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Pemi 101 – The Pemi Hill Shelter

The Pemi Hill Shelter is an Adirondack-style structure that sits on Pemi’s property roughly two-thirds of a mile above the Junior Camp. This shelter provides cover overhead and is walled on three sides to protect occupants from the elements. Ten yards from the open side of the building, which faces eastward, is a campfire circle essential for cooking meals and for providing a central place for the group to congregate.

Over the years, Pemi has utilized the Pemi Hill Shelter in different ways, most notably as an overnight hike destination for individual cabins. The group traditionally departed after supper, climbed in the early evening hours armed with sleeping bags and a change of clothes, and enjoyed a night in the great outdoors. Led by the cabin counselor, and possibly the cabin’s Assistant Counselor, these hikes aided in developing cabin unity and gave the boys a chance to practice their camping skills.

Campers and staff have documented many of these Pemi Hill trips in Bean Soup articles. Click the links to read about Lower 7’s trip in 1988, or Junior 2’s outing in 1998.

History of the Pemi Hill Shelter

In the earliest days of Pemi (from 1908 into the 1920’s), boys climbed Pemi Hill for similar reasons, but experienced a very different landscape – pastoral rather than forested. In fact, cattle grazed on the slopes above the camp in the 1910’s, and the clanking of cowbells could be heard in the cabins after Taps and before Reveille. In the 1920’s, the first Pemi Hill Shelter was constructed near the spring where the cattle drank. Over the decades since, white pine, white and yellow birch, and various other trees overtook the pasture, creating the wooded landscape familiar to us today.

In the summer of 1962, Al Fauver, former Director and owner, began the project to create a new shelter on Pemi Hill. Charlie Ladd, Pemi’s longtime maintenance man and carpenter, was the builder and led trip counselors Wes Ackley and Roger Spragg and a few campers as the building team. Others (including Board President Tom Reed, Jr.) aided the efforts by carrying up all the posts, lumber, hardware, and roofing materials needed to complete construction.

In 1963, Al charged his son Fred Fauver (current Board member) and trip leader Paul Lewis with locating the old spring and rebuilding it into a useable water source for the shelter. After an all-day search, Fred and Paul had not uncovered the old spring, but they did find a wet spot at the base of a ledge not far from the shelter. After digging it out, they found a growing pool of water and erected a stone dam and beehive roof to protect the water source from debris. The best water in the world still flows from that pipe.

(To read more about the history of the Pemi Hill Shelter, be in touch to secure your copy of Pemi’s History Book – Camp Pemigewassett The First 100 Years!)

The Pemi Hill Shelter today

In planning for the 2017 season, Pemi’s trip staff developed a new (but also old!) system to provide the 8-11-year-old Juniors campers with an engaging, safe, and memorable Pemi Hill experience. Now, the specially-trained trip counselors lead the Junior overnights, aided by the cabin counselor, so that the younger boys learn more about the trip program and develop their camping and outdoor skills.

In the morning, the trip counselor outlines the trip and what to expect, giving the boys a packing list. Later that day, a check verifies that each boy has essential gear, including rugged footwear, a rain jacket, water bottles, a toothbrush, and the food that has been organized in the kitchen. On the ascent, each boy is given a turn to lead the group, learning how to set the pace. The counselors talk about the plant and animal species to be found along the way, features of the landscape, and first aid protocol. Some of the boys take this time to share something they learned in a nature occupation with their peers.

Upon arrival, the boys drop their packs and head to the Pemi Hill Spring to fill their water bottles. Once camp is set up, the boys explore the hillside and use a topographic map to study the land. They also learn to tie useful knots. This safe, unstructured time in the woods provides an ideal opportunity for camper development and growth.

An offseason trip to the shelter during the Family Winter Weekend in 2016!

The boys gather good firewood to cook dinner over the fire. The trip counselor demonstrates how to arrange the wood in the fire pit and talks about regulations and safety relating to controlled fires in the wilds. Other items covered are the principles of Leave-No-Trace camping, which reduces the impact we have on the natural areas in which we camp and hike. After dessert, the boys relax and read a book before falling asleep in the shelter (now equipped with mosquito netting as an appreciated latter-day improvement!). No clanging of cowbells now, though; only peaceful slumber.

Boys rise early at the Pemi Hill Shelter; the extra elevation allows the sun to peek over Mount Carr a bit earlier than the counselors might hope. After a quick breakfast over the fire, the group packs up their supplies and heads back to camp in time for their morning occupations – happy, well-fed, and a bit wiser in the ways of the wilderness.

Check out the detailed description of two 2017 Pemi Hill trips by clicking here. Stay tuned to the Pemi Blog for our next Pemi 101!

–Kenny Moore

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