(July 1) – Greetings from the unusually steamy shores of Lower Baker, where the thermometer has just nudged up into the nineties for the first time in recent memory—not to drop below that decade, midday, until this coming Friday. But then any of you in the Northeast will be coping with the same torrid conditions, while the rest of you will be reading about them in your newsfeeds. Waterfront Head Charlotte Jones has responded by organizing a camp-wide swim meet for the entire afternoon, and we expect even the most inveterate land-lurkers will be drawn to the competition, whether or not they have any ambition to become the next Michael Phelps. Danny Kerr was slated to conduct Sunday’s Weekly Meeting in the Lodge, but the prospect of casting his pearls before row upon row of sweating boys and staff led him to postpone until the mercury drops a mite. Instead, Tom Reed is slated to reinstitute his “Chillin’ with Lit” series down at the Senior Beach at about 8, when the campers will prove yet again that listening to a retired professor read short stories is entirely worth it as long as you’re able to sit, up to your neck, in the gently lapping waves. (Actually, past victims report that Tom’s wonted choices aren’t all that bad, and might actually help out with future SATs.) So, given tonight’s cookout supper was always planned to be outside, our chances for surviving this first scorching day seem excellent. As for tomorrow, we’ll exercise good judgment when it comes to physical activity, drink plenty of water, slather on the sunscreen, and perhaps even consider “Chillin’ with Bean Soup.”
Meanwhile, the 2018 season is off to a great start on all programmatic fronts—sports, trips, nature, and music and the arts. Yesterday saw ten Baker Valley Tournaments in five age groups at three different camps: four tourneys in basketball (10s, 11s, 13s, and 15s), two in ultimate Frisbee (13s and 15s), two in soccer (10s and 12s), one in baseball (11s), and one in lacrosse (12s). On the trails, lakes, and rivers, eighteen cabin groups have enjoyed one sort of trip or another. Lowers 3 and 4, Uppers 1 and 2, and Uppers 4 and 5 all summited Mt. Cube, a sporty 2800-foot peak right at the head of our valley and climbed by virtually all Pemi-ites since our opening season. Lowers 1, 5, and 6 and Upper 3 experienced elegant al fresco dining at the Pine Forest, just a canoe’s ride across the lake from the Lodge. Meanwhile Uppers 4 and 5 and Senior 3 canoed across to the storied Flat Rock Café (so named after the huge, table-like granite boulder hunkered on the far lakeshore.) A select group of Seniors joined Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm for a dash up Mt. Moosilauke (4800 feet and the largest free-standing mountain in the state), some of the same souls are currently out on the Connecticut River with Nick Davini and Fiona Walker as part of their training for the upcoming five-day canoe trip on Maine’s Allagash Waterway, and the first backpacking trip of the year completed the scenic but challenging Kinsman Range in what turned out to be thrashing rain (details below.)
The Nature program has sponsored open trips to the Palermo Mine, a world-class site for various rare minerals, and also to the Quincy Bog Nature Reserve for a talk on environmental change. Week One’s “occupations” (as we inexplicably but quaintly call our instructional activities) included Ponds and Streams, Animal Evidence (just what it sounds like), Birding, Junior Environmental Exploration, Wilderness Survival (not quite as exacting as it sounds), Environmental Sculpture, Butterflies and Moths, Junior Nature Book, Photo-Darkroom, Rocks and Minerals, Plant Printmaking, Wild Foods, Exhibit Making, Photo-Digital, Wetland Ecology, Spider Sculpture, and Nature Drawing. Jonathan Verge, Teiko Pelick, and the other staff in the Drama and Music program have offered Ukelele, Acting, Piano, Advanced Guitar, Band Camp, Pemi Chorus, Soundpainting (ask your sons to explain, but it’s marvelous), Beginning Guitar, Improv, Musical Theater, and A Capella. Oh, they have also held auditions for this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, H.M.S. Pinafore. Actually, the cast list just went up today, so let’s grab a moment to talk about this annual highlight of the Pemi dramatic and musical season.
We have been doing G&S shows at Pemi since the early 1950s, when Betsy Reed (mother of Tom Reed, Jr. and grandmother of Dan Reed) teamed up with former Camp Tecumseh and legendary Pemi counselor Scott Withrow to launch the first Pinafore. We have since mounted Trial By Jury, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and Iolanthe, most recently the last three in rotation with Pinafore. (There has admittedly been some talk of late about the cultural appropriateness of The Mikado in the twenty-first century, so whether or not it will be next year’s show we can’t currently say.) It’s hard to be objective about the aesthetic merits of our own dramatic productions, but more than a few outsiders have assured us that what we offer up every August is well beyond what anyone could reasonably expect of a seven week camp for boys, let alone one that doesn’t focus centrally on the arts. If you haven’t already graced our audience and if your son happens to be in the cast, we hope you can be with us on the evening of August 7th or 8th to give us your considered opinion. For now, here’s the cast list, all but complete, save for a few TBDs.
