by Haily Mae Dunn, , December 3, 2010
About a month and a half ago, I had the opportunity to go to SUNY Cortland's Raquette Lake Outdoor Educational Facility located in the Adirondack Mountains. We went for three days as a Block One class. Two blocks went together, so there were about 50 of us on the island total. We had to take a shuttle boat to get to the island, which is a secluded area that was built by William Durant in the nineteenth century.
Once there, we were given a nature tour of the island and given history about the area. The camp was originally called Camp Pine Knot because of a large tree that Durant found on the island with a large knot on the side of it. In 1895, the camp was sold to Collis Huntington, a longtime friend of Durant. The tour took us through the woods where we found many buildings that were made strictly from nature. We were informed that Durant used only nature in his creation and made sure that his architecture was just right.
During our stay, we not only learned about the history of the facility, but we also did many teambuilding activities to get to know our fellow future teachers and gain a trust and understanding of our present classmates. These activities brought us closer as a group, and we were able to see our professors outside of classroom life.
Some of the activities we did on our trip included the low ropes course, kayaking and canoeing, nature hikes, campfires, KP duty (kitchen patrol), and performing skits and songs. I think that out of all the activities we did, canoeing was my favorite, and awkwardly enough, I can say I hate canoeing. I think the reason it was so interesting was because I tried things I had not tried before.
Some people chose to sit on the dock and wait for us to get back. Even though I didn't want to canoe and I had had a bad experience canoeing before, I chose to go for it. I didn't let my fears of tipping over again hold me back. My friend, Jen, and I went out there and paddled as fast (and straight) as we could. When we were about to go back to shore, the instructors who were with us, asked if we wanted to try switching positions in the boat. Both of us shook our heads, absolutely not, we would tip over. But as we paddled back, we thought, why not. This was a one time trip. Why not go for it? If we tipped over, we would be wet and freezing cold, but it would be memorable for sure. So, we did it. The instructors sat close by while we switched positions. They walked us through it, as we stepped over one another. After a few minutes, we were in each other's opposite seat. We had done it. It made us proud knowing we had gone out of our comfort zone to do something we did not think we could do, and we succeeded.
Although the trip was meant to be a learning-based trip, it turned out to be more than that. It brought our group together and made us closer as friends and peers. We learned things about each other that we may not have otherwise shared unless we were in that particular setting, and we learned to trust each others' judgments and decisions. As we sat around the fire at night, we shared stories and games and bonded like we had been friends since grade school. It was nice to see our fellow peers in that light.
Besides all of this, it was a chance to be out in nature. It was a chance to get away from the homework that tends to pile up on our desks, the television shows we find ourselves wrapped up in, and the phone calls and texts that somehow consumes our day. While we were there, most of my peers kept their cell phones close by. They had them the whole trip, carrying them around in the air trying to locate any available service so they could reach the outside world. I, on the other hand, turned my cell phone off as soon as we reached the island, put in my suitcase, and left it there until I reached my car after the three day period. This was such a relief to me for some reason. I ignored everyone who "needed" to get a hold of me and they simply had to wait until I had service. I enjoyed this, unexpectedly. I was free from everyone. I didn't have to answer to anyone or tell anyone what I was doing or where I was going to be. I made sure my relatives knew my plan before I got there, so they were aware I was going to be unreachable for a few days. Out of the whole trip, this was one of my favorite parts because when I am in Cortland, or even at home, I have my phone on me constantly. It was nice to be able to free myself of the confines of a cell phone attached to my ear (or fingers).
My trip to Raquette Lake was a once in a life time experience, something that will be with me not only as I study in Cortland, but forever. I plan on going back, not to the same facility, but possibly this summer as a weekend trip to get away from the confines of life. It is peaceful and relaxing, a place I seem to be able to be myself and not have to please anyone. We all need that every once in a while, right?
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