Last Full Day of D Session :(

Dear Parent and Friends,

Today was cool day at camp and then around 5:00 we got a little shower. It’s been the only rain we’ve really had this week after having rain last week. The cool weather is nice for all but water sports. We built a fire in the Lodge this morning for those that needed a warm-up between activities.

Archery always draws a crowd and today was no exception. Campers love target sports where we can zero on the bulls eye. We have a variety of bows that some of our youngest campers can shoot to some that are of the compound variety that take a bit more skill. Most of our activities have appropriate sized equipment for as many people as possible. I think sometimes our staff would like to have that same equipment that would fit them. Our little 1 ½ Jackson kayaks are so tiny and they’re made just like an adult boat but just a lot smaller. They are perfect for our program.

I went out with Mountainside this afternoon and ran a fun section of the French Broad. They will spend a bit more lake time with me over the weekend and will be leaving next Tues. on their final adventures. Next week, one of our regular instructors will be with them for their 4 days of paddling. Climbers, Pioneers, and Bikers were all out today. Each group came back to a great dinner of homemade pizza and salad. Riverside returned today as well and spent the last day on the Nantahala River. It’s was a cold day over with water temps year round about 48 -50 and air temps today were around 68 degrees. That’s a cold combination and one has to be careful when paddling in these temps. Our Mountainsiders went swimming today near the end of the trip and were pretty cold when we got to the take out. They had rain and spray jackets but only a couple of them wore the gear. Where they chose to swim was a good place to experience the power of water that’s barely to your knees.

The last afternoon of a session is always pillowcase day and almost all the cabins made it to the pool before the rain and thunder arrived late today. You can do amazing things with your pillowcase after it gets wet. Fill it air and it will keep you afloat for quite a while. It’s fun to go down the slide at the pool to see if you can fill it up before you hit the water.

We held our Friendship Campfire tonight and many children received their blankets and plaques for coming to camp for 4 or 5 years. It’s always fun to recognize these children as well as our staff and SIT’s who have attended even longer. Each year we see more of our campers coming back as staff. Seeing campers come back as staff is one of the best parts of my job. The reward of having them here brings me a lot of joy.

Speaking of joy, I’m sure you’ll be joyful as you arrive tomorrow to pick up your children. They 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. A lot happens in our day here at camp and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  After the cabin friendship circle, we welcome you to join us in the Lodge for our end of session campfire. After that feel free to have lunch with us and maybe walk around camp to see some of the activity areas. Thank you for sharing your children and hope to see you next year. Stay tuned!

Tajar’s Birthday and Tajar Ball!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today we awoke to a crystal clear and cool morning. It was around 54 degrees this morning and everyone came to breakfast in their sweatshirts. It was also the Tajar’s birthday. There is always Tajar folly on his birthday and today there was no exception. His folly includes putting things where they don’t belong, like kayaks on the path to the Mill, inner tubes hanging from the trees, spoons and cups in odd places, dining tables moved outside and balloons hanging from string in the dining room. The campers get a kick out of it and it’s fun to watch their reaction. The Tajar Ball is always a hoot and everyone comes dressed in masquerade. There were astronauts, princesses, monsters, dragons, kung fu fighters, aliens, unicorns, fairies, golfers, ball players, runners, brooms, turtles and much more. Let your imagination go wild. After the cookout we held a carnival on the soccer field with all kinds of booths, food, hayrides and games. As part of the Carnival there was the Tin Can Toss, Sponge Toss, Corn Hole, Duck Sling Shot, Guess the Number of M&M’s, Fishing, Fortune Telling/Palm Reading, Face Painting, Balloon Animals, Slack Line, Soccer Shoot Out, Penny Drop, Hay Rides, Toilet Paper Toss, Cookie Train, Dance Tent, Minute Challenge, Strong Man, and the Infamous Dunk Tank. Plus, there was food like popcorn, snow cones, and ice cream. Kids love it and staff have a pretty good time as well.

