Thanks to Joan Newlon, Executive Assistant for Upper New York Camp and Retreat Ministries, for this update:
The Lakeside Nature Trail, to be named in honor of Jim Krager for his 45 years of ministry at Sky Lake, is getting some exciting upgrades thanks to generous donors.
Thirty-one (31) interpretive panels and mounting posts have been purchased and placed. The first batch of signs were placed along the trail last autumn, and the second batch (which arrived over the winter) were put in place last week. These panels include a mix of educational information about native birds, animals, trees, and life cycles which will prove to be a real asset in teaching our campers and guests about God’s wonderful Creation.
Five benches have also been added to strategic spots along the trail, both for viewing and for resting.
A trailhead sign honoring Jim, which will also highlight a map of the area around the lake, will be placed at the main entry of the trail prior to our Grand Opening on May 15th.
We are pleased and very grateful for David Ash, an Eagle Scout who rebuilt one of the bridges on the east shore and saved us much of the initial estimated cost.
Funds are still needed to refurbish the currently-accessible section of the trail in this first phase of the project. This part of the trail will be wide enough for wheelchairs and will consist of material which will make it easy for individuals with limited mobility to use the trail safely. Our hope is to do the work of renovating this section “in-house” as soon as we have funds in hand, in order to reduce the cost of the labor.
Make your gift today to help us continue to develop what will become a premiere walking trail around Sky Lake, and then join us for a small reception prior to our Open House event on May 15th. A number of Upper New York’s Camp & Retreat Ministry staff members as well as Sky Lake staff will be present to express their appreciation; Jim Krager will also be present to officially cut the ribbon; and as a way of saying “thank you” to those who have given a financial gift to this project, we will open the trail so that you are formally the first walkers to enjoy the improvements we have been able to make.
Please plan on joining us at noon on the South Porch of Founders’ Lodge and let us thank you in person for what you have made possible. RSVP to Joan Newlon, Executive Assistant for CRM, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 315-424-7878 ext. 309 to let us know that you will be joining us.
You may send a check made out to “UNYAC-Sky Lake Trail” to UNYAC-CRM, Attn: Joan Newlon, 324 University Ave., 3rd fl. Syracuse, NY 13210. Or you can give online. Please be sure to note “Sky Lake Trail” in the box beside “Camp and Retreat Ministries.”
Thanks in advance for your generous support. We’re very much looking forward to seeing you on May 15th.
Providing intentional opportunities for campers to play a leading role in building a supportive community is an integral component of most any camp experience, but especially here at Sky Lake. We make it a habit to continually dream of new ways to enhance this experience and estimate that we use approximately 47 pounds of scrap paper each year just jotting down ideas. (Okay, so we don’t really know for sure how much paper we actually use to document our hopes and dreams, but we know for sure that it’s A LOT!)
One of our long-standing dreams started to materialize in 2015 when we broke ground for a new low-ropes course. We began by inviting our friends over at Project Adventure to come visit, help provide focus for our dream, and scout out locations for the various elements we wanted to include. From that visit, we decided on three elements that Project Adventure would build in 2016 and a few elements that we were able to safely build ourselves in 2015.
The elements we currently offer are no more than a foot off the ground, but as Jenna Amberge (who counts Challenge Coordinator amongst her many duties as a year-round member of the Sky Lake team) puts it, “we look for that element of safety before a camper takes the first step step off the ground. It’s important for them to know they are fully supported.”
Safety holds a prominent position in all we do at camp and factored heavily into the placement of the course itself. Building it in a lightly used patch of woods off the Lakeside Trail near the East Shore means that we’re able to limit access to the elements while still allowing for easy access in the rare circumstance that emergency services are required. (So far, minor bug bites account for the majority of band-aids used from the dedicated first aid kit!) The placement of the course also meant that the crew from Project Adventure was able to spend less time getting their equipment to the site and dedicate more time to installing the Wild Woosey, the Team Triangle, and the Mohawk Walk. The time savings also partly factored into their being able to install a rare sixth segment to the Mohawk Walk challenge.
