Category Archives: The Pine Needle

Notes from the Trip Locker

By Natalie Burr

I had the privilege of sweating out much of this past summer in the Trip Locker, a space that is often overlooked on a tour of the island but essential to the operation of Pine Island’s trips program. The Trip Locker is located above the kitchen, accessed via a staircase tacked on to the side of the dining hall. Its pitched ceiling and many crawl spaces are papered over with maps of obscure peaks and waterways, sticker labels from countless ten-pound blocks of Cabot cheddar cheese, packing lists and itineraries annotated with the handwriting of generations of Pine Island staff, recipes for the most delectable trail meals, and other esoteric memorabilia that has piled up in the space since the 1990’s. 

Counselors spend many hours in the Trip Locker poring over maps and assessing the shelves of nonperishable foods to plan meals for their upcoming ventures. In the afternoon, when the heat from the kitchen downstairs rises, counselors hunched over their maps and meal plans are cooled only by a feeble floor fan that oscillates in the corner. It may not sound hospitable, but the Trip Locker is a favorite place for many counselors and campers. One is aware of the thousands of boots that have walked out the door under the burden of a heavy pack, only to return muddy, with light packs and tales of trails and rivers to share. 

This year, trips went off without a hitch, in large part due to the incredible dedication and preparedness of counselors. This was no small feat: a typical Pine Island trips program had not run since the 2019 season, so preparing for many trips required additional research. It may seem impossible that over the course of six short weeks (in addition to the myriad ranks achieved and activities undertaken on the island) Pine Islanders might go on so many off-island excursions. Indeed, this summer, campers and counselors collectively hiked and paddled far enough to travel the entire distance of the Appalachian Trail many times over. Some campers went on as many as six or seven trips this season, hiking and paddling over one hundred miles in the course of a single summer while also earning lofty ranks in activities such as canoeing and woodcraft.

This trip season, we returned to the iconic White Mountains of New Hampshire for the first time since 2019. Also for the first time in two summers, campers did multiday hiking trips to Mount Katahdin, sleeping in lean-tos in the glacial basin of the mountain at Chimney Pond, waking up in the dark to sunrise hike Maine’s tallest mountain. In total, the hiking trips sent out this summer put Pine Islanders on 40 (out of 60 total) 4,000-foot peaks in New Hampshire and Maine. 

The trips program saw four exploratory trips go out this year, all of which were a success. One was Moxie Bald, a three-day hybrid canoeing and hiking trip for older boys, in which the group covered a stunning amount of trail, hiking 25 miles in a single day. The trip was led by counselors Alex Sidorsky and Silas Hunter, whose objectives were to determine whether the section of trail would make a good trip in the future, and if so, what were the best campsites and what was the difficulty of the trip. 

The Moxie Bald trippers pose for a photo opp.

This section of the Appalachian Trail crosses few roads in the 35-mile span between the towns of Caratunk and Monson. Pine Islander John Alsop advised on the route, identifying the easiest trail access point at the end of a dusty logging road on the south shore of Bald Mountain Pond. The ten campers and two counselors put in their canoes and paddled up the west side of the pond to link up with the A.T. Moxie Bald Lean-to looks out over the water where the trail meets the pond, but the trippers were not ready to make camp. They took their boats out of the water, got their boots and packs on, and continued further south on the trail, summiting Bald Mountain, and staying at the Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to. Given the hiking prowess of the group, the second day of the trip amounted to 25 miles—a significantly larger area covered than was initially expected. All in one day, the hikers explored the peaks of Bald Mountain and Pleasant Pond Mountain and their many side trails, identified water sources and campsites along the Appalachian Trail, and walked along the shores of Pleasant Pond, Moxie Pond, and finally Bald Mountain Pond, where they spent their last night at the lean-to on the water. In the morning, they canoed back to the same point where they had been dropped off, and returned to camp to report back on the exploratory venture. The consensus is that the trip was well worth running, though maybe as a mid-level difficulty trip (with shortened mileage). 