Main Camp kayakers went to the Upper French Broad today and had a great time. We also had bikers out today at Dupont State Forest and Climbers were out at Looking Glass. All three Main Camp groups had fun exploring various terrain and using human power to bike, climb and paddle in those areas. Tomorrow Mountainside continues their Training Days and I will be going out with the paddlers in the afternoon. Riverside will return tomorrow from their paddling component. We look forward to having them back. They really add to our program with their years of experience at camp. Another group of older folks that have been outstanding this session are our SIT’s (Staff In Training, aka Slaves in Training). They have just been fabulous and have been great additions to our cabin and program life here at camp. Again, all of these folks are old campers and have come through the ranks of Main Camp, Mountainside and Riverside. They are future staff members in the making.

I spent the morning going around to different activities including riding, pottery, the mill, two of our arts activities, sports, and of course the farm. Potatoes were dug today as was corn and tomatoes harvested. This time of year there is nothing better than corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes.

On a different note this marks the 153st year of organized camping in the US.  And with over 60 percent of parents reporting that their child continues to participate in activities learned at camp, we are planting the seeds that grow into a lifetime of service to communities.  Community gardens are a good example of one of those services that is thriving right now.  We started one at our church utilizing some land behind the church right downtown that is never used.  Camps are teaching great lessons and values that build on the same values you as parents are trying to instill.  I’m proud to partner with all of you to make the best possible young person that we can. Gwynn Valley is dedicated to that mission and we hope that you will reap some of the benefits when your child returns home.  Stay tuned!

International Day and More!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another splendid day at GV and time is flying. It’s hard to believe that we are winding down D session. Today was another beautiful day here at camp with sunny skies and all activities in high gear. This second week we have signups both in the morning and in the afternoon. Today was also international day here at GV. We celebrated with our staff who are from Poland, Hungary, Sweden, and Brazil. It was a fun evening filled with lots of information and interesting tidbits from each country and also a sampling of some traditional foods from those countries throughout the day at meals. Campers were also involved in some of the cultural dancing on stage tonight.

Several groups were also out of camp today including Mountainside, Riverside and our Main Camp Kayakers. I spent the afternoon with the Mountainside Paddlers and ran the upper French Broad to give them a start on their sea legs. That group will be going out again on Thurs. for another training day as will the rest of MS groups, bikers, hikers, and climbers.

This weather really promotes activity because of the temps and low humidity. It’s fun whether you’re outdoors doing something really active or indoors pursuing some sort of artistic endeavor. There was a small game of football on the field today and Josh offered it because many of the campers ask for it. He’s an Australian, so our football is a bit different than his Ozzie Rules. Of course Thunderball was also in evidence today as it is most days. There’s never been a time when you couldn’t drum up 20 plus campers to play. There was some active play today with bikers who created a mini triathlon around camp. They started at the lake kayaking laps and then ran and finished up their 3 events with biking one of the camp trails. I didn’t get a final estimate of how far they went but it was all worth it with a swim afterward.

I hope you noticed the scarves that campers made at Yanderside with Rachel over the last couple of days. You moms may get one of these when campers arrive home. All are beautiful and make excellent gifts.   It’s that time of the session when folks are glazing their pottery and getting it ready to take home. Again, more artistry to fill you home and your camper’s room. Candles were also being created today and dip candles were being dipped and redipped to make some great keepers to take home. While people were cranking their artistic talents, folks across the avenue at the Mill were making ice cream and playing checkers. It’s a favorite past time for those who are waiting for the ice cream to be churned. I’m thinking it was the same situation back in the 1890’s, when the Mill was founded, that folks probably sat around playing checkers then as well. On certain days, going to the Mill is like walking back in time.

One the waterfront several staff and campers made it across the tension traverse yesterday and that sent lots of participants to TT to give it go. As I said in an early blog, it’s not easy, but it’s doable. Nearby the lake are our Arborist Climbing Trees and many campers gave it ago this morning while it was really cool. It’s a strenuous sport and it’s great when you’re in the shade and staying cool.

