CYMBL Race at Gwynn Valley

Dear Parents & Friends,

Gwynn Valley just hosted the first race in a series for CYMBL (Carolina Youth Mountain Biking League) held at camp on Aug. 18th. There were just around 100 youngsters participating after final count. The next event will be at Camp Carolina in Sept. here in Brevard and the final event will be hosted by Falling Creek Camp in Oct. Hope to see you at one of these venues!  Stay tuned!

CYMBL Series 2012 At Gwynn Valley Camp from Gwynn Valley on Vimeo.

CYMBL Race Tomorrow At Gwynn Valley

Dear Parents & Friends,

Gwynn Valley is hosting the first event of the CYMBL races series tomorrow, Aug. 18th, here at camp.  CYMBL stands for Carolina Youth Mountain Biking League.  Don’t be put off by the fact it’s a race.  It’s a family event and great fun if your children are into mountain biking.  For more information on the event go to

We look forward to a great day of fun and mountain biking for all ages.

Latest Video From Session E!

Parents & Friends,

Here is our last installment of video from Session E.  You will see scenes from Main Camp as well as some paddling from Riverside and Mountainside.  We enjoyed having you and please let your friends know about Gwynn Valley.  Click on the link below vimeo 7 2012 E Session to see it in a bigger format.

vimeo 7 2012 E Session from Gwynn Valley on Vimeo.

Closing Day of E Session and A Great Way to End a Super Summer!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a great session we just completed today for those of you that picked up your children for E Session.  Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 8 days.  What a terrific way to end our summer and start to prepare for 2013.  What a terrific way to end our summer and start to prepare for 2013. It’s not my favorite day when camp is over.  Anne can testify that it takes me a couple of weeks before I come out of quiet doldrums of life without campers.  Despite it being over the weather cooperated and it turned out beautiful, just like the song we sing “Beautiful Day”. It was a perfect day for us and the weather turned out beautiful, just like the song we sing “Beautiful Day”.

“See the sun shining through the window, time to start a new day,

Can’t you hear the song birds singing, I gotta sing out loud and say,

That’s it’s a beautiful day for running in the sun,  it’s a beautiful day that’s just begun,  it’s a beautiful day to do what I wanna do, ah ah ah.

It’s a beautiful day just to be alive, a beautiful day so glad that I’ve got a beautiful day and I’d like to share it with you and you and you and you and you!”

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.

For those of you that have arrived home and are reading this, 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 that the camp experience will become 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!

PS   I’ll be posting another video of E session in the next 24 hours.  Enjoy!


Last Full Day of E Was the Best, Without a Doubt!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a wonderful last full day of Session E.  The weather cooperated for most of the day and we had a few sprinkles here and there.  All activities ran this morning and we completed our last morning of Discovery activities where campers signed up at the beginning of the week and worked to gain skills in many areas in the two hour long morning activity periods.  After lunch we held a long singing session in the Lodge, had many announcements and passed out a good bit of Lost and Found.  There were items from all parts of camp from water bottles to towels.  Please check the Lost and Found box in the Lodge tomorrow before you take your camper home.  It’s a big blue box located in the back corner of the building.

Lots of arts & crafts projects were completed today and many items were passed out throughout the day.  Those who have pottery will need to pick it up tomorrow morning as the kilns have been going all day long and will continue into the evening tonight.  Emily and staff have been working overtime to get it all done.  I hope to put up some more video tomorrow,so keep checking the website over the next couple of days for more.

Today was another day of Arborist climbing in our big Poplar trees just outside the office.  I love to walk out of the office and see children climbing from the limbs of those big trees.  It takes some real effort to get up there and well worth it.  You do it all on your own and it’s balance, muscle, and a pinch of courage to go that high.  We’re doing some cool activities with children so young and hopefully teaching them to respect the trees by looking at them from a perspective other than just the ground up.  We’re stretching ourselves, building confidence and learning to reassure those around us who are trying the same activity.  I was looking at our photo of the Mountain Bikers earlier today coming back to Main camp.  These folks may have only ridden on neighborhood streets and certainly not on the uneven terrain we have at camp.  They have learned to ride our terrain, brake properly, shift those many gears and move around on and off the saddle to help them balance through changing landscapes.  I was so proud of them.

The Farm celebrated an annual milestone today.  Our calves have been bottle fed all summer long and this afternoon they were officially weaned and turned out to pasture just after the last group left.  I’m sure tomorrow they will be expecting all those campers to be back to feed them but it has to happen sooner than later.  Most of them have been ready for weaning a couple of weeks ago but they sure love that attention.  The Farm is such a huge part of our program and today’s lunch came totally from the Farm and Mill.  We had fish caught at the Mill with cornmeal in the cornbread from the Mill, cole slaw from the farm, fresh tomato salad from the farm and fruit (cantaloupe and watermelon) from the farm.  It was a delicious meal.  Tonight’s dinner is always pizza and there was plenty to go around.