For the first time in some years, a trip ran to Mount Moosilauke at the southwestern corner of the White Mountains. This trip was for younger boys, and they also reported back that the views at the top of the 4,802-foot tall mountain were well worth the steep climb they faced on the first day. 

Another exploratory trip which ran this summer was the Belgrade Adventure, led by Sophie Effron, Garrett Gellert, and Will Hartley. Instead of enduring a long van ride, this trip departed directly from the shores of Great Pond, where they hiked for several miles on trails adjacent to Pine Island’s mainland area. These trails are maintained by Janetha Benson, a valued neighbor of the camp. While so much of Great Pond has become developed, Pine Island’s mainland is insulated by a corridor of lush, wild forest, thanks to Janetha. The campers and staff traveled on these trails all the way from Great Pond to a campsite tucked away on one of the most scenic parts of Lake Mesalonskee. For day two of the trip, the group returned to Great Pond and paddled in canoes and kayaks across the water to hike Mount Philip, a wave-shaped mountain at the northern tip of the lake. From Mount Philip, they got back in their boats and camped on Crooked Island in Great Pond. The next day, they returned to the island and reported back on this comprehensive tour of the lakes and mountains of the area surrounding Pine Island. 

Belgrade Adventure’s trails and campsites

Junior Whites, a trip similar to Senior Whites but four days long and for younger campers, ran as an exploratory trip this summer. This group, led by Akul Sethi and Lily Lakritz, hiked close to 30 miles of some of the most challenging terrain in just four days, exploring some of the less-visited peaks and campsites in the White Mountains. After climbing over the steep 4,000-foot North and South Twin Mountains, the trip descended past Galehead Hut to stay at 13 Falls Campsite in the heart of Pemigewasset Wilderness. The site is encircled by a perimeter of mountains often hiked as the Pemi Loop—Franconia Ridge on one side, and Mts. Garfield, South Twin, Guyot, and the Bondcliffs on the other—causing 13 Falls to feel deeply remote, far even from the sounds of highways and airplanes. It’s named for the many waterfalls and ice-cold swimming holes that can be found at the site, which is at the junction of Twin Brook and Franconia Brook. Reports from the trip noted that this site was well worth the visit, even though the ascent back up to the ridgeline to stay at Mt. Garfield was steep and challenging. 

The Pemigewasset Wilderness & 13 Falls Tentsite

It was a memorable season for trips, thanks to the intrepid spirit of campers and counselors alike. Where there was the option to hike a little further, wake up earlier and catch sunrise on top of a peak, or drop packs and check out a side trail, Pine Islanders chose the challenging and ultimately more rewarding option. These experiences will help counselors as they pore over plans in the trip locker next season, and these are the adventures we can dream of in the cold winter months.

This piece was originally published in the February 2023 edition of The Pine Needle.

View from the Doctor’s Cabin Porch

by Sumner Ford

I find myself missing boredom. It used to be a common part of my life and often seems like a feature of childhood that necessarily recedes as gray hairs appear. Spending my summers at Pine Island has taught me otherwise. When we consider the camp experience, boredom is not one of the values espoused by Clarence Colby, Dr. Swan, Jun Swan, Monte Ball, or Ben and Emily Swan. Only recently has it come to be seen as a benefit of PIC.  

Pine Island hasn’t changed. For my younger self, it was a place to escape the boredom of a house in the boonies with elderly neighbors, no internet, and a rabbit-ear antenna that occasionally picked up the Saturday morning cartoons. As anyone over 20 knows full well, our world has changed a bit since then. So much is gained with each technological improvement; the generalized drive to consume information during every waking moment seems to be quickly approaching 100% efficiency. While Pine Island changes little from year to year, our world turns on a dime every month.

