Our Traditions

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Lake

"I miss a loon's call at dusk, the sputtering light of a Coleman, bug juice, Treasure Hunts, rinsing off soap in a frigid plunge in Source Lake. I miss scrubbing a wrinkled aluminum pot spotless, splitting cedar, starting a fire with one match in the rain, running a long portage and dipping a tin cup in cool water. I miss watching three brilliant red canoes approach from the horizon, nine paddles lifting in silent rhythm, flashing in the sun."
--Dr. John Herman, Boston 

Browse a photo gallery of Pathfinder traditions ...

Traditions We Share

Pathfinder's second century

A glimpse of the Pathfinder experience is found in the familiar places and traditions of the Island and the camp season.

The Big Moment: The start of each camp session, with the boys arriving and their counselors meeting them on the dock with a smile and a handshake.

Council Fire: A weekly gathering for the comradeship and stories of the woodcraft camp fire. Pathfinder trip reports, skits, songs and stories are long remembered.

Sundays at Pathfinder: The ageless traditions of Sunday soap baths, hand-written letters to parents, chapel talks and special dinners. Chapel is a tradition as old as Pathfinder, with a community gathering and personal time for reflection and appreciation.

A sense of the Pathfinder Spirit: From meal time Grace traditions, to the culture's emphasis on respecting the Great Spirit, present in all things, Pathfinder keeps a connection to christian values: of empathy, compassion, and service; to respect for family and community, tolerance of all peoples, commitment to peace and peaceful choices in life, protection of the natural environment, and simple living of minimal impact and absent of excessive material possession and acquisition.

Generations of boys and men: A snapshot of a Pathfinder day captures multiple generations of senior staff, college-aged guides, high school junior counselors, and campers of all age groups, working, playing, laughing and sharing life in the woods.

The Thrill of Achievement: A Pathfinder motto and her counselors' commitment to the boys -- to help each one feel the thrill of accomplishments and goals achieved. If one staff man is praising a boy for success at camp, all other staff join in.

Traditions of Chapel

Traditions of Chapel

The Jean Norton Memorial Chapel is situated on the back of the island, facing the 'back channel' to the north and towards the remote Algonquin backcountry. Jean Norton was the beloved daughter of Herman and Becky Norton, owners for over 40 of Pathfinder's earliest years, who as a young woman was struck down by illness. The camp at that time was heart broken, and in her honor the chapel was located and named for her. 

Over generations, Pathfinder members have gathered at Chapel each Sunday at 5:20pm, and here have been many iterations of our collective faith in our community, the best instincts in ourselves, the wonder and fragility of our natural world, and our emphasis on Pathfinder values and character traits.

Chapel is a ceremony attended in silence by all, walking from the Log Cabin into the Chapel itself. Typically the chapel talk is given by a member of the camp's senior staff, and over the years songs, hymns and music played on a portable pump organ were highlights. Another highlight is the weekly observance of personal reflection. Many boys regularly take this time to return to a favorite place along the Chapel shoreline for reflection in their own faith and understanding of the Great Spirit.

See Historic Chapel Hymns:

Sons of God
Sons of God, living in the wood
See His work and see that it is good
God is what we're singing of
He is Glory; He is Love
Allelu, Allelu,Allelu, Allelu-ia ...

See Pathfinder Song of Thanks:

Setting and Tradition - A canoe tripper's camp in Algonquin

Camp

Dear Sladds,

This year at camp was so much fun, even more so than the last. Even though I was only a first year Ottawa, me and my friends managed to get a thirteen day trip to Temagami! Our trip was amazing, and I experienced some of the best memories I've had in my entire life. I can't wait to go back next year to relive some of the wonderful Pathfinder memories that make us all come running back, and I look forward to seeing you at the camp reunion.       

Sincerely,
Eli

Setting and Tradition -- A Glimpse of life on the trail

Tent camping

The Pathfinder Camper on a Canoe Trip

'His travels pass moose feeding in the channels of creeks and the backs of bays. He drowses and wakes with pine bough shadows swaying overhead and loon calls carrying across the water. He hikes and sweats across trails flanked by swaying stands of pine, balsam, cedar maple and beech. He sees a forest floor carpeted in needles, ferns and bunchberry. The lake is such a welcome sight beyond the last horizon of trees. Stars, an overhead carpet, defy belief as they emerge in the blackest of blue nightfall skies. His fire crackles and burns low. The tripper feels tired but satisfied, feels tuned to every sight, sound and smell, feels a belonging to the world, and feels that probably early man felt a similar belonging. He doesn’t want this world to disappear ...'

Film About Our Camp

Film

Pathfinder Centennial Film Project

Gill Stanley & Mike Sladden

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