Piglets on the Way!

Dear Parents & Friends,

No rain today and many cabins are having a successful campout tonight.  Wood is wet and during dinner one counselor came to get me to help them with a fire.  What is a campout without a roaring fire and smores.  It was certainly not a one match fire considering the amount of rain we’ve had especially yesterday during the hour long deluge.  Tonight is twilight play where a host of activities are offered that normally we would only offer during the day for a longer period of time.  It’s an extended after supper play time where you can really have a great time and get into a program activity.  I just passed a group of horse riders on the trail as I was coming into the office.  Usually the waterfront is not open after supper but tonight it was humming.  We don’t have a campfire and it’s off to the cabin to get ready for the serenaders.  If you’ve never been to GV, we have a group of counselors that go to every cabin in the evening to sing to them.  It’s our way of saying lights out and time for bed.  It’s a mysterious group of staff because they stand just far enough away so the children can’t see them.  They sing a variety of songs and all very appropriate for the evening and settling into dreamland.  Sometimes there’s a guitar but mostly it is a cappella.

There’s a slight breeze blowing tonight and a great night to be camping out.  If you’re by one of the creeks then that’s your serenade.  If you’re away from a water source then the crickets and cicadas are your serenade.  Anne and I just went down to the Farm to visit with Mama Pig.  She’s in labor and should have a litter of piglets at any minute.  It’s too bad it’s at night but she does need some peace and quiet for that ordeal.  Campers were talking about it all day long and tomorrow there will be a parade of children going down to the farm to see the new arrivals.  It’s a highlight for the session to have this happen.  Jacob, who works at the farm, knows a great deal about pigs and farm animals in general.  He was ready with beta dine, scissors, and dental floss to tie off, cut and disinfectant the umbilical cords.  I didn’t know that pigs have two birthing canals.  I’m sure questions will be flying from all the campers tomorrow.  We’ll get you some photos hopefully tomorrow.

Camp is amazing experience whether you’re observing new borne’s or hitting your first bulls eye.  Every day I witness children learning to do things for themselves, creating, making decisions and owning responsibility.  I firmly believe that all camps offer this to some degree and I feel GV has positioned itself to fill a niche with younger campers that’s tops.  Our nurturing  atmosphere is an important piece of our work and attracts many families who want that experience for their children’s first overnight camp.  It’s a simple approach but the outcomes are immeasurable.   This year the US is celebrating its 150th year of organized camping.  There are over 12,000 camps in our country and about one third of us belong to the ACA (American Camp Assoc.). Gwynn Valley has been a member for many years and was on board when the association formed in the south.  We’re proud of our mission and values and our soon to arrive piglets.  Stay tuned!


Rainy, Sunny and Oh So Funny

Dear Parents & Friends,

A rainy morning turning to sun and turning back to rain about 7:30 this evening.  You can never really make a call on the weather around here.  If you don’t like it just stick around and it will change.  That’s what one ole timer told me years ago.  We had a variety of activities today to go along with the variety of weather.  Mountainside had a day of signups today by taking a day off from their mini-adventures.  There were creek hikes, tomahawk throwing, arts & crafts and a variety of things that kept them occupied and provided some rest before they start minis again tomorrow.

The rainy morning provided a slow start to the day after fireworks from the previous night kept everyone up just a little bit later.  I had one youngster at my table who could barely hold his head up tonight after dinner.  Everyone got to bed a good bit earlier tonight because we ended campfire a little early.  The rain will put everyone to sleep and hopefully everyone will “sleep big”.  It’s a full day here and we’re all a little tuckered at this hour.  I remember trips to the beach when I was a kid, playing all day on the beach, running, swimming, and just collapsing at night.  It’s that kind of day here.  They play all day long and they go hard.  Sleep is so important.  Anne and I have 4 teenagers so we know about how much sleep they require and children at camp are no different.

