A Few Showers Didn’t Chase the Fun Away!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Even though it was a little overcast today we started our first day of Discovery. Despite a few showers, mostly while we ate lunch, the rain didn’t deter our movement and action in getting everyone into day one. I spent the morning going to many activities and watching staff begin their day and begin their program with instructions and getting the campers familiar with the lay of the land in program. I spoke with one or two parents yesterday about learning styles and how some children learn by doing or watching and some learn through auditory or reading directions. It was interesting to check in on different activities and watch as our staff got the ball rolling with their different teaching styles. I started at the waterfront where staff were teaching their Jr. Lifeguarding activity. They were learning to toss a throw line in the water. Coiling the rope is key because it should play out in a fashion that provides maximum distance to reach your targeted person. The campers were doing a good job with their tosses but coiling the rope was a challenge. From there I went to our Kayakers who were learning to wet exit for the first time. The instructor is right there standing in 4 feet of water and the first couple of times when the camper flips the boat over, they right the boat for the camper to provide that sense of confidence that they are right there. This is done without a spray skirt. Next is flipping over with a skirt and banging three times on the boat and pulling your spray skirt and then popping out on the surface. Wearing a PFD helps as its buoyancy brings you right up. Some are beating on the side of the boat even before they are upside down. Trust and faith in oneself doesn’t come easy when you’re upside down underwater. 99% of the time there is a breakthrough and an awakening to yes, I will be ok, just relax and find that strap and pull it. It’s a process to observe and see the growth.

Also at the waterfront Matt B. is teaching diving off the dock. Don’t worry, our dock is only inches off the water and Matt is 5 meter diver and he’s well aware of water depths and teaching campers foundation skills. His teaching curriculum is teaching campers how to control their bodies when entering the water. They begin by learning to roll dive from a kneeling / squatting position. Should be fun to observe over the next several days.

Camp is very physical and we’re doing lots of physical things from riding a bike to crossing a wire suspended over water. That’s called the Tension Traverse and it’s a fun and challenging part of our waterfront. Every child in camp should try this because it will build character and get you to do something that you normally don’t do, you use a lot of balance, many different muscles, and it really helps you to focus. Everyone who tries it starts off smiling and laughing about it and then it happens; the smile goes away and the game face comes out as you start to focus on trying to move your feet across a tight wire by only holding on to a rope. I’ve seen this in climbing, paddling, mountain biking and yes, even in arts and crafts. One of my other visits to program this morning was the Pottery Shop and Yanderside, another arts area. One camper had his tongue out while trying to score the clay and join it to the mated piece that he had just cut. Such concentration is really neat to see in children.   And the best thing about camp is that if you don’t score your pottery just right, or don’t make it across the Tension Traverse, or get to the top of the wall, you’ll get another try and can build on what you’ve just done and learned.

I joined a mountain biking groups this afternoon and watched as campers rode multispeed bikes as well as coaster free brakes for the first time. Children adapt very easily and I think at camp they tend to build on their successes and learn from their failures quite easily. The instructors were explaining the art of shifting gears and how to maintain a cadence. Analogous to this it’s a complex world out there and we need to understand about how our gears can be utilized in life. When to peddle faster, when to slow down and when to try and be consistent and keep a constant speed are all part of using our personal gears. I had fun riding with the campers today and seeing them gain some skills like riding in the attack position and learning to ride in an ever decreasing sized circle.   By the end of an hour we were able to ride some of the single track here at camp. I think we left them hungry for more. I know I wanted to ride some more but had to move on. Getting out into program helps keep in touch with pulse of camp. I think I would die on the vine if I couldn’t do this. I’m just not that kind of director.

We continued our cabin skits tonight at campfire and by now all campers are snuggled in after their first full day of Gwynn Valley. We hope it was a good one and there’s more to come. Stay tuned!

Opening Day – D Session & MS-3 & RS-3!!