With all our good weather the Farm has been booming. We’ve had the perfect mix of sun and rain this summer. Some of that was served tonight as our second round of corn on the cob is now coming in. What is picked in the morning is served at the evening meal. It’s delicious and no restaurant anywhere could boast that farm to table short span of harvest to consumption. This is the case with much of our Farm food and you can thank your children and our Farm staff for making that happen. Of course eating it is just as much fun as harvesting it. Our good camp food is responsible for spending quality time with one another in the Dining Room and great stories and conversation exist every day at the table. I have a brother/sister duo at my table and the brother, Charlie was playing around with the other counselor while we were clearing the table and knocked over a stack of bowls that were waiting to go to the B window to be washed. His older sister Ava, looked at me and said, “That Charlie is so lucky. Every single bowl landed right side up.” Even if they hadn’t it was OK. Camp is the kind of place where your bowls can land right side up or upside down. It’s a place of opportunity where you can try and try again or even make mistakes while trying. You get lots of chances to get those bowls to land right side up and that’s the way it should be. Stay tuned!

Sign-ups All Day Long !

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a gorgeous day here today. As I write the temperature has fallen to 65 degrees and tonight it’s supposed to get down to 57. Cool breezes blew all day and we had relief from the humidity that’s been occupying our skin over the past few days. This of course made for great activity conditions both on and off site. We had several trips out of camp today including bikers, hikers and climbers. There was also a sit-on-top kayak trip out this afternoon. With the weather and prep they did beforehand every single trip was a success. There were some tired campers from all trips but that makes the day and sleeping even better.

Bikers went to Dupont and rode on one of my favorite trails called Reasonover and then on to Airstrip where they stopped to visit Bridal Veil Falls which is where the Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans was filmed. You’ll also see pics of the Bikers swimming at Lake Julia and at the Falls. Hikers went up to John’s Rock nearby the National Fish Hatchery in Pisgah. Beautiful views and a monolithic rock face that juts out of prime Pisgah Lands. Climbers went to the Nose area at Looking Glass Rock to climb a route called Sun Dial, which lived up to its name today.

If you stayed back in Main Camp today you had sign-ups in the morning and in the afternoon. You may have caught a fish at the Mill or been involved in a morning signup to make a corn husk doll with Cindy. Jackson Kayakers were on the lake all day getting ready for a river trip off site tomorrow. They will head out to the upper French Broad. Hordes of campers were at the lake today trying out the zip line and the tension traverse. It’s a tough challenge to make it all the way across without falling into the water. The zip line is just pure fun especially if you can perform a spider man as you’re zipping along.

For those that wanted a dry land experience there was so much to choose from including in the sports arena: basketball, fat bat baseball, soccer and of course the infamous Thunderball, aka, GA GA. We renamed it Thunderball. Your children can tell you all about it. It’s probably the most famous and most popular game in camp. I learned about the game at a conference and brought it to camp about 4 years ago. We played with a temporary setup one summer and then built a permanent structure. If arts and crafts were your thing today, the arts were alive and well at camp.

A beautiful day ended with our Thespians putting on their drama and dance performance for Main Camp this evening. They did a great job and it was all done by the campers with help from Sophie and Julian. They wrote and learned all their lines and music to the songs which Debbie wrote.

Just a quick word about Riverside; they started their water component today with a trip to the Green River to get their paddling legs. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.

We talk a lot about program at camp but I feel the essence of what we do is about the bonding and friendships that happen at camp. They are different from those that occur at school and on sports teams. The intensity of living together and experiencing life together, without distractions, creates the ideal setting to form lifelong friendships and really get to know people well.

Read more about camp friendships in Friends: Finding Gold in a Plastic Era.

So parents, if people ever question your decision to send your young child to a traditional, longer camp stay this summer, let them know that it’s hard for you to let your child go, but that you’re giving your child a gift that will have more impact than any material item you’ve ever given. Thank you for sharing your child.