“Last year, campers were excited to use those first elements on the low-ropes course. Some were scared, but ended up loving the challenges and were able to come away with a positive feeling about how the experience helped them grow closer as a group,” says Jenna.
Anyone who has ever met her knows that Jenna is passionate about facilitating team building, so it will come as no surprise that she is really looking forward to campers getting to enjoy the newest additions—especially one of her all-time favorite challenges: the Mohawk Walk. “We take them to an area in the woods where we’ve created physical challenges for them to complete. [This natural setting] encourages them to think about how in using these elements, they have to work work with each other, have safe physical contact with other humans, and have to communicate—sometimes in very unique ways—in order to accomplish any challenge. You can’t do that looking at a screen or holding a phone! And they learn to rely on each other, which is what God wants for us to do.”
Our low-ropes course is also available for group bookings from May-September (weather permitting.) contact us
Soon after reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder for the first time a few years ago, there was an incident in our camp garden. A group of elementary-age campers were helping to harvest some carrots. One camper in particular was totally overwhelmed to learn that these orange root vegetables grew in the ground and that after a quick rinse in the back sink of Chauncey Dining Hall he could eat one! (Incidentally, he loved that carrot.)
Louv is quick to point out that the “term [nature-deficit disorder] is by no means a medical diagnosis, but it does offer a way to think about the problem and the possibilities—for children, and for the rest of us as well.” The pages that follow give voice to the importance of replacing screen time with intentional, unfettered time in the great outdoors. But the book isn’t just about the “why”, it also provides the “how”—the practical steps we adults can take to help encourage the youngsters in our lives to discover a whole new and extremely beneficial natural world first hand.
We fully admit that we have a bias when it comes to this topic (as getting people outdoors into God’s Creation is a primary principle of our mission), but we think you’ll find this book to not only be informational, but a powerful call to action as well!
Look for it at your favorite book shop.
It never gets old. It really doesn’t.
Without fail, time and time again when I’m talking with past and present campers about their Sky Lake experiences there is a common thread that weaves its way through the vast majority of these personal stories. And that is the idea that “I was able to be myself at camp.”
I’m no different. I too had the same exact experience as a camper (and still do as a year-round staff member!)
I recently had an invitation to speak at New Milford United Methodist Church and briefly shared with them a story of a pre-teen camper who went to Sky Lake for the first time once upon a time. This camper was the youngest sibling by a number of years, so learned about the joys and tribulations of sharing a room; got in trouble for eating peach cobbler with a butter knife on a cookout; properly dove into a lake for the first time; and stood on the shoreline of that same lake the last night of camp, tears streaming down his face while simultaneously trying to watch the candlelit cross float out into the darkness and remember all the words to Pass It On. Crying because he was going to miss this community that welcomed him with open arms, introduced him to new friends from all over the place, provided safe and unique experiences that allowed him to test drive being independent for a bit, and challenged to embrace his full self as a beloved child of God.
After the service, one of our camper alums came up to me and said “until you said that that was YOUR story, Matt, I thought you were talking about ME!” A few moments later her mom approaches me and shares the same thought. (Interestingly, “mom” had been up front helping to lead the service so they hadn’t even chatted yet at this point.)
Connections of all sorts are made at Sky Lake. Connections with others of varying ages, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. Connections with young adults who are committed to mentoring campers. Connections with the flora and fauna of God’s magnificent Creation. And connections with a living God who calls us to go forth and transform the world!
Do these connections happen because there’s some sort of magic to be found at Sky Lake? As much as we’d like to think that sometimes, it turns out that a bunch of individuals committed to providing experiences that care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of all, is far more powerful than any kind of magic!
As I look back on my time as a camper and then as a staff member, I can’t help but think that the friends I’ve made, the skills I’ve learned, and the opportunities to grow as a Christian would not have been as robust had I not responded to my friend’s invitation to go to Sky Lake with him almost thirty years ago.
That’s the power of camp, my friends.
It never gets old. It really doesn’t.
Blessings on your journey. Hope our paths cross again soon!
Camper Alum and Director of Sky Lake