soon found our destination just as the wind began to pick up once again. It was an incredibly long first day for the boys as we pulled the boats ashore, set-up our tents, and fell fast asleep. Jackson set out a lamp to help guide the arrival of the second group and we were soon all together again.

Allagash sunrise

Lock dam was built in 1841 to help control the flow of water into the Penobscot River in order to improve the transportation of timber down the river. The boys awoke at 7 AM and began the arduous process of repacking the canoes for our trip to Eagle Lake. There was a debate whether to rouse the boys earlier to beat potential wind, but the length of the previous day and the possibility of more moon-lit paddling made sleep our choice of action.

We were not certain what we would find once we left the sheltered region just below the dam, for the the next day’s journey on Eagle Lake had the potential to be even more exposed to wind.   As we turned the corner and once again paddled west, the boys were met with dispiriting and relentless gale force winds that eventually forced both groups to find shelter. Fortunately, Thoreau Island serenely beckoned our boats and the boys, tired from the previous day’s challenges followed by another tough morning of paddling, were incredibly grateful to find a place to wait out the relentless wind. I imagine the politics and tension of the 1850s made the Maine Wilderness a special refuge for Thoreau in 1857. (Perhaps the politics of 2016 might make all of us also long for a Thoreau Island!)

Allagash nappingWhile the boys napped, I went with Harry and a few boys to explore the island where Thoreau made his summer retreat of 1857. We had learned some lessons from the first day and were quite content waiting out the wind with the hope that it would eventually die down. The boys napped, played cards, went for a swim or joined me for explorations of the island. At our campsite table, the boys shared and discussed their favorite book from the previous school year.

Allagash cardsFortunately, the winds once again died down and we loaded the canoes as the evening moon began to rise. We paddled for close to eight miles, as the lake was incredibly calm. The moon rose blood-red to our northeast, and I began to notice the boys were paddling with cleaner strokes and in tighter formations, allowing the lead boat to create a wake and decrease the resistance. It took 48 hours of hard paddling, but a team was beginning to emerge and the pace of our progress dramatically increased with each stroke of the paddle. Our broader appreciation for the adventure had reached a tipping point.

With the moon as our guide, we arrived at Eagle Lake campsite at 11 PM. We had now covered over twenty-five miles, negotiating tough winds, personal doubt, and previous expectations about a Huck Finn-like paddle down the Allagash River. In the first two days, we all had to adjust our aspirations for the trip. Some of the boys had images of rapids and gentle paddles down the Allagash River with little awareness of wind and open lakes. The lake route of the journey was magnificent in its beauty, as we saw eagles, osprey, loons, and stunning views of Mount Katahdin, but the physical demands and the uncertainties of when the wind might ease up tested each member of the group.

With everyone paddling with a partner, trying conditions can create negative energy that undermines the group’s ability to paddle with economy and direction. Each boy has a choice of whether to provide encouragement and push a little harder, wallow in self-pity, or swing somewhere in between. I know as I paddled in the bow of the canoe I didn’t always agree with the line chosen by my partner in the stern or understand how difficult it was to both paddle and steer when the wind relentlessly struck the canoe at various angles. I didn’t fully appreciate the challenge and success my partner Jackson was having keeping a consistent line until we switched seats and I realized that the wind easily defeated the counterbalancing C or J stroke. As a trip leader and coach, I found it interesting to watch each canoe crew work through a range of emotions. By the end of the second day of hard paddling, it was clear that the boys were stronger and beginning to embrace a broader appreciation for their journey. I also appreciated the care Harry Morris had taken in choosing canoe partners for this trip.

Allagash breakfastAt the Eagle Lake Camp site, the winds felt unusually calm when we awoke the next morning. I prepared chocolate pancakes for the boys, which were eaten with gusto and gratifying appreciation. We headed out toward a placid Churchill Lake with a few recommendations for fun and exploration from our good friend Reilly McCue. Our first stop was a bridge where the boys could jump into the water. Each boy launched into the cool waves, a fresh and exhilarating experience. After bridge jumping, we searched for Thoroughfare Brook, an ecosystem loaded with birds, brook trout, and moose.

Thoroughfare Brook

Thoroughfare Brook

At the entrance of the brook, we saw two moose, and Jackson identified dozens of birds. Kingfishers announced our arrival and escorted the canoes up the brook. I broke out my fishing rod and landed several brook trout that the boys later cooked and ate on Ritz crackers. The brook, shielded by wind, provided the boys a very different experience as we paddled deeper into the wilderness. The beauty was breathtaking, although I have to admit I was a little sad knowing our trip was nearly over.

After our adventure in the brook, the boys entered Churchill Lake with a stiff wind…at our backs, for once. Each canoe team desperately tried to build the most efficient sail from tent flies, raincoats, or tarps – with a wide range of success and failure. As we sped across Churchill, we soon saw the dam leading to the Allagash River, our final campsite and our launch site for our last stage of the adventure. We arrived at the campsite a day before the Ranger station was celebrating the Park’s 50th Anniversary. Rangers, past and present, and families with deep appreciation for the incredible beauty and transformational experience were flooding into the camp for the big celebration. A large pit filled with timber was set ablaze to build coals for the big baked bean cook-off the following morning.

The next morning, the boys carried their canoes to the launch of the Allagash Rapids. Jackson met with the team and reviewed the various strokes and maneuvers to successfully navigate the rapids. Each morning, the Allagash Ranger Station releases more water to lift the level of the river and create Class Two rapids. As the boys launch their canoes and point their bows down the river, they look for rocks and the “v’s” that emerge between two rocks, creating deeper, safer water. They quickly realize it is critical to keep paddling hard and hit uncertain water with speed. After each stretch of rapids, the boys wait for the trail canoe to join the group. In thirty minutes, the boys traveled a distance that had once taken us six hours in the wind. I couldn’t help but notice and appreciate my group’s cohesion and self-confidence. When the canoes reached our exit location, each boat waited and helped the next canoe out of the water.

Our return with Paul in the van took just under three hours to cover the nearly fifty miles of canoeing we covered in four days. We helped unload the gear and repacked the U-Haul for the long drive home to Lower Baker Pond. We consumed copious amounts of pizza while a television set on CNN dumped the latest tragedy in Munich. It was a little surreal to have been away from civilization for five straight days, seeing only a handful of people, yet we were quickly reminded of a complex world awaiting all of us. We asked the waitress to change the channel and we blissfully consumed the pizza and held onto the joys and innocence of our adventure.

~ Charlie Malcolm

Sunday Meeting: Reflections on Al Fauver

2016 Newsletter # 4

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

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

Al Fauver in his classic red truck. 1978.

Al Fauver in his classic red truck. 1978.

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

First, Tom:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, Kenny:

Al Fauver.

Good Enough is the enemy of the best.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of the Trip Program

Summer 2015: Newsletter # 4

Thursday, July 16, 2015. Perhaps the best day thus far in the 2015 season – meteorologically speaking. High pressure built into the region the day before, and under the crystal clear skies, the night of the 15th was a chilly one – temperatures down into the forties in our valley, the upper thirties a bit further north. It’s a good thing you sent your boys with sufficient bedding! The morning Polar Bear dip was brisk, to say the least, what with a vigorous, clearing-weather gale whipping down the lake. It sent our usually stoic senior staff dashing from immersion to the bathhouse, whooping and squealing like four-year-olds. We must admit that our own aged toes were a mite numbed.

SunriseHike

Sunrise hike for seniors

By the time reveille blew at 7:30, twenty-one Senior campers (including all of Senior 3 and Lake Tent) had been up for four hours. They had been awakened by Trip Counselors Harry Morris and Matt Bolton and Head of Staff Ben Walsh for a sunrise hike up Mt. Cube, a 2800-foot peak just to our northwest, right behind Pemi Hill. Travelling in two vans, they arrived at the Rivendell Trailhead at 3:45 in full darkness, working their way by headlamp up through the woods while the stars blazed unblinkingly high above the leafy canopy. They arrived at the South Summit at about 5, with the eastern sky already consumed in a molten glow, and by quarter past the hour they were ensconced on the quartzite ledges of the North Summit, settling down to watch the sun pop up over the horizon at about 5:20. The temperature was somewhere in the low to mid forties and, with a northwest wind tearing through at 30 or 35 miles per hour, all were glad to have brought the requisite fleeces and Gore-tex jackets. Noshing on Pop-Tarts (not Lewis and Clark grub but sufficient to the moment), they sat there in modest awe as the Trippies boiled up water for hot chocolate and, before Big Sol was more than four or five degrees off the eastern hills, they joined in a steaming toast to brotherhood, effort, and natural beauty. Perhaps they will fill you in on some more details. Meanwhile, we sorely wish we’d been up there with them.

