Opening Day B Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day for B Session was the best.  Beautiful weather, great kids and a smooth transition to the valley.  Hope you all had a safe trip home.  As I write I’m sure most 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.  Dinner was the usual opening day meal of  mac and cheese, pears, salad, and fresh broccoli from our farm.  To top it off we had a giant cookie with their cabin name written in icing.  The first couple of meals we sit with our cabin groups and tomorrow at lunch we’ll move to our table groups which gives the campers a chance to meet other campers and staff from every part of camp.

Mountainside had their closing ceremony on the Mountainside Green tonight and Anne and I attended to honor them and their time at GV.  Many of those campers had been in the program for 7 years.  Their adventures were grand and I actually went out and met the Bikers yesterday at Dupont and rode with them to Bridal Veil Falls (a scene from the Hunger Games and Last of Mohicans was filmed there).  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.  Each day in the morning campers are involved in activities that are skilled based and the afternoons offer them a chance to go back to some of those activities or experience some new aspects for camp for just a day.  Cabins were introduced at campfire tonight via Cabin skits which is always a fun event the first couple of nights at camp.

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 I feel school and family can’t always imitate.  Campers have a chance to make choices and become more independent in their life with us.  It creates a sense of confidence, self-reliance and resilience.  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!

Closing Day A! Great Way to Start Our Summer!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a nice way to start our 78th 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 evaluation 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 and 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.

A Great Day Had By All!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a full day at camp and unfortunately the last full day of Session A.  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 photographers Erin and Ashley have  done a great job with capturing your children over the past eight days.  Be sure and thank them for the great pictures that they’ve 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 dancers to perform an interpretive dance to one of our camp songs, as well as a variety of singers, composers and more.  We also held our blanket and plaque ceremony for those who’ve been attending camp for 4 or 5 years.

Backing up a bit in the day, we had an almost perfect weather day for camp until late afternoo and then the thunderboomers rolled in.  Usually on the last afternoon we have pillowcase day at the pool but missed it because of the weather.  Up until then 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, in Pisgah National Forest, bikers to Dupont State Forest and Pioneers were taken up to the Parkway to begin their hike on the Mountains to Sea Trail.  Riverside was back in camp today and also spending some quality down time after their 4 days of climbing in Linville Gorge.  I spent about 2 hours with them on the lake this afternoon getting them ready for next weeks upcoming river segment of their program.  They’ll join me again tomorrow before leaving again Sunday.  Today had our Main Camp Kayakers on the upper French Broad and the water was up with the recent rains earlier in the week.

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 resilience 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 78 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood.  Stay tuned!

Bright, Beautiful and You Couldn’t Ask For More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

A sunny day here at camp that was bright and beautiful which made everyone’s day.  By 10:30 the temps began to rise and so did the activity level.  We had a wonderful breakfast with French Toast and all the trimmings.  Tonight’s dinner was baked Ziti with fresh broccoli and cauliflower from the garden, fresh bread, pears and salad from the garden.  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’s 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.

I hope you are enjoying the photos each day as it hopefully provides a glimpse of our day here at camp.

Mountainside chose their activities tonight and Thurs. they leave on those adventures.  I was just talking with Josiah, their Head Counselor about their upcoming adventures.  The climbers will climb at either Looking Glass or Cedar Rock.  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 Pisgah National Forest, where elevations reach over 6000’.

I checked in with several activity areas today including Outdoor Living Skills and Web of Life.  Both really get the children out into the GV hinterland.  We have a beautiful piece of property and try to utilize a good bit of it for hiking and exploration.  It’s abundant with water and many species of plants and critters.  All the better to explore! I also checked in with Archery and yes, tomahawk throwing.  Now don’t panic parents because Mark W. has been with us for about 5 years and brought this activity to camp several years ago.  It’s a lot of fun and not easy.  Tomorrow he’s offering some serious sling shot lessons with our arsenal of wrist rockets.  Because of the weather the waterfront was a great place to be today.  Many children tried their hand at the tension traverse over the lake which is pretty difficult.  It’s a tight wire strung over the lake for about 30 feet.  You hold onto a rope that is connected up high in a nearby tree and you do your best to traverse all the way to the other side.  I’d say it’s on par with the zip line as a fun and challenging waterfront activity.

Half of camp is camping out tonight and you couldn’t create a better night for it.  Clear, cool and just enough breeze to make it pleasant.  As I walked backed to the office after the dance, you could smell and see the smoke from all the cabins camping out.  By dusk I’m sure the campers were winding down from their campfire dinner to a smore’s  dessert.  Tonight’s campfire for those that didn’t camp out, was dancing in the Lodge with Jess Kauffman.  She’s a great teacher and taught several dances from around the world.  After that we settled down for a few Tajar stories.  (Learn more about the Tajar from you children).

We have quite a few musicians at camp this session, some of whom performed at our Sunday Service.  Hopefully some will repeat or perform anew at our Friendship Campfire on Thurs. night.  But, whoa and slow down because that’s the last night of the session and we’re having way too good a time to think about the end.  Stay tuned for more between now and then.