This afternoon was pillowcase day.  It’s when all the cabins come to the pool for a swim and body checks by the medical staff.  It’s to make sure that campers go home with no boo-boo’s that we might not know about and it’s fun.  I was there and took my turn on the slide.  I traditionally spend the last afternoon of camp at the pool and it’s been a tradition for a while.  It’s nice to play with the kids in the water and see them participate in what we call “unstructured freeplay”.  You’d be surprised what children can do with a couple of beach balls and a few pool toys.  There’s no lack of imagination.

It’s been a great week and we are sad to have it come to and end.  Tomorrow when you arrive, your children from E Session, will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  We do these each night and check in with campers to find out how their day has been.  It allows staff to see how the children are doing since they only see them at morning wake-up, bedtime and just before and after meals.  A lot happens in our day here at camp and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  After the friendship circle, we welcome you to the Lodge at 11:00 for our E Session campfire.  Just after that we’ll be serving a special lunch for you and your family.  We hope you’ll take this opportunity to visit with your children’s counselors and allow your campers to show you some special parts of their camp experience.  Have as a safe trip and see you in the morning.  Stay tuned!

The Tajar’s Birthday and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Today was a very celebratory day at camp and the Tajar played a major role.  It was the Tajar’s birthday.  If you don’t know who the Tajar is let me give you a bit of background.  Of all the animals in the forest, 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, 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 he is different from all those animals.  He would rather dance in the moonlight on a warm summer night than sleep in his tree.  The Tajar is a very nice fellow.  He is willing to listen to a story or help carry firewood but mostly in the presence of Mr. & Mrs. Camp Director and a few others.  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 the Tajar three times, you will certainly become a friend of his.  No one knows how old he is since he’s been living here well before camp began.  And one more thing, the Tajar loves folly and that’s what we awoke to this morning coming down to breakfast.  Tea cups were hanging from trees.  Kayaks were out of the lake area.  There was a truck parked in the middle of the path to the dining room and much more.

One of the Tajar’s favorite activities is tree climbing and our climbing staff was doing Arborist climbing today.  You’ll see some pics from that activity and it’s a blast.  Can you imagine climbing on a rope to near the top of a huge tree.  You feel like you have super powers.  It’s not easy getting there and one really has to focus on the skills involved.  Be sure and check out the Arborist trees when you arrive on Sunday.  They are the two big poplar trees right across from the office.

As we wind down for the session there have been some beautiful creations coming from arts and crafts.  The group that was weaving removed their final product from the looms and made bags from the weaving work they did.  You can see some of these in the pictures.  Be sure and check out the looms in Shady Grove if your child gives you a tour.  Campers were also glazing pots as the final part of prep before the clay goes into the kiln today and tomorrow.  Whistles, wall pockets and a host of other things will be going home.

On a more outdoor note our canoer’s were learning about turning over and performing a “T” rescue where you can actually empty a water filled boat using an floating upright boat.  It’s a good skill to have on the lake but is never used on the river.  I went on a short river trip today with our Main Camp Kayakers to section 0 of the French Broad.  With all the rain we’ve been having it was moving and these folks were sufficiently challenged.  We had six campers on the trip and 2 staff plus yours truly to video tape and shoot a few pics.  The crew performed eddy turns, peel outs, and ferry’s.  A few of them even tried an S turn which is tough.  Perfect water conditions and just a sprinkle of rain from the skies.

Despite the wet weather those bikers keep on biking.  They were out today and rode most of our single track here at camp.  Our trails are not that easy for some of our younger campers but these guys were building on previous skills acquired earlier in the week.  I think I mentioned that some went on an out of camp trip yesterday to Dupont State Forest.

Those who wanted to get wetter today went to Connesstee Falls today and swam in the waterfall.  It’s a spectacular part of our property and is at the top end of our land.  It takes about and hour and a half to creek hike there and only about 35 minutes to walk via the trail.  The creek hike is more fun.  Another long journey on camp property is the hike to the “Rock” which is near the top of the property.  You can see all the way to Mt. Pisgah and up on top of the Parkway.  It’s a great hike with some thrilling places that you have to hand over hand rope climb because of the steep terrain.

