Kids Mountain Bike Race at Gwynn Valley 9/7/13


Don’t miss the 2013 CYMBL Race here at Gwynn Valley on Sept. 7th. Last year we had over 70 kids riding in various age categories coming from 4 different states.  We’re second on the cross country series this year among 5 different races here in Western NC.  All ages under 6 up to 18. We’ll be riding our single track trail across the road from camp which is appropriate for all ages.  Sorry parents, no category for you.  Stay the weekend in our area and take in some fantastic riding in Dupont State Forest or Pisgah National Forest.  See the CYMBL website and watch the video below.

End of a Great Session and Season!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a wonderful summer and thank you E session campers for an excellent end to our summer of 2013.  Only 297 days till camp 2014!!! Camp comes to such an abrupt end and it’s hard after so many great weeks of the simple joys of childhood.  We are already preparing for the new year.  A few staff are left over and we’re closing down camp for the season.  I’ve been going through videos and will be putting together a video highlight for each session this fall.  Come join us at one of our home shows on the road to view these highlights and don’t forget to bring a friend.  We’re excited about some additions to program next year and will be letting you know as the year progresses.

Those of you from E Session will soon 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 recently 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 summer .  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year!


Last Full Day of E:(


Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a wonderful last full day of Session E.  A shower came midway through the morning but didn’t stop our last day of Discovery.   All activities ran as planned and there were some really great closures to that part of our program.  Our broom makers finished up their final products and were flying down from the Hillside arts area just like Harry Potter.  All they needed were capes.  Tamara and company have done a great job turning out these old timey creations.  It’s the first time we’ve taught this activity and it looks like it might become a staple in our arts bag of tricks.   Yesterday I discussed the calves being turned out into the field.  The remaining fish were all hand caught this morning and released into the lake.  There were a few trout and bluegill that had outsmarted the campers all session, so, they deserve their freedom.  Those that had hollowed out gourds grown at the farm were putting the final painting touches on their creations.  Web of Life was catching lots of critters this morning.  Their nets were busy at the lake and around the creeks close to the center of camp.  Beautiful Batiks were lined outside the dining room today waiting to be claimed.  I saw them in progress several days ago but haven’t seen them since the beginning of the week.  They are really neat and will make for a great wall hanging in a campers room or perhaps one side of pillow.

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 is 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 our friends who are trying the same activity.  I was watching some of our Mountain Bikers earlier today coming in from a ride this morning.  Some of these campers 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.

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.  I think we connected everyone with their items but some things seem to hide until campers leave.

This afternoon was pillowcase day.  It’s when all the cabins come to the pool for a swim and skin 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.  This is another good example of campers being able to enjoy “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.

If you have time tomorrow please visit the Farm.  It is such a huge part of our program and contributes greatly to our food supply each and every day.  We veered off the path tonight to serve our traditional last night’s dinner which is pizza, salad from the farm and fresh brownies.  It was our last meal together as table groups.  Everyone will sit with their cabin tomorrow at breakfast.  I’ve had a wonderful table this session with sparkling campers full of good conversation and enthusiasm about the activities they were participating in. Sara and RB were the other two staff sitting with me.

Tonight at campfire several groups performed including our Riversiders.  They sang a medley of songs and created their own rhythms  using hands, kitchen tongs, voices and guitar.  Great stuff by our oldest campers.  We ended our campfire with a slideshow gathered from many of the pics you’ve seen this week.

It’s been a great week and we are sad to have it come to and end.  Tomorrow when you arrive, your children will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  Mountainside and Riverside will hold their meetings at 10:30 as well.  We have friendship circles 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!

Tajar Ball and What a Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What a day, what a day, what a day.  We just finished our Tajar Ball evening ceremonies by watching a magic show by the Great Arebesky (RB to staff and campers).  We watched him juggle, ring a magic bell, guess numbers made up by campers, and the finale was escaping from the Freezer of Doom after being handcuffed and tied in a bundle.  Josh, one of our kayak instructors somehow ended up with the cuffs on and in the Freezer of Doom.  Knowing RB as I do, the magic was only in the eye of the beholder.

