#2: Pemi’s Program…On A Roll!

(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).

—TRJR

 

 

Pemi 101 – The ‘What-is-it?’ Contest

The ‘What-is-it?’ Contest is a daily contest sponsored by the staff of the Nature Lodge that challenges campers and staff to identify a specific specimen from nature. The item could be a rock, plant, or butterfly, etc. and it is the job of the respondent to submit the best answer possible.

How to participate?

Located right in the center of the Nature Lodge, ‘What-is-it?’ occupies the end of a table. On the table are little slips of paper, small, golf-sized pencils, and a brilliant red birdhouse. Your task? Look at the day’s specimen and try to identify it. Write your name, cabin number, and your guess on the slip, fold it up, and place it inside the red birdhouse. At some unknown time after taps, the Nature staff retrieves all of the submissions and records the guesses.

Overnight, the Nature staff will replace the specimen with a new one and reveal the answer from the previous day on an index card. Participants are encouraged to return to check to see if their guess was accurate from the day before AND to guess what the new specimen is. This process repeats itself every day but Sunday, and the system gives participants immediate feedback; you will know if your guess was correct within 24 hours.

Points are awarded for participation (1 point), general answers (2-4 points), more specific-on the right path (4-5 points), and finally the ultimate correct answer (6-7 points). Participants who continue with the contest accrue points daily and, after each session, winners are announced for the highest score in each division. The prize? A Nature Award featuring a stunning framed collage of natural specimens that you take home. You also get your name listed in Bean Soup; infamy for the ages!

What-is-it Rules?

The rules are simple. You may use any resource (books, displays, etc) in the Nature Lodge except for the Nature Lodge staff. In fact, you may not ask anyone else for help and must find the answer on your own. The challenge of independent discovery is the essence of the contest.

History of the ‘What-is-it?’ Contest

Clarence Dike, Pemi’s first Head of Nature Programs, started the contest in the 1930’s. The first mention of the contest appears in the 1937 Bean Soup. Since then, it has become a staple of the Nature Program inspiring boys and staff to visit daily to participate in this challenging endeavor. Not only do you need to be consistent with your dedication to the contest, but you must have a penchant for curiosity and a willingness to find answers on your own, using resources right at your fingertips. Taking nature occupations will certainly help build your base of knowledge, but further research is necessary for the true die-hards.

2002 – Near Perfect Score – 295/300 – Upper Camper Alex Dyer

Over the years, there have been some very competitive contests and some remarkable scores. Larry Davis, Pemi’s Head of Nature Programs since 1970 remembers one year when the front-runner (Ethan Schafer!) stopped submitting answers with just a few days remaining and got beat out by a more persistent peer: a clear example illustrating the steady diligence needed to win. Since 2015, Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure has managed the contest. Here are a few other notable factoids.

1982 – Highest Camp wide Participation – 170 people, campers & staff participated in the Contest

1990 – All Star Staff Division – Johnstone brothers compete in a special Nature Lodge Staff Division

2008 – Very Junior Award – Victoria Malcolm continues the tradition of Staff Children participating in the contest.

2015 – Upper Andrew Kanovsky and Lower Will Ackerman earned Full-Season Perfect Scores: 210!


Campers – Are you ready for the 2018 ‘What-is-it?’ Contest?

Alumni – Do you have memories of participating in the ‘What-is-it?’ Contest?

Share your thoughts and comments via the Pemi Blog.

 

Long Live the Buglers

John Wherry bugles at sunset, Pemi 1934.

Of all the sounds of Pemi—loons on the lake, the lap of waves on the shore, songs in the Mess Hall, the pop of the campfire—it is the call of the bugle that weaves through all of our waking hours.

Click here to listen to Pemi bugle calls,

or view a list of all daily calls.

As the sun rises, the jaunty staccato of Reveille wakes us from our dreams and urges us to rise and shine. First Call summons us to gather on the Mess Hall porch before each meal, and Second Call invites us to storm the doors enter the Mess Hall quietly and find our seats. With Flag Raising after breakfast, and Flag Lowering after dinner, the entire camp community pauses together in a quiet, introspective moment, respectful of the day, the moment, and all of our fellows. Throughout the day, bugle calls ring out for Inspection, Occupations, Rest Hour, and Free Swim. Assembly and Church Call bid us to gather together for special events like Bean Soup, Campfire, Vaudeville, and Sunday Meeting. At the end of the day, Tattoo tells us to brush our teeth and get ready for bed, and, finally, the peaceful notes of Taps invite us to lay our heads to rest.

Over the years, many Pemi buglers have performed this critical duty, every day, from 7:30 in the morning until 9:00 at night, helping us know when and where to be at just the right time.

Today, many camps (and even the military) use recordings and loudspeakers instead of buglers.

But at Pemi? We still bugle.

Alumnus Zach See, playing the Church Call for Betsy Reed’s memorial service at Pemi in 2017.

Here’s to all the Pemi buglers over the decades! To all the elegant players who sounded every note near perfectly, and to all the brave beginners who dared to take up the call.

“I loved bugling. I loved the routine of it, the way that it marked the passing of the day. I never had a particularly ‘favorite’ call; I just loved the sound of the notes…I even loved the hint of martial spirit that the calls intimated.

“Bugling just seemed to be ‘right’ for Pemi.”

