Greetings from Pathfinder! I hope everyone is keeping well and busy. The big freeze has finally locked in on Source Lake, and it will be wonderful to snowshoe across the lake once more to inspect the camp and spend some hours in the silence of the Algonquin winter.
Let’s snapshot where summer camps stand, here in mid-winter 2021. And, let's hone in on Pathfinder’s planning for the coming 108th camp season.
When you’ve read through this update, I encourage you to jump over to the camp’s News Page and see the article on informational Zoom meetings, coming up this week. Jump on board one designed for you and your camper! It's as easy as sending Sladds an email to get the meeting link.
How is morale for the 2021 Pathfinder Season? Excellent.
Right now I’m like many of my colleagues in Ontario camping: in a phrase, very optimistic that the upcoming summer camp season will run, and can be both safe and successful. In fact, I’m just as confident this summer should happen as I was confident it was best not to hold overnight camp in Summer 2020. We’ve learned so much, and have experience guiding us, just like parents, schools, doctors and government have honed their experience over the past 9-months.
I can add that the importance of this year’s Pathfinder sessions has never been more compelling. Our boys need so badly what camp has to offer right now. I’m sure parents feel the same. Read more, about how a camp summer is so crucial to our boys, at camp’s new Blog Spot.
Pathfinder already has a strong enrollment for ’21, and has signed on our core staff, including directors, health and medical staff, rank and file headmen and second men. Our doctors as ever are Julia and Aaron Orkin. Our DOT this summer is Riley Hanson. Mary Chestnut and Paige Clark return to run camp operations and program. Our chef staff is assembling, headed up once more by the celebrated Chef Gonzalo and Chef Omar.
Pathfinder continues to play a role on the Ontario Camping Association’s board and Covid task force, where health guidance for overnight camps is currently being written in concert with Ontario Health and a team assigned from SickKids Hospital, Toronto. We will also be guided by the expertise of our camp medical directors, Dr’s Orkin, and by our local public health unit, with whom we’re lucky to have a long-time partnership. Pathfinder is also lucky to have our own unique advisor, Tom Appleyard, whose profession literally is to plan civil responses to pandemic outbreak.
Now let’s review:
How is Pathfinder organizing sessions and age groups after the ‘lost’ Summer of 2020?
Whether your camper is a veteran, is a rookie for 2020 who missed his first summer, or a new camper signed up just for 2021, our age groups and sessions remain intact.
Thus, if you were an age-11 Cree camper in 2019, you will be an age-13 first year Ottawa camper in 2021. If you were slated to be an age-15 AA camper in 2020, you will remain an AA with your crew at age-16, and get your big canoe trip this summer. If you are turning 15 for this coming summer and looking forward to your AA year, you’ve got it! Age-15 AAs will be having their normal program for Summer 2021.
If you were slated to be an age-16 CIT in Summer 2020, your CIT year has simply been bumped forward to this summer. Our age-17 CIT class is a stellar group of 18 lads, and you’ll be completing your usual CIT training in July, then morphing into rookie second man duties asap.
If you were slated to be a one-weeker or two-weeker camper in Summer 2020, you have the option to remain at that shorter session length for your Summer of 2021. And, many families have taken advantage of that opportunity. Thus, if you would have been a two-week Cree in 2020, you are still able to be a two-weeker in 2021, whether you remain a Cree or have aged into the Ottawa group.
An excellent question covers canoe trips this summer. Many boys will arrive at Pathfinder having missed a season of tripping, but having moved up an age group. I want to reassure everyone that we will be creating canoe trips that are appropriate to the trip experience your campers had when they last left Pathfinder Island. Thus, a 2019 Chipp or Cree who was taking those canoe trips will not find himself expected to trip for two weeks at a time as veteran Ottawas are used to doing. We’ll tailor the tripping to the boys and where their experience and ambition are this summer.
In fact, we’ve been busy developing some awesome new canoe trips close by the Source Lake neighborhood in Algonquin. You can read about some of them – day, overnight and three-day trips, in the New Year Chipmonk Chatter.
Okay, now let’s get a high-altitude look at how Pathfinder will conduct a safe-fun-awesome Covid-adaptive summer of 2021.
While so much remains unknown about virus transmission, government controls, border status and more, camps like Pathfinder have moved ahead with readiness planning based on some strong foundations. We have terrific help in this endeavor, as well as common sense options.
First, some day camp programs and several overnight camps operated safely and successfully last summer, the day programs in Ontario (YMCA) and the overnight camps in the state of Maine. In fact, Pathfinder is consulting with a camp director and pediatrician who helped author the CDC’s guidance to summer camps after guiding her own camp through the summer of 2020.
Next, Pathfinder is benefitting from and contributing content to special overnight camps guidance being authored by the OCA, and vetted by a SickKids hospital team.
On top of that, we have retained the advice of a public health planning expert, who is a past Ontario planner for pandemic response.
Where does all this information and experience lead Pathfinder’s plans?
First, Pathfinder will employ a pre-screening and testing plan with families at home, prior to their camper or staff person coming to Source Lake. Imagine a period of reduced exposure to others after school dismisses, followed by a PCR test, before transit to camp.
Next, Pathfinder will outline how campers and staff can travel to camp so as to minimize exposure along the way. If you’re coming north from the U.S., Pathfinder is working with Immigration to ease the transit both if the border is fully open, or if there are restrictions that still permit our people to come to camp.
Once at Pathfinder, you’ll find the island a closed bubble. Only campers and staff will be visiting the island itself. And, within that island bubble, Pathfinder people will be forming small cohorts of 12-20 campers and staff, who can live together in adjacent tent and cabin groups. Within your cohort, you can live, work, eat and play in proximity to each other without a mask requirement. Between yours and other cohorts, masking will be mandatory when you have to be close to one another, say, at trip training or a fire drill. Most of the camp day, however, can include happy play without masking. Dining will be arranged in smaller, more distanced cohort groups.
Clearly, a global practice at Pathfinder all summer long will be enhanced hand-washing, hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, and daily recorded health monitoring.
Island sports and activities, day trips and canoe trips will all unfold within the cohort model. Camp life will be lively right out of the gate. After about 5-days, we expect to be testing our camp family once again, to ensure we can catch a positive case while in the safety of cohort living.
Our health program will include double the nursing staff, with a nurse always devoted to addressing Covid symptoms, and a dedicated tent line for isolation of anyone presenting with symptoms connected to Covid-19. These might include headache, sore throat, or mild fever. While chances are these symptoms will not result in a Covid diagnosis, we’ll take no chances, and will isolate and arrange definitive testing for the patients and their cohort.
While I’m very confident that these broad strategies will be in play, it’s early as of now to predict more specifics. Certainly, a goal we’re exploring is whether and how to expand the cohorts as it becomes clear Pathfinder is Covid-free. We’ll follow our doctors and public health experts on that one. Meantime, please be assured I’m happy to describe in detail our planning and planning process, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you would like to chat about all this in person. And, don’t miss the upcoming info meetings for your Pathfinder camper and staff!
More to come. Stay well and busy!