Seth Gibson Honored at VCA!

Our very own Seth Gibson ’67 received a lifetime achievement award from the Vermont Camps Association (VCA) at a recent ceremony. Seth has been working at Keewaydin Dunmore since 1967. During that first summer he and Abby Fenn led  one of the first Wilderness trips: Seven-weeks, 500-miles, 15 people, and seven canoes, or just plain heaven as Seth would probably describe it.

Seth received his award from the Vermont Camps Association President (Hint hint… It’s Ellen Flight, Songadeewin Director!)

Seth continued to lead Wilderness trips until 1992 when, at age 56, he had gone on a total of 24 trips, accumulating 7,800 miles, largely in the northern reaches of Quebec and Ontario. That’s the equivalent of driving from NYC to LA, back to NYC and then back to LA! He served as coordinator and head driver of the Wilderness program from 1992 until 2012. Over the last 25 years he put in more than 125,000 miles for us at Keewaydin which would take you around the world five times.

Beyond his work with us at Keewaydin Seth has supported the VCA as a member and cheerleader of all that is good in camping and getting campers out into wild places. He has taken many trips in the offseason to visit friends he has made in Quebec and beyond throughout his many trips up north.

We always knew we were lucky to have Seth on our team here at Keewaydin. Thank you for the years of leadership and friendship! Congratulations!

Spring 2019 KEEC Update!

While the summer camps don’t officially start until June, in early April staff start to arrive on the Songadeewin campus on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, VT for the Keewaydin Environmental Education Center (KEEC). Many camp alumni may be surprised to learn that more than 600 public school children attend KEEC in the spring and the fall. Since its founding in 1973, an estimated 35,000 students have spent a week at KEEC learning about the local and natural history of the area surrounding Lake Dunmore.

About to start its 47th year, KEEC operates for six weeks during each of the “shoulder” seasons of the summer camp. Tim Tadlock ’97 has been KEEC Director since 2006, and this spring Dara Aber-Ferri ’13 will return as the Assistant Director. Though many summer staff from Dunmore, Temagami, and Songadeewin have also worked at KEEC, the majority of the staff hired for KEEC are entirely new to Keewaydin.

This spring season at KEEC we are expecting 17 schools from Vermont and one from Massachusetts. Many of these schools and the teachers who work there have been attending KEEC annually for more than 15 years! In fact, the elementary schools from Chester and Cavendish VT have been coming to KEEC almost every year since 1973.

Just like the programming at camp, the main programming at KEEC has not changed much since its founding and still remains relevant to our daily lives. The average KEEC camper, aged 10 to 12, arrives at KEEC on Monday morning. Students jump off the bus, grab their gear, and move quickly into cabins located on the West side of the Songa campus. Shortly after, they are taken on a tour of the campus allowing them to become familiar with their surroundings. Then, that afternoon students spend two hours on the Communities Investigation, which takes them around campus and into the woods highlighting the theme of natural interdependence that is a central part of the curriculum. While involved in this introductory investigation, students learn about the Earth’s natural cycles such as the air cycle, the water cycle, the soil cycle, and the five basic needs of life. These topics provide a base of knowledge that is frequently referenced later in the week during other Investigations.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the campers participate in four more investigations, thematically centered around land use, local history, natural history, and human impact. These range from hikes on Burnt Mountain to discover how the glaciers carved out Mt. Moosalamoo, and Lake Dunmore, or an exploration along the Leicester River to discover clues about why dams and mills were built there during the past 300 years. Other investigations explore the lives of birds or plants surrounding camp, or how Keewaydin manages the surrounding forest.

Thursday is “Choice Day” in which the students get to choose what they would like to do for activities. This could be an all-day hike on Mt. Moosalamoo, a half day hike to Silver Lake, learning proper canoeing techniques on Lake Dunmore, learning to rock climb at our climbing wall or creating a mural to take back to school depicting the week spent at KEEC. They pack a lunch and spend the entire day outside. Thursday evening culminates with a campfire during which students perform their own skits about the natural cycles they have learned about during the week.

The benefits of KEEC continue beyond the investigations. Students are engaged in the learning process all day. In the evenings they enjoy the adventure of going on walks in the dark or engaging a mock town meeting. “Night Walks” help students explore their other senses beyond sight, and they learn about nocturnal creatures that do the same. The Town Meeting activity is a simulation of a real Vermont town meeting held annually to discuss town politics, and during this activity students are encouraged to get involved in their own community.

Even during mealtimes, the students are engaged in an awareness activity called Waste Watch. After each meal a KEEC staff weighs the food waste that is to be composted and posts the results on a graph. Throughout the week the students are encouraged to think about all of the energy that went in to getting the food on their plate, and what it means if they do not eat it. Table groups are then encouraged to discuss ways to reduce their waste during the meals and think about what other ways they can reduce their impact during their daily lives.