The show was preceded by a cookout of burgers, watermelon, chips, dogs and all the trimmings and of course everyone at camp was in mascaraed.  After dinner the whole camp assembled on the soccer field to test themselves with many adventures and games.  There were things to bend your mind, like minute challenges, as well as throwing balls, Frisbees and even a toilet roll into, you guessed it, a toilet bowl.  Guess the M & M’s game, hot air sail boating, fortune telling, the SIT sponge throw, penny drop, soccer shootout, strongman hammer challenge, a hay ride through camp, face painting, a giant slip and slide and of course the infamous Dunk Tank.  You could dunk your favorite counselor, but only if you could hit the target.  And on top of that were giant chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, popcorn and snowcones.  I’m sure you will see pics as they are being loaded now.

The Farm held a great event this afternoon when they released the baby calves that campers have been bottle feeding all summer long. Think about this; for almost 13 or 14 weeks these calves have been on a leash and had their own little calf hut to live in and twice a day campers and staff have come to them to feed and water them, clean their huts, and just receive a bit of the good life of GV.  Today was graduation and it was pretty fun.  As the staff and children unleashed them they just sort of stood around until one just bolted and began running around the pasture.  It was like a chain reaction as the others got the hint and soon it was a calf party.  They were all scampering about chasing one another just having fun.  I’ve seen this scene a thousand times at camp after a full day of programming and adhering to a schedule, campers just need some supervised free play.  There are some great analogies here with campers and turning them loose with new found life skills.  We come to the nest and are fed and nourished and then released to try and “fly” our newfound skills on our own.  I certainly witnessed this yesterday on the river as I watched our Mountainside campers do a great job paddling on the Tuck.

Skills training will wrap up tomorrow for everyone in the morning as they complete their last day of Discovery.  Climbers will have climbed in three different areas of camp and utilized three different methods.  Potters and Artists will be putting their final touches on their pieces.  Bikers will take on the Main Camp Biking Trail and Batikers will wash out all that wax and see their final creations.  This and more will culminate our last morning of Discovery which is the skill portion of our day.  The Johnny Cakes were abundant at the Mill this morning with staff dressing in full period clothing as they lead the campers through a day at the Mill from the 1890’s, when it was built here on the property.  I don’t think the Mill of the 1890’s produced ice cream, Johnny Cakes, or corn cob creations like ours does.  Besides all that we also produce all of the camps corn meal and grits.  You may be able to pick some up on closing day.  Ask Cindy at the Mill on Sunday.

Our climbers have ascended great heights over the course of the session and one of my favorite climbing activities is arborist climbing.  You’ll see some pics of this from today.  This is another case where campers have learned their knots and are free to climb (ascend the rope) on their own.  They are on belay (held safely) but there’s a sense of freedom when you are swinging so high up in mid air and there’s not a wall or tree you’re clinging to.  You control your own rate of ascent and descent.  This too relates to campers as they grow up and as parents we want them to be able to control their ascents and descents and make good choices.  Camp is great place to realize what I can do and do it safely and well.  Camp can teach resilience and can provide so many opportunities for children as we are “playing outside and growing inside”.  Stay tuned!

