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How should parents explore sending a son to Pathfinder?

Summer fun

Start with this website. It contains good basic information and photos about the location, program and culture of Pathfinder. Pathfinder is an Accredited Member of the Ontario Camping Association, and is listed on their website www.ontariocamps.ca. As one of the founding members of OCA, Pathfinder conforms to hundreds of Standards ensuring health, safety, and professional practice in camping.

Next, give the Director Mike Sladden a phone call or email (585.249.0716 or mike@camppathfinder.com) to chat about Camp and get a list of current camp parents who are happy to talk to prospective parents about the Pathfinder experience. Then, plan to attend one of Pathfinder's open house events this winter. These informal gatherings are held throughout the northeast. Some parents visit Pathfinder with their sons and tour the Island to see it in action during the summer. Give us some advance notice so we can welcome you during the camping season.

You can view and download enrollment information from this site, or request a package by mail from Camp's winter office in Rochester, NY. View the Pathfinder Enroll Form ...

What is unique about the Pathfinder culture?

Pathfinder was established in 1914, and has been in continuous operation ever since. Founders William Bennett and Franklin Gray were educators who wished to give boys a living and learning experience in the north woods to counterbalance the rigors of the school year and urban life. Apart from the founders, Pathfinder's owners have always been men who attended and worked at the Camp. Today, like others before them, Sladds and Glenn are former campers, counselors, headmen, alumni volunteers and parents. 

This 'homegrown' tradition is also observed regarding the Staff: the vast majority are young men who worked their way up the ranks at Pathfinder, under the supervision of their Staff mentors, who were themselves influenced and taught by Pathfinder counselors a generation before.

In 2013, Pathfinder celebrated 100 summers of outstanding camping and canoe tripping from its home island on Source Lake in Algonquin Park. With this long history, and the richness of world famous Algonquin Park to call home, Pathfinder has been successful by retaining its founding traditions: a homegrown Staff giving personal attention to campers, maintaining a small enrollment with a focus on wilderness canoe trips, and keeping the camp experience rustic, without modern technology and its distractions. A Pathfinder summer is meant to fuel a boy's experience of emerging independence and self-reliance, of wonderful friendships enriched by shared adventures and challenges, and one of personal connection to simple living in an incomparable natural environment.

Pathfinder alumni are extremely loyal and active on the Camp's behalf. The most active alumni are Senior Staff members serving for years as directors of the camp. Other alumni serve monthly rotations each summer as guests in residence during the sessions. Still other alumni administer a non-profit scholarship fund to aid needy families hoping to send a son to Pathfinder. Alumni donate their time and professional expertise to Camp in myriad areas. And alumni, who know the Pathfinder culture best, send their sons and grandsons to Pathfinder, and refer wonderful families to the camp so more sons can experience Pathfinder in their lives.

Who are the Staff members at Pathfinder?

During a camp session, there are 75 or more Staff members at Pathfinder, including directors and counselors. Most of the Staff are guys who themselves attended Pathfinder and know what it's like to be a Camper in the program, and on the Pathfinder canoe trips.

Senior Staff members return to camp each summer from their professional lives as educators, guidance counselors, and outdoor sports professionals. The Pathfinder Trip Staff have been trained from camper age in the arts and skills of back country canoe travel. They have lived the 'Pathfinder Way,' and can be positive leaders and role models to their kids. Pathfinder counselors undergo a 3-year apprenticeship and several important skills certifications before they can lead trips. They possess expert knowledge of Algonquin Park and its wildlife, and they are trained and certified in wilderness first aid, lifesaving, and canoeing.

The Staff is guided by the owners Glenn Arthurs and Mike Sladden, with co-owner 'Sladds' as fulltime Camp Director. The assistant directors, tripping director and age-group supervisors average 10 years each at Pathfinder. They lead a team of counselors, ages 17-70. Our in-camp Staff of swim and activities instructors is trained and certified in their specialties. Each year, the Pathfinder CIT Leaders Program trains a small group of invited age-16 campers toward a role on the Staff. All of the Staff are thoroughly vetted and background checked personally by the Director.

What is the staff-to-camper ratio?

Pathfinder maintains a 1:2 ratio of staff to campers. Of the 75 active Staff members, virtually all are involved personally in instruction and supervision of campers on a daily basis. For programs in-camp, the ratio will vary depending on the activity; say, from 1:1 to 1:8. On canoe trips, the ratio remains 1:2 at all times.

How many campers are at Pathfinder?

