Happy Canada and South Africa Day!

Dear Camper Families and Friends,

Following our tradition of International Tuesdays, today we celebrated our campers and staff from Canada and South Africa through song, activities, food, and a whole campfire devoted to those countries. Once again, our kitchen team knocked it out of the park with an incredible trio of meals. For breakfast we had Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs along with some fruit and carrot bread. At lunch, we had a South African braai or barbecue including boerewors (sausage), garlic bread, potato salad, pears, and fresh green salad from the farm. At dinner we had a traditional dish called Bobotie, rice, peas, carrots, salad, and mango chutney. As a bonus we enjoyed a Melktert with carmelized peaches for dessert!

Of course, we heard a few songs, national anthems and pre-meal blessings in other languages throughout the day, but our real dose of culture came at campfire. As with the meals, we started with Canada. Jeff who works at Gwynn Valley year round managing our site and farm taught us about our mysterious northern neighbor. We started with an introduction to Canadian slang. Our translator explained loonies, toonies, toques, and poutine and many other vernacular concepts to all of us who know surprisingly little about Canada. Jeff also gave us an ice hockey lesson and had a mini shoot-out with a few counselor volunteers. A promotional video showing the beautiful Candian scenery wrapped up part 1 of our campfire. South Africa began part 2 with a virtual tour of the country including various scenic or culturally important locals. We learned about rugby and football (soccer!) and we even got to go on safari! We learned that all of the ‘Big 5’ can be found in South Africa as we saw and heard roaring lions, trumpeting elephants, buffalos lurking in long grass, rhinos standing stately under a thorn tree, leopards prowling in the gathering darkness… We ended the night with a popular song in Afrikans and an all camp dance party!

Outside of all our international celebration, we had a pretty ‘normal’ camp day. This morning our campers attended Day 2 of morning discoveries. This was the first class period for all B day groups, so groups just got their feet wet with skill sets in new activity areas. In the afternoon we ran a wide array of sign up options including corn cob creations at the mill; shibori scarves, pottery glazing, and kumihimi at crafts; mountain biking on the main camp trail; zip line, traverse line, tubing, creek hiking and pool free swim through our waterfront team; belay school for our older climbers; fire starters with Outdoor Living Skills; building fairy houses at Web of Life; and many others that I am now forgetting! The farm was a popular spot as always; crowds seem to be growing as we approach our piglet due date! Today at the farm we picked over 350 ears of corn and 280 pounds of potatoes plus a few carrots and other veggies. The Laurel of Asheville published an article today about the Gwynn Valley Farm, which includes some interesting information about its history. Follow this link to learn more about how our program has grown over the last 30+ years and all that Dale (our farm manager) has done to nurture this wonderful part of camp.

In the world of older programs, Mountainside completed their second day of mini-adventures. Our paddlers and pioneers both went into Dupont to utilize the incredible resources in the state park we are lucky to have right down the road! Paddlers spent the day learning strokes and playing canoe games out at Lake Julia. Pioneers hiked to a few waterfalls and practiced fire building (and dessert making!) as an after lunch treat in the field. Mountain bikers and rock climbers utilized the many resources we have on camp property. Climbers spent the morning at the tower and then headed up to The Rock for an afternoon of climbing on a true rock face. The Mountain bikers rode started with the basics up on the Mountainside Green and progress through our skills course, basic trails, and eventually worked up to the Main Camp Trail, also known as the Lost Cove Trail. Riverside continues to have a great time climbing in Tennessee. We look forward to welcoming them back to camp on Thursday and hearing more about their adventures.

I can see a full moon hanging large outside my window so it must be time for bed. If you’re reading this post tonight, have a look out your window and you’ll see the same bright moon that all our campers enjoyed before bed this evening.

Cool Start to a Great Day!

Dear Parents & Friends,

After a cool morning we began our activities and children started their Discovery activities in the AM.  Each camper has 4 activities they take in the morning.  In the afternoons you have a free choice of 2 one hour activities or 1 two hour activity and that changes each day.  Progressive skills in the morning and skills and variety in the afternoon.  Then of course there’s the after supper activity time when all kinds of activities are available for about 30 to 40 minutes.   Pick-up ball games to basic crafts and the like.  We went to the Lodge for campfire and finished off our cabin skits and then sent folks off to bed.

