Tajar’s Birthday

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s the Tajar’s Birthday today which calls for celebrations.  We awoke to little bit of Tajar Folly this morning with dining room tables on the front porch and inner tubes on the roof.  That Tajar always gets a bit excited just before his birthday.  Tu-bing or not Tu-bing, that is the question.  Yes, Tubing was an early morning activity this AM and Blue Ridge was first on the mighty French Broad this morning.  It’s a “lazy river” float back to camp and Hunt Farm property with a short walk back to camp.  We always take a raft with us and of course all the necessary implements of river tripping.  The BR crew even saw a Green Heron which they caught a pic or two of.

Cabin photos were the next order of the day which you will see on the web and come January your camper will get a copy of their cabin photo.  Mountainside and Riverside also returned today in time for the Tajar Ball.  They all had a great time and I’m looking forward to seeing their skits at tomorrow night’s campfire.  They will have their traditional MS Banquet tomorrow evening.  It’s good to have everyone back home.  Of course other groups will be going out of camp tomorrow.  We have three trips out in the AM.  Main Camp Kayakers are heading to the French Broad for a little whitewater, mountain bikers are heading to Dupont State Forest and hikers are taking on Daniel Ridge Trail and its great swimming holes on their hike.  It should be a good weather day and a bit cooler tomorrow.

Most of the other pics you will see from today center around the Tajar Ball with characters from across the spectrum of characters.  The Jamaican Bob Sled Team, Elvis, Jack Sparrow, Hippies, Vampires, staff dressed as campers, campers dressed as staff, magicians, scarecrows, ducks, fairies, Robin Hood, River Rats, Rock Jocks, and the cast from the Lion King just to name a few were all there.  Tajar Ball even without the ice cream and the hayrides is a blast but of course no evening is complete without the Great Arabeeski’s (Faux) Magic Show.  Imagine the most phony and unbelievable show at the same time and you’ve got it.  Tele-transporting campers from one trash can to another, levitating while lying flat, flying handkerchiefs, disappearing counselors and chickens and that’s the tip of ice berg complete with a lot of one liners.  What child old or young can resist slapstick humor on stage put on by a couple of goofy adults winking their way through trick after trick.  Thanks to RB and Mac for a great show.

I seem to always go back to this theme of the “simple joys” that make children laugh belly laughs and make adults cry with laughter.  It doesn’t take much to achieve this at camp.  I wish a lot of our world was like camp.  It would certainly be a better place.  We smile a lot here because we have so many great kids here.  It’s not a perfect world but it’s darn close and I only wish it could last longer.  Sometimes we all feel like Peter Pan in that child’s world of never wanting it to end and have to grow up.  Camp is that kind of magic and hard to put into words.  When your child returns home, I hope you will get a glimsp of what we have here in our child’s world.  We’ve had a great session and tomorrow is another day of opportunity.  Stay tuned!

International Day!


Dear Parents & Friends,

It has been another busy day here at camp and I apologize for not putting up a news article yesterday.  Some days are just too full.  I was needed in the Main Camp climbing program yesterday and today and thoroughly enjoyed myself with the time I spent there.  We have several groups going out of Main Camp tomorrow and one of those is climbing.  The climbers were using great technique today as some of them attacked the toughest side of the wall.  One of the great things about climbing is even if you’re not climbing, you can monitor the belayer (always a counselor) if you’re a camper.  Campers get a real feel for the whole aspect of belaying while sitting next to the belay counselor.  Technique again is an important aspect of climbing where you really have to depend on your legs and pace yourself with your arms as you move up the wall.  It’s a dance and one that you can wear yourself out if you don’t observe and plan every possible hold and move for hands and feet as you move upward on the wall.  It’s the same on real rock.  We had a quite a number of campers involved in Arborist climbing this afternoon.  Several very young campers were found there and in our tree climbing program.

