Category Archives: The Pine Needle

Meet our Volunteers

John Alsop, Legal Lecturer for Staff Week, Mower in Chief at York’s Crossing, and Builder Extraordinaire

We’re in full swing getting the island ready for opening day and we couldn’t do it without the help of many volunteers, including former camper and counselor John Alsop. John is headed out to the island next week to help Ben finish up some crucial building projects, and he’ll be back the following week during staff orientation. John, a recently retired assistant attorney general for the State of Maine, generously joins us on the island after lunch one day each year to give an extremely helpful and enlightening short lecture to the counselors about to embark on six weeks of caring for 90 boys.  He covers Maine law in general and as it relates to caregivers in particular.

In addition, John has volunteered for the past several years to execute a crucial step in preparing both the campsite and the game site for the War Game.  John readily confesses that he is something of a heavy-equipment junkie.  He owns and operates his own skidder and more recently has become owner of a commercial-grade riding mower, the perfect machine for mowing the War Game campsite, access roads, center of town, squadron paths, and the roads running out from each gate.  A couple of weeks before the game and a week or so before the site is used for the Maine Woodsman/Junior Maine Woodsman testing trip, John comes out after work and mows acres of grass that has been growing since play was off the summer before. The result is something approaching an English park, and each year the grass gets more lush and beautiful.  John and director Ben Swan have been discussing possible further improvements to the site.   

Finally, John was part of the “A Team” who came out the Whitehead Light Station last fall to build the new workshop. Ben was awed by the speed and craftsmanship of the crew, and now that John has retired, Ben can’t wait wait to snag him for more building projects.

John is seen here in the middle – part of a crew that constructed the North Perch in 1999.

Ned Bishop, Volunteer-in-Chief

Over the past twenty years a remarkable number of opportunities to volunteer one’s time to benefit Pine Island Camp have become available, and the many who have participated all agree that being a volunteer is the best way to return to Pine Island.  We’ll highlight a few of our amazing volunteers in the coming weeks, starting with Ned Bishop, PIC’s Volunteer-in-Chief.

Ned Bishop, camper, counselor, and long-time assistant director at Pine Island, began volunteering shortly after he retired as assistant director.  Ned’s innumerable contributions focus on setting up camp and the logistically challenging days between the annual Declaration of War and a couple of days after the campers leave.  As was recognized in his receiving the “Golden Clipboard” award several years ago, Ned is virtually indispensable when it comes to seeing to the details of opening and closing Pine Island.  He is the author (and faithful updater) of Opening and Closing: The Manual, the handbook that contains all the lists and jobs that need to be done before Opening Day and before the whole place is closed for the winter.  It is hard to describe fully how much director and assistant director stress is reduced when Ned is on the job, directing pre-camp work by the counselors, helping with War Game logistics (while also taking on a full umpiring load), and setting up everything we need to welcome 200+ people to the island for the Farewell Feed.  Ned also made it up for the Sloan Critchfield Memorial Boat Maintenance Weekend this year and spent many hours sanding and painting.  Ned is a fountain of knowledge and great stories about the recent and distant Pine Island past, and don’t make the mistake of being fooled by his friendly demeanor when you sit down after dinner for a game of cards!

Ned Bishop and Ben Swan.

What’s in A Name? Lots! Acronyms Blossom at PIC

Pine Island’s sense of humor has always been near the surface and usually operating at a very high level.  Campfire skits, trip announcements, passwords, Saturday Night Shows, and even trip reports are often hilarious.  No doubt what was funny in 1910 differs significantly from what cracked people up last summer, but the subtle art of acronyms, now very active at PIC, has been a feature of Pine Island summers for a long time. A flurry of acronyms surfaced in the 1960s and these days every activity produces an acronym to put at the top of their ranks chart.  Below are some memorable acronyms in approximately chronological order. Thanks to Harry Swan, who collected as many Pine Island acronyms as we could find.

KILL – team responsible for eradicating insect scourges.

The Kababa Insect Liquidation League


OAR – formed after the arrival of the Dynamite Payson-built dories.

The Organization for the Advancement of Rowing


DORY – booster organization for O.A.R.