Mooselauke

Optional climb up Mt. Moosilauke

The day featured a big Baker Valley swim meet at Camp Walt Whitman, just up Cape Moonshine Road from us. With so many boys participating in all age groups, it didn’t make sense to organize any routine cabin-based day trips, so Trip Counselor Michael Kerr took names after breakfast for an optional climb up Mt. Moosilauke. The peak is one of those required for a Brave or Chief Award, so a number of stalwart souls signed up for the outing: Ben Caspersen, Mac Hadden, Pierce Haley, Jackson Morrell, and Drew Johnstone. The van trip to the trailhead at the Dartmouth Outing Club Ravine Lodge took about thirty-five minutes, after which they stretched their legs, donned their packs, and headed on up the Gorge Brook Trail, one of the pleasantest in the vicinity for its moderate grade as it meanders along a stream tumbling down over moderate boulders in the shade of white birches. A couple of hours of effort put them on top of the biggest free-standing mountain in New Hampshire, the bane of Appalachian Trail through-hikers for the fact that all of the altitude they gain climbing up to the summit from the little mountain hamlet of Glencliff (2000 feet up to 4800 feet) they loose on the northeast side as they drop down into Kinsman Notch. As our party lunched behind the windbreak provided by the ruined foundations of the old Tip-Top House Hotel, they could see the Adirondacks some ninety miles to the west. The Franconia Range, ten miles to the northeast, looked close enough to touch. After downing their repast of pepperoni, cheddar, crackers, and cookies (with some carrots and celery thrown in for fat-free health), they set off down the path of the old Carriage Road by which Victorian tourists use to ascend to the Tip–Top House in, yes, horse-drawn conveyances. Descending a newly-cut trail just south of the old Snapper Ski Trail, they were met by Driver Ken Morrell and, after a brief stop at a local establishment for soda and candy, they made their way back to camp, tired but happy.

Speaking of tired but happy, a select group of Lower Intermediates arrived back at camp just before lunch, accompanied by Trip Counselor Kim Bradshaw and Assistant Counselor Zach Popkin. Nicky Harwich, Lucas Caramanica, Gus Bachner, Ben Popkin, Nelson Snyder, and Nicky Paris had just spent three days in the Waterville Range, scaling Mt. Osceola in the process. Your correspondent had actually dropped them off Tuesday afternoon amidst showers forecast to be light and fleeting but that had actually settled in with a modest vengeance. Despite the adversity, they managed to set up camp alongside the Mad River that runs down into Waterville Valley and enjoyed a tasty supper and a dry night’s sleep. Wednesday, under the very same clearing skies mentioned above, they made their way up the steep trail that scales the mountain’s eastern buttress, lunching on the top of the East Peak as the last of the clouds scurried off towards Maine. The way back to the campsite took them along the rocky, spruce-studded shores of the Greeley Ponds, two small but pristine mountain lakes tucked into the steep-sided ravine at the head of the Mad River. There are few bodies of water in the state that are as appealing in their remote beauty, and generally trustworthy reports are that the scene was much appreciated by our boys. After a chilly night wrapped up snuggly in their tents, they made it back to camp for lunch on the 16th with lively tales of a deluge survived and a rugged peak ascended. Altogether three days well spent!

Right after said lunch, Andrew McDonald, TH Pearson, and the boys of Upper 3 set off for Greenleaf Hut, high on the shoulder of Mt. Lafayette (5200 feet), kingpin of that same Franconia Range that our crew on Moosilauke could all but touch from the southwest. Ben Burnham, Reed Cecil, Jake Cronin. Teddy Foley, Harrison Green, Michael Kelly, Miles Schiff Stein, and Patrick Snell took the Bridle Path up to the hut, where they thoroughly enjoyed the fabled fare and hospitality of the Appalachian Mountain Club Croo before heading up towards the summit of Lafayette to watch a spectacular sunset. Few pleasures, in our humble opinion, surpass those to be found when you spend a night in a high mountain hostel as the night wind pulls at the eaves and window frames and the stars sparkle brightly overhead in numbers beyond calculation. Dawn brought another gourmet meal and the infamous “blanket-folding-skit” which educates all guests in the official AMC way of handing bedding. After brushing their teeth, filling their water bottles, and re-stuffing their packs, our boys set off again up Lafayette, its summit a mile away and a good thousand feet above the hut. From there, the Franconia Ridge Trail, much of it above tree line, led them down over Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack, with arresting views of the cliffs of Cannon Mountain and North and South Kinsman to the west (not to mention Mt. Moosilauke) and the whole of the remote Pemigewassett Wilderness to the east. They could easily see Mt. Washington anchoring the Presidential Range, with the tracks of the Cog Railway (all too easy a way up the Northeast’s highest mountain!) clearly visible. Ten years ago, the boys would have seen smoke from the coal-fired steam engines that have gradually been replaced by bio-diesels. What is lost in a scenic sense has, of course, been gained in sustainability.

Upper Five

Upper Five

Hmmmm. In following Andy, TH, and the boys across the ridge, we seem to have gotten to July 17th. Let’s backtrack to the 16th, when the same van that dropped them at Lafayette Place for their ascent to the hut traveled back down Franconia Notch to the scenic Flume, where it picked up the residents of Upper 5, who had begun the same route the day before. Mssrs. Meinke, Seniff, Adams, Allen, Beesley, Bowman, Edlin, Franciskovich, Jones, Katcher, Mangan, and O’Brien may have enjoyed a slightly different menu at the hut than Upper 3, but they too, after supper, pored over the old log books – and found, no doubt, the autographs and comments of Pemi boys, counselors, and even directors of years, decades, and even centuries past. There’s a brotherhood of mates on the day’s trail. There is also the brotherhood of boys experiencing the same rugged paths and gorgeous vistas seventy years after their iPhone-less predecessors. It’s hard to say which is the more compelling!

It feels like we’re nearing our word limit, so let it be said that July 16th also featured al fresco suppers across the lake for Junior 3 and Lower 3, a night at the shelter on Pemi Hill for Lower 6, and a pre-Allagash whitewater training paddle on the Pemigewassett River for Will Raduziner, Andre Altherr, Kevin Green, Patterson Malcolm, Greg Nacheff, Andrew Virden, Ezra Nugiel, and Sam Berman. Under the vigilant eye of staff members Reed Harrigan (former White Mountain National Forest Ranger) and Matt Bolton (who will lead the trip to Maine), these eight put the finishing touches on weeks of training for the Allagash. The next day, Reed and Matt took out the other eight participants who equally enjoyed a fun and edifying afternoon on the water, getting comfortable with the conditions that will prevail under Churchill Dam when they put in just before this reaches you. As for their progress beginning Monday down their wilderness waterway, more perhaps to follow – either from us or from the horses’ own mouths!

So, there’s a glimpse of July 16, 2015 – an “average day” for the Pemi Trip Program, with something between a third and two fifths of the camp population involved. Oh, by the way, we also do sports, nature studies, the arts, and music here! We trust, though, that some wonderful memories were made outdoors on that eventful Thursday in the White Mountains. We also suspect there were some valuable lessons either learned or reaffirmed: lessons about fastidious preparation; about personal commitment and perseverance; about patience and encouragement; about both respecting and appreciating the remarkably beautiful setting in which we find ourselves. It was not at all a bad way to spend twenty-four hours!

  • Tom and Danny

 

Pemi West News

Evan, wearing green, during the 2014 Pemi West Trip

Evan pictured on the left with the 2014 Pemi West group.

For the past three years, Evan Jewett served as Director of the Pemi West Program, our 4 week wilderness skills and leadership program in Olympic National Park. Evan first began his career with Pemi in 2010 as Head of the Woodshop. In his role as Pemi West Director, he brought a wealth of backpacking knowledge and leadership skills training to the program. Earlier this fall, Evan decided to step down from his position to explore other opportunities. We want to thank him for his years of most effective service and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

After an extensive search, we are excited to introduce Dave Robb as the next Pemi West Director. Dave’s Pemi experience began in 2011, when he served as an instructor for the Pemi West Program. His involvement in the camping world began earlier as a Rock Climbing instructor at Kingsley Pines in Raymond, ME. Later, Dave served as both the Teen Leadership Instructor and Adventure Director, supervising and training the Adventure staff.

