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The “Off Season” at Dudley

Written and Photographed by #18801 Drew Rider

I have heard for years that September was the best month of the year at Dudley, and more broadly in the North Country, but I have never had the chance to experience it. Ever since I was a camper there has always been a sense of mystery about Camp once everyone left. I’m sure I’m not alone in reminiscing about the past summer, or summers before it, while sitting in a classroom or an office. I would find myself wondering what was going on up at Dudley at that moment. Had the leaves changed? Was main campus blanketed with snow? Was anyone even still there? All those years I wondered about what was going on during the other 10 months of the year at the place where I have so many incredible memories. That feeling only grew in 2020 during the pandemic, when I, like much of the world, was at home on seemingly never-ending Zoom calls, and when in-person camp was canceled for the first time since 1885. It was at this time too, with so much time stuck inside, that I longed more than ever to be at Dudley with the fresh air, open spaces, Lake Champlain on one side and the Adirondacks on the other.

Fast forward to August 2021 when I was presented with the opportunity to live at camp this fall. It certainly did not disappoint. We all know what a special place Dudley is in the summer, but as the leaves have changed color and a fall crispness has entered the air, it has only gotten more beautiful. Being able to finish a work day and then go on a walk around main campus or Frisbie Farm, or sit down on the Suter porch and read a book has been a unique experience, made even better by having all that the North Country, Adirondacks, and Lake Champlain have to offer right at my doorstep.

And I finally have the answer to that lifelong question about what happens at Dudley after the final Hymn Sing, when the cannon has gone off for the last time, and everyone has gone home. Turns out, quite a lot.

In the last few weeks, Camp has played host to several soccer tournaments, including one with over a thousand people in attendance (truly a sight to behold), a Boquet Valley Central School alumni homecoming night soccer game on the Hell Field under the lights, a cross country meet on the new Frisbie Farm property, a week with students from New Canaan Country Day School, ropes course and team-building with the students from the local school, and more. In addition to all of that, every day the soccer teams come and use the fields for their daily practices. This includes the Boys Varsity Soccer team, coached by our own #15017 Evan George and his assistant coach #23188 Tom Mero. 11 of the 14 players on the team have camp numbers, and the third coach is a camp parent! As I am writing this, I am looking out the window at the Yum Yum tree just finally starting to change color, one of the last holdouts still hanging on to its green summer leaves, as one of the soccer teams holds its daily practice beneath it.

It has also been great watching the maintenance team and all that they continue to do long after the summer is over. We all know that they are among the hardest working people at Camp during the summer, putting in all their effort to keep Dudley looking impeccable. I have witnessed firsthand how that commitment stretches into the year. From shoring up all the facilities for winter to working on projects to make Camp even better for the next summer, they are still here five days a week, caring for this place we all cherish. In addition to maintaining our beautiful campus and facilities, they have also been hard at work on some special projects. One in particular whose progress I have loved watching is a bridge that #23724 Scott Farrell and the crew built for the new Cross Country course on Frisbie Farm. The bridge, which is made out of a fallen tree and a repurposed dock from the old Swim Point, provides a path over another up-stream section of Tute Creek. It looks fantastic and is ready to be used for years to come.

The office staff, with our director #13804 Matt Storey, #15017 Evan George, #10555 LangFu, #19524 Dawn Gay, #22830 Anita Johnson, #15877 Brendan Loughman, and #22827 Jesse Smith are still here as well, working hard to wrap things up from this past summer and already looking ahead to summer 2022. Also on campus all year is #16999 Jess Storey. In addition to working with community members on group fitness, Jess leads team workouts with whoever is around, myself included, brilliantly helping everyone to get moving and achieve their fitness goals. It has been a pleasure getting to know everyone better during the “off-season” and a joy to see how much they care about Camp every day of the year.

Living with me full-time in Roe this fall are #22172 Austin Carmody and #20763 Chris Peisch. This summer Austin was a leader in Upper Suter, while Chris was working as a staff member in the A-Hut. We have also been joined at various points by #19136 Ian Kotz, his brother #19137 PJ Kotz, and #21688 George Shaw. Ian was a valued member of the Infirmary team for the first time this summer, while also spending his time continuing to build out the camp service program. PJ was a leader in the Cubs and George was a member of the Hike Hut team, helping to facilitate our Outdoors, Climbing, and Ropes programs. This fall, the whole crew has continued their hard work from this summer, helping Maintenance to prepare the campus for winter while also running programs for the aforementioned visiting groups, like the Boquet Valley Central School and New Canaan Country Day School.

Initially, Austin and Chris had only planned to be around in September, but other opportunities presented themselves, leading them to work at the local schools. Both recent college graduates, their summers at Dudley have fostered an interest in education and working with kids outside of their time at Camp. When positions opened up as full-time building substitutes at the schools, both Austin and Chris jumped on them as a chance to remain in the North Country and take advantage of all that it has to offer outside of the summer, as well as get experience working in a variety of different areas in education.

Like me, Austin has really been enjoying his time in Westport this fall. Once Camp finished, Austin briefly returned home to spend some time with his family and returned with his dog, Pierce, who has been a wonderful addition to our fall crew. Together they have been taking advantage of their extended time on Lake Champlain and in the Adirondacks, taking daily long walks through the newly acquired Frisbie Farm property, with Pierce loving how much land he has to run free on. Working at the Boquet Valley Elementary School, Austin is looking forward to taking over his own first grade class while the primary teacher is out on maternity leave. He is grateful for the wonderful faculty and staff at the “Lake View” campus in Westport who have welcomed him and helped him through this transition. He is especially happy to be working alongside Dudley’s own #20637 Carol Schwoebel, the school nurse, and #18079 Diana McGuigan George, the school library assistant. In his free time, Austin has climbed three of the Adirondack High peaks including Giant, Cascade, and Porter, and he is eager to cross more of the 46’ers off of his list.

Chris has also been enjoying and taking full advantage of his time here this fall. During the week, Chris works at the Boquet Valley High School, referred to as the “Mountain View” campus, in Elizabethtown. While there he has been grateful to the helpful and welcoming  faculty and staff members. Many of them, along with the students, have Dudley ties, including #21337 Ellie Schwoebel, #24011 Paul Buehler, and #13744 Tom Bisselle. So far, Chris has valued his time teaching English and working in Special Education. He is looking forward to whatever opportunities present themselves as he works with the hardworking students of Westport, Elizabethtown, and Lewis. In his free time when he is not teaching or working on projects around Camp, Chris has enjoyed going on hikes, kayaking, playing pickleball, and visiting the Westport Library.

I am currently in the process of wrapping up my fourth Last Whistle. While the first three have been completed away from campus, it has been a truly unique experience compiling all the memories of a particularly special summer in the place where it all happened. I never imagined that I would ever get that opportunity, nor did I see myself spending this much time at Dudley in the “off season,” but it has been a truly wonderful experience that will stay with me for years to come, and I am so glad to be sharing such a beautiful place with an incredible group of people.

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