Cast as Josephine, the fetching daughter of the Pinafore’s captain who unfortunately falls in love with what would seem to be the lowliest swab on the boat, is veteran staff member Michaela Frank, erstwhile instructor in ukelele and basketball. Interestingly for the moment, three counselors and one camper are in the running to be her nautical beau, Ralph—pronounced “Rafe”—Rackstraw: Nick Bertrand, Nick Davini, Will Meinke, and Charlie Bell. How Jonathan and Teiko will choose among the four is yet to be seen, but Michaela is reportedly thrilled to have four handsome aspirants to her make-believe hand. “It’s a little like being The Bachelorette,” she claims, “but in a Victorian dress.” Josephine’s father, Captain Corcoran, will be played by Nick Paris, although it’s not clear that Nick is yet aware that the play will reveal him to be one of a pair of accidentally switched-in-the-nursery babies and that his resulting fall from Captain to Able Seaman will be as meteoric as Johnny Manziel’s. Cast as mixed-up (and mixing-up) nursemaid, dear Little Buttercup, will be Braden Richardson. Buttercup makes her living selling the Pinafore’s crew all manner of knick-knacks, what-nots, and thingamabobs, so Braden has been apparently been reading Jeff Bezos’s forthcoming biography to prepare.
Also very much interested in Josephine is the high-and mighty Sir Joseph Porter K.C.B., a coveted role secured this year by Eli Brennan, who proved in last season’s Iolanthe that he can play arrogant presumption to perfection—and that’s just what the role calls for. In this era of governmental cabinet members possessed of questionable experience, it will be interesting to see how Sir Joseph’s patter song goes down—the one in which he confesses that his only qualification for being “ruler of the Queen’s Navee” was his time in a legal partnership. All we know is that Eli will perform it with panache, ably assisted by Scout Brink as Sir Joseph’s rather snooty Cousin Hebe. Last but hardly least, Nature Director Larry Davis will play perennial malcontent Dick Deadeye, easily one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most Voldemortian roles.
However good its leads, Pemi G&S productions are always carried by their choruses, and this year’s promise to be exceptional. Sir Joseph goes nowhere without his voluminous following of Sisters, Cousins, and Aunts, and Eli will be able to count on the support of David Kriegsman, Oliver Giraud, Owen Wyman, Luke Larabie, Noah Anderson, Christopher Ramanathan, Jake Landry, Elijah Dorroh, Jacob Kunkel, Cole Valente, and Ned Roosevelt as his plenteous petticoated relations. Sure to be ogling them with an appropriate blend of passion and politeness will be the sailors’ chorus of Nathan Gonzales, Augie Tanzosh, Aslan Peters, Thaddeus Howe, Felix Nusbaum, Teo Boruchin, Owen Gagnon, Henry Moore, Nelson Snyder, Andreas Geffert, Ben Herdeg, Dexter Wells, Lucas Gales, Nate Broll, and Julian Hernandez-Webster, with John Kingdon providing his steadying leadership as Boatswain’s Mate Bill Backstay. In sum, we can’t wait to make our way down to the quay come August and watch Pinafore 2018 set sail. It’s bound to be a fantastic voyage.
Speaking of fantastic voyages, we’ll close with a brief report on the Kinsman Traverse mentioned above, penned by co-leader Fiona Walker. To be honest, it contains a few examples of things not going quite as they were planned, but the judgment shown by the two trip leaders and, just as impressively, the pluck and determination shown by the boys makes it a worthy account to pass along.
Pemi’s 2018 Trip Program got off to a great start last week with our first 3-day (turned 2-day) trip of the season. Led by trip specialists J.P Gorman and Fiona Walker, our party was made up of seven gnarly Lowers, Emmett Itoi, Jack Greenberg, Hayden Garbarini, Tristan Roth, Brian Wolfson, George Devlin, and Jacob Kunkel. We managed to conquer the Kinsmans, North and South respectively, through what turned out to be trying conditions. Day one of the 3-day was a fairly easy and simple day. We left camp following lunch and hiked four miles up the Reel Brook Trail, taking about three and a half hours to reach the Eliza Brook Shelter. The weather was perfect—not too cold or hot—and we were able to enjoy a nice hot meal of stuffing and mashed potatoes and called it an early night. Unfortunately, at around 9 PM, it started absolutely pouring rain, seriously taxing all of our careful waterproofing efforts. Despite our best efforts, we left the Eliza Brook Shelter Thursday morning with an extra ten pounds of water weight added to each of our packs. The boys, however, had great attitudes and trudged along the trail as if there were blue skies shining above us. At around 11:45 AM, we made it to the top of South Kinsman, where we decided to unpack and have lunch, admiring the intermittent view across Franconia Notch amid the roiling clouds. At around 2:00 PM we made it to North Kinsman. At this point the rain and winds had not given us a break, and with the boys pretty wet despite their high spirits, J.P and I decided it would be best to get the boys down to the bottom of the mountain, adding our planned day-3 miles to our completed day-2 miles. Once we got down the infamous Fishin’ Jimmy Trail, we stopped at the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut, where the boys refilled their water bottles and enjoyed some well-deserved Swedish Fish. By that time it was 4:30 and we planned to meet the van at 5:30 at the Lafayette Campground. Unfortunately, J.P and I miscalculated which trail would get us to the trailhead most directly, and when we apologized to the boys for adding even more mileage to a long day, they all had incredible attitudes and simply responded, “Woohoo! Let’s hike down the mountain!” One of the benefits of the delay, by the way, was that we stopped at the local McDonald’s for supper! Overall we hiked sixteen miles, twelve of them on Thursday in the pouring rain and wind. Watch out Uppers, this may be the gnarliest group of Lowers I know!
With that engaging account—confirmation of Pemi’s belief in full disclosure—we’ll close this week’s number. More to come in seven days’ time. Meanwhile, thanks for lending an ear (or eye).