Many of the hallmarks of a typical Keewaydin camp experience exist at KEEC. Students rise with the gong at 7:30AM, have Inspection after breakfast, and we even have traditional Keewaydin style cookouts and campfires. But KEEC is more than just learning about our impact on the environment. Often, it is the first time that these 5th and 6th graders have been away from their parents, or lived communally with others. While at KEEC, each student is also assigned a job such as composting, weather reporting, dishwashing, or wood carrying. These activities help students understand how communities can function, and gives them a sense of individual responsibility.

On Friday morning the students play the Predator vs. Prey Survival Simulation Game. In this exciting capture-the-flag-like game of tag, the students assume the role of a particular member of the food chain and, while trying to meet their basic needs, are always on the lookout for other members higher up on the food chain. The game also serves as a capstone experience for the week as students are encouraged to think about how the lives of all organisms impact one another. Taking the time to think about how you impact the other organisms and environment around you is a primary goal at KEEC and one we are proud to promote.

If you would like to learn more about the KEEC program, or you know a school that would be interested in attending, please contact the KEEC director Tim Tadlock at (802)352-4247, or email Tim at [email protected].

The Inconvenience of a Wood Canvas Canoe

The Inconvenience of a Wood Canvas Canoe by Ben Jacoff ’96

Wood canvas canoes are not convenient. Drag one across a small stone and that sacred green paint and fabric will offer little resistance to the stone’s sharp edges. There is no forgiveness in their planks, no second chance in a cracked rib.

Paddle a wood canvas canoe and you may notice that with each stroke, should you not correct with a well honed “k,” your boat will start to slip off on its own secret path. Travel by canoe is not efficient. There are quicker, easier ways to get from one region to another, or even from one lake to another. A canoe trip is an exercise in persistence, repetition, and planning. But not convenience. And yet, year after year, generation after generation, we load our wood canvas canoes onto iron trees, tie them down with synthetic ropes, and drag them behind gas powered behemoths to waters beyond the reach of our cell phone networks and the shadows of our apartment buildings. We carry those wood canvas canoes with tender hands and careful steps and, when we finally slide them from the safety of our arms into a cool, flat pond or a rippling clear river, we delight in the way the weight transfers from our arms to the water. Wood canvas canoes are not convenient, but they are a way of life. And like everything  worth anything in life, they take time, patience, and thought to truly understand. We choose to trip in wood canvas canoes precisely because they are made of wood and canvas – because they are inconvenient. Doing so offers us a model for dealing with the challenges we encounter. Bowman so heavy that your bow keeps flooding when you go down rapids? Just turn around in your seats and take the next set backwards – in a wood canvas canoe, like in life, there is no forwards or backwards. There is only the direction that you are going and the experiences you’ve had. Worried that running a rapid will harm your boat? Take the time to do the hard thing. The hard thing is almost always the right thing to do anyway. Wood canvas canoes teach us lessons about patience, and being mindful. They remind us to take care with our hands, with our feet, and with our choices. That if you truly care about something, you treat it with respect and reverence. They remind us too that we campers and staff, like our wood canvas brothers, need to be treated carefully at times. That we can easily be hurt by an errant stone, or a moment of inattention.

Imagine a trip in a tin canoe, or an evening at boats out in a motorboat. Where would we be without our wood canvas canoes? On screens? On a couch? Waiting for a video to load or a commercial to end? Our lives are so full of convenience, of easy ways out, of distractions, of anything to make our lives a little more smooth, a little more convenient. But when we choose to come to this place, to Keewaydin, to paddle and trip in wood canvas canoes, we say to ourselves that there is something to be gained in experiencing a challenge. That we live for that moment when we slip away from shore, our knees resting between the ribs below us, our hands sliding a paddle along the side of our boat. That wooden hulk that we laid gently against a tree at each campsite, protected from rocks and branches, lugged over beaver dams and sandbars, carried on our shoulders around waterfalls and through forests. We say to ourselves that we welcome the inconvenience of a wood canvas canoe.


Storytelling at Keewaydin Dunmore

Why The Kicker?

Summer 2015 Kicker Editor, Sam Besser ’15, wrote the following article for the opening Kicker Campfire in the summer of 2015.

By this point in the evening, many of you may have been lulled into a gentle stupor by the sound of Pete’s mellifluous voice coupled with words that, like a gentle rain, soothe the mind… until you realize all of your towels are still on the line.

Yes, we are nearing the end of tonight’s Kicker. Many of your thoughts are likely elsewhere, possibly puzzling over how the dining hall ran out of rice on stir fry night or wondering why Shawandasee looked so darn familiar. But as the fire starts to dim, let’s bring it back to why we’re here – the Kicker.

