Session A – Last Full Day

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a full day at camp and unfortunately the last day.  We just finished our evening campfire program which is always called Friendship Campfire on the last night of camp.  It’s been a great session and we celebrated that by showing many of pictures that you all have been viewing this week.  Our camp photographer Natalie has done a great job with capturing your children over the past eight days.  Be sure and thank her for the great pics that she has put up on the web site.  Most of all, Anne and I appreciate our  staff who have cared for your children this week and made sure that their experience at Gwynn Valley was one that will bring about great memories of the good times we all had.

Tonight’s campfire allowed our little thespians to put on a shadow box play about how the animals harnessed fire.  It’s a Native American story that has all animals as characters and many twists and turns as each animal volunteers to help with the daunting task of reining in the fire.  Two groups of campers led the two act play.  Much music was shared by campers, staff and SIT’s.  We had guitar players as well as singers.

Backing up a bit in the day, we had the perfect weather day for camp.  Mid 80’s and a hint of breeze with some clouds and no rain.  All activities were humming along and several groups left camp for day outings as well as overnight forays into the forest.  The Main Camp mountain bikers went to Dupont for the day and took a lunch.  They rode over 8 miles of single track before returning to camp this afternoon.  Mountainsider’s started their adventures today.  Paddlers headed to the upper French Broad, climbers ventured up to Cedar Rock which you can see from camp, bikers to Dupont State Forest and pioneers across the road on the river to the Hunt Farm site of the Island Ford.  Riverside was back in camp today cooking and also spending some quality down time after their 4 days at Linville Gorge climbing.  They spent about 2 hours working on their canoe skills on the lake and then joined us for campfire this evening.  It’s always good to have them home and in camp.  They seem so old and big compared to many of our young campers this session.  All total the twelve of them have about 75 years of camp experience.  We look forward to having them as staff one day.

It’s been a great session and the children have made lots of new friends, explored the world around them, and learned that “I can” is much more powerful than “I can’t”.  Magic has happened in their short time with us.  In an environment created just for them, they’ve learned  real life skills, developed self-esteem, and gained a sense of independence and community.  By playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, and becoming part of a camp family, they have created some memorable moments this week.

As you arrive tomorrow morning, we look forward to seeing you and hope you hear many good stories over the next few days from camp.  This session is always full of lots of new campers.  Eight days is such a short amount of time in our adult world but to many of our campers it is perfect for their first experience.  As stated above we wish we could keep them longer but it’s good to leave a place when the timing is right and you want to come back.  Gwynn Valley is 75 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood.  Stay tuned!


Color Me Tie-Dye

Dear Parents and Friends,

Did you see the colors on those tie-dyes in today’s pictures. Those are some bright bold colors.  Tamara and her staff are doing a great job with the arts at camp.  If you’re wondering why we don’t have as many pictures up today it’s because our power went off this evening.  We had some storms roll through about 4:00 but despite it all many cabins were still able to cook out and camp out.  It was a beautiful cool evening after the rain went through.  Several boys cabins came down to the Green tonight before campfire just to run and play tag with their counselor.  What youngster doesn’t want to chase and be the first to catch their counselor.  It’s ageless play at it’s best.  I chuckled as the staff raced around the field for a long time after finally collapsing from exhaustion into a heap with boys piling on yelling “we got you”.  This is the thing that memories are made.  It’s making camp DNA as we create the many memories from all the cool things that happen each summer at camp.  Tonight at campfire we hosted our second group of cabins that hadn’t danced and listened to RB read from his Tajar Tales.  The children were so quiet as he stood in front of a blazing fire and talked about how the Tajar loves to dance in pale moonlight.  Even the oldest campers on Brookside still wonder about that magical mystical creature and pay reverence to the younger campers by their silence when the stories are told.

I can hardly believe that tomorrow is Wed.  We’re getting some folks in Main Camp ready to head out on some out of camp trips tomorrow and they should have a great time in the process.  It looks as though we’ll have a group of  bikers and paddlers go out tomorrow and Thurs.  We’ll see if we can get some pictures.  Mountainside chose their adventures tonight and will be leaving on Thurs. to begin their time away.  They will be playing outside and growing inside with the skills and independence that they experience while out.  Riverside comes back from their climbing trip on Thurs. and I’m sure will be ready for a home cooked meal and hot showers.  Stay tuned!

