Opening Day D Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

A great start for opening day brought sunshine and warm temps this morning.  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.

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),  Soccer, Candles, Weaving, Fine Arts Musical, GV Rescue Team, Web of Life, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Outdoor Living Skills, Diving, 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 on Tues. for their climbing trip and they are going to Foster Falls in TN.  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, table, 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!

Last Full Day of C, C-2! :(


Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished our Friendship Campfire for Session C, C-2.  What a great time we’ve had and tonight was no exception.  We honored the many campers who have many years of Gwynn Valley summers.  As a tradition at our final campfire we honor those who are coming for their 4th and 5th year with a blanket for the 4th year and a wooden plaque for their 5th year.  We also honor those staff, SIT’s and campers who’ve gone beyond the 5 year mark.  It’s always fun to have them stand and be recognized.  We finished off the evening with a slide show of session highlights.  Afterward I headed up to Mountainside just in time to catch their adventure skits and see their final ceremony.  They were parked out on the Mountainside Green next to the creek and had a blazing fire going.

We had several Main Camp trips out today and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their time out of camp.  Kayakers, Climbers and Bikers all hit the trails, rivers and rock.  I wanted to go on all three trips but had to stay back in camp today.  The campers did a great job and were certainly tested on the Green River today.  They left about 10:00 this morning and got to the river around 11:00.  They put in at Bridge Rapid, and paddled S Turn, Big Corky, Little Nantahala, Jacobs Ladder, Sunday Ledge, and Little Corky.  It was eddy hopping and ferrying the whole way which makes the learning curve go way up.  Climbers went to Looking Glass Nose area today and bikers went into Dupont’s 100 miles of trails, to test themselves there on such classics as Ridgeline and Hilltop trails.  It’s a good feeling coming back to camp after such successful experiences out of camp.   There were some tired puppies as the vans pulled in through the afternoon.  It’s good to stretch oneself and go out into different environs to play and develop the skills that don’t always come easy.  We do it every day in some part of camp and these trips are special.   A couple of these folks on the trip today were 8, 9 and 10 years old.  It’s never too early and the key is a progression that is safe and always comes back to work on foundation skills.

This morning in Main Camp at home we held signups and this afternoon everyone participated in pillowcase day.  It happens at the pool and is the perfect venue on a steamy day.  It’s fun to be there on the last day and play at the pool with all the children.  Before pillowcase afternoon the whole camp assembled in the Lodge to watch the play, dancers perform and several story tellers read their short stories before the crowd assembled.  Everyone was appreciative to be back in camp and be entertained by our players.  Also this afternoon,  Mountainside had their MS Challenge where they paddle, climb, bike and build a fire to burn through a string.  Both Riverside and Mountainside got a swim into today.  It was the perfect day for it.

Tomorrow when you arrive your children from C, C-2 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, rest hour, before and after meals and bedtime.  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 there is our program in the Lodge for parents, friends and campers.  You can stay and enjoy a wonderful GV lunch at noon if you like.  Thank you for sharing your children and looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.  It’s been a great session and a great group of children.  Stay tuned!

Tajar Ball Day!

Dear Parents and Friend,

Sorry to have missed you last night but our internet was giving us fits.  We were able to load pictures but after that it fritzed.  This morning we awoke to Tajar Folly.  The Tajar leaves lots of mischief around the center of camp the night before his day while we’re all asleep.  If you don’t know who the Tajar is, just ask your child.  Each session we celebrate his birthday and everyone comes to the party in costume.  This event has been going on at Gwynn Valley for a very long time.  We usually have burgers and dogs outside and then hold the carnival.  We were able eat outside but rain chased us indoors for most events as dinner ended.  Our traditional after dinner carnival consisted of Fortune Telling, Soccer Shootout, Hayrides, Bucket Breakup, TP Toss, Frisbee Throw, Face Painting, free food including ice cream, popcorn, snow cones, Guess the M&M’s, The Penny Toss, Sponge Throw, a Dunking Booth and Strongman Hammer Test.  There were all kinds of costumes at the Ball and Carnival.  I’m sure you’ll recognize some characters from your household.