After some cursory research, I was surprised to discover that the Kicker, in some way shape or form, is about as old as Keewaydin itself. From 1910 there has been a tradition of sharing stories with the entirety of the camp, mostly reports, and tales from trips away from Dunmore. Where the name ‘The Kicker’ came from is unclear, but given that it’s older than the nation of Yugoslavia it probably comes from some old timey phrase like, “That story sure was a kicker!” or “I’m going to kicker you with this outlandish yarn!” In any case, it seems significant that formalized storytelling has always been a part of our Keewaydin culture.And why is that? What makes the Kicker so special, beyond the opportunity to have Pete recite comestible-themed

And why is that? What makes the Kicker so special, beyond the opportunity to have Pete recite comestible-themed haikus? Of course, it’s the stories.

From cave paintings and oral histories, to “Game of Thrones” and “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” (technically), storytelling has always been an integral part of the human phenomenon. I’m not about to get all academic and anthropological here, so to all you professors and teachers in the audience I confess my bibliography consists solely of hasty Wikipedia searches and the recesses of my own mind. From the former comes the following description of ‘storytelling’: Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values. Now that’s pretty broad and the Kicker surely satisfies those conditions.

But storytelling, in my mind, goes even further than that. Stories are how we connect with each other. Think about it. All of the time you spend with friends you are either sharing thoughts and ideas, telling jokes, or trading stories. From the perfunctory “Bro, I busted this sick gainer the other day” to an in-depth recounting of your entirely wholesome and productive activities between the hours of 1:00-5:00 a.m. the previous night, we are all storytellers. In some ways, making a friend is the process of finding somebody whose stories you enjoy and who you are able to entertain and inspire with your own stories. And what is camp about if not making friends?

Another objective of storytelling is the creative expression. Whatever you may think of the stories, reports, and poems you’ve heard tonight, to write and publish these works took a good deal of courage, even from those who wrote under a pseudonym. All of us have at least a little creative spark in us, and for those who have tapped that spark to create a roaring fire of a finished work, we know there is little more satisfying than having someone come upon our blaze and say “Hot damn, that is one fine piece of combustion.” Indeed we cannot help but share our creative impulses with others whatever the outcome, and storytelling is a means to do just that. So admire the storyteller, if not the story.

And finally, getting a little heavier here, stories are a path to immortality. Even if we know the stories we tell may never be heard again, a part of us believes there is a chance that the adventures, experiences, ideas, and fantasies we are sharing will live on, possibly beyond even our own lifetimes. Sure, it’s doubtful that “This Week on Saranac Lake” will go down in the annals of human history, but that’s beside the point. By sharing our stories, our experiences, we allow our lives to grow and touch others. And maybe our stories will entertain, or educate, or enlighten, or maybe even help someone else through a difficult time. Whatever the case may be, in touching others with our stories we are enriching their lives, and that certainly satisfies the Keewaydin creed of “Help The Other Fellow”.

So, as the summer wears on and we revisit this campfire week after week if ever you find yourself thinking “Why the Kicker?”,  just remember the stories that we all need to tell. The stories we share, the stories we hold on to, and the stories that change our lives. That’s the Kicker.

By Big Chief Editor-In-Chief

Ooohing and Ahhhing My Way Down the Winisk

Ooohing and Ahhhing My Way Down the Winisk River

By: Joe McClean

I first heard about Keewaydin in 2010 when my wife and I were looking for a summer camp for our eldest daughter.  Fast forward to the beginning of this year, my wife and three daughters had accumulated 16 years of Keewaydin canoe trips between them. My three daughters were looking forward to their Keewaydin summers, one as a first-time staff member and the other two their Bay and Section 3 trips.  My wife was also looking forward to a reunion weekend with her section mates that she had been tripping with for the past two summers on the Missinaibi River.  As for me, I was looking forward to another few days at Ojibway at Endseason.  With this and my only real claim to canoeing fame being a trip with my mother-in-law along a portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, I always felt left out of the family Keewaydin conversations.  I even felt a bit of a spare wheel at the Keewaydin recruiting events we had hosted over the years at our home.

So it was with this background and the enthusiastic encouragement of my wife and three daughters that I got the last spot on the Men’s Adult Trip of 2016.  Once Bruce gave me the OK I eagerly waited for the trip details to be finalized and very quickly started to bombard my wife and daughters with questions about all things Keewaydin and canoe tripping.  Much to their amusement, it became evident very quickly that all the talk I had heard over the years about tumps, rolling, wannigans, Dickies, trip/dry clothing etc. had gone over my head.

After promising my daughters that I would not embarrass them by questioning the Keewaydin Way (and a wry smile from my wife) I headed to North Bay to meet my section mates. From there we flew to the First Nation Settlement of Webequie where we put in on the Winisk River and paddled for two weeks, covering approximately 250 miles, ending up in Peawanuk, a few miles short of Hudson Bay.

My section mates were a diverse group with ages ranging from the late teens to early 70s.  I was privileged to be with them and experience “the majestic, mysterious, mystical, magical Winisk River.”  Together we all welcomed the outstanding weather, marveled at the array of birds, oooohed and ahhhhhed at the polar bear with her cubs, the list could go on and on. We all jumped in with both feet (metaphorically and literally) and immersed ourselves in the spectacular beauty and wilderness of Ontario.  For two weeks we lived and for the most part loved the Keewaydin Way.  (Some folks had questions about pot black and the wisdom of pot scrubbing after every meal.) Memories of these shared experiences will stay with me for a long time and I hope the friendships I made during these two weeks will last even longer.

