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2022 Newsletter #5

Good morning from the shores of Lower Baker!

Somehow, we’re already a full week into the second half here at Pemi – the summer is truly flying by! It’s been an action-packed week, as the new boys who joined us last Tuesday have jumped in head-first. The way that cabin groups and the broader community have quickly gelled, it feels like the second session guys have been here all summer!  Boys had a four-day activity week in Week 4 to kick off the second session, and we’re now in the midst of our Week 5 activities, highlighted by our preparations for Tecumseh Day on Friday (more on that below). We’ve also had several day hikes go out, and we’ve seen the return of our full-season 14- and 15-year-old campers from their canoe trips on the Connecticut River and Allagash Waterway respectively (more on those later too). In short, we’re moving along full steam ahead at Pemi, and we can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!

As the second half kicked into gear, it was wonderful to see the kindness and consideration that spread through camp. With many boys spending their first week away from home, we saw several typical cases of homesickness. This presented a golden opportunity for other boys to step up and be good friends! Guys such as Barrett Bachner, Teeden Boss, Tyson Madkins, and Jud BoulaabiBerkowitz (himself in his first week at Pemi!) rose to the occasion, took homesick campers under their wings, and quickly had them running around grinning from ear to ear. While we always tell the full season and veteran campers to look out for the new boys who might be having a tough time, it was inspiring to see the initiative taken by so many to help their peers. In a Sunday Meeting earlier this summer, Charlie Malcolm read a quotation that described civilization as beginning when humans started looking out for those who’d been injured. Here at Pemi, that instinct and urge to take care of others is alive and well as this community models the kindness and empathy that we all need more of.

Photographic evidence for “the fish was THIS big!” Congrats, Sasha.

In addition to the stellar character on display all week, Pemi’s program areas were also living up to the best versions of themselves. Boys in Nick Paris’s songwriting activity – Julian Blaustein, Finn Stephan, Danny Follansbee, Alex Burgin, Alvaro Otaolaurruchi, Henry Partain, Evan Robicheau, and Rudi Wei– wrote an instant classic about frisbee running bases, which they then performed at Saturday’s campfire. Campers in the various fishing activities learned from professional fishing guides Phil Landry and Jamie Nicholas. Phil has instituted a Pemi fishing license program, and young anglers such as Thomas McNelly, Sasha Honig, Andrew McCullough, and Trip McNulty have been working on their tests and can often be found casting along our shoreline. The cast of our summer musical – Newsies this year – has been hard at work under the tutelage of Patty Frank, a veteran high school drama instructor with decades of teaching experience. Be on the lookout for a review of the show in the summer’s final newsletter. In order to help prepare for that show, boys in one of the Woodshop activities this week have been constructing props and parts of the set. As I sat in the office earlier this morning, a group marched over a batch of wooden banners and signposts to be used in protest scenes. Their excitement as they delivered the fruits of their labor to Patty and the cast was a joy to witness. All across the board, the Pemi program has boys engaged in fun and instructive activities that they seem to be truly loving.

On the trip front, the last week has been most notable for the return of the aforementioned canoe trips. The 14s trip is described in more detail below. The Allagash trip for 15s was made up of Barrett Bachner, Boone Snyder, David Kriegsman, Giacomo Turco, Matias Trinca, Merrick Chapin, Teddy Lear, and Will Silloway. These marquee adventures, open only to full session campers due to their length and timing, are two of the best trips Pemi sends out, and all the participants came back bursting with excitement. Within five minutes of greeting the just-returned Allagash crew, I’d had four different boys tell me, unprompted, that it was the best trip they’d ever been on. Younger Pemi campers would do well to mark their calendars for the future so that they can be sure to enjoy these full-season excursions! Assistant director Charlie Malcolm, who helped take out the 14s, was kind enough to share a few words on the trip. Here’s his note:

Reilly McCue
Reilly McCue

Our full-season 14-year-olds joined longtime trip counselor and Pemi legendary outdoorsman, Reilly McCue, for a spectacular three-day canoe trip on the pristine Connecticut River.  Reilly, a year-round guide and naturalist throughout New England, is a sage and inspiring mentor as he combines the unique ability to read and understand each boy’s interests while skillfully teaching leadership skills and fascinating information about the river’s ecosystem.  The boys launched their canoes from Ryegate Dam, a challenging stretch of the river with the dam churning out a significant amount of water to meet the electrical demands during a recent hot spell in the Upper Connecticut River Valley.  A tricky eddy capsized Archer Knight and Will Cahill right out of the shoot, however, Reilly and lifeguard Ted Applebaum quickly retrieved the boys and the canoe to restart their journey.  Fortunately, only a fishing rod was claimed by the river, and off the boys paddled down the river, having learned an important lesson about communication and currents.  With the dam releasing significant water, the pace of our journey was quite remarkable on a hot and humid day.  Along the way, the boys were able to see multiple young bald eagles, great blue herons, otters, beavers, and a diversity of fly catching birds diving on the latest hatches.   