As we started program today it was interesting to go around to many programs and see them get off the ground with the foundations of the program.  I think most people who sign up for biking think that they’re just going to hop on the bike and ride off.  We go through a battery of fitting the bike and helmet and making sure that you practice shifting, braking, balance and a host of other topics all performed experientially.   There are so many games that can challenge the child just on short grass to give you an idea of their riding ability.  You quickly learn what sort of terrain they can handle and whether or not they can ride single track.  Single track trails are rarely more than 3 ft. wide and take some skill to navigate when there are small roots, inclines and the occasional rock to ride over or dodge.  Sometimes children aren’t used to shifting gears on the bikes and one has to multi-task to stay balanced, monitor your brakes and shift when needed.  Guidelines and foundational teaching is so important throughout camp and even the waterfront provides info for the campers as to where they can dive in the lake and when and where they need to wear a PFD.  Progression of teaching and building on foundations of safety, skills and fun make for good programs.  Kayaking, Weaving, GV rescue, Fishing at the Mill, and many others started their day with the importance of foundational learning.

Riversider’s left bright and early this morning for Foster Falls.  The spent yesterday after working on belay school to help with their skills in climbing.  Strength is sometimes important when learning some of our adventure activities but balance and good coordination play key parts when you’re learning as well.  The more competent you get in these sports the more efficient you become with power  and strength.  Foundation skills are also good for getting rid of bad habits in most adventure and traditional sports.  Most campers who only participate in certain sports at camp need that back to basics to start anew and bring that muscle memory back.

Campers were climbing at the Wall today both from Main Camp and those Mountainsider’s starting their mini adventures.  Several cabins were tie-dying today as a group.  Our Arts & Crafts staff get some vibrant colors from the dyes and washes we use.  There is a secret to keep the color fast.  It was interesting to see them choose their patterns and go about the of dying their shirts.  They were after the most colorful and wild shirts and several chose the fireworks pattern – getting ready for the upcoming holiday.  Despite the cool weather this morning one group started the day off with a creek hike and returned happy, very wet and ready to get into some dry clothes.  We are so lucky to have so much water on our land.  It feeds our lake, runs our Mill, and puts us to sleep.  After a long day in activities, I’m sure that many of the children are settling into a deep slumber.  Stay tuned to see what tomorrow brings!

C/C-1 Opening Day Couldn’t Be Better!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We felt it was a smooth drop off today for the opening of our C/C-1, Mountainside and Riverside sessions.  Riverside was out on the Gatehouse lawn doing some games and group dynamics with their cluster of 12.  I was headed to another part of camp earlier today and heard them coming down the trail from their cabins.  They were chattering away and there’s no lack of personality in this group.  I don’t think they will be sneaking up on any wildlife when hiking down the trail.  I’m looking forward to hearing more from their adventures and may even join them on the paddling portion. They will leave tomorrow for Foster Falls to engage in their first adventure component, which is climbing.

We got right into camp after lunch and everyone assembled in the Lodge to choose their activities and begin their life here for the next 10 days or three weeks.  Making decisions on their own is a great exercise for these youngsters and they’ll get a choice of 4 different activities for the morning and then a couple more each afternoon.  The morning is for skills and learning in focused activities and the afternoon can be more carefree but working on skills as well.  After sign-ups everyone was off to activities.  I checked in on Sports and they were playing a new game at camp we just learned about through one of our International Days last session.  It’s called Gaelic Football and you can use your hands and your feet.  To use your hands you have to play the ball into your hands by letting it roll up your foot or receive a hand or foot pass in the air from another player.  If it hits the ground you play it on the ground as you do regular soccer.  We play the touch version here at camp.  If you’re touched the ball goes to the ground.  Here’s a link to some exciting play.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEAbWrdB9XU  The campers were loving it.  It’s fast with lots of action and you can use your hands.

Other activities that I visited today were pottery, tie dye, the Mill, Shady Grove Arts Arena and the pool.  Farm was going strong offering all things growing including lots of baby animals.  And… Mama Pig has not had her babies yet, so there’s a chance that it might happen in the days ahead.  Horseback was taking the campers on rides around the ring and trails nearby.  Mountain biking was also using the trails but only those appointed to single track and our skills course.

Mountainside was getting acquainted today and they will begin the mini-adventures tomorrow.  The MS groups will try 4 activities over the week ahead focused on paddling, climbing, mt. biking and pioneering.  Then they make their choices and begin their training for the adventures ahead.

