First Full Day of B!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a most pleasant day here at camp. The weather was near perfect with a shower just at the end of rest hour. We had to postpone our start of the afternoon activities but otherwise a great day. Everyone had a productive first full day of B Session and campers started their Discovery activities today. The waterfront was a very busy place starting early in the morning, right up until dinner. Campers zipped, swam, learned new strokes, played on the water mat, paddled, and rolled their kayaks. It was a wet and wild day at the waterfront and the perfect day to be there.

We ended our Mountainside 1-A session this morning so I spent some time at their final campfire. There were some great skits depicting their adventures and some songs that are traditional to Mountainside. We begin another Mountainside session on Wed and look forward to seeing those coming in for that 10 day experience.

Those of you that have been to camp before know that we have a cabin called Shady Grove. Well, we’ve turned Shady Grove into an Arts Building and it now houses 10 wonderful looms. Some really beautiful weaving designs have come from those looms already in our first session and campers are beginning to plan their patterns as B Session gets underway. Visit our Shady Grove cabin at closing and have a look around. It’s a beautiful cabin and beautiful things are born there. Just up the hill from Shady Grove is the Bong Tree which is another artsy area at camp. Today they were making dip candles. I was there just as they were finishing up their scented candles. Just around the corner from there is a new segment of mountain biking trail we put in this Spring. It’s an extension of our old trail that required campers to ride up some steps that were put in years ago for erosion. This makes it much easier to access the Main Camp Trail and head off into the upper 40 of camp and single track for bikes. The bikers were just getting their feet wet riding on the new trail and learning about the attack position where you’re up off the saddle. They started their morning riding on the soccer field and learning about gearing and braking.

Fishing at the mill pond netted some results today as some campers caught their very first trout. I’m sure we’ll catch enough fish this session to have a full GV meal; trout from the pond, cornbread from the Mill and cole slaw (cabbage) from the farm. Can’t wait for that meal.

Part of the fun of camp is truly getting back to basics in our unplugged world that we refer to as the simple joys. It’s all around us here at GV and we only have to take it by the hand and sometimes step out of our comfort zone for a short time to experience what we can only imagine. Or…take it by the reins and see if you can negotiate the turns required for weaving your horse in and out of the cones. Special relationships with animals and getting close to them is a wonderland experience for many of our campers. Your children may have only fed the family dog or cat and haven’t experienced the hungry calf that think they’re its mother as they inch closer with the giant bottle full of calf formula. And then there’s always milking a goat or cow and the dexterity it takes to get that milk to hit the bottom of that bucket. All this and more is part of playing outside, growing inside and learning by doing here at Gwynn Valley. We’re playing, learning and growing every day and I’m always amazed at the satisfaction and wide eyed wonder coming from all those little faces.

Riverside is out on their first day of the paddling segment and were on the Green River today. They will be improving their skills each day and gaining confidence.

Camp is a unique experience.  At camp, a random collection of children and young people, who are initially strangers, are placed together to live, learn, work and play for a period of time under the guidance and example of the counselors and directors– most often in a natural setting and almost always away from home and parents.  This random collection evolves into a cooperative community as the individuals grow together.  This growth is evident as each camper becomes more helpful, patient, respectful, caring, tolerant, capable, confident, independent and skilled. Gwynn Valley, what a great place to be. Stay tuned!

Opening Day B Session

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day for B Session was the best. Beautiful weather, great kids and smooth arrivals. 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 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, fruit, salad, and bread. To top it off we had a giant cookie with their cabin name in written in icing.

Activity Skits for Discovery were presented after lunch to help campers decide what they wanted to take over the days ahead for their morning activities called Discovery. This too is very important because there is so much offered in the morning and in the afternoon. 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. After lunch, we didn’t waste any time getting out in program and campers participated in Pottery, Sports, Fine Arts, Mill, Horseback riding, Crafts, Swimming, Web of Life, Climbing, Farm and Outdoor Living Skills. Cabins were introduced at campfire tonight via Cabin skits which are always great.

Mountainside had their closing ceremony tonight and Anne and I attended to honor them and their time at GV. Several of those campers have been at camp for as many as 8 years. 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.