~Robert Naylor

“Bugling tested one’s mettle, and demonstrated Camp’s spirit.

“Many of my flag lowerings came from the shaky hands of an anxious young player who knew the double tonguing at the end of the call would inevitably trip him up. But despite whatever dying goose sound may have blown through, a hearty round of applause and encouragement was sure to follow from the community. No matter how badly I may have butchered the call, my efforts were appreciated.”

~Zach See

Here’s to all the bugles they played—whether Pemi’s ancient, dinged, and patina’d bugles, or the brassy, shining trumpets our buglers brought—and to the new Camp bugles coming to the shores of Lower Baker this year!

“I still have my bugle. And when my boys are being particularly lazy, I play reveille in the morning.”

~Chris Carter

Here’s to all the bugle calls that are on time…and all the ones that aren’t.

“Bugling is a stealthily demanding job, as the bugler is the only individual in camp who must know what time it is. That fact might seem trivial, but it might be surprisingly burdensome to some, at least on occasion.”

~Robert Naylor

“Being the camp clock didn’t allow for untimeliness, and was certainly a challenge—especially when the director was yelling for first call and you were in the squish.”

~Zach See

Here’s to all boys and staff members who have ever felt a tug at their hearts as the beautiful notes of a call echoed across the lake…

“My favorite bugle call is the Church Call. It’s calm…formal but relaxing…and the way that the call reverberates around the empty camp and echoes off the lake while everyone is seated inside the main lodge just reminds me of what makes Pemi special. It’s the only one that I tried to play perfectly every time.”

~Porter Hill

…or felt laughter in their souls and a tickle in their toes.

“The positives of being a bugler are that you get to perform for the whole camp multiple times a day. I still recall kids dancing around me as I played tattoo. And the groans when I played reveille.”

~Chris Carter

I can’t imagine Colin Brooks doing his Tattoo Dance any other way than directly in front of the bugler.

~Robert Naylor

Here’s to bugling at Pemi for years to come. Long live the buglers!

“If nothing else, the bugling tradition at Pemi distinguishes us from any number of other institutions. Presumably none of us could ever imagine Pemi’s marking time with a simple bell or, immeasurably worse, a recording.”

~Robert Naylor

“Being the bugler at Pemi is one of my most cherished memories, and I hope we never move away from the tradition of live bugle calls every summer.”

~Porter Hill

Did You Know?

Bugles are part of a long lineage of signal horns that, over thousands of years, have enabled humans to communicate across great distances and amongst large groups of people: for ceremonies and rites, hunts and competitions, the arrival of postal couriers or stagecoaches, between ships, for troop movements and military routine, and, since the turn of the 20th century, at scout troops for girls and boys, and summer camps—like Pemi!

1919 Brooklyn Girl Scout Drum & Bugle Corps. Scouts could earn a merit badge for proficiency in 17 calls.

The word “bugle” derives from the Latin word “buculus,” a young bull or ox—because early signal horns were made from animal horns.

Signal horns from all over the world

Specimens of ancient signal horns in all shapes and sizes have been documented in nearly every culture, from Ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek, to Celt and Asian.

Swedish and Dutch postal emblems—a coiled bugle

Today, the Swedish and Dutch postal services still use a coiled bugle—which was sounded to signal the arrival of the post—as their emblem!

The Greek salpinx, a trumpet-like horn

The Greeks added a “Heralds’ and Trumpeters’ Contest” to the Olympics in 396 BC (the 96th Olympic games), featuring the salpinx, a trumpet-like horn. Winners were judged on volume and endurance. Herodoros, a man of immense size, won the Heralds’ event ten times and once blew two trumpets at once in battle, to inspire soldiers to victory.

There are 104 calls in the U.S. Navy Manual for Buglers, including Abandon Ship, Cease Firing, Clean Bright Work, Commence Fueling, and Watertight Doors

Signal horns as an integral part of military communication first appeared in the records of the Roman Army.

Bugle use in the U.S. military reached its peak in the Civil War and continued as a critical signaling tool until the invention of radios. Bugles were still used as signal horns on the ground in the Vietnam War.

Today, the military bugle is used primarily in ceremonial settings.

In 2003, in light of increasing requests for military funerals but a decline in the number of human buglers, the Pentagon declared that an electronic device known as a “ceremonial bugler,” which fits inside the bell of a real bugle, could be used world-wide at military funerals for which a human bugler is not available.

How to Be a Pemi Bugler

“Future buglers should delight in this tradition and unique experience. Being responsible for the moments when the camp stands still to listen and reflect, as well as for enabling the timely functioning of a community, is a huge honor.

“It is particularly unique and empowering when this honor falls on a camper.”

~Zach See

“I was occasionally nonplussed by the well-meaning advice I received from seemingly every quarter…Bugling is highly visible; do not expect to be able to hide humanness. The slightest mistake, no matter how minute or infrequent, will be noticed, chortled over, and, in all likelihood, ridiculed in Bean Soup. Be willing to laugh at yourself and move forward. A perfect life metaphor.”

~Robert Naylor

“The most challenging aspect is taking on the responsibility of keeping time for the entire camp. You have to set an alarm, be constantly aware of the time, and not lose your bugle!

“You also need to find a good sub who can actually play some of the tunes, for when you have time off.”