Tonight was Tajar Ball and usually we eat outdoors but it sprinkled and thundered a little too much for our tastes so we had some of the Ball indoors and some outdoors.  It was a great evening with all kinds of games going on almost until dark.  Hayrides, ice cream, popcorn, and other treats punctuated a burger and hot dog dinner complete with the trimmings including our farm grown watermelon.  Everyone was dressed in costume and you couldn’t really tell who was who.  There were firemen, nurses, fairies, Romans, Men in Black, Princesses, heroes and heroines, Olympic stars, and of course the Tajar was there.  He always comes in costume but since we’re all dressed up know one can really recognize him.  There was also a puppet show after the ball.  It was funny and very creative.

For those parents who have Mountainsiders and Riversiders, they are all home safe and sound.  We’ll see them around Main Camp tomorrow as they come back to eat at our dining tables.  They all dodged rain drops and had great adventures while out of the nest.  We only have one more full day and then our summer is over.  There’s been a lot said about teaching gratitude in our society of late.  We’re a very blessed nation and we have much to be thankful for.  I’m feeling thankful for the fact you’ve sent your children to be in our trust for the past week(s).  And I’m thankful to be able to work in this environment where I’m surrounded by laughter, the simple joys of childhood and hope for the future with these children as they grow and learn.  Camp is a wonderful place to be whether you’re 6 or 60.  And Gwynn Valley is that place!  Stay tuned!

Forcast is Sun, Rain and Fun, No Matter the Weather

Dear Parents & Friends,

Sun gave way to rain today but only later in the afternoon.  If you missed the blog last night, I was on a little time off and had dinner with Anne.  Despite the rain today, camp keeps right on chugging along.  Our Main Camp Bikers braved the elements and left early afternoon to miss the rain for a little ride in Dupont.  Dupont State Forest has over 100 miles of trails that are great for biking.  Our crews from Main Camp go there often and love Ridgeline Trail which is a rolling downhill that’s quite long and gives the rider and chance to test their skills at any level.  Of course we’ve found that campers like to go fast on bikes (most), and that’s why we keep a staff member in the front and back of these trips.  Based on the  group’s skills the staff will regulate the speed according to the group and trail.  There’s also the point of going so slow that it’s actually harder to maneuver.  It’s about finding your right speed and it’s so true about life as well.

The rain certainly brings out the childlike qualities in us.  One of our activity groups stopped long enough to play in the water gushing off the roof of the dining room.  How often do we get to do those things and just get wet under water pouring off a roof.  One young camper pretended he was taking a bath and stated most assuredly that this would compensate for not taking any more showers the rest of camp.

Our Lodge is a great meeting space when there’s weather that prevents activities outside.  We did have to spend about half of one activity period there today because of thunder boomers.  Otherwise we’re outside and only getting wet skin deep.  Hot showers are always in order after an afternoon like today.  We had a group of creek hikers that enjoyed that shower even more after their creek hike.  All of crafts were full this afternoon with the rain coming down.  Folks were tie dying and making all kinds of creative things in pottery, yanderside, and the bong tree.  The Mill had a run on fish today.  Since it’s near the end of the summer we try and catch as many fish as possible.  So today we drained the pond and everyone who wanted to, charged in to catch the remaining trout that were there.  Now, don’t go thinking that we’re teaching these campers “hillbilly hand fishing”.  We’re quite a bit more civilized and use a net but sometimes we revert to our hands.  We’ll have a fish fry in the next few days from all the fish that we caught.

Even though it did rain in the afternoon the climbers were out this morning in full force, climbing in our hemlock trees.  This is an activity that I started my first year at camp before we had a true climbing program or artificial wall.  We needed something closer than the Rock which is a hike and I found 3 perfect trees right in the center of camp that have hosted literally thousands of campers over the years.  We also added arborist climbing which we hope to set up tomorrow.  I think it’s even more fun.

There’s one pic in our daily summary that is of the camp mailbox.  It looks like a miniature log cabin.  This is the place where campers put their mail for letters home.  Writing home is something we encourage but don’t require.  If you haven’t received a letter yet, it’s OK.  It probably means there’s so much to do and so little time to write.  And.. soon school will be starting and the campers will have to write in that setting.  For most families, school is just on the heels of camp.  Along with those camp friends and memories, encourage your camper-student to remember the skills he or she learned this summer. These skills are sure to get the school year started off right and help your child thrive all year long!

Confidence — All through the camp experience, children and youth have tried new activities and been successful; they feel empowered.

Curiosity — Camp has given children and youth the chance to explore, study, and observe in an experiential learning environment.

Character — Camp has challenged children and youth to develop character — through fostering respect for each other, a sense of community, and the ability to solve problems.

Resilience and grit are buzzwords these days relating to child development.  Campers develop both of these when making decisions, stretching themselves to try hard things, and living in an environment that is really different from home or school.

Speaking of resilience and grit, our Mountainsiders and Riversiders are all coming in tomorrow.  We will welcome them back with hot showers and good camp food.  I can’t wait to hear their stories and learn about their adventures.  It’s always nice to see them return to our nest.  They have gained the confidence, curiosity, and character to fly away and now they are returning.  Stay tuned!