Dear Parents and Friends,

A great start for opening day D session brought cool temps and cloudy skies when you checked in this morning. After lunch we had sunshine and great weather to begin our afternoon. It was perfect for the first day as we launch into our next two weeks of camp.  Thank you for bringing such a great batch of campers.  We hope you are safe and sound wherever your destination.  We just finished our first night of cabin skits and will return tomorrow night to complete all the cabins on Hillside and Brookside.  Our Mountainsiders and Riversiders hold their own campfires in their own quarters. I attended the Mountainside opening campfire and got there just in time to see their skits, sing some songs and observe as they divided into their mini-adventure groups.  Dinner tonight was the traditional first night of Macaroni and Cheese with salad and fruit cocktail.  To top things off each cabin got a giant cookie, and I do mean giant chocolate chip cookie at their table.  It had their cabin name on it written in icing.  After supper we all went to “after supper activities” and there was a great choice of things to do.

I spent some time this afternoon roaming activities and getting a glimpse of what lays ahead for the week. I visited pottery, horses, weaving at Shady Grove, the Mill, sports, the pool and also peeked in on Riverside on the Gatehouse Green playing ice breaker games. Each had a tarp cord tail that was stuffed in their waist at the back and dragged the ground enough to be able to step on one another’s tail. It’s a no hands keep away from everyone game. The idea was to stay alive long enough by not having your tail be stepped on. In a confined area this is a fun initiative. They were having a blast. Mountainside was playing their own games and working on group bonding as well.

It was a busy afternoon and activities that were running today were Climbing, Pottery, Sports, Fine Arts, The Mill, Tie-Dye, Crafts, Horseback Riding, Swimming, Lake Fun, WEB of Life, Outdoor Living Skills, and Farm. We held swim assessments this afternoon after lunch.  We don’t call them swim tests because that sounds too much like school.  Campers also signed up for their Discovery Activities today.  They will take those four activities through Saturday which last for 3 days each and happen every other day just in the morning.  The Discovery activities are as follows: Farm/Mill, Horses, Martial Arts, Archery, Climbing (3 types), Soccer, Candles, Weaving, Fine Arts Musical, Dance, Mask Making, Basketry, Batik, Printmaking, Weaving, Canoeing, Water Polo, Diving, Creek Hiking, Junior Life Guarding, WEB, Mountain Biking, Pottery (2 types), Outdoor Living Skills, and Whitewater Kayaking. The afternoon has 2 more hours of activities that provide campers with a variety of sign-ups each day.  These can be 1 or 2 hour activities and there’s no limit to the possibilities.  Staff can provide a one time activity or several of the same over the week. This should be a great week as the session begins.

Riverside leaves on Tues. for their climbing trip and they are going to Foster Falls in TN.  They’ll be gone through Friday of this week.   Mountainside begins their mini-adventures tomorrow and will be in and out of camp as they sample each adventure.  As the session progresses, we’ll have more and more trips out for all three programs including Main Camp.  We look forward to reporting on those and hopefully will have some photos up.

Last night the whole staff met for our campfire before we started D, Mountainside and Riverside sessions.  Anne and I told our staff what a good job they were doing this summer.  Our goals are being met through their fine work of providing the following aspects that define Gwynn Valley:

Camp has been a safe and supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships.

It’s a place where we’re unplugged and focused on one another and becoming cohesive in our groups of cabin, table, and program communities.

We’re providing parenting on a different level, with structure and support as they gain hard and soft skills each day.

We’re helping the campers reconnect to the natural world where they are participating in human powered activities.

And last but not least, we’re allowing them to relax and just be kids or as we say at GV “the simple joys of childhood”.

Can you think of a better way to spend 13 days or three weeks.  Ya gotta love it!

Stay tuned!

C, C-2 Closing! See You Next Year!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our C, C-2 Session today. We’ve had a wonderful time with your children and will carry lots of good memories from those that were here for the 10 day and the 3 week session. Soon you will receive an evaluation via email, sent to you by the camp and we hope you will take the time to fill it out and send it back.  This provides us with feed back to help make our program better.  The eval will come through a service called Mail Chimp.  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 arrived home we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be. We know you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and camp becomes a great memory. Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for a great session.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year!