Just Milling About

Parents and Friends,

Greetings on this cool evening.  We had a couple of showers that helped with the heat today and being in a cool place like the Mill was definitely a bonus.  The Mill is an extension of our Farm Program and was actually the very first type of activity on that site before camp started.  In 1890 the Mill was built on the present site.  The mill race (where the water is diverted from the stream) was all hand dug and comes from Carson Creek which flows through the center of camp.  The water is diverted just near the big rock on Mountainside next to Bike Shed and Equipment Rooms.  Many local communities had grist mills at that time.  The field to the left of the Mill was once a terraced corn field at one point and I’m sure the land surrounding the Mill was farmed and there was a residence there.  A girls camp was started around 1910 and operated under the name of Camp Connestee Cove.  Mary Gwynn started Gwynn Valley in 1935.  The Mill was brought back into service in the mid 80’s and has operated for our campers ever since then.

There are a number of cool things that go on at the Mill besides milling.  Campers learn what it was like to visit a mill around the turn of century and they get a taste of the products that come from the Mill through the outdoor cooking program that happens there each day.  You may also note that fishing takes place at the Mill and it’s very satisfying fishing at that.  We stock the little pond with about 300-400 trout and fish with cane poles.  It’s a great place to be, whatever the weather and offers so much in the way of history and doing many cool things that were done over a century ago on that site.

Many times we hear that Mountainside misses some of those great activities from Main Camp so tonight the whole Mountainside group went down to the Farm for a little farm fun.  As I write they are just heading back to their cabins.

While some were learning about the Mill others were honing their basketball, archery and soccer skills on the A-Field.  Sports offers a variety of activities for campers including some international sports like Cricket, touch Rugby and Badminton.  Does anyone know where badminton came from?  Many think it came from Ancient Greece about 2000 years ago.  Sports at Gwynn Valley also include our climbing activities as well as Mountain Biking at camp.  It’s been pretty hot to bike in the afternoons but we’ve had a good number of campers to sign up each day.

Games on the Green was a blast tonight and as the sun went down a brief shower cooled things even more.  Campfire tonight was International Night.  We learned a good bit about the many countries represented here this summer and it was great having some of the campers help the international staff with skits, music and dance.  Everyone has stories to tell and it’s always great to hear some from a far away distant land.  Our world is sometimes small but it has a vast amount of wonderful things from other cultures to learn about.  As I sign off tonight I’m seeing a sliver of a moon and in the western sky with a planet perched just above it.  Just out of my window I hear a boy’s cabin catching fireflies next to the lake.  Ahhh,  the simple joys.  Stay tuned !


P.S.   Hope you enjoyed seeing a copy of the Tajar Times today! Your children are doing a great job writing and illustrating their impression of camp.

A Full Day

Dear Parents & Friends,

We  finished up our day with a dance at campfire followed by some Tajar Tales.  Winnie, Head Counselor on Hillside lead us in several dances tonight, including one from his native Holland.  Winnie has been teaching international dance for many years.  Between his dance calling and Debbie’s piano they were a dynamic duo.  It was a hot evening to dance, but we cooled off in the lodge by listening to RB (Rick Brown) read from his Tajar Tales.  RB wrote the Tajar Tales many years ago and it’s a joy to have him here this summer to read them out loud.  He’s our Fine Arts Cluster Leader and also the editor of the Tajar Times. Just the tip of the iceberg of talented staff at GV.

A good many cabins were on campouts tonight in various sites around the property.  Those sites by the creek are best for putting one to sleep.  My favorite is Hidden Stall and Indian Cave at opposite ends of camp.  Many campers will be camping out again on Tues. night and we’ll have another dance for those who missed tonight’s events.  Mountainside finished their mini-adventures today and will be preparing for their end of week adventures coming up.  They are a great group and I believe our camp photographer got a good many pics of them today at the waterfront after the dinner hour.  Speaking of food we had a great lunch today consisting of caramelized pork chops, sweet potatoes with butter, broccoli with cheese sauce, fresh bread, pineapple and fresh salad. A delicious meal and much of it coming from the farm!  To add to our farm fare folks were at the farm picking beans and carrots. On a visit to farm today I noticed our blueberry bushes are getting some ripe berries so we’ll be sampling those soon in some pancakes.  Did you notice the barn swallows in the pictures from today.  They always nest and have their babies in the midst of all that commotion of milking cows, weighing produce, hatching chicks, counting eggs, and mixing food for all the animals.  I suppose they love the activity.

With the weather so hot today the zip line was a favorite activity that drew huge crowds. And so it goes with all the waterfront activities.  A couple of our staff had birthdays today and of course we sing our own special birthday song to them.  It’s not the traditional happy b-day song but one that came to camp many years ago and suggested by Richard Chase who wrote the Grandfather Tales and The Jack Tales.  Both books are great stories of lore from our mountain culture.

Gwynn Valley celebrates much of that culture through our simple joys of childhood approach to programming.  As we go through the week we hope you will see that it doesn’t take screens and keyboards to keep children’s interest and sense of curiosity.  It’s those simple joys that take us back to our roots in our outdoor environment where children are guided by a caring and mature staff. Stay tuned!