Tutu’s and Tajar Tales!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thanks for your patience today with pictures.  Our uploader is still moving slower than we would like and presently we have more pics coming your way and a video.  It was a splendiferous day here with a little rain and a little sun.  It seems to rain when we’re indoors which is perfect.  All activities got on track despite the rain.  We were even able to run a tubing trip down the mighty French Broad.  Tubing is so much fun and it was an afternoon sign-up made up of children from all over camp. It’s about a 2 hour trip in all even though you’re only about 2 miles from camp.  It’s an easy float and we always take a raft along in case someone gets too tired or cold to stay in their tube.  Two counselor lifeguards take groups of no more than 10 campers and sometimes only 8 depending on the swim level and size.

Waterfront always has something going from Kayaking to sit-on-tops to swimming and aqua games to zip lining to watermat, tension traverse and in two locations – the pool and the lake.  It’s a small but bustling lake and we love all the things that happen there.  Even Mountainside and Riverside start their canoe training there.  I would love to own a camp on a lake but we have a pond or small lake at a camp.  Our creek is one of greatest water resources that runs through camp.  We hope to get some campers on creek hikes this week and when you’re up near the top end of the property you feel as though you’re out in the middle of Pisgah National Forest.  Our own Carson Creek has some great little waterfalls that cascade down our mountain and into camp proper.  The creek is also the power source for the Mill.  That Mill provides food and lots of fun for those that participate.  Yesterday a group of boys made chocolate ice cream while at the Mill.  I didn’t stay to sample it but it looked delicious.

There was a lot of activity at the climbing wall today and a group of campers ventured up to the Rock after lunch today to climb there.  We have about 3 different climbs set up at the Rock.  It’s also a great place to view our surrounding mountains with views all the way up the Parkway and beyond.  On the opposite side of the Rock you get a whole different environment because few campers and staff go there.  There are ant lions there and if you don’t know what they are we’ll have to shoot some video and show you.

Pottery is one of those steady as you go, everyone loves it and is always doing something creative.  Today they were making whistles in the Pot Shop.  There are so many cool things to make at camp.  It’s sometimes hard to choose what you want to do each afternoon after you’ve had your morning Discovery Activities.  Making choices is such a good exercise for children and having a say so in what they want to do each day.  (There is guidance so that campers don’t take 8 days of one or two activities.)  A camper asked me what I would take today from the afternoon’s activities.  I told her “looking for salamanders, kayaking or going to the Rock”.  I don’t think she agreed but then that’s what is special about our program.  You can make your own choice.  Most of the time children know what they like to do and it’s an easy choice for them.  Other times they will see other campers doing an activity and they want to try it next time it’s offered.  Then there’s word of mouth advertising which I hear all the time at the table.  You can easily have a run on an activity if the “word” gets out.  As a counselor or staff member my job is coax campers into stretching themselves and try something difficult every day.  Miss Mary Gwynn, who founded camp, believed this should be the case for every child in camp.  It’s frankly a good idea.

I was at riding today and our youngest girls cabin was there riding.  You could just see most of the girls expressions change when got atop those giant gentle beasts.  Their minds could have taken them anywhere and their smiles brightened our overcast afternoon.  One of the campers decided that horseback riding was truly a special occasion and decided to wear her tutu (that she brought to camp) for that portion of the Gwynn Valley show.  Priceless!!!

I know if you are a Mountainside or Riverside parent you’re wondering how they are.  Both groups left today for Adventures.  Riverside is in their backpacking component and will head south on the AT from Max Patch to Hot Springs, NC.  Mountainside Bikers went to Dupont State Forest today and they’re camping there for the next three nights.  Climbers went to Linville Gorge and if you’ve never been there it’s spectacular.  Backpackers went to Black Balsam to begin their journey atop the Shining Rock Wilderness and will hike all the way down to the Davidson River Campground over the next few days.  And Paddlers began the foray into moving water on the Green River today and tomorrow will likely head to the Tuckaseegee River near Dillsboro.  I wish I could be with every group but duty calls back at camp.

Tonight’s campfire was a mountain dance that Debbie and I provide the entertainment for.  It’s mostly Debbie and a little me.  She tickles the 88’s and I call the dances.  The campers who came danced and danced and we ended the evening with a Tajar Tale.  Your child can fill you in on the Tajar.  Many cabins are camping out tonight and the rest will venture out into the hinterland of GV on Thurs. night.  There will be tales to tell tomorrow at breakfast and pictures to take for tomorrow’s activities.  I hope you’re having just a fraction of the fun we’re having here.  Stay tuned!