Rainbow after the deluge

On the first day, Reilly and the boys skillfully navigated some oncoming afternoon thunderstorms and tucked in safely to the steep edge of a hill with a beautiful crop of old hemlocks that sheltered the group from the downpour while eating lunch.  Reilly explained to the boys the role of native hemlocks, particularly on southern facing slopes, providing essential warmth and shelter for mammals during the bitter cold winter months.  After paddling for several hours, you could see the improved strokes of Manny Smith, Stefan Armitage, Teeden Boss, Tommy Newman, Paul Shwaegler, Inigo Otaolaurruchi, Jamie Nieto, and Leo Ventimiglia pushing their respective canoes with far greater economy and purpose.  Reilly frequently stopped the boys to tweak their strokes, socratically asking them questions on how they were reading the currents of the river, and providing positive energy and joy for the river’s ecosystem.  After a brief stop for a swim, Reilly checked the radar for the next storm and chose the perfect campsite with enough time to pitch tents and hunker down for another typical late afternoon twenty-minute deluge on a hot humid day.  As the storm passed, a beautiful rainbow to the east silhouetted the lush green corn of this bountiful river valley.  Eventually, the clouds lifted to the east and Mt. Moosilauke provided a stunning backdrop to our campsite.  After a delicious meal of chicken fajitas, where boys demonstrated the spirit of volunteerism and patience as they hungrily waited for their serving, the boys frolicked in a gentle swim before climbing into their tents for the night.  

After breakfast of oatmeal and ham, Reilly pulled out a stem of a native primrose plant for an impromptu lesson on invasive species.  Two beautiful primrose moths lingered on the aforementioned plant as an invasive bug gnawed away at the leaves.  The boys were given a perfect lesson on the connectivity between an invasive animal and the native plant and moth.  

Pemi 14s
Pemi 14s

While cleaning up the campsite, the boys learned about the critical importance of leaving the space better than we received it.  Austin Greenberg, Toren King, and Jake Landry led the charge as they left the site pristine and beautiful for the next group who might know about this incredible spot on the river.  In just twenty-four hours, you could see the boys shaping into a team as they helped each other out putting away their tents and loading and moving the canoes for their next day’s adventure.  Throughout the second day, Reilly taught the boys how to read water for both paddling and fishing.  Reilly has canoed this stretch of the river over fifty times and generously shared his knowledge with the boys as he found the swiftest currents to carry our canoes to the most interesting fishing holes on the river.  As the afternoon sun baked down on the boys, each group began to take advantage of gentle currents passing under beautiful canopies of shading trees along the western bank of the river.  By the end of the second day, Phil Landry, a Pemi veteran and fishing guide in the Tennessee River system joined our crew for the final stretch of the river and our eventual arrival in Orford, NH, just twelve miles from camp.  The boys traveled over 75 miles in three days and are excited to return to Pemi next year when this group of future fifteen year old leaders heads off for their adventure on the Allagash River for a five day canoe trip deep in the Maine wilderness.  

As Charlie’s description vividly conveys, these canoe trips are not to be missed!

Pemi swimmers practice starts
Pemi swimmers practice their starts

Pemi’s athletes have been focused this week on preparing for our annual competition against Camp Tecumseh. Our rivalry with our friends on Lake Winnipesauke dates back to 1908 and resumes this year after a two-year hiatus. Pemi boys relish the opportunity to compete against Tecumseh because they’re a challenging adversary who push us to be our best. At Sunday Meeting this week, I spoke to the community about the history of the competition, as well as some of my personal memories from my camper and counselor years. As part of that talk, I excerpted an article by longtime Pemi legend Fred Seebeck. Fred was at Pemi in 1967, the year that The Hat – the trophy that now goes to the winning camp each summer – was first offered as a token of admiration by Tecumseh’s director towards the Pemi campers who turned in an outstanding performance that summer. As part of that article, Fred wrote about his memories of Tom Reed Sr., the late Pemi director and owner, talking to camp about the spirit of Tecumseh Day. Here’s what Fred wrote:

Tom Sr. liked to remind us of the value of facing challenging competition. An impressive four-sport varsity athlete at Oberlin College, Tom certainly spoke from experience and from the heart. Despite the outcome of the day from year to year, every summer Tom inspired us to embrace the intense level of competition that Tecumseh perennially brought to the day, insisting that only by attempting to match and transcend the best Tecumseh had to offer could we play our best. No one ever doubted this, and as we have seen many times, the two sides truly do inspire the very best out of one another.

When our friendly rivalry resumes on Friday, Pemi’s 10&under and 15&under teams will compete at Pemi, while our 11s, 12s, and 13s will travel to Tecumseh. All five age groups play soccer, tennis, baseball, and swimming, meaning that there are 20 total events on the day. The camp that wins the most events keeps The Hat for the following year. Be sure to check in on our social media accounts throughout the day for updates on how it’s going!

It will be another busy stretch over the coming week, with multiple overnight hiking trips, a few special nature excursions, Tecumseh Day and other sporting events, and all of the daily activities that make Pemi so special. I look forward to sharing more highlights with you after another banner week here at Pemi!

– Pat Clare

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