Special Day and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We’re just about to go into Vespers and I thought I’d start my daily rumination a bit early. On Sunday’s we have Staff Rec which is when our staff gets together to socialize and share some food. We hold it in two sessions so there is always someone left in the camper cabins. This is a great way to keep our troops happy, give them some free time with just adults and eat some really good food. They deserve it because they spend 24 / 7 with your children.

It’s been a great weekend and we held our Special Day today with a morning session of the Commonwealth Games, which by the way, are going on now. We were visited by the Queen and Prince Phillip just after breakfast to announce the games. We watched a short and informative video on the Commonwealth Nations and then it was off to the games after changing clothes and brushing teeth. Priorities, priorities! There were many events including: Long Jump, High Jump, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Javenlin Throw, Diving and Swim Races with Barrels?!, Kayak Races, Wacky Races, Cookie Decorating, Caber Toss, Amateur Soccer, Discus Throw, and Highland Dancing. Campers could go to any activity of their choice throughout the morning. This was just a warmup to an even bigger afternoon.

The afternoon brought a sense of ancient games, Spartan Games. It was a test of agility, strength, motivation, and most of all teamwork and cheering for you fellow competitors. It all started on the Green with a warm-up and stretching. The run, walk, trot started in front of the lodge with youngest cabins going first. Just around the corner you had to crawl underneath unbarbed wire through the mud and then into the Mill Race creek up to Mountainside where you found your way through a dark crawl and back to the volleyball court where you threw spears like you were part of the Three Hundred. From there, it was on to the lake where you had to leap from the dock to an overturned raft and then to another and then swim to another raft – hauled aboard and swim to the far shore (PFD’s required). From there to the riding ring where teamwork and strength carried loads meant to build pyramids and if you were hot in the process you crossed the cool and refreshing waters of Carson Creek which runs right through the center of camp. Everyone took the Farm path to the Day Camp Circle and juiced up and got refreshment before the uphill slog back into Main Camp. Just as you crested the hill Spartans had to leap across a large smoke screen hidden by hay bales and then to the Finish Line where everyone cheered your achievement.

I’m just tired thinking about it. It was such a fun day and the campers loved the fact that it was a sort of race with other cabins and everyone was so supportive no matter where you finished. Counselors were all along the route to help and cheer your spirit when it seemed there was a hill or an unsurmountable task. You can’t replicate these things at camp. Sometimes it’s so spontaneous and you can’t even capture the magic on video on in pictures.

I’ve been talking this past week about outdoor play. Our play increases children’s physical activity level and we certainly did that today. Children who play outdoors are more likely to be active learners. Children who move and play when out of school are ready for the attention often needed for classroom learning. Time spent outdoors increases persistence. Outdoor games often require persistence. Children must try and try again if their experiment fails. If the branch doesn’t reach all the way across the stream or the bark doesn’t cover their fairy house, they must keep trying until they are successful. Persistence and resilience were certainly present today. And…. outdoor play is fun. Children who are happy are successful learners. Children are naturally happy when they are moving, playing and creating outside. This joy opens them up for experimenting, learning and growing. We are playing outside and growing inside at GV. Stay tuned!

Blue Skies and Sunshine With Some Shade on the Side!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another beautiful day at GV brought out the best in camp and everyone has really enjoyed the true summer weather we’ve been having. It’s been great to have pure sunshine. There was hardly a cloud visible today. Any outdoor activity thrived today and some actually sought shade at certain points. One of the reasons I like Mountain Biking at camp is that 95% of our trails are in wooded areas where there is lots of shade. On an 85 or 90 degree day, it can be 10 degrees or more cooler in the shade. So.. riding in the shade on single track sure beats most anything in the sun unless you’re swimming. Our bikers have a number of trails and rides to choose from on the camp property and there are 3 different trails of various levels once they learn the foundational skills. Each group starts on the soccer field or Mountainside Green and then progresses to the skills course and a ride around camp. The skills course is a small area we keep adding to that is located close by the climbing wall and makes a loop that has several types of challenges. There are 4 bridges and one skinny the campers can ride. The bridges have easy access but end with a small little drop of 2 to 6 inches at the end. The skinny in a 12 foot board about 8 inches wide that they try and ride the length of without going off the edge. There are twists, turns, roots and rocks along the way and the trail replicates what a typical trail is like here in the mountains. We also use our wider trails around camp to start things off with. Mountain Biking has really grown at Gwynn Valley and it’s a very popular activity in the AM and PM.

