In Their Own Words

Enclosed is our 2004 Pathfinder enrollment. I have been remiss for not writing earlier to thank you, Glenn, and the entire Pathfinder 'family' for all that you do. As we come to know Pathfinder we understand many of its unique characteristics that make it an ideal place for our son. His time spent there has had a very discernable and very positive impact on his life. We feel very fortunate to have the privilege and the opportunity to send him there.

Mr. B. Hickey
Chicago, IL


A College Essay - Tom Hadala 2006

Thomas F. Hadala, Jr.                                            7/26/06        

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
We look out from the train as it comes to a crawl at two in the morning on the edge of the abandoned town of Peterbell, beginning this unforgettable journey into the Canadian wilderness.  We throw our packs and canoes from the slowly moving boxcar onto the steep gravel embankment and watch them slide down into the darkness along the Missinaibi River. As the engines roar and the air horn blasts, together we jump off the accelerating train and slide down to where the now drenched packs lay.  Aware of my responsibility for the others, I turn on my flashlight and peer through the pouring rain to account for everyone as the train speeds away.  It’s just the nine of us here now, miles from civilization.  In under a month’s time, we must travel over four hundred miles to James Bay, and meet at the last train stop of the famous Polar Bear Express.

While wilderness canoe tripping, I can forget about my iPod and cell phone.  I must remember to pack the axe, dehydrated food, map and other necessities as I have done so many times before over the past seven years.  I feel confident.  I bring what I need to survive, but only what I’m willing to carry.  Up here, if you forget it, you do without it, or improvise.  Calling home for additional provisions is not an option.

I deftly leap into the cedar canvas canoe, push off from the rocky shore, place my wooden paddle into the raging current, and with each powerful and deliberate stroke I gaze at the tree tops growing shorter and shorter. I watch the jagged and potentially deadly rocks go zooming past as my bowman and I begin to drop over a four-foot ledge into the class three rapids.  Water rushes into our canoe as the bow crashes below the surface, drenching us from head to toe with the icy water.

My bowman and I hold our breath as we jump out of the canoe just before reaching the edge of the thirty-foot waterfall.  We breathe a sigh of relief, splash cold river water on our faces, admire the distance just paddled, rest, and prepare ourselves for the two-kilometer portage ahead.

I secure the fifty-pound pack on my back, flip the even heavier canoe above my head, and begin the challenging hike.  I’m trudging along, confident I will eventually get there.  Keeping a wary eye open for stray bears, I concentrate on the various bird melodies and listen to the crackling of twigs beneath my feet to take my mind off the canoe thwart digging into my neck.
Arriving at the next navigable location on the river, we prepare a campsite as the sun begins to set behind the tree line.  The tents are set up, and the fire is lit for dinner, but we are too tired to cook.  The moon rises as the eerie cry of the loon echoes throughout the river basin.  Huddled around the crackling campfire, comforted by its soothing warmth, my friends and I tell our most revealing secrets as we develop our life long friendships.
I slip into my sleeping bag and begin to recap the strenuous day.  I realize I have developed self-reliance, individual leadership, the ability to cope with adverse conditions, and most importantly, team cooperation.  All of a sudden it’s morning.  We quickly break camp and prepare, much as in the real world, for the arduous and unknown adventures that lie ahead.

“Remembering Camp Pathfinder, 1940s”

On a whim recently I stuck "Camp Pathfinder" in a Google search and found the web site.

First, its a very good site...

But secondly it was very satisfying to see that Pathfinder is still there.......  !!

I was a camper, Chippewa if I remember correctly, way back in 1940 and 1941and remember Chief Norton, and "Tick" very well...  I was from Buffalo back then, now live in Maine.. and also remember taking the train to camp as it stopped in Buffalo and had the Rochester campers already aboard.  We all had blue shirts with Pathfinder in red above the pockets back then.... got the clothes at Sibley, Lindsay and Curr in Rochester..