~Porter Hill

“My advice for future buglers would be: 1) Get a good waterproof watch, and 2) Learn to double tongue—ta ka ta ka ta ka!”

~Chris Carter

So . . .

  • Go for it!
  • Get a waterproof watch.
  • Keep good time.
  • Be willing to try.
  • Be willing to laugh at yourself.
  • Know that everyone is rooting for you.
  • Channel Herodoros.
  • Don’t lose the bugle.
  • Treat your bugle with respect.
  • Remember to find subs (a bagpiper, trombonist, or saxophonist will do).
  • Get the U.S. Navy Manual for Buglers, which offers excellent guidance for learning to bugle (also in the Pemi library).

Does Pemi need one of these?

Calling All Buglers

If your son has an interest in learning to bugle or being the Camp Bugler, let us know! Staff—that goes for you too! Contact Kenny Moore.

A special thank you to the following Pemi alumni, who responded to our call and contributed their thoughts and memories of bugling at Pemi for this post!

Robert Naylor, Pemi Bugler for Junior Camp ’88–89, Upper Camp ‘90–91, ‘94–95, ‘97

Zach See, Pemi Bugler for Junior & Upper Camps, late 90’s into early 00’s

Chris Carter, Pemi Bugler for ’83–88, with the exception of ’87

Porter Hill, Pemi Bugler for Junior Camp ’98, All-Camp ’00-04

Do you have bugling memories  to share? We would love to hear them. Click here to share your favorite memories (or thoughts on the future of bugling) in the Comments.

“I used to find it amusing to see the difference in style between Tom Reed Sr. and Tom Reed Jr. when it came to waking up the bugler.

“Tom Sr. would wake me up somewhere between 7:20 and 7:25, look at his watch and say, “Morning, Chris. __ minutes until reveille,” while holding up that number of fingers. I used to worry that I’d fall back asleep, given that I often had ten minutes until I had to play. Not to mention that I was never happy missing out on the extra ten minutes of sleep.

“Tom Jr. would come in, wake me up, and say, “Hey, Chris—it’s 7:28.” Perfect timing! Enough for me to grab my robe and bugle and walk out on the hill to play reveille!”

 ~Chris Carter

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

Pemi 101 – What’s a BVT?

A BVT is a Baker Valley Tournament comprised of four neighboring camps (Moosilauke, Walt Whitman, Kingswood, and Pemi) and organized by age group (10 & Unders, 11’s, 12’s, 13’s, and 15 & Unders). Teams compete in round-robin athletic tournaments in soccer, basketball, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, swimming, archery, and tennis. We also play baseball against our Baker Valley friends—but only in head-to-head match-ups, given the length of a traditional camp baseball game. On any given camp day, there may be three athletic tournaments taking place in the Baker Valley: 10’s Soccer at Pemi, 12’s Hoops at Moosilauke, and 15’s Tennis at Walt Whitman.

BVT Hoops

The Baker Valley

The Baker River, originating on the south side of nearby Mount Moosilauke, runs south and east, joining the Pemigewasset River in Plymouth. All four camps are located within 10 miles of each other, allowing for quick transportation to and from these afternoon tournaments. One of the many positive features of a BVT is how well it integrates with the overall Pemi program. Boys can still participate in all their morning occupations, play in an afternoon BVT, and be on the beach for Free Swim at 5 PM.

Purpose and Goals

The proximity of the four camps was one of the main catalysts in the creation of the BVT. In the early 1990’s, Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s longstanding Athletic Director, and Port Miller, owner and Director of Camp Moosilauke, thought of the idea: keep the high level of competition, as was custom from the previous Lakes Regions Tournaments, but limit the transportation time to and from competitions. BVTs are now a mainstay of the Pemi athletic program.

15 and Under Soccer pre-kick off

Charlie remembers the original vision: “There was a group of us who shared the importance of sportsmanship and participation. Because of the round-robin format, instead of a ‘winners’ bracket and a ‘consolation’ bracket, we created an environment for kids of all different levels to compete. From a BVT match, coaches and Athletic Directors could identify the best, competitive match-ups and schedule a direct re-match during one of our Saturday play-days.”

Twice a summer, Charlie and the other camps’ Athletic or Program Directors meet to discuss all things BVT, and over the years have developed a tight bond. These “lifers” maintain their individual camp’s standard and further support their camper-athletes through the promotion of healthy competition. These relationships help drive the success of a BVT.

The Origins of the BVT

A trip into the Bean Soup archives uncovered facts about the origins of the Baker Valley Tournaments. In 1991, the 13’s Soccer team played in the first Baker Valley Tournament. This inaugural BVT, which remains each year’s first scheduled event, was co-hosted by Pemi and Moosilauke. Four teams played: the two host camps, Kingswood, and Camp Dunmore. Pemi won all three games. You can read the details of the tournament from Coach Andy Honker’s Bean Soup article.

The third Pemigewassett Newsletter of the 1991 season noted the event with the following description: “Designed to promote the dual goals of good competition and better sportsmanship, it was highly successful. Six well-played games featured some skillful and hard-fought play, with nary a cross word directed at opponent or official. All of the teams ended the day with a heightened appreciation for the fact that competition on any level implicitly demands and depends on cooperation between combatants. With so little sportsmanship left on any level ‘out there,’ we hope that whatever we generate here at Pemi may rub off during the rest of the year.”