Earlier today those Mountainsider’s and Riversider’s came home and are safe and sound sleeping in their own beds.  Each group had their fun and adventure while out since Sunday.  They all came back with smiles and stories to tell, memories to remember and that’s what counts.  We’ll look forward to having them back at our tables tomorrow at lunch.  They all get a big sleep-in tomorrow morning.  I escorted the paddlers on their last day of canoeing to the North Fork of the French Broad.  We haven’t run that section of the river in about eight years and when there’s lots of water it’s a fast and furious ride down out of the mountains from such places as Courthouse Falls and Devils Courthouse.  The North runs into the West Fork which forms the beginning of the French Broad just above Rosman.  It’s a beautiful stretch of river.  I scouted it late yesterday with three other staff before we took campers on it, to make sure there weren’t downed trees or major changes to the river since I last ran it.  We were thrilled to be able to do this and look forward to using it again in the future if water levels continue.  The Mountainside Paddlers did a great job and had a blast.  It’s a quick 2.5 mile run and we were back by 1:00.  It’s full of lots of eddies and rocks that make it a maze in some sections.  One has to keep their boat straight and have a reliable eddy turn.

There will be several Main Camp trips out tomorrow with Kayakers, Mountain Bikers, and Climbers.  The kayakers will head to the Green River that is still flowing strong.  It will be an all day trip for that group.  They were doing their final preps today on the lake and getting psyched.  Speaking of water, Cindy our waterfront director is doing a great job with our fledgling canoers and we’ve seen great progress in adding to their skills.  Another water activity that I got involved with by chance today was Web of Life.  I happened to be coming back from horseback riding and found them at the Lake.  This has been a bumper crop year for tadpoles in our lake.  They are not the tiny ones either.  They’re huge and most are growing legs at this point.  They were hard to catch and I took off my shoes and got into the act.  I managed to get one.  We were having a blast trying to sneak up on them.  I don’t know if they can feel or see you coming but they usually scoot off to deeper water just as you get within a couple of feet.

All kinds of arts and crafts projects are being completed as we wind down the session.  There’s not a day goes by that I don’t see a new creation.  Pottery has glazed all their pots and creations and the kiln will be fired tomorrow morning to finish up the final pieces.  Tomorrow will be signups in the morning as all of our Discovery Activities ended today.  Tomorrow after lunch we have the Play (which was scheduled for tonight but changed because of weather).  In the afternoon will be pillowcase day for all of camp when everyone goes to the pool (not all at once mind you).  There is a method to this madness.  Tomorrow evening will be Friendship Campfire and our last one for the session.  We keep things moving right till the end of the session.  I think the three week campers will need a couple of days of rest upon returning home.  We were up a little later tonight and tomorrow is a big day for us all as we wind down from a very active and fun session.  I wish we could keep them all for another week.  Camp does a world of good.  If you’re feeling a little “campsick” and missing your children we understand.  They’ve provided a great deal of joy in our setting.  We sent our son off to Scout camp about a month ago and he’s been home a week.  Anne I missed his presence and we felt your “campsickness”.  Camp is a safe and supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships, unplug from technology, connect with nature, and participate in human-powered activities. Camp allows children to relax and enjoy just being kids. I truly believe there’s a camp for every child in America.  Thank you for choosing Gwynn Valley.  We appreciate you sharing your children.  Stay tuned!

Here Comes the Sun!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We couldn’t have asked for a better day today at camp.  I expected good weather today and we got it.  It was a bit cloudy this morning but as the day went on the sun shone brightly on GV.  It was a good day to visit program and I started at the farm mainly to check on the growth rate of those piglets.  They are squealing as pigs do when you pick them up and the campers love to pick them up.  You might think that a 10 pound hunk of piglet would be easy to hold, but oh contraire.  They wiggle and feel like pure muscle.  Lots of newborn baby chicks this morning and they were quite fluffy and willing to be held.  The farm is a magical place and I love visiting.  There were campers milking Bessie and when they ran out of time they put her on the automatic milking machine.  It was almost as though she gave a sigh of relief from all those hands that were figuring how best to coax the milk from her.