Selfishly, I hold my own personal thoughts, memories, and experiences most dear.

Each night I would think about my three daughters who were, like me, at that same moment in time coming to the end of their day of paddling.  It was beautiful to think I was somehow sharing the same moment with them. (Personal note to Anna, Kyra & Sadie: Telepathy works!).

Having completed my first and hopefully not last Keewaydin canoe trip I finally have a sense of why my daughters’ have wanted to do this for weeks on end, (rather than days like me), year in, year out since before they were teenagers.  As a parent, being able to glimpse into my children’s world is a real gift. More precious is the sense of indescribable pride I have for my daughters now that I know what is involved in a Keewaydin wilderness canoe trip.

Thank you Keewaydin.

For more information about Adult Trips, please contact Bruce Ingersoll at [email protected] or 802-352-4247. 

Section A and A New “Bay”

Section A and A New “Bay”

In 2016, John Frazier and Sam Morris teamed up to lead Section A to Ungava Bay, via the Leaf River. John and Sam also teamed up to write about the trip.

Part 1, by John Frazier

This year Section A paddled to Ungava Bay.  While the destination was new for both Section A and Keewaydin Temagami, the spirit of exploration – one of our oldest traditions – goes back to the woods of Maine in the late 19th century and the inception of the camp. The first half of our route took us through the territory in northern Quebec, now familiar to Keewaydin’s Bay trips, up until our re-outfit site on Seal Lake, and then into new territory as we headed north over the height of land into the Ungava watershed.

We paddled 1000 kilometers from our put-in at Lac Des Oeufs to reach Tasiujaq, an Inuit village on Ungava Bay.  The Leaf River was about 350K long, and we wanted to paddle its entirety from the headwaters on Lac Minto to the sea.  The trip required we paddle roughly 350K further in the second half of the trip than Section A has paddled the past several summers, which meant distance-wise, we had traveled as far as the entirety of many of our other favorite bay trip routes before we had even reached the Leaf.

After our re-outfit plane came (a day late), we had our work cut out for us to get up to Lac Minto, heading straight north for several days over the height of land to water that flows east to Ungava, rather than west towards Hudson Bay.  The second “half” of the trip was to be roughly 130k longer than the first, and also required that we move more quickly to budget time appropriately for paddling on the bay.

The trip took the section through some breathtaking scenery, which changed as we moved from the lower reaches of the open forest sub-zone to the northern limits of the forest tundra sub-zone at the northern boundary of the Boreal forest, to the arctic shrub tundra.  As we traveled down the Leaf River, which is apparently only ice free for roughly 60 days per year despite its 556m3/s flow, we paddled along the liminal space between the arctic tundra and boreal forest vegetation zones, which made for dramatic views and cold water!  Despite its length, the fast moving water on the Leaf River was almost all paddle-able, save one portage half way down the river, which made for long multi-kilometer stretches of fun and intense rapids.

Ungava Bay was beautiful and dynamic, with arguably the largest tidal range in the world, the sea level rose and fell so dramatically it left kilometers of dry boulders and mud stretched out where hours before there had been deep water to shore.  The tide created obstacles for us as we paddled from the river to Tasiujaq such as a waterfall that flows different directions or disappears completely, depending on the tidal cycle.  The northern village of Tasiujaq marked the end of our trip, and also the first people we had seen (except the re-outfit pilot) in 1000K of paddling.  Then, we flew from this town of roughly 250 people to Kuujjuaq, with a population of about 2,500, where we got a flight to Montreal, a city of roughly 1.6 million.  It was surreal and jarring to see our trip-worn wannigans and double packs moving along the baggage carousel, to say the least.  Finally, we traveled by bus back to Temagami. The trip was done, the goal won, and many indelible memories made for all.  Thank you to the Section A campers, whose hard work and love of Keewaydin allowed for this spectacular trip to be successful!

Part 2, by Sam Morris

John’s piece should provide a sense of what made the trip special in terms of numbers—distance, days travelled, and so forth. To get an appropriate sense of the scale of this trek, I recommend taking the time to think about those numbers. My impulse is to add to his words with false modesty (“we only portaged three times on the Leaf,” or, “the second half proved a little tricky,” or, “to reach the Ungava watershed required some classic up and over portaging”), but in this case that bravado rings far too obviously untrue.

The truth is, I thought the second half of the summer was dang hard. Maybe I’m getting older and weaker, but I’d list the week-long push across the height-of-land after re-outfit, across Lac Minto, and into the headwind that barreled up the Leaf as the longest sustained effort I’ve done at Keewaydin. Anyone who was kind enough to stop me at paddle-in knows that I arrived on the island somewhat shell-shocked and hesitant to definitively answer that nagging question: “How was the trip?” The physical challenges, the frustration of headwinds and bad camping along the Leaf River (gone were the fields of caribou moss and sparse spruce forest), along with the deeply unmooring event of John’s back blow-out on the last days of the trip, colored the second half of the summer tough.