Dave Robb, Pemi West's New Director

Dave Robb, Pemi West’s New Director

Dave was also part of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Sonoran Year Course, spending 135 days backpacking, sailing, and rock climbing, among other activities. Following this, Dave decided to pursue a career in teaching leadership and wilderness skills. That pursuit led Dave to Evergreen State College, where he earned his BA in Outdoor Education and Adventure Leadership. At Evergreen, he was instrumental in establishing the new Outdoor Program, designing and implementing lesson plans pertaining to life in the backcountry. He also served as the Program Coordinator for the Challenge Course, planning, constructing, and developing the High and Low Ropes Courses

In 2013, Dave served as a National Crew Leader for the Student Conservation Association (SCA), overseeing a team on a 30-day conservation project. His interest in trail maintenance and other outdoor related community service projects will be put to excellent use with Pemi West. Dave currently is an instructor for the High Trails Outdoor Science School in Big Bear California, where he teaches outdoor science classes and plans large group activities.

The Pemi West crew in 2011, with Dave in orange coat, nearby a friendly llama! Llama’s are frequently used in Olympic National Park to resupply groups in the backcountry.

“I am very excited to be the new Director of Pemi West. It feels great to be part of a fantastic wilderness leadership program, with a rich history and large potential for growth. Olympic National Park is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I can’t wait to be immersed in the massive trees, and steep alpine of that incredible wilderness. To guide young adults through this paradise, while covering leadership, backpacking and mountaineering, natural history, and conservation service, is a privilege. I look forward to the adventure ahead.”

For the 2015 participants, we are confident that Dave’s leadership will make for an incredible program. Further information regarding the trip will be forthcoming from both Dave and me. If you have any questions, please be in touch. For now, we are delighted to welcome Dave back to the Pemi family, and we look forward to his leadership of Pemi West.

Kenny Moore
Assistant Director

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

 

 

Summer 2013: Newsletter #5

Hello again from Wentworth, where we are well into the fifth week of the 2013 season. As many of you veteran readers will recall, our storied rivalry with Camp Tecumseh is customarily renewed at the end of every Week Five, and this summer is no exception. We have engaged with our esteemed and talented rivals from Lake Winnepesauke virtually every year since 1908, and there is no question that this is the most important day in our entire athletic schedule. Think Harvard-Yale; Michigan-Ohio State; Red Sox-Yankees; Redskins-Cowboys. Think Super Bowl, but with over 150 boys from each camp competing in four sports (baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis) in five age groups (10-and-under, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 15-and under.) True, we pride ourselves on being a well-rounded camp. But Friday is the athletic equivalent of the Allagash Canoe Trip for the Trip Program – or the Advanced Caving Trip for the Nature Program – or the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and Annual Art Opening for the Arts and Music Program. As with these other events, even boys who are not participating take a keen interest in what their cabin-mates and colleagues are doing, living the truth that community can sometimes be as much about respectful attention and support as about personal participation.

Next week’s Newsletter is slated to come from Charlie Malcolm, our inspirational Director of Athletics who spends the off-season teaching History at Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, where he also coaches the boys’ varsity soccer team. This week’s, though, largely comes from Trip Counselor Dan Reed, recently returned from said Allagash canoe outing. Before we turn to Dan’s account of this most ambitious and wild of Pemi expeditions (barring, of course, Pemi West, which recently wrapped up after a spectacular 3-plus weeks in the Washington State’s Olympics including a succesful ascent of the eponymnous peak!!!), let us indulge in a little historical segue.

Early travel to Tecumseh

Early travel to Tecumseh

In the early days of camp, the pilgrimage to Tecumseh itself smacked almost as much of the trip program as of athletics. The event began with Pemi campers and staff packing sports gear, bedding, and clothing for three days and then walking the three and a half miles to the train station in Wentworth. A two-hour journey brought them to The Weirs, where they boarded the steamship Governor Endicott and travelled another hour or so to the cove where Tecumseh has its waterfront, then shuttling in small boats to get to shore. There, they established camp on the sandy beach and grass verges of the big lake, where the Four Docs built cooking fires and supervised the preparation of supper. After an evening of song and, no dount, heroic tales of past Pemi-Tecumseh clashes, everyone bedded down on the beach for the night. Shades of Henry’s troops before Agincourt (perhaps). Word has it that the mosquitoes were brutal, and rumors routinely spread that the Tecumseh management had specially ordered in millions of the tiny pests to suck the blood from their opponents of the following day. Current Pemi Nature Director Larry Davis assures us that the concept of mercenary mosquitoes was as unlikely then as it is now, but sound sleep was evidently hard to come by for our aspiring warriors on the shores of Winnepesauke. Then again, when Tecumseh journeyed to us (as they always did in what was then the home-and-home annual exchange), the tables were turned and our lads may have had the advantage of a miniscule version of blood doping. In any event, once the day’s competition was over, it was another supper and night on the beach, re-embarkation on the Endicott, a return to the train at The Weirs, then back to Wentworth for the long walk home to Pemi. You’ve all heard those stereotypical tales of how our parents or grandparent walked every day to school through five-foot snowdrifts – and uphill in both directions. In this case, there’s hardly any exaggeration involved. But, while the modern Pemi kid rides to Moultonborough Neck in a plush school bus and dines, shoulder-to-shoulder, with his Tecumseh rivals in their screened dining hall, the competition is no less intense or fulfilling. Stay tuned for Charlie’s detailed account in next week’s missive. (Read Charlie’s 2012 newsletter recounting Pemi’s 11-8-1 win!)

Now for Dan’s rendering of the Allagash trip.

It was a glorious week of paddling, bald eagle sightings, great food, and the sense of total independence from the rest of the world.  The Pemi Trip Program offers campers incredible opportunities all summer long.  We hike in the White Mountains.  We go caving in Schoharie, NY.  We explore natural wonders both local and distant.  And, for our oldest campers, we send an annual canoeing trip to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine.  Someone with an appreciation of puns might call this the “flagship” of our Trip Program.  This term also accurately describes the journey’s significance, as it is a celebrated trip open only to Pemi’s full-season 15-year-olds.  This year the trip was populated by ten young men – Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Nick Bertrand, Bryce Grey, Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, Matt Kanovsky, Daniel Bowes, Jack Green, and Ethan Pannell – and led by former cabin counselor and division head Andy Kirk and current trip counselor Dan Reed.  The adventure was comprised of four full days paddling the Allagash, with a day on either end spent driving the 8 hours between Wentworth, NH and Allagash, ME. 

Our first day started at the ripe hour of 4:30am, when the yawning but excited crew loaded into a van at Pemi and started the long drive north.  We were soon greeted by the sunrise, and enjoyed a beautiful morning on the road.  Around noon we stopped for a refreshing lake dip in Maine’s Baxter State Park, and quickly followed with lunch at a local pizza joint.  Then we met the able crew of Katahdin Outfitters, who supplied us with canoes, paddles, and life jackets.  They drove us the final three hours along backcountry logging roads to Churchill Dam, where we set up camp for the first night.  We were greeted there by our friends the blackflies, deerflies, and horseflies, who would keep us company for the entire trip.  After setting up our tents and enjoying a dinner of burgers, spaghetti, and fresh vegetables with ranch dressing, we went down to check out the river that would carry us the entire 62 miles over the next five days.  With Andy lifeguarding, we enjoyed a belated polar bear before zipping ourselves into our tents and enjoying our first night’s riverside sleep.

Velocipede

Velocipede!

As we would for the next several days, we pulled up on shore for lunch around midday.  We refueled with sandwiches (ham/kielbasa/pepperoni and cheese, sunbutter and jelly, etc.) and a candy dessert, took a quick dip in the river, then set off across Umsaskis Lake.  Our campsite at Sandy Point was at the far end of the lake, and we pulled in at around 4pm.  Like the first night, we set up camp and enjoyed some time swimming in the river.  Dinner was plentiful with a huge pot-full of spaghetti with meat sauce.  The ever-helpful boys gladly finished off the pot and offered to clean dishes.  Another camp group pulled in and stayed at the next site over. Our experience with them and with subsequent groups reminded Andy and me of how Pemi boys’ maturity and respectful behavior on trips really sets them apart.  No wonder the AMC staff in the White Mountain huts is always happy to see a Pemi group come through!