Paddling and A Great Day At Camp!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another great day of camp and I must say that I wasn’t privy to it today because I was out with the Mountainside paddlers.  We had a great day on the Tuckaseegee River around Dillsboro, NC.  The Tuck is a long river that starts not too far from camp and winds its way toward the west and eventually into Fontana Lake.  We ran a section that’s in a gorge between Dillsboro and Barkers Creek.  I’ve run the Tuck probably a hundred times over the past 30 years and it’s a great river for teaching.  We arrived this morning to a high water level and just under our limit for paddling.  I looked at the level several times on my phone before I made the call.  The campers did a great job.  The first part of the river is usually an easy warm up for what is ahead over the next few miles.  With all the extra water the usual eddies were washed out and we quickly found ourselves around the bend under the railroad trestle facing the first rapid called First Hole.  This is where all that lake work and eddy turns come into play.  We had everyone eddy up at the bridge and then gave hand signals to each boat to come ahead.  Everyone made it fine and even hit the big eddy at the bottom.  Eddy hopping is essential because it allows you to scout and see what’s coming up before it’s too late.  This went on all day and we had the most fun at what I call Pyramid Rock (you want to avoid it).  Just below are two eddies one on river left with a beach and the other on river right behind a large rock.  It’s a great place to do S turns and ferry and peel out.  One boat went over there but there’s a large pool to self rescue in so no/low consequences.  After that we stopped at jump rock which hangs out about 15 above the river surface and is plenty deep for you guessed it – jumping off of.  Everyone went several times and it’s a good way to cool off before Double Drop, a class 3 rapid with many features.  All in all it was a great day for these kids.  I wish we had them another few days to take it to the next level.

After returning tonight I grabbed some dinner and then went to a couple of campout sites to get some video.   At Pioneer 1 and 2 were Island Ford and Peter Pan.  They were having dinner and getting ready for smores.  From Main Camp I could hear the after supper bell ringing and made a beeline for the Lodge where we called some Mountain Dancing and then settled in for RB to read from the Tajar Tales.  Tomorrow is the Tajar’s Birthday so I’m sure there will be some folly.

From The camp pics it looks as though Web of Life was finding some gems today like a baby snapping turtle.  That is a rare find.  We have several adults that live in the lake but it’s unusual to find a baby.  It’s a great find and only the tip of the iceberg here at camp.  Our little slice of the Web is full of fun exploration and creeks to stomp in.

Just another note from today’s trip:  as a father  of four I know how easy our children can be immersed in the pop culture that surrounds them.  I was questioning when the kids ask the counselor to put some music on from her ipod.  College students listen to a variety of music and some of that is not always appropriate.  What she put on was the theme music from Disney’s Mulan.  I was pleased that they came to that end because everyone seemed to know the music and sang along.  The simple joys when you least expect it.  Stay tuned!

Summer is in full bloom at GV!

Today was another later summer success! It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. Best of all, the hydrangeas lining the path by the lake and the Green have finally reached full bloom status! These iconic GV flowers are always an end-of-summer treat; they make downtown GV an even more cheerful place! Lots of other flowers are in bloom around camp as well, and all this natural beauty helps contribute to the full sensory experience that campers have walking to and participating in activities around camp.

We kicked off the morning with our second round of B day morning discoveries. All of the activities were designed to help to further develop the skill set or project base established on the first day of morning discoveries. This morning as I walked through camp I caught up with a few of the groups and heard about what activities were going on. The Indian Bead Weavers set up shop in Shady Grove designing their own patterns and making bracelets using their own original patterns. I found the Batik-makers amongst the wax and dyes up in the Bong Tree, where they were busy laying a first layer of wax and dye on their scarves.  Potters could be seen working on hand building projects while campers took turns learning how to throw pots on the wheel. Mountain Bikers practiced the basics they learned on Tuesday as they cruised through camp on some of our trails. Climbers tested out their skills in the tall hemlock trees right by the office (I could hear them calling commands through my open window!). Down at the farm I saw campers harvesting potatoes and playing with the six-week old piglets who are now almost too big for the campers to pick up. It’s amazing how quickly those animals grow! Web of Life went out exploring and looking for critters in the creek this morning, and they found an adorable surprise that has moved into a container on the front porch of the dining hall. Our newly adopted baby snapping turtle is much too small to snap at anyone just yet, but we are enjoying watching him swim around a do little turtle things for the next couple of days until we will set him free in the creek once more.

