International Day and Some Rain with that Camp Sandwich

Dear Parents & Friends,

Our day didn’t start as a beautiful GV today and we had rain starting just before breakfast that lasted well into the morning with lots of deluges on and off during the first part of the day.  It never quite cleared off until dinner when we saw some sunshine but it didn’t rain this afternoon and allowed our activities to run full on.  Despite the rain we salvaged the morning by doing the camp thing in which there is always a plan B.  Games in the Lodge for a number of activities that couldn’t operate in the rain was organized quickly.  There was ping-pong, board games by the fire and even our climbers made the most of it by teaching rope tricks and knots.  All swimming and boating events went right on and just got a bit wetter.  One only gets wet skin deep.  The Mill and all Arts & Crafts went ahead as planned.  Web of Life and Outdoor Living Skills donned their raincoats and went for it.  Our only reservation in wet weather is when there is thunder and lightening present.  That’s when everything comes to a halt.  This morning we had some thunder early on but it passed by the time breakfast was over.

Horseback riding groomed the animals which is a favorite among the campers and the animals love it too.  We have a couple of Shetland ponies that belong to our site manager that campers love and you’ll see evidence of that in our pictures from today.  And… there were all those animals that needed to be fed at the farm.  They need that child contact after almost 8 weeks on a daily basis with children.  I would say that we’ve got the tamest farm animals in the world.

Pony Love!

The other big news of the day was that we celebrated international day today and three countries were represented, France, Kenya and Brazil.  Just before lunch the Tour de France rolled through camp for an encore performance.  The usual riders were not present and several of our younger less experienced staff cyclists ran their bikes into the lake just before the finish line.  It was one of those sprint finishes that you see at Le Tour!  Tonight’s campfire was full of dancing, music and a rendition of the Lion King from Africa.  Campers were involved and were on stage quite a bit.  Great food today from those three countries as well.

One of the great things about camp is the spontaneity that occurs almost every day.  We are structured and organized but the logistics of change when it comes to weather is when the rubber meets the road.  I can think of no better environment where we can change gears 180 degrees and really pull it off.  I have to give credit to our staff because they are the ones who can affect the change necessary to pull everyone through a rainy day and bring joy and smiles to the faces of doubt and just wanting sunshine.  One of our big sayings at camp is to “choose your attitude”, and as counselors they make sure to have a positive attitude, and they encourage campers to see the bright side of life. You realize that camp is more fun when everyone is happy — but did you know that by promoting positivity, you’re also helping campers find success and literally reverse the effects of stress and anxiety?

Biking Love

When you are in a positive state of mind, you are more apt to succeed! According to Christine Carter a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, “When our brains are positive and we’re experiencing positive emotions, we’re much more creative, better at problem solving, and our perception is more open — making us more able to learn.” When campers learn to have a positive outlook, it puts them on the fast-track to achieving their goals!  When you have a good laugh, feelings of gratitude, or feelings of hope — any sort of positive emotions — generally speaking, your heart rate will drop. Positive emotions even boost your immune system a little bit.” A positive mindset literally makes campers healthier!

So even on rainy days there are many ambassadors of sunshine and they’re doing an exceptional job of taking care of your children.  Our children at camp emulate and respond more to our actions rather than our words. So the days of “do as I say, not as I do” are over . . . if you want to be considered someone’s favorite counselor. What makes a good leader and a good counselor at GV is leading by example and living by the same guidelines that we set out for our campers. If we want them to act a certain way, follow certain rules, take part in certain activities, be kind to each other, etc. then we as staff need to show up in that exact same way.  You as parents are positive role models and we at camp are providing more positive role models for your children.  In this world you can’t have too many.  Thank you for sharing your children.  We appreciate the chance to work with them.  Stay tuned!

PS  Pic above is from a muddy bike ride today with the boys and had a great time riding the Hunt Farm trails.  Hopefully we’ll get some video up tomorrow.

Main Camp Excursions and “The Happy Prince”

Dear Parents & Friends,

As I write, there are counselors working down the hall from my office working on tomorrow’s international day.  There is always something going here at camp and creativity is oozing from our staff.   You’ll see pics from many activities including the “Fuzzy Bottom Club”, our bareback horseback riders.  I met them on the trail today as I was making my rounds and one of my tablemates was talking about being in the FBC today at lunch.  I’m not much of a rider (just give me a bike) but I understand that it’s quite different riding bareback.  It really helps your balance and the feel of the horse.  Anne is the rider in the family and loves and looks after our horses when camp is not running.  She grew up riding and showing horses.  Frankly they are just too big for my tastes.

