Pemi campers on a hike in the mountains
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The Trip Program at Pemi

Camp Pemigewassett Newsletter #4 (2021)

Monday, July 19th, marked the end of the first half of the 2021 Pemi season. As the sun rose (or at least we assume it rose – we never actually saw it on the day), we began to say goodbye to the boys who departed the shores of Lower Baker after an exciting, fun-filled, and memorable three and a half weeks. We were sad to see them go, but we wish them all the best for the rest of their summers. As Danny Kerr so aptly put it at our final breakfast together, we hope they take some of the “Pemi love” that they felt here and spread it to their homes, schools, and communities. Our world will be a better place if every boy who left on Monday takes Danny’s words to heart. 

15s Explore Acadia National Park

While the first-half boys were departing for points near and far, our full-season campers also all left Pemi on adventures of their own. Nine of the full-season fifteen-year-olds – Augie Tanzosh, Victor Campanile, Matteo Littman, Nathan Gonzalez, Jacob Kunkel, Billy Murnighan, Alex Newman, Emmet Kelly, and Andrew Muffet – drove to Maine for what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The boys, accompanied by Head of Trips Sam Papel and Head of Trips Emeritus Dan Reed, will spend several days exploring Acadia National Park and then will summit Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The boys will return to Pemi on Friday or Saturday, weather depending. 

Full Session Extravaganza Day

Shortly after the Maine trip left, the remaining full-season boys loaded a school bus and two vans to head to Meredith, New Hampshire, for a special experience of their own. The boys boarded the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad for a two-hour trip along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. The boys were treated to views of the lake, the luxurious vacation homes on its shores, and a beautiful wooded backdrop. After the ride, they loaded back up, drove about two minutes down the road, and enjoyed a pizza lunch in a park right on the lake. Next, they walked across the street and into a privately (just us!) rented movie theater for a screening of Space Jam: A New Legacy. Everyone, from the Juniors up through the adult chaperones, laughed and enjoyed the film. The boys then headed back to Pemi for a full-season cookout on Senior Beach. As he’s done all summer, Head Chef Tom Ciglar went above and beyond to feed the boys well. On this particular night, that meant surf and turf on the beach. The boys enjoyed grilled ribs, shrimp cocktail, and a variety of sweet treats. The final piece of our full-season extravaganza took place the next morning, when the boys traipsed down to Junior Point for Dunkin’ Docs (in memory of Pemi’s founders, all MDs). The boys did their Polar Bear dip in the deep waters off Junior Point and were then met with hot chocolate and doughnuts as they exited the water. 

High-stakes rock, paper, scissors game between Lower and Upper division heads

Later that morning we welcomed our second-half campers to Pemi. The Pemi staff, now pros at our COVID arrival system, speedily and smoothly helped boys unload cars, say their goodbyes, and walk over to their homes for the next three and a half weeks. The second half boys are a group filled with Pemi veterans and brand new campers, and their infusion of energy was instantly palpable throughout camp. The boys filled up on our traditional opening night dinner of pizza and ice cream – with the Juniors eating in the Junior Lodge and the Lowers, Uppers, and Seniors in the Mess Hall – and then we gathered together as a full camp on the soccer field for some opening day announcements. This was once again highlighted by a high-stakes rock, paper, scissors game between Lower Division Head Josh Scarponi and Upper Division Head Jarrod Henry to decide which division would get to do Polar Bear first the next morning. Jarrod took the win, bringing the season series to a one-one tie. The energy out on the soccer field was electric, as was the storm later on that night, and it surely was a sign of great times to come for the second half of Pemi 2021. 

Given all of the comings and goings earlier this week, we felt that today would be a perfect opportunity to provide some more information about one of Pemi’s major program areas: the Trip Program. Pemi is fortunate to be located near myriad incredible hiking, backpacking, and canoeing destinations, and our boys get to take full advantage of this setting. Pemi boys have the opportunity to take all sorts of trips during the summer, ranging from a paddle across the lake to Pine Forest or Flat Rock for dinner to adventures such as the 15’s epic journey described above. Boys can partake in day-long hikes up nearby mountains with their cabin, spend the night in the lean-to on top of Pemi Hill, and go on overnight camping trips for two, three, or four days. Generations of Pemi alumni have told us that the trips they took at Pemi sparked lifelong passions for spending time in the great outdoors. 