For lunch today we had tacos, a definite crowd pleaser and one of my favorite meals here at camp. I love tacos for a couple of reasons. First of all, there are so many options that everyone can find a healthy combination of items that leave them feeling full. Second of all, this is one of the few meals where campers are able to serve themselves for the majority of the meal. We eat family style in the dining hall and it is the counselor’s responsibility to serve the drinks and the main dishes, in this case taco shells, rice, beans, and ground beef. However, the campers are allowed to self-serve any extras or toppings, which for tacos is nearly half the meal: sour cream, shredded cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, salsa. The self-serve aspect really gives the campers a sense of empowerment and ownership in the meal. Last but not least, I love this meal because all the prep time for each taco seems to lengthen the meal, allowing more time for conversation at the table. In a world where most meals are rushed because of busy school schedules, limited cafeteria space, and busy evenings and weekends full of extracurricular activities, it is such a blessing for these kids to experience unrushed and unstructured conversation around a dining room table. The table groups that we keep all week are really like another family unit here at camp, and I truly cherish the time I spend getting to know my new table each week.

The afternoon passed in a blur of activity as it often does. After lunch campers sang in the lodge, chose their afternoon activities, had rest hour in the cabins, followed through on those afternoon activity choices, and finally found themselves at another meal time. Tonight was another big campout night here at Gwynn Valley — 10 of our cabins camped out on Tuesday and the other half are camping out tonight. Each cabin group will stay at one of the many campout shelters spread out around camp. Each location has it’s own fire ring and it’s own secluded feeling. Each campout group cooks a delicious dish such as macaroni & cheese, quesadillas, hot dogs or pizzas over an open fire. Most of the time there is a dessert involved as well — smore’s, banana boats, dutch oven cakes…. the fanciness of  the dessert all depends on the skill level of the cabin counselors!  Those left in camp had a very GV meal: fish caught at the Mill, macaroni & cheese, cabbage from the farm, salad, and some fresh baked bread. Not to be outdone by the campout desserts, the kitchen made chocolate pie for each table in the dining hall. We don’t have dessert every meal, so the campers don’t expect it, but they sure do love having a little something sweet after dinner!

For those not camping out, tonight’s campfire was a night of Mountain Dancing and Tajar Tales since this group missed out on Tuesday night . Grant called the Mountain Dancing tonight and boy was it a blast! Campers are sometimes timid or embarrassed at first, especially when boys partner up with girls, but as they learn the dances and the energy of the counselors catches on, all apprehension melts away in bursts of laughter and giggles. We wrapped up the evening with RB reading and acting out a few of his favorite Tajar Tales, which helped settle the campers after all that dancing. Everyone is now back in cabins getting ready for bed and awaiting the serenaders who will come sing a bedtime song to each cabin, letting them know that it’s time to turn out the lights and get a little shut eye before tomorrow’s excitement begins.

Wet & Wild!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We’re just finishing up our campfire tonight, which has been our international campfire.  We have a good many countries represented here at Gwynn Valley and tonight we celebrated most of them in small ways.  It’s a fun evening of facts and interesting tidbits of our international community.  During our longer sessions we devote a whole day to one or two countries, but at the end of our summer it is nice to include everyone in the mix.  It was a good evening to be indoors and have a fire going in the Lodge.  Despite our best efforts to keep the rain at bay today, it rained off and on throughout the day.  Activities went on as planned because there was no thunder and lightning which is great.  After our rainy summer, our staff is quite used to operating in these conditions and everything planned went off without a hitch.  Better today than tomorrow since the other half of camp will be camping out tomorrow.

This morning tree climbing got off to a lofty start first ascending a rope ladder for about 15 feet and then making their way up through the myriad of limbs to near the top of the tree.  From there one could see the kayakers on the lake working on their strokes learning that the farther away from the boat your paddle is, the more you will turn.  So keep those paddles straight up and down and use good body rotation when you’re working on your forward stroke and trying to maintain a straight line.