Not a moment of our lives is wasted, or at least it feels that way. Podcasts on crime, history, news, and sports replace the silence or static of rural car rides—and some people listen at double speed to fit in more! The agitation of waiting in line melts away as those in the queue disappear into the pocket portal that is their smartphone.  

When I return home from camp these days, I find that my readjustment time has doubled. The transition used to be easier. At camp, I’m attuned to the quiet moments when there’s nothing to do but let my mind wander.

Those “dull” moments, in which the only activities are daydreaming and observing, are vital to my happiness at Pine Island, largely because the boredom only lasts for a minute before my mind turns inwards. Without the temptation of a phone, the transition from boredom to contemplation is seamless. Out in the world, it fascinates me to watch people join a line and immediately pull out their phones. What would Pine Island’s activity line be like with phones? Less chaotic, perhaps, but gone too would be the organic interaction, the chance to stare off into space, the time to examine and analyze thoughts.  

In the weeks following camp, I’m acutely aware of the benefits of letting person-to-person interaction replace screen time. Still, the temptation to pick up my phone during a dull moment often overcomes this sort of macro-level understanding. It’s an ongoing project, building structures into my life that force me to leave the phone at home, or simply in my pocket.  

Pine Island doesn’t teach this; we don’t have a “limiting technology” activity, and that’s probably for the best. But in its own subtle way, Pine Island still teaches us all a powerful lesson.  Every year I watch campers, previously terrified of a summer without the latest and greatest game, realize the benefit of boredom, the gift of space, and the joy of relying on others.  

Back home this fall, lost in thought on a hike, I wondered how many anxieties were addressed and great ideas cultivated while kayaking across Great Pond, sitting in a hammock, or waiting in line to enter the dining hall.  How many of those moments would have been lost had a phone, computer, or Bluetooth speaker been available nearby?

Our understanding of boredom is changing as people listen to music while they hike, check scores while in line, and facetime rather than write. As a society, we’ve dismissed so many previously valued activities as inefficient. At Pine Island, we believe giving our minds the space to breathe and contemplate is a perfectly efficient approach, and that boredom—while only a small part of the PIC experience—is most definitely beneficial.

A note from Needlenews the Needlenosed Newshound

Akka Lakka! from Needlenews the Needlenosed Newshound, aka the editor of Pine Island’s annual newspaper: The Pine Needle.  I hope you’re all well and having a great fall.  I’m cranking up to produce another stellar edition of a publication that has been in print for over 100 years, and I’d like to hear from you.

Please email with updates on your life that you’d like to share with the Pine Island community.

If you’d like to submit a story or drawing for consideration, please send that along, too!

All news and submissions must be received by November 24th.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be published in one of the world’s great periodicals!

The Editor, The Pine Needle

Photos and Stories from our Summer

Pine Island’s 120th season was another great one! Our campers earned ranks in their favorite activities; paddled and hiked throughout the remote north woods of New England; produced and acted in riveting Saturday Night Shows; and most importantly, created a community in which each boy’s participation and energy was needed and valued. It was not without challenges, but our unflappable community met each one with grace and good cheer.

For a glimpse into the creative, imaginative, and active lives campers led at Pine Island this summer, we invite you to read the 2022 Mid-Summer Pine Needle, a publication of camper articles, poetry, and artwork. This is the result of a special journalism session that several campers participated in this summer. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

We’ve also compiled some of our favorite photos from the trail and around camp into our 2022 At-a-Glance gallery. Special thanks to the staff, campers, and parents who contributed to this album, including Kiran Dhawan, who took this incredible drone shot, and Kate Skogen, who volunteered her photography skills at the Farewell Ceremony.

“Pine Island Sunset” by Kiran Dhawan 

It was an incredible summer and we’re grateful to our campers for stepping out of their comfort zones to grow, learn, and challenge themselves; to our staff for their creativity, patience, and care; to our volunteers for their valuable time and skills; and to our camp parents for their trust in us. Our season depended on every one of you, and every one of you came through to make it another great summer.

Thank you