Our Trippies

With that thought in mind, we have asked several past and present members of our Trip Program – our trip counselors are colloquially referred to as trippies – to share their feelings on Pemi trips and their passion for the natural world. We begin with Jack Davini, a long-time Pemi camper and counselor, now in his first summer as a trippie: 

I joined Pemi in 2008 as a camper in Junior 1. Though most of camp flew over my head over the years, Pemi West landed firmly: the expedition in the northwestern United States through rainforest and over glaciers was all I could ask for. I made lifelong friends during my eight years as a camper, and many of them were there with me when the day came to set out for Olympic National Park. Pemi had brought me beyond family day hikes into backpacking New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and further to a 100-mile expedition with found brothers. It’s an understatement to say that collective experience was deeply formative for me.

What has become clear to me on the north side of 20 is the gratification of bringing the same experiences I had to a new generation of campers. As a cabin counselor I was able to help boys enjoy some of my favorite memories of time in camp – reading after Taps, playing Block at meals, walking all the way from Senior Beach to Art World, learning the words to every song in Pemi’s book. After I spent two years in that position, Kenny asked me about being a Trip Counselor, and the decision was simple. Hiking had been at the center of my time at Pemi. My job now is the best I could be honored with – to provide the boys with the same gift I was given.

Alice Reilly is a first-year trippie and sister of a one-time Pemi camper. She shares her thoughts here: 

As I grew up in New Hampshire, the mountains were a critical part of my life and my upbringing. On the weekends, my family — including our rescue pup, Super — would hike together, and through those trips I gained some of the most formative experiences of my life. I learned about respect for others and the environment, about hard work, and how to literally fall down and get back up again. Most of all, I learned about the inner peace that comes from methodically putting one foot in front of the other for miles upon end. 

Last January, I was tired of staring at screens and ready for a new adventure. I wanted to spend my summer outside and share the beauty of New Hampshire’s mountains with others. So, when I saw that my brother’s camp was hiring, I decided to apply as a trip counselor. 

Since arriving at Pemi, I have had the opportunity to lead many trips. The rainy weather has proved to be no deterrent and — while the views may sometimes be lacking — Pemi campers have conquered the trails of New Hampshire just as always. For many, this is their first time hiking, and it has been such a joy to hear their excitement and enthusiasm for a place that means so much to me.

Finally, we turn to Tom Reed, Jr. Despite never having been a trippie himself, Tom did head the Trip Program for about 32 years, so we’ve given him special dispensation to share his thoughts as well: 

The love of mountain walking I acquired at Pemi has taken me to the fells of the British Isles, the great mountain walks of New Zealand, and the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. My most memorable trip at Pemi was probably a three-night outing in the Presidential Range I took as a fifteen-year-old. The route our trip counselor chose may have been overly ambitious, starting up the Crawford Path from glacier-gouged Crawford Notch, looping over Mt. Washington, and then dropping down the interminable Montalban Ridge over Boot Spur, Isolation, and Resolution peaks—well over 25 miles, and much of it on very rough trails. The weather the first day was cloudy but fine enough. As we were coming off the cone of Washington, though, the drizzle started, and by the time we’d traversed Boot Spur, a steady rain began, whipped horizontal by a rising south wind. For two days, despite our rain gear, we were drenched, our boots gushing water at every step. But we’d been taught to pack well, and each night we pulled dry sleeping bags out of our packs and assisted cheerfully as our trip leaders prepared a hot and filling supper, all the more delicious for the setting in which it was prepared. I’m sure there were times when each of us wished we were back in our cabin, but the sense of accomplishment I remember feeling as we climbed into the truck at trail’s end sticks with me to this day.

Junior campers on Black Mountain

These reflections speak to the power of Pemi’s Trip Program. Boys are provided with the opportunity to achieve feats and heights they never knew they could, to challenge themselves both mentally and physically, and to gain a deep sense of pride for their successful return to camp – all in the picturesque wilderness of New Hampshire and Maine. I was fortunate enough, along with Ned Roosevelt, to lead a group of Juniors up Black Mountain last Friday, so I can personally attest to the fact that Pemi’s trip program is alive and well in 2021. Those boys – Thomas McNelly, Henry Bernthal, River Morgain, Grayson Woodbury, Collin Pham, Patchett Grant, Sam Weber, Denver Yancey, Liam Foster, Carter Amosa, Charlie Milgrim, Graham Fraser, and Shields Waitzkin – relished the opportunity to walk in the woods, summit the mountain, and enjoy each other’s company. At a time when the opportunity to escape to nature may never have been more valuable, the boys at Pemi are seizing every chance they have to take trips. They are undoubtedly forging lifelong skills, passions, and friends along the way. 

–Pat Clare