Two sessions of bikers this afternoon led by Erika.  I happened to be near the climbing wall when they assembled at the bike shed to begin their ride.  Most all campers can ride a bike however we’re providing some skills that take them to the next level.  It sometimes takes them a little while to learn the gearing and how to utilize all those gears.  Riding technique is important as well.  They need to learn how to ride out of the saddle while pedaling and standing up with pedals parallel while riding.  Shifting ones weight while riding is also important when going up and down hills as well as braking.  Most campers want to jump on the bikes and go but we spend a little time going over these aspects.  There are also some maneuvers we can do that will help their riding technique.

It was international day here at camp celebrating the countries of South Africa, Poland and Kenya. Skits and ceremonies were so much fun as you can see from the pics.  Winnie, our head counselor for Hillside is such a talent and has the stage presence perfect for camp.  The story of the Lion King was played out as well as a hilarious Polish fairy tale complete with dragon and a fair maiden (Adam).  Everyone was doubled over with laughter.

Tomorrow we wake up to the Tajar’s birthday.  Of all the animals in the forests and the lakes, there is none so curious as the Tajar.  The Tajar lives in a very special place.  He lives in an old tree somewhere near the camp.  If you were to see the Tajar’s tree, it would look like all the other trees of the forest.  But if you were to see the Tajar, you would know that he is something very special. The Tajar looks a little something like a tiger and something like a jaguar and something like a badger, but is different from all those animals.  He would rather dance in the moonlight on a warm summer night than sleep in his tree.  He might be sitting in a tree right now, listening to campers carrying on a conversation.  And if he were, he would be so quiet you couldn’t hear him move.  But if you were to look around and see the Tajar sitting high in the limbs of a nearby tree, he would certainly look most curious.  You might think he looks a little like a tiger and something like a jaguar and something like a badger.  But if you were look away, you wouldn’t be able to remember what the Tajar looks like.

Look closely at the photos tomorrow and you may be able to pick out the Tajar.  He comes to the Tajar Ball too, and always in costume.  Stay tuned!


Special Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today was Special Day at camp which we celebrate each Sunday when we’re in session.  It usually revolves around a theme and this week’s theme was The World Cup.  More on the actual games later.  Every cabin represented a team and went around camp doing various activities that focused on the game of soccer.  As you can see our camp photographer was on a day off so we didn’t get as many pictures as we usually do.  I spent the morning getting Riverside to their destination up on the Blue Ridge Parkway where they’ll be hiking various trails into Pisgah and will be returning on Wed. evening.  They had a sunny start to their morning but some rain settled in later in the day so I’m sure they hiked through the dampness.  They are a hearty bunch and will do well on this trip.  We look forward to their return.

Mountainside heads out tomorrow on their various adventures and it should be a good day for them.  They came to Sunday Service Campfire last night and were an inspiration to our younger Main Camp campers as they sat quietly in the back and showed lots of maturity with their presence.  I held a short meeting with them after campfire and then they went down to the lake for their traditional Mountainside send off.  Our Sunday Service theme was God’s Green Earth and we had skits, readings and songs that campers performed this evening.  Jake from Sunrise wrote a song that everyone sang at the end of our program.  Great composing Jake!

At the end of the day today we held our own World Cup game on the soccer.  I haven’t heard such cheering in a while at Gwynn Valley.  Everyone was involved in some way or the other and the only thing we lacked was a stadium GV style to put everyone in.  I think everyone is disappointed that the US is out of the World Cup.  Yesterday England was eliminated as well.  Traditionally we hold staff rec on Sunday night.  It’s a time when our staff come together between 9:30-11:30 to have food and socialize.  It’s a deserved break for these folks after a busy week and full day.  I had taped the England / Germany game and we watched much to the disappointment of our English staff.  Nina, however, who is from Germany loved the outcome.  The goal that went in that didn’t count was a heartbreak for our lads and lasses.

The World Cup is more than a celebration of soccer and athletic skills.  It’s a symbol of the diversity we have on the planet and the spirit in which we can come together and play for the greatest game in the world.  We at GV celebrate our diversity each and every day and appreciate our international contact with many countries while at camp.  Stay tuned!

Tajar Times and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thought we might start off the day with a sample of the Tajar Times.  I’ll be back later tonight to provide more and hopefully video on the river from Riverside on Wed.  Enjoy!