Don’t Overlook Rowing, Y’all


DIVE – in which a swimming class is devoted to combing the bottom of the lake around the island, using fins, goggles, and snorkels, in search of interesting objects.

Dive Investigate Verify and Extract


PILE – the pre-camp work of removing all lumber, brush, and other refuse from the island.

Pine Island Lumber Extraction


ROTGUT – the pre-camp work of mowing, raking, trimming, and pruning on the mainland.

Removal OThe Grass, Ultra Team


WHAMWOW – the pre-camp work of washing windows and removing cobwebs and spider eggs from the exterior of buildings.

White-Hot Anti-spider Magic World OWindow Washing


FETID – an effort to locate and remove any dead fish, mice, birds, or squirrels causing foul odors on the island.

Find Everything That IDead


FAD – in which a fly-fishing instructor takes a few campers on a day trip to another body of water.

Fish All Day


FADED – an interest in fishing that threatens to override engagement in all other aspects of camp life.

Fish All Day Every Day


CLIK – a 4-day, 3-night kayaking trip that paddles the same waterways as the Chip Lakes canoe trip.

Chip Lakes IKayaks


ONG-BAK – A 4-day, 3-night rowing trip on the Kennebec River, beginning in Waterville and ending in Bath.

OAR Navigators Going Backwards Along the Kennebec


CAVALRY – the general effort to contain the spread of a stomach virus (commonly knowns as a “barf bug”) within camp.

Clean All Vomit And Locate Remaining Yackers


FEATHERBRAINS – any effort to free birds that have become trapped in camp buildings.

Forcibly Extracting Avian Tenants of Honk and Elsewhere, Result of Bad Radar and Inadequate Navigational Skills


BEARS – in which a camper’s stuff is in such irreparable disarray that it is necessary to remove his bed from the tent in order to better facilitate tent cleanup and reorganization.

Bed Extraction And Reclamation Service

Sarah’s Mountain Adventures Continue…

By Sumner Ford

The first known ascent of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington was in 1642 by Darby Field. He summited the Northeast’s highest peak to prove that Abenaki gods did not live on top of the mountain.  Pine Island’s own Sarah Hunter, along with her husband Jason and their sons, long-time Pine Islanders Caleb and Silas, made the trek up Mt. Washington last spring, but with a far different goal in mind.

In September of 1998, Sarah was asked to join a friend on a mission to summit Mt. Hale in the White Mountains. Cold rain and a tree-covered summit did not inspire Sarah to continue hiking in the Whites.  The only reason she was on the proverbial dull peak was to help her friend toward her goal of hiking the 48 4,000-foot peaks in the White Mountains.

Caleb Hunter’s first summer at PIC was in 2014 and Silas arrived the following year.  Both proved to be “tripping fools,” spending large chunks of the summer out on trips, hiking trips in particular.  They returned home with spectacular tales of time on the trail and a newfound passion.

With both boys at camp, Sarah and Jason decided to see if they could handle the tortuous White Mountains. Sarah immediately caught the hiking bug. The following winter she began bagging peaks in the snow, ice, and cold.  We can only presume that this is because she found hiking in the summer to be too easy.  As her list of summited peaks grew, Sarah realized that she could hike all 48 of the 4,000-foot peaks in the Whites.  The pursuit would bring her to mountains off the beaten path and push her to hike when the weather was less than perfect.  

This past spring, on Father’s Day weekend, Sarah, Jason, Caleb, and Silas pushed to the summit of Mt. Washington, Sarah’s 48th summit, and Sarah became a member of the exclusive 4K Club.

Sarah has not retired from hiking.  She continues to help friends and family in their quests to become 4K Club members, sometimes re-climbing 4,000-footers she has already summited – Sarah has hiked Eisenhower five times!  Sarah is also attempting to complete her New England 67 – a compilation of all the 4,000-foot mountains in New England.  She has bagged 58, and by press time she should have 59 after her trip to Baxter State Park to summit North Brother on January 13.  Both Silas and Caleb have summited nearly 40 of their 67 New England peaks, many of which they climbed on Pine Island trips.

Sarah has inspired us so much that we hope to create a 48 program of our own, attempting to put a camper on every 4,000-foot peak in the Whites sometime soon.