Stay tuned to the Pemi Blog to read information and updates on this summer’s BVTs.

-Kenny Moore

Defining Photos of 2017

Each fall, photos from the previous summer are compiled to create a picture book for prospective campers, current families, and alumni. Below are a few favorites that are worth sharing, enjoy!


Harry Cooke about to lead the Soundpainters in a performance during Campfire on Senior Beach.


A batch of freshly baked bread from Tom Ciglar and the Kitchen Staff.


Felix N. navigating Lower Baker Pond in a Sunfish.


Pemi West Director Dave Robb teaching an orienteering lesson to Pemi Westers at high elevation in Olympic National Park.


The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Wentworth! Photo from behind the Library looking towards the Junior Lodge.


Frank A. finishing the 50 yard Butterfly against Tecumseh well ahead of his counterparts.


Members of Upper 3 posing on the Franconia Range during their Greenleaf Hut Trip.



The Lords Chorus, with Stephon and Phyllis, from this years production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.


George F. clearing the High Jump during Pemi Week’s Pentathlon.


Absolutely stunning Nature Awards given to boys with outstanding interest and expertise in Nature, carefully crafted by Larry, Deb, and the Nature Staff.


…and finally drops in the West.

From Experiment to Trend to Tradition

2017: Newsletter #3

The following comes from the pen of director Danny Kerr…

Greetings from the sun-drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! As we begin our third week of occupations, energy abounds and the boys are looking forward to a wonderful week of program, trips, and competition, as well as next weekend’s Birthday Banquet, our traditional, celebratory send-off for our first-session campers. Boy do these camp days fly by!

Over the course of its storied 110-year history, Camp Pemigewassett has developed countless traditions. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that traditions are both ubiquitous and gratifying for the entire Pemi community. Campers and counselors who take part in these customary rites and activities know that by doing so, they become part of Pemi’s history. In many ways, the camp experience here is still a great deal like when Teeden Boss’ father was at Pemi in the 1980’s or when Charlie Broll’s grandfather was a camper in the 1940’s. Visiting alumni often remark with a smile that things seem just like they did when they were at camp, however long ago that was. They are reassured, along with every year’s returning campers and counselors, that Pemi still provides a reliable and familiar environment in comparison to an outside world that constantly demands and presents change.

Seven-year senior camper Eli Brennan and I joke that when we try something new at Pemi, it’s an “experiment”; when we do it twice, it’s a “trend”; and when we do something for a third time, it’s a “tradition.” The idea of “new” traditions may seem like an oxymoron, but the truth of the matter is that some traditions do eventually go by the wayside and others become a familiar part of the Pemi year. With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the traditional activities that are a part of the Pemigewassett experience in 2017, and also hear what the boys see as especially valuable about those rites and customs.

Variation: "Pink polar bear" dip in the stream

Variation: “Pink polar bear” dip in the stream

Certainly a traditional and signature part of the Pemi experience is the morning “Polar Bear” swim, the quick dip right after reveille that everyone in camp, be they camper or counselor, young or experienced, Yankee fan or Red Sox fan, participates in for at least the first week of each session, and is something most campers choose to do every day of the summer. Truly, one of my favorite moments of the summer is the first day of Polar Bear, as 40 juniors dash with unbridled enthusiasm towards Junior Beach and their first Polar Bear plunge of the session. I asked a couple of our veteran campers, Teddy Foley and Suraj Khakee, both of whom have done Polar Bear every day of each of their summers (seven for Suraj, six for Teddy), why they still choose to hit the pond each dawn after so many icy plunges over the years? Suraj said he “love[s] the routine of doing the same thing each morning and bonding with the other campers who Polar Bear.” Teddy said that Polar Bear not only “wakes me up in the morning and makes me feel fresh and ready to go for the day,” but also allows him, on a daily basis, to enjoy “one of the most beautiful natural gifts at Pemi, Lower Baker Pond, with friends in a big group.” The Polar Bear plunge really becomes a crucial part of one’s picture of being at Pemi, such that when alums come for a visit, a work weekend, or a reunion, they invariably gravitate towards Lower Baker Bond upon waking, knowing this is really the only bona fide way to start a Pemi day!

FRB in Junior Camp

FRB in Junior Camp

Jacques Barzun, the social commentator, wrote more than a quarter of a century ago, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Well, one could almost say, “whoever wants to know Pemi had better learn about Frisbee Running Bases (FRB),” which has become the unofficial favorite pastime at Pemi. Kenny Moore, our local Camp Pemi historian, says the game was introduced in the mid 1980s and quickly overwhelmed the previous crowd favorite, Capture-the-Flag. Well, that makes for over three decades worth of summers of mad dashing from one of three bases as campers try mightily not to be “tagged” by either a flying (and specially soft-built) Frisbee, or a counselor carrying said “kryptonite.” Nothing elicits a more boisterous cheer in the Messhall than an announcement that FRB is on the docket after dinner, and there is hardly anything more entertaining than witnessing the thundering herds run from base to base as they try to claim the title of “last tagged” for that game before all who suffered the fate of being caught are invited to rejoin and another game begins. I asked a couple of campers why they love FRB, and here’s what they had to say: Duke Hagen in Upper 2 said he loved playing games with counselors who “are trying their hardest but still can’t get us most of the time,” because “we’re fast and they’re not!” (Some staff might disagree!) Luke Larabie, a first-year camper and hence new to FRB, said he loves the “thrill of not getting caught and being one of the last few in the game.” Luke especially loves the last two minutes of each round, when the safe haven of being on a base is no longer in play, because then it’s “even cooler to survive.” I’ve never seen FRB played at any other camp or school I’ve known, so it truly seems to be a Pemi original. Perhaps we should challenge our storied rivals at Camp Tecumseh in a round on July 28th?