Love those horses!

Speaking of animals those farm critters are getting lots of attention.  I’m sure we’ll have a few on stage during our closing ceremony on Friday.  The piglets are still in the cute stage and everyone loves to pick them because they squeal when they are picked up.  The calves are still bottle feeding and are just about to be weaned in the next couple of weeks.  Our campers E session, will be the last group to give them that nurturing care before they’re on their own and grazing like their older cousins.  The farm is also producing some outstanding food these days.  We’ve been eating those wonderful tomatoes for several weeks now and they are lining our dining room window sill.  That’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food coming from the farm.  We’re also getting a host of other vegetables not to mention the  cantaloupe and watermelons.  Those mountain grown melons come in a lot later than the ones originating from farther south.  There is just something magical about picking the food you will eat over the next couple of days and knowing that it came from where you are living.   20 years ago several children out of group of 10 would have a connection to a farm.  That number is dwindling and it’s so important that we know where our food does come from.  We have proven that we can feed ourselves to an extent.  Two hundred years ago most everyone that lived in our Valley was totally self sufficient.

It is of course a different time and a good time to appreciate what we have…. And what we have is more exciting events and activities at GV.  Main Camp Mountain Bikers went out today and traveled to Dupont to test their skills on the single track trails there.  There are over 100 miles of trails at Dupont State Forest and riding for every biking ability.  I may have mentioned this before but Gwynn Valley will be hosting a mountain biking event as part of the CYMBL series on Aug. 18th.  CYMBL stands for Carolina Youth Mountain Bike League.  We’ll be hosting one of the series races on that date above.  It’s more fun than anything and you can be a complete novice and never have had any experience.  Ages will be 6 and under to 18.  Check out for more details.

Climbers from Main Camp were also out of camp today and headed up to Looking Glass Rock to meet that giant granite monolith.  They were at the Nose area of the rock which is probably the most famous part of LG.  The Nose climb itself is a classic climb in Western NC that is 4 pitches long and has stunning views.  Our campers were just to the left of the Nose on what we call the Apron.  It’s a smaller slab that looks directly North and West and has several easy to challenging climbs.  Everyone had a great time and returned pretty tuckered out.  It takes about 40 minutes to walk to the rock itself and it’s uphill all the way.

How long will it take to burn through that string? Fire building skills being honed.

We talked about critters earlier and our Web of Life folks went under the Lodge today in search of giant salamanders and crawfish.  It’s dark and dank under there and the perfect environment for both species.  When you come on Friday know that there’s a creek that originates just behind the Lodge and runs right underneath forming what we call Forget Me Not stream that runs into our Lake.  In the old days there were cups at the springhead and that was camp’s water fountain.  Campers simply grabbed a cup and dipped it in the water and drank deeply.  Those days are obviously over but our water still comes from the ground but much much deeper.

Candles of all sorts were being today at the Bong Tree, one of our Arts buildings.  You may be the recipient of a beautiful scented candle in a few days.  Performing Arts outdid themselves tonight with their “The Happy Prince” performance.  Lots of music and great acting by our thespians.  The story was an adaptation from the Oscar Wilde story.  Our staff did a great job with the children who only started preparing last Monday.  It was a stellar performance.

Each day I blog about what goes on here at camp and we just scratch the surface of camp time.    So much interaction, so many skills, so many great conversations with children, and so much fun.  It is life at its fullest here at GV.  Stay tuned!

Gwynn Valley Olympics! (not just in London)

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another splendid day at GV and time is flying.  It’s hard to believe that everyone arrived just last Sunday.  It was Special Day here at camp as is every Sunday while a session is going on.  Today’s theme could only be one and of course it was the Olympics.  This was not televised on NBC and little known to the public, but the Olympic torch was transported to America overnight where our own athletes accepted it.  Also little known, was after the Queen parachuted out of the plane and made an appearance at the opening ceremonies, James Bond’s mission was to transport her to Gwynn Valley where she lit the GV Flame, I mean Flim, no Flam, yes flim-flam.  This is the second time in a week that the Queen has set foot on GV soil.  She is one busy woman and has an enormous amount of energy at her age.  We hope she will lead a creek hike tomorrow or maybe show her riding prowess in the ring.

