There’s an old saying that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. That’s exactly what Elisa Knapp learned at SUNY Cortland’s one-of-a-kind outdoor campus in the Adirondacks.
“I was nervous about making friends, finding my place on campus and just succeeding in general,” said Elisa, a senior geographic information systems (GIS) major from Syracuse, N.Y., thinking back to the summer before her first year of college.
So she took a chance.
She joined the first-ever group of Adirondack Trail Blazers, a program started in 2013 for new students to build friendships and explore the outdoors. Eight students made the three-hour trip to Raquette Lake, N.Y., in the first year. That number grew to 39 students this past fall.
This fall, we’re hoping to take at least 50 new Red Dragons on a six-day adventure to the Adirondacks the week before classes begin. All incoming freshmen and transfers — including those who arrived in January — are invited.
Participants do not need to be rugged explorers of the outdoors. They just need to be interested in meeting new people, trying new things and learning about the only National Historic Landmark in the SUNY system.
Some of the trip’s basic details:
- It takes place Saturday, Aug. 19, to Friday, Aug. 25. Participants move into their residence hall, head to the Adirondacks and return to campus before fall semester classes begin on Monday.
- Activities include hiking, canoeing and team building exercises.
- Participants sleep in a cabin. No prior camping experience is required.
- All food, lodging, transportation and specialized equipment is included in the program fee. A complete packing list is available online.
- Financial assistance is available for the trip, which costs $385. All participants are eligible to apply for it.
Just how meaningful was the trip for Elisa? She added a minor in recreation and recently earned a job with Outward Bound, a respected provider of outdoor leadership programs across the globe.
“Now any time I have the chance to go to Raquette Lake, I take it,” says Elisa, who earned her wilderness first responder certification in January and a master’s degree in recreation at SUNY Cortland next fall.
She often thinks back to the first night of her Trail Blazers trip, when the group hiked into the dark only to find that its campsite was taken.
“I was scared but I didn’t cry,” Elisa says. “That was big for me because things weren’t going exactly right and I still held it together.
“I was outside of my comfort zone and everything still worked out.”
Registration for the fall program opens online Monday, May 1, on a first-come, first-served basis. New students can contact Jason Harcum, our assistant director of recreational sports for outdoor pursuits, at 607-753-5810 with any questions about the upcoming trip.
Students also can link up with the Outdoor Pursuits Program to explore the Adirondacks and much more.