Another favorite tradition here at Pemi is counselors reading aloud to their boys each night, choosing from the many volumes of child and teen literature we have here in the Pemi library, or perhaps reading a favorite childhood story they themselves have brought from home. The quiet that descends on the divisions as this nightly ritual begins is heartwarming, and the cabins are filled with the tales of adventurous characters from beloved classics, old and or less old. As a follow -up this morning, I asked a few of the campers what they were reading and what they enjoyed most about the nightly ritual. Nate Broll said that Lower 1 was enjoying Candy Makers, by Wendy Mass, and that he loves fiction generally, and especially the fact that the story is told from the perspective of four boys about his age. Nate said that the reading at night helps him fall asleep, and that it offers the kind of comfort he “get[s] at home with Mom and Dad.” I had the pleasure of putting Upper 3 to bed one night last week; they quickly quieted down as I began the opening chapters of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Teeden Boss in Junior 2 said that Wes is reading them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl (a favorite of mine as a boy, too), and that it reminds him of “when [he] was young and Mom and Dad read to me!” Finally, Luke Gonzales in Junior 1 said they are reading Big Friendly Guy, also by Roald Dahl, and that he loves the reading because he’s always “really, really tired at night” when he gets into bed, and the reading “makes me go right to sleep and makes the morning come so quickly!”

Singing in the Messhall

Singing in the Messhall

Singing in the Messhall just before the dessert course at every lunch and dinner is a tradition that everyone looks forward to. The songs we sing range from Pemi originals, many of them written by one of Pemi’s Founders, Doc Reed, to songs of Americana, college fight songs, and more. Pemi prides itself on being an inclusive community, and singing is about as inclusive an activity as there is. Ty Chung, in Upper 5, said that singing in the Messhall was great, in part because it’s “been happening for so long and is such an essential part of being a Pemi camper.” “Everyone can sing,” Ty pointed out. “It’s so much fun and adds to the group camaraderie and spirit of Pemi.” First-year camper August Matthews says the singing at meals is “fun because they’re all such great songs. I love the cheers and claps in them, and they make me laugh.” It is hard to keep from smilingl, or even laughing out loud, when we sing songs like “The Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “Mabel,” or “The Marching Song,” as the whole community sings with hearty enthusiasm, swaying to the beat, doing the sometimes crazy motions, or clapping along.

Traditions, whether they are as old as Camp Pemi itself, like singing in the Messhall, or relatively new, like FRB, are an essential part of a Pemi summer. They offer a familiar rhythm and a sense of being connected not only to the present community but also to people and times long ago. Of course, this is not to say that we are not keeping up with modern times, but that is a topic for another newsletter! Campers grow up and become adults, counselors leave for year-round jobs and to raise families, and we all change, year after year; but when we come back to Pemi, we can relive through these traditions all of the wonderful memories of our own camp days, whenever they happened to be. As the world changes in what often feels like a relentless way, Pemi is enduringly Pemi. What a comforting thought.

 

Defining Photos of 2016

Each fall, photos from the previous summer are compiled to create a picture book for prospective campers, current families, and alumni. Below are a few favorites that are worth sharing, enjoy!

Aerial Shot - Drone!

Thanks to Alumnus Ted Orben for capturing this image via drone!

A beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

A beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Butterflies and Moths continues to be a popular occupation at Pemi and relatively new to the schedule, the equally popular Digital Photography occupation.

Learning how to control the wakeboard with a picturesque backdrop.

Wakeboarding with a picturesque backdrop.

Hydration above tree line

Hydration above tree line

A Weird Science creation, the Nature Lodge always up to something.

A Weird Science creation

15 & Under Baseball shaking hands with Camp Tecumseh after their annual game.

15 & Under Baseball shaking hands with Camp Tecumseh after their annual game.

A spectacular image from Pemi West.

A spectacular image from Pemi West. Click here to see another favorite!

Slalom skier with good spray rounding the outer buoy.

Slalom skier finishing the course with good spray.

Mabel leading the Chorus of Wards in 2016's Pirates of Penzance.

Mabel leading the Chorus of Wards in 2016’s Pirates of Penzance.

...and finally drops in the West.

…and finally drops in the West.

Proof is in the Pudding

2016 Newsletter # 7

Greetings from the sun-drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! As we begin the last week of camp, the most oft-heard words from campers and counselors alike is, “I can’t believe this is the last week of camp! Wow! The summer has gone so quickly!” Indeed, another summer is reaching its final days, and we will be extremely sad to bid the boys adieu in just three day’s time. In the blink of an eye, the leaves will begin to turn red and gold, the evenings will become cooler, and we will all rejoin our families and reconnect with our home-away-from-Pemi.