Mountainside also bikes and they were out today on the camp trails getting their last day of mini adventures completed. Tomorrow they will choose their adventures and begin to train for them next week. Yesterday they took a day off from mini’s and played border patrol and had sign-ups with their staff. Usually sign-ups are one shot activities similar to afternoon sign-ups in Main Camp. This year we started a small program for MS with some primitive woodworking. You can see photos of this in the MS pics. The campers choose a 2” slab of cherry and cut that with a one person cross cut saw. They then choose 4 legs to which are shaped into legs for a stool. The wood used for the legs are red oak and they utilize a drawknife and shave horse to whittle down the thick pieces of oak to leg size. This is the most difficult part of the task, getting the legs to fit 1 ½ inch holes on the stool top. Once there, the legs are pounded into the stool top and then wedged so they will stay. We don’t use any nails or glue and hopefully everything stays together and intact. Here’s a photo of a three legged stool that was produced last session. It’s not an easy project and one that takes several sessions to complete. We’re trying it this year in hopes of adding it to include a few more campers for next season. Working with primitive wood is a hobby for me and I love sharing this with campers.

Mountainside Woodworking

Mountainside Woodworking

On a performing arts note, our thespians are getting ready for their production next week. Sophie and other staff are working with campers daily to learn lines and dances which will be presented next Tues. We’re all looking forward to this special event. Speaking of special, tomorrow is Special Day. We’ve got a good one planned. The Commonwealth Games are going on abroad right now and we’ll have some games similar to theirs tomorrow morning and afternoon. There will be some great stations that the campers will be able to go to and test their skills such as, trash lid skeet shooting, the barrel race and others. We can’t divulge too much but it’s going to be a fun day. We hold Special Day so that our Activity Leaders can get a day off from teaching and it’s also a day for getting up a little later, taking showers and enjoying a good meal or two. Sunday’s are special and while we don’t totally rest, we do take some time to ponder things greater than us with our Sunday Vesper Service. Campers and staff have already signed up for a spot on that agenda. We look forward to sharing more news with you tomorrow and through next week. Stay tuned!

Sunny Skies & GV Hunger Games

Dear Parents and Friends,

We have had a beautiful and action packed day here in the Valley! The weather was sunny and warm even as the wake-up bell rang at 8AM, and it stayed that way until we all watched the sun set on the gatehouse green at the end of our Web/OLS campfire….but more on that later. At breakfast, we filled our bellies with a hearty spread of scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, and English muffins which many combined to make sandwiches. For those who prefer lighter fare, we always have cereal on offer in the mornings and today we also had sliced watermelon and grapes on the side.

After breakfast, we began the last morning of A-Day Discoveries on Main Camp. For campers, this means a day of wrapping up projects and polishing skills in half of the discoveries they have chosen for the session. For some program areas, the lesson is totally wrapped up today. For example, weavers took their finished projects off the loom and tied them off; divers completed their last lesson; the water polo crew played their final game; creek hikers went for their last walk in the water. For others, there are opportunities to continue the experience. Those who are part of the Musical, Dance and Mask Making discoveries will share their hard work with the rest of camp next Monday evening at the Fine Arts campfire. For those who are in outdoor adventure activity discoveries such as biking, climbing, white water kayaks, outdoor living skills, and web of life, there will be off camp trip opportunities all next week.

