The End of a Fabulous Season at GV!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Camp is way too quiet.  All the campers have gone and most of our staff have said their farewells.  Our E Session campers really ended our summer on such a good note.  We thank you for allowing us to be a part of their lives for the last eight days and three weeks for our Mountainside and Riverside groups.  It goes way too quickly.  I also want to thank all the people that work behind the scenes.  You see a few of them on opening and closing day as you pick up and drop off children.  Dale and his crew unload and load your car so you can focus on your camper.  They also keep camp working and running throughout the year.  Our meals were wonderful this summer thanks to Dan, our kitchen manager and his crew.  Ollie, who works in housekeeping kept us all sanitized and kept our clothes clean.  Cate, Barbara, Ann Marie and Steph, answered all your phone calls and corresponded with you throughout the year.  Many thanks to Andy, our assistant director, who keeps our staff happy and makes each day a joy with his “choose your attitude” philosophy.

My thanks also go out to our staff for providing such a great experience day in day out for the children.  A camp is only as good as its staff and we had a great one this summer.  They remained high energy and enthusiastic right up until the last day.  As a staff member I get a lot of my energy from the children.  This morning I shared breakfast with the boys in Chipmunk Hut and it was a joy to see them all happy yet tired from a full week of activity.  I sometimes think of camp as a human battery charger.  Probably everyone needs a dose of camp life every once in a while to bring things down to the simpler life of the “simple joys” found here at Gwynn Valley.  This is my 34th year in camping and through the years I’ve seen many children reach great heights at camp and it doesn’t stop there because I feel camp is such a springboard for life skills.  Our staff also grow a great deal while at camp and many are changed forever because of their camp experience.

At  Gwynn Valley, when children make new friends, explore the world around them, and learn that “I can” is much more powerful than “I can’t”, magic happens. In an environment created just for them, children learn real life skills, develop self-esteem, and gain a sense of independence and community. Whether children are playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, or becoming part of a camp family, they are creating memories that will last a lifetime.  Our thought for the day this morning was “The real secret of happiness is not what you give or what you receive; it’s what you share”.  I told the children before we dismissed from breakfast, to please take that sharing philosophy back home and share a piece of what you learned at camp with a friend or loved one.  It will make the world a better place.

Over the weeks ahead we will begin to plan for our 2011 season.  One of my goals is to keep this blog going and have others share their thoughts on the camp experience.  Don’t forget to check in and see what’s new on the website as well as come to one of our camp shows this fall and winter.

From all of us, thanks for a great summer of 2011.  Camp is 75 years old and during those years Gwynn Valley has always been a special place for children as well as for those who are young at heart.    Campers, we will miss your presence over the weeks ahead.  We hope to see you all back for another wonderful season at GV!  Stay tuned!

Grant & Anne

Last Full Day of Session E

Dear Parents & Friends,

I missed providing an update for you all last night because I had some time off.  Anne and I took just a few hours to spend with our family last night, have a nice dinner at the house and then enjoy one another’s company after dinner.   I’m sure you got a good feel for what went on yesterday from the pictures that Casey posted.  She’s our camp photographer and if you see her tomorrow please say hi and thanks for all the work she puts in on capturing the essence of camp.  Our last day of camp just ended with campfire and everyone heading off to bed.  There’s a gentle rain falling outside that held off all day long and allowed us to get through the day without our sometimes afternoon thunderboomers.  It’s been a full day here and just cool enough to keep us going.  Today was the first day I haven’t just sweated from standing around.  You will see the remainder of our cabin photos that will be mailed to you just after the New Year.

Despite the cool temps and overcast skies, the waterfront was hopping.  We also held pillowcase day this afternoon when everyone comes to the pool and swims.  Mind you not everyone comes at once.  You’ll also see some pics of our SIT’s from the three week session they attend.  We just met with them to share some last minute thoughts and good times in the Gatehouse Living Room.  What a great group they’ve been.  All have been campers before and what an incredible job they have done.  They work very hard and have been such a tight knit group in supporting one another.  Several had to leave early because of school and athletic commitments so while they may have been a bit fractured by a decrease in their numbers they’ve made up for it in enthusiasm and energy.  I expect all these young people to be staff in a few short years.  Hat’s off to our SIT’s of D&E Session – you guys are the best!