Camp has behind it our super counselors who are out there living and working with your children every day.  There is no secret formula that we can pass on to our staff but using what we convey to them during staff training and their own skills we approach the counseling task using the three C’s.  The first and most important aspect is being CALM. It is very easy for anyone to remain calm when things are easy. As a counselor, the main test is to also remain calm in the midst of lots of children and the organized chaos that 8 or 10 campers can create. By remaining calm, you will be able to solve issues in an intelligent manner and your campers will want to emulate you in the future. When you lose your sense of calmness, much of what you try to tell your kids doesn’t have any impact on them. CARE is the other C in this formula.  Gwynn Valley is known for its nurturing nature and we try and provide that same nurturing atmosphere that you do at home.  We express our care for the things that we value and would want to uphold and strengthen in the lives of our campers.  CONSISTENCY is the other main ingredient in working with campers effectively.  Routines and structure at camp are just as important as they are at home with some leeway and a ton more fun.  The structure of camp is ongoing but it’s sometimes challenging to maintain that structure.  This also relates to behavior and being responsible and accountable in our little communities of campers (cabins, tables, and activities).

There’s also that unstructured but supervised freeplay that children all need and we’re good at that.  We talk about the Zone of Awareness with staff – eyes and ears on and engaged.  Camp only gets better as the days pass, because we have good folks working with and guiding your children. But… let’s not hurry it.  We’ve only just begun so stay tuned!

A Full and Fun Filled Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What a great day here and I can’t believe it’s gone so fast this week.  Isn’t that how it works.  When you’re having fun, things tend to speed up and go too fast.  We held sign-ups this morning and every single activity you could think of was up and running.  Capture the flag ruled the athletic field and around in that vicinity.  We also had several trips out today including climbers that went to climb Cove Creek which is up in Pisgah.  There’s a miniature sliding rock nearby but don’t know if they took advantage of that.  Our climbing staff do a great job of engaging our campers and actually teach them how to belay with a counselor backup so up to three people are involved in each climb including the climber.  It’s a focused, involved and fun situation.

Our kayakers were out today as well and we took on the mighty French Broad nearby camp.  I went with this group and we were back before lunch.  Most of these paddlers were not comfortable with wearing the skirts so we had a more leisurely paddle.  The emphasis was on reading the river and control of your boat as well as learning angles and how the water reacts to you, your boat and your paddle.  Eddy turns, peel outs, ferrying, river bends, strainers, swim position and more were words and phrases from the day.

The afternoon was filled with packing and of course pillowcase day where everyone goes to the pool and takes their pillowcase along.  You get it wet and fill it with air – voilà, you have a floatation device.  It was the perfect day to be at the pool and everyone enjoyed their last swim.  Along with pillowcase day is our traditional last meal of pizza and of course a delicious dessert of brownies.  Some campers had dessert early today at the mill, where peach and fudge ice cream were made in the morning.  Eating here is a lot of fun because of all the good food.  We spent time together at the table and don’t just eat and run.  There’s always time for good conversation and finding out what people are doing as the day progresses.

After supper activities is always a nice time at the end of the day.  It’s cooler and is perfect for some running sports like ultimate Frisbee or soccer.  Tonight it was ultimate and of course Thunderball.  If you’ve never played it’s fast paced with lots of running.  You can’t run with the disc but can throw it a long way.  As soon as it’s missed by the team that throws it, the other team gets the disc.  It’s very similar to many of our sports taking the best of each.  It does take some skill to throw and it’s also a game of opportunities where you get many chances to catch and throw.

Friendship campfire was filled with talent and folks singing songs and readings along with a great slide show made from the pictures you all have been seeing over the past couple of weeks.  Last week, I think I wrote about Debbie, our pianist being such an asset during these times.  She adapts to whatever is going on in the Lodge and she’s tickling the piano keys to match the emotion in the room.  What a gift!

As you arrive tomorrow friendship circles will be in each cabin at 10:30 unless you’re on Mountainside and Riverside and they will conduct their campfire for parents at the same time.  Our final campfire for Main Camp will be at 11:00 in the Lodge and your welcome to stay and have some delicious GV farm food at 12:00.  See you tomorrow and safe travels!

Tajar Ball !

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another great day at camp with sunny hot weather!  We had a short thunderstorm just after 4:00 and it was a clear again by the time Tajar Ball started at 7:30.  We had dinner outdoors and it was a fun filled evening.  More on that later.  I’m so glad we’re in the mountains and it’s been quite hot for us even here.  Last summer temps didn’t go too much above 85 for more than a handful of days.  Quite a few of our activities are shaded which makes a big difference.  Of course waterfront is very popular all day long.  I can’t imagine how hot it must be where some of you live.  For years we’ve had complaints about our pool being too cold and that was true especially at the beginning sessions of the summer.  Last summer I decided to do something about it and purchased a pool cover to put on at night when you lose most of the heat you’ve gained during the day.  Well, it seems this summer we don’t need it and have had to skip some nights and leave the cover off.  A pool can get too warm to the point it’s not refreshing.  We could use some rain but then as a paddler I know that other activities suffer when we get a lot of rain.  At this point I’d like to have a bit more rain and a bit cooler.  We’ve put out water jugs in several locations at camp to encourage the campers to drink more and are really pushing liquids at meals.