Still, I hesitate to leave my report there. “How was the trip?” It was hard, yes, but with some perspective, I’ve begun to consider that my answer might require a bit more nuance. Now, a full month and a half since paddle-in, thinking of the height-of-land into the Ungava watershed, I remember cresting the toughest alder-strewn hillside, breath ragged and smelling of wool wet with my own sweat, to behold far below me: shimmering with the gray light of a cloudy afternoon, Lac 222±, the high point above Minto, separated from seemingly endless ponds and lakes by somber swells of Canadian Shield. The challenge is there in the memory, yes, but it’s inextricable from the beauty of the place, and the feeling of chipping away at our goal.

Keewaydin is an unusual community for many reasons, but perhaps most appealing to me is our willingness to value challenge as an aesthetic. We like stories about folks achieving feats of endurance and strength in the woods, and we really like stories about our people overcoming obstacles and growing from the experience. It’s why John and I haven’t abandoned the craggy coasts of Quebec for the sprawling rivers of Ontario; there’s just something fundamentally right about Section A campers facing down steep, brushy portages, and long, thirsty, salty paddles on the ocean to achieve the Bay. For us, a good trip, a beautiful trip, is a trip that offers appropriate challenge through its terrain.

On the last, harrowing day of travel this summer, we raced time to pass a dangerous tidal waterfall and plant ourselves, exhausted but safe, on a shale beach within striking distance of Tasiujaq. Behind the beached canoes, the retreating sea exposed an expanse of boulders and mud. We had a tidal cycle to wait before we could move again, and only the water that remained in our bottles, so we wandered off the beach to find something potable to drink. We walked through fields of purple and pink wildflowers in a light sea breeze until we reached the blinding white of a quartz-strewn mountaintop that yielded views of Leaf Bay, Baie Rouge, and the undulating rises of Canadian Shield. We stood there as the trip ended, thoroughly parched, but drinking in the beauty of it all.

Better Than An Internship

Better Than An Internship:

Takeaways From Being A Songa Staff

By: Jenn Hare, ‘99

In recent years, the pressure on college students to take on summer internships towards a specific career has become stronger and stronger. The prevailing wisdom is that padding a resume and getting one’s foot in an industry door are essential to career success. We who have worked on the Songadeewin staff for multiple summers know better. Summers spent working at Songa are rewarding and fun; moreover, they instill confidence, skills, and strength in young women. We recently surveyed over sixty current and former staff to hear what they had to say about the benefits of working at Songadeewin. The responses we received illuminated the countless ways in which Songa positively impacts the lives of staff.

The ability to stay calm under pressure stands out as a major skill staff acquire from their time at camp. Veteran staff Mel Joyce, who is now an admissions director at an independent school, wrote:

“When I think back to my most challenging moments on Songa trips, it makes navigating normal life seem easy. I literally have a specific moment on a portage that was the most physically and emotionally challenging moment of my life – whenever anything really challenging comes up in my life I reflect back on that moment and remember how tough I can be.”

Other staff echoed this, saying that problem-solving at work now is easy for them because of the training and experience they had leading Songa trips. Successfully organizing a trip and solving problems on the fly clearly give Songa staff the confidence and wherewithal to confront anything they might face in the workplace. As former staff and now medical student Jesse Briggs put it, “There’s nothing quite like running into unexpected issues in the wilderness to teach you how to improvise.”

Staff also find that working at Songa gives them invaluable experience working with a variety of people. Former staff Liz Mott, currently an advertising event manager, wrote about how much she learned to work collaboratively.

“Whether it was working on a more intimate scale with my cabin/trip co-staff or on a large scale with the longhouse group or the staff as a whole, it’s valuable moving forward in a career to have had an experience living and working with people in a variety of different situations.”

At Songa, a huge portion of staff training is devoted to building teams and learning how to work and live in a community successfully. Staff continue to hone these skills throughout the summer as they build partnerships with trip and cabin co-staff and are coached by staff leaders through any communication issues that arise. Additionally, staff learn to mediate conflict between campers as well as how to manage group dynamics. Staff reported that all these experiences made them much more empathetic and flexible when working with others. Ali Hare, a longtime staff who has also worked in child welfare, noted:

“More than anything else, Songa taught me how to work with other people. I’ve found that when working with difficult people or under difficult circumstances, I’m patient and tolerant when others are not.” When staff come back for multiple summers, they build on those skills and become more and more adept at collaboration.”