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 even school and family can’t always imitate. Campers have a chance to make choices and become independent in their life with us. It creates a sense of confidence 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!

Session A Ends!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a nice way to start our 79th summer of camping here at Gwynn Valley. Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 7 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 feedback to help make our program better. 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 Monday.  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.

Last Full Day of A :(

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been a full day at camp and unfortunately the last full day. 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 by showing many of the pictures that you all have been viewing this week. Our camp photographers Emery and Danielle, have done a great job with capturing your children over the past 6 days. 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 campers to give praise on their own to other cabins, counselors, program leaders, one another and camp in general. We also had a short performance by our drama troupe tonight with several short stories that were acted out. We’ve been quite fortunate with the weather this week and just after campfire we had a short shower.

Backing up a bit in the day, we held pillowcase day at the pool where campers can bring their pillowcases and learn how to make them into a float. Everyone in camp comes to the pool. All campers had sign-ups this morning since our Discovery’s were over. All activities were open and many campers got to do things on the last day to complete their Tajar Card. As you know the Mountainsider’s started their adventures today. Paddlers headed to the upper French Broad, climbers ventured up to Cedar Rock which you can see from camp, bikers to Dupont State Forest and Pioneers were taken up to the Davidson River Fish Hatchery to start their trek. Riverside was back in camp today and also spending some quality down time after their 4 days climbing in Tennessee. I spent a little time with them on the lake this afternoon seeing how their skills are for next week’s river segment of their program.

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 independence 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. Seven days is such a short amount of time in our adult world but to many of our first year 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 79 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood. Stay tuned!



Tajar Ball!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It was a sunny day here at camp that was bright and beautiful. We got a little rain this evening just after dinner but it didn’t deter activities and Tajar Ball (more on that later). By 10:30 the temps began to rise and so did the activity level. We started the day with a hearty breakfast of eggs and potatoes with fruit and cereal. I hope you are enjoying the photos each day as it hopefully provides a glimpse of our day here at camp.

Mountainside leaves tomorrow to head out on their adventures and we wish them well. I checked in with several activity areas today including The Farm, Arts and Crafts, the Mill, and Climbing. Because of the weather the waterfront was a great place to be today. Lots of boating action today on the lake and campers learning to paddle straight lines in sit on tops as well as whitewater kayaks. The Farm holds so much magic as there are so many animals to care for and get familiar with. Several baby chicks were just breaking through their egg shells today but not quite old enough to be taken out of the incubator. They have to fluff up a bit before they can join the other little peepers. Campers were milking the goats today and playing with their babies in the goat pen. It’s not easy to milk a goat but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. Several campers quickly filled up the small bucket with fresh milk that was fed to the babies. Campers gathered eggs and were a bit timid about reaching under the laying hens to snatch the eggs. It’s all in the technique and he who hesitates is lost. The chickens sometimes peck you if you are too slow. Too fast and you really can’t make it happen either. What’s really interesting is our barn cat, who’s name is Sam. Sam came to camp when his owner had to move and couldn’t take him with him. He is the perfect cat for the farm. With all those baby chicks and small animals around he lays on top of the incubator almost guarding those babies as they await new life. He’d rather chase a barn mouse, wait on store bought cat food or receive a scratch from campers than bother with helpless little critters. He’s been the best barn cat we’ve had in years.

Shady Grove campers were weaving some pretty magical bracelets today. Those who had been weaving over the past several days were working on woven beaded bracelets. At the Mill they were catching fish like they were going out of style. The trout were biting worms and corn and no one went without catching at least one fish. The climbers were climbing our tallest trees today, both of which are close to 90 foot climbs. These are some of hemlocks behind the Lodge and have been at camp for many years. I brought tree climbing to GV and it’s been a hit with campers since then. Our tree climbs measure 40, 60, and the two 90 foot climbs. In climbing terms 90 feet amounts to what is called a pitch. Multipitch climbing is when it takes several rope lengths to get to top of a climb and requires a lot more skill from the lead climber as they set protection on their way up. Some of the Mountainsiders may get to climb a route at Cedar Rock this week called North by Northwest. It’s a classic three pitch climb.