As I type this note from the West Wing of the Senior Lodge, I can hear the yells of excitement and encouragement down at Senior Beach, telltale signs that Pemi Week is in full swing. Swimming, sailing, and archery championships, Games Day, Woods Dudes’ Day, two evening performances of Pirates of Penzance and, of course, Final Banquet are all on the week’s schedule as our summer climaxes with a crescendo of events. Pemi Week is a wonderful opportunity for the boys in each cabin to work, play, and bond together, and for all of us in the Pemi community to celebrate what has been a particularly sunny, active summer in the Baker Valley.

When I consider all of the things to be thankful for in the summer of 2016, right at the top of my list is the well-prepared, delicious, and bountiful food we have enjoyed this season. We consider excellence in food to be at the very top of our to-do list in preparing for each summer, and this year we have not been disappointed!

Tom Ciglar

Tom Ciglar

While I will mention others who have helped to tackle the Herculean task of feeding a community of 250 hungry souls three times a day, credit begins at the top, and my first “shout out” goes to Tom Ciglar, our Director of Food Services. As you may recall from the email we sent last fall, part of our reshuffling of the staff deck included dividing responsibilities in the Mess Hall in a new way and creating this new position. The world of food service has become infinitely more complex at summer camps, schools, and even at our own family tables than it was twenty of thirty years ago. Tom was hired for this newly constructed position last October with the idea that he would concentrate his efforts on creating the menu, ordering the food, managing the front room where the campers and counselors eat, and overseeing individual dietary requirements. While, of course, Tom has also seen plenty of time at the stove this summer, we recognized that having a single head chef oversee all of the responsibilities of the kitchen, and do all of the cooking, is an antiquated model that needed to be updated to attend to all of the demands of a modern camp kitchen. Creating this new position was the first step in rethinking how we prepare food and manage the dining operation at Pemi.

To say that Tom has hit it out of the park in his new role this summer would be an understatement! The reviews from boys and staff alike have all been overwhelmingly positive, and Tom’s love and aptitude for cooking and managing others has been at the top of the list of reasons why the boys have been so happy with the food this year.

When asked about his goals for this summer, about the things he thinks are important in cooking for a boy’s summer camp, and also about his love of baking bread in particular, here’s what Tom had to say:

Pemi bread“This summer has been a very satisfying one for all of us in the kitchen. My goal for the season was to take care of everyone and serve meals where all of the pieces come together so I see a whole community well fed. This is tremendously satisfying for me. A few years ago, Pemi helped me attend a baking class at King Arthur Flour Company, in Norwich, Vermont, where my love for baking really took off. The bread baking started as a way to supplement the meals and it just took off from there. The rest is history, I guess you could say.” Tom calculates that he has baked 1,000 loaves of bread this summer, or about 50 pounds a day, and that he has used a ton of flour! Wow!

When I asked Tom about the most exacting demands involved in cooking for 172 boys each day, he replied, “The biggest challenge is to serve a healthy meal three times a day, but with a good variety of things that the boys love to eat. Our boys love their meat, potatoes and bread; the test is not just serving the food, but also planning for variety in the menu and seeing that they enjoy what we serve.”

I also asked Tom if anything had been a surprise this summer. “Well, it’s not my first rodeo, so it’s hard to surprise me at this point. I guess if I had to identify something that I have been especially pleased with, it’s been the very positive reception we’ve received from the dining room this summer. The support and great feedback have been amazing and have been another example of Pemi’s big heart.”

Finally, I asked Tom if there was a dish he had served this summer that was especially satisfying. “The pot roast we had for Sunday lunch. The pieces all came together, and the Mess Hall was actually quiet for a few minutes!” Well, that silence spoke volumes about everyone’s appreciation of Tom and the kitchen staff’s efforts and skill. Silence in the Mess Hall is about as common as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series!

Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say, so I asked a few of our campers if they had any thoughts about the food this summer. As you might guess, they had plenty to say!

Braden Richardson in Lower Six said that he really loves “the mashed potatoes and meat loaf. They’re so tasty they remind me of my mom’s cooking, and she’s the best cook in the world”! (Tissues for Lisa Coleman, Braden’s mom, please.)

Gray Klasfeld in Lower One said, “I love how diverse the meals are. There’s always great variety. My favorite meals are the soups, the pasta, and especially the chicken fingers!”

Ian Hohman in Upper Three, noted that, “Tom spends so much time making sure we are all happy and full. I really love the BBQ chicken!”

Luke Bass in Lower Five really loves, “the Sunday Sleep-in pancakes. The toppings are amazing, especially the chocolate, strawberry, and fruit syrup.”

Jonah Reay in Lower One said he loves, “having Tom’s bread at so many meals because it’s homemade and tastes so fresh!”

Grady Boruchin in Senior Two thinks that, “the “food this year has been so healthy, with lots of vegetarian options.”

Judy Harrington

Judy Harrington

Obviously, feeding the boys three times a day is not a solo task. Tom has a crew of ten others helping him in the kitchen, including six young men from overseas (four from Poland and two from Turkey), two early-morning sous chefs, assistant chef Rachel Preston who works at Tilton Prep in the winter, and Tom’s second-in-command and main chef Judy Harrington, back for her second summer in front of the ranges at Pemi. Judy offers not only excellent food preparation but also a maternal warmth for the boys as well. “I love feeding my boys,” she says. “The look of joy on their faces when I described Sunday dinner, roast pork and potatoes, is the kind of thing that makes all the preparation worthwhile.”