Enough about royalty and more about the GV Olympics.  There were events here today that the O-Committee is already looking at because they were so successful and thanks to all those Twitter feeds. Here’s the short list:

Sponge Slingshot, Cookie Decorating, Flag Making, Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal Design

…..and those that are always favorites

The Long Jump, the High Jump, the Hammer Throw, Javelin, Soccer, Diving/Swim Races, Kayak Races, Gymnastics, & Martial Arts.

Marathon Women!

Unlike the regular Olympics our campers could compete on any level and in any event they wanted.  The favorites were of course the water activities since our weather has not been anything like the weather in England.  In the afternoon after a delicious lunch we had rest hour to get ready for the Gwynn Valley Marathon.  Every camper and staff participated on their age level and it was a grand affair.  There were different courses for each age group.  After the marathon we all came to the Lodge to watch the highlights of the actual opening ceremonies that was televised on Friday evening here.  There is little technology at camp, but we decided that this is a special event and is history in the making.   We could fast forward through the boring parts and got right down to nitty gritty.  I was a bit worried that our UK staff would be homesick since they were hosting this summer but it looks at though GV made them feel right at home and it was a rousing success.  Jolly good and brilliant, I say!

Loooooooong Jump!

Riverside was in camp today and getting packed up for their next adventure which will be paddling.  I worked with them on the lake early this morning before we gave way to the Olympic events.  They will leave on Tues. and return Friday.  Mountainside was participating in another afternoon of sign-ups and played Capture the Flag in the morning.  I think 007 lent a hand while he was here to help even the sides a bit.  Mountainside chose their adventures tonight and starting Tues. they will begin their training days in the adventure they have decided on.

It’s been a busy first week with a great deal of action.  We were able to capture a little sleep-in this morning to catch up when the wake up bell went off at 8:30 instead of 8:00.  Tomorrow it’s back on schedule and so it goes.  There’s not much down time except sleep and rest hour.  Our camp days go way too fast but we love them all the same.  We just finished our Vespers service in the Lodge and everyone is waiting for the Sandman to visit along with the Serenade group.  More on that later.  For now, stay tuned!

Ropes Course and Orange Teeth!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Wow – what a great and beautiful day at Gwynn Valley! Although it was hot, there was a nice breeze blowing most of the day and the sky was so blue and clear. Discovery classes finished up today with a plethora of skills being taught to campers as they navigate all the activities at camp.  Next week we’ll take some of those skills outside of camp as our kayakers did today, traveling to a frisky section of the French Broad this afternoon to try out their new white water kayaking skills. They had a wonderful trip. There were a lot of water activity sign ups this afternoon including a creek hike to Connestee Falls, a tubing trip, swimming at the lake, and playing on the zip line and water traverse. We had a delicious lunch today which the campers and staff really enjoyed: cheese quesadillas, beans and brown rice, fruit, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, sour cream, and chips.

Our Brooksiders visited Mountainside this evening for Campfire while the Hillsiders did some Mountain Dancing in the Lodge. There was a lot of laughter and smiles as we twirled, swung our partners and did the Virginia Reel, Going to Kentucky, Bluebird, and the Hokey Pokey.  We all did so well in the Patty Cake Polka that Debbie’s fingers were smoking as she played faster and faster and we kept up!

