Our 2022 Season Is Almost Here

I recently spent a beautiful Saturday on the shore of Bryant Pond learning how to cast a fly rod. About two hours into the lesson, after some frustrating moments—including getting the line tangled in my hair—it started to click. I stopped concentrating on the mechanics of the movement, and got into a rhythm. And for the first time in a while, I felt the excitement that comes with learning a new outdoor skill, and all the opportunities it invites. And I realized this is a small part of what it feels like to be a camper at PIC. 

Each day at Pine Island is a chance to try something new: learn to sail, roll a kayak, swim to the mainland, hit the bullseye, craft a chair, star in a Saturday Night Show… As campers make their way through the ranks of the activities of their choosing, those skills add up. There will be frustrating moments and setbacks, but throughout the summer they’ll make strides in the direction they choose. And in the end, they’ll have far more than a patch in their hand. They’ll have the confidence that only comes from earned achievement. It won’t all be easy, but it will all be worth it. And we’re excited for it to begin.

We’re grateful for all the parents, volunteers, and donors who have made this upcoming season possible, and we look forward to every challenge and success ahead.

All the best,
Sarah Hunter
Communications Director

P.S. When they’re not in activities, our 2022 Pine Islanders will be paddling, hiking, and fishing their way through New England this summer. We’ve shared their tripping options below. If you see them on the trail, please say hello.

Our 2022 Trips

Included in the myraid tasks that consume these last weeks is finalizing our trip schedule. Great care is taken in crafting these expeditions, which range from one-night trips to weeks-long journeys on the trails and waterways of New England. Our campers will fish iconic rivers, backpack through Baxter State Park, hike The Greatest Mountain, traverse the Presidential Range, paddle quiet waters, and navigate class-2 rapids. They’ll maintain a section of the Appalachian Trail, explore tide pools on Whitehead Island, and follow Thoreau’s journey on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. From beginner trips to challenging expeditions, we have something for all of our campers. We provide the options; they pick their adventures. This year, our trip calendar includes:

Beginner Trips

Mt. Washington – 3-day hike up Mt. Washington
Oak Island – 2-day introduction to camping on nearby Oak Island
Saddleback – 3-day hike up Saddleback Mountain
Bald Pate – 3-day hike on the Appalachian Trail
Bigelow – 3-day hike on Mt. Bigelow
Moosilauke – 3-day hike on Mt. Moosilauke
Kennessassabackscot – 3-day paddle from the Kennebec to Swan Island, then the Sasanoa, Back, and Sheepscot Rivers to Wiscasset

Intermediate Trips

Cliffhanger – 4-day hike in the White Mountains from Ethan Pond to the Kangamangus Highway including Mt. Guyot and Mt. Bond
West Branch – 4-day canoe trip on the West Branch of the Penobscot River
Northern Peaks – 4-day hike on the Appalachian Trail following the Presidential Peaks north of Mt. Washington
Flag Big Flag – 4-day adventure in the War Yacht, a 28-foot canoe that can be paddled or sailed. Campers paddle on Flagstaff Lake to the base of Mt. Bigelow. They ascend Mt. Bigelow, spend one night on the mountain, and then paddle back the length of Flagstaff Lake.
Lafayette’s March – 5-day hike in the Pemigewasset Wilderness region of the White Mountains
Carter-Moriah – 4-day hike in the White Mountains for intermediate hikers
Moose River – 4-day canoe trip along a rare and scenic loop route. Campers begin on Attean Pond, portage up to Holeb Pond and Holeb Stream (which can run in either direction depending on rainfall) and then descend the Moose River. 
Chip Lakes – 4-day canoe on the Chiputneticook Lakes, the headwaters of the Saint Croix River

Advanced Trips

Senior Katahdin – 5-day hike through Baxter State Park and up Maine’s Greatest Mountain
Old Speck – 4-day hike following the Appalachian Trail through the famous Mahoosuc Notch
ONG-BAK (O.A.R. Navigators Going Backward Along the Kennebec) – 4-day rowing trip from Waterville to Bath Iron Works
Senior Whites – 7-day hike from Franconia Notch to Pinkham Notch
Senior Canoe – 6-day paddle on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway
St. Croix – 4-day canoe adventure on the St. Croix River
ONGBOSS – 4-day rowing trip on the Saco River from Swans Falls to Hiram in dories