Back on the Lake I was helping our kayakers with their turns and leans.  Turning is easy on the lake and river but leaning into your turns while executing the Duffek stroke is a different story.  In canoeing and kayaking, I think it’s one of the harder strokes to learn and execute.  In a canoe it’s used for turning on your “onside” or the side you have your paddle on.  For the 2 bladed kayaker, it is executed on both sides of the boat.  Kayakers don’t have a need to perform the cross duffek like canoers do.  And…. you know what they say, twice the paddle half the paddler.  All in jest with my kayaker friends.  These guys and gals are getting their strokes down to go on a river trip tomorrow and Thurs.  They’ll be traveling to the upper French Broad tomorrow and hopefully to the Green on Thurs.

I also stopped briefly by the Mill to observe a friendly game of checkers which fits right in to the surroundings and the era that the Mill was built on the property, around 1890.  The campers were playing with pieces made from sliced corn cobs and it truly could have been the scene a 100 years ago.

With our good weather today campers were playing a raucous game of water polo on tubes.  It was pretty competitive but no one dominated.  They were having fun! While the water was being churned up in one area, our WEB folks were in the water wearing snorkeling gear trying to spot lake critters.  They had their nets and collection buckets ready to scoop up anything that moved.  With Kayakers, tubers, zip line running and churning up the water,  the young scientists were doomed to capture only giant tadpoles which are prolific in our lake.  Most were beginning to change into frogs and had a healthy growth of legs beginning to pop out of round little bellies.

From water to liquid art, I ventured over to view the paper marbling that was being done at Yanderside, one of our arts arenas on site.  The whole marbling thing has gotten very precise and one camper was trying to create a humming bird on her piece of paper.  You’ll see evidence of these in some of today’s pics.

It was a full day and I started off and we ended with the Farm Campfire tonight.  The Needle Nose Vice Grips furnished the music and of course Farmer Dale told a story about Marcel’s Pulp Wood Business and taught us all to clog.  Then the farm staff told the story of the Three Little Pigs and we ended with several songs, one sung by Cabin Blue Ridge.  Great job girls!  Tomorrow, I’ll be out on the river with Mountainside and look forward to reporting on their progress.  Stay tuned!

Special Day! Wet in the Wonderland!

Dear Parents & Friends,

If you missed the blog last night, Anne and I had an evening off and of course camp goes on.  We’re hopefully at the end of a rainy spell here and for the first time in several days we had some sunshine late this afternoon just before dinner.  Special Day is always on Sunday and yet the showers didn’t deter us this morning.  The theme was Alice in Wonderland along with a host of characters that woke us up this morning for our traditional PJ’s and Pancakes breakfast.  Events included Flamingo Croquet, Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Table Setting, Jumbo Cards & Riddles, Floating With the Mouse, Games With the Cheshire Cat, Lobster Soup Challenge, White Rabbit Ears, Mad Hats and Roses, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Queen of Hearts Towers, Photo Booth and Edible Tea Cups.  Everything went well and the visitors to the Wonderland got a little damp but otherwise survived the moister coming from above.  After lunch we had a long rest hour to get ready for the last week and the heavens opened up just as we were about to continue our Wonderland Adventures.  Plan D went into effect and everyone settled in to the Lodge for a movie (Night at the Museum).  Not my choice for programming but we felt it was the right thing to do given the fact that everyone needed to dry out a bit.

Yesterday brought some showers but again we were on task with program and those who were playing water polo never even noticed the rain.  We set up our goals on the dock and had a huge crowd that joined us.  We’re catching record numbers of fish at the Mill with record numbers of worms.  Usually I have to purchase fishing worms for the summer but this year they are racing to the surface to breath and right into our hands.  More ice cream was made at the Mill yesterday and we’re getting ready for Tajar Ball which will be the launching pad for the sensational flavors that are produced by the Miller and her camper assistants.