Why is Songa such a special place to work? The balance of challenge and support that Songa offers makes it a uniquely fertile environment for personal growth. Songa asks a lot of its staff – to work 14 hour days with energy and cheer, to organize and execute weeklong trips into the wilderness, to teach with love and expertise, to pivot and re-adjust plans midstream when situations change. However, at every step, Songa offers the most supportive environment possible for its staff. The culture of Songa is one of encouragement, where effort, determination and personal triumphs are constantly celebrated. This culture fosters growth in staff as well as campers. Furthermore, pre-season staff training creates bonds of friendship which make us feel we are never addressing any problems alone – our friends and mentors are always there to help. Kate Ward worked on staff for many years before becoming an urban planner. She noted that

“Songa is a unique environment where you can push yourself, and grow – but with the safety net of all the other awesome staff to be there to catch you if things don’t work out.”

Longtime staff, current leadership team member and middle school teacher Susannah White mentioned the “trusting relationships and comfort with camp that [she] built over time,” which allowed her to feel safe enough to keep taking risks like public speaking and creative problem-solving.

Indeed, perhaps the most worthwhile thing gained from working at Songa is the fortifying relationships with fellow staff. Fellow staff become your biggest cheerleaders, the first people you call with sad or exciting news, and role models who inspire you to be your best self. As Mel Joyce wrote, “Songa friends have been my roommates, world traveling companions, sounding boards, co-workers, and family.” Another longtime staff, middle school teacher Hazel Stauffer, noted, “I gained the best friends of my life. I also gained a mentor in Ellen who is a wealth of knowledge and insight.” The women of Songadeewin are brilliant, hard-working and strong of heart. What could be more enriching than to spend summer after summer working by their sides?

Jenn Hare, ‘99 was a charter camper at Songa on Dunmore.  She joined the staff in 2005 and earned her ten-year jacket in 2015.  She has been on the Leadership Team since 2011 as Longhouse Leader for Nawaiwan.  At the end of last summer she and Lolo Cappio, co-Longhouse Leader for Willoughby reached out to former staff to gather information in the article.

Testimonials From the Kids

From Keewaydin Kids

Kids say the darnedest things. But they also have the most soulful insights into what makes each of Keewaydin’s camps great. Trying to persuade someone on the fence about a summer at Keewaydin? Looking to remember your own camping days? Look no further, because these kids have hit the nail on the head. Without further ado, words from the kids:

Songadeewin has made me strong of heart and mind in so many ways. I used to be uncomfortable in large groups, always quiet, and I would never introduce myself or make conversations with strangers. I was doubtful about who I was. Today, I am no longer that person. I have learned how to be fearless and speak up. – Seven year Songadeewin Camper, age 15

One thing I especially enjoyed at Keewaydin was the trip I got to go on. My trip was a six-day canoeing adventure on Rangeley Lakes in Maine. I had a great time and I learned things like building fires, setting up camp and how to paddle in three-foot waves!  – Second year Keewaydin Dunmore Camper, age 12 

Trip was beautiful and the lessons I learned were bountiful. I think that being at Keewaydin and spending my summer canoeing has taught me to live with a purpose. At camp everything you do is moving you closer and closer to your goal. Sometimes in life, especially as an adolescent’s, outcomes can be hard to find, decisions about your future can be hard to make. However, my time at Keewaydin has taught me to be more driven and to continue my journey growing up.  – First year  Keewaydin Temagami Camper, age 18

Songa was filled with so many great opportunities. I was excited to try something new and I took advantage of as many as I could. My favorite activity was canoeing, but I really enjoyed “tripping” the most. When I was chosen to go on St. Regis I was nervous because I didn’t have any experience with canoeing, and I didn’t know anybody on my trip. But spending six days with each other really helps people bond, and I became friends with people I never thought I would have weeks before. Even after trip it felt good to have people who you knew you could always go to.  – First year Songadeewin Camper, age 12

Special memories from camp come from the people there. I still remember my first encounter with a Keewaydin camper. It was my first year in Waramaug and I was extremely nervous. I walked into camp, feeling shy and out of place, and then this kid in my tent approached me with a big smile on his face. With his hand out, he shook mine and introduced me to everyone around. I had a really good impression of this person, and today he is one of my closest friends. Because there are new campers every year and because of my experience, I introduce myself to them, being as amiable as I can and welcoming them to a place I think of as my home.  – Fourth year Keewaydin Dunmore camper, age 14

In my mind they have all combined into a huge jumble of memories but there are a few that stand out: getting stuck in quicksand mud called muskeg – yes, really; and portaging a canoe on my head for 1.3 kilometers without any help. The animals and remote locations we saw were truly beautiful. There is something so special about being somewhere pristine and untouched by civilization. We also saw loons, moose, and lots of fish; which we caught, cooked and ate. The stars were so bright and the sky was so big. Keewaydin is such a magical place.  – First year Keewaydin Temagami Camper, age 15