Today was the perfect program day as we wind down the week.  Some of our expert horseback riders took two hours and went over to the Hunt Farm to ride in the open fields over there.  It’s a nice backdrop and is good for letting the horses move a bit faster than on the trails around camp.  I spent the morning visiting many activities in the center of camp taking pictures and shooting video.  I checked in on the Mill, all the Arts & Crafts, Pottery, Sports and Waterfront.  We also had a company come out and shoot some video for our next promo video which will be out this fall.  They will be visiting about 8 times over the summer and should be able to capture the footage we need.

Mountainside and Riverside returned today from their adventures and all is well.  Most groups were back by Tajar Ball time and enjoyed the cookout, games and carnival like setting on the soccer field.  From all indications trips went very well and you’ll get a full report on closing day.  Coming back to camp after several days in the woods is always fun.  I’m not sure it all sinks in until after you leave to go home.  Years ago when I still had some hair on my head, I worked for a couple of the Outward Bound Schools.  At our course endings, which usually lasted 21 days or more, we always told our participants that they’re experience really began when they returned home.  We do have a lot of fun here and I hope that our campers take some of Gwynn Valley home with them.  Our values are simple and our approach to outdoor education is based on the hope of self-realization and personal development.  These teachable moments are all around at camp and especially out in the field where these young people just returned from their adventures.

For those in Main Camp it’s having fun and cooperative living and learning.  Fun was the first order of business this evening and as you may or may not know, everyone comes to the Tajar Ball in masquerade.  There are a host of characters and it’s a time to play, dance, eat and try all kinds of games.  Traditionally we have a cookout with burgers and dogs with all the trimmings and watermelon.  After everyone has eaten, it’s off to the soccer field to try your hand at a multitude of games and things to do.  There’s lots of food and there’s good music.  It’s a good way to celebrate the next to last night of camp.  Tomorrow night is friendship campfire when we all gather and remember the great times from B Session.  We’ll certainly have a recap for you all on Friday so hope you can stay for the Parent/Camper Campfire starting at 11:00 on Friday morning.  Stayed tuned!

Chocolate for Breakfast! Bangers and Mash ! Biking, Hiking, & Kayaking; Priceless!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s Tuesday and International Day here at camp.  We’re celebrating the countries of Ireland and Holland.  Campfire just finished and it was great.  Campers were involved in a lot of skits and songs.  Sinterklaas came to visit all the way from Holland and a leprechaun with a pot of gold came over for a wee visit.  We learned a good bit about both countries and I should include Northern Ireland as well.  Liam is from North Ireland and Ciaran is from the Republic of Ireland.  Our two Dutch counselors are Nik and Yolanda.  All involved were terrific and lots of laughs from our men from Ireland.  Their humor is a bit dry.  For example, “ What did St. Patrick say to the snakes as he was driving them out of the country”?  “Are yis alright in the back, there, lads?”  It took a moment but most got it.

We also heard from our thespians tonight and they put on a little skit called, When Tiger Comes to Tea. It was a short play and truly was a story written by the kids, Debbie and Amy about a tiger coming to tea.  Camp is a place where your imagination can take on a whole new level.  I think it’s a good place to figure out more of your talents and really this can be a life long pursuit.  I’m sure we’ll hear from our players on closing day.

We started the morning off with having chocolate sprinkles for breakfast just like they do in Holland.  I think that was a runaway hit.  And tonight we had bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes) with peas and carrots, fresh garden salad, baked beans, gravy and Irish Sponge cake.  I can tell you parent’s this, but our baker had trouble finding a recipe for Irish Sponge cake that didn’t have Irish Whiskey in it.  Even without the whiskey it was pretty darn good.  It was another good morning and afternoon at the waterfront because of the heat.  The Mill had their day of corn husk doll making and of course anything you can make from corn cobs.  A little glue and your imagination and wow- missiles, rockets, planes, animals, robots, trains, cars, jets, and more.  In sports they played a little rugby, touch of course.  Onions were being pulled at the farm and of course the animals always need care.