After another good night’s sleep, we started the third day with toasted English muffins, bacon, and fried eggs.  The weather looked promising at first, but the clouds darkened as we made our way across Long Lake.  We took a break on a beach covered with flat round stones – so the obvious response was to have a rock-skipping contest.  Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, and Zach Leeds ended the session at the top of the heap, each with a toss of around 20 skips.  As we paddled the latter half of the interminable lake, the skies broke open and treated us to a downpour.  Fortunately we had all our gear packed in waterproof bags, and so could enjoy the free shower, the sound of the rain on the water, and the perfect symmetrical splash made by each rain drop as it hit the surface of the river.  But New England weather is predictably unpredictable, and the sun was out and shining brightly by the time we stopped for lunch.  We enjoyed a sunny afternoon, with the occasional sighting of a bald eagle overhead or a river otter alongside the boats. 

We pulled up to the Outlet campsite on Round Pond in the mid-afternoon, with our camp setup accelerated when we observed some threatening thunderheads on the horizon.  We unearthed what we affectionately termed the Tarp Mahal, a huge 40 ft. x 24 ft. blue tarp, which would for the next few days protect our eating area from the occasional deluge.  Indeed, soon after we began making the dinner of couscous and chili, a massive thunderstorm moved overhead and parked itself there for an hour or so.  We enjoyed our immunity from the rain while eating dinner, and then settled down to sleep, enjoying the sound of the rain on our sturdy tents.

Allagash PaddlersOur third full day was a long one: fifteen miles along the river to majestic Allagash Falls.  We saw our only moose of the trip that morning, lounging in the river about 150 yards ahead of us.  The sight of twelve humans staring in awe must have made her self-conscious, because the moose climbed up the riverbank and disappeared into the forest as we came closer.  The day continued with many sightings of bald eagles.  In the minutes leading up to our arrival at our campsite that afternoon, we paddled to the growing roar of the falls ahead of us.  After having come ashore well in advance of what would have been an exciting but perhaps ill-fated waterfall experience, we set up camp and headed down below the falls for a quick swim.  Here the water is deep with a fast current, and we let ourselves float downstream a few times before calling it a day and enjoying a dinner of beef stew, mashed potatoes, and homemade tortilla chips with cinnamon and sugar. 

Our last full day on the river started with more heavy rain.  We kept dry under the tarp during breakfast, and the short day of paddling ahead of us meant that we could stay put and wait out the downpour for a few hours.  During a lull in the rain, we carried our canoes and gear down the quarter-mile path to a safe launching point downstream of Allagash Falls.  We went swimming once more beneath the falls, this time jumping from riverside rocks into the deep pool gouged out over time by the falling water.  A short 2-hour paddle brought us to East Twin Brook campsite, where we would spend our last night on the river.  There we ate an early dinner of leftovers, then went to bed along with the sun.

TentsiteA dark, pre-sunrise morning greeted us as we got up on our last day.  By now experts in campsite setup and take-down, we quickly packed up our tents, tarp, and other gear, and got onto the river as the sun came up.  We only had an hour’s paddle to our destination, where we came onshore, packed our gear into our waiting van, and started the long drive south.  Ten hours later we pulled into camp, greeted by both the familiar and new faces of Pemi’s second session.  After a week of brilliant canoeing, we were all excited to be back home.  Thanks to all the Allagash guys for a fantastic trip.  Now our attention turns to the enjoyment of the final few weeks of the summer, back on the (often) sunny shores of Lower Baker Pond.

Many thanks to Dan for this evocative account. We should say in passing that one of the pleasures of the outing for both staff members was that, thirteen years ago, Dan was an eight-year-old camper in Andy’s cabin, Junior One. Little could either of them have predicted that, over a dozen years hence, they would be co-leaders on Pemi’s most celebrated trip, Dan sharing van-driving duties with his former mentor. That’s one of the joys of Pemi, though – that longevity and continuity regularly allow for this kind of “years later” serendipity. It’s one of the things that makes us feel as much like a family as anything else.

That’s it for now. Come Friday, keep an eye on the ticker at the bottom of your ESPN screen. Win or lose, though, we’ll be throwing ourselves wholeheartedly and joyously into one of the great and timeless rituals of Pemigewassett.                                   

— Tom and Danny

2012 Summer Newsletter: #7

As we sit in the Pemi “West Wing” this morning of August 6th, the truck from E&R Laundry is filling up with green camper bags and pink staff bags for the last laundering run of the summer. Hard to believe that the next time these Pemi shorts and T-shirts, these Smartwool and Champion socks, these Manchester United and Barcelona jerseys go in the wash  . . . it will likely be in your very own Maytags and Kenmores!

Time may be flying, but it’s a beautiful day in this little valley (after some much-needed rain last night) and, as always with “Pemi Week” stanzas, it will be filled to the brim with varied (and sometimes frenzied) activity. Lowers and Seniors are down at the beach locked into the Divisional Swimming Championships, in which almost every camper participates (many, we’d bet, secretly imagining themselves to be the next Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.) Uppers are working through the middle rounds of their Tennis Tournament, and select Seniors will soon be out on the lake for the opening races of their Sailing Championship, taking advantage of the brisk north-westerly breeze that often accompanies clearing weather up here. Meanwhile, there’s a Junior Soccer Tournament unfolding as well, with all of Doc Nick’s wonders assigned to three teams for a spirited round-robin competition that begot thunderous applause when it was announced in the mess hall this morning. (Who, we wonder, will be today’s Clint Dempseys and Lionel Messis and Tim Howards?)

Grand Opening of the 2012 Art Show

This afternoon, Uppers and Juniors will don their jammers and head to the waterfront, many Lowers and Seniors will move to the tennis courts, other Lowers and Seniors will head to the soccer pitch, and the preliminary races of the Windsurfing Championship will get underway on the white-capped lake. Meanwhile, Deb Pannell, Dottie Reed, and Harry McGregor will have finished the installation in our Library of the Annual Pemigewassett Art Show – and then host the gala opening, complete with cornucopial cheese platter, fresh fruit, and delicious sparkling punch. (Everyone gets firsts. For seconds, you have to answer some searching trivia questions about the items on display!) Then, after an early supper, the G&S cast trundles down to the Lodge for the dress rehearsal of Pirates of Penzance, while Ryan Fauver hosts the rest of the camp in the Mess Hall for the second of this season’s Vaudeville Shows. Did we say we were busy this week?

Did we say we were busy last week? Advanced Caving Trip to Schoharie, New York, with Zach Leeds, Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Alex Baskin, Dylan O’Keefe, TH Pearson, Sompy Somp, Max Von Passchen, and Dan Reiff marveling at their subterranean adventures.

The annual trip to Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine (details below). Uppers 1 and 2 overnighting at Greenleaf Hut in the spectacular Franconia Range on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Florian Dietl, Daniel Bowes, Max Pagnucco, Charlie and Will Parsons, Julian Hernandez-Webster, and Hugh Grier joining staff members Peter Siegenthaler, Juan Gallardo, and Dan Reed for a spectacular traverse of the Presidential Range, staying at the recently renovated Madison Springs Hut. Richie Carchia, Owen Fried, Jack Wright, Alex Sheikh, Johnny Seebeck, Jamie Zusi, and Greg Nacheff tri-summiting Mt. Tripyramid on a (yes!) three-day. Simultaneously, some thirty miles west of them, Hugh Gray, Ben Chaimberg, Nate Blumenthal, Charlie Scott, Nat Healy, Patrick Sullivan, Jamie Nicholas, and Colin Alcus summiting Mt. Moosilauke on the same schedule. The entire Junior Camp on an afternoon field trip to the Science Center of New Hampshire on Squam Lake. A second geology field trip to Crawford Notch just west of the Presidentials (details below). The entire Lower camp headed off to Lebanon, NH for a pizza dinner followed by a viewing of Ice Age IV. (Remember? Before climate change?) The entire Upper Camp traveling to Manchester to take in an AA league baseball game (details below). The entire Senior Camp hosting the lasses from Camp Merriwood for an afternoon of sports, a barbecue on the beach, and a brief evening of what we are assured is still called “dancing.” The same lads, the next day, heading south for Hanover Day, with supper at that much-favored bistro “Everything but Anchovies” and a screening of Dark Knight Rising. All terrific fun, and great ways to side-step any possible feelings of let-down after our magnificent day against Tecumseh at the end of Week Five. By the time Saturday rolled around, with the annual Brad Jones Day and the thirtieth iteration of Games Day, everyone was ready for a sleep-in and an afternoon “at home.” Add to Saturday’s activities an evening showing of How to Train Your Dragon and Pemi Week was well off and running.