This coming week our Main Camp paddlers, bikers, and climbers will get out on our local rivers, trails and rocks to conquer the elements and stretch themselves with the skills they have learned during the session.  We looking forward to having them test their mettle away from camp and in different challenging environs.  I hope to go out with a few groups.

Speaking of out – Mountainside and Riverside left for their adventures and will be out until Wed.  Even though all started off in the rain, we made sure they were all wrapped tight and warm before entering the forests and fields of Pisgah and Dupont.  The weather looks like it will start to clear tonight and be nice through Tuesday with a slight chance of rain after that.  As these young people go forth into the wilds and put their skills to work, I think about “challenge by choice” here at camp and how it empowers our campers to learn to make good decisions and go farther than they might on their own or when parents aren’t around.  I’m not talking about peer pressure which has its place in the equation.  I witnessed this the other day when a Mountainside cabin was on our ropes course and the participant on the giant swing was not giving in to the peer pressure coming from her cabin mates.  She knew what her threshold was and even with our reassuring and qualified staff right there, she was not going to succumb.  One can look at this several ways.  Yes, she could have done it and would have been fine but let’s change that scenario to several years later as it might relate to risky behavior and that’s where the confidence and assurance in oneself says no, not today and hopefully not tomorrow. We support those campers who decide to take on the challenges here at camp as well as those who don’t.  Also, just getting up on the ledge to look at the swing and going through all the other elements of the course is an achievement.  The moral of the story is to take ownership in the experience and not be pressured by your friends.  We want our children to make good decisions on their own and not rely on their peers to make push them into something they don’t want to do.  The good thing about camp is we can learn from that first time and try again later and succeed or maybe inch your way little closer to proverbial “edge”.  In our staff training we talk a good bit about “perceived risk vs actual risk”.  We take the “actual” out of the equation and leave the perceived so that campers do have that challenge by choice mentality and can learn to make good decisions even when it doesn’t involve high adventure.  Stay tuned for more challenges here at camp!

A Great Day for Any Activity!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Everyone was back in camp today and we’re getting ready for the last week of C and C-2.  Discovery activities are going well and we had a pleasant day weather wise until dinner.  It didn’t seem like a Friday but no day really seems like itself at camp.  Everyday feels like Saturday.  I’m sure there’s a song somewhere there.  I spent some time today going to a lot activities from horses to gold rush.  Gold rush is one of those capture the flag games where everyone is trying to take your possessions back to their territory and you’re trying to do the same.  It’s a lot of running, with a good bit of strategy thrown in and fun.  Horses on the other hand took some time today to learn how to tack up and put on all the accoutrements of riding.  This is something that comes easy for some people.  I’m always afraid that the horse will step on my foot.  Hang me off a rock, send me off a waterfall in a boat, or make me ride a bike up an impossible hill – just don’t make me saddle up a horse.  Female campers love horses and I think the horses know this because it seems they are always in good spirits when they are riding them.  I don’t have that feeling when I’m on a horse.  My wife and youngest daughter are the equestrians in the family and I’m always in awe how they can woman handle such a big animal.

Weaving in Shady Grove is going great these day as that activity gets underway.  I was there during the second hour today as the weavers got their first taste of using the looms.  It’s a fairly complicated process with foot pedals and many things to do with your hands.  Hands and feet movement also describe our intrepid mountain bikers at camp.  Despite the wet trails our bikers are biking and getting ready for a couple of out of camp trips next week.  Cass and company will take them up to Dupont State Forest where they will ride their choice of over a 100 miles of trails to choose from.  It’s a spectacular place to ride and has most any level and even a few rock outcropping type trails similar to Moab.  The climbers were on the tower today learning all about body positioning and how to save your arms and use your legs more when climbing.  They are also learning to belay and will probably go out next week on a trip with our climbing staff.