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PM Update – It was a special night on Mountainside as adventure groups were announced this evening.  Anne and I were up there to hear the results and we were there to help host Brookside campers on a visit to Mountainside to check it out.  While MS staff were going over the campers choices the Mountainsider’s entertained the Brook campers with songs, answered questions and talked about their experiences.  MSer’s start packing for their adventures tomorrow and will be leaving first thing on Monday morning for several days of fun and adventure.

We had more afternoon showers today but nothing to amount to much.  There are about 6 cabins on campouts tonight and all will have calm clear weather this evening.  The wood was a bit wet but everyone was able to get a fire going to cook dinner.  Those left in camp feasted on burgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings.

Last night we had twilight play which is an extended after supper time for activities.  It’s a cool temp wise part of the day after dinner and many activities are open just like during the day.  There are hikes, sports, several arts and crafts activities and swimming and boating are up there as well.  It’s a night when we don’t have campfire and the campers go from dinner to about an hour and a half of play time and then off to bed.  Campers really need this extended time because camp is so scheduled and it allows them to do any activity and relax doing it at the end of day.  It’s kind of like getting home from work and going for a run or bike ride to wind down.  I went around to various after supper activities tonight to visit with campers and staff and enjoyed seeing children running, jumping and generally have a great time doing a variety of activities.  There was wading in the creek, soccer, games on the Green, wrestle with you counselor (not an organized activity but none-the-less fun), story-telling, mulky on the volleyball court, knockout on the b-ball court and bracelets on the Wall next to the Green.  When we have campfire in the evening as we did tonight, campers usually play for about 45 minutes after dinner and go straight to campfire.  Hillside danced with Winnie tonight while the Brook visited Mountainside.  As campfire ended I came into the Lodge and the campers were winding down listening to a story.  One little girl had perched herself in the doorway to the Lodge as the evening was in full force.  A trace of light still shone on the green and I asked her what she was doing.  She said, “I’m just watching the fireflies. You don’t see many of them where I live and I really love watching them this time of night”.  I suppose it’s just a case of those simple joys we always speak of here at Gwynn Valley.  Stay tuned and enjoy the video below.  Filmed on Wed. with Riverside on Section #9 of the French Broad.  This rapid is called Big Pillow!

Just Horsing Around

Dear Parents & Friends,

Sorry the blog is late.  We had some thunder boomers late last night and we shut down the computers here at camp.  Today’s pics brought lots of shots of horses from the riding ring and the ladies of riding are doing a super job down there.  Lily, Alice, and Alinta are the honchos at the ring with Alice and Lily having many years of experience here at camp.  Lily was actually a camper here.  Horses are a favorite among campers and especially girls at camp.  Every young girl loves horses and my wife was one of those horse lovers growing up and has her horse here at camp.  “Stitches” is her name but she’s too old to ride anymore but gets a good deal of love from the campers coming down to the stable. You might see campers riding with no hands and using their balance to get a feel for the horse under them.  We are leading horses when this is done so that campers have the confidence to let go and get used to the movement of the animal.  Balance and tuning into your own body is so important in many activities at camp.

Our arborist tree climbing program has been very popular this summer.  This is not your typical climbing that we do on the wall or rock.  It’s ascension of a rope utilizing a type of prussic knot that actually grabs the rope under tension and allows the camper to shinny up the ¾ inch rope.  It’s also a different type rope that we use and is commonly used by arborist and tree surgeons.  More and more folks who maintain healthy trees are using this method to climb trees because you don’t have to spike the tree in order to get up.  I’ve learned a good bit about tree maintenance over the years from the arborist who works on our trees.  The campers love it because they can control their own speed going up and you have to focus on being efficient in working your arms and legs together in tandem to ascend the rope.  It’s a great exercise in balance and brains.  Climbing is the same on the wall and rock.  It’s mostly at this level of climbing, mind over matter and thinking your way up the climb instead of muscling your way up.