Day 2, A Session

June 12, 2010

The magic of camp has begun in our first full day of Session A.  I just left campfire and the finale to our introduction skits.  Camp is now quiet and is well on its way to sleep as we had some great times today.  It was our first full day of program with the weather cooperating throughout and all activities going full steam ahead.

Paddling was a cool item today with the temps so high.  It was the place to be for Mountainside as they started their mini adventures as well as Main Camp there for their kayaking and swimming.  In between when no one was using the lake Riverside came down for a session on the lake with me before they leave for their climbing segment to Linville Gorge.  They’ll be gone through Wed and we’ll hope for good weather and lots of climbing.  Archery was aiming for a full house all day and got it.  We had our first bull’s eye in the beginning of morning program.  I don’t remember what cabin the young man came from.  Mountain bikers traversed the property all day long both for the Main Camp program and Mountainside.  Some of the folks rode the trail to the top of the mountain while others worked on skills on flatter terrain.  We have two excellent instructors working with the bikers named Erika and Erin.

We also left our cabin groups at meals and everyone is sitting at a new table getting to know one another.  As we talked around the table everyone told one thing about themselves that was true and one thing that was not.  We had to guess which was which and it was fun. We learned a lot about one another in the process and had fun doing it. There was a good bit of fun at the climbing wall today with Mountainside and Main Camp.  The Arborist Tree climbers were also ascending the big Poplar tree just outside the Gate House (office).  Everyone learned a good bit about knots and enjoyed ascending the ropes using two knots they learned.  The campers learned to tie neat knots because “a not neat knot is a knot not needed”.  That’s one of those little things the campers learn as they dig deeper and climb higher into the skills.  Putting on a harness and being able to check all your systems along with a counselor is a part of learning what it takes to clamor up the wall or the rock.

Lighting and learning to build a good fire in the woods is another important skill for camp and OLS was providing that training today.  John Post is our resident outdoorsman and has worked in several programs at GV.  The farm with all its animals was also a favorite today.  What camper doesn’t want to feed a baby calf or goat and feel the satisfaction of picking the vegis for the evening meal in the dining room.  Our farm is the best and children really love all aspects of it.

This friends, was just an inkling of our typical day at GV.  We’d love to tell you more but we do want you to enjoy all the stories that will be shared around the dining room table when your children return home.  Part of that magic is that parents aren’t here and the campers are relying on one another and great staff to guide them through each day.  We hope your day has been as enjoyable as ours!  Stay tuned!


Opening Day Session A

Parents & Friends,

What a great opening day here at Gwynn Valley.  Parents and campers arrived this morning after long drives and eager smiles.  Everyone settled into their cabins and then off to lunch for a wonderful buffet of good food from our Kitchen.   After lunch it was off to the lodge for a bit of music, sign-ups and back to the cabin for a very short rest hour.  Who truly wants to rest on the first day of camp?  Activities began soon after as well as swim assessments.  Several campers told me our swimming pool was too cold.  I told them the heater comes on (up) around 6:30 in the morning and shuts down (goes down) around 8:30 in the evening.  I received some puzzled looks from that statement.

All activities were running strong and everyone jumped right in with both feet.  Natalie, our camp photographer is taking lots of pics today for all you parents who are feeling a little camp-sick.  That’s a great bunch this session and I sat in on their campfire tonight to view several of their cabin skits.  Mountainside starts their mini-adventures tomorrow as they take on skills from Pioneering, Climbing, Mountain-biking, and Paddling.  Riverside starts their Climbing adventure on Sunday.  They were out on the Green this afternoon working on some initiatives and group bonding.  They’ll spend time on the lake with me tomorrow to prepare them for the second week which is paddling.

Waterfront was splashing about with our little ones in the sit-on-tops and lots of swimming and zip lining at the lake.  I did not get a chance to spend time with horses or outdoor web of life but I did hear that the “Websters” captured some wild Appalachian lobsters (crawdads) in the creek.  Outdoor Living Skills is pursuing a camping skills theme this session so I can’t wait to see what they are up to.

Campfire in Main Camp tonight was cabin skits which are always fun times 10.  Children can be so comical on stage as well as their counselors.  We’ve got some great little actors with lots of talent that abounds when they get under the lights.  Winnie, Head Counselor for Hillside and “K” Head Counselor for Brookside will be directing the campfire tonight.  Skits usually are without props but with a lot of enthusiasm.   Ah, the simple joys of Gwynn Valley.

We are so plugged into our techno world at home and just one evening can produce the oohs and ahhs from simply acting, singing, and dancing creatively that brings us back to the basics.  Our human powered environment is well on its way to another great summer here at Gwynn Valley.  Our 75th summer to be exact and were so proud to have you be a part of it.  Hope you had safe travels back home.  Stay tuned!