There’s one photo that is a group of people standing in front of the Mill and around an old stone wall on the Green.  It’s our sibling shot for session E.  We had lots of siblings at camp including several sets of twins and quadruplets.  Camp is place where your brother or sister can come and join you or you can meet lots of new friends on your own.  I’ve eaten at several table this session where people have made good friends just by sharing a meal together.  Food also does a good job of bringing people together and the camp setting is such an added platform for forming relationships and meeting new people that sometimes come from different parts of our globe.  Camp is all about building relationships with one another.  I believe it’s one of the most important outcomes of the experience.  You gotta love it.

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.  On a similar note the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, of which we are a charter member, is working on an economic impact study done by NC State University.  The camping industry in NC is a big part of our economy in this part of the state and we’re trying to get a handle on how the industry affects other parts of the economy.  You may get a questionnaire that asks some questions about your days surrounding camp drop off and pick up.  We will use this information to further the educational values that camping creates as well as become a more powerful voice with our state and national legislators. Thank you for participating in this survey.

Tomorrow when you arrive you will be attending a friendship circle in your child’s cabin at 10:30 and then we’ll have an overall camp Campfire.  Mountainside and Riverside will have separate campfires at 10:30.  Then after the Main Camp gathering you’re welcome to stay and have lunch with us.  We hope you will join us.  Looking forward to seeing you but not wanting to let of go of this group of children.  They’ve been great and it’s been a terrific way to end our summer here at Gwynn Valley where the “simple joys” abound.  Stay Tuned!

The Simple Joys!

Dear Parents & Friends,

The simple joys of camp abound here today from the photos I’ve been looking at.  I must confess that I’ve been with the Mountainside paddlers all day until just after 8:00 tonight.  More about that later.  What could be simpler than jump rope on the Green.  How often to you see children jumping rope at home in a neighborhood.  Playing in the Hillside Creek is an evening activity that is open every single night for after supper activities.  Children make dams, they lift rocks to hunt for critters or just chat while the cold water rushes around their feet.  And how about a game of tag football.  Nothing could be better than a little razzle dazzle good ole American football.  Some hoops were also played in the sports arena.  Knockout is a popular game here at camp and whenever there is free time you’ll find children playing that game more than anything else.  Counselors play along with campers and I love it when campers eliminate counselors, which happens quite often.  Shots are made from the foul line and if you miss you have a chance to redeem yourself with a quick layup before the person behinds you sinks their foul shot.  You play with two balls and it’s fast paced.  You’ll also notice an international game called Mulky which Andy brought us from New Zealand.  It’s kind of like bowling but not really and requires some good throwing/rolling skills as well as adding numbers to 50 to keep score.  Folks in the Pot Shop are winding down and getting ready for glazing and the final touches on pottery before it’s fired in the kiln.  Can’t wait to see all those wonderful creations.

The Mill captured some interest today as the campers turned corn crib corn into corn meal and grits.  We’ve also been milling whole wheat flower that someone donated to our local bread of life.  So far this summer our campers have ground over 400 lbs of flour.  That’s a feat worth mentioning.   Fishing at the Mill brought out the determined fisher-men & women to tempt the last remaining trout out of the pond.  The ones that remain are the smart ones that have resisted the hook all summer long.  Somewhere out there in the depths of the Mill Pond lives Ringo the gigantic trout that no one can seem to snag.  He’s bigger than a small battleship as one camper put it and smart from four years of fish school or is that the School of Fish.  At any rate, Ringo dwells in hearts and minds of all those campers with a hankering to bend a little bamboo, test a little line and tempt him with an array of bait.  Whoever lands him may make the cover of Field and Stream.   Good luck gang, you’ve got two days of camp left.