Winding Down C, C-2 and Great Memories!

 

Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished our Friendship Campfire for Session C, C-2. What a great time we’ve had and tonight was no exception. We honored the many campers who have many years of Gwynn Valley summers. As a tradition at our final campfire we honor those who are coming for their 4th and 5th year with a blanket for the 4th year and a wooden plaque for their 5th year. We also honor those staff, SIT’s and campers who’ve gone beyond the 5 year mark. It’s always fun to have them stand and be recognized. We also held our Musical for session C, C-2 which was a villainous plot to turn the Tajar into an enemy of camp (all written and performed by the campers). There was also a dance recital and an exhibition by our Marshall Arts crew. We finished off the evening with Debbie playing “Sheep May Safely Graze” which has been a part of campfire for many, many years. It’s a beautiful song and if you linger after the end of our Closing Campfire you’ll hear it. It comes after the staff sing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You”. Hope you’ll linger and listen.

Looking back to an earlier part of our day the Main Camp Kayakers had a grand time on the Lower Green River. Elliot, Joy and Mike, our instructors led the trip. The campers did a great job and were certainly tested on the Green River today. They left early this morning and had a fine day plying rapids called Bridge Rapid, S Turn, Big Corky, Little Nantahala, Jacobs Ladder, Sunday Ledge, and Little Corky. It was eddy hopping and ferrying the whole way which makes the learning curve go way up. Just below the last rapid, they got out of their boats and just swam practicing their whitewater swims in strong current and cooled down after a warm day on the river. Other trips out today included hikers to Dupont State Forest and Bikers also to Dupont. Leah from my table had a blast peddling up and down the hills in Dupont. Climbers also went to the Nose of Looking Glass Rock which is probably the most famous climb there. It’s a good feeling coming back to camp after such a successful day. There were some tired puppies when these trips returned. A couple of the groups had a 7:30 breakfast to get out early and then hiked, biked and paddled through the morning and early afternoon. Groups made it back for afternoon swims at the pool (pillowcase day) and to finish up packing.

This morning in Main Camp at home we held our last signups for the session and there was lot’s to do. I went with a group to the farm to check on the baby piglets and they are growing fast and nursing most of the day. Campers fed the calves, and dug potatoes which were readied for tomorrow’s lunch here at camp. Mountainside had their MS Challenge where they bike, climb, canoe and build fires for time. I’m sure both Riverside and Mountainside got a swim into today. It was the perfect day for it.

Tomorrow when you arrive your children from C, C-2 will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  We do these each night and check in with campers to find out how their day has been.  It allows staff to see how the children are doing since they only see them at morning wake-up, rest hour, before and after meals and bedtime.  Our days are full and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  After the friendship circle there is our program in the Lodge for parents, friends and campers. You can stay and enjoy a wonderful GV lunch at noon if you like. Thank you for sharing your children and looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow. It’s been a great session and a great group of children. Stay tuned!

Tajar Ball and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another great day at camp started off cooler and the weather was terrific. We had a high of 79 today here in Brevard, but usually it’s a bit cooler at camp. That high would have been at the farm which usually registers the high temps at camp. We’ve had a great year at the farm because we’ve gotten just the right amount of sun and rain. Our produce production is going great guns. All of our vegetables have been abundant this year and it’s been a good growing season. Activity at the farm has been at an all-time high especially in the last few days with the birth of a baby cow and 12 piglets being born this week. I was at the farm earlier in the week when 5 piglets had just arrived. A group of campers were there to witness this and after I left 7 more arrived as expected. We talk about the circle of life and the web of life at camp and this is one of those events that very few get to witness. Jacob, Sophie and Katherine were all assisting and catching the babies as they arrived. It was pretty exciting to see the staff clean the piglets up and in one case while I was there actually revive one of the newborns that wasn’t quite breathing on its own. They were cutting the umbilical cords and getting down to business by placing them right at Mom’s teets and without even opening their eyes, were soon nursing. My hope would be that all campers would have this opportunity but it was just a few.