Now for some of the “details” promised above. First, we hear from Jamie Andrews who, together with Ben Walsh, led the trip up Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. They were joined on this always-memorable jaunt by Nathaniel Kaplan, Thompson Bain, Alex Baskin, Spencer Cain, Dan Reiff, Andreas Sheikh, Ben Stone, and TH Pearson (many of whom had just returned from caving!)

Mount Katahdin, a wilderness monolith at the end of the AT in Maine, is an arduous climb. It has tough bouldering sections, and long stretches of exposed trail making its traverse particularly dangerous in inclement weather. Due to these factors, Pemi’s group headed off any storm danger by starting our hike at seven AM, ascending the AT Hunt trail. With a cooling morning drizzle pattering on our heads, we quickly climbed the first few miles until we reached the aforementioned bouldering section. Without tree cover, a dragon’s spine of stone stretched out upon the ridge ahead of us. We adopted a slower pace, and eventually passed through the “gateway,” onto the flat terrace near the top of Katahdin. The weather cleared some, with the mountains behind us looking like islands jutting through a sea of clouds. Covering the last mile and a half through the flatter alpine zone, the Pemi boys made it to the top just in time to eat lunch and witness a group of thru-hikers complete their trek. With beards to their chests and 2,100 miles at their backs, the trekkers yelped and yodeled like the proverbial “Happy Wanderer,” celebrating their final ascension. We turned to head down after a hearty meal of crackers, ‘roni, and cheese, with the sun becoming fully uncovered for the first time in the day. We had heard of potential thunderstorms in the later afternoon, so we booked it down over the sharp ridge-top and back into tree cover. Feet sore from 10.4 miles and smiles wide from surprise trip-candy, we made it back to camp around four PM, ate delicious pepperoni-potato chowder, and drifted to sleep in our tents.

A truly memorable day! Now, here’s Deb Kure, super-mega-ultra-dynamic Associate Head of our Nature Program, who led last week the second of 2012’s outings to Mt. Willard (taking Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm along as a reward for his teams’ acceptable performance against Tecumseh. How cool is it, by the way, that any camp’s storied AD is the first to line up for a geologically-oriented Nature Trip?)

Crawford Notch

What? There’s a nine-mile, perfectly symmetrical U-shaped glacial valley in our White Mountains? One which campers are likely to see in their future geology textbooks? Time to pack a trail supper, load up the van, and hit the road!

Twice a summer in recent years, we’ve ventured out to “take a closer look” at Crawford Notch. Driving there via Franconia Notch and driving back over the Kancamagus Highway provides an ideal geology field trip route. Campers of all ages and interests have enjoyed the 1.6-mile walk to the cliff summit of Mt. Willard, at the north end of the Notch. The final approach is a memorable tree-arched path, with The View opening a little more with each step, until you’re on the edge of the precipice face-to-face with a glacier-bulldozed trough so symmetrical that it looks like a giant forested skateboard half-pipe. The Presidential Range forms the east wall of the Notch – with Mt. Washington sometimes visible in to the northeast – and the Willey Range forms the west wall. Weaker Conway granite allowed the more-than-one-mile-thick Continental ice sheet to gouge and scour a U-shaped valley, in between the resistant volcanic igneous and metamorphic rock of the ranges, 13,000 years ago. Seeing this natural wonder – and beginning to understand the prodigious forces and protracted time scale that led to its creation – is always something of a scientific and a spiritual education.

Great to have campers who consistently realize the artistic and scientific majesty of this view – and to be able to introduce them to the adventure and excitement of a field-based science!

And now for a national-pastime-oriented word from Danny, who spear-headed the Upper trip to Manchester – and is rumored to have thrown out the first pitch (although details of the deed have proven hard to come by!)

This past Thursday, August 2, the Upper Division campers asked their counselors to “take them out to the ballgame” and the counselors took them literally by putting the boys onto a Pemi bus and heading to the big city, Manchester, NH, to watch the Manchester Fisher Cats “play ball.” The ride to the Queen City was a smooth one, and the boys arrived in plenty of time to enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast at a guest tent in the stadium, featuring burgers, sausage, chicken, salad, and cookies – with an abundance of drink, as well.

As game time approached, the boys settled into their seats, directly behind home plate, to enjoy the contest. The Pemi lads showed their enthusiasm throughout, chanting the names of the Fisher Cats batters, starting a “wave,” and screaming in glee at every hit, of which there were many, as the game turned into a slugfest between the home team and the Erie Sea Wolves. In total, 31 hits were banged out in the eventual 9-7 Erie victory. A fun time was had by all, and we look forward to a return date in 2013!

And this brings us right up to yesterday. One of the highlights of Sunday morning was our weekly Meeting being focused on Pemi West, our mountain leadership program based in Washington State. Three of this year’s participants – “students” Dan Fulham and Nathan Tempro and staffer Dan Reed – treated the entire camp to a spectacular slideshow of their trip, accompanying their inspiring images with some riveting words about how well this kind of challenge can paradoxically forge both team-work and independent, individual growth in those lucky enough to be a part of it. We’ll be in touch this fall about 2013’s edition of PW, which will be open to motivated and adventurous16-, 17-, 18-year-olds, male or female, Pemi alums or not. Suffice it to say, though, that more than a few eyes were opened Sunday morning to the allure of this exciting wilderness adventure with a distinctive “Pemi stamp.”

That takes us close to our word limit (a coy way of saying it’s almost time for lunch – and we do get excited about lunch these days, given Stacey’s cuisine.) We’ll close with an extremely fresh bit of news coming from Zach Barnard, who teams with Henry Eisenhart (whose birthday is today!) as one of our two fine division heads in the Junior Camp. This treats the latest installment in our Big Guy/Little Guy mentoring initiative.

Senior and Junior buddies gather for s’mores

Yesterday evening, the Juniors and Seniors gathered around the newly created Junior Campfire Circle. Situated right on Junior Point, the circle overlooks the lake, sheltered from gusts of wind by the plants along the stream. Every Junior was paired with a Senior buddy, and to the tune of three or four s’mores each, the campers had a great time finding marshmallow roasting sticks and getting their hands and faces sticky. Everyone then quieted down and gathered around the fire together, Seniors sitting with their respective buddies. The counselors asked questions such as “What types of things do you do here that you don’t do at home?” and “What advice can you give to each other for the last week of camp?” The introspection and concern, as well as the thoughtfulness and maturity in so many of the answers, was awesome. We had a great time together, and we’re all looking forward to being together once again, next year!

We’ll close with that. Tune in next week for this year’s final missive, complete with Clive Bean’s annual review of our Gilbert and Sullivan production. Until then!

— Tom and Danny

Summer 2012: Newsletter #2

It’s Monday afternoon, July 2nd – sunny, breezy, and warm – and Pemi sports teams are currently off at Camps Moosilauke and Walt Whitman competing in 11’s Basketball, 13’s Tennis, and 15’s Ultimate Frisbee (that most Utopian of games.) This comes on the heels of Kingswood Day last Saturday, when we enjoyed a full eight hours of competition with another of our good neighbors. Strangely reminiscent of last year’s Tecumseh experience, the day ended with Pemi winning seven contests and dropping seven others, but we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we’d put out our best efforts with very little practice time, all the while maintaining the highest level of sportsmanship.

Pemi’s Trip Program has been taking advantage of a recent run of good weather. Four cabins have now spent the night at the Adirondack shelter up on Pemi Hill, eight have travelled by canoe across the lake to dine at Flat Rock or Pine Forest, and a spate of expeditions have ventured into the neighboring mountains either on day hikes or overnights. One of the first of the latter involved Juniors 5 and 6 and J-Tent on a first-ever Pemi trip to the oxymoronically-named Flat Mountain, situated just above the Pemigewassett River in Campton.  (What’s next? Dry River? Rising Hollow?) Led by former U. S. Forest Ranger and now Pemi driver Reed Harrigan, the group of twenty-three visited the site of an 18th-century farm on what had once been clear ground overlooking Cannon Mountain and the Franconia Range. All that remains are the 50-by-80-foot stone foundation of the barn and the smaller cellar-hole of the house, topped by massive granite sills that honestly look like they belong at Stonehenge. As Reed explained both about granite quarrying methods and historical changes in New Hampshire agriculture that might have led to the abandonment of the site, Brooks Valentine sought to budge one of the sills, to no noticeable avail. Keep eating your oatmeal, Brooks. We are truly lucky to have Reed on the staff, though, and to walk with him in the woods, tasting lemonade-tangy wood sorrel or learning how to make toothbrushes from yellow birch sprigs, is to feel like you’ve somehow hooked up with Daniel Boone.