Can you believe that, only two days are left.  This week has flown but not as much as those who were zipping on the Zip Line at the Lake.  Hot, humid weather makes one want to swim and just make a life of hanging at the Lake and Pool.  We swam a good bit today on the river trip to cool off and refresh ourselves from the heat and wearing a PFD and helmet.  Phenomenal group from Mountainside on the river today as we paddled the Tuckasegee River near Dillsboro, NC.  It’s a dam release river so water can be low or high depending on the release.  We hit it just right today combined with a little runoff from an overnight rain.  Everyone had a chance to warm up just before we entered the gorge after the railroad bridge.  Our first rapid was Railroad where kids were trying to surf the wave which is also a hole.  Most everyone tried their luck and we had a couple of boats go over but nothing to worry about with a large calm pool at the bottom of the rapid.  Other rapids followed including Moonshot, Double Drop, Surprise Eddy and others.  We had a great trip and hats off to the kids who really gave it their all.  I’m uploading some pics as I write so you should see those tomorrow or tonight if you’re a night owl.  Nicko and Will jumped in solo boats later in the day and paddled Double Drop in solo canoes.  They really pushed themselves without our prodding and wanted to really achieve out there.  Great group of kids and super staff that worked with them today.  All is well at camp and stay tuned!

It’s Going Way Too Fast!

Dear Parents & Friends,

I can hardly believe that we only have three days left in this session.  It’s going way too fast and can we just add another week and keep them a little longer.  It’s a great group of children we have and many new to GV and a very young camp this session.  I’ve really enjoyed being a floater at the table and eating with many campers instead of just one table.  Another great day at camp produces lots of action and I must admit that our photographer was off this afternoon so we don’t have as many photos as we would normally put up.  Nonetheless, it was an active and warm day here at camp and water activities were on top of the list.  There were several creek hikes today up to Connestee Falls.  The creek that runs through camp is called Carson Creek.  You can hike up the creek bed or up a trail that follows the ridge on the north and east side of camp.  Hiking up the creek is a lot more fun and spectacular.  There are spots where all you hear is the rush of water and would think that you were in the middle of Pisgah National Forest.  The upper part of our land where this creek flows has few trails and is very wild.  It’s beautiful.  The terminus of the property ends at Connestee Falls which is a great place for children to swim.  The water temp is much cooler than the lake and it’s just so different than from any other place on the property.  Three different groups went there today and I’m sure had a blast.  Echo and Playhouse went with their counselors and Andy our Assistant Director.  Other water activities included kayaking where everyone wanted to wet exit.  GV Rescue at the waterfront was teaching children how to save someone from a boat.  Good stuff even for the young campers.  You never know how you can be of help to someone.

The farm keeps cranking out the food for the summer.  While we haven’t had as much rain fall as I would like to fill the rivers, we have been getting afternoon showers that have been great for the garden.  Our lettuce, melons, tomatoes, and much more is still “growing great guns”.  The food this year has been exceptional.  Hats off to all our Kitchen crew as well as the Farm staff.

I spent most of the day in trees behind the video camera.  I filmed tree climbing this morning from the top of a tree hanging out just above where the climbers climb to.  This afternoon I filmed up in the arborist tree to capture the campers doing arborist climbing.  Yesterday we got some good footage from the top of climbing wall with campers creeping up the sides like spiders.  Erin, our SIT coordinator and Mountain Bike Instructor conducted a cool riding clinic today for those that really wanted to improve their riding skills.  We had all levels today and could challenge each rider with different things.  Riding over objects, weaving in and out of cones, riding a teeter totter, and negotiating wet roots were just a small part of the hour long session.  Everyone gained lots of confidence and got much better with their riding skills.  Being able to ride up off your saddle with pedals at 3 and 9 is an essential skill for children learning to mountain bike.  We shot some good footage there as well.

One of the after supper activities tonight was slack lining.  It’s walking a piece of tubular webbing that’s stretched between two trees.  Many climbers use it as a way to work on balance and agility.  The webbing is only a foot or so off the ground so if you fall off it’s a soft landing on your feet.  Campers love this evening activity.  Campfire tonight was International Night with many countries participating.  When our last session rolls around we have a multi-national program and tonight was it.  New Zealand, Brazil, England, Germany, Holland, Russia, and Australia were all represented.  Campers and staff alike presented, sang and acted.  It’s nice to have all the diversity at camp.  One of GV’s values is acceptance and I think we do such a good job with embracing our many cultures and languages that join us in the summer.  It’s great for all children, young and old.  Stay tuned!