For Everyone

ATC Hawg – 3-day work trip clearing the 5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail from Pierce Pond to the Kennebec River (a PIC tradition since the 1950s)
I.P.F.D. (Indian Pond Fishing Derby) – 3-day fishing trip on Indian Pond and the east outlet of the Kennebec River. Great spot for salmon, brook trout, lake trout, and bass.
Big Eddy – Designed and led by Doug Faherty, parent of long-time Pine Islander Jack Faherty, this 3-day trip takes campers to the “Big Eddy” on the Penobscot River. Pine Islanders have caught many brook trout and salmon on this trip, including a 20+” salmon that had onlookers ogling.
Whitehead Island – 4-day trip on PIC’s saltwater outpost to explore the rocky shoreline, learn about the biology of the large intertidal zone, play games, learn knot-tying, dig for clams, and search for other wild edibles under the expert guidance of our Whitehead program director.
Maine Woodsman and Junior Maine Woodsman certification program – a 3-day trip at Pine Island’s Norridgewock camp site. Before leaving, campers create a meal plan and prepare their own gear for the trip. At the camp site, they construct their own sleeping shelters, cook all the food themselves, and pass numerous examinations in essential camping skills.

Expedition Camp Schedule

Twelve of our oldest campers (15- and 16-year-olds) have signed on to Expedition Camp – our rigorous and rewarding outdoor leadership training program. Led by two experienced counselors, Expedition Campers train for and complete two long camping trips – a canoe trip on the Penobscot, Allagash and St. John Rivers and a hike on Vermont’s Long Trail. The campers plan these trips and take turns in the leadership role while out on the trail. Here’s the outline of their summer:

June 24: Arrive!
June 25-28: Orientation, practice canoeing & pre-trip at PIC
June 29-July 1: Wilderness First Aid course at Whitehead Island
July 2-13: Canoe trip on the Penobscot, Allagash and St. John Rivers
July 14: R&R
July 15-16: Saturday Night Show, Club Honk, Camp Picture, Regatta
July 17-18: Pre-trip for the Long Trail
July 19-31: Backpack on Vermont’s Long Trail
August 1-2: R&R
August 3-5: King’s Game
August 6: Packing Day
August 7: Farewell 

Club Honk ’21 Heads Outdoors

By Corinne Alsop

After a year apart, Club Honk was a reminder of the importance of music, performance, and tradition at Pine Island Camp.

Early one morning near the midpoint of the 2021 Pine Island season on the day of Camp Picture, Club Honk, and the Regatta, the camp vans departed from the Whitehead boat landing full of campers and staff who were in the middle of their week’s stay on Whitehead Island. The Pine Islanders on their way from Whitehead would be staying only through the end of the day, but what a day it would be! Because of Covid protocols, this would be the first time the camp community would all convene in one place this summer.

Despite a morning rain squall, when the time came to head up to the Honk lawn for the show, the sun was shining, the camp was fed, and the island was freshly cleaned by the squall. Campers and staff, greeted by waiters in their usual silly garb pulled from the costume box, took their seats in the outdoor amphitheater the LTIPs had spent the morning arranging. Chairs and benches fanned out from the back porch of Honk Hall across the entire lawn. Streamers stretched out from the eaves of Honk to the trees that surround the lawn. Nalgenes, strung like multi-colored lanterns, swung lightly in the cooling western breeze. The osprey, perched in her nest, watched as the first performers took the stage. “It feels like a music festival. More fun than Coachella!” said Madison Olds, distinguished Pine Island Head Cook. 

Campers took the lead in this year’s show. The show began with “Club Honk,” a rewrite of “Roxanne” by the Police, led by Kathy Flores and Corinne Alsop, and was followed by a stunning rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House,” performed by Arlo, Wyatt, Charlie, Santi Costa Peuser, Nat Burr, and Matthew Hawkins. Daniel once again thrilled the audience with his beautiful voice as he performed in the waning light. George Baldwin, swimming instructor and accomplished singer, belted out an impressive medley of his favorite country songs. David Effron showcased an original composition entitled “Way of the Lake.” The Club Honk favorite, “Piano Man,” was taken on by Wyatt and Charlie alongside Matthew Hawkins. 

Not only were the acts well rehearsed and excellently executed, but the nature of the outdoor venue made the audio and visual experience better in a big way. Singers and instrumentalists were able to belt it out without any overwhelming reverb or other auditory interference — the music wafted over the audience with ease. Oftentimes, because Club Honk takes place in the middle of July, the event can get uncomfortably hot and sweaty in the dim light of the indoor stage. Outside, with the sun setting gently over the Kennebec Highlands, the air stirred with passing lake breezes and the audience was continually cooled and comfortable. 

