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Spruce Root 2024

Friday, May 31 - Sunday, June 2

A Chautauqua on Leadership and Wilderness Canoe Trips.

By Invitation Only
For Northwoods Ambassadors, Mentors, Pathfinder Headmen & Alumni
Pathfinder Island • Source Lake • Algonquin Park

Chautauqua noun, chau•tau•qua
Describes an adult education movement popular in rural America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Named for the western New York lake where it was first held. Chautauquas assembled notable presenters in culture, philosophy, education arts, sciences and religion.

Pathfinder Spruce Root V

A Chautauqua on Leadership and Wilderness Canoe Trips,  May 31 - June 2, 2024
Welcoming field experts to share a weekend with the Pathfinder staff on Source Lake. 
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Hosted by
Will HopkinsCamp Owner/Director & Alumnus
Mike Sladden: 2000 - 2023 Camp Director/Owner & Alumnus

Moderated by
Dr. John Herman, Alumnus


What’s It All About?


Spruce Root is a biennial staff learning experience for Pathfinder canoe trip guides and directors. Held in late spring , and styled as a Chautauqua (see above), Spruce Root welcomes notable expert presenters from many backgrounds to Pathfinder Island.


Their talks, workshops, keynotes and demonstrations enrich the knowledge and practices of our camp’s canoe trip guides – known in Pathfinder life as the Headmen.


Our Headmen share the Spruce Root experience, inviting senior in-camp staff, notable Pathfinder alumni, and select leaders who run other wilderness trip camps. The mix of people for this uniquely Pathfinder event creates lasting bonds between leadership generations at the camp and beyond.

Established in 2015, Spruce Root is organized by alums Mike Sladden and Dr. John Herman, with support from the Pathfinder Centennial Fund and the Algonquin Campership Fund.


A Pathfinder Acknowledgement: Spruce Root convenes on Indigenous homelands


Pathfinder lies on Source Lake, headwaters of the Madawaska River, traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg, Indigenous peoples – especially the Algonquin – who are the original inhabitants and stewards of this land.


To join with these first peoples in calling this place our home, we resolve to treat the land, plants, animals, stories and first peoples with honour and respect. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and grow within this beautiful territory.


We recognize the contributions and historic importance of Indigenous peoples, and we’re committed to make real the promise of Truth and Reconciliation in our Pathfinder community.

What’s the Spruce Root Vibe?

A Chautauqua


The ‘Chautauqua’ – est. 1874

The name describes an adult education movement popular in rural America in the late 19th  and early 20th centuries. Named for the western New York lake and village where they were first held, Chautauquas assembled notable presenters in culture, philosophy, education arts, sciences and belief.


Headmen, presenters and invited guests gather in rustic informality on Pathfinder Island, spending busy days in sessions between avid informal conversations at meals, under the pines or floating in camp's red canvas canoes.


A hallmark of Spruce Root is fabulous meals, laid on by the Pathfinder chef staff, hosted by the Camp Director.

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Spruce Root Guests

At Pathfinder, Spruce Root presenters include biographers, wilderness travelers, outdoor educators, child development, emotional and medical health professionals, Indigenous educators, wilderness medical leaders, cartographers, authors, historians, social scientists, ethnographers, media makers, natural scientists, parks officials and camping profession leaders. Among them are physicians, PhDs, and recipients of the Order of Canada.


A highlight for 2024, Spruce Root celebrates the inaugural year of veterans Will Hopkins and Diane Davis as camp owners. And this year as ever, a key group of Pathfinder alumni attend, who have been instrumental in camp’s growth since 2000, enlivening the conversation. Always, a few of them are brilliant presenters in their own right.


Typically, presenters choose from various formats like keynotes, TED-style short talks, workshops or panel discussions. One of the weekend’s great features are informal early mornings, evenings and mealtimes, hang-outs shared happily amongst one and all. Presenters avidly enjoy networking with each other, and relish the interactions with a rising leadership generation of enthusiastic young adults.

2024 Speakers & Workshoppers

A gathering of experts in fields related to wilderness travel and youth leadership

All past attendees and presenters become Fellows of the Spruce Root, and their invitation is renewed for each event.
*Pathfinder Alumni


Dr. John Herman *

Spruce Root Moderator,

Dr. & Prof. of Psychiatry , The Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School


Luc Cousineau

Outdoor Educator, Research Scholar

Research in toxic masculinity influences through contemporary social media
Academic researcher-author, former camp director, past OCA board member


Lance Kennedy*

Educator, Author, Outdoor Leader

Essay on distinguishing the self as a unique tree in the forest.

PhD mathematics, educator, author, outdoor education leader, former
Director Camp Pathfinder.


Jeff McMurtrie

Mapmaker, Algonquin Researcher

Workshop – traditional trip skill
Mapmaker, MapsbyJeff, UnLostify, JeffsMap

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Eric Shendelman

Aquatics Leader, Camp Director, Past President OCA

Report on drownings and drowning prevention in Canadian wild lands.
Cn. Drowning Prevention Coalition


Pete Ward

Attorney, Algonquin Ranger (ret.), Park Resident

In Conversation with Spruce Root, Pathfinder Palace June 2 brunch

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Will Hopkins*

Host &  Pathfinder Director/Owner

Former Associate Head of School , Friends Seminary, NYC; Former Pathfinder Headman, Program Dir, & Tripping Dir.