For lunch today we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches, salad, sliced apples, and a hearty vegetable stew, which made for excellent grilled cheese dipping. The good weather continued after lunch allowing for many excellent sign ups. Sports organized “brain games” which required campers to incorporate both mental strategy and physical strength to succeed. Waterfront activities were also very popular thanks to the sunny skies. Kayaks were out on the water, zip & traverse line were open, the pool was packed, and tubers were out on the French Broad river. The mill was busy making food for later on in the session: grits, corn meal and ice cream were all in production today. Horseback riders went for a trail ride around camp, and the farm was busy harvesting veggies and loving on those new baby piglets!  Now that some of the camper ceramics have had a few days to dry out, Hannah’s glazing sign up this afternoon was also a very popular one. We’ll have to wait a for the kiln to finish firing in a few days to see how all the projects turned out!

Mountainside had a busy day in camp as well. This morning they played Border Patrol, which is an elaborate variation on capture the flag in which half the campers (the secret agents)  run notes from cabin to cabin (country to country). Meanwhile, the other half of the campers (the border patrol) are running around trying to intercept messages and confiscate passports. It may not sound exciting to you, but without fail campers mark Border Patrol  as one of their favorite memories on Mountainside. This afternoon, Mountainside ran their own special signups which included yoga, wood burning name tags, white water kayaks, creek water hot chocolate (a fun way to learn about water purification), and fire building. For campfire tonight, Jess K. called a dance in the mountainside shelter. This is one of my favorite evening programs, because you can see the hesitation and self-consciousness typically carried by preteens dissipate as they follow Jess’s instructions and laugh through an deviations from the prescribed plan.

Tonight’s campfire on Main Camp was put on by Web of Life and Outdoor Living Skills. The night was loosely based on the Hunger Games. Every cabin was chosen as “tribute” and sets of cabins were paired up together and given a clue to set them on their way. The whole evening was a scavenger hunt that took groups all over camp to learn various lessons such as shelter building, bear bagging, fire lighting, snares, back boarding, going to the bathroom in the woods, and identifying animal tracks. Staff who were hiding around camp to teach these skills got really into their characters and their hiding places, and the kids loved running around camp following the clues given out along the way. It was a very creative way to get campers excited to learn about these topics. At the end of the evening we all gathered together on the gatehouse green to share what we had learned and watch the beginning of a beautiful sunset. Many cabins stayed out on the green to do an outdoor friendship circle or just enjoy the intense color show put on by mother nature.

And now that the sun has set, it’s time for us all to shut our eyes and dream of what tomorrow might hold!



Soggy Turns Beautiful!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Our day started much like the past few days with all things drippy wet soggy and then would clear up a bit. Today was no different. However, about mid-morning when we’d previously gotten rain, the sun came out and it was beautiful the rest of the day. The next two days really like good as far as weather and temps. Your view of camp pics today starts with Katherine and her OLS group. Outdoor Living Skills teaches all kinds of things from building simple fires to erecting a tarp, map and compass, to lashing with cordage and the basics of cooking. It’s like scouts but with girls or with boys. I’ve been a scout leader and my sons have both been in scouting so like scouts there are many skills to learn about living in the woods. Katherine was here last year and is expanding on her repertoire and experience. She is presently working on a turbo stove that will cook a meal just using a small amount of wood and some different sized tin cans.

From outdoor skills to arts skills, Batik is winding down with their work and the colors are fantastic. Campers were at Yanderside today working on their final touches for block printing. And then there’s basket weaving which seems to take on the stereotypical craft for camp. It’s frankly not that easy and you have to pay attention to what you’re doing because it’s hard to correct a mistake. The basket materials can be dyed and beads can be used throughout the weaving process.

Tree climbing was a great place to be this morning as the temperature went up. Under our hemlocks next to the lake is always a cool and refreshing place to learn the “ropes” as well have fun and check out the great views from the top of our trees. We started tree climbing the year we took over camp and it has been a hit since then. It’s very different from climbing a wall or even a rock. Works off the same principles of rock climbing so all safety protocols and equipment are the same. We placed our video guy in the tree yesterday to get a different perspective on what it’s like as the camper ascends the tree. One starts on a rope ladder and about 15 feet up begins to use the many branches that the Hemlock affords. As you may or may not know most of our Hemlocks in the southeast are dying because of an insect called the Wooly Adelgid. They have wrought havoc on the trees and we’re doing what we can to treat many of ours in camp proper. So far so good and think we’ll be able to keep the ones that are important to inner camp (about 40 + trees).

