Seeking a scenic place to convene and enjoy all the greatness that is winter in the Adirondacks, groups from St. Lawrence, Franklin counties and beyond have begun to take notice of a wonderfully affordable opportunity right in their own backyard. That is, Camp Overlook. Many know Overlook as the long-standing summer camp that has been providing area kids a s’more-making, song-singing, Polar Bear-swimming escape into the mountains each July and August. Some aren’t even aware of this and even fewer have heard that the place is now a year-round facility available for rental and educational programming. Two different organizations however, 4H and the Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country, recently took in all that Camp Overlook had to offer in the snowy months.
On Saturday, February 16th, 4H’ers from various North Country counties descended on Overlook for a day of bread-making and snowshoeing. Led by Cornell Cooperative Extension educator Pat Banker, children learned alongside their parents some basic, but delicious bread recipes. Beginning with simple ingredients (flour, water, oil, yeast) and employing the many cooking utensils and expansive kitchen area of camp’s Great Hall, the crew created several varieties of breads, rolls, and even pizzas by adding a “pinch here” and a “handful there” of additives of their choosing. Perhaps the greatest lesson of the day, which came to fruition in a tableful of mouthwatering breads, was Banker’s theory that no bread should be made exactly the same. She encouraged the bakers to experiment with measurements and not try to be too perfect in any of their efforts. The delectable results spoke to her method.
As the bread rose and cooled, the bread-makers exchanged their aprons for snowshoes and hit the trails for a cold but energized hike around camp. Exploring the nature trails, waterfronts, and cabin areas of Camp Overlook, the group soaked in some frosty rays and burned off some steam in preparation of their journey down the mountain. Before packing up and heading out, each member sampled the wares of everyone else’s hard work in the kitchen. Even those who were self-avowed “non-bakers” were amazed at how well each different creation tasted and marveled at how easy it was to create such a feast.
Just three days later, another group arrived at camp, for a very different purpose. Led by Colton resident Jim Williams, men and women of all ages from the Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country came ready and excited to take on camp’s Adventure Course despite the cold and snow. Anyone who has visited camp will likely tell you of the scream-inducing high ropes elements Camp Overlook loves to challenge its occupants with. Even having heard the tales, much of the crew from CPNC showed no fear and made it their goal to take on whatever was available to them. In preparation for the high elements, the group snowshoed around the Course and participated in a series of teambuilding and trust-developing exercises which encouraged them to problem-solve together and encourage each other’s efforts. Once on the high ropes, these skills proved extremely useful as the cold and height of the elements themselves proved impediments to success. The cheers from the ground and the incredible stick-to-itiveness displayed by all participants, though, made for a very accomplished day, including some high-flying stunts from some very daring individuals.
Camp Overlook is open to any and all parties interested in using the facility and it’s staff for a half day, whole, day or even a week. Through the great efforts of Cornell Cooperative Extension staff from both Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, Overlook is pleased to cater to all desires and needs no matter what time of year. For more information regarding renting the facility or investigating educational opportunities at the camp, contact Program Director Nate Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-483-7403.
After three months of relative quiet, on the first weekend of 2013, the grounds of 4h Camp Overlook once again filled the woods and waters of Mountain View, NY with peals of laughter and shouting, the smell of hot dogs cooking, and lots and lots of music. Welcome to the Annual 4h Counselor Reunion. For the second year in a row, counselors from the past summer and many summers previous have met at the camp to reconnect, catch up, and enjoy all the wonderful opportunities the facility has to offer. Unlike their summer experience, however, the counselors arrived at Camp Overlook bundled against below freezing temperatures and prepared for the more than two feet of snow currently blanketing the grounds.
Originally organized by staff wishing to see their friends and coworkers between the camping seasons, the reunion has transformed into a means by which individuals (many of whom have spent over ten summers at Camp Overlook) can experience the facility in a completely new way. Made by possible by the construction of Camp’s “Great Hall,” a fully winterized building with a state of the art kitchen, enormous dining and recreational areas, and sleeping accommodations, the counselor reunion has cemented itself as a new tradition that will likely continue for years to come. This year’s event was aided largely by the enormous snowfall having settled on the area over the last several weeks as well as some great organization and planning by the camp staff.
Beginning Thursday, January 3rd, counselors arrived from as near as Malone and far as Connecticut, loaded for bear with sleeping bags, snow gear, food, and board games. Over the next four days, counselors explored the wintery grounds using the camp’s brand-new snow shoes, which proved to be an absolute necessity with drifts continuing to grow each day. The lifeguarding crew of the previous summer, especially, enjoyed walking on top of the swim areas they are accustomed to floating in. When not outside, mattresses, blankets, and pillows were pulled out to hunker in and watch movies theater-style by using a projector on the Great Hall’s expansive walls. Assigned groups prepared enormous pancake breakfasts, grilled cheese lunches, and spaghetti dinners over the kitchen’s industrial stoves; brand new games abounded as counselors took advantage of the sprawling recreational space; and very little sleep was had as friends swapped stories from their time apart in the bunk areas. Seeking to preserve the traditions of the summer, the group even held “vespers,” or the nighttime rituals that close each day of camp.