Today we held Tajar Ball where everyone came to the Ball in costume. We eat picnic style around the basketball court and then hold a giant carnival on the soccer field after everyone has eaten. There’s more food there (mostly desserts) and games galore for the kids to participate in. This went on until about 8:30 with intermittent rain showers that couldn’t send us indoors. Everyone was a little damp but spirits were certainly high. Of course the Tajar comes to Ball as well, but no one knows who he is because he’s in masquerade. Ask your children about the Tajar. He’s a loveable camp creature and has been at GV since it started. Lots of traditions have held true here through the years and that’s what makes camp special. Each and every day we revisit some aspects that remind us of the things that are special about our time here and learning to understand that ceremony and tradition is a good thing, no matter the age. Stay tuned and have a great night!

Camps Noises- All Good!

Dear Parents and Friends,

A little rain shower this evening cooled things down just as campfire was ending. We have a few campout groups out tonight but they will be fine in our camp shelters. Close to half the camp was out last night and the other half is out tonight. As I write clouds are parting and last bit of sunlight is trying to chase away the rain clouds. We flip flop those days with evening program of Mountain Dancing and Tajar Tales. Other than the shower tonight we had another wonderful day here at camp.

Sunset chasing rain

Sunset chasing rain

All activities were running wide open with campers continuing in their Discoveries and lots to choose from in the afternoon. Web of Life was having some fun up in the Cabin in the Sky before they took off on their hunt for the elusive GV critters. One of the best places to find salamanders and crawfish is under the Lodge. There was a group under there earlier today. It’s dark and the perfect place to undercover the giant grand daddy crawdad. Children were also creek hiking in Carson Creek today and enjoyed the cool water stepping cautiously from rock to rock as the sunlight and shade provided a backdrop overhead. The creek that runs the length of camp is one of our treasures that has endless possibilities for exploration. All of camp feeds into it from the tiniest springs to the bigger creeks and come from all directions on the property. Hiking up the creek through the many waterfalls makes you feel as though you could be in deepest depths of Pisgah but you’re just a few minutes from Main Camp.

The natural noises that campers encounter here are priceless. We’re all so use to the cacophony of our city lives of radios/TV/ipods/screen noises that it takes a while to truly hear the sounds of camp. The water, the birds early in morning, the wind whipping through the trees as it did tonight before our shower, a sharp shinned hawk that has been nesting here for the past 5 years, bullfrogs, crickets and the mid summer arrival of cicadas. Soon the lightening bugs will brighten our evening dusk and this friends, is the tip of the iceberg. We’re all so lucky to call GV our home and have this kind of music to our ears day in and day out at camp.

It’s about that time here at camp so we’ll see what tomorrow holds at GV. Stayed tuned!


Campouts, Sun, and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another sunny day here made it another great GV day. We started off with a bang up breakfast of French toast and bacon plus fruit, OJ, Moo Juice and lots of table conversation. It was a very cool this morning but by 10:30 the temps began to rise and so did the activity level. Tonight’s dinner was a beef, potato, cheese, bacon and vegi loaf that was unreal. The kids loved it and so did the adults. 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. Campers learn a lot about managing a table of 10 people where cooperation is key. 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 was able to get out into program today to visit with climbers, archery, The Mill, pottery, bikers, and headed down to the farm this afternoon to watch the feeding of all those baby calves. We also started our Open House sessions when a couple of members of the Leadership team visits cabins to meet with campers without the counselors being there. It’s a way to make sure that staff are doing their job and taking good care of the children. I was invited to go to Connesstee Cove Cabin. This is a great group of girls with some that are new to Gwynn Valley and some that are returners. At one point they were all talking trying to answer our many questions when one camper piped up and said, “Girls, I think we should clarify this answer for Grant and Sophie”. Very articulate, I thought and really was impressed with this cabin and how well they got along and that their counselors were doing a great job. It’s just such a good way to get a read on the health of the cabin and how their camp experience is going.

On to a different part of camp, Mountainside chose their activities today and found out which adventure they will be on. Thursday is their big departure day. Paddlers will head out to several local rivers, climbers to Cedar Rock up in Pisgah National Forest, Bikers to Dupont State Forest and Pioneers to the top of Parkway for several days at over 5800 feet near Shining Rock.

