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.
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.)
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.
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