Campouts and Smores-Stories and Dancing!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another great day for E session at Gwynn Valley.  We just finished our campfire for those not camping out tonight at various places on the property.  Those who camped out also cooked dinner out over an open fire.  At this hour they are all asleep after having sat around the campfire after a meal and some smores.  What is a campfire without smores.  I’m always amazed at the variety of ways in which campers “roast, toast or nuke” their marshmallows for the smore.  I haven’t concluded which is the favorite cooking method for this summer’s group.  Food is always an item of discussion at camp whether it’s the food in the dining room or the foods we don’t have at camp.  As you parents know GV is free of those junk foods that most of us at least try once in a while when no one is looking.  I myself have a thing for the spicy Doritos but go a whole summer without because we don’t have them here.  Even in the off season I partake in moderation.  Our food is really good at camp but there are picky eaters among our ranks.  Rest assured, that we will not let any child go hungry and if we can’t find something suitable at the meal we’ll wait till afterward and search the kitchen for something that the picky eater will eat.  This doesn’t happen often but it does occur.  We also live in an age where many children are allergic to certain foods.  The days of sitting a container of peanut butter on a serving table with bread for those that don’t want what is being served are long over.  I’m actually glad because I love peanut butter and would probably have it several times a week.  At any rate, the food has been outstanding this summer.  Many of meals come from the Farm and the Mill.  Not many camps can lay claim to that.  We also serve a good bit of fruit here at camp.  Did you know that you can take a simple orange quartered, eat the orange down to nothing but the skin and you have the beginning of an orthodontist’s nightmare.  With the care of a surgeon and a plain ole table knife you can create orange teeth that will make your mother howl that her daughter or son is changing into an alien (look for photos to come).  This is a skill that I learned many years ago working at camp and I always pass along whenever orange quarters are served.

We danced our way through campfire tonight with “Going to Kentucky, Circle Round My Zero, Paddy Cake Polka, and the Virginia Reel.  We also had Tajar Tales tonight for those who weren’t camping out.  If you don’t know who the Tajar is well let me just fill you in…. 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.  The Tajar is a very nice fellow.  He is always willing to listen to a story or help carry firewood or do anything you ask.  But every now and then something strange happens.  When the moon is just right and wind blows very slightly through the trees, the Tajar can become full of folly.  He will dance in the moonlight and swing through the trees by his tail, taking death-defying life-leaps.  Someday you may see the Tajar sitting very high in the tallest branches of his tree having tea.  If you see the Tajar once, you will certainly forget what he looks like.  If you see the Tajar twice, you may not remember what you forgot when you saw him.  And if you see him the Tajar three times, you will certainly forget that you forgot everything you remembered about the Tajar – except for one thing – you will surely become a friend of his.  The more you forget, the more you find that the Tajar is a most curious animal.

In the AM it was Tree Climbing, A Tubing Trip, Archery, Pottery, Soccer, Farming, Swimming, and so much more.  Signups for afternoon activities happened after singing with a variety of things to do from Wall Climbing, Jackson kayaks, Quidditch from Harry Potter,  to mountain biking to pottery animals.   It was a busy afternoon here at the GV cove.  My blog is just the tip of the iceberg for what happens here each and every day.  Before I sign off, I just want to say that these kids are here and unplugged and having a great time.  The camp experience is an American tradition because of the value it adds to the lives of kids.  Camp helps children:

Grow emotionally

Develop values like respect, honesty, caring, and sharing

Develop critical skills, such as leadership, independence, personal responsibility

Participate in physical activities and exercise

Connect to nature

Form authentic relationships

Take healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment


In other words, camp does children a world of GOOD!  Stay tuned!

A Splendid Day At GV!

Dear Parents & Friends,

A splendid day here at GV just ended with campfire and the finishing touches from cabin skits.  We had quite a lot of rain just before dinner tonight and it rained so hard that many cabins couldn’t hear the bell.  It did cool things down a bit and after supper activities went off without a hitch.  Back to cabin skits from tonight and two outstanding cabin skits were Aching Legs and Echo.  AL went with the Wizard of Oz theme and flying monkeys and I’m sure you can guess who the flying monkeys were.  Echo chose a more Seuss like theme and developed their own version of a Dr. Seuss story.  Both were terrific and stole the show this evening.