While there are many aspects of the Pemi program and the Pemi day that we feel offer excellent experiences for the boys, it is particularly satisfying to include the Mess Hall meals among them. The food at camp is an important part of everyone’s day, and the rich experience of our dining together is enhanced by the delicious, plentiful, and nourishing food we have enjoyed in 2016. We look forward to continued success and happy days for Tom and his crew this summer and beyond, and we feel grateful and extremely fortunate to have this particular crew bringing us such consistently scrumptious and plentiful meals this summer.

Danny Kerr

thumbs-up_sm

A Look at Pemi’s Day-to-Day Nature Program

2016 Newsletter # 5

by Larry Davis, Director of Pemi’s Nature Program

In years past, I have used the opportunity to write a newsletter as a chance to wax philosophic about the importance of getting children out into nature, about the excitement of some of our special activities (such as caving), or about the history of natural history at Pemi. It has been a while since I described our day-to-day program. So, for the rest of this newsletter, that’s just what I’ll do.

Each week we offer 14-17 different nature occupations. Some of these are available every week and others may appear only once. You’ll find a glimpse of this week’s offerings at the end of the newsletter. All told, 35-40 nature occupations are available over the course of a summer.

Our scope is broad and includes both natural history topics—such as ponds and streams, forest ecology, rocks and minerals, and butterflies and moths—along with related fields such as nature photography and drawing, orienteering, bush lore and “weird science.” Much of what we teach is available at both beginning and advanced levels so that a Pemi camper can continue to explore new aspects of the natural world as he progresses through his career at camp. What follows is a description of just a few of our offerings.

Beginning Occupations

Our beginning activities follow a set lesson plan and are typically offered every week during the summer. They are designed to serve as an introduction to one or more aspects of nature. Topics include, Butterflies and Moths, Non-Lepidopteris Insects (that’s everything except butterflies and moths), Rocks and Minerals, Ponds and Streams, Digital and Darkroom Photography, among others.

Nature at PemiOur overall introduction to the program itself, Junior Environmental Explorations, is required for all new juniors. The lesson plan was written by former Associate Head of Nature Programs, Russ Brummer, as part of his Masters Degree program at Antioch-New England. Russ is now head of the Science Department at the New Hampton School. The objectives are to get the kids comfortable outdoors, to get them observing, and to get them thinking about how what’s going on “out there” is related to them. Each day of the 5-day week, the campers explore a different aspect of the natural world. One day is devoted to the forest, another to our streams, others to our lake and swamp, to insects, and to rocks and minerals. The activities are outdoors, in the forest, in the stream or lake, and experiential. We look, explore, feel, smell, and listen. For example, in the forest, we ask the boys to lie down on their backs and look at the trees and sky above them. How many colors can they see? What sounds to they hear? What does it feel like when they dig their fingers into the soil?

We hope that by the end of the week, they’ll be interested enough to come back for more, and most do. Frequently, in their free time, they’ll head back, on their own, to some of the places they visited during the occupation, and explore further. If this happens, then we’ve succeeded in accomplishing our objectives.

Beginning Butterflies and Moths

We start out in the Nature Lodge asking the question, “What is an insect?” To answer this we use models and our extensive reference collection of insects from our area. Campers find out that insects have six legs, three body parts (the head, the thorax, and the abdomen), two antennae, and compound eyes (ones with many lenses instead of the single one that humans have). To demonstrate these, we have special glasses that a boy can wear to help him experience what it is like to look through compound eyes. We even have a little song that helps campers remember all of this. I wish I could sing it to you, but you’ll have to be satisfied with just the lyrics for now. Ask your son to sing it when he gets home.

Head, thorax, abdomen
Six legs!
Head, thorax, abdomen
Six legs!
Compound eyes and two antennae
Head, thorax, abdomen
Six legs!

DSCI0005Once we know what insects are in general, we can explore several different kinds—beetles, bugs, flies, dragonflies and so on. This finally gets us to the Lepidoptera (scaly wing in Latin), that is, butterflies, moths, and skippers. With a hand lens, campers can look at the scales and see the difference between butterflies and moths. All of this takes two days. In the meantime, they are encouraged to come in during free time to begin construction of an insect net. These are still made the same way as they were 75 years ago, with some mosquito netting sewn together for the bag, the bag sewn to a wire coat hanger bent into a loop, and the whole contraption attached to a stick made from a cut tree branch. Not particularly elegant, but quite utilitarian. Towards the end of the week we go out to our traps and local fields to collect. This gives us the opportunity to discuss the difference between collecting and accumulating, the reasons (scientific) for collecting, collecting ethics (one specimen only of each type), and methods for preserving and labelling collections.

As with all our beginning occupations, once a camper has taken the introductory occupation, he is ready to move on to more advanced topics. He might choose, for example, to continue learning about butterflies and moths or perhaps he’ll choose to explore in-depth a different category of insects, such as beetles, dragonflies, and ants. Most beginning occupations are open to all campers, from Junior 1 to the Lake Tent and most have a wide range of ages enrolled.

Advanced Occupations

DSCI0015Our advanced activities are designed to take campers to the next level. Most do not have set lesson plans but rather are more freeform, and hence can be taken repeatedly. For example, an advanced butterfly and moth class will involve considerable observation and collecting. We might explore (in the field, of course) such topics as camouflage, insect defenses, flight characteristics, mating behavior, feeding behavior, predators, and more. Of course, as summer progresses, the species that are in our surroundings will change so, even if a boy takes the advanced class every week, the class will still be different.

