Session B Opening Day!

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 everyone is snuggled down in their camp beds after a very full day filled with 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 Echo boys tonight and they were a fun group at the table.  Dinner was the usual opening day meal of  mac and cheese, fruit, salad, and fresh bread.  To top it off we had a giant cookie with their cabin name in written in icing.  Bringing that cookie to the table always is a highlight because it’s the size of a large pizza.

Mountainside had their closing ceremony at the lake tonight and Anne and I attended to honor them and their time at GV.  Many of those campers had been in the program for 6 years.  Their adventures were grand and I actually went out and met the Bikers yesterday at Dupont.  It was fun to be with them for a couple hours.  What a great crew up on Mountainside and also a great staff.  Hat’s off to the staff for putting together such a great session.

All activities in Main Camp 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 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.  Cabins were introduced at campfire tonight via Cabin skits which are always great.

As morning activities kick off tomorrow know that your children are learning and “living the GV dream” as one camper said.  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!


The Simple Joys!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a nice way to start our 76th summer of camping here at Gwynn Valley.  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.

We hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be.  We hope you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and camp becomes a great memory.  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.  Safe travels and have a wonderful summer.


We’ve All Made New Friends!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a full day at camp and unfortunately the last full 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 the 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 power of the Sun.  It was a Native American story that had many characters (puppets) and many twists and turns as people tried to tame the sun and not make it so bright.  Two groups of campers led the two act play.  After and before the play music and skits were shared by campers, staff and SIT’s.

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 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 and getting ready for next week’s canoe component.  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 many 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.  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 76 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood.  Stay tuned!


Sunny Days and Cool Nights!

Dear Parents and Friends,

A day without rain is a day full of sunshine.  It was chilly here this morning with the temperature hovering around 56 degrees.  That’s chilly but nice.  By 10:30 the temps began to rise and so did the activity level.  We had a wonderful breakfast with French toast, ham, pears, OJ and cereal.  Food this evening was a cabbage dish (adults mostly ate it) alfredo and chicken pasta, bread sticks, salad and  fresh peaches.  The food at GV is just too good.  I have a hard time when camp is over and Anne and I have to go back to cooking and cleaning.  It’s so nice to have good food waiting for you every meal.  Mealtimes are great at camp because we really do sit at the table and converse.  Everyone at our table chips in and campers at the table do their share as well.  There’s lot of please and thank you and in a room with 350 people one needs to keep things orderly and tidy as best we can.  There’s hardly a meal goes by that someone doesn’t turn over a drink or drop their silverware.  And that’s an all for one moment when everyone tosses their napkin into the spilled liquid and the spiller retrieves a towel or more napkins.  No one fusses or cries over spilt milk we just clean it up, continue our conversation and keep eating.

Hope you all enjoyed the video I put up this morning.  It was short but gives you a small bit of our day here at camp.  As I travel the activities I usually have my video camera.  We’ve also got someone who is here filming for next year’s video  but we’re keeping it under wraps until the Fall when we start our promo tour.  I just shoot and quickly edit on i-Movie and send it along to Vimeo.  I use Vimeo because it’s more of a family friendly site than You Tube.  One never knows what will come up next after your video plays on You Tube.  I would rather have Gwynn Valley remain on an appropriate site than trade that for the exposure You Tube provides.

Natalie our photographer was off tonight so we didn’t get any photos.  Debbie and I were involved with Dancing in Lodge.  We called several dances and then Michael, the head counselor, read a story from the Tajar Tales.  If you don’t know about the Tajar I’m sure your children can share with you what they’ve learned.  You might even see him on closing day in the Lodge rafters during closing campfire.  He’s quick and quiet and does death defying life leaps to get to a high spot where he loves to see camp and all it’s fun.  He’s full of folly at the end of each session so I’m sure we’ll have some folly tonight on the Green while children are asleep.  Mr. & Mrs. Camp Director will have to have a talk with him if he make too much mischief.  At the dance we started things off with Alabama Gal, Patty Cake Polka, and then finished with Going to Kentucky.  It takes a while to teach the dances to 75 youngsters and staff and they did a great job.  Patty Cake Polka is a hard dance to learn but they got it pretty quickly.  Half the camp was camping out tonight as the other half did on Sun. night.  It’s a good night for it.

Mountainside chose their activities tonight and Thurs. they leave on those adventures.  I was just talking with Maggie their Head Counselor about the rivers they will run.  We’ll have a practice lake section again tomorrow with them to solidify their flatwater skills and then off to the river on Thurs.  Riverside returns tomorrow and will have tales from their climbing trip to Linville.  Mountainside climbers will climb one day at Looking Glass, one day at Cedar Rock and maybe one day at Cove Creek.  Bikers will spend their adventure on the more than 100 miles of trails at Dupont State Park and Pioneers will travel for an overnight up into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area near the Blue Ridge Parkway, where elevations reach over 6000’.