Once the Hippy Cowboys took the stage to close the show, the audience couldn’t help but leap to their feet and begin dancing around. Outside, there was plenty of room to move chairs aside and cheer and dance to the Hippys’ rockin’ set as a community, all together at last, celebrated reaching the halfway point in the summer with great success. After a year apart, Club Honk was a reminder of the importance of music, performance, and tradition at Pine Island Camp. 

The ageless Hippy Cowboys and their fans rock out at Honkapalooza

This piece was originally published in the February 2022 edition of The Pine Needle.

Avian Observations: A Loon Is Born

By Natalie Burr

Pine Islanders are treated each summer to a rotating cast of wildlife: ospreys nesting atop the Island’s tallest pine; pike and bass idling in the clear waters of Great Pond; a glimpse of a moose while paddling a quiet stream in Maine’s north woods. Bald eagles frequently soar low over the woodcraft area, hummingbirds hover at the touchmenots, and ducklings scoot nervously around the ‘Stock dock. The most reliable and ubiquitous of all, however, are the loons. Their inky silhouettes are a constant contrast against the sun blinking brightly off of Great Pond, and their haunting calls echo most mornings and evenings. On the third Saturday in July for the past three decades, Pine Islanders, led by Emily Swan, have participated in the Audubon Society’s Annual Loon Count, gathering important data to help preserve Maine’s loon populations. Many Pine Islanders, when asked what it’s like at camp, will describe falling asleep to the calls of loons on Great Pond. I remember being told that loons are huge — closer in size to a dog than a cat — and then going in for my first One Hundred Percent Dip and seeing a loon lurking a bit too close to the dock for my liking. Since then, I have grown to love these avian members of the Pine Island community.

Photo credit | Miles Frank

For many years, families of loons have nested on the Second Island, fishing and rearing their chicks between the island and the mainland. Loons are seldom seen on land around Pine Island and the nest on the Second Island is only a few feet from the water’s edge. Loons’ feet are located far back on their bodies, making it difficult for them to maneuver on land — they spend most of their time on and around water. Male and female loons build their nests together and take turns incubating their eggs for about a month until their chicks are hatched. In summers past, being privy to loon life has provided harsh lessons on nature red in tooth and claw, but this summer, Pine Islanders were afforded a unique glimpse of a loon family’s domestic bliss. During the first week of camp, the resident loon pair inhabiting the Second Island proudly displayed their newborn chick — a tiny dark brown ball of fluff riding shyly atop its parents’ backs. When any baby birds are present on the island, the camp community quickly adopts a maternal instinct: campers and counselors proudly and protectively kept tabs on the loon chick over the course of the summer, stopping to peer through binoculars as the family floated by the kitchen dock. When a few days passed without a sighting we reminded ourselves not to grow too attached. 

While at times we worried about the loon chick’s whereabouts, there were few doubts about whether it was growing fast enough. By the time we enjoyed “Club Honk” midway through the summer, the loon chick was swimming on its own, trailing closely behind its parents. Its downy brown fluff had molted away to its second coat of down feathers (loons are one of the few groups of birds to molt into a second down coat before their adult plumage), its beak grew long, and by the King’s Game the chick was calling to its parents in a voice that squeaked, honked, and cracked with each awkward adolescent effort.

By the time campers left for the season, the loon chick had molted again and was now bluish gray with a white chest and neck. It made frequent trips between the island and the mainland, diving beneath the lake’s surface on its own for fish. Miles and I stayed on as the fall crew into September, and we continued to observe priceless moments, such as one loon parent disappearing underwater for a minute to catch a fish just off the island’s shore, then calling the chick over to transfer the meal in its beak to its offspring in a tender exchange. Unlike other birds, loons have bones that are solid instead of hollow, enablingthem to be less buoyant and better divers. They can remain underwater for 90 seconds, their hearts slowing down to conserve oxygen on long dives.

Though the chick was just over three months old, it was quickly approaching its parents in size. Fly fishermen on Pine Island will be dismayed to learn that two loon parents and two chicks will eat roughly half a ton of fish over a 15-week period! Despite this astonishing figure, no Pine Island fly fishermen complained of a depleted lake this summer. In fact, loons are important members of Great Pond’s ecosystem. 

By October, the loon chick and its parents were sometimes difficult to tell apart immediately. The chick’s highpitched call and sometimes strange behavior were key indicators. For a week or two, the chick would pull its black, webbed foot out of the water and waggle it around in the air for a few seconds. We speculated that it was perhaps waving at us as we made our daily commute from the mainland to the island to put in a day’s work. The foot-waggling continued, and we became worried that the loon chick required the attention of an avian podiatrist. Our fears were quelled when we learned that adolescent loons have been observed engaging in footwaggling behavior to combat some of the itchiness that comes with the molting of down feathers for adult plumage. 

