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.
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.