I stopped by one of our arts arenas this morning to watch them make the Shibori scarves.  It’s a pretty amazing process and looks fun with all the steps of wrapping the scarf, tying it on the roll and then sliding it down the roll to paint it.  I’m describing only what I saw and you can make other patterns called dragon scales but I didn’t quite pick that one up.  Thanks to Tamara, Jess and many others we have a pretty sophisticated A&C’s program.  You parents will get to see the results soon.

Matt was out on the Swim Dock today teaching diving.  He’s from England and competes on the 10 meter board.  He’s been showing campers proper technique just from our dock and it’s pretty amazing how graceful some of the campers have become.  I could use a few lessons since most of my diving is more like splatting.  Keeping to the water theme, our sit-on-top kayaks take a beating and keep on paddling.  Those boats have been in our program for 15 plus years and they’re still sat in, jumped on, turned over, rammed, slid in, sat in the sun and paddled by an endless array of campers and staff.  They have served Gwynn Valley well through the years and they must be able to tell lots of stories and proud that they’ve carried so many children on many adventures on our lake and the occasional river trip.   As water fell from the sky today, the pool and lake was the perfect place to be.  If you’re in swimming or boating you hardly notice the rain.  I’ve put up a short video of time at the pool and lake from the first day.  I hope you enjoy the shots which were mostly taken with a GoPro camera.  If all is working well, I’ll try and get this up tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll be going out with the Mountainside Paddlers to the Tuck.  It should be a great trip and I’m looking forward to spending some river time with them.  I had hoped to head out to visit with the Bikers today but couldn’t quite make it.  It would have been difficult to video in the rain.  Our Climbers and Pioneers are doing well and seem to be weathering the weather.  We spend a lot of time working on staying dry while camping and maintaining your gear so that it doesn’t get wet.  All packs have covers when you’re walking in the rain.  There are ways to make a tarp as dry as a tent and we work with our campers on this.  Outdoor involvement promotes problem solving. As children navigate a world in which they have challenges, they must learn to understand what works and what doesn’t, what lines of thinking bring success and failure, how to know when to keep trying and when to stop.  This is practiced at camp before they leave and hopefully while out they can put these skills to good use.  The strides that they make on these adventures will be stepping stones to other chapters in their lives.  I’ll keep you posted about tomorrow’s paddling adventure.  Stay tuned!

To view the video click on the link below or paste it into your browser.


Adventure for all!

Good evening from Gwynn Valley! It seems we had found ourselves at the end of another wonderful, magical day here at camp full of discovery, adventure, and joy. So many things happen here in the course of a day that it is hard to write short blog posts like this one. I don’t think I’ll capture it all but I will try to get a representative picture for all you readers at home.

This morning brought our first round of B-Day discoveries for our Main Camp program. Each Main Camp camper has 4 morning activities, or discoveries, which meet 3 times over the course of the E-session week. The first day of morning discovery is a day of introduction, which lays the ground work for the next 2 meetings, but mostly it’s just a lot of fun!  Mountain bikers could be seen going up and down the Green in front of the Lodge practicing their braking and shifting techniques on their newly fitted bikes. Farmers could be seen oohing and ahhing over a baby chick hatching at the farm after coming in from picking the penultimate corn harvest of the summer. Millers went fishing in the mill pond and learned how to make grits, corn meal and chicken feed. Divers practiced their movements on land using gymnastics mats before trying out a few basic dives into the lake. Potters learned the basics of working and attaching clay through pinch pot, coil, and slab building methods; wheel throwing will come later on in the week. Indian Bead Weavers learned the basic weaving technique and started their first bracelets of key chain projects. Archers learned the basics techniques and safety procedures using a standard recurve bow; compound bows will be used later in the week. Kayakers practiced their wet exits until everyone in the class felt comfortable flipping over and getting out of the boat. Horseback Riders started off in the ring today but will work towards a trail ride later in the week. And that’s only a few of the discoveries going on!