Mountainside spent the day at camp doing sign-ups which included the High Ropes Course, making journals, tie-dye, Frisbee golf, Thunder ball, swimming at the lake and crossing the traverse line at the lake. Quite a few campers made it over half way down the line before falling into the lake! I spent some of my morning with Laurel Wood helping out at the High Ropes Course and taking pictures of the girls making their way around the elements of the course.  Each person is challenged in different ways.  Fear of heights can be a big one for some and it really stretches those who make it around the course.  Everyone loves the ending with the giant pendulum swing even though it takes a lot of commitment to go off that ledge.  The first four or five feet you just free fall and then the arc starts.  You lose momentary contact with your gut when you take off but once one full arc is completed you breath again.  Some are completely silent and others scream like there’s no tomorrow and that happens with the boys as well (it’s just a different tone).  There’s a good bit of support from the ground and from staff up on the course.  The ground support is a great way to build community because we all have different aspects of camp that stretch our comfort levels.  The course is made to work with what we call 2 lobster claws that clip in wherever you are on the course.  You have to have permission to unclip one at a time before moving on.  In element transitions you’re always clipped in and during the element you’re clipped in with both claws.  The Cat Walk starts things off after climbing up the Taco net which goes up 30 feet to the platform.  Then it’s on to the Swinging Steps and from there to the Jungle Traverse and then on the platform for the Big Swing.  Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed it this summer and it has some great metaphors for tackling those difficult hurdles in life that we sometimes have.  I think if you can coax your fears through that course you’re able to accomplish of lot of difficult tasks as a teen or young adult.

There are some Mountainside photos mixed in with Main Camp today and I apologize.  Our camp photographer is off today and I’m trying to fill in.  I haven’t loaded photos all summer so I may not be doing it quite right.  There aren’t as many as usual and we’ll get back to that tomorrow with Kim’s return.

Both morning and afternoon campers were cranking it out at the Mill today.  As we get closer to the end of a session we also start to make ice cream at the Mill which is churned off the power that supplies the Mill (water).  It is so cool to harness that energy and be able to perform all those tasks from one source of energy, including powering the lights inside the Mill.  Bethan, who comes from Wales is doing a great job there.

Despite the heat our Mountain Bikers always find the shade on the property at GV.  95% of our trails are shaded in deep woods so it’s very pleasant riding while the sun beats down on other parts of camp.  The bikers will be taking some trips out next week so look for some pics and maybe some video.

Orange Teeth – An Orthodontist’s Nightmare

Our pic of the day photo from the dining room was taken at dinner tonight.  Believe it or not those teeth are orange peels.  I showed the kids at the table how to make that happen.  It’s just one of those goofy skills that you pick up through the years and pass down to those around you.  Camp is a place where you can venture outside yourself and do some fun whacky things.  It’s full on acceptance for being silly.  Yes, we are adults when we need to be!  It never hurts to visit that childlike side of ourselves.  It’s the simple joys of childhood that makes Gwynn Valley what it is.  Stay tuned!

A Warm and Sunny Day Brings Out the Best at Camp

Dear Parents & Friends,

If you missed my blog last night it was because I was on a day off.  We’ll be around the rest of the session so expect to keep informed on life at camp.  There is so much that happens each and every day here that I sometimes hate to miss any part of camp but truthfully I need to recharge my batteries every few weeks.  Today was no exception.  We had a beautiful day here and a small respite from the heat while we were singing after lunch.  The afternoon cooled down from a short shower and the temps the rest of this week and next week look much lower.  Shade is not a premium here at camp but one of my most favorite shade activities is Arborist Climbing which happened all day long on our two wonderful Grandfather Poplar trees just in front of the office.  We started this activity about 7 years ago and it took off immediately as a crowd pleaser for campers.  There’s a certain feeling about ascending the rope that you don’t get when you climb the wall, a rock or climb in the limbs of one of our Hemlock trees.  It’s a freedom that you’re not attached to anything but literally free swaying in the breeze like the tree itself.  Arborist climbing has become very popular around the country and several universities have created programs that parallel their academic courses.  Two of those are Cornell and Georgia State University.

At Shady Grove (one of our arts areas) today, campers were putting the finishing touches on their woven bags they were making.  Weaving has been a staple at camp for many years and the campers and staff have come up with some amazing designs and beautiful pieces from our looms.  Most of these campers are making bags with a strap that they can put things in much like a handbag.  There is nothing better than making something all by yourself and then completing that task by putting some nice finishing touches on it.

I had two tours for perspective campers today and both tours went by the Mill.  They were grinding corn for grits and cornmeal (we had cornbread for dinner tonight), fishing, and the most fun of all making ice cream.  The water power also churns two big ice cream freezers and folks were making chocolate ice cream today.  I didn’t get a sample because I went by during the early stages but I’m sure there will be some for the Tajar Ball coming up next week.  Walking into the mill is like stepping back in history to the 1890’s when it was originally built.  Several summers ago one of our staff found a penny from 1980 just under the surface of the ground at the Mill campfire ring which we use every day.  There is a lot of history on this land including that of the native people who’ve been here over 3000 years according to some of the points (arrowheads) we have found.