As many of you know we produce about 70% of our food at the farm. Most all of our vegetables come from the farm. In the past it’s taken some time to get certain types of produce up and growing and then harvesting comes later in the summer. Our own farmer Dale built a Tunnel House this year and started many of our crops there so that we could experience squash, tomatoes, beans, and other vegis earlier in the season. It’s been a bonus. Because of our good weather corn has been on our table quite regularly. We also harvested some of our chickens this spring and grew them from pullets. They are taken away before the campers get here. We also produce our own beef and this can be an interesting subject with campers. If they ask we tell them the truth but don’t advertise it.   I hope you understand this strategy because we have a lot of young campers here. Our Mill has been cranking out some corn meal, grits, and chicken feed all summer. Besides that they made all the ice cream for tonight’s Tajar Ball. Lets not forget our Mill meal consisting of fish and cornbread from the Mill and coleslaw and other vegis from the Farm. That happens several times a summer.

As we awoke this morning the Tajar had caused mischief all through camp and there was Tajar Folly everywhere. Tajar Ball tonight was our usual fare of burgers and dogs with all the trimmings plus ice cream, cookies, snow cones and popcorn. It’s a true carnival with all kinds of events happening. I spent a good bit of time at the soccer shootout. We have some very talented soccer players this year at camp. We usually have several skilled staff members and presently have some campers who can take it to the staff at an early age. It’s fun to watch.

Seeing children grow in their skills carries so much satisfaction. I helped with some young kayakers today to see if they are ready for the Green trip tomorrow. It was fun putting them through their paces and seeing how their skills had improved. Tomorrow bikers, paddlers, climbers and hikers will be going out to beautiful places surrounding Gwynn Valley. Our valley and beyond is a playground meant to be used by our campers and staff. I can’t wait to hear about all their tales of adventure and special moments as they challenge themselves outside the boundaries of camp. Stay tuned!

UK Day at GV!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Sorry to miss our daily communication last night but some days are just too full. Lots to write about tonight as we get into our last week of C, C-2. Never a dull moment at GV.   Today was UK Day here at camp and as you may know, every Tuesday we celebrate our diversity through our international day. We started the day with William Wallace and his boys of Pimavera charging across the Green with faces painted declaring their independence from England. Michael, our Head Counselor for Hillside, led the charge and then read excerpts from Wallace’s speech from the Movie Braveheart, “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

At lunch, we were treated to boat races on the Thames by Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Both started a bit slow but it became more exciting as the race went on. By the end of the race both teams had capsized and it was an unofficial GV tie. A picnic was held on the Green for lunch with sandwiches, pasta, and chips. You could choose a variety of sandwiches including cucumber. While the campers were eating they were entertained by a Cricket Match on the Green. As the campers finished their meal they were invited to join in the game. Everyone who wanted a turn got one and then it was off to sign-ups for the afternoon. Cricket was also played during after supper activities tonight for those who wanted a bit more.

Our Main Camp Kayakers took a trip down the French Broad today and will hopefully be able to go out again on Thurs. They were a mixed group of beginners and some with experience from last session. We’re trying to get them to the Green in a couple of days. All Mountainside groups will return tomorrow but will be up early to climb, paddle, hike and bike on their last day. We’ve had good weather for their adventures. The hikers got a bit of rain yesterday but nothing they couldn’t handle. Each group will de-gear as they come in and then run for the showers. It’s not often that campers this age go without showers for such a long period of time. I suppose the paddlers have it the best because they get to go swimming (most of the time by choice) whenever they want. It’s always nice to take a dip on a hot day to wash the sweat and campsite crude off.

I was down in the dirt today with OLS (Outdoor Living Skills) as they utilized their Hobo Stoves this session. A Hobo stove is a number 10 can that you can cook on if you want a small fire and have a pretty good supply of small wood. The campers and staff cooked pancakes on top of the stoves. The beauty is you don’t have to build a whopping big fire and we have plenty of cans here at camp. The key is getting your fire started and keeping it going with just a small amount of wood. The campers really enjoyed doing this and it’s also something they could construct at home with supervision in cutting out a #10 can in all the right spots.