Wetland Ecology

Wetland Ecology follows the beginning occupation, Ponds and Streams. We are fortunate to have excellent wetlands right on our campus. Our “Lower Lake” (to the left of the bridge as you enter camp) is actually a separate body of water from our main lake. It is a glacial kettle formed as the ice retreated. A block of ice was probably left behind, buried, and when it melted it created the lake. It provides a perfect setting for our Wetland Ecology occupation. Here we can see a textbook example of pond succession. Over time, floating plants trap sediments. These, in turn, provide a substrate for marsh plants such as sedges and rushes. These trap even more sediment which allows woody plants such as sweet gale, meadowsweet, and alder to grow. Finally, the decaying mass is sufficiently elevated that swamp plants, such as red maple can take root. It takes several thousand years to convert the open waters of a shallow kettle lake into a wooded swamp with a stream flowing through it. But since the conversion works from the outside in, at any point in time along the way, we can see the processes unfolding.

Of course, that is just the big picture. Each habitat, open water, marsh, bog, swamp, has its own set of plants, fish, insects, birds, and mammals. They are all there for us to observe. Some are quite exotic such as the insect-eating sundews that inhabit the bog areas, or the orchids that are sometimes found in the transition between bog and swamp. Throughout the occupation week we can explore and make the connections between the elements of the food webs and see what changes over time.

Specialized Occupations

Specialized occupations are those at the highest content level. For example, last week we had a class that focused only on Lichens. We’ve also had classes this year on ferns and decomposers, which match the special interests of some of our nature staff members. In years past, we had specialized occupations focusing on ants, caddisflies, dragonflies, and bees and wasps. This year, in week 3 (to be offered again in week 6) we taught Geo Lab, which consists of a series of field trips to sites of particular geologic interest-trips that usually last the whole afternoon. We did gold panning in the Baker River, explored the caves and glacial features of the Lost River Reservation, travelled to the Basin and Boise Rock in Franconia Notch, made a special geologic trip to the Palermo Mine, and visited the Sculptured Rocks area. These specialized activities may be offered only once or twice a summer, and each with 4 or 5 participants. They provide new challenges for our most interested campers so that even someone in his 8th summer can still find new and engaging areas of the natural world to investigate with us. Some boys have followed their passions into careers in the natural sciences. All seem to develop an interest in something that can give them pleasure throughout their lives.

Hybrid Occupations

DSCI0009This category includes activities that combine nature and art, such as photography, nature arts and crafts, and environmental sculpture, and activities that combine nature with outdoor pursuits, such as bush lore, wild foods, and orienteering. With photography, we are following in the tradition of a long line of famous artists such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter and, in some sense, this is literal since we do black and white film photography (we have our own small darkroom) along with more modern digital photography. We try to go beyond snapshots so the campers learn to consider composition, light, shutter speed, focus and exposure when creating their photographs. The best negatives are printed in our darkroom and the best digital photos are printed out for display. Many will appear in our art show at the end of the summer.

The combination of nature and outdoor pursuits has its roots in the skills needed for survival in ancient societies. The first class in each week’s Wild Foods occupation focuses on what it might have been like to live here 600 years ago. We imagine that we are part of the band of 20 or 25 Native Americans that might have been living here then. What food resources would we have had available to us? How could we store our food so that it (and our band) could last through the long New England winter? Who knew what plants were edible, and which were poisonous, and where and when were they available? How did they pass this information along? We continue to consider these questions as we enjoy whatever nature offers us that week. Last week, for example, we collected blueberries and had blueberry/cornmeal pancakes with maple syrup (made in Warner, NH by Pemi alum Bob Zock). We also made fritters with milkweed flowers and ate boiled young milkweed pods (and you thought milkweed was poisonous, right? It just has to be cooked properly to remove the toxins. Who found this out, anyway?) This week we’ve gathered some ripe chokecherries. These too are almost inedible when raw but delicious when cooked. They can be dried, like raisins, or made into a jelly, or even (just found this recipe) made into a soft-drink syrup that can be mixed with soda water to make a cooling summer drink. Speaking of drinks, we’ve made mint tea, birch tea, wintergreen tea, and rose hip tea, this from rose hips gathered here at camp last fall and dried. Later this summer we’ll make sumac tea, which tastes just like lemonade. Interestingly enough, all of this has had some practical applications for some of our campers. Boys on last week’s Allagash trip—of whom many were past Wild Foods occupation participants—reported that they found a large patch of mint and made themselves a big batch of refreshing mint tea.

Conclusion

I hope that this brief summary has given you a peek into our varied instructional program. To find out more, why not ask your boys when they return home? Better yet, head on out into the woods, the lakes, the streams, and let them show you. Here at Pemi Nature, we always think that showing is better than telling.

 

Nature occupations offered during week 4 of the 2016 Pemi season. The numbers in parentheses indicate the maximum enrollment for the occupation. Notational symbols indicate age and experience restrictions.

Nature occupations offered during week 4 of the 2016 Pemi season. The numbers in parentheses indicate the maximum enrollment for the occupation. Notational symbols indicate age and experience restrictions.