Not as primitive as arrowheads but interesting none the less are sling shots which came about around 1860.  Several years ago I contacted the Daisy (BB Company) about getting BB guns for camp.  They sent me their catalogue and in there I discovered they made these great wrist rockets or sling shots and so there the story begins.  We only shoot targets and don’t use anything but the rocks we find on the ground.  The campers love it and it fills up every time we offer it as an activity.

Graduation from GV Rescue convened today at the river on our property.  The French Broad was a cool place to be to finish off their skills with lifesaving.  Everyone got into the act and there were multiple saves as participants saved one another during the morning.  It’s a great skill to have that dates back to the day when some of us took life saving and learned the Reach, Throw, Row or Go technique.  It’s a bit more sophisticated and simplified now and we keep it that way for our younger campers.  Carrots, cucumbers, corn, and potato bugs were the hot items at the farm today.  Several baby chicks were in process of hatching while I was down there.  The farm is a veritable world of discovery each and every day.

Camp is a nurturing place for boy and calf.

For the third day in a row campers went on a creek hike, one because it’s so much fun and two, it can’t be beat as far as coolness and shade.  Ending on a high note each time and swimming at Connestee Falls is a bonus as well.  Speaking of water, campers are getting ready for an out of camp kayaking trip tomorrow with Hunter and Mike.  They’ll be taking on a pretty frisky section of the French Broad which will test their mettle and stretch their paddling comfort zone.  Mary Gwynn always felt that we should do something difficult every day.  We still live by those words here at GV.  Stay tuned!

Campfire on the Gatehouse Green and the Importance of Freeplay!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Campfire is over and it was held in our field outside the Gatehouse looking toward the mountains.  We have one of the best long views in camping.  Our field looks right up to the Blue Ridge Parkway which at that point is just over 6000 feet.  Our elevation at camp is around 2200 feet.  Most mornings we’re socked in by fog because we’re in the French Broad River Valley.  It quickly burns off and lifts as it did this morning turning out to be a sunny day.  We held Outdoor Living Skills and Web of Life campfire in our field and it was perfect.  A nice sunset created the backdrop for a number of activities on the Gatehouse Green.  Our thespians acted in two Native American stories, one about the wind and one about coyote and the moon.  Both stories were performed by campers.

We also talked about the farm and how much it means to our program here to eat such fresh foods.  The average American receives their food no sooner than two weeks after it is harvestedand most of the time a bit longer.  Here at GV we can pick items in the morning and have them for dinner that night.  We are getting the full nutritional value by consuming it sooner, according to what agronomists are telling us.  You’ll notice some pictures from the Farm today showing children blowing into strange green tubes.  These are from squash plants and you can actually play them and some do sound like a horn.  Carrots were the hot item at the farm today.  Gotta eat more carrots for the eyes.

Campfire tonight also included Cindy, who runs our waterfront, reading the story of “The Lorax”.  That’s one of my favorite Seuss stories.   Then there was what we call at camp unstructured freeplay which is something that children need more of.  Our lives are so organized running hither and thither.  We allowed about 30 minutes of just running around the field playing games doing what they do naturally being children.  Many were rolling/tumbling down the hill, others playing tag, others engaging their counselors in their freeplay.

Our campfire was in the same field that hosts our Archery activity.  What is it about bows and arrows that children love?  It’s one of those projectile sports that boys and girls love to participate in.  When done properly and with good equipment it can be challenging.  Whenever Archery is open there’s always a crowd there.   More sophisticated but equally as old is our Weaving activity that happens in Shady Grove, one  of our arts buildings.  Several years ago we purchase quite a few weaving looms and it’s really paid off.  Some very beautiful things come out of Weaving and hopefully you’ll see some of those results.   The Arts department also churned out some beautiful scarves today.  You parents may be the recipients of some of these treasures.

Throwing your first pot on the wheel.