This week has flown by and I can’t believe it’s almost Wed.  I feel like the children just got here.  I’m pleased to say that what little homesickness we had is now gone.  I’m sure there will be children that can’t wait to see you all but others that have already told me they wish they could stay longer.  We wish they could as well.  Stay tuned!


What a Life the Camp Life Is!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What’s a day without a rain shower.  Thankfully the past few days we’ve gotten all our rain when children have not been in activities.  We thought it might not rain today but sure enough the heavens opened up just as the last activity bell rang today to end afternoon activities.  The rain has had a cooling effect on our evenings and mornings and the low tonight will be 57.  High tomorrow will be 83.  We’re weather watchers here and for a number of reasons.  The obvious is that we have children and staff all over our property and we monitor the weather throughout the day especially in the afternoon when thunderboomers  can come through our valley.  Sometimes we’ll postpone a tubing trip on the river or a creek hike because of the sky and the signs that we are constantly checking on.  Another reason is our farm and the growth of our food.  We went through a dry period just before camp started and you can see the effect on some of the vegetables that have been stunted from that time.  As a paddler I’m always monitoring our local rivers and streams.  Natural flow is so important and it even  affects the rivers that are dam controlled.  And while most of our campers are close by on the property we monitor the weather for our trips out of camp, like the Riverside group over in Linville Gorge right now on a climbing trip.  You learn a lot just by watching the clouds each day, smelling the air and feeling changes in the humidity levels.  On some days you can smell the rain way before it gets here.

The recent rains have made the farm a treasure trove of food items and I was shooting some video down there today just to give you an idea of what’s up (plant wise, that is).  Our group of master GV gardener’s picked broccoli, beans and carrots today.  I had to leave before they fed the baby calves but did get some good footage of them harvesting.  Tonight for dinner we ate directly from the farm:  Meatloaf from our cows, cornmeal to cornbread from the Mill, and lettuce, green beans and carrots from the garden.  There were also cookies for desert and watermelon, which will be coming in on the farm later in the summer.  We don’t directly advertise that we raise our own beef unless the children ask and usually that’s not very often.  I think many secretly know and suspect but it’s just one of those things we all avoid talking about.  We also eat the fish we catch from the Millpond but fish are not in the same category as a cow.  Someday we may get a visit from those Chick-fil-A cows that grace all the billboards throughout the southeast, saying “Eat More Chicken”.  I’m not sure what our chicken population would say about that.  I hope to have another short video clip up tomorrow.  You’ll see some kayaking on the lake, fishing at the Millpond, horseback riding and farming.  Tonight was international campfire and most all of our countries were represented.  There was a Polish folk tale with Dragons and Princes, a song and dance from Brazil and many other short acts which campers were a part of, that entertained us on the GV stage.

The week is beginning to fly by and it seems that the first couple of days went by very slowly and now everything is moving faster as the session progresses.  It’s hard to slow camp down but we do manage to do so.  Mealtime provides a relaxed time for good food and conversation at the table.  Today at our table were talking about the heights of various mountains throughout the world.  We talked about our own Mt. Mitchell (highest point in the east) and from there the discussion went up to Mt. Everest with lots of stops along the way.  Luckily, none of the campers got altitude sickness on the way up.  From mountains it transitioned  into lava and center of the earth and volcanoes.  I’m not sure how that whole discussion started but it was fun and I was struck by how the kids provided their own thoughts and observations.  By the end of the meal the food slowed us down and we settled into a game of blow pong before announcements.  Blow pong is played with a ping pong ball and you try and keep it on the table just by using your own wind.  Navigation blow pong is even harder and something you have to work up to after a high brow discussion like we had.  You can ask your camper about it when they get home.  Slowing things down for all of us is a good thing.  Camp can be loud and noisy and it’s good to be quiet and reflective for short segments during the day.  We live in a world where the natural sounds are mostly covered up.  As I write the Hillside creek babbles along and says to me it’s about time for the Mr. Camp Director to call it a night.  One young camper told me today that she slept so well because of living in a cabin on the Brook.  “It’s so nice and causes me to go right to slept” .  What a life the camp life is.  Stay tuned!


A Very Special Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another very special day here at GV.  We just finished our evening campfire program which consisted of dancing and some play party games.  Half the camp is on an overnight tonight and camped out on the near  and far reaches of our GV world.  Campfires are blazing and by this time I’m sure that campers have had a full sufficiency of smores to make for vivid dreams and a good night’s sleep out under the stars.  In our 8 day sessions we hold our campouts so the campers don’t miss a wide variety of evening programs.  On Tues. the other half of camp will be out at our campout shelters.  The shelters are just enough to make our campers rest easy.  They’re built up off the ground and three sided with a roof and all have fire rings and some are conveniently located right next to one of many streams on the property.  Even though some of sites are very close to the middle of camp, one would think you might be in the deepest reaches of Pisgah National Forest.  No road noise, no lights, the Milky Way unaltered and surrounded by new friends and great counselors on an overnight adventure.  That, my friends is what camp is all about.

