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04/17/2014

Adventure Camp Beckons Young Alumni

Christopher Rowett ’04, M ’05 is exceptionally outdoorsy and loves the Adirondack Mountains.

Yet he’s never taken part in SUNY Cortland’s array of annual alumni summer camps at Raquette Lake, N.Y.

That will change this summer, when he will make the long trip from Suffolk County to go rafting, kayaking and hiking when he attends the first Antlers Young Alumni Adventure Camp from July 23 to 27.

“The timing was good and the adventure stuff, it sounded cool,” said Rowett, who made many trips to the Adirondacks while he was at SUNY Cortland to help teach a two-week, outdoor education course at Camp Huntington — first as a student, then as a teaching assistant, then as an instructor for three years. Today he teaches elementary level physical education and coaches high school girls’ soccer in the Comsewogue School District.

Rowett looks forward to a week of high adventure packed with getting around on the high ropes course at nearby Camp Huntington, rock scrambling in the High Peaks, kayaking on Raquette Lake and rafting a rushing river.

“I even contacted some of my friends who might be interested in signing up, too,” he said.

Young campers on Raquette Lake
A group of campers at the Environmental and Outdoor Education Center at Raquette Lake pause in the course of a woodland ramble.

Details about the camp are posted in an ad in the most recent Moments and on the Environmental and Outdoor Education Center’s pages on the SUNY Cortland website.

At this camp, for the price of $350 apiece, participants will receive, in addition to all meals and lodging, the chance to enjoy an action-packed week of exploring the Adirondacks by trail, kayak, paddle board and even whitewater raft.

“We’re trying to capture a new audience,” said center director Robert Rubendall.

The adventure camp definitely targets a younger group of campers who don’t yet have children, including singles and young couples.

“Raquette Lake is a part of me and I just want to go back there to do the events that were stated,” Rowett said. “I get along with the older generation, but being with my generation and without children to worry about is good.” 

“We’re trying to capture their imagination about coming there in the summer so they’ll start to come to the regular camps once they have families,” Rubendall said. “For some alumni, it was an essential part of their college experience. But lots of alumni never got the chance to come here in college. Now they can come.”

A professional outfitting company will conduct a real, white-water rafting trip along the Hudson River through the Hudson River Gorge and Rubendall hopes to recruit highly trained student interns to lead special trips such as outings to a particular Adirondack High Peak.

The College will continue to offer its Antlers Alumni Family Camp this summer, with four sessions at Antlers and one at Camp Huntington. The adventure camp, like the classic family camp, will cover all meals as well as feature social opportunities like marshmallow roasts around a campfire, swimming and fishing.

Young alumni who have attended the more traditional camps in past years are enthused about their expanded opportunities at Raquette Lake.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Michael Reid ’03, a New York City Department of Environmental Conservation employee who has been coming to the camps since he was an infant with his parents, Mary Gale Reid ’77 and David Reid ’76, and Michael’s sister, Kathleen “Katie” Reid ’10. Now he brings his wife, Nicole Ammann ’02 and their three youngsters to Antlers each summer.

“When I first heard about this idea for the young alumni adventure camp, I thought it was a great segue between the college experience and the family experience,” Michael Reid said.

“What we’ve noticed in the alumni camp is that we’re typically the only young alumni there. There are usually many older alumni there, people who graduated in the 1940s and 1950s. But we don’t see a lot of young families. It’s not at the front of people’s minds as an option for a vacation.”

His sister, Katie, made her summer plans already this year but also likes the new camp concept.

young couple
Two campers relax on a dock at the College's Environmental and Outdoor Education Center at Raquette Lake.

“I would like to do it some time and use it as a mini-reunion at Cortland, sort of like ‘We’re going on a vacation, we’re supporting our school, and we’re using the resources they are giving us as alumni,’” said Katie Reid, a high school physical education teacher with the Highland Central School District near Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

“I’m still very close to all those people I went to Raquette Lake with as a student,” she said.

Katie Reid liked the idea that the trips and guides will already be set up for busy guests.

“It’s not like you have to go and find the things to do, it’s kind of planned for you,” she said of this more structured camp for young alumni. “I have some friends who want to do the High Peaks and it would be helpful for them to have someone who knows the best way to do it.”

She advises former classmates who took a class at Raquette Lake that they also can have a laid-back experience if they wish.

“It’s not like you’re going there for class and you have to do this, you have to do that. If you don’t want to do it, you’re not getting graded anymore. That pressure isn’t there anymore.”

Rubendall agreed that the adventures will be planned, but campers are welcome to do shorter outings or just relax on their porch or socialize.

He’d like to sign up 24 alumni to attend the camp.

“The Alumni Association will be very involved in welcoming the alumni, and the timing of their annual board retreat at Camp Huntington will overlap with the camp somewhat,” Rubendall said. “The association is offering a raffle ticket to win a mountain bike to those who sign up for the camp and then recruit another person to sign up.”

More information about the camp and how to make reservations is available on the Environmental and Outdoor Education website at Cortland.edu/rl-events or by calling the center at 607-753-5488.