Another one of those balance activities is mountain biking and learning how to shift your weight on the bike to ride in a safe a fun way.  Using all those gears is not that easy and some of our campers have only ridden on bikes with coaster brakes.  We’re trying to teach the campers to keep the same peddling cadence by shifting and also getting them used to using hand brakes on the bike.  Standing up while pedaling and riding up on the pedals is another skill that takes some time to learn for some children.  We have all skills sets here and everyone is progressing nicely.

Over the past several days we been holding “Open Houses” where one of the resource team members and a cluster/activity leader goes into the cabin to interview the campers without the counselors there.  This is all prearranged and it’s just a check-in to how the cabin is doing and how the counselors are doing with the campers.  We ask many questions and the campers are very honest with us and you can tell pretty easily when things are going well in the cabin.  We hold these visits until we think the cabin has had time to bond and allow the staff to get used to the new group that has come in.  If there is any feedback that’s needed we have time to do so before the end of the session.  The bottom line is making sure the campers are getting along and making sure the staff are being good role models and good cabin parents.  It’s not easy to replace you all as parents,  but we’re doing everything we can to make your child’s experience here at camp the best it can possibly be.  Stay tuned!

Every day is day of Opportunity!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Sorry I’m missed the blog yesterday.  I was out with Riverside on the river so I left camp just after 7 and returned last night around 9:30.  I was one tired puppy and I think they were as well.  We had an epic day on the river and everyone did a super job.  It was extremely hot yesterday on the river and we took every chance to swim and cool off.  Some boats even swam when they didn’t want to.  This of course means we had several boats go over along the way.  We scouted a few rapids from shore and one in particular called Big Pillow in which you see campers gathered up on a large rock overlooking the upper portion of the rapid.  The thing about this section

of the river is its long rapids and the approaches and set up for them can be difficult.  You need a reliable ferry and a good eddy turn.  I’m going to try and get some video up in the next couple of days to show you a bit of the trip.  In their down time today, Riverside spent some carefree minutes at the Lake and stepped back in time to visit the Mill.  I think it’s great when these veterans of Main Camp want to experience some of the past program highlights.  Any day with Cindy at the Mill is a highlight.  Mountainside started their mini-adventures today and will continue those tomorrow.  The new group brings new energy and each session has its own personality.  They will leave for their adventures on Monday.

In the photos you might notice some tomahawk throwing-wait a minute, did you say tomahawk?  Mark, our logistics guy and teacher of many skills, brought his tomahawks to camp this summer and gave some campers a chance to try and throw.  I wanted to but couldn’t swing it today.  I got to play the day before.  Those young men in Cabin Echo got to tree climb this afternoon and despite the holds not being close together and most of them being vertically challenged, they did remarkably well.  Many made it to the top of both trees.

Corn, corn and cornucopia-lots of corn picked and shucked today and nothing could be fresher to be served the same day at dinner with pizza and watermelon.  Last night we had jambalaya.  Good stuff and lots of it.  Speaking of corn, how about those corn cob cars that were made at the Mill.  We’re talking Nascar Gwynn Valley style.  Another spectator sport tonight at camp was campfire where RB entertained the Hillsider’s with Tajar Tales that he has written.  It’s always nice to be read to, especially when it’s the author.  While Hillside was getting stories in front of the Gatehouse, Brookside was dancing in the Lodge with me.  We called three dances for the evening; Patty Cake Polka, Virginia Reel, and the Gay Gordon.  The sweat poured and then we all relaxed to the story of Jumping Mouse.  It’s a great Native American tale about faith, friends, sacrifice and giving.  It’s one of my favorites here at camp.

The benefits to young people of a summer camp experience are many.  Gwynn Valley is unique in that it offers campers a chance to experience activities not commonly found in other camps. The Farm and Mill are two and also our attention to a nurturing environment where each child can learn and grow under the guidance of a mature and caring staff.  And not to forget that major benefit, the big “O”.  Simply put, they are Opportunities. Opportunities not exclusive to camps but rather concentrated at camp, where under those caring counselors, campers can learn to become more independent, more confident, more self-aware, and more giving toward others. These are just some of the life lessons learned at camp.  Every day at camp is another day of opportunity, as Dale says, our site manager and the guy in field with the hockey stick that greets you when you arrive.  Every interaction, every activity taught, every new friend made, every chance to stretch and go beyond our cushy life and all in the haven of GV.  We are having fun and the opportunities abound! Stay tuned!