AT hikers, who walked back to camp today

Currently, Lower Two is walking by Greeley Ponds in the Waterville Range en route to their Mad River campsite, led by veteran trip counselor Jamie Andrews and fellow “trippie” Richard Komson (both of them veterans of Pemi West, on which more in a later number). Tomorrow they will scale the formidable East Peak of Mt. Osceola and then move along the high ridge to the main summit, commanding views of dozens of surrounding four-thousand-footers before descending to the trailhead. Meanwhile, a select group of Juniors is tackling a five-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, staying at the Ore Hill tent-site in the middle of a sugar bush before walking back into camp in time for tomorrow’s lunch. (The AT crosses Pemi’s land at the other end of the pond, and one of the consistent times we re-establish delightful contact with “the olden days” is when, as with this group, an overnight can end with a walking re-entry into camp. Time was when our trips to the high Whites began with a four-mile hike to the train station in Wentworth for steam passage to Franconia Notch – and ended with the reverse. Try as we might be tempted to, we are no longer made of such stern stuff.)

Wednesday, of course, is the Fourth of July, when we will sleep in an extra half hour to celebrate the vigor and vitality of our great country. We’ll then relish the annually extravagant Pee-rade and all that follows. (Details to come.) Thursday and Friday, though, we’ll hit the road again with two trips to the Presidential Range and Larry Davis’s Beginning Caving Trip to Schoharie, New York – where the boys will stay with Larry’s world-famous caver-sister, Emily Mobley. Meanwhile, back east, eight intrepid seniors will join Tom Scarff and Danny Kerr (!!!) as they head to Lakes-of-the-Clouds AMC Hut, high on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. Friday, after a shot at a Polar Bear dip in an arctic tarn, they’ll cross the Northern summits in time to make it back to camp for Taps. Simultaneously, another eight boys will accompany Ian Steckler and Reed Harrigan as they cover the same route in the opposite direction, staying at Madison Springs Hut at the extreme north of the range. Significantly, summiting Mts. Madison and Adams will give Reed membership in the famed Four-Thousand-Foot Club, as he’ll then have climbed all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks. The inspirational value for everyone at camp should be considerable.

The last trip we’ll mention for now is the annual “Bookends” night at the Pemi shelter, undertaken by the very youngest and the very oldest boys in camp, in tandem.  One of the most-longstanding formal components in our Old Guy Young Guy mentorship scheme that includes two Junior-Senior Campfires per season, this fun event was one of the benefits of the good weather at the end of last week. Here is a brief account, written by Junior 1 counselor and Division Head Zach Barnard.

Led by the rugged but refined Peter Siegenthaler [Lake Tent Counselor], along with the Lake Tent trio of Harry Cooke. Oliver Kafka, and T. H. Pearson, the first “bookends” trip of the season was a success on many levels. Ben Ballman, Mac Hadden, Jack Linnartz, Nick Paris, Harrison Tillou, and Jake Waxman, the nine-year-old residents of Junior 1 and the Junior buddies of the Lake Tent trio, thoroughly enjoyed their first night away from the creature comforts of J1. Spending the night in an Adirondack shelter half a mile up the hill from the Junior Camp, all twelve of us relished s’mores around a campfire, fun stories, and some reading by T. H. just before bed. We slept soundly, awoken only by the pitter-patter of rain during the night, and eventually by the crackling of the morning fire made by Peter. Eating a breakfast of fire-toasted bagels and yogurt bars, we welcomed a new day under the canopy of as the fog rolled in, dew dripping from the leaves all around us. The magic of Pemi Hill will continue to live within us all – young and “old” – for a long time to come.

Sunday, we made a slight adjustment in our regular schedule to allow for an evening screening in the Lodge of the Finals of the EuroCup between Spain and Italy. If the 4-0 Spanish victory was a disappointment for fans who wanted to see an even match, it was hardly that for Pemi’s bona fide Spanish contingent, Diego and Pepe Periel, Julian Navarro, and Javier Ibanez. Swayed perhaps by the enthusiasm of this Iberian quartet, the crowd seemed to favor the muchachos in rojo. Displaced to the morning by this international set-piece was Danny Kerr’s Sunday Meeting on the many ways one can be a Pemi Kid. The alum of a neighboring camp with which Pemi has always had a wonderful relationship, Danny reminisced about how he had always thought we were a sports camp – considerate, respectful, and sportsmanlike to be sure, but hard-charging, well-drilled, and competitive. It didn’t take him long, though, to realize that Pemi is more than that, and that this is a place where sports, nature study, the arts, and outdoor adventure are all respected and practiced in equal measure. Beyond the core values of community, inclusiveness, and independence, having the courage and support to try new things is key to a rich summer on Lower Baker. If there are four legs to the “program chair” at Pemi, “balance” is doing one’s best to be grounded in all four areas. Aptly, Danny invited two of our oldest campers to share their thoughts on the remarkable range of boys who feel they belong here – and what they end up doing.

First to speak was eight-year veteran Harry Cook: When you see the iconic “Pemi Kid”atop the blue or white attire of young campers, you somehow imagine this figure (who was invented in 1919) to be athletic. His stance suggests he is sprinting, steadily with “pep and speed,” and his clothing features those high soccer socks. However, to be the “Pemi Kid” that Danny described, you do not require his athletic ability. There are plenty of camps up here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, yet this small blonde guy from New York City (yours truly) who doesn’t really like sports wouldn’t necessarily be heading to Lake Winnepesauke to join our table-banging cousins from Tecumseh, where athletics are the major theme. Instead, this lad would be heading to Lower Baker Pond where, instead of kicking a soccer ball across the pitch, he could be following Larry Davis’s Tree Walk across the campus. Pemi is a place where nature, music, art, and trips do not necessarily overshadow sports – but play an equal role alongside one another in encompassing the wonder of Camp Pemi. Where else could I have taken an occupation in Wild Foods, learned to sail, performed in Gilbert and Sullivan shows and campfires, and participated in sound painting? One important feature of the Pemi kid that is often neglected is the broad smile plastered across his face. If you have that smile on your face, whether you get it after scoring a well-maneuvered goal or finally getting up on waterskis, YOU indeed are the Pemi Kid. 

Harry was followed by T. H. Pearson, currently in his eighth season with us: When I first came to Pemi, I expected to only play sports – and maybe go on a few hikes. At that time, I didn’t know that Pemi was a wonderful place to seize new opportunities and try new things. At first, I mostly played sports and headed off into the mountains to hike. But then I noticed some of my cabin-mates had signed up for sailing occupations and seemed to be enjoying it. This intrigued me, and I signed up for beginning sailing. Little did I know that I would soon fall in love with being out on the water. It was amazing to me that no one judged me when I capsized or when I didn’t rig the boat properly. It was a safe environment to learn in, and I loved it. After learning the ropes here at Pemi, I started sailing with my dad outside of camp, and eventually sailed with him down to Bermuda. Now I also love banging around in Hobie Cats in the Chesapeake. Trying new things at Pemi helped me find my passion.

T. H. is not alone in having first come to Pemi for sports. Nor, obviously, is he alone in finding that by pushing himself a little bit beyond his comfort zone, he could find a previously unexplored activity to enjoy for the rest of his life. Music and dramatics are two areas that Pemi boys are often drawn to only after they hit our shores, some notable examples being Hollywood casting director Billy Hopkins (We Need to Talk about Kevin, Precious, Good Will Hunting), actor Jon Bernthal (The Pacific, The Walking Dead), and even music educator and light operatic performer Jim Dehls, back with us for the current week as a visiting professional teaching world drumming, a capella, and music appreciation. Appropriately, long-time staff member Dorin Dehls, Jim’s daughter, is cast as Mabel in this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Pirates of Penzance – along with campers John Stevenson as Samuel, Ezra Nugiel as Frederic, Robert Loeser as Edith, and Andre Altherr as Isabel. In the chorus are a number of boys who will be in their first Pemi production, perhaps their first production ever! Be sure to book early for this year’s performances on August 7th and 8th and you may see the next Olivier or Kevin Kline on his way up.