Campfire is such a magical time at camp and you can really see the children just kind of wind down from our busy day.  Usually by the time we end around 8:30 there are a few that have already met the sandman and are falling asleep in counselor’s laps.  Tonight just at the end as we were singing to close a firefly flew just over the heads of all the children.  Mrs. Camp Director had already turned down the lights so each little blink of the firefly could be seen anywhere in the big Lodge.  It didn’t stop there in leaving creatures out of the evening.  Sophie the dog usually calls an end to her day right in the doorway of the Lodge and almost every camper that exits bends down to pat her and give their goodnights to our yellow lab puppy (9 months old).  I’m sure that she feels well tucked -in each evening as our day closes.  Debbie, our camp musician plays the same song each night that’s been played for 75 years; “Sheep May Safely Graze” written by JS Bach.  It’s a great song and a wonderful way to end the evening at camp.  Those of you new to Gwynn Valley will learn that we serenade the children to let them know that it’s time for lights out.  A group of staff go around each evening to sing to each cabin and that’s been going on for a good many years.  Traditions and ceremony are so good here at camp and it’s good for the children.  They really miss serenade if the weather doesn’t permit it.

We had clear weather all day and activities were humming.  You might notice pics of our Main Camp Bikers trying out their skills on the mountain bikes.  We have games they participate called the slow race, slalom, circle game and others.  The slow race is to see how slow you can ride from point A to point B, usually not more than 15 or 20 feet.  The object is to balance your bike and go sloooow.  They also tried their hand at riding the tetter totter which is a form of a skinny.  This is all bike lingo that you’ll just have to learn more about from your rider.  Lots of riding of horses today as you can see from the pics.  Horses are an all round favorite here at camp especially with the girls.  I don’t know any young girls that don’t like horses.  Climbing, soccer, drawing, feeding the animals at the farm and so much more was the order of the day today.  Every day is another day of opportunity here at camp.  So much goes on that  it’s hard to keep up with.  I sometimes asked children how their morning or afternoon was at camp and they’ll say great but they can’t always remember what they did.  It’s a full day and sure beats sitting around at home in front of a screen.

Mountainside had their adventure send off tonight and as I returned from campfire I noticed the candles they lit that were floating across the lake.  This is a ceremony they hold each session the evening before they leave and it carries a good deal of importance.  It’s a quiet time to reflect on the days ahead and those that have passed.  It’s the beginning of a culmination for these three week Mountainsider’s who leave tomorrow for Climbing in Linville Gorge, Biking in Dupont State Forest, Paddling Western NC Rivers, and camping and Backpacking in Pisgah.  We wish them well and hope they have fun playing outside and growing inside as well.  Riverside left today to begin their backpacking component that will take them across the Mountains to Sea Trail and almost into our back yard to a place called Daniel Ridge.  They started on the Parkway and will trace it’s changes of elevation over to a place called Devils Courthouse and then drop down into Pisgah hiking through some beautiful forested land covered with berries and greenery this fertile time of the summer.  It’s a rough life for those Riversider’s and I only wish I could be there with them.   We’ll see what tomorrow brings and should have lots more news from all the goings on at GV.  Stay tuned!

Opening Day Session E

Dear Parents & Friends,

We hope you all had a safe trip home or to another destination if you were going elsewhere.  Many of you were here this morning when the electricity went off and one our transformers blew on the Hillside.  Our power was off until 5:00 this afternoon and only through quick thinking and a resourceful staff were we able to have our traditional mac and cheese dinner tonight with the giant cookie for dessert.  I was out most of the day calling the power company and checking with the workmen as well as  pacing back forth waiting for the power to come back on.  I do know that all activities went off without a hitch.  One young man said, “Camp is the only place where life goes on even without electricity.”  I like that attitude!

We had a very smooth opening this morning and went right into our afternoon activities after sign-ups.  Traditionally on opening day all the campers do a swim test which happened and it’s also a great way to begin cabin bonding.  Our head counselors are at the pool and in the dining room to help spot that camper that may be having a little homesickness.  No major cases at this point.  Children participated in a variety of activities today including the following:  Web of Life/Outdoor Living Skills, Pioneer Crafts, Texture Crafts, Fine Arts, Farm, Swimming, Kayaking, Horses, Climbing, Sports, The Mill, and of course after supper acitivities.  We also had sign-ups for the week which provide a chance for the children to sign up for two activities they will take 3 days this week that last until Sat.  Each camper will have two activities each morning M, W, F, and T, TH, Sat for a total of 4. In the afternoons we’ll have signups that allows anyone to join and the activities will be different each day.  Morning is for building skills and afternoons for trying many new things.  From today’s pictures you’ll notice campers swimming on the blue lily pad, kayaking, molding clay, playing B-ball, riding horses and many other things.