New Zealand Day

Dear Parents and Friends,

It was New Zealand Day today at camp and we started off with a Maori ceremony on the lake before breakfast.  Every Tuesday is international day at camp and we celebrate the many countries of Gwynn Valley each and every week.  We’ve got quite a few staff from down under and they made a day of it complete with music, skits, kiwi commercials, dances (the Haka) and pavlova, their most popular dessert.  Everyone wore black today because of the All Blacks, which is the name of their national rugby team.  It was a sea of black t shirts tonight at campfire.

We had a little shower today but nothing to write home about as it was just a sprinkle for the garden.  We could actually use some more rain.  Speaking of wet, the Web of Life folks caught a huge salamander today during their activity.  We have many varieties in and around our area.  They love our moist environment.  There’s one that’s bright orange they were actually looking for but found another.  Tree climbing was a hit today and campers of all ages scampered up and down the trees next to the office.  It’s a great way to start off climbing and I think is much easier than starting on our wall.  It’s also a natural as we’ve been climbing trees for years (just not quite this high, 40-60 feet).  It also teaches the basics of climbing gear, knots, and the calls and commands used whether you’re in a tree, on real rock, or on an artificial wall.  Sophie the camp dog got involved with ground school and received some love from those who were waiting to climb.  She also was watching the kayakers at the lake and did her part in staying wet.  She’s gets in the water about 8:00 each morning and stays wet all day.

Did you see the Tie Dyes that the girls of Blue Ridge made?  They are pretty spectacular.  We had great meals today at lunch and dinner.  Lunch was fish, baked french fries, cole slaw, and watermelon and dinner was BBQ chicken, roasted potatoes, fresh corn and broccoli picked this morning at the farm, and the New Zealand Pavlova dessert with strawberries and kiwi fruit.

There was lots of audience participation tonight at campfire as the Kiwi’s entertained us.  Everyone had a great time and it was a nice way to end our journey to the other side of the world .  I’m off tomorrow to paddle with Riverside.  They’re going to be on Section 9 of French Broad around Hot Springs, NC.  It’s the most remote and beautiful part of the French Broad in NC.  It’s also the biggest water so we should have a good day of it.  I’m looking forward to spending the day with them and seeing how their skills are progressing.  They’ll be home tomorrow evening and I’m sure will be ready for a shower and bed.  Stay tuned!

First full day of B Session

Dear Parents & Friends,

Greetings from GV and so glad to have you join us.  I just finished meeting with our SIT’s and if you don’t know who they are at camp, allow me to describe their position.  They are our 16 and 17 year olds that are Staff in Training and in an apprentice role here.  They work very hard in almost all activities and are here at camp for three weeks.  They also work in the kitchen, washing dishes and set tables each and every meal.  All of them are previous campers and between them they have close to 70 years of camp experience.  We have a great crew this first term.  We had a little ice cream social and talked about being more effective leaders in camp.  Sounds heavy but it wasn’t.  We’re always trying to improve on that program and we were interested in getting their feedback with a bit over a week into camp. They also live in cabins and are true friends and mentors to the campers.  Hopefully they’ll all be staff in the future.  A good many of our full staff this summer we’re previously SIT’s.

You may notice a few pics of campers milking Bernice, our milk cow.  Milking is not as easy as it looks and we do have an automatic milker but it’s fun to try.  The farm is really cranking this time of year and we’ve already got corn coming in.  Those baby goats sure are cute as seek the higher ground of campers and counselors backs.  Eloise the pig got a bath today and we’re hoping she’ll have babies soon.  Pottery, basketry and archery were activities that got a lot of action today.  It was a hot day, so the waterfront was open all day long for activities including sit on top kayaking and Jackson kayaks getting ready for that river trip in the future.