The loon chick’s calls continued to serve as the soundtrack to increasingly crisp days of fall work. The constant creak of crickets and katydids fell silent, replaced by the formidable hoots of barred owls. The osprey’s nest sat vacant for a period before a bald eagle moved in. The maples, oaks, and birches along the lakeshore burned fiery colors before dropping their leaves. The loon chick fished alone, its parents having already flown to the coast. 

In the fall, adult loons meet up in large groups (a group of loons is called an ‘asylum,’ a name derived from the phrase ‘crazy as a loon’) and fly to the coast to spend the winter on waters that are unfrozen and fishable. While the loons on Great Pond have a shorter commute, inland loons can travel great distances in short periods of time. One asylum of loons was recorded traveling 670 miles in a 24-hour period, and flying as fast as 70 miles per hour. Parents leave their chicks at around 12 weeks, and juvenile loons continue to grow and fish on their own for a few more weeks before meeting up with other yearling loons in the area and flying to the coast together, where they remain for several years until they are ready to return to the lakes to have chicks of their own. 

In mid-November, on a cold but cloudless and calm day, Miles was standing at the edge of the water looking out at the lake when he called me over to look at the loon chick, now hardly a chick except for its stony coloring. The bird we had observed all summer was calling to another bird — also grayish blue, a bit smaller in stature — a juvenile loon we hadn’t seen before. The two crooned nervously, gliding closer along the lake’s glassy surface. We watched as their two paths met, feeling like parents dropping their child off at their first day of kindergarten. The two loons paddled together along the shore of the mainland for some time, getting acquainted, before the newcomer disappeared from our view. We stood for a while on the edge of the water, which showed early signs of freezing, watching the loon, trying to imagine the journey it would soon embark on, laughing at the mingling feelings of pride and relief that our bird had made a friend. 

Winter has now settled over Great Pond, and Belgrade Lakes saw its first snow over the Thanksgiving holiday. The loon chick will not return to Great Pond next spring, but in a few years, we hope to see it again, nesting in the brush on the second island.

Changing of the Guard at Pine Island’s Whitehead Program

2022 will be the first Pine Island season in 20 years that Anne Stires will not be the Whitehead Director. Anne’s ability to share with campers and counselors her deep appreciation for one of the truly special places on earth has been a tremendous asset to the camp. Anne was always teaching but Whitehead never felt like school, and hundreds of boys and counselors benefited from her leadership. Anne’s experiences at Whitehead led her to become a renowned expert in the field of place-based education and she is much in demand these days. Our sincere thanks go out to Anne and we’re pleased to introduce her successor, Sam Hecklau, also a skilled teacher and Anne’s assistant for two summers.

Sam Hecklau grew up in the small town of Clinton in Upstate New York, where he spent much of his free time playing in the woods and creeks that ran behind his house – swimming, building forts, climbing trees, fishing, and generally enjoying what nature had to offer. Sam’s enjoyment and appreciation of the outdoors developed into a passion for activities such as hiking, camping, photography, sculpture, fly fishing, and skiing. It was also one of the factors that led him to attend St. Lawrence University. While at St. Lawrence, Sam studied geology and visual art and became a certified guide for the school’s Outdoor Program and a trip leader for the Outing Club. St. Lawrence is also where Sam met a fine gentleman from Woodstock, VT who shared his sense of adventure, a quick wit, and a love for pursuing creative ideas. Over the course of many shared skiing, fishing, canoeing, and camping outings with Sumner Ford, a lasting friendship developed.

Following his graduation from St. Lawrence—and inspiration from Sumner—Sam spent his first summer at Pine Island in 2016. He returned in 2018 as the assistant director of Pine Island’s program at Whitehead Island. There he worked alongside veteran director Anne Stires, learning the details of the Whitehead program and skills of an outdoor educator. The winds and water of the Maine coast pulled Sam back to Whitehead in 2021, where he worked directly with Anne as the co-director of the program. That summer marked the transfer of decades of Whitehead knowledge and directorship from Anne to Sam.

During the rest of the year, Sam works as a place-based educator in Richmond, Vermont, where he spreads PIC values by imbuing students with the importance of independence coupled with a concern for others, honesty, generosity, a sense of humor, and the ability to find all the joy life has to offer. His free time is spent recreating and traveling among the mountains, rivers, and lakes of the Northeast.

Sam Hecklau