Every cabin will also go on a campout this session so we’ll keep you posted on those.  Tonight’s campfire was Introductory Skits which allows each cabin to introduce themselves to the whole camp on the first or second night.  We had some great skits by SunRise, Playhouse, Chipmunk Hut, Rosebay, 7th Heaven, Shady Grove, and Connestee Cove.  The rest of the crew will be tomorrow night.  Skits are always a mixed bag of music, acting, comedy (lots of it) and one cabin trying to outdo the other (keep in mind were non-competitive here at GV).

Many of your children are new campers to GV this session and we have a very young camp overall.  We’re glad you chose the best camp ever to attend here in beautiful western NC.  Camp is such a great way to be away from home make some decisions on your own and stretch yourself a little without mom and dad being there.  Camp parents (counselors) are different in the children’s minds but we’re all on the same page as far as our goals for what we hope for your children.

Children and youth need a community that:  encourages achievement and builds self-esteem; promotes healthy lifestyles, fitness, and activity; receives instruction in a classroom without walls; instills appreciation, respect, and responsibility for the natural world around them; and inspires the confidence and courage to become the leaders of tomorrow and solid citizens.  We thank you for the above opportunities and many more as we get off to a great start with our campers for E Session.  Stay tuned!

Session D Closing

Dear Parents & Friends,

As we wind down today I want to thank you for sharing your children with us this past session.  We will miss the joy that comes from our campers who have been here for several years as well as the new ones which just experienced their first year.  We’ve had a wonderful session and I hope it was evident as we held our closing for Session D this morning.  It’s started out cool and then hot.  We’re getting some distant thunder but no rain at this point.

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 will 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.  On a similar note the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, of which we are a charter member, is working on an economic impact study done by NC State University.  The camping industry in NC is a big part of our economy in this part of the state and we’re trying to get a handle on how the industry affects other parts of the economy.  You will receive a questionnaire that asks some questions about your days surrounding camp drop off and pick up.  The association will use this information to further the educational values that camping creates as well as become a more powerful voice with our state and national legislators. Thank you for participating in this survey.

For those of you that want to experience Gwynn Valley after the season, we are celebrating our 75th reunion at the end of the summer the weekend of Aug. 20th.  If you want to attend 1 or all days, we would love to have you.  We’ll be doing a bike ride on Friday the 20th to benefit our campership program.  Come join me for a 25, 50 or 75 mile ride that day.  Cost for the ride will be $75 per person and all proceeds will go toward making camp affordable for children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.  The terrain will be rolling with no severe climbs.  We hope you can join us.

Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  Camp is just that and creates what we call camp DNA or good memories filled with learning and gaining confidence.  From all of us, thanks again for a great session.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year.


Final Full Day of D Session

Dear Parents & Friends,

A bright and sunny day here at camp for our last full day of D.  Clouds and thunder threatened several times but it didn’t rain.  I was on the river with Mountainside most of the day and returned to camp about 3:00 today.  Upon returning I headed over to the pool because the final day of camp always means pillow case day.  That’s when all campers come to the pool to swim, they bring their pillowcases and they get a quick check by the camp doctor and nurses while they’re waiting to swim.  You might ask what the pillowcase is for. .. well it’s a floatation device.  You don’t say… and how does that work.  First you wet it and then fill it up with air by twirling it round and round and then twist the end and there you have.  You wouldn’t believe how long it stays inflated and will hold up an adult.  So next time you’re out in the middle of a body of water and all you have is a pillowcase then you’ll know how to save yourself or a friend.  It’s actually a survival technique that you can use with most simple clothing.

I saw lots of happy campers this afternoon and evening.  Everyone enjoyed our traditional pizza dinner which is always on the last night of camp.  Pizza for 320 people is a feat.  Hat’s off to our kitchen staff.  They’ve done a great job all summer long and the food here is non-comparable.  My time with Mountainside today was spent on a section of the French Broad that borders the Biltmore Estate.  Our water levels were not that high but we learned a lot about some of the river dynamics they will face on their adventure.  Paddling can be tough when you have to work with a partner and each person carries an equal amount of responsibility for boat handling.  It’s good for teamwork and communication.  Much improvement was made today and I hope that continues into their adventure next week.