Most of our campers start going to bed just after 8:30 and most everyone has settled in by 9:30 except maybe our Riversiders.  Speaking of which, they dodged raindrops today and are still climbing and will go out to either Looking Glass or Cedar Rock tomorrow.  A good way to check in on cabins to see how they are doing is to attend an open house in a cabin.  That’s when one of us goes in without the counselors being there, we hold a little question and answer session with the children.  They are always quite honest and will tell you how their counselors are doing. It’s a good way to see how those counselors are handling cabin life which is where it all starts at camp.  A good cabin life usually translates to a happy camper.  Our staff hold a great deal of the magic of camp and children usually remember their staff before they remember what they did at camp.  The counseling staff who are so important in their lives.  Tonight we hosted a mountain dance in the Lodge.  Our camp photographer couldn’t make it because of the rain – it was pouring.  We try and get pics the next time around.  The campers loved it when the counselors danced any part of the evening.  We do one dance called “Going to Kentucky” where a person is picked to come to the middle of the circle and the children always squeal when their counselor is the one chosen.  It’s only natural because they are taking your place as the parent while your child is here.  Their role is parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, big brother, big sister, and most importantly, adult. Camp is a place to be silly and come out of your shell and we have some great staff that always make us laugh.  Their most important role is being that adult who can make good decisions and take great care with your children.  They are truly what makes our summer.  Hats off to our staff this summer and stay tuned!


Happy 4th (5th) of July!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Happy belated 4th of July and yes we’re just about to wrap up our grand ole day here at camp.  Campfire was held in the Lodge tonight but it was full of the twilight’s last gleaming.  Our staff and many campers just finished a fantastic show that started with the beginning history of our great country and went right through the next 200+ years.  It was a fantastic show and everyone was on their feet for the final song and tribute to the USA.  Children are making their way to the Lake and we’ll start our fireworks show shortly.  Everyone is in their pajamas and will scurry off to bed as soon as it is over.. ….. We’ll be back!

Our day started with the Native American people waking us up to drums and war hoops and yes, the Gwynn Valley bell tolled as well.  Just before breakfast with everyone by the lake, Sacajawea and Pocahontas came across and gave us a native blessing for the land.  It’s ironic that it happened on the Green which is the big field just in front of the Lodge.  Many years ago before camp existed, the building which we now call the Upper Dwellings was a homestead and the field where we all were was a very large cornfield.  Our agrarian land and its people most likely never figured that one day children would circle that field and give thanks for the land that has always been here and has changed little except for a few buildings.  Cook, who works on the farm and plays the sax, did a wonderful job on the national anthem and it was quite stirring to watch our color guard from 7th Heaven present the flag in true Boy Scout style and then have everyone sing along with Cook’s magnificent music.

Morning activities played out as usual and again it’s ironic that our land is still agrarian based and we value our program as it relates to sustainability. Horse riders, farmers, archers, potters, artisans, bicyclists, thespians, pioneers, paddlers, botanists and natural historians all practiced their trades as the day wore on.  Before lunch the Mayflower landed on our shores and the Pilgrims and Indians shared greetings and food before inviting the whole GV clan in for lunch.  Everyone waited for the meals to happen and lunch today was a true Thanksgiving complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn on the cob, squash, gravy, and two pies for each table (apple & pumpkin).  Both were devoured by eyes first and then mouths.

The afternoon brought rain showers and thunder and some activities were postponed but there were games in the Lodge and only a few activities were put on hold.  The evening meal was all American with steak, broccoli, bread, salad, Cole slaw and peaches.  After supper activities went on as planned and everyone came to the Lodge for campfire.  Let me name just a few characters and events in history that appeared on stage tonight:  Native Americans, Pilgrims, Members of the Tea Party (Boston that is), a short but devastating Revolutionary War skirmish, Lewis & Clark, President Lincoln and assorted Civil War characters, Oregon Trail Pioneers, Ellis Island & Miss Liberty, The Industrial Revolution (It’s a Hard Knock Life), WWI, the Roaring 20’s and the Great Depression, WWII, Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, The Cold War, Age of Aquarius, Music through the decades of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and now.