This afternoon brought corn shucking, singing in the Lodge, rest hour, 20 afternoon sign ups to choose from, and beautiful sunny weather. Our SITs (Staff in Training) took a spin on the new high ropes course during rest hour. They may have missed their afternoon siesta, but the tower swing at the end of high ropes course will leave you feeling more awake than a nap ever could!  The SITs have been looking forward to this since they arrived 2 weeks ago, and the smiles on their faces when they finished spoke volumes. It was great to watch these teenagers coach each other through the elements and support each other so completely.

Today was also a big day for our 2 older adventure programs, Mountainside and Riverside. Both of these program areas are just over 2 weeks into a 3 week session and both embarked on 4 day adventures this morning. All of our adventure groups will return to camp on Friday, August 9, just in time for Tajar Ball! We will have lots of exciting photos and stories to share from their trips later on in the week.

For Riverside, this is their 3rd and final adventure. They will spend the next 4 days backpacking a section of the Appalachian Trail north of Asheville. This is a well-loved section often done by our Riversiders; it is full of grassy balds that make for amazing views of the surrounding mountains. For our Mountainsiders, this is the 1 and only adventure of the session; it is the experience they have been working towards for the last 2+ weeks. Riverside is a very small group (12 campers, 4 staff) so they are able to do each of their 3 adventures together. However, Mountainside is a much larger program, so those campers are broken down into 4 groups of 7-10 campers, each of which will do a different activity for their adventure. One group will spend the next 4 days hiking and learning about survival and pioneering skills in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Another group will spend those days camping and mountain biking in Dupont State Forest. Yet another group will spend their time paddling canoes on a couple of near-by rivers such as the French Broad, the Green, and possibly the Tuckaseegee or the Nantahala. The last group will be camping and climbing in Pisgah Forest near Table Rock and Linville Gorge. Even through the Mountainsiders part ways for this 4 day adventure, they spend most of their time together as a whole group and they will be very excited to reunite with their cabin mates and friends later on in the week.

Many Main Campers are having a little adventure of their own tonight! 10 out of our 20 Main Camp cabins cooked out and camped out at one of our many campout and cookout shelters around camp. Even though lots of groups are out tonight, there is plenty of space to spread out at GV so each cabin has a quiet, natural place all to themselves. The campout can be a little daunting for some campers leading up to the evening, but without fail campouts end up being the absolute favorite experience of many campers. I know my breakfast table tomorrow will be full of stories about starting fires, roasting s’mores, giggling in their sleeping bags, and falling asleep while listening to the sounds of a healthy, thriving forest at night.

For those 10 Main Camp cabins left in camp tonight, we had a wonderful campfire in the lodge. We kicked off the evening with some good old Mountain Dancing. Jess, who is running our crafts program this summer, called the dance tonight while Debby played on the piano.  Jess is an incredible dancer and an even more incredible teacher – she led the campers through a number of dances following the energetic tunes coming from Debbie’s corner of the Lodge. After working up a sweat, we all settled down for a few Tajar Tales to get us in the mood for sleeping. R.B. (or Rick Brown) is the author of our Gwynn Valley Tajar Tales and we were lucky enough to have him here tonight as our story teller. R.B. has worked at Gwynn Valley on and off for the last 3 decades and we are so glad that he and his children joined us for D&E this summer!

As campers left the lodge this evening a light rain that held off all day finally began to fall. A light rain in the evening is just what we need to keep the crops healthy, to make the grass green, and to provide a little white noise on the tin roof of the cabin or campout shelter as campers drift off to sleep.

Herding Children and Herding Sheep!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been an amazing day here.  I started my day getting over to work early and spent time in the office so I could get out into program today.  I can say it was well worth it.  I first checked in on the Main Camp Bikers who were fitting bikes and helmets as well as going over all the procedures for beginning their Discovery.  We have 3 different trails at camp and one skills course.  Before we send them out on the trail or skills course we spend a lot of time with the basics of using hand brakes, gearing and shifting and riding positions.  Today they just rode around camp and worked on slight hills and shifting gears in thick grass.  If anyone comes off the bike, it’s a pretty cushy fall.