Jean Luc Fournier

Toponymist, Researcher

Significance of place names, Anishinaabeg lands of the Ottawa Valley

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Linda Leckie

Outdoor Guide & Educator, Park Resident

Workshop – traditional trip skill.
Outdoor educator, guide, lifesaving and canoeing instructor-examiner,

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Will Price

Sr. Fellow, Pinchot Inst., Forest Conservation Policy

Climate change, public policy, realities for the boreal forests of No. America
Senior fellow Pinchot Institute, graduate Yale School of Forestry, Pathfinder parent


Nick Townley

Outdoor Educator, Trek Outdoors Vancouver

Pocket activities to enhance canoe trips with youth


Mike Sladden*

Director Emeritus, Pathfinder 200 - 2023

Themes repeating in fragments from an emerging Pathfinder historical archive


Sandy Gage*

Labor Negotiator, Write/Photographer, Angler

Visual and social human history in Algonquin through his book,
‘A Few Rustic Huts’


Roy MacGregor

Author, Columnist

“A Life in the Bush” Headmen’s virtual book club, Pathfinder Palace, May 30
Best-selling author, columnist and features journalist Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, MacLeans Mag.


James Raffan

Fellow of Royal Geographic Society, Explorer, Educator

In conversation with May Crew at the new Canadian Canoe Museum, May 12
Order of Canada, Royal Canadian Geographic Society, author, educator, musician


Tom Unger*

Scientist, Wilderness Traveler

Workshop on RAIN meditation, and
An Evening Council Fire Story
PhD information science, former Headman Camp Pathfinder


Laura Bombier

Expedition Photographer

Visual Storyteller, “Survivorman,” “Creative Good,” Lake of Bays resident.
Wilderness trip film and photography for the Campers: story-telling and reflection.


Bob Henderson

Professor/Author/Guide, McMaster Univ.

Workshop – traditional trip skill

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Warren McDermott*

Clinician, Canoe Maker

How to ‘Pathfinder’ After Pathfinder.
PhD nursing, former Headman and Canoe Maker Camp Pathfinder


Wally Schaber

Founder of Blackfeather, TrailHead,

Report on revealed history, advocacy and activism for the Dumoine River region
Historian, author, guide.


Mike Webster

Emergency Clinician,
Founder,Wilderness Medical Assoc., Canada

Past Spruce Root Presenters, 2015 - 2022


Dr. John Herman – The Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Aaron Orkin – emergency physician, wilderness medical educator, camp medical director

Dr. Julia Orkin – pediatric physician, complex care director SickKids Hospital, camp doctor

Chris Thurber – clinical psychologist, camp educator, faculty Phillips Exeter Academy

Mike Sladden – emeritus owner-director, Camp Pathfinder 2000-2023, OCA board of directors

Alex Hurley – guide, teacher, outdoor education dir. Greenwood School, alumnus

Lance Kennedy – educator, outdoor education leader Baylor School, author, alumnus

Tom Unger – scholar, information scientist, alumnus

Mike Witmore – director, Folger Shakespeare Library, alumnus

Corot Reason – information management professional, alumnus

Drew Leemon – risk management director, NOLS

James Raffan – explorer RCGS, author, educator, ret. Director Cn Canoe Museum

Rory MacKay – historian, author, Algonquin Park resident

Tom Terry – wilderness traveler, knowledge keeper, cartographer, author

Jocelyn Palm – camp owner/director Glen Bernard, aquatics lifesaving expert, Order of Canada

Nick Townley – outdoor educator, Trek Outdoors Vancouver

Christine Luckasavitch – Indigenous author, commentator, consultant, Algonquin Park resident

Quin Sladden – firefighter, paramedic, rescue squad responder, alumnus

John Winters – Superintendent, Algonquin Park (ret)

John Swick – current Superintendent, Algonquin Park
Kevin Callan - Canadian canoe routes author, podcaster, YouTube creator

Gord Baker – guide, outfitter, Oxtongue L. manager Algonquin Outfitters

Wally Schaber – guide, paddler, businessman, historian, author, Dumoine R. expert

Jess Lewis – educator, director Camp Wabun, Temagami

Bruce Ingersoll – educator, coach, director Keewaydin Camp, Temagami (ret)

Sandy Gage – canoe trip guide, labor relations negotiator, photographer, alumnus

Emma Fogel – registered social worker, camp consultant

Barbara Kopple – Oscar award-winning filmmaker

Bob Henderson – professor, author, traveler and guide, Algonquin Park resident

Craig MacDonald –former chief ranger Algonquin Park, traditional travel expert

Linda Leckie – educator, guide, instructor, wilderness traveler, Algonquin Park resident

Chris Brackley – cartographer Canadian Geographic, Algonquin Park resident, alumnus

Mike Floyd – professional ski patroller, Vail CO, alumnus

Jeremy Ward – historian, curator Cn Canoe Museum

Carolyn Hyslop – director, Cn Canoe Museum

Charlie Katrycz – engineer, inventor, wilderness traveler, alumnus, Algonquin Park resident

Aubrey Spring – forestry graduate, educator, guide, camp staff

Jason Lorbetskie – interior staff, Algonquin Park

Jeff McMurtrie – map-maker, MapsbyJeff

Alison Lake – staff scientist, biology, Ministry Natural Resources

Matt Thompson – British canoe trip guide

Jean Luc Fournier – historical researcher, toponymist, Ottawa Valley Anishinaabeg expert

Mark Eustis – GSI mapping consultant, alumnus

Paul Errickson – head of middle school, Nichols School, outdoor education leader

Erin Pehar – guide, outfitter, owner MHO Outfitters

Tom Appleyard – infectious disease public policy expert, camp senior staff Camp Wenonah

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