As we get into the middle of our week we are also preparing and bringing closure to a lot of our crafts. Pots are being glazed, weavings finished up, shirts and batiks being washed to set the dye and other crafts that will be coming home. You wouldn’t think that corn cobs would have much value at the Mill. We take those and make a variety of objects utilizing some hot glue, sticks, and cut pieces of cob. I’m sure you’ll see some of these creations coming home. One of our crafts on Mountainside this session has been to build a primitive stool for the campers who participated. They used traditional tools, drawknives, hand saws and their own strength to create their stools made from cherry and red oak. On Thurs. the group will be putting the finishing touches on the stools they made with a lot of hand sanding.

Camp is all about hands-on activities and getting campers to realize they can do some pretty amazing things with the proper tools and supervision. We see amazing creations every day and know that when working on projects and seeing them through completion, it builds confidence for trying other new endeavors. We are opening the minds of tomorrow’s engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and others who may come to camp and find their passion early on. Stay tuned!

Special Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

As we all know, every day is special at Gwynn Valley.  Sunday’s are special because we get up a little later, we don’t have regular program, we participate in a theme day and of course we end our day with Sunday service or Vespers as some call it.  Today’s theme was GV Goes to the Movies!  We embraced several movies that some or all have seen.  Little Mermaid, Harry Potter, Spiderman, Jurassic Park, Cool Runnings, and more.  We attracted our movie goers to the Pool, the athletic field., the Green, the Lake and really all over Gwynn Valley.  There were clues as part of a scavenger hunt, dinosaurs around every corner, treasure deep in the pool, and our counselors dressed as James Bond had to dodge an onslaught of double agents (as campers) to save the Crown Jewels.  Harry Potter and friends played Quidditch on the soccer pitch complete with brooms, chasers, keepers, bludgers, beaters, and of course the snitch.  You must know that there are over 300 teams around the world and this past year over 80 teams competed in World Cup held near Orlando.  That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about the game. We’re so cutting edge!

Events for the movie theme were held in the morning and the afternoon.  Rest hour is an important time for Sunday’s because we are gearing up for our last week of program for C and C-2 Session.  Campers and staff need a little extra time to get over the busy week and weeks (if you’re a C camper).  I have heard that many children come home from camp and sleep a great deal.  Our days are very full here and we are always playing and learning.  As we play outside it affects how we play, what we think, how we feel, what we sense, our perception, and the list goes on.  Playing outdoors is also open-ended. Sometimes there is no instruction manual for outdoor play. Children make the rules and in doing so use their imagination, creativity, intelligence and negotiation skills in a unique way.  Time spent outdoors improves children’s immune systems. Healthy children are stronger learners. As children spend more and more time outdoors, their immune systems improve, decreasing time out for illness.  This is one that we see when children get sick.  If they have to go to the Health Care Center at camp they hear and can see the sounds and visuals coming from camp around them and I think it gets them back into program earlier and helps to sustain that healthy lifestyle.  We do our best to wash and stay clean but some germs, I think are better than none.  

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. Camp is a great place to try and try again and it’s ok to fail too.  We see the results as resilience.   Not everyone is going to make the perfect pot on the wheel and little hands are learning to do all kinds of new things from tying knots to catching crawdads to weaving a basket or applying the proper stroke to hit an eddy on the river.  Playing outside promotes leadership skills. In an environment where children create the fun, natural leaders will arise. One child may excel at explaining how to play the game, while another may enjoy setting up the physical challenge of an outdoor obstacle course. All types of leadership skills are needed and encouraged.  Children are given the chance to ask a lot of questions all through the day and this promotes their reasoning powers and satisfies their inquisitive nature.  It also helps to promote their own agenda and put themselves out there, up in front of people and take a stance.  Sometimes if we need to borrow something from another table, say a different kind of cereal I encourage the campers to go to that table to ask folks they don’t know if they can borrow their cereal.  Some don’t hesitate on this and other’s will totally depend on counselors to ask.  Sometimes I’ll go with a shy camper to help in that process.  They most always go back on their own.  It’s the same with clearing the table after the meal.  For some, they love it and for others, carrying all those dishes and food items to three different windows can be overwhelming.  Everyone helps to clear and the work gets done community fashion when you work with a partner.  And as we’ve said before, 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. 