Climbers were also doing foundation work in teaching how to put on your harness, helmet and tying the figure eight follow-through.  Knot neatness is important because “a not neat knot, is a knot not needed”.  It didn’t take long to learn the knot for tying into the harness and soon they were on the climbing wall like little spider monkeys.  I also went by arts and crafts where they were working on Shibori or silk scarves that are tie-dyed to form different patterns.  Next door was pottery, so I checked on them as they made their first pinch pots.  There were lots of different sizes and designs that you may see after they are glazed and fired later in the week.  Outdoor Living Skills was learning to set up tarps and will be working this week on fire building, how to pack your backpack and what to take along with you including easy food fixings for the trail.  There’s not a camper out there that doesn’t like to build their own fire.  In rainy weather it’s a real skill to learn.  So far the conditions have been good over the last couple of days.

We all were assigned new tables today at lunch and we had a delicious meal of burritos with all the trimmings.  The campers were comparing it Mo’s.  I have a great table with lots of talkative children which is great.  They initiate conversation and all are very friendly to one another even though it’s the first time they’ve ever met.  My co-table-counselors work at the Farm and run the presses for the Tajar Times, our camp newspaper.  I mentioned last night that life at camp starts in the cabin and works its way out.  Bonding with your cabin is important and bonding with your table group and your Discovery group is equally true.  You get to meet a lot of different folks with these groupings and it’s good for all of us to get to know folks older and younger than we are.

I also got to spend about an hour and a half working with the Mountainside paddlers from 11:30 til 1:00 today.  They leave on adventures tomorrow and they needed a little fine tuning of their skills before setting out to ply the waters of our Western NC rivers.  Paddling on the lake can lull you to sleep and you have to be much more aggressive on the river.  We were trying to utilize those river strokes on the lake today.  One has to travel a bit faster than the current to not allow the current to dictate where you want to be in your boat.  A tandem team has to work together using good communication skills in navigating moving water and rapids.  It’s a situation where you’re really responsible for your end of the boat but at the same time knowing it’s one boat and you’re in this together doing your best to make it all happen.   (Lots of analogies for life, marriage and family there.)

Our Lodge is built over a stream called Forget Me Not stream because of the flowers that grow on the opposite side of the building where the water comes out.  It’s a great stream to go looking for crawdads and salamanders underneath the building.  One needs a flashlight and a keen eye.  The stream comes right out of rock just behind the Lodge and its source used to be the camp water fountain.  In the old days there was a small reservoir there where you could dip a cup into the water and drink directly from the spring.  Of course that’s not possible these days because of health laws, but it’s a good bet that the water is pretty pure.  That same cool water flows about 200 feet and enters the lake where it encounters swimmers, boaters, zip liners, divers, and critters from tadpoles and fish to turtles and other aquatic life.  It’s a healthy haven for man and beast alike.

Tonight we finished up our intro skits in the Lodge but before that we had a local farmer bring his Border Collies out to camp along with about 5 sheep and put on quite a demonstration for the campers and staff.  Everyone in camp was there and it was amazing.  This man and his dogs won the National Championships last year for herding and the dogs were so disciplined in working the sheep.  It was so interesting and the children had tons of questions and were able to spend time with the dogs and their handler.  This took place during after super activities and then we all went off to the Lodge.  The skits were great as usual.  Many of the skits use our pop culture through music but it’s always appropriate and right in tune with our GV philosophy.  The staff do a great job in changing the words to fit our camp world.  We’ll have a smaller camp fire tomorrow night because half the camp will be camping out and the other half will be Mountain Dancing with Jess.  Stay tuned for another amazing day of E session! We can’t wait to share more of the simple joys of GV!