We said goodbye to our Mountainsiders today and will welcome a new group on Wed.  All enjoyed their time with us and of course I attribute that to the staff up there in the cove.  Riverside continues their adventure on the river today through Wed. and I hope to maybe join them on the last day.

Those of you returning to camp will notice a pic of Debbie, our camp musician.  She is still tickling the 88’s and accompanying all the action on stage and in the lodge.  She’s an amazing musician and has been at GV for 32 years.

As GV enters its 75th year I realize how camp is such an important part of a child’s experience in life and we thank you for sharing your children. A quality camp experience provides our children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — a meaningful, engaged, and participatory environment.

Camp promotes community. It creates this great space that shows kids how to live together and care for one another. There are norms and negotiation of boundaries; there are rules. Camp is a place where kids can “practice” growing up stretching their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood is supposed to provide.

Camp teaches critical thinking. We need to remember how important it is to be actively involved in the learning process, and camp affords that. We’re going to need really strong problem solvers in the next century. We need the science, math, and biology, but without the ability to relate, connect, empathize, or inspire innovation, how will our kids be able to make a difference in the challenges now facing us? Camp is an important piece to that growth.  As you can see I’m a believer in Camp!  Stay tuned!


Opening Day Session B

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day was the best.  Beautiful weather, great kids and smooth arrivals.  Hope you all had a safe trip home.  As I write I’m sure most everyone is snuggled down in their camp beds after a very full day filled the anticipation of returning to camp or coming for the first time.  Gwynn Valley makes everyone feel welcome no matter your experience.  I had dinner with the Chipmunk Hut boys tonight and they were almost falling asleep at the table after a full day and full tummy of mac and cheese, fruit, bean salad, regular salad and fresh bread.  To top it off we had a giant cookie with their cabin name written in icing.  I think all the cabins had the same.

You’ll notice there are a good many pics of Riverside on the site tonight as they returned just a few days ago and were off again this morning.  The swimming hole that’s shown was discovered this past Spring on a trip with my son and nephews to the upper Davidson River.  In early April the water was really cold but we braved it anyway.  I’m sure it’s still pretty cold this time of year.

All activities were running full steam ahead today complete with all the camp having their swim assessments.  It takes a while to get through all those but it’s worth it and allows us to determine which campers need some help with their strokes.  We also held activity skits after lunch to help campers decide what they wanted to take over the days ahead for their morning activities.  This too is very important because there is so much offered in the morning and in the afternoon.  I must say that I did miss cabin skits this evening because Mountainside held their final friendship camp fire.  Anne and I attended and I stuck around for songs and some special time with them.  What a great crew up there and also a great staff.  Hat’s off to the staff for putting together such a great session.

As morning activities kick off tomorrow know that your children are learning and “living the dream” as one camper described it from last session.  Camp takes children to a new level of community life that even school and family can’t always imitate.  Campers have a chance to make choices and become independent in their life with us.  It creates a sense of confidence and self.  Camp also offers a sense of belonging to something that is greater than oneself where we still practice the GV values of simplicity, acceptance, and a strong connection to the natural world.  We’re looking forward to a session of the simple joys of childhood for the days ahead.  Stay tuned!

Session A Closing

Dear Parents & Friends,

As we began our 75th summer of camping here at Gwynn Valley I want to thank you for sharing your children with us this past 8 days.  We’ve had a wonderful session and it was evident as we held our closing for Session A this morning.  It’s been a beautiful day here and we couldn’t have asked for more.

Soon you will receive an evaluation via email, sent to you by the camp and we hope you will take the time to fill it out and send it back.  This provides us with feed back to help make our program better.  The eval will come through a service called Constant Contact.  They will not solicit you in any way and you get only one correspondence from them.  We use their services and design the form here at camp.  We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.

As our A session campers left today we still have Mountainside out on their adventures and Riverside getting ready to take off again on Sunday.  We can’t wait to hear the stories from their adventures and look forward to having them back in camp.  Camp captures the simple things in a camper’s life and brings out the best in young people.

Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for a great opening to our summer.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year.