Special Day is fun and with that comes much of the above because camp is a place that changes lives.  It doesn’t happen over night but we see the changes even in our shorter sessions.  You as parents provide so much in the growth of your children and we as a camp are a small part of that recipe for making the best possible children.  Thank you for letting us wear the chef’s hat for their time at camp.  Stay tuned!

What a talented bunch of campers!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Here we are at the end of another fabulous day at Gwynn Valley! The day started off overcast in cool, creating the perfect setting for a breakfast of oatmeal (complete with brown sugar, cinnamon and golden raisins), hard boiled farm eggs, fruit, and cereal. After breakfast, the sun started to peak through just in time for our 2nd day of Main Camp discoveries. As I visited program this morning I saw campers adding inches to their weaving pieces, finishing the Musical scrip, and advancing in their mountain biking techniques. This is so representative of this stage of discoveries – day 2 of is often the day when we see the most progress. Day 1 is about introductions and Day 3 is about finalizing or polishing… but day 2 is when the work happens!

After a delicious lunch of BLT sandwiches, pasta salad, farm veggies, salad and fruit, the afternoon sun came out in full force. This afternoon many cabins went “off program” on creek hiking, tubing, lake kayaking, and  hiking trips. Going off program is mostly FUN, but it also provides great opportunities to bring the cabin group closer together. For those cabins who stayed in normal program, we ran a wide range of sign ups including making ice cream at the mill, tree climbing, visiting the  brand-new farm calf (and other farm fun!), dip candles, kumihimo, biking the Main Camp trail, zip & traverse line at the lake, and quite a few more.

Mountainside and Riverside got to enjoy an afternoon at the lake. Everyone swam, floated in tubes, relaxed in the sun, and cruised down the zip and traverse lines. Riverside tried out our new stand up paddle (SUP) boards as well. They looked pretty good out there, so the four days that they spent paddling white water canoes last week must have helped them to maneuver the SUP boards. Both Mountainside and Riverside will head out tomorrow for a four day adventure. For Riverside, this will be the 3rd and final adventure, so all 12 campers will go backpacking together. For Mountainside, the 40 campers will be going on 4 different trips: white water canoeing all over WNC, climbing in Linville Gorge, mountain biking in Dupont, and backpacking in Pisgah. Each Mountainside camper can only go on one adventure, and they work towards this experience all session long. So far they have spent 4 days sampling the trip options, 2 days training in the field, and many more days learning campsite skills, packing, and mentally preparing themselves for this culminating experience. Everyone is so excited for the next 4 days…. it makes me miss the days when I was an adventure leader! I can hardly wait to hear the stories when they are all back at camp safe and sound on Wednesday.

After our PM activities, we enjoyed a hearty dinner of meatloaf, home made rolls, salad, pears, farm corn (which campers  picked this morning shucked after lunch!) and cheesecake for dessert. I’m not sure if it was the cheesecake or the anticipation of our talent show tonight, but energy levels were through the roof at dinner making for a fun meal and a loud dining hall. After supper activities tonight were extra important as they allowed campers to run off some of that energy!

During evening program tonight, we hosted our annual Gwynn Valley Talent Show. Both campers and staff provided entertainment in the form of dance, music, stand up comedy, skits, poetry reading, and more. It was a wonderful and fun opportunity for members of the Gwynn Valley community to show off their talents to the rest of camp. Some of the performances were silly and fun, but some were truly incredible. I was struck by one camper in particular who played a very lovely and technically advanced piece on the piano. I have also seen this very same girl be selected for both off-camp biking and river kayaking trips over the last 2 weeks. Watching her play reminded me how multifaceted our campers and staff can be. We have people here who are both athletes and musicians, expert outdoorsmen and creative crafters, farmers and precision archers. I think sometimes in life you get pigeon-holed as being a certain type of person or having a certain personality type or specific set of interests, but camp allows you to explore your identity and be whoever you want to be.