Opening Day E Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day for E Session is almost coming to an end and thank you for bringing such a great group of campers.  We hope you are safely at your home or destination by the time you read this.  Most campers are on their way to bed at this hour and we’re off on a GV adventure starting with our Discovery Program tomorrow.  After a buffet lunch campers went over to our Lodge to learn about the many activities they could participate in between now and Sat. afternoon.  Here are the following activities offered just in the morning for the days ahead.  Camper get to choose four different activities from this group.  Farm/Mill, Archery, Diving, Homegrown Crafts, Horseback Riding, Climbing, Soccer, Indian Bead Weaving, The Musical, Creek Hiking, Beautiful Batiks, GV Rescue Team, Web of Life, Dance, Shibori, Basketball, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Outdoor Living Skills, and Jackson Kayaks are all possibilities that the campers can choose from in the morning.  Afternoon sign-ups happen each day and we’ll offer up to two other options that will be two 1 hour activities or a two hour activity that they’ll choose each day.

There is certainly no lack of activity here at camp and everything started off with a bang today.  Pottery, Tie-Dye, Climbing, Horses, Farm, Biking, Mill, Waterfront, OLS, and Fine Arts were activities to kick things off today after sign-ups.  Cabins rotated through several of these and they landed at the pool for swim assessments.  This is a time when we determine camper’s swimming levels.  The pool is great for this because it’s fairly shallow even at the deep end (5 feet) and allows play as well as skill and instruction.  Some children are bit nervous about lakes so it’s nice having the pool to start the ball rolling.  Some campers paid a visit to the lake and the pool today and were going off the zip line and paddling around the swimming area on tubes and kayaking all over the lake on our sit-on-tops.  Despite having a small lake, GV has a very active waterfront program that extends way beyond camp onto other lakes and rivers here in the Mountains.  Campers have the opportunity to tube off site as well as creek hike on our property.  Carson Creek runs right through the center of camp and is a wonderful resource for exploring the upper reaches of the property.  We will certainly be exploring that water source and many more that dot our landscape and eventually flow into the French Broad across the road.  Our 300+ acres has an abundance of wonderful places to explore and we have access to lots of interesting critters and plants that give purpose to our OLS and Web of Life programs.

Most of our activities occur outdoors and we’re in constant contact with our surroundings.  When children are outdoors, great things happen.  It widens their knowledge base and their vocabulary.  While they might see a picture of a salamander in a textbook, actually capturing one and examining it up close gives new meaning its existence.  This is especially true at the Farm where they encounter animals in a true setting and can feed them, hold them, gather their eggs, watch the eggs hatch, and milk them and more.  Our landscapes at camp bring out imagination and creativity as we explore the property.  I’ve seen children 20 feet down in a creek bed filled with mosses, rocks, crayfish and other critters where you can tell they are super focused and their minds are like sponges.  No movie set or video from a computer can create this hands on experience.  They will see, hear, smell, and touch things that are unavailable in other parts of their life.  They will use their brains in unique ways as they come to understand these new stimuli and will begin to connect the dots of our Web of Life.

These activities and others will test their comfort zones, will build confidence, grit and resilience as they tackle new activities and skills that they maybe haven’t participated in before.  And the best part of camp is building new relationships outside their school and family life.  Camp life starts in the cabin and works its way outward into program.  It’s important to have that strong foundation to work with and we were working on that today as our cabin groups went about camp trying out their activities mentioned above.  Tomorrow morning we begin our Discovery sessions where building skills in progression is our goal.

Lots of opportunities await our E session campers and for those who have already been here for two weeks, their camp experience broadens even more.  Mountainside will leave for their adventures on Tuesday and Riverside will start their backpacking component the same day.  Both groups will return on Friday after 4 days of being immersed in our forests, trails, rivers and rocks.  It’s going to be a good week and we look forward to sharing it with you.  Stay tuned!