There’s never a dull moment outside and inside of camp where tonight Mountainside had their environmental campfire which is really fun and interesting. Main camp had their first Mountain Dancing campfire and we did the Hokey Pokey, Going to Kentucky, Paddy Cake Polka and several Tajar stories. The other big story for tonight was that about half the camp went on campouts tonight and are scattered throughout the property and by this time all snuggled down in their sleeping bags. It’s a beautiful night here and no showers or rain is predicted. Everyone packed smores and all the trimmings for a good dinner over the fire. Many of our campout sites are like our cabins and close by a creek where you’re lulled into sleep within seconds of hitting that pillow. All the shelters are built up off the groud with a floor and three walls and of course a roof. It’s not the Hilton but it’s pretty darn nice. Throw in a few stories and songs by the campfire, good food, and full day and it’s all dreamland till the birds starting singing in the wee hours of light. Tomorrow, the other half of camp goes on a campout and those staying back will join in Mountain Dancing. It’s been a great day so stay tuned for more to come!

First full day at Gwynn Valley is full of SUN!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What a full day we have had here at Gwynn Valley! The day seemed to last forever and pass before our eyes in a second all at the same time. We packed the last 14 hours full of laughter, new experiences, and joyful moments that will become memories in the minds of our great camp community.

The morning dawned foggy and cool. Many campers woke up early (because that’s what happens when you sleep in a new bed!) so almost every cabin came to breakfast showered and well dressed with cabin chores already complete…. an amazing feat that may not happen again this session. A warm breakfast of eggs, bacon, homemade wholewheat biscuits, and fruit helped to warm us up from the inside out. As breakfast finished, the clouds began to clear to make way for a sunny morning of activities.

In addition to being the first full day of camp, today also marked the first day of Morning Discoveries. These are the activities that campers select to build skills over the course of their week here. The morning was a flurry of active learning as campers headed off to climbing, horses, farm, mill, batik, dance, soccer, archery, mountain biking, pottery, weaving, creek hiking, kayaking, outdoor living skills, and more! The archers managed a few bulls eyes after the initial practice shots, but even those who didn’t snag a bulls eye managed to get closer to the middle as the lesson went on. Every potter I saw had muddy hands and happy faces; they were working on making wind chimes to take home at the end of the session. The very enthusiastic kayakers were working on their wet exits and forward strokes up until the last second of the lesson. Batik makers were learning about the powers of wax & dye and how to use each medium to create their masterpiece. Farmers split their time between harvesting veggies and meeting the newest babies on the farm (so far 16 calves, 5 goat kids & 20 or so chicks). Farm folks also got to milk a mama goat and collect eggs from the chicken coop. Everyone was plugged into activities where they were meeting new friends and learning new skills!

Morning activities finished up around 12:15, after which games on the green, knockout, and thunderball carried us over into lunch. Campers had been sitting together by cabin group up to this point, but at lunch everyone was assigned to their new tables where they will sit for the rest of the week. Campers and staff from all over camp are mixed up into groups of 7-8 campers and 3-4 staff so that we can get to know more people in our camp community. After the initial moments of confusion, everyone found their new tables and tucked into a lunch of taco salad complete with ground beef, beans, lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream and cheese. Oh, and banana for dessert! It was one of those lunches where you could hear and audible drop in volume after everyone had been served. This momentary lull marks the point in time when hungry people abandon conversations to tuck into the first bite of a well earned lunch.

After lunch we headed over to singing in the lodge. Campers sang a few songs with Debbie accompanying them on the piano before moving into sign up skits. Every afternoon, program staff and counselors put on a 20 second “commercial” of the activities on offer for the afternoon, so that campers can visualize all the options. After skits, campers chose the activities and then head off to cabins for rest hour (only rest 45 minutes today). The sunshine continued into the afternoon, making waterfront activities very popular. Both the pool and the lake were packed with campers swimming, splashing, zipping, paddling, cannon balling, and having a great time! Nearby, the millers caught a few fish in the shade of the mill pond. Bikers could be seen zipping around the camp trails and then taking a looong drink at the water fountain. There was also a very special friendship bracelet making tutorial on offer by our head weaver, Rachel, and I saw many fabulous bracelets in progress. Tajar Times (our daily camp newspaper) also had a great turn out this afternoon. I can’t wait to see what our curious reporters documented when our next edition comes out tomorrow!