A Brief History of Dogs at Keewaydin

Camp Dogs I Have Known

By: Pete Hare ‘59

Keewaydin’s history abounds with stories of trip adventures, heroic staffmen, Frolics skits, Old Timers’ Day Hi-Jinx, Tallman Competitions, Carnival concessions, and epic “Auks,” but one chapter of Keewaydin history that has not, perhaps, received the attention it deserves is that of the dogs of Keewaydin.  So numerous on campus  during the 1970s to be known as “the bow-wow wigwam,” our canine friends have been an important presence at camp for decades.  We’ve had German Shepherds, Labradors, Poodles, Labradoodles, Huskies, Malamutes, Shetlands, good old mutts and, of course, “Cree Beaver” dogs.  We have had dogs who became members of the All-Trails Club, birthed puppies at camp, wrestled with porcupines, rode in canoes down wilderness rapids and, on numerous occasions, cured a camper of homesickness. Inspired by the life of my wonderful and crazy dog, Tibi, I decided to write a brief history of dogs at Keewaydin.

Kee is the first dog I remember. Jim Fullerton, the Director of Moosalamoo, gave Kee to my parents as a wedding gift in 1954.  (One wonders whether a pooch was on Waboos and Katy’s wedding list.)  Kee was sired by Jim’s dog, Jaunty, who also spent his summers at camp.  Both dogs were enormous German Shepherds and, despite (or because of?) their familial tie, were notorious for getting into battles, causing campers and staff to scatter as they rolled around the Waramaug ballfield, fur flying and teeth bared.  Sometimes the two would be locked in such a ferocious fracas that the only way Waboos could break them up was to get out the starter’s pistol (generally reserved for mid-season canoe and swim races) and shoot it at close range!  Aside from his occasional melees with his father, Kee was a gentle, loveable dog, who patiently allowed campers to ride him as if he were a horse.  Kee made his mark at camp in many ways, one of which is permanent: a paw print in the concrete stairs of Waramaug Cabin 2 (now Gibson Wilderness House).

One type of dog that has a special chapter in Keewaydin history is the “Cree beaver” dog, so called because the olfactory prowess of these dogs was such that could detect whether a beaver lodge was occupied or not during the winter, thus helping the Cree know where to set their traps.  Between 1965 and the late 1980s, campers and staff on Wilderness Trips, from time to time, acquired these dogs in Cree villages, such as Mistassini Post. The pups would accompany the crews as they traveled through the northern wilds.  Generally small but extremely smart, they had the look of a miniature sled dog and were purported to have a bit of wolf blood in them.

The most famous of all the “Cree” dogs was Abby Fenn’s, Squish.  Abby brought Squish back to the great Keewaydin campus after a trip to Chibougamau and Riviere du Chef in 1965.  There is little doubt that Squish (which means “girl” in Cree) has the dubious distinction of being the least petted pet in the history of Keewaydin: those who tried, either quickly backed away when she bared her teeth and uttered her menacing growl or, worse, got a bloody hand!  Fortunately, for the 200 campers at camp, Squish spent most summers hundreds of miles away on wilderness trips with Abby, where she grew accustomed enough to the trippers to leave them in peace.  She was happiest in the Canadian wilderness.  An excellent canoe dog, she stood on the bow deck on flat water and in rapids (and only rarely fell out).   From time to time when she spotted a beaver or a goose swimming close by, she would leap from the boat in pursuit.  She generally gave up the hunt and returned to the canoe when it became apparent the she was a less proficient swimmer than her intended quarry.  A self-sufficient trip dog, she fended for herself for food, hunting mice and moles and plenty of scraps around the campsite.  Though her temperament was prickly, she was a very intelligent dog.  Abby could put a biscuit on her nose and say “on trust” and Squish would sit perfectly still until her master said “all paid for” and then she’d drop the biscuit and catch it before it hit the ground.  Abby married Gale Hurd in 1971 and their son, Ethan, was born in 1972.  When it became clear that Squish wasn’t as happy to welcome baby Ethan into the home as Abby and Gale were, Abby had to find another home for Squish.  Fortunately, Larry Jones had earned Squish’s respect while on wilderness trips with Abby, and he was happy to have her as a roommate.

In late July of 1968, a bag of bones of a dog wandered onto the Keewaydin campus.  A mutt by anyone’s standards, with short golden hair, droopy jowls and long flappy ears, she looked part lab, part hound and parts unknown—much like where she came from.  Days passed and nobody came round to claim her and she was in no hurry to leave camp, where there were 200 boys to scratch her behind the ears and staffmen who were willing to bring her kitchen scraps each day.  She had a sweet and calm disposition, and loved nothing more than sunbathing in the middle of the Waramaug ballfield, unfazed even while baseball games were being played!  Somewhere along the line, someone named her Cleo, and the name stuck.  A couple of staffmen said they might be willing to take Cleo home with them after camp, but when camp emptied out at the end of August, Cleo was still lying on the ballfield.  In the end, my siblings, Laurie and Steve, and I persuaded my parents to bring Cleo home with us—where else was she going to go?—and into the back of the station wagon she went, headed for Philadelphia.