Sharing honors on Pemi’s Great White Way for the first half-session is a world-premiere production of Metal Boy:  The Musical, brain-child of Ian Axness, Peter Siegenthaler, and Zach Barnard – as suggested by an unlikely story written some years back by one of your current correspondents. It’s a tale of commitment and courage, splashed with a liberal wash of rust, Tecumseh Day, and rural absurdism, and rumor has it that Justin Bieber is already bidding for the film rights. For now, though, the title role will be played by Nick Gordon, with Lucas Janszky as Skin-bag (don’t ask!), and Dan Bivona, Harry Cooke, Jack Davini, James Minzesheimer, Bill O’Leary, and Jackson Welsh as fellow campers – and introducing Jacob Berk, Brady Chilson, Matt Edlin, and Spencer O’Brien as Juniors. Rehearsals start today (as we type this!), and the show opens on Friday the 13th of July. More to come.

Well, we guess there are other things we might have mentioned in reviewing the past week, but we’ll leave it at this. Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Fourth of July. We look forward to being back in touch with you all same time next week.

— Tom and Danny

 

Soups Up! Bean Soup: Going Digital

Pemi must really be coming out of the Stone Age, if the most determinedly Luddite of its institutions, Bean Soup, is in the process of digitizing all of its past numbers. What’s next? Virtual Polar Bears? Infrared webcams for night patrol? Spy satellites in stationary orbit over Camp Tecumseh? Tweets from the One-Armed Brakeman? Actually, Bean Soup began its descent into the technological maelstrom several years ago when editors Josh Fischel, James Finley, and Ian Axness regularly slunk to the front of the Lodge on Monday nights with laptops in hand, leaving many of us wondering whether they had actually written the material they were reading or if it was simply streaming from internet sites like The Onion, Al Jazeera, or Damn You, Autocorrect! But it’s true. Eat your heart out Bob Dylan: we are scanning and digitizing all of our back pages. Moth and worm may corrupt all those thousands of paper copies strewn out across the decades and the time zones, but nothing short of solar flares that muscle out past the orbit of Mercury will take all those incomprehensible Junior One articles, all those oh-so-politically-incorrect Ogontz (or Wyoda, or Lochearn, or Merriwood) Day articles, all those endless strings of Tecumseh Day articles out of our collective ken. For former campers, it’s going to be like having every day be candy day. For former counselors, it’s going to be like having days off four times a week and nights the other three. For former Bean Soup editors, it’s going to be like a nightmare where you can never, ever escape your lurid past. Seriously, this is a GOOD THING for reasons even cynical Bean Soup humor can’t obscure. We all owe a special vote of thanks to the folks who are making this happen, Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano, Ander Wensberg, and especially Robie “Calvin” Johnson. Their efforts (and the support of the Pemi Board) have been remarkable.

Here’s the deal. We’re going decade-by-decade, generally working from the present back into in the past. In case those moths and worms have been active in your own personal bookshelves, any of you who were eligible for a print copy of our esteemed journal in any past year can request a searchable pdf copy of the same. Blast notification will go out as each decade becomes available, and if you want to exercise your digital option, simply email Nikki. We will also occasionally re-publish select sections of various numbers for celebratory or informational reasons – and anyone interested in a legitimate historical or familial project that requires access to larger portions of the archive is welcome to request that. We’ll do our best to oblige in ways that appropriately respect the privacy of past campers and staff.

Nikki informs me that each decade’s release will feature a preface (or perhaps a legal disclaimer) from a distinguished Bean Soup editor of the past: the likes of Justin Thompson-Glover, Sky Fauver, Brad Saffer, or Karl See. For this first notice, she’s asked what Rob Grabill would alternatively call “an extinguished ex-editor” – that would be me – to do the honors. Well, I was indeed an editor for portions of three decades, beginning in the late sixties and ending in the late eighties. (If you don’t believe me, look at how much hair I’m missing.) Adding to that my earlier years as a camper and counselor and subsequent years as a director, I can say that I have laughed (and sometimes grimaced) my way through over fifty years of “Monday Night Fever.” When I think about Pemi, I think about campfires a lot. I think about Gilbert and Sullivan and singing in the messhall. I think about Tecumseh Days and hut trips to the Presidentials. But, in many ways, Bean Soup is the single thing that – if it could indeed be described to anyone – I would offer as a window into the soul of Pemi. Sure, part of the reason is because it documents a lot of what we actually do and say and think at camp (and a lot, too, of what we most certainly never did or said or thought!) But it’s the flow of good feeling, and common engagement, and masterful language, and often wicked humor that we witness every Monday up there that says it all – or, if not all, then at least so, so well. In the words of Doc Reed’s Campfire Song, Bean Soup often enough documents “mistakes of the head” – and it may, in fact, be guilty of a few of its own. (There have been times when a few folks here and there may have thought the Beans had been traded in for the Means. In fact, way back when, new campers were told to carve those wooden spoons because there would indeed BE bean soup served up at 7:30 in the Lodge. It was a bald-faced lie!) But “good will in the heart” has almost always prevailed, and more boys (and now gals) than I are likely to have learned how to be observant, and smart, and cutting but caring as much from Bean Soup as from anywhere else in life. What a blessing to come to a place like Pemi where you can do so much, meet so many worthwhile and welcoming people, grow in so many ways – and all with the constant reminder that you can care a lot about a lot of things without taking yourself too seriously.

So, let’s all take a moment to celebrate the Joe Campbell’s, and Rollie DeVere’s, and Bill Westfall’s, and Rob Grabill’s who have over the years invented the sport of Gummidge, and the Adventures of  Doorlock Sholmes, and Things to Look For, and the Ol’ Perfessor and Clive Bean. As Doc Nick used to say about Pemi’s history in the first Sunday Meeting of the year, “Yea, it is a goodly heritage.” (I think, in fact, he was plagiarizing from the Bible!) So it is with Bean Soup’s own storied history. Here’s to its rebirth in a form such that “age cannot wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety.” (I think I may be plagiarizing, too. Just can’t quite remember.)

And now, on with the Soup.

~      Tom Reed, Jr.

 

Were you at Pemi during the 1970’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1970-1979, please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form.  You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.  ~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

Pemi’s Nature Program: 87 Years and Counting

by Larry Davis

The Nature Lodge at Pemi

The Nature Lodge soon after it was built

This is my 42nd year (1970-present) as Director of Nature Programs and Teaching at Pemi. My predecessor, Clarence Dike, was here for 41 years (1929-1970). Given my new longevity “record,” it seems like a good time to reflect on the history of natural history at Pemi.

Founding of the Nature Program

Pemi’s nature program began in 1925. The Seniors were split into five groups, and each group took “Nature” for one week, concentrating on collecting and identifying plants, shrub leaves, trees, and flowers. Clarence Dike came in 1929, and in 1930, the Nature Lodge was built. The building was named for Rev. and Mrs. Paul Moore Strayer of Rochester New York. He was a great amateur naturalist, and the Minister at Doc Win’s (one of the founding Fauver twins) church in Rochester.

Pemi Nature Lodge interior

Nature Lodge interior, 1930's

The interior of the Nature Lodge today is strikingly familiar to that of the 30’s. The two large tables with yellow birch legs are still in use today (although in very different positions). The workbenches are still in place and we still have most of the original benches to sit on, and the two original insect display cases are still in use. There have, of course, been many changes. The first is the addition of the “department” signs above the windows. These were in place when I arrived. We’ve also added a lot more lighting including two skylights. The original building had no electric lights and there were only two bulbs in place during my first years.

In 1995 we added the Phillip Reed Memorial Nature Library. This gave us about 65% more space and a weather-proof area to house our burgeoning book collection (now at about 1000 volumes). Local artisans, Roger Daniels and Richard Sharon, built the addition using native woods and the same, unusual, log construction as the original lodge. Phillip Reed was Tom Reed, Jr.’s cousin. He was a well-known environmental lawyer who passed away at a tragically early age (I actually first met him while wearing my other “hat” as an environmental science professor). He was passionate about the outdoors, and the library, built at the suggestion of and with the support of his family and friends, is a fitting and lasting tribute to him. Today, the library serves not only as a book repository, but also as a teaching station and a place where, during free time, campers and staff gather to talk about nature and dozens of other topics. I know that Phil is pleased.