The lake is always a good place to be and today was no exception.  It’s been hot and it looks to be hotter tomorrow.  I hope you’ve all seen the video that was put up earlier today with all kinds of activities.  On a hot day there is nothing better than a creek hike which happened again today in afternoon sign-ups.  Some campers who went with me yesterday went again today to enjoy the cool water and shaded banks.  Truthfully folks, our mountain streams are at risk because of a small bug called the wooly adelgid.  This very small invasive from Asia has impacted over 50% of our native hemlock trees and because many of them grow next to streams, this will have a big impact on water temperatures, trout populations, erosion, shade and other factors here in WNC.  We will lose between 50 to 80% of our hemlocks on the GV property.  We’ve treated many of our larger trees in the main camp proper but those outside the campus will suffer.  Hopefully we’ll be able to salvage some timber from these and at least reap some small benefit.  The creek here is just spectacular and is one of our best, coolest things going at camp.  Campers of all ages enjoy it from Hillside to Riverside.  The video doesn’t come close to doing justice to that hike which culminates at the base of Connesstee Falls.

Mountainside continues their mini-adventures tomorrow and Riverside is in to their 3rd day of climbing in Linville Gorge.  Mountainside went to the farm tonight while Main Camp attended campfire.  Everyone had a blast and they were quite helpful.  It’s a great time of the day to be at the farm.

It’s never a dull moment here at camp and some group is always exploring and enjoying one of the many activities we provide.  We hope your evening has been as pleasant as ours and don’t forget to just go out into your yard and lie down in the grass and look up at the trees.  It’s good for the soul and who knows, you might even feel a twinge of childlike mischief.  Stay tuned!

PS   If you haven’t seen today’s video, check it out.

UK Day Earned a Gold Medal!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Wow!  I feel like a camper because it’s been such an exciting day around camp.  Sometimes at the supper table you’ll be asking campers what they did that day and they’ll have trouble remembering because there’s so much going on.  If they can’t remember, I’ll just ask, “well did you have a good day”, and the answer is yes!  Today was UK day at camp so we celebrated all the countries from that part of the world, Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  We started out the day with William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) raiding the morning breakfast line-up to give the speech to his men just before he went into battle with the English.  In our pictures today, you might spot some young lads who were a part of Wallace’s men that had their faces painted blue to commemorate this event.  We had a traditional English breakfast of eggs, sausages, beans on toast, cooked tomatoes and cereal for those that didn’t take to the English way.

I spent a good portion of my morning at the farm shooting some video which I’ll share at some point.  The campers gathered eggs, listened to the heartbeat of baby chicks, bottle fed the young calves, visited and hung out with our baby piglets, and picked almost 400 ears of corn.  Did you know that female chicks are called pullets until they’re about a year old and that’s when they start to lay eggs.  And… did you know that while a chicken’s egg may seem solid, it actually contains about 8,000 pores large enough for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.  Our farm is amazing and you learn so much while you’re down there.  It was hot at the farm this morning but everyone really enjoyed our time with the animals and the farm crew.

Celebrating Camp and UK Day!

To continue UK day, the Queen showed up just before lunch and gave us a re-creation of her Jubilee boat ride down the Thames River.  At the original event, there were 8000 boats.  We had quite a lot on our lake but we were a bit shy of that unbelievable number.  Lunch today was a picnic on the Green just after the Queen landed after debarking from her flotilla.  I feel quite lucky because the Queen sits at my table and while it was very exciting, we had to be on our best table manners.  She doesn’t put up with any foolishness from her royal subjects.  No soccer hooligans were allowed in camp today!  Throughout the day and meals there were questions and facts on each table about the UK.  I learned a great deal and I was surprised that the children knew so much about that part of the world.  We learned a good bit about Wales just after lunch because Bethan and Wyn are both from there.  They talked about their lives and sang a couple of neat songs.  Wyn works at the Farm and Bethan works at the Mill.  Afternoon activities were slightly delayed today by a short thundershower but the sun came right back out.  I went with our creek hikers to shoot some video.  I takes about 2 hours to do the hike and then you walk back into camp via a trail.  We start just above Mountainside and hiked through the creek all the way to Connestee Falls.  When you’re out there you could easily be anywhere in Pisgah.  There are many cascading falls between Connestee and camp.  We had a great time and our lifeguards did an excellent job of keeping everyone together and making sure we had three points of contact with the ground.  The rocks on a creek hike can be slippery.  Hopefully I’ll get some video up from this special part of camp.  We got back just before dinner.