Our crops have been growing slowly at the farm with all the rain, but one group of new arrivals have grown a lot.  They are the baby piglets.  How could you not grow and be nurtured under the watchful eye of our farm staff and all the children wanting to hold you.  They get a lot of attention.  My theory is that all the GV animals are happy during camp based on the amount of attention they receive.  I will say and most of you know this, that we do raise our own beef here at camp.  Keep in mind how that calf is petted each and every day for the first 10 to 14 weeks of its life.  So at the end of camp after they are weaned and go out to pasture,  I think they live a very happy contented existence.   We don’t advertise this to the children but if they ask we do tell them the truth.  Cows usually live here with us until the ripe old age of about 2 years.

Getting your laundry off to have it done takes teamwork and that’s exactly what  Sunrise did today.  Carrying around 50 to 60 lbs of laundry is a chore to get it halfway across camp.  The boys did a good job and we’re glad they want some clean clothes.  We do our best to keep everyone sanitized, but some of us do turn our shirts inside out and wear them again.  That’s what happens when everything is at the laundry and you’ve run out.

Web of Life was collecting again today and found quite a few cicada shells that had been left on trees.  You might notice those in the pics from today.  They start to come out about this time of the summer and start their chirping noise during the day at various intervals.  The katydids  will soon begin at night and they can be deafening because we’re so surrounded with forest.  OLS was working on a bridge today and all but finished it.  They have really been lashing everything they could find over the past couple of weeks.  It’s a good skill to have even if you’re not a boy scout.  I was hoping for a full day without rain today but we had a shower during dinner tonight.  Stay tuned for more activity updates and we’re hoping you’re seeing your camper in our pictures.

C-2 First Day of Discovery and Rain Free

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a day without rain here, if you can believe it.  I haven’t been counting the days but it didn’t rain today.  Even though programs have gone on, people were relieved not to have to wear their raincoat and be damp today.  We were damp for all the right reasons at GV today – swimming, boating, sweating and just having fun with no rain.  I’ve been talking about our wet summer over the past couple of weeks and it seems that records have been broken everywhere.  Our Riversider’s were scheduled to run the Nantahala today but water levels went back up after heavy rain in that area overnight so we ended up back at the Green today.  They had a great time and again we’re usually searching for water this time of year instead of having too much.

Main Camp did love the sunshine today and everyone was out and about.  I took time this afternoon to visit with the Mill.  The Mill is well over 100 years old having been established in 1890.  It’s a bustling center for milling, cooking, pioneer crafts, and of course fishing.  They were catching so many fish they had to stop because the kitchen has a quota on cleaning them in the evening.  I was helping one of our staff with just taking them off the hook and getting them in the cooler.  At one point we had about 6 fish flopping around on the ground.  She and I gathered the campers up and took them to dig more worms for future fishing.  One of the bonuses of having a lot of rain lately is our soil is very moist and is producing a bumper crop of worms.  In ten minutes we collected over 125 worms with 6 people.  Some of these were so big they might be mistaken for small snakes.  The fish over the next couple of days will love it.

As I was going to the Mill today there was Jamie with Web of Life gathered around the nearby rock wall.  One of the kids has loosened a rock on the wall and underneath it was a mother lizard with about 8 pencil eraser size eggs that she was curled around.  I think it was a 5 stripe skink.  I’ve included a picture that I found on the web.  I don’t think Erin, our camp photographer saw this but it was pretty unusual.  I  have never seen eggs from that type lizard.  They were brown and had tiny spots on them.  Many children were able to see this and mother lizard was just wrapped around her eggs, probably terrified that the giants were going to do them harm.  Our camp environs are prolific with these kinds of sightings and finds.  Each day as we roam the woods and streams someone finds a treasure that they don’t see in Charlotte or Atlanta or Savannah.  The natural history of our area abounds and there’s something interesting everywhere you turn.