Learned to swim at Pathfinder.... my grandfather had told me he would get me a sailboat as soon as I did... great incentive.. but probably the reason I was at Pathfinder for only two summers.  The boat ended up being a 10' Peterborough sailing dinghy exactly like one of the two at Pathfinder in those days. I had that boat on Lake Erie until 1953 when I graduated from Hobart College and headed for the US Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Sold it to a friend....

I was a dedicated fisherman even way back then, and had brought my lake trout wire line deep trolling rig to camp with me... caught quite a few  lakers in Source Lake while there.  I remember that the camp cook was only too glad to serve them, too, along with batches of frogs legs we managed to catch on the old floating brush pile.

The one trip I most remember included Opeongo, Burnt Island, and I seem to remember a lake off the western upper end of Opeongo that might have been called Green? At any rate, the color of the water was close to that and perfectly clear.  Didn't know what fish there might be in it but quickly found lots of smallmouth bass.  Had a good supper that night...

Enjoyed reading through the reports, comments etc. and glad you are still going strong.  I had lots of outdoor exposure and experience before getting to Pathfinder as a result of spending time from four years of age on up at my grandfathers camp on Pythonga Lake in Quebec (that's why I knew how to catch lake trout) but learned a great deal there, and look back on that time with fondness.

I went on to the world of work, and ended up the Orvis Company in Manchester, VT for about 12 years which was great for a fly fisherman, and ended up going back to school at age 60 and getting a Masters in Counseling at the University of New Hampshire, where I worked as a career counselor until 2002 when I retired.

I'm doing a bit of woodworking these days, and of course fishing, and at going on 74 years and in pretty good health expect at least a few more good years. I keep a web site going that you might enjoy looking at, its at:

Anyway, enough of an old man's ramblings, just wanted to let you know how glad I was to find that Pathfinder's still there and looking good.....

Bill Cass

That old brush pile was something....  If it is long gone or no one else remembers it, it was along the south shore of the island and consisted of three at least, maybe four huge logs hooked together at their ends to make a floating frame.  If memory serves me well, boards had been laid on top of the logs to serve as a walkway. Into this was dumped all the cuttings and clearings of brush  and wood, to allow them to deteriorate and sink to the bottom. The frame logs were plenty big enough for 9 and 10 year old boys to step on and still stay afloat.  The bullfrog population was huge, both in numbers and in size of each frog. While the food in the mess hall was excellent, there were a couple of us who had tasted frogs legs in the past, which is what prompted the foraging on the brush pile once the frogs were discovered.  I am sure that this was not officially viewed as a desirable or encouraged use of camper's spare time, but we sure learned how to catch bullfrogs.

Hard to believe that was 63 years ago or thereabouts...

Mike Smith 1960s Remembrances

Mike Smith remembrance
Pathfinder 1960s

I remember:

The can pits …

Walloping in the lake …

Getting sick from the Brent sewage near our Cedar Lake camp site …

Seeing my first partial eclipse, July 20, 1963, on Bonfield-Dickson …

Hearing wolves on Lavielle ...

The moose that followed people on the camp road …

Being the only head tripper that year to have his permit checked at Canoe Lake ...

Seeing a 12-foot Old Town with the missing bow covered by plastic. A train hit it.
The canoe made it down the Barron River ...

“Fat Man’s” Portage misery in Temagami …

Having the whole trip watch me yell at a non-existent bear from my tent, my antics clearly visible due to a flashlight. One big practical joke. …

Whistling the theme from “Bridge on the River Kwai,” walking into South River Village.
Carrying 150 lbs. on the Tim River when one of my campers couldn’t (1967).
When the Canadian flag flew upside down accidentally. …

Bill Swift’s laugh. I babysat for him New Year’s Eve 1962-63. That dates me …

Paddling up to Porky Point on the final night of a trip. We were ¼ mile off the dining hall when everybody sat down. What a racket …

Bob Roggow going into the Canoe Lake grille and saying, “I want 3 raw hot dogs.” As the young woman put them on the grille, he said, “I want them raw.” He muttered a “hmmph,” picked them up, and walked out. Not sure what he did with them …

Breaking into a cabin on a horribly rainy day coming up from Welcome L. The next morning the owners showed up. Not sure how Sully dealt with it. Don’t think Roy S. Thrall was too happy …

Lot of memories. Think I’ll look into coming up next year!