Weather FIip Flop

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today was a total flip flop of yesterday.  We awoke to rain this morning and lots of it.  My rain gage at the house registered 2 ¼ inches of rain overnight but by the end of lunch we had beautiful sunny skies and it’s a cool and clear evening here.  The rain has had a cooling effect on our evenings and mornings and the low tonight will be 62.  High tomorrow will be 86.  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 incoming weather.  Today was a good example as we had to cancel  a creek hike on the Brookside creek because of all the rainfall.  The group hiked the Hillside creek which is much smaller and had a great time.    As a paddler I’m always monitoring our local rivers and streams.  Rain fall is important to our program because of the many natural flow rivers in our area.  We also utilize several dam controlled rivers.  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.  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 milking Bessie and cow and playing with the baby chicks.  Tonight for dinner we ate directly from the farm:  Meatloaf from our cows,  green beans and carrots from the garden.  There was apple strudel   for desert.  We don’t really advertise that we raise our own beef unless the children ask and usually that’s not very often.  I think many of them secretly know and suspect but it’s just one of those things we all keep on down low.  We also eat the fish we catch from the Millpond but fish are not in the same category as a cow.

From photos today 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.  We visited so many countries on our travels from GV Airlines.  Captain Matt and Flight Attendant Judy led us on our journey.

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 what super power you would want to possess.  One young camper said all of them.  Others talked about being invisible and one wanted the power of ignite and explode things.  From super powers our discussion transitioned   to lava and the 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 to close this recap of the day.   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 it causes me to go right to sleep”.  What a life the camp life is.  Stay tuned!

PS  Internet was down last night so pics from yesterday and blog didn’t get up until this morning.  Rural DSL is sometimes finicky.

Some Sun and PM Rain…!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It was a brilliant morning and the sun slowly gave way to a few showers this afternoon.  No thunder meant that all activities went on as planned.  Activities took place this morning and afternoon with children riding horses, arrows being shot, kayaking on the lake, weaving, pottery, dance, basketry, and many other activities.

Mountainside spent the day participating in two more of their mini adventures so that they can decide on the adventure of their choice. Today concludes their four minis and they have all tried mountain biking, pioneering, climbing, and canoeing. They looked great out on the lake learning their pry and draw strokes, learning to paddle tandem and practicing their teamwork. A fire in their lodge this evening has provided warmth and atmosphere to their evening program.  Riverside took off for Linville Gorge today and probably got a bit of our rain over there.  As I gazed at the weather map this afternoon, almost none of the mountains escaped the raindrops.  We just get wet skin deep and unless there is thunder and lightening we suit up and keep going.

Half of Main Camp was supposed to camp out tonight but we called it because of the steady rain that started falling just before dinner.  It’s difficult to get a fire going when it’s raining and trying to cook over an open fire is even more difficult in this weather.  We have several shelters on camp that provide a place to cook out, so the cabins used those to prepare their dinner and slept soundly in cabins tonight.  It was just good sense to make sure our campers get a good nights sleep without getting wet and having to dodge the rain drops through the night.  You could almost smell the smore’s being cooked over the fires that accommodated our cabins for their dinner meal over a covered fire.

We had some fun at table 13 today with orange peels.  I showed the campers at my table what you do with the orange wedges after you eat all the orange pulp.  All it takes is a normal kitchen knife and a bit of goofiness and voila, you have“orange teeth”.   It’s an old trick from my early camp days and one that’s sure to make you laugh whether you’re wearing the teeth or looking at the wearer.

Day 3 A

We closed our evening tonight with Mountain Dancing in the Lodge.  Debbie played the piano and called a few of the dances as she played.  There was a lot of laughter and fun had by everyone.

Our campers are now snug in their bunks under their warm covers and blankets awaiting another day of fun to begin in the morning!   Stay tuned!


“See the Sun Shining Through the Window…..”

Dear Parents & Friends,

Our title for today comes from a song we sing at camp called “It’s a Beautiful Day”.  It was indeed a beautiful day.  I’ve just returned from my morning rounds and watching many activities at play.  Our day started with pancakes, cereal, bacon and fruit.  After breakfast everyone learned what their activities were and we off and running.  My first stop was at the lake and watching our Mountainsider’s begin their mini-adventures for paddling.  Also there was the kayak group who were just learning how to get into their new found sports cars for water.  Our kayaks are sized for younger children and it makes paddling a bit easier if you are a beginner.  I also spent some time in the Pot Shop where a few campers were learning how to throw on the wheel.