5 lined skink

5 lined skink

Like anything in our lives some children are drawn to these things and of course some are repulsed by them.  Our hope is that we get those that fear our woods to understand how the web of life fits together and how it’s a very intricate web that connects so many things to one another.  We want to teach them a healthy respect for the natural settings that camp exists in.  We don’t want them to necessarily pick up and examine the critters at will, but to understand that each has a place and most of them are harmless.  We do take time to discuss the critters that should be left alone and not handled in any way.  That also goes for plants and certainly mushrooms, which are abundant in these wet times we’ve had.  Campers are inquisitive and it’s hard to not share these remarkable finds and at the same time guard their future in the ecosystem.  When 10 campers make a find like this, it’s not long before 50 campers know about it and want to see it.  It’s a balance as is true in many aspects of life.

I also spent some time at the climbing wall and ropes course this afternoon and watched as Laurel Wood from Mountainside challenged themselves on the ropes course.  It’s easy for some and hard for others and the most important thing is that all the girls were supporting one another from the ground or as they went through the components of the course.  You start by entering the taco net which carries you half way up the tower onto a large platform and then proceed to the Catwalk, to the  Jitter Steps , on the Grapevine  and you exit the course with a giant pendulum swing where you free fall for about 7 to 10 feet before you begin the arc into the swing itself.  It really gets your heart pumping as you lean off the chair size ledge and coax yourself from there into space and into the giant swing of screams and whoops.  It’s fun to watch and see the campers learn that this can be a great metaphor for tackling tough situations as they get older.  Commitment, determination, support from others, confidence are just some of the words that come up in this situation.  It’s just good stuff.

I spoke too soon about the rain.  It’s just beginning to drizzle outside but it looks like it will skirt us on the southeast.  We should awake to a beautiful day tomorrow.  More great program at GV.  Stay tuned!

C Goes on and C-2 Opens

Dear Parents & Friends,

We welcomed our new campers for C-2 today and got off to a rousing start to begin that session.  For those of you that dropped off your children today, I hope that you’re safe and sound at your home or destination.

Those campers who are here for three weeks had signups this morning while the new campers were arriving.  With half the camp at signups, it was just a small intimate group to sign up this morning.  As new campers arrived we were priming the pump for another great session.  Right after lunch everyone signed up for Discovery activities.  These are activities that take place over several days.  They have many choices and ultimately get 4 activities that happen for 1 hour each every other day.  As always the afternoons are for signup as well, when many different one time activities are offered.  Both times of the day are lots of fun.  The morning focuses mostly on skills and the afternoon, some skills and the experience of trying something new just for a short period of time.  Following are the Discovery activities offered in the morning:

Farm/ Mill, Archery, Canoeing, Horseback Riding, Climbing (three kinds), Print Making, Gourd-eous Gourds, Mask Making, Soccer, Fine Arts Musical, Creative Writing and Poetry, Weaving, Candles, Raft Building, GV Rescue, Web of Life, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Marbling, Outdoor Living Skills, Outdoor Dance Spectacular, In and Out Musical, Jackson Kayaks and Bracelets.  Lots of choices and lots of things to do!  And these are just in the morning.

Rain held off this morning and we got some showers this afternoon but not enough to stop programs.  We don’t waste any time getting things going on the first day of camp.  We held to our usual schedule of a 1:00 lunch since we have campers from the C session here for 3 weeks.  After sign-ups the new campers visited the Waterfront, Farm, Mill, Sports, and Horses.  We all received new table assignments tonight for dinner and I’m with a great group of campers and staff at table 13 (best table!).

I spent the afternoon on the river with Mountainside who were participating in their second day of river training working up to the adventures which start on Sunday.  We ran section 0 of the French Broad where the West Fork, the North Forth and the East Fork of the French Broad all come together within about a mile.  It was higher than normal but stream flow nearby is starting to come down and they were well in their comfort zone.  The group learned a good bit about ferrying and angles and we stopped at one place where they practiced till almost perfect.  It was a fun wet day as we paddled the river with water falling from the sky.  They will have another short training on the lake with me tomorrow and then out on Adventures on Sunday.  The hikers went to Dupont today and the Bikers went up into the Pisgah National Forest.   The climbers spent the day around the Nose area of Looking Glass and had a great time.  Riverside heads to the Nantahala tomorrow.  They ran the lower Green today which has been cranking with all the rain.  They’re on their last day of rivers and will be coming back into camp tomorrow night.

