For someone in the Chewonki command center–someone responsible for 30,000 field-based meals each year; 40 sea kayaks; 30 white water kayaks; and 80 canoes; 2,000 pounds of cheese; 625 pounds of chocolate chips; and 230 pounds of marshmallows–Sam Bernstein is remarkably calm.
Bernstein is Chewonki’s equipment and logistics coordinator. His official domain is Pack-out, the nerve center for all of our trips and encampments. While Chewonki campers and trippers are eagerly awaiting summer, Bernstein is already well into summerthink, organizing the tents, packs, boats, camp stoves, flashlights, and foodstuffs that will make every Camp Chewonki adventure possible.
We can thank his mum for that. “It all goes back to my mother,” he says. “I grew up doing a lot of outdoor adventuring with my her in the White Mountains. She always emphasized preparedness and the thought process behind a great outdoor experience.” When they were getting ready for a hiking or canoe trip, she talked through with her son all possible scenarios and how to make make sure they would be ready to manage them.
Now Bernstein does the same for Camp Chewonki, Outdoor Classroom, and Maine Coast Semester. He helps train and prepare Camp Chewonki counselors and trip leaders to handle life in the outdoors, far from kitchens and camping equipment stores, with a group of young people. Asked if he is already preparing for Camp Chewonki’s 2019 summer, Bernstein smiles. “Ohhhh, yeah,” he says with a grin.
Although all four seasons keep him busy, the second week of staff training in June ss the wildest stretch of the year.
“It’s a little bit crazy,” he says. “All the extended Wilderness Trips leaders pack all their dry food for the summer. We really just scream through things.”
To stay calm as you run Pack-out, “You have to be detail-oriented without getting overwhelmed by the details,” says Bernstein. “You have to have the ability to jump from the details to the big picture and pick the details that are most important to manage. I enjoy the role. It takes a mixture of compassion and accountability.”
Bernstein, who was a geosciences major at Hamilton College, first came to Chewonki in summer 2017 to lead wilderness trips, mostly whitewater kayak trips. In fall 2017, he became an Outdoor Classroom instructor. He took on Pack-out in March 2018 up and has been keeping us on the straight-and-narrow ever since.
A visitor recently asked him about a parade of small stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling outside his office. They are “trip animals” from previous summers, little mascots that accompany each expedition. “This particular group for some reason has earned a special place in Pack-out,” he explains, looking up at a tiny knit monkey wearing a red and pink suit. Whatever keeps you happy, Sam.