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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


2024 Schedule

*Guests are welcome starting any time Thursday at Pathfinder.

Boat service on request – arrive, unpack, explore, swim, enjoy the island

Thursday May 30

Algonquin Threads 1


1:00 Buffet Lunch (optional)

2:30 Staff Workshop - Roy MacGregor, Palace End Book Club (virtual) ‘A Life in the Bush’

5:15 Staff Swim

6:00 Reception

7:00 Supper 

8:00 Evening Speaker

Friday May 31

Full Day 1


8:00 Breakfast

8:45 Announcements

9:00 Talks & Workshops

12:30 Swim/Lunch

2:30 Workshops & Talks

5:15 Staff Swim

6:00 Reception & Cocktail Talk

7:00 Supper

8:00 Evening Speaker

Saturday Jun 1

Full Day 2


8:00 Breakfast

8:45 Announcements

9:00 Talks & Workshops

12:30 Swim/Lunch

2:30 Workshops & Talks

5:15 Staff Swim

6:00 Reception & Cocktail Talk

7:00 Supper

8:00 Evening Speaker

Sunday Jun 2

Algonquin Threads 2


7:00 Coffee & Departures

8:00 Light Breakfast

11:00 Brunch

11:30 Workshops - Pete Ward, Palace End“Recollections of an Algonquin Park Ranger”

Guests are welcome to depart any time today, boat service on request

About Spruce Root

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 blurb), 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 it was 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 pines or in canoes.


A hallmark of Spruce Root is fabulous food, 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 the presenters each year are role model 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 Pathfinder owners. And this year as ever, a group of Pathfinder alumni attend, who have been instrumental in camp’s growth since 2000. Each enlivens the conversation, and a few of them serve as fascinating presenters in their own right.


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

2024 Speakers & Workshoppers

Representing an invited gathering of experts in fields related to wilderness travel.

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


Luc Cousineau

Research Scholar

Toxic masculinity influences and contemporary social media.
Author, past OCA board member

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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 Education Teacher, TREK Outdoor Education,Vancouver

Pocket activities on kids' canoe trips.


Chris Brackley*

Cartographer, Canadian Geographic

Walk around talk on his newest large scale floor map for the Biinaagami Initiative, former Headman Camp Pathfinder

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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.


Sandy Gage*

Writer/Photographer, Angler

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, column and features journalist Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, MacLeans Magazine


James Raffan

Fellow, 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


Rob Stimpson

Photographer, Teacher, Author, Speaker

"A Look at Those Who Created"

Fellow, Royal Canadian Geographic Society; Ontario Tourism, Ontario Parks, Parks Canada


Mike Sladden*

Director Emeritus, 2000 - 2023

Themes repeating, in fragments from an emerging Pathfinder historical archive


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 of the Dumoine River region
Historian, author, guide.


Mike Webster

Emergency Clinician, Fmr. Director, Wilderness Medical Assoc. Canada


Laura Bombier

Expedition Photographer, Visual Storyteller

Wilderness trip film and photography for the Campers: story-telling and reflection.

Content creator, “Survivorman,” “Creative Good,” Lake of Bays resident


Lance Kennedy*

Educator, Author, Outdoor Leader

An 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 Pres. of OCA

Report on Drownings and Drowning Prevention in Canadian Wildlands
Canada Drowning Prevention Coaltion, Shendy's Swim School


Pete Ward

Attorney, Algonquin Ranger (ret.), Park Resident

In Conversation with Spruce Root, Pathfinder Palace June 2 brunch.

Past Spruce Root Presenters, 2015 - 2022


Dr. John Herman – psychiatry, 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 medical director

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 director, alumnus

Lance Kennedy – educator, outdoor education leader, 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 Canadian Canoe Museum

Rory MacKay – historian, author, Algonquin Park resident

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

Jocelyn Palm – camp owner/director, lifesaving expert, Camp Glen Bernard, 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

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

Wally Schaber – guide, paddler, businessman, historian, author, Dumoine Rivr 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 Canadian Canoe Museum

Carolyn Hyslop – director, Canadian Canoe Museum

Charlie Katrycz – engineer, inventor, wilderness traveler, alumnus, Alg. Park resident

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

Jason Lorbetskie – interior staff, Algonquin Park

Jeff McMurtrie – wilderness traveler, map-maker, MapsbyJeff

Kevin Callan – canoe trip/routes author, guide, educator, podcaster, YouTube content creator

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 – GIS mapping consultant, alumnus

Paul Errickson – head of middle division, 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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