Lt. Ted Hubbard Remembers Pathfinder

What Camp Pathfinder Means to Me
Ted Hubbard, 2007

    Camp Pathfinder is many things to many different people.  To some it is just a summer camp for boys, and others a wilderness experience of difficulty but also of lasting friendship.  To me, it is where I grew up.  When I look back on my life as I developed into who I am today, Pathfinder stands out as the defining experience that helped me grow the most.  In my ten summers as a camper and staff on the lakes and rivers of Algonquin Park I learned more about camaraderie, courage, and dedication to goals than I could have anywhere else.  I knew what it meant to push that little extra to make it over the last portage to your destination lake, and then have the energy to set up camp and take care of those around you.  I also knew what it meant to pull over and wait because one in your group was too cold, hungry, or weak to go on without a rest.  Most of all, Pathfinder instilled a desire for things in life that are not easily or readily attainable.  Life is and should be hard, but Pathfinder made it so that instead of walking down the easier path, I run up the more difficult one.
      Today I am a U.S. Marine Corps Officer.  The path to get here was the most difficult I have ever taken, but I owe much of my success on that path to my time at Pathfinder.  Pathfinder taught me how to be a leader, which is essential to being a good Marine Officer.  It taught me how to make mistakes, but more importantly how to recover from those mistakes.  My experiences on the waterways of Ontario gave me the confidence in myself to accomplish almost any task given to me.  Improvisation and adaptation to unexpected situations on Pathfinder trips is huge.  A headman has to be able to fix broken gear, feed his trip even when food gets spoiled, and maintain the morale of his campers.  A Marine officer has to do all of those things and more, and Pathfinder inadvertently prepared me to meet those challenges head on.  
As Marines we all have something called Esprit de Corps.  It is the intangible belief that our Corps and our fellow Marines are the best in the world, and that we have a moral obligation to live up to the legacy left to us by Marines of the past.  I first found that kind of esprit at Camp Pathfinder.  As Pathfinder trippers we know that we are the best in Algonquin hands down.  We can out paddle and portage anyone in the park, and everyone knows it.  Pathfinder taught me how to take pride in my work and my organization.  Today I am a Marine, but I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without my summers on Camp Pathfinder Island.  

Noonway and Semper Fidelis,
2nd Lt. Edward J. Hubbard USMC  

Bud Wiser Remembers the 1940s/1950s

I became involved with Pathfinder at the end of my sophomore year in high school. I may have mentioned that I went to Aquinas. At the time it was the only Catholic Boy's high school in town.  I had gone to Camp Stella Maris since I was 8. It was a Catholic boy's camp on Conesus Lake. At the end of my freshman year in high school I worked there. Up until then all of the counselors had been seminarians. But, the war was on and people were questioning the fact that these seminarians weren't going to war but were spending their summers playing baseball and swimming at Conesus. So, they decided to make them go to school year round. And, for that one summer guys from Aquinas were the counselors. But, the next year, the war was over and the seminarians were back.

I really couldn't go back to Stella Maris as a camper, My father, who was a dentist, had a patient who worked in Herman Norton's office. So, I went in and talked to "The Chief".
I was hired as, what was euphemistically known as a "chore boy". We cleaned the forts, cut ice in the ice house, met the incoming trains, filled the lanterns, swept the dining hall etc. We met and unloaded the train. I worked with the caretaker, Fred Lamke.

It was a great job. I loved it and I loved Pathfinder. The next couple of years I came back as a lifeguard. Then, for a season I was Mic and Chipp supervisor. My last year (49), I was in charge of the trading post. I did spend time in Nick's [Zona] cabin on the island, the name of which I can't remember (Paradise?). The year we built the Forest Five it fell down because of the heavy snows. So, I went up in the spring to put it back up.  