From there I headed up toward the climbing wall and watched an enthusiastic group get their chance at climbing our 50’ tower.  Dylan and crew were running that activity and we had some great climbers scaling the tower.  If you’ve never put on a harness before it takes a little time but everyone was helpful with one another and soon we were all set to go “up”.  Mountainside again was present on the other side of the wall and learning the “ropes” as they tested their skills on the advanced side of our tower.  While at the tower the Main Camp and Mountainside Bikers rode by.  Both groups were intent on teaching skills and each occupied a part of camp that allowed them to maneuver and see how their group’s skill level was.  Both groups tried out our new mountain biking skills area and after a while the Mountainsider’s rode over to the Hunt Farm where there is a mile and a half of single track.  Both groups were teaching the same things on different levels based on the age difference.  Learning to ride in the attack position is key in mountain biking which means riding up off the saddle when your feet are in the 9 and 3 position on the pedals.  From land to water I headed over to Aqua Games to see our swimmers were learning the proper technique for leg kicks.  Lots of practice with a paddle board and then games to raise the level of competence in the water.  We had a wonderful lunch of Sloppy Joe’s with trimmings and dinner tonight was baked chicken, rice & sautéed vegis, Caesar salad, fresh bread, and pears.

This afternoon found a slew of campers going to the Farm.  The baby goats and chicks have captured all the hearts of those going to visit with Farmer Jacob.  We had a long discussion at our table tonight about mama pig and when she might have her babies.  She’s pretty big and it could happen as soon as next week.  That’s usually a highlight of the summer.

We completed our cabin skits tonight and they were as always fun and varied.  At this hour all campers are in their cabins and headed toward sleepy time.  The Serenader’s have made their rounds and soon camp will be just crickets, tree frogs and our creeks.  Tonight one young man at my table said, “I’m really tired and could go to bed right after dinner”.  It’s a full day here and I checked on him later and after the food kicked in, I found him out on the Green playing games.  He’ll sleep well tonight.  Riverside takes off tomorrow on their climbing adventure for 4 days and will return on Wed.   They’ll be heading to Linville Gorge for their climbing.  Mountainside will continue their mini-adventures tomorrow participating in climbing, paddling, pioneering, and biking.  It’s been a great first full day of camp.  Lots of sun and no rain.  Until tomorrow, we hope you all sleep as well as we do.  Stay tuned!

Photos for Parents!!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We’re having some technical difficulty getting our pictures to publish on the website.  Please bear with us and hopefully we can get this corrected in the next day or so.  When we do get things straightened out, all pictures will be there.  We’ve been taking quite a few photos since your camper’s arrival yesterday.  Thank you for your patience!


2013 Opening Day – Session A

Dear Parents and Friends,

Thank you for a great opening day of our 2013 season.  Even though we had a few showers, the rain did not dampen spirits at camp.  I hope all of you have arrived safely at home or your next destination.  Campers arrived throughout the morning and everyone had a buffet lunch starting at noon.  After that everyone went to the Lodge to sing a bit and then learn about all the exciting program opportunities.  Counselors provided and skits and then there was time to sign everyone up.  Campers chose 8 activities and will get 4 of those for the session just for morning Discovery time.  In the afternoon they will choose 2 one hour activities each day or one two hour activity.  So…. Skills in the morning and variety in afternoon.  What could be better?

All cabins had their swim assessments today.  We call them swim assessments instead of swim tests because the word test reminds us of school and we’re on SUMMER VACATION AT GWYNN VALLEY!!!  Mountainside starts their mini-adventures tomorrow as they take on skills from Pioneering, Climbing, Mountain-Biking, and Paddling.  Riverside starts their Climbing adventure on Monday.  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 outdoor component, which is paddling.

I just returned from campfire, where half of the cabins were presenting their introduction skit for the session.  We’ll see the other half of camp tomorrow night.  I had dinner with Chesnut Hollow boys tonight and boy did they put some mac & cheese away.  Along with the entrée was salad, fresh broccoli and cauliflower from the garden, and mandarin orange fruit.  For dessert we had a giant cookie served on a huge pizza pan.  Of course it was chocolate chip!

As we start the summer I told I urged my staff  to take on the mantle of being parents – something we discussed all last week during staff training.  Camp gives children the gift of well being – a sense of belonging and is a stepping stone to so many other great experiences before them in life.  Their contribution to these children is immeasurable and they will have a great deal of influence in the camper’s short camp life.  They are participating in the art of giving and serving, as well as shaping lives.  Staff have a great deal of power and they should embrace that power with firm gentleness.  It’s a big job and one that carries a great deal of responsibility.  With this email you will see a picture of some campers playing with hoola hoops for an after supper activity.  Along with them is my climbing director, a 6’5” guy who normally is scaling thin hand and foot holds to teach our campers the art of moving over rock.  I think that pic speaks to the nature of the type of person we hire.  He’s all about adventure as part of the work but he’s also all about being a role model and participant in leading our youngest campers in an activity that is not his area of expertise.  But maybe it is, because the social tools of camp are most always the important ones.  Living in a cabin, sharing, developing a voice, resilience and learning that you’re part of something much greater than yourself are just a few thing we hope children come away with here at GV.

Thank you for sharing your children with us.  Ah, the simple joys of Gwynn Valley. Our human powered environment is well on its way to another great summer here at camp.  Our 78th summer to be exact and we’re so proud to have you be a part of it.  Stay tuned!Day 1 A

PS  We have a fill in photographer today and Ashley our regular photo person is stuck in traffic out of Atlanta.  She had some commitments with her school teaching job today and is the one that will be taking and posting pictures this session.  We may not have pictures up until tomorrow morning.