New England Trip: Day One

Last week we traveled to Saranac Lake, New York to visit Adirondack Leadership Expeditions and Cummington, Massachusetts to visit Academy at Swift River.  Both of these programs are part of the Aspen Education Group.  This was our third trip to see Academy at Swift River but our first time visiting Adirondack Leadership Expeditions.

Tracy Edwards, Thomas Ahern, Amanda Lehrer, Patrick McAvoy, May Peach, and Louise Slater


We arrived at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions (ALE) on the most beautiful fall day.  The leaves were at or close to peak. Thomas Ahern, Director of Clinical Outreach and Amanda Lehrer, both from Aspen Education Group, were our traveling buddies. Our first stop was at the intake house located in Saranac, NY. We were warmly greeted by the staff. It was good to see where our families are first greeted and  welcomed to ALE.

Louise, Thomas Ahern (Aspen Education) and May in front of the Intake House

Our next stop was at the Alpo building where all of the staff congregate and share clinical notes and have weekly in service.  We loved playing with all of the therapy dogs, learning about the improved nutrition and whole food provided, and meeting some of the field staff before they set out to meet their groups. There is a distinct smell in this place that immediately connects one to camping and wood fires. We knew we were about to experience wilderness.

Alpo Building and Tsuga (one of the therapy dogs)

Patrick in the pantry talking about nutrition

Next we went to meet with some students and had a group check-in in the middle of a lake before we paddled around. For ALE, canoeing and mountain biking are added components to their already excellent wilderness program. We learned that the girls group had been arguing and not working as a team on the trail. When they moved to the canoes, this new environment shifted the team dynamics and the group quickly resolved issues. Adventure therapy creates opportunity for new learning, new transitions, and opportunities for personal growth.



Canoeing with Tracey Edwards, Executive Director

Cabin where students will go if weather gets too harsh

Next we toured the Visitors Interpretive  Center (VIC) which is part of Paul Smith’s College. ALE leases 650 acres  for their “playground” from the college. Students recently participated in trail maintenance and felt a sense of pride and ownership that they created a trail for use by handicapped people. The potential benefits of the partnership between the college and ALE are exciting. One thing we really liked is that the college offers a degree in Recreation, Adventure Travel, and  Ecotourism. Wouldn’t it be neat if ALE students got a degree from the college and came back to work for ALE!

VIC Center