Parents who send their children to Rugged Adventures Summer Camp can be assured of three things.
One, their children will have plenty of outdoor adventures. Two, they’ll be kept very busy. And three, they’ll probably want to take a nap when they get home.
Micheline Lemay and two friends founded the Stowe-based day camp in 2010.
As a child, Lemay and her five siblings went on numerous hiking and camping adventures with their mother, an avid outdoor enthusiast. She strives to offer the same experiences for children who attend Camp Rugged Adventures. Weekly sessions for children ages 7 to 12 offer hiking, mountain biking, swimming and lessons about nature and conservation.
Campers explore Stowe and the surrounding area from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are also opportunities for overnight mountain biking and backpacking adventures.
“It’s a pretty unique option for someone who is looking for an active but educational camp,” Lemay said. “We spend so much time outside. We’re all over the place, rain or shine.”
Lemay runs the junior ski-racing club at the Mount Mansfield Ski Club. She has a degree in outdoor education and a master’s degree in education.
She founded Camp Rugged Adventures with fellow MMSC ski racing coaches Tyler Arnot and Taylor Mikell. Arnot has since left to pursue nonprofit work; Lemay and Mikell continue to run the camp.
“It’s nice to have a male and female in a role where you’re working with boys and girls,” Lemay said. “It’s a nice mix and energy that the two of us have.”
The camp is divided into four weeklong sessions. A maximum of 18 children are accepted into each session, overseen by four staff members.
Campers meet in a yurt at the Mt. Mansfield Winter Academy before departing for the day’s adventures.
Each week has a theme, ranging from Vermont Week to Olympic Week. On Monday campers hike, Tuesday they go mountain biking, they take a field trip each Wednesday, Thursday is kids’ choice, and Friday is camp Olympics.
They also read for 15 to 20 minutes each day and spend time journaling. Additionally, they receive educational talks based on the week’s theme. For instance, during Olympic Week they might learn about nutrition or how to handle pressure while competing in a particular sport. During Floral/Fauna Week, campers might visit a bird sanctuary, do plant and animal identifications and read about habitats.
Last year during Olympic Week, they visited the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum and took a field trip to Cochran’s Ski Area, where they interviewed former Olympian Jimmy Cochran and participated in a dry land training session.
Campers should be prepared to spend a lot of time engaged in physical activity.
“A good attitude goes a really long way,” Lemay said. “We have a set of expectations for them. You have to be able to bike the Rec Path, hike the Pinnacle and be a confident swimmer. Those are the three things we ask that they come into camp knowing to do.”
The three-day, two-night overnight trips are memorable experiences. Last year, the campers started in Smugglers’ Notch, hiked to the chin, continued to the backside of Mount Mansfield and spent the night in Underhill State Park. After hiking part of the Long Trail, they spent the next night at Butler Lodge before hiking out to the Trout Club on their final day.
The campers carried their own gear, planned the meals they would eat, and carried some of the food and water.
“It was a pretty intense trip and it was amazing how well the kids did,” Lemay said. “It was a real backcountry experience.”
Running the camp is a dream job for Lemay.
“I love the fact that I get to work with children and the outdoors,” Lemay said. “That’s what I love. It’s my purpose in life. I feel extremely fortunate to have found a way to do what I want to do.”
Rugged Adventures Summer Camp
Day camp, four one-week sessions:
July 21-25, Olympic Week
Aug. 4-8, Vermont Week
Aug. 11-15, Floral/Fauna Week
Overnight Adventure Trips, two three-day sessions:
July 28-30: Northeast Kingdom Mountain Bike Trip
Aug 18-20: Backpack Stowe Trip
Registration: Before May 1, $325/week; after May 1, $350/week; multiple-week discounts available
Overnight trips: $399