Dinner tonight was roast beef, roasted potatoes, carrots and cabbage, bread, mint jelly, and a Wimbledon favorite, strawberries and whipped cream.  One little girl who sits at another table and lives in Cabin Playhouse, had her birthday today at camp and we always have a cake at the end of the meal for the birthday boy or girl and their whole cabin.  When asked if she wanted some dessert at the end of the meal she said, “No, I’m having cake after the meal and two desserts are probably too much”.  Andy, our assistant director said, “you’re at camp and allowed to have two desserts”, and gave her a just a taste to see if she liked it and wanted more.  She took a little taste and said, “I think I’ll be having both tonight, may I have some more?”  Priceless!!!

Tonight at campfire was a British invasion of music from the UK.  Michael Caine was our host and I’m sure no campers knew who he was but he was brilliant as they say over there.  Between performances by several cabins we had the Spice Girls, several songs from the Beatles, Elton John, and not to be outdone we had One Direction.  If you’re a parent of a female camper you hopefully know who this boy band is.  I only learned about them from campers in the past couple of weeks.  We had flyers up the last two days that they were coming to GV.  I was in the 7th grade when the Beatles invaded our shores and can still remember the girls squealing when they were introduced.  One Direction topped the Beatles by far.  All day the anticipation has been rising and tonight we reached that crescendo.  It was a supercharged atmosphere when they appeared.  It was really fun for our campers and it’s good for staff morale to shine in those ways.  Our pop culture is huge and once in a while we allow that to creep into to our camp utopia.  Done in small batches it is good.  Our UK staff did a fantastic job tonight and with the London Olympics just around the corner, they earned a gold medal.  The campers loved it and if you are a girl camper you might just dream about One Direction tonight and being on stage with them.  Stay tuned – we’re back to reality tomorrow!

Pottery, Rescue, Traversing, Climbing and Gearing?!

Dear Parents & Friends,

A beautiful day here at camp set the tone for our first day of programming.  I spent the morning going to many activities and watching staff begin their day and begin their program with instructions and getting the campers familiar with the lay of the land in program.  I spoke with one or two parents yesterday about learning styles and how some children learn by doing or watching and some learn through auditory or reading directions.  It was interesting to check in on different activities and watch as our staff got the program ball running with their different teaching styles.  I started at the waterfront where staff were teaching their GV Rescue activity.  They were learning to toss a throw line in the water.  Coiling the rope is key because it should play out in a fashion that provides maximum distance to reach your targeted person.  The campers were doing a good job with their tosses but coiling the rope was a challenge.  From there I went to our Kayakers who were learning to wet exit for the first time.  The instructor is right there standing in 4 feet of water and the first couple of times when the camper flips the boat over they right the boat for the camper to provide that sense of confidence that they are right there.  Next is flipping over and banging three times on the boat and pulling your spray skirt and then popping out on the surface.  Wearing a PFD helps as its buoyancy brings you right up.  Even with that it’s difficult to reassure and convince the camper that they can do this.  Some are beating on the side of the boat even before they are upside down.  Trust and faith in oneself doesn’t come easy when you’re upside down underwater.  99% of the time there is a breakthrough and an awakening to yes, I will be ok, just relax and find that strap and pull it.  It’s a process to observe and see the growth.

Pic of the day – Learning the ropes at the climbing wall.


Camp is very physical and we’re doing lots of physical things from riding a bike to crossing a wire suspended over water.  That’s called the Tension Traverse and it’s a new fun and challenging part of our waterfront.  Every child in camp should try this because it will build character and get you to do something that you normally don’t do, you use a lot of balance, many different muscles, and it really helps you to focus.  Everyone who tries it starts off smiling and laughing about it and then it happens; the smile goes away and the game face comes out as you start to focus on trying to move your feet across a tight wire by only holding on to a rope.  I’ve seen this in climbing, paddling, mountain biking and yes, even in arts and crafts.  One of my other visits to program this morning was the Pottery Shop where they were making whistles.  One camper had the tongue out while trying to score the clay and join it to the mated piece that he had just cut.  Such concentration is really neat to see in children.   And the best thing about camp is that if you don’t score your pottery just right, or don’t make it across the Tension Traverse, or get to the top of the wall, you’ll get another try and can build on what you’ve just done.