Tonight we had our Friendship Campfire with several members of the staff and many campers contributing.  Tonight’s campfire offered up an array of talent.  Much music was shared by campers, staff and SIT’s.  It’s been a great session and we celebrated that by showing many of the pictures that you all have been viewing over C and C-2 sessions.   Our camp photographer Casey has done a great job with capturing your children at camp.  Be sure and thank her for the great pics that she has put up on the web site.

Tonight at campfire I was amazed by how pop culture is so prevalent in our campers.  At our final gathering for D three different songs were sung by campers either solo or in a group.  They were all Taylor Swift songs.  Almost all the campers knew the words especially the girls and while it was cute and everyone was singing, some of the lyrics didn’t seem to fit the ages of campers who were singing.  I have always encouraged campers to get up and have the confidence to perform and sing in these situations because I feel we should have a place where they feel comfortable to do this.  I’m also glad that Gwynn Valley exists to promote those “simple joys” of childhood that keep children young at heart while at camp.  We thank you for supporting our program.   Anne and I appreciate our staff who have cared for your children this session and made sure that their experience at Gwynn Valley was one that will bring about great memories of the good times we all had.

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 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.  We wish they could another week.   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.  I’ll be checking in tomorrow with new pictures and some final words for D session.  Stay tuned!

Celebrating the Tajar’s Birthday!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We’ve got the best group of SIT’s this session.  If you don’t know what an SIT is, it’s a Staff in Training.  These folks are all previous campers and all are entering either the 11th or 12th grade.  Their leader who is Erin and hails from New Zealand came up with the Super SIT Leadership Challenge.  This is a day when camp provides these young people the chance to extend and expand their leadership skills during the session.  This is just one step as they get closer to a time when they can become full fledged staff.  Our SIT group this session consists of Lydia, Kerris, William, Luke, Jamie, Topper, Mary Elizabeth, Shannon, and Emma. These folks are at camp for 3 weeks.  They are assigned to different cabins and work very hard in the dining room and kitchen during their stay.  Over the past several years it’s become very competitive to be in the running to become an SIT.  Those who apply early before the new year have a better chance of getting in. We salute all these wonderful young folks as they will one day be GV’s counselors of the future.

As I work backwards from this evening, it was a wonderful Tajar Ball tonight.  Supper was a picnic and was served on the B-ball court.  We had burgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings.  Everyone came in costume as you can see from the pics and after dinner we proceeded to the soccer field for a Carnival. There was Face Painting, Frisbee Toss, Soccer Shootout, Strongman Bell Ringing, Fortune Telling, The Fidget Ladder, Bingo, Hay Rides, Baseball Throw, and of course ice cream, popcorn, and drinks were served.  Everyone had a chance to do anything they wanted while there and you could go to any attraction you wanted.  It was quite an evening and everyone had a great time and I’m sure will sleep well tonight.

Main camp campers went out climbing, biking and paddling today and every group had a super time.  I don’t think every group had a camera but a couple did.  The climbers went to the South Side of Looking Glass, the bikers to Dupont, and the paddlers (kayakers) went to section 2 of the French Broad.  There’s a good bit of logistics getting children out of camp and on these trips, but well worth it.  We live in such a beautiful area and have so many resources we can utilize.  Some of our better horseback riders took a ride over to the Hunt Farm today.  It’s a great place to ride and one that we’re building some more trails on as we speak.  Mountainside helped out with a little trail building a couple of days ago.  It’s hard work and Shrimper Khare is a local trail builder that helped the boys and girls that day.  He’s built other trails at camp and done a super job with placement and making them very appealing to riders and runners. More Main Camp campers will go out tomorrow on a sit on top kayak trip so hopefully we’ll have some photos from that group.

Riverside returns tomorrow after 4 days of paddling and Mountainside goes on their second day of training and getting ready for their adventures.  We’ll look forward to having Riverside back in camp before they depart for Backpacking next week.  There’s never a dull moment at camp – Stay tuned!