If you caught the picture of all the piglets sleeping on top of one another, it’s a classic. I usually try and get our photographers to take only pics of children but love these shots. What’s not to love about piglets as well as ice cream. I know, it’s not much of a comparison. I took a break from my blog tonight to get something to drink and noticed that our Mill staff had left some homemade ice cream in our freezer in the office kitchen. Campers made ice cream at the Mill today and I don’t know if it’s the same flavor but it’s delicious. Camp this summer has made probably 90% of all the ice cream we consume here and it’s done off the power of the Mill. You can make any flavor and they certainly do that. My favorite is peach but the cherry they left us today really hit the spot.

Kids in whitewater kayaks are getting ready for a river trip next week as are those campers who are climbers in Main Camp. Both groups will be out next week and it should prove to be a fun and challenging day as they take on different environs for their sports. Lots of activity at camp each day and this is not the only venue for reporting it all. The Tajar Times is published every day and lots of campers contribute their two cents and more. The Times is our 4 page newspaper and carries everything from feature length articles to the weather and jokes for the day. If you can get your hands on a copy, do so. They are read by many and our own Team Maintenance are avid readers of the Times. Dale was quoted as saying, “The T Times is way better than anything on Netflix!” If you’re in need of a good newspaper look for the T Times, maybe coming soon to your local newsstand. Stay tuned!

Sun and a Little Rain! No Worries Mate!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Our day was sunny and bright with a big shower while we ate lunch today. There was a sprinkle of rain just after dinner which ran us inside for one of our campfires but other than that, a super day at GV. I just finished calling our Mountain Dancing with Brookside in the Lodge and at the end of the dance everyone gathered near the stage and we talked about our day. I asked who experienced something brand new today and many hands went up: creek hiking, wet exit in a kayak with a skirt on, tree climbing, weaving on the looms, etc. We also asked what they were most looking forward to in the week ahead: their campout, rock climbing trip out of camp, tajar ball, tie-dye, and more. There is always something to look forward to at camp. Each cabin usually keeps a calendar of events so the children know what’s coming up in camp. There’s a good bit on our schedule each day and every day has a significant event for someone or sometimes for everyone. Tomorrow night is Twilight Play and is a camper favorite. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.

Fishing was the big news at the Mill today and I think about 25 trout were landed by campers. That’s a few pounds of fish and all these get frozen until we have enough to feed the whole camp. That’s when the entire meal comes from camp. Fish and cornbread from the Mill, coleslaw and vegetables or corn from the garden and it’s delicious. There was also some old timey figurine making at the Mill the afternoon. Cindy, our miller taught the campers how to make corn husk dolls and as I strolled by they were just forming the body. It’s an old art form and you can do some fairly sophisticated things with the dolls.

Also in the arts and crafty realm is print making. You parents are the targets of some of the prints I saw today. One for each parent with hearts and love carved on the tiles. Just next door the potters were learning about the fine art of throwing on the wheel and also how to make a slab or coil pot. It takes a lot of practice to be able to throw on the wheel and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time to learn. There’s just something about working with clay that is appealing. On my travels today, I stopped by the Bong Tree to see Batik. There were a plethora of colors being used to go back over previously dyed material. Batik is almost a reverse process when working toward the final product. I’ve only watched and it looks fun as you progress with wax, colors, design and the steps of each.

On the sports scene we played a muddy game of Thunderball (because of the earlier rain). It’s a camp favorite that started about 4 years ago. It’s a game that came over from Israel and is a form of dodge ball with the exception that you don’t actually pick the ball up and throw it. You slap it with your hand or fist and try to get others out by hitting their legs from the knees down. Sometimes I think there are campers that would play all day long and never tire of this game. Of course our other most popular game here is soccer and the World Cup seems to have boosted participation this summer. There’s never a day that goes by where there’s not a bit of fotball that’s played. Archery is another sport at camp that’s very popular. Josh and his sports crew have done a good job of teaching it this year. It’s like Thunderball in its appeal to children. On the waterfront our stand up paddle boards came out today and we attached a Go Pro camera to several of them. I’m hoping the footage turned out well.