I truly believe when Anne and I get out into program with our staff and campers we have a pulse on what’s going on at camp.  It’s a chance to see the staff in action in range of activities from challenging situations to unstructured supervised free play.  Together we get out each day and visit at least 5 to 10 activities per day.  We really value our staff and appreciate the work they put in with your children.  It basically is the essence of our program.  We have a great staff this year and I know that your children will feel the same.  By getting involved in program and visiting activities we are able to see into the heart of our program.  It brings me great joy to see a group of campers enthralled and focused on what’s going on in a particular activity.

I know as you all go through photos you’re looking for your child and a happy face.  We try to take some photos showing children really focused on the work and play they are participating in.  As we go through the session, I hope you’ll get a glimpse of the work these young staff members are doing.  Many of them have come from the camper ranks and have reached counselor nirvana.  It’s tough work but you already know that because you’re all parents!  Stay tuned!

Closing Day C-1 and C Goes On!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a great session we just completed today for those of you that picked up your children for C-1.  Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 10 days.  We’ve had a wonderful session and it was evident as we held our closing for Session C-1 Campfire last night.  Our thespians put on a real show and everyone loved it.  It was a beautiful morning for closing and hope most everyone is safe and sound back home by the time you read this.

Soon you will receive an evaluation via email, sent to you by the camp and we hope you will take the time to fill it out and send it back.  This provides us with feed back to help make our program better.  The eval will come through a service called Constant Contact.  They will not solicit you in any way and you get only one correspondence from them.  We use their services and design the form here at camp.  We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.

As our C-1 session campers left today we still have Mountainside participating in their training day and getting ready for adventures next week.  They chose their adventures a few nights ago and each group is using this time to prepare and work on skills.  The MS group will all head out on Sunday as will Riverside on their next outdoor component.  Riverside is out paddling this week and because of the rain and flooding we’ve had, it’s been difficult to put them on a river.  Tomorrow they will head to the Lower Green.  They’ve been out each day but we haven’t been able to take them where we wanted to.  This group has a lot of skills so we’re hoping tomorrow will be a turning point for our area water levels.  This past 10 days has been unprecedented as far as the amount of rain we’ve had and the amount of runoff that the rivers are capturing.  The vegetation is saturated as well as the ground, so any rainfall goes right into our streams.  In my 35 years of camping in WNC, I’ve not experienced these consistent water levels.  As a paddler it’s exciting to see the rivers so full.  As a care giver for our campers it’s too high in most cases.  Our best bet this week will be dam controlled rivers and ironically in dry seasons we turn to them as well.  I’ll keep you posted on Mountainside and Riverside paddling as we get farther into the week.

Main Camp has also been affected because the French Broad and our own Carson Creek have been too full to tube or creek hike.  It seems to rain just enough in the evening as it did last night, to keep the creeks up.  We’ve been able to hike to our falls on the property but we’re not allowing campers to swim there as we normally do.  When we do get to creek hike, it’s a fun exercise.  Our creek is spectacular as you ascend to the upper reaches of our property.  You feel like you’re out the middle of the national forest but you’re only just few hundred yards from camp.  We always take a lifeguard on the trip even though the pools are barely 4 feet in most places.  Along on any trip is a radio (or cell phone if farther away), a first aid kit, an epi pen and staff qualified in first aid and CPR.

For those of you that still have children in camp, tonight is special.  We have ice cream on the Green and show a movie in the Lodge.  Tonight’s presentation is “The Lorax”.  I’ve not seen it, but hear it’s pretty good.  It should be an early night and then up in the morning regular time and off to activities.  We held regular activities for those children today and will do the same tomorrow.

For those of you that have arrived home we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be.  We hope you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and camp becomes a great memory.  Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for a great session.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year and stay tuned!