There are 105-110 campers at Pathfinder in a given session. In some years, Pathfinder admits a small extra number of campers in response to demand. Ages 7-8 and 9-10 are the Mic Mac and Chippewa tribes - capacity 24 campers. Ages 11-12 are the Cree tribe - capacity 38-50 campers. Ages 13-14 are the Ottawa tribe - capacity 38-45 campers. Age 15-16 is the AA tribe - capacity 22 campers.

Where do the campers come from?

Pathfinder campers come from 14 US states, 4 provinces of Canada, and several overseas countries. From 2004-2011, boys attended from Great Britain, France, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, Singapore, China and Mexico. The majority of boys are from western New York State and southern Ontario Province. A number of boys attend from Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Washington and California.

What are the living arrangements on the Island?

Mic Macs and Chippewas live in cabins on the southern shoreline. There are 6-8 campers in a cabin living with 3 counselors. An Area Supervisor and Mic-Chipp director oversee the tribe. Cree, Ottawa and AA campers live 3 boys and a counselor each in one of 30 wood and canvas tent platforms lining the waterfront and climbing the forested hill. An Area Supervisor is in charge of each tribe. Older Senior Staff, female counselors, and married staff members live in private staff cabins dotted along the forested trails. Our Registered Nurse lives fulltime in the Camp Infirmary, and the Owners have cabins along the northwest shoreline, sharing the Pathfinder tradition of simple living without electricity, bathrooms or running water in the accommodation.

The entire Camp community eats meals together, family style, in the large pine Dining Hall, where our food is scratch-made by a chef staff of five professionals.

How does the Director organize Camper supervision?

Pathfinder Campers are supervised by adult staff at all times. Importantly, some of the Campers' in-camp time is self-directed.

On canoe trips, a Headman is the lead guide and counselor. He is a minimum of age 19 with a year of college experience, and has a demonstrated history of canoe tripping skills with Pathfinder. He has the most advanced outdoor leadership certifications and the greatest back country experience. His assistants are a Second Man and a Third Man, counselors ages 16-18 who are trained in the Pathfinder program. The typical Pathfinder canoe trip is 9 men, including 6 Campers and 3 Staff. At times, 4 Campers travel with 2 Staff. Several AA trips take long journeys in the far north with 8 Campers and 4 Staff.

In camp, the counselors live with the Campers in a 1:3 ratio. Area supervisors and assistant directors supervise the living arrangements and daily needs of boys and counselors in four clusters arranged by age group: Mic-Macs ages 7-8, Chippewas ages 9-10; Crees ages 11-12; Ottawas ages 13-14, and AAs ages 15-16.

What are the activities? What is the daily program like?

Pathfinder's core activities are known as the Pillars. They include Canoe Tripping, Swimming/Aquatics, Paddling, Earth Lore, and Ropes-Challenge. Emphasis is placed on individual instruction in these Pillars, and boys progress year to year in their knowledge, confidence and expertise.

Supporting activities include: kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, archery, arts and crafts, and general athletics including basketball, volleyball, soccer and softball, tetherball, disc golf.

The daily program in-camp begins as assigned pillars and sports morning and afternoon, building core abilities in all the boys. Soon a camp day becomes a mix of structure and choice. The Camp gathers for morning Flag Pole and Breakfast at 8:20 am. Morning periods are one hour and a quarter each. These are assigned activities such as swimming and ropes, or canoeing and earth lore. Small groups of boys in one age group attend these assigned periods, and hone their skills.

After lunch at 1:00 pm and a rest hour, boys have their choice of favorite "optionals", and often use their choice time to work toward advanced levels in a particular activity they love.

Swimming and bathing are daily rituals at camp. Free swims are generally in the afternoon and evening. Supervised soap baths are enjoyed after all-day treks, any canoe trip, and on Sundays prior to Chapel.

Each evening after supper, the entire camp gathers for the Evening Program. Ages 7-70 share a contest, game, or Pathfinder tradition. These can be any one of a number of Pathfinder favorites, including Capture the Flag games, relay race contests, all-camp dodgeball fests, free time on the lake in canoes and kayaks, council fires, trip reports and award presentations, camp movies in the Rec. Lodge, or all-island scavenger hunts.

Call to quarters is at 9:00 pm. The younger campers are in bed shortly after, and the older boys are 'lights out' at 10:00 pm each night.

View an example of the Daily Programme >>

What's the food like?

Pathfinder food is, by Camper acclaim, fantastic! It is homemade on the Island by a chef staff, led by Head Chef Fernanda Muniz Ugalde, or crafted on the trip trail by the Headmen. Our guys are hungry! Something about the northern air, and days spent paddling, portaging, climbing, swimming and playing in Algonquin Park. Luckily for everyone, food is a high priority at Camp, with a lot of wholesome, nutritious fare fueling the Pathfinder season.