As stated above, there is always something new for campers every day. It’s akin to going to your favorite candy store and picking just what candy you want to sample today. This candy is actually good for your and makes you smarter, stronger, more agile, eager, resilient, and most of all it’s fun. You also get to share with your friends. Last night I talked about the benefits of outdoor play and here are some more.

Outdoor play increases attention span.Time spent in unstructured play outdoors is a natural attention builder. Often children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks or sitting still for long periods of times are significantly more successful after time spent outside. Outdoor play is imaginative. Because there are no labels, no pre-conceived ideas and no rules, children must create the world around them. In this type of play, children use their imagination in ways they don’t when playing inside. We’re playing outside and growing inside here at Gwynn Valley! Stay tuned!

The Sunny Side of Camp! Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi !

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another day of opportunity at camp theme fits right into Aussie Day here at GV. It was Australia day here and we just finished campfire. It was a blast complete with entertainment by the Wiggle’s and of course a visit by Steve Irwin. It was a great skit and had everyone laughing, but the highlight was a young girl in the audience who yelled, “Aren’t you dead”? The crowd roared and I think despite our young ages almost everyone in the room knew who Irwin was. Our Aussie staff did a great job giving us a first hand look at so many aspects of their country which lasted all day long outside of program.

Every Tuesday is International Day here at Camp so we get to know a lot about the countries that many of our staff and children come from over the summer. It’s a great way to learn about a country’s customs, food, songs, stories and general facts. I think it’s also a great addition to our program to have someone in your cabin who may speak a different language or doesn’t come from our country. Camp is the kind of place that brings people together. It’s an even playing field for campers and staff alike. Our staff grow very close after working together for over 10 weeks. Campers do the same and some camp friends stay friends the rest of their lives. We had a couple of mom’s here this weekend who were campers and met here and now send their children to camp. They are also close friends and stay in touch on a regular basis. Sooo many benefits to camp! We see it every day and know that it’s a great place for children to develop and gain that sense of self, resilience, and grow in many ways.

Author and clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison writes, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” It is through unstructured, open-ended creative play that children learn the ways of the world. While playing outside, children explore with all their senses, they witness new life, they create imaginary worlds and they negotiate with each other to create a playful environment.

Playing outside brings together informal play and formal learning. Children can incorporate concepts they have learned at school in a hands-on way while outdoors. For example, seeing and touching the roots of a tree will bring to life the lesson their teacher taught about how plants get their nutrients. Our WEB of Life program takes children right to the source of our natural world where you can’t always go in a classroom setting. There’s something mysterious, exciting and little scary about turning over rocks and rotten logs to see what you might find. I was working with Mountainside today on a woodworking project and we had to uncover some milled Cherry that I had saved and tarped just next to the Mountainside Green. I check on the woodpile about once a week to see how it’s drying out and today before our activity I uncovered it and found 2 ringnecked snakes. They’re harmless and but we spent quite a bit of time talking about what to look for in a poisonous snake and the types that live in our mountains. What a teachable moment and that happens all the time at camp.

As you see in our photos there are so many new things that are introduced each day in our camp world. New skills, new foods, new friends, new experiences that help the camper make decisions on their own without parents being there. They do however have a good friend and guide in the counseling staff. Our days are full and today was no exception.

It was a normal day as far as program. Our B day Discovery activities went well this morning and there were a slew of activities offered this afternoon for signups. We also had a little rain and the sun came out just after lunch today with a slight shower just before dinner. We’re happy as long as it’s not lightening or thundering. We’ve been fortunate to have neither the last few days. Stay tuned for all the sunny side of camp!