The finale was a Katie Perry song “Firework”, that I’ve heard but was surprised that most of the campers knew as well.  The staff had worked out a choreographed dance and it was pretty darn good.  By the end everyone was feeling the Firework and waiting for the fireworks.  Campers and staff went back to their cabins, brushed their teeth and got ready for the GV Fireworks.  They were great and many thanks to the GV Maintenance crew that made it happen.  By now the sandman and the Tajar has put everyone to sleep.  Stay tuned for more and thanksgiving to you all for sharing your children.  It was a fun day!


Sleeping Big, Single Track and the GV Flop

Dear Parents & Friends,

Happy 4th of July to all of you at home and hope you’re enjoying the Holiday.  We will be celebrating the 4th tomorrow and wanted to get a day of camp under our belts before we went into celebration mode.  We’ll have fireworks tomorrow night and children will be up a little later so we wanted to get everyone a good night’s  sleep on the first full day of camp.  Speaking of sleep, I was at breakfast this morning before all the children went in to the dining room.  They line up at different doors, Hillside at one, Brookside at another and so on.  I was asking the Echo boys about how they slept.  One of the little guys looked right up at me and said, “I slept big”.  That’s a great way to put it.  He obviously slept very well and then the conversation went directly to dinosaurs.  I actually had breakfast with the same crew.  We didn’t get our table assignments until lunchtime so I could eat with any cabin I wanted.  I usually have an assigned table in most sessions but I also will skip around to eat with a lot of different children.  My table this session has a wonderful group of children from New York City to Atlanta, to Charlotte.  It’s a great way to meet new friends at camp and it’s always fun to have a talkative and engaging table.  I think my new one will be great.

We just had a sprinkle of rain today after yesterdays hard rain that lasted for about an hour.  All activities were in full swing and it was a very warm day.  Archery takes place in the field just outside my office so I’m afforded a special viewpoint  and can usually tell when someone hits a bulls eye.  Those baby calves at the farm are getting bigger by the day and campers bottle feed them twice each day and provide fresh water and a little bit of food.  By the end of the summer they are very tame and will follow anyone that resembles a child or a farm person.  You learn a lot about how to feed a baby calf and you have to hold the bottle a certain way.  Instinctively they will push the bottle hard, thinking you’re the mother, the purpose being  to push more milk into the nipple.  It’s a natural occurrence and feeders have to be ready or you might get pushed down.  It’s always good to hold the bottle to the side instead of straight on.  We’re expecting or I should say she’s (mama pig) expecting her piglets to be born hopefully in the next couple of weeks.  That’s always a treat here at camp and children come to the middle session just to be here for this event or at least try to be.  Piglets are very cute.  We’re anticipating our first tomatoes to begin coming in soon.  Also there’s a pretty good crop of natural blackberries out there in our surrounding woods.

Campers tried their hand at mountain biking today and took on some manmade skills that we’ve created here at camp.  Willis worked the crew today on riding different terrain in the attack position which is a necessary skill to learn when riding in our mountains on single track.  It’s a good skill to have even if you just ride in your neighborhood or across the playground to join a friend.  They also got a workout on the two camp trails.  One is a bit tougher and challenging and the other is good for beginners who are just starting to learn single track.  Single track is riding on a trail that usually about 2 to 4 feet wide depending on the area you’re riding in.  It can be dense underbrush trees on both side or more wide open with a track running through low shrubs and bushes.  It’s usually designed to channel off water so it’s designed like a roller coaster and can have some banked turns and quick rollers.  We’ll try and put some video up of our trails here on the property.