With plans already underway for next year, the 4h Counselor Reunion promises to return in 2014 with new faces and customs, but a guaranteed repeat of enjoyment for all. If you and your group are looking to get away for a weekend, enjoy the greatness of the Adirondacks in the winter, or, like these counselors, rekindle old connections, consider all Camp Overlook has to offer. Now operating as a year-round facility, Overlook is a great place for any and all that seek to gain an outdoors experience for a very affordable price and very little hassle. Located less than 15 minutes from Titus Ski Mountain and just over an hour from Whiteface, it’s an accessible accommodation to relax after a long day of skiing. Or, if you seek to go off the groomed trail, with snowshoes available and acres upon acres of backcountry to explore, Overlook can be a hub for all your winter escapes. For more information contact email@example.com. We look forward to seeing you this winter!
4H Counselors relaxing at the beach.
Asked the question “what are the educational merits of camp,” a counselor of Camp Overlook might stare at you perplexedly or stumble over themselves for a full minute before being able to craft any sort of intelligible response. Coming not from a lack of comprehension but rather an inability to paraphrase, this person, given a full day, would vigorously cascade upon you an avalanche of personal stories and theories as a form of answer. Given twenty minutes they might be able to offer you a recitation about all the incredible learning and development that occurs at the place… on the first day. Having had the tremendous opportunity to learn and grow at camp in my own time and now, gratefully, as the Program Director of 4H Camp Overlook, I am finding it difficult to reduce what needs to be said to a manageably brief narrative. However, I’ll give it, as they say, the old camp try.
As adults (particularly for those who did not attend, themselves) it can be easy for us to look at the experience of summer camp as a “kid vacation” of sorts. And you wouldn’t be wrong to do so. With a seemingly bottomless well of sweat-pumping activities and limited shower time, many campers take their parent’s absence as a welcomed excuse to spend an entire week in blissful stink. With a carefully executed, kid-friendly menu of delicacies such as pancakes, sloppy joes, and chicken tenders, mealtime has never been more exciting than when sitting elbow to elbow on a picnic table. And with acres of space to run, a lake to swim in, bunk beds, and nightly “squad challenges,” time with friends is measured in days and hours rather than minutes. Summer camp truly is, Las Vegas for children. For parents that are simply sending their children off to enjoy a week in the woods, there is little fear that their camper will not return with a positive experience. For those seeking a more enriching venture however, there may be greater trepidation.
One of the oft-repeated mantras at Camp Overlook is that “every child, whether week one or week six, is as important as the next.” Similarly, “it is easy to love the kid who draws you pictures everyday but just as important to love the one that doesn’t.” During their training, each counselor is given the explicit mandate to provide the best possible experience in the most positive environment possible for every camper that comes through our gates. We strive to fulfill this challenge with all that we have with the understanding that, for any given child, the six days they spend under our care might be the best six days of their summer, their year, or, at the risk of sounding dramatic and self-important, their life. The simple acts of appreciating children for who they are as well as providing them a positive model to aspire to are responsibilities we take gravely serious and, in this way, it can be said that we put experience before education. But not without sound, well-considered reason.
At the core of Camp Overlook is the belief that experience breeds knowledge. Whether they are playing a game for the first time, meeting their cabin mates, or jumping from the zip line, we believe each moment at camp is an opportunity for campers to grow and learn. From the moment our campers sign in to the time we say goodbye at the camp fire, counselors take on the dual task of opening as many doors as possible for every child and urging them to walk through. By exposing them to brand new challenges, offering support and guidance all the way through, and appreciating their achievement no matter how great or small, it is our hope that each camper comes to understand the limitlessness of their potential as well as the strengths they already possess.
The education that takes place at Camp Overlook is as multi-faceted and diverse as the kids that attend the camp itself. Through classes such as archery, sailing, bench making, and wild edibles, campers gain practical knowledge and skills they can employ recreationally and even professionally. Simultaneously, as a child performs in acting or demonstrates a stroke in swimming lessons, they are also participating in a social-emotional learning that can only be acquired through participation. As children interact with their fellow campers and their counselors in class, at mealtimes, or during play, they are attaining a better idea of self. The experiences of leading, following, and cooperating are just ideas or vocabulary words until they can be practiced. By offering a wealth of opportunities for our campers to succeed, fail, and just try new things, we hope to allow every child the opportunity to test and surpass their limits.
Often, when asked why I love camp, I answer “Because it makes us all the best possible version of ourselves.” This may be confusing to someone on the outside. No matter who you are, how many years you’ve attended, or what abilities you bring with you, I’ve found that there’s a place for everyone at Camp Overlook because there seems to be, largely, an abandonment of pretense. Whether you are there for six days, six weeks, or six years, there never seems to be enough time at camp, so you try to do and be as much as you can with the time that is given. With all others apparently seeking to do the same, what remains is an environment of acceptance and goodwill the likes of which is hard to replicate and even harder to find elsewhere. As such, camp often welcomes you in as one person and sends you home as someone entirely new because you’ve learned such a great deal about what you’re capable of.
To say that Camp Overlook is a place to learn is like saying that Yankee Stadium is a place to play ball. The two can’t be separated because one does not exist without the other. As we move forward, camp will certainly evolve as necessary to meet the developing needs and wants of incoming families. What changes may come, though, will not alter the continued effort of all that have to come to love camp to, as the sign says, “make the best better.” As long as the red gates are open, there will be kids and adults alike inside, seeking to linger as long as they can in a place where one is considered great simply for being themselves. What we learn as we grow up and inevitably leave is that, though some may not accept you for singing out loud or dancing like a fool, there are far worse things to be considered in this world than a kid at heart.
4-H Camp Overlook is transitioning into a year-round outdoor learning center. We are welcoming school groups, church organizations, corporate and family retreats, sports teams, and various hobby groups. For more details please contact Zach Ducharme, Program Director, at 518-483-7403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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