Pathfinder's chef staff prepare fresh meals daily on the Island. All the delicious ingredients are brought by water to three times weekly the island. Our own Baker Marie Eve Morin takes care of the celebrated breads and desserts. These boys can eat tremendous quantities of food! The menu is home cooking, served family style in the Dining Hall at tables of six campers and two counselors. Special Sunday dinners include roast beef and turkey dinners with a special dessert. Awards banquets wrap up each session, famous for the menu and dessert tables. Pathfinder serves whole grains and places an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and real fruit juices. Vegetarian meals and special accommodations for dietary restrictions are provided. Pathfinder has a meal plan for nut-allergic campers who are able to self-manage with adult supervision. Parents of nut-allergic campers should check with the Camp Director before enrolling to ensure we are able to take care of the Camper's needs.

On canoe trips, the Headmen take pride in their open fire cooking. If you can pack it, they can use it to cook up a tripper's feast. Some freeze-dried trip food is used on very long trips, but a great deal of Pathfinder trip food is fresh and staple foods. Steaks are often packed for the first night on the trail. Fajitas and other wraps are popular. Pasta and rice meals with custom sauces are always a hit. Harvest Crunch cereal, eggs, bagels, cheese and Peameal bacon is a camper favorite on trips. Fresh vegetables and potatoes are worth portaging for the flavor around the camp fire. Pizza, beef stroganoff, marinara, spinachee and alfredo pastas, chimichangas and vegetarian chili are trip favorites as well. Trout and small-mouth Bass are a special treat. Pathifner uses traditional bannock mix for everything from trip bread to cinnamon rolls and fresh tuna-cheese calzones. Pathfinder trip fudge is unforgettable, though only a handful of Headmen can still make the original recipe.

What are the health/safety practices at Pathfinder?

Camp practices are in accordance with our accreditation by the Ontario Camps Association, and with health, hygiene and safety laws of Ontario and Canada.

Pathfinder maintains an Infirmary on the island, with a fulltime Nurse, and a full-time on-call consulting physician in the local community. Huntsville Memorial Hospital is our local top-notch facility. The regional EMS system ensures professional response to health emergencies in Algonquin Park. The Director, all Headmen, and key Senior Staff members are certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR). All the Trip Staff are Red Cross or NLS certified lifeguards and certified ORCA paddlers. Pathfinder has long-established fire and emergency procedures. The entire camp drills in these procedures when a new session begins. The Trip Staff are highly trained, and the guides are capable of handling a variety of emergencies on the trail. A number of Pathfinder trips, in fact, have rendered assistance to other parties while in the Algonquin interior. For details on Pathfinder's safety practices, please contact Mike Sladden directly.

What are policies on phone calls, visits, mail, care packages?

At Pathfinder, parents are welcome to phone their children, but Campers do not phone out. We advise parents to use their best judgment when considering a call to their Camper. Sometimes early or excessive calls from home can tend to derail a Camper's hard-won sense of independence. Of course, in cases when the Director recognizes the need, Campers and parents are put in touch by phone. Parents are always encouraged to call the office to get the latest on their Camper from Mary or Sladds.

Old fashioned 'Snail Mail' remains an important tradition at Pathfinder. In fact, a Camper's ticket to Sunday dinner is a letter written to mom or dad. The counselors help the younger Campers write letters home and read letters from home. What could be more welcome to a Camper than a newsy letter from home? Many parents have sent their first letter to camp before the kids are even on the bus. Canada Post can take a while to reach Algonquin Park, so parents are encouraged to write early and often! It is also possible to email or fax your letters.

Pathfinder does not have visiting days for parents per se, but encourages parents to personally drop off or pick up their sons. These session change days are virtual parent visiting days. Parents tour the Island, meet the Staff, and chat with the directors. Boys attending Camp for the full season often have their parents visit during the mid-season changeover, to whisk them away for hot showers and a couple of town meals.

Care packages are not encouraged. Sending candy and food to camp tends to attract animals to the tents as well as sore feelings if any Campers feel left out. Please plan to send magazines, cards, comics, etc. and avoid treats and food items. If a food package arrives, the office will dole out small amounts during the session, to be shared among tent mates.

Technology is extremely limited at Pathfinder by design. Campers who bring iPods, cell phones, game machines or other devices on their travel to Camp will have their items locked in the camp safe during the session.

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