Dinner was a delicious chicken stir fry with rice & orzo both on offer (grain lovers had a choice!) plus salad and cantaloupe. The evening meal was a buzz of conversation as table groups discussed their afternoons and got to know each other better. My table decided to speak only in pirate accents for the second half of the meal, which made everyone giggle in between bites of stir fry. All in all, another delicious meal shared with lovely people that should keep our bellies full until breakfast.

Our evening program was another night of introductory cabin skits. Half the cabins went last night and the other half went tonight. There were lots of excellent songs, funny skits, and outlandish costumes. It was a great example of the creativity and imagination that is the hallmark of a child’s mind. It is so wonderful to have the opportunity to hear every single person’s name said out loud on stage over the course of our two nights of skits. It seems a small thing, but it really helps to get to know everyone. After skits, we sang a few songs to wind down and everyone made their way back to their cabins with the last rays of sunlight falling across the green. The Secret Serenaders started with our youngest cabin at 9:15 and made their way through camp by 9:45. I can only imagine that campers fell fast asleep after a long day of playing in the sun. Hopefully they’ll all sleep right to the wake up bell tomorrow, refreshed and ready to do it all over again!


Opening Day! Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Western Carolina! A Session

Parents & Friends,

What a great opening day here at Gwynn Valley.  Parents and campers arrived to a cool morning after long drives and eager smiles.  It’s nice to see how our returning campers have grown since last year as well our new campers to the world of GV. Everyone settled into their cabins and then off to lunch for a wonderful buffet from our Kitchen.   After lunch it was off to the Lodge for a bit of singing, sign-ups which included many activities and a taste of program in the afternoon. Not much down time on opening day gets everyone off to program and a great way to start off the week.  The Mill, Web of Life, Farm, Crafts, Horses, Swimming, Sports, Climbing, Outdoor Living Skills, and Fine Arts were open all afternoon to give campers just a taste of the coming week.  Tomorrow we begin our regular schedule and campers will find out about their choices for morning activities.  Each afternoon everyone gets a choice each and every day.  Campers will have 4 activities in the morning every other day and 2 one hour activities or one 2 hour activity to choose in the afternoon.

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!!!  Emery, our camp photographer was taking lots of pictures today for all you parents who are feeling a little camp-sick.  Mountainside starts their mini-adventures tomorrow as they take on skills from Pioneering, Climbing, Mountain-Biking, and Paddling.  Riverside starts their Climbing adventure tomorrow.  They were packing packs and gathering climbing gear this afternoon and will be off by 8:30 headed to Foster Falls in TN.

Waterfront was a happy place this afternoon splashing around with several cabins in the sit-on-tops and lots of swimming and zip lining at the lake.  I also went by and observed horseback riding and witnessed some campers who were pushing their comfort zones by riding for the first time. Web of Life (natural history), just needs to step out of their Cabin in the Sky home to experience the vast amount of interesting critters and plants here at camp. Outdoor Living Skills was building their first fire this afternoon and making hemlock tea which has a lemony taste. The Mill made ice cream that is the beginning of the summer where we’ll consume literally thousands of gallons of I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Speaking of food we had our first night child friendly dinner of mac and cheese along with salad and fruit.  Traditional first night dessert is a chocolate chip cookie for each cabin.  The cookie is the size of a large pizza so everyone got plenty.

Campfire in Main Camp tonight was cabin skits which are always fun times 10.  Children can be so comical on stage as well as their counselors.  We’ve got some great little actors with lots of talent that abounds when they get under the lights.  Our head counselors directed campfire tonight and hopefully you met Blake and Ash today when you arrived. They oversee The Brook and Hillside cabins. Getting these children out of the technology world brings back the creative skills that rule GV. Ah, the simple joys of Gwynn Valley. Our human powered environment is well on its way to another great summer here at camp.  Our 79th summer to be exact and we’re so proud to have you be a part of it.  Hope you had safe travels back home.  Stay tuned!