We held our Vespers service this morning after breakfast and the theme was God’s Gifts.  Many children stated what they thought were God’s gifts and it was a darn good service.  We had songs, stories, piano pieces played by campers and words of wisdom from our head counselors “K” and Michael.

I ran a session of Lacrosse tonight for after supper games and had eight young boys who were very enthusiastic to play.  I’ve played a bit at camp over the past few years and let me tell you that these young guys were skilled and took Mr. Camp Director to the cleaners.  We started off just playing catch and then progressed into keep away.  These guys were making pinpoint passes and catches and at one point I stopped play and asked for a lesson.  GV doesn’t own anything but sticks and balls but the play was great and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these guys and seeing them work their magic.  Part of our climbing staff was on a trip with Riverside today so I got to fill in for them in tree climbing.  All the campers did an amazing job.  You might notice the video that went up on the news page today.  It’s footage I took yesterday of several activity areas I visited on the first full day of camp.  It’s nice to give you a glimpse through video and capture that aspect of camp.

Camp is so good for children and certainly I’m partial to our program, but truly believe that every child should have a camp experience.  It helps them to recognize that they have responsibility for themselves and those around them.  It teaches them to make choices, which are good for themselves and others, and to take responsibility for the choices they make.  Camp produces the value of respecting oneself and others in spite of differences.  Miss Mary Gwynn started camp on those values and several others that are still evident in today’s Gwynn Valley.  We expect from our staff, high standards of care for your children.  We embrace the values above that both campers and staff buy into and benefit from.  We take learning and make it fun and fulfilling.  That and so much more is in a camp experience.  We have a great staff this summer and know that many of you are sending your children away for the first time.  We thank you for the opportunity to introduce them to camp and hope their experiences are filled with joy and life budding experiences.  Stay tuned!


P.S.  Some of you have called about logging in to view photos and send emails.  We’ve started a new program that was created pretty much in house and still working out some kinks this week.  You were given a sheet on opening day with information about this aspect of our web site.  Please refer to that as I think you will find that the login process is pretty simple.  We’ll make full resolution pictures available toward the middle or end of the week after we work out some bugs with this.  Bear with us and thank you for your patience.

An Overflowing Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

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 even though we got a long shower during the dinner hour.  Dinner was chicken drum sticks and thighs, rice, gravy, salad, apple sauce, baked rolls, and cabbage.

The lake was overflowing this morning with paddlers.  Mountainside and Riverside were out there learning their strokes and getting ready for upcoming trips.  Both groups combined for the GV plunge which is a pretty cool exercise.  We’ll have to get some video up and show you how it’s done.  The lake temp was just right and slightly on the chilly side.  Our group of GV lifesaving campers were practicing their entries into the water and learning how to save victims.  We also had the kayakers out there on the lake so there was lots of activity on the water this morning. Riverside leaves tomorrow 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 Willis and Erin.  Both are returning staff. We also have a new trail at the Hunt Farm that was just finished this spring that is just over a mile and a half.  It’s a great trail for beginners to intermediates.

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 the Blakes Hitch that 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.  Sarah Wilson is our resident outdoorswoman and has lots of outdoor experience.  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 vegetable  for the evening meal in the dining room.  Our farm is a real crowd pleaser at camp and children really love all aspects of it.

This afternoon some very fun activities were offered at sign ups.  Button flowers were offered in the arts arena located in Shady Grove.  When you visit camp have your camper take you to the Grove.  It’s one of our neatest original cabins and it’s full of looms and other art production devices.  The Web of Life folks got familiar with some turtles and a ball python (a very small one) that’s yet to be named.  Horseback riders took to the camp trails today and many were first time riders.

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 a great staff to guide them through each day. We hope your day has been as enjoyable as ours!  Stay tuned!


A Session – Opening Day

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 time. Activities began soon after, as well as swim assessments. We call them swim assessments instead of swim tests because test reminds us of school and we’re on SUMMER VACATION AND AT GWYNN VALLEY!!! 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. We’ve created our own site this year with photos and working through some kinks so bear with us. Give us a few days to work these kinks out. One parent shared with me this morning they’ve told their son that for every picture he gets in they’ll pay him a dollar. Let’s see, that could turn out to be an expensive proposition. Maybe put that money in a fund for next year’s tuition. 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 Gatehouse 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. Children were trying their hand at Tree Climbing as well as Arborist Climbing. Both are exciting and connect directly to our rock climbing program.

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. Michael, the 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. Our human powered environment is well on its way to another great summer here at camp. Our 76th summer to be exact and we’re so proud to have you be a part of it. Hope you had safe travels back home. Stay tuned!