The kayakers are getting familiar with their boats and doing wet exits.  That’s when you roll over and literally fall out of the boat and up to the surface.  It’s first good to try this without a spray skirt and then to try it with the skirt.  We finished off our cabin skits tonight and everyone did a super job on stage.  There’s always some hams in the group.  Riverside leaves for their adventure tomorrow and will be heading up to Looking Glass Rock for at least the first day.  From there we’ll see where they’ll end up.  We’re waiting to see what the weather holds for the next few days.  I spent some time with on the lake today with Riverside and we finished our time with the famous GV flop.  You get everyone lined up on the dock and fall backwards, while holding hands, stiff as a board.  It’s fun and makes a lot of splash action.  Check out the Riverside photos for more.  The simple joys of GV.  Stay tuned!


C, C-1 Opening Day

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s a cool night here after a great opening of our C, C-1 Session.  Many thanks for dropping off your children as we head right into the middle of our summer with a lot of returning campers as well as those who will experience Gwynn Valley for the first time.  One our values at camp is acceptance and we acknowledge the fact that we come from many places and have a lot to share and what better place to do that than camp and especially GV.  We make it a priority to incorporate those new campers and make them feel that are part of the GV family.  It doesn’t take long and already I’m seeing friendships being formed.  Those that have been to camp before know that we start off our first day of camp with a bang.  Activities were rolling with campers at tree climbing and arborist climbing.  We were briefly interrupted by an afternoon shower but went right back to it afterward. Arts and Crafts, Sports, The Farm, and the Waterfront were cranking this afternoon.  Always an active part of camp, the Waterfront had the Zip Line humming with camper after camper trying to go for the Spider Man.  The web spinner would be proud of our fledgling “spidies”.  We also held our Discovery Skits just after lunch, which provides the campers with a glimpse of the kind of activities they can take in the morning.  They get 4 choices for an every other day schedule, one each hour of the two hour time slot. The afternoon signups happen every day for either two one hour activities or one two period.  The two hour provides a chance to go on a long hike, bike, visit the rock, go to the farm or possibly a tubing, kayak trip down our section of the French Broad.

We also had swim assessments after signups with some time to digest our food and get ready for the afternoon.  The swim checks allow us to gauge how well campers swim and their comfort level in the water.  These are done in the pool where you can easily see the bottom and its only 5 ft. deep at the DEEP END.  It’s a great teaching pool and allows those who are a bit uncomfortable in the water to take it on gradually.  The depth starts off about 4 inches and gradually goes to the 5 ft. mark.  Speaking of water, I think there were some trout caught this afternoon at the Mill.  It seems that the fish were biting just after the storm.  We also had time after lunch for a bit of corn shucking.  Our corn started coming in several days ago and it should be going strong right through the end of the session and beyond.  Some of that corn was part of our dinner tonight as well the traditional first night macaroni and cheese, salad from the farm, watermelon and the GIANT COOKIE with each cabin’s name on it.  We will move to our tables tomorrow at lunch where we’ll mix up ages and programs and you’ll have yet another group that you belong to at camp.

After supper activities are a free time for campers to choose one activity after dinner.  It changes each evening and a variety are offered each night.  Usually there’s a ball game or two of some sort, games on the green, some kind of arts & crafts, story telling, and any number of other activities.  Tonight after activities we held our first campfire and cabins began introducing themselves through cabin skits.  I spent about half my time with Main Camp and then made my way to Mountainside to see what they were up to.  Riverside came up for a visit to introduce themselves and to make an informal  soccer / ultimate frisbee challenge.  That will take place on a day this week or next week.  Mountainside starts their mini-adventures tomorrow with each camper trying out all for activities- mountain biking, paddling, climbing and pioneering.

Tomorrow always brings more and our days are full.  That’s the way it should be at camp.  Maximize our time outdoors, taking in as much as possible, getting good rest by night and eating well by day.  What more could a youngster ask for.  The “simple joys” of GV abound and it’s an exciting time as we begin our session. Stay Tuned!


Closing Day, B Session

Dear Parents & Friends,

By now many of you winging your way toward home and perhaps already there.  What a nice group of children from session B.  Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 13 days.  Even 13 days goes much too quickly.  It was a beautiful morning here and a perfect day to end another Gwynn Valley session.

Soon you will receive an evaluation via email 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.

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 session.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year.