Program

Making butterfly nets

Clarence Dike and camper, making a butterfly net, 1940's

While today’s program is more extensive than it was in Clarence Dike’s day, it is very much built on the foundation that he laid. We are still making butterfly nets the same way…mosquito net bags sewn onto a bent coat hanger hoop and attached with electrical tape to a trimmed stick. We are still using those nets to collect butterflies, moths, and many other insects, which we pin out on the very same spreading boards that he made (which can be seen in the 1930’s photograph of the Nature Lodge).

Other program elements begun by “Mr. Dike” include the tree walk, the “What-is-it?” contest, study of ponds and streams, and the Junior Nature Book. These all continue today. Some things we do not do any more. For example, it was common, in the 1930’s, to routinely shoot and skin birds and animals for display. We continue to display those in place since the birds are long dead and we’ve got the display. But we always make it clear that this was an old way of doing things and we now realize that this is harmful to ecosystems and the natural balance of things.

Boys in the Nature Program at Pemi

In the early days of the program, campers took a general "Nature" occupation.

We also used just to offer general “Nature” as an occupation. In fact, this was still the way we did it during my first 8 years at Pemi. We usually had 20-30 boys all wanting to do different things. We never knew, until our first meeting, just who wanted to do what.

Note how, in the picture on the left, there are two  groups of boys doing two different things. In 1977, we experimented with a new format. We offered a “Butterflies and Moths” occupation for the first time. Since then, we have offered only this kind of specific activity. We are able to plan our lessons more carefully, separate beginners from more advanced campers (and indeed, offer more advanced lessons), and offer a much wider variety of topics.

Going beyond

Ants

Today, occupations offer focused topics, such as "Ants."

The advent of individual activity occupations has allowed us to build on the solid foundation that Clarence Dike laid and to go far beyond it. We now offer 14-18 different nature occupations each week. Some, such as Beginning Butterflies and Moths or Beginning Rocks and Minerals, are available every week. Others such as Orienteering or Non-Flowering Plants may be available only once or twice a summer. Many of these activities are taught at an  advanced level so that campers can grow in their knowledge and skills within a field that holds particular interest for them. In total, we offered close to 40 different occupations this summer. These include “interdisciplinary” activities with the arts such as Photography (both darkroom and digital), Environmental Sculpture (inspired by the work of Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy), and Dyeing Woolie Critters along with Dyeing and Weaving (more on these below).

In the early 1990’s, Russ Brummer, as part of his Masters degree work at Antioch New England, developed a special occupation, Junior Environmental Explorations, that was designed to introduce Juniors to the Nature Program. It is a five-day curriculum that takes the campers through a series of activities in the woods, in the swamp, in the streams, and in the Nature Lodge, all of which are intended to acquaint them with the world around them, sharpen their observational skills, and let them know about the range of other nature occupations available to them. It is one of only two required activities at camp (the other is instructional swimming to Level 4) and all first-time juniors are automatically “enrolled” in their first week at Pemi.

Art Show at Camp Pemi

Cyanotype, digital, and darkroom photography are featured in the annual Art Show

Our “interdisciplinary” art/nature occupations are particularly satisfying. They include Nature Photography, Nature Drawing, Environmental Sculpture, and both Dyeing & Weaving and Dyeing Woolie Critters. Photography has really expanded under the guidance of our own talent (Dan Reed on digital and Peter Siegenthaler in the darkroom) and visiting professional Andy Bale, who is on the faculty at Dickinson College. Many campers have their work displayed at the annual end-of-year Art Show.

Environmental sculpture at Pemi

Environmental Sculpture encourages careful observation.

Environmental sculptures are created out of natural materials and they are frequently ephemeral, lasting only a few days or even a few hours. Besides exercising campers’ artistic instincts, the activity also strongly encourages careful observation of the natural world. I have frequently seen boys pick up and discard a dozen different rocks before selecting just the right one for their sculpture.

dyed wool

Natural dyes create colorful wool.

A more recent innovation is the use of natural dyes to dye wool. This is a lot of fun, as combinations of plants and different mordents (the metal or substance used to “fix” the dyes) can lead to unexpected results. We have dyed yarn and woven it and, for the last three years, dyed raw (but cleaned) wool and used it to needle felt “woolie critters.” Thus the occupation name, “Dyeing Woolie Critters.” We get our wool from a farm right here in Wentworth, and we have even been able to go there and see sheep shearing.

Wild Foods at Pemi

Collecting milkweed pods to cook back at the Nature Lodge

Finally, we come to the single most requested nature occupation, Wild Foods. This is taught each week, but is only open to 8 boys at a time. We were getting 50-60 requests for it each week. So, two years ago, we began limiting it to uppers and seniors only. The boys love it because they get to taste some interesting food. For me, however, the most important lesson comes with the context. We are always thinking about what it would have been like to make a living from this hard New England soil 600 years ago, before the first Europeans made permanent settlements here. We talk about gathering food, preserving it for winter, knowing what as edible and poisonous, and how that information was passed on. Three years ago, we started a “farm” where we grow the “three sisters” (corn, beans, squash) using varieties as close as we can get to those used by the Indians. We get the seeds from Plimouth Plantation where they grow and maintain stocks of these old, old strains.  In the end, we hope that the boys gain an appreciation for the hunting and gathering lifestyle and for the work that was involved in just feeding yourself and your fellows each day, let alone storing enough for those long New England Winters.

Trips

Palermo Mine; Camp Pemi field trip

Collecting minerals at Palermo Mine with Deb Kure

We started taking our first nature trips in 1971. They were to mineral collecting areas, and one of the first was to the Palermo Mine in North Groton, NH. Forty years later we are still going there, guests of the owner, Robert Whitmore of Weare, NH. In fact, he has given us keys to this world-famous locality and donated some spectacular specimens, found at the mine, for us to display. We usually run one of these trips each week, and they give the campers a chance to collect some really interesting minerals.

caving trip; Pemi Nature program

Older boys have the chance to go caving

One of the truly different things that we do through the Nature Program each summer is to run two caving trips to the Karst (cave) region of New York State, about 30 miles southwest of Albany. These are both adventure and geology trips and, as a geologist who studies hydrology in these areas (while wearing my University “hat”), I lead them. Pemi caving trips and photographs are featured in detail in Caving Trips with Camp Pemi, an article that you might enjoy reading.

We also take trips to sites of geological or ecological interest. This summer, for example, Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure, led geology field trips to Crawford and Franconia Notches. In past years, we have gone to the virgin spruce-fir forest in the Connecticut Lakes Region of extreme northern New Hampshire, to remote bogs in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, to Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and for fossil collecting on the Lake Champlain Islands in northwestern Vermont.

The Nature Instruction Clinic

In 1992, Rob Grabill, Russ Brummer, and I gave a workshop on teaching nature at camp at the International Camping Association meeting in Toronto, Ontario. This led to the establishment, in 1993, of the pre-season nature instruction clinic. This 5½-day class is designed to train instructors from other camps (and some of our own too) to teach natural history in a camp setting. It is a way in which we can share our experience and spread the good work to far more children than we personally could ever reach. The clinic is broken into two main segments. In the first, we introduce the participants to the natural history of the area. In the second, we work on teaching skills, including lesson planning and exhibit making. Everything is hands-on and tailored to the specific needs and interests of each year’s group.

In 2009, the Nature Instruction Clinic was accepted as a three-credit (graduate or undergraduate) course at the University of New Haven, the institution at which I teach. It is the capstone course in our new Environmental Education Concentration within the Master of Science in Environmental Science Program. This year we had five University of New Haven students participating along with two staff members from Pemi and five from other camps.

Closing Thoughts

It has been a long journey for Pemi Nature since 1925. Over the past 87 years, we have introduced thousands of boys to the natural world around them. Some have gone on to careers in geology or ecology or natural history teaching. Deb Kure, our current Associate Head of Nature Programs, came to the first Nature Instruction Clinic as a newly minted geology graduate. She went on to a distinguished career as an outdoor educator, having worked for the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, among other places. She now does after-school nature instruction for Camp Fire International in Austin, Texas. Most, however, have simply taken what they learned here at Pemi and used it to enrich their lives and the lives of their families. All of this was made possible by the vision of the Four Docs who provided the impetus, the place, and the people that were needed to make Nature a key part of the Pemi experience. Over the years, every Pemi director has supported the vision and the expansion of the program to what it is today. I feel immensely privileged to be a part of the legacy and see Pemi’s Nature Program continuing to grow and evolve far into the future.