I can see the full moon out my office window, so it must be time to say goodnight!

Building Camp DNA!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been another great GV day here. Where else can you see so many activities going on in such a place. Our sports program started with World Cup playoffs this morning and there was a tie but no PK shootout. (Didn’t want to put the goal keepers through that kind of pressure at camp.) Football – American Style was on tap this afternoon and quite a few kids signed up for some tag football on the “football pitch”. We have several footballs here at camp and it’s always fun to create a good game without all the blocking and tackling. It’s more of a passing game with lots of razzle dazzle, laterals, ball must be passed forward or lateraled backwards and plays can last a long time. This too depends on when you can rush the passer – 1- mississippi – 2– mississippi – 3………. and up to 10. The old statue of liberty and the double reverse play always catches at least a few off guard.

Horses were stepping high this afternoon as work in the ring was with quite a few campers who have never ridden before. Our program is Hunt Seat or English saddles. The campers were learning to trot and post today. When they’ve had enough in the ring it’s off to the trail we go. I always get a start when the horses pass by the lake one minute and mountain bikers the next. When the two do meet it’s the bikes who stop and dismount to give right of way. People and especially horses have the right of way both here and out on the trails in Dupont when we’re riding. Those other bikers going uphill have the right of way as well.

There is no right of way on the Traverse line at the lake. There’s no right way either, because just getting across is quite the accomplishment. Rarely does a camper or counselor make it across without falling in the lake. It’s one of the most difficult things we’ve created at camp and it’s challenging. The zip line is equally fun and a lot easier. If you can pull off a spider man move you’ve made a name for yourself on the zip. You simply grab the rope and hang upside down as you fly out across the lake. Our small lake gets a workout each day with a million things going on in and around it. Kayaking is readying paddlers for two trips next week – one going to the Green River and one to the upper French Broad. Mountainside has taken their turn on the lake this week to get ready for adventures next week.

The Farm had big news today! I’m sure it will be in the Tajar Times for the weekend edition. I’ll give you a just a hint. Burney the Mama cow had a baby today. Still to be named newborn is waiting to greet visitors at the Farm tomorrow and the weeks ahead. We thought that Mama Pig might be delivering soon but not quite yet. Any day we expect her to have piglets and usually that is big news around camp.

The Arts Arena of camp was producing all kinds of artistic gems over the past couple of days. Campers are keeping the looms hot at Shady Grove and other artistic endeavors include candles that smell great, wonderful Batiks, of course tye dyes, baskets, and marbled scarves are just a few of the things popping up around camp. Clay is that medium at camp that can take on your best imaginative ideas. Our pottery shop has one of everything that ever been made in the world – mostly in miniature version. Clay can capture a child’s imagination and the best part is, you get to use your hands with your brain to create whatever you want. And you thought only engineers get to do that. If your Arts Cart desires carry you to the stage or dance floor there’s something for you in the Lodge and next week both our thespians and dancers will perform their works. A dance with martial arts might include some helpful tips on how to escape a tricky situation if you’re caught in a jam.

And the only thing better than jam on a johnny cake made at the Mill is ice cream made at the Mill which happened today. That’s one of those activities that’s always full and I wonder why. Cindy, our Miller is much like Tom Sawyer as he and his assorted friends whitewashed the fence. Getting campers to help make ice cream is even way easier.

What you’ve just read is just the tip of the iceberg here at camp. It’s a daily lineup of special moments connected to so many campers and staff doing wonderful things and being wonderful people. When I coached soccer, I always used to tell my players that soccer was a game of many opportunities to touch the ball. Camp is much the same with so many interactions from campers to staff and staff to campers. Our touches are of the EQ (emotional intelligence) realm, where interaction, conversation, learning to express oneself and listen, timing, social Q’s are constantly going on. It’s such a great place to learn to live with people, make new friends, listen carefully to a different accent, show off your table manners and the list goes on. We are building memories or camp DNA as I call it. Stay tuned !