Shortly after arriving at 113 Anton Road in Wynnewood, PA, it became clear that the weight Cleo had gained at camp was not just from her Keewaydin diet: Cleo would be having puppies sometime soon!  A few weeks later, she gave birth to seven cute little puppies in the Hare family garage.  We gave away all of the puppies, but Cleo was our pet for the next ten years, returning to camp every summer where she patiently allowed campers to pull, tug and wrestle with her—when she wasn’t snoozing on the ballfield!

The most striking dog at camp had to have been Kenai, Dan and Mary Patch’s Husky, who first came to camp in 1974.  She had dazzling blue eyes and a beautiful black and white coat.  Kenai “one upped” Cleo in the puppy department: in 1977 she gave birth AT camp, right under Mary Patch’s bed in Cabin 1 West in Annwi!  After the pups were born, Dan and Mary let the Annwi campers file through their cabin to witness “Mama” Kenai with her litter.  Later, the Patches set up a pen in the wigwam, where the puppies frolicked alongside the delighted Annwi campers for the rest of the summer.  The second born of the litter was the only one that looked like a Husky (the others looked more like the Black Lab father) was claimed by “Red” Dows, at the time a Wiantinaug staffman.  Red gave this majestic black and white dog the name “Czar” and he was a camp dog for the many summers that Red worked at camp though 1989.

Also arriving in 1974 was Abby’s second dog, Nmish (“fish” in Cree), brought back to camp from Mistassini Post by Seth Gibson.  Nmish was famous for his hiking prowess.  Whenever a group headed over the bridge for an adventure on Moosalamoo, he would join.  Nmish covered so much of the mountain that he became the first canine to enter the All-Trails Club.  Czar would frequently join these hikes, and on a few occasions the two would wander off from the group, sometimes not returning to camp for a couple of days!  On more than one occasion, Nmish or Czar would return to camp with a face full of porcupine quills!

Nmish’s sense of direction was uncanny.  Sally Margolin, the camp bookkeeper, learned this in dramatic fashion.  One day, Abby asked her to run an errand in Middlebury.  No camp vehicles being available, Abby gave Sally the keys to his personal car.  It wasn’t until she arrived in town that she noticed that Nmish was in the back seat!  Surprise was replaced by shock when she returned to the car after completing her errand and discovered that Nmish was gone, escaped out the window!  Panicked, she called camp.  Gale, wise to Nmish’s wanderings, knew not to worry, suspecting that Nmish likely tracked his way back to Gale and Abby’s “off-season” home in Weybridge, one or two miles away.  Sure enough, that is where Abby later found him!

Most dogs at camp these days reside with their owners in Brown’s Bay.  The Gutfreunds have had several, Lily in the 1990s; Pal, Posie and Strider in the 2000s; and, arriving as a puppy in 2015, Stark.  The Hildreths have brought Otis and Georgia.  The Warings had Morgan and Dunmore.  The Annwi campers have enjoyed a “wigwam” dog for many summers.  Sadie, Amy and Tom Vorenberg’s Black Lab, retrieved sticks and balls for campers (usually from the lake) for most of the 2000s.  Jersey, Anne and Drew Mackay’s Chocolate Lab, brought similar lab energy and love in the 2010s.  One of the most amazing  dogs in recent years was Matt King’s mixed Shepherd, Tucker, who, whenever Matt had to leave campus, would wait patiently at the foot of the bridge for his owner’s return.

Diane and I brought our yellow lab, Tibi, to camp in 2005, where she spent every summer through 2015.  Though gentle, loveable and loyal, her high energy and head-strong disposition led to many a misadventure, especially around food.  If food was in striking distance, she would go after it.  Needless to say, the “on leash” rule that applied to all dogs while on campus, was especially important for Tibi.  Woe to the wigwam having a cookout if Tibi got loose from her leash!  The truth is that she escaped from her leash or from Fennway more than Diane and I would like to admit.  And when she did, she made an event out of it.  Campers and staff would chase her all around the campus—“I saw her heading towards the lagoon!”  “There she is by the garboon!”  “I had her, but she got away!“  “Look! She jumped in the lake and is heading out to sea!”  Eventually, someone would catch her and bring her back to Diane or me.  Like many dogs before her, she also loved Mt. Moosalamoo.  Every morning she climbed with me to the Moosalamoo wigwam, a signal to the boys that the gong was about to ring, and she accompanied many groups of campers on hikes all over the mountain.  A water dog, she shamelessly plopped herself down right in the middle of streams (or mud) to cool off during a strenuous hike.  Living in Vermont year-round, Tibi was familiar with the trails of Moosalamoo in winter, making many a trip to Rattlesnake Point on snow covered trails.  Needless to say, she knew the trails like the back of her paw.

If asked what they value most about Keewaydin, I think that most campers, staff and alumni would say their camp friendships.  When they reflect on their tent mates, their trip mates and their favorite staff, many will surely remember some of their four-legged camp friends as well.  It is safe to say of our Keewaydin canine pets that they are among our camp “best friends.”