That trip resulted in one of the greatest compliments I've ever gotten. I took a couple of friends from the city to help. We picked up our carpenter, Bill Payne, in Huntsville. When my friends saw the place they said that four guys could not put it up. The roof was in four huge, tar papered sections, way too heavy for four to raise up ten feet. So, they never did help. In fact, they didn't even come over to the site with my lunch. Bill said, "those guys may be alright in the city but they don't belong in the woods.” I took that as a great compliment.  He had indicated that I did belong. Bill and I did what my friends said four guys couldn't do. Two of us put the whole place back up, including raising the roof.

The Ontario government decided it would open Source Lake for leasing. Up until then Pathfinder was the only thing on the lake, no cottages...nothing. So, I figured that we'd better get a lot. Later on we could build a luxurious place. I got JB Walsh, Mert Miller and Danny Anderson. The fifth was Bill Nye.  He wanted out that winter and we bought him out...probably for $25.00 or so. I have no idea what happened to Mert Miller. I saw Danny a few years later when I was in graduate school in Syracuse and he was working for, I think it was, GE. The Andersons were an old Pathfinder family. I think there are paddles up there in dining hall for Quint and Tim and maybe Dan. The only member of the Forest Five that I know is JB. He and I are best friends. He was my best man and I was his. We're in constant contact.

I'll write more later. I do love to think about Pathfinder.


Don Cooper Sent Some Memories

It is a Sunday.  Just for fun I googled Camp Pathfinder, to look at the place that gave me the opportunity to become a tripper in one of the most memorable times of my life.
I was a University of Waterloo Kinesiology student in 1969 and I was hired by Roy Thrall and Bill Swift during an interview process at the U of W for the summer of 1970.  At that time I had never been to camp before so I must have presented myself as an enthusiastic "wanna work at a camp" sort of person.

Here are some of my memories....
I remember getting on the bus on the 400 and arriving at Source Lake and having all my stuff brought over on a pontoon and being met enthusiastically by Roy. Staff training followed and I gradually learned the J stroke and how to prepare for a trip.   The first campers arrived and we  helped them unload their gear.   I remember it like yesterday.  

Some other memories are the moose call in the dining room and  the great food.  After dinner we would sometimes go to the playing field and play a great game called Fresher.  Do you still play it?  I remember being the archery instructor for the month of July and becoming immune to mosquito bites.  The highlight of course was being second man on several canoe trips.  I was thrilled to see the trip archived in the 1970 section .  To this day I remember the headman Paul Hurley standing up in his canoe in the middle of a small lake and singing "Love Potion Number 9".  Pathfinder canoe trips allowed me to find out what I was made of.  I was quite pleased with the discovery.  Pathfinder's never quit, push attitude seeped into my soul.

One of the greatest challenges I faced was on Lake Opeongo during a tremendous  two day storm.  We hit camp and couldn't even start a fire.  My hands were blue and I was soaked but we never quit and made it to our destination.  Another character building experience was completing each portage without putting down the canoe.  Several years after Camp Pathfinder I achieved my Canadian Canoe Instructor award.  Without Pathfinder that never would have happened.
Camp  Pathfinder revealed my character to me and provided me with an identity to be proud of.  I am a very lucky person to have been part of Pathfinder  during the summer of 1970. The archives brought back memories of the people I met.  Priceless!!!! Your website indicates that the same great experiences are continuing under different leadership.  Congratulations!
Best regards,
Don Cooper

I also remember :
 -the time lightning hit a tree near the dining hall and passing buckets to put out the fire
 -the camp theatre night
 -the swim dock on a day off
 -hitching to Hidden Valley Huntsville  to see the famous Canadian group Lighthouse
 -watching Roy comfort a very homesick camper
 -beautiful sunny breezy tripping days
 -Lance and cabin inspection
 -the huge campfire with fire flying from the sky on guide wire.
 -Bob Roggow interacting so wonderfully with my campers
 -going under the water fall at Little Joe
 -the number of really musical people at the camp
 -the end of camp newsletter , which I believe I still have a copy of …

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