Homegrown Tomatoes & Carrot Cake

Dear Parents and Families,

Today we began a new round of morning discoveries with our C & C2 campers. Campers were so excited after breakfast as they found out what their schedule will look like for the next six mornings. Morning discoveries are organized into A & B days and campers rotate through activities of their choice 3 times each with the same group each time to develop skills in specific areas. Some of the activities on offer this session are print making, weaving, canoeing, white water kayaking, water polo, diving, mountain biking, outdoor living skills, pottery, the musical, soccer, martial arts, dance, horses, climbing, archery, farm, mill and more! Morning discoveries offer a great opportunity for campers to focus on areas of interest and develop targeted skills or finish a more intricate project than an afternoon sign up would allow.

A bit of rain came in around lunch time, which made helped to cool us off after a sunny morning and made for perfect napping temperatures during rest hour. Sunny skies emerged again around snack time, making way for a sunny afternoon of sign up activities. We had tons of fun activities on offer like tree climbing, soccer (this seems extra popular with the World Cup final looming on Sunday!), archery, fishing at the mill, mountain biking the main camp trail, lake water hot chocolate (a lesson on water purification), leaf petal bowls in pottery, and many other great activities!

Dinner marked a joyous homecoming for our Riverside crew who just returned from 4 days of white water canoeing. Since they left camp on Monday, these 12 campers and 4 staff have been camping in Holmes State Educational Forest and paddling on the Green, Tuckaseegee, and Nantahala Rivers. We are thrilled to have Riverside with us for a few days before they head out backpacking on Sunday! Mountainsiders also had a homecoming of sorts at dinner. Today was a MS Training Day, so bikers, paddlers, pioneers, and climbers are spent at least part of the day out of camp training for their Adventures which will begin on Sunday as well! I think having such an active day made our dinner of hot dogs, chili, coleslaw, salad, peaches and corn pudding taste extra delicious.

The farm is really in ‘full-bloom’ during C session, especially with this year’s new addition of the hoop house which allows traditionally late summer crops to bloom in June & July. Just this week campers have harvested sweet corn, potatoes, beans, carrots, cabbage, more corn, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, blueberries, and more corn. There are also many baby animals requiring love, attention, and possibly a bottle feeding with each camper visit: chicks, goat kids, and calves. Piglets are expected to arrive any day, but have not yet made it into the world. With all this activity going on during C session, our farm staff always organize a campfire to honor this incredible program area. Main Camp, Mountainside and Riverside were all in attendance tonight for the flurry of farm celebrations. Farmer Jacob told the story of The Three Billy Goat’s Gruff with three reluctant goat actors and one rooster/troll. There was also a corn shucking and eating contest, which Matt Denny won. Have you ever eaten an uncooked ear of freshly-picked sweet corn? There is nothing that tastes more like July to me than this fresh, sweet treat! Farmer Sophie and Farmer Catherine ‘made’ a carrot cake by throwing a bunch of ingredients in a tub and having farmer Jacob stir every thing with his feet, which had some campers laughing and others very alarmed… Everyone was thrilled when a beautiful, hygienic cake emerged fully-formed from behind the stage curtain. Campers enjoyed their cake while the Needle Nose Vice Grips (a four piece band that assembles every year for farm campfire with a slightly different collection of musicians) played some great farm classics. Crowd favorites were Homegrown Tomatoes and Inch by Inch. Farm staff also did a few country line dances for us and got all the campers and staff on their feet to burn off some of that sugar from the carrot cake. Farmer Dale rounded out our dancing with some traditional mountain clogging, which is a site to behold if you have never experienced it!

As Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Well, we’ve got quite a garden at GV so I believe we’ll have another great day at camp tomorrow!