Out & About – Vanderkamp: a place to disconnect and recharge

By Alyssa Dearborn

Thirty miles from Syracuse in Cleveland, NY, deep inside hundreds of acres of preserved forests, Vanderkamp welcomes solo adventurers, retreat seekers, and family vacationers. A historic camp built by a wealthy philanthropist in the late 1800’s and a former church camp, the site now has a variety of luxury lodges and unique experiences. 

You walk in there and you drive onto the property and instantly feel peaceful and magical, just surrounded by nature.” Kera Wassenbach, an event organizer who organizes retreats and other events at Vanderkamp, said about the property’s first impression. 

Troy Tevens, one of the owners and founders of Vanderkamp, said when asked about the property that, “The existing lodges all have this unique, historic character. Old stone fireplaces, all this cool early 19th century architecture of Adirondack lodges. What we’ve been doing over the past two years is converting these into really luxury kind of immersive lodging experiences where you have pretty amazing places inside, but untouched nature outside. And I would say the vibe is one of peace, calmness, and seclusion.”

Some of the lodges are a quarter mile into the woods” he continued, “and some of them are right on the lake. There’s a little bit of variety, but I think the general theme is disconnect. When you get there, there’s no light pollution [in] the night sky, there’s no traffic. It’s really a different world. A place to disconnect.” 

While visitors disconnect from their everyday life, they can reconnect with themselves and nature through the variety of experiences Vanderkamp has to offer. Visitors can participate in some expected outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, fishing, and enjoying campfires. But the property offers unique ways to connect with nature as well. The idea has been popular with families and solo travelers, but Troy would like to attract more professional teams and retreat coordinators.

As we’ve developed over the past two years,” Troy said, “it’s been a real popular destination for families and couples as they go up there and stay at the lodges. But it’s really our passion – and Kera’s passion – to focus on bringing all kinds of great experiences out there from corporate retreats to women retreats, men retreats, transformational type retreats with coaching and yoga and things like that. It’s just such a natural fit for what we do out there and just a fit for our personalities. So we started to do that sort of thing. We’ve just had a coaching company that did an experience this week actually and they’re doing two more this year. We’re doing – hopefully – some stuff with the city of Syracuse. They’re going to do some events out there.”

And weddings I think are super popular as well.” he added, “Part of the current existing structure is a 10,000 square foot central building that’s the great big wilderness type of lodge where we do weddings and events. It’s got a full commercial kitchen. And then this summer we’ll be developing a back area to that where it’s a cool patio with a big fire pit. We’re really trying to make this a unique destination for weddings, corporate events. It’s something that doesn’t exist in our area or even in the northeast where a lot of people do hotels and then they do retreats. We want to focus on being that retreat destination where you can exclusively rent out this place fairly easily. So you come there and you’re the steward of the lake, the lodges, with you and your team just for the weekend, the week, or whatever. You come here, it’s all yours, borrowed for the time you’re there.” 

The true retreat thing,” Kera added, “there’s not many around here where you can actually just bring your whole team or whole group and just be yourself and have support from a professional that really understands what retreats are all about. I’ve been working at retreats all over and our caterer that we’ve partnered with – Southern Fare – they understand the type of food and type of experience we want to be served at retreats…It’s amazing how many transformational and team building and professional services are around here that just haven’t had a space to be. We partner with a list of them to create experiences for retreats as well. So it’s something really special in addition to the property and that you’re able to be secluded, we’ve got a team that can really support the retreat style.” 

Being able to host – and eventually coordinate their own – retreats is a very important goal for the owners of Vanderkamp. Creating a comfortable, nature-filled set of experiences for entire teams of people is something Troy is striving to do. 

We want to bring people in to do their retreats with us and we also want to start doing our own retreats…adding our own partnerships to it. We can do our own retreat experiences,” he explained. “We’re really trying to build this for the retreat customer, not only adding lodges so they can fit the amount of people they need to fit, but also building out the common amenities space…We’re going to be adding a lot of neat outdoors spaces. For example, behind this one common building, we’re going to add this kind of hot springs experience. Stone hot tubes under a canopy of green. Just a kind of immersive, outdoor hot springs experience. And then combined with this indoor-outdoor bar and game room experience. You go there and you can gather for cocktail hours and other places where you can gather with your team and do some creative team building.” 

When asked about his goals for the future development of Vanderkamp, Troy said, “Our idea is that we’re just going to add onto this place. So we’ve got lodges coming on this summer…and then four more secluded cabins coming on the following year. And then in future developments, developing three unique, more remote experiences. Maybe there’s a lodge that’s on the lake, you canoe out to it. And then possibly a treehouse out in the woods. Just these really unique places, all of them designed a little bit different so [you] can have a different experience each time you’re there.”

If you are interested in learning more about Vanderkamp and its unique retreat options, visit https://vanderkampny.com/.