I joined mountain biking groups this afternoon and watched as campers rode multispeed bikes as well as coaster free brakes for the first time.  Children adapt very easily and I think at camp they tend to build on their successes and learn from their failures quite easily.  One camper just put his feet down Fred Flintstone style to stop the bike .  Another one in the second hour activity looked at me like I was crazy when I explained some simple aspects of gearing and spinning at a constant rate.  It’s a complex world out there and we need to understand about all those gears of the world and how they work.  Camp is a great place to learn about the gears of life and shifting from one thing to another.  I had fun riding with the campers today and seeing them gain some skills like riding in the attack position and learning to ride in an ever decreasing sized circle.   By the end of an hour we were able to ride some of the single track here at camp.  I think we left them hungry for more.  I know I wanted to ride some more but unfortunately we had to move on to the next activity.  I completed my rounds this morning by taking a short hike with Web of Life on a journey to Indian Cave and going by our climbing wall.  That part of our land is an attention grabber and is a great jumping off spot to share some natural history as well as human history.  Dylan, our climbing instructor, was doing a great job instructing Mountainsider’s on knot tying and all the multiple ways we can learn to tie knots.  And you know what they say about knots, “a not neat knot is a knot not needed”.  So, my advice is to keep those knots neat and keep those gears lubed and know when and where to use them.  Stay tuned!

D , Riverside-3, Mountainside-3 Opening Day!

Dear Parents & Friends,

A great start for opening day brought sunshine and warm temps.  Perfect weather for the first day as we launch into our next three weeks of camp.  Thank you for bringing such a great batch of campers.  We hope you are safe and sound wherever your destination.  We just finished our first night of cabin skits and will return tomorrow night to complete all the cabins on Hillside and Brookside.  Our Mountainsiders and Riversiders hold their own campfires in their own quarters. I attended the Mountainside opening campfire and got there just in time to see their skits, sing some songs and observe as they divided into their mini-adventure groups.  Dinner tonight was the traditional first night of Macaroni and Cheese with salad and fruit cocktail.  To top things off each cabin got a giant cookie, and I do mean giant chocolate chip cookie at their table.  It had their cabin name on it written in icing.  After supper we all went to “after supper activities” and there was a great choice of things to do.

Pic of the day – Are we having fun yet !

It was a busy afternoon and activities that were running today were Climbing , Texture Crafts, Horseback Riding, The Farm, The Mill, Fine Arts, Crafts / Pottery, and Sports.  We had swim assessments this afternoon after lunch.  We don’t call them swim tests because that sounds too much like school.  Campers also signed up for their Discovery Activities today.  They will take those four activities through Saturday which last for 3 days each and happen every other day just in the morning.  The Discovery activities are as follows: Farm/Mill, Horses, Archery, Climbing (3 types), Screen Printing, Soccer, Weaving, Fine Arts Musical, Fine Arts Behind the scenes, GV Rescue Team, Web of Life, Gourd-eous gourds, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Stage Combat, Outdoor Living Skills, Printmaking, Jackson Kayaks, Felt Making, and Aqua Games.  The afternoon has 2 more hours of activities that provide campers with a variety of sign-ups each day.  These can be 1 or 2 hour activities and there’s no limit to the possibilities.  Staff can provide a one time activity or several of the same over the week. This should be a great week as the session begins.

Riverside leaves tomorrow for their climbing trip and they are going to Linville Gorge.  They’ll be gone through Friday of this week.   Mountainside begins their mini-adventures tomorrow and will be in and out of camp as they sample each adventure.  As the session progresses, we’ll have more and more trips out for all three programs including Main Camp.  We look forward to reporting on those and hopefully will have some photos up.

Last night the whole staff met for our campfire before we started D, Mountainside and Riverside sessions.  Anne and I told our staff what a good job they were doing this summer.  Our goals are being met through their fine work of providing the following aspects that define Gwynn Valley:

Camp has been a safe and supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships

It’s a place where we’re unplugged and focused on one another and becoming cohesive in our groups of cabin and program communities.

We’re providing parenting on a different level, with structure and support as they gain hard and soft skills each day.

We’re helping the campers reconnect to the natural world where they are participating in human powered activities.

And last but not least, we’re allowing them to relax and just be kids or as we say at GV “the simple joys of childhood”.

Can you think of a better way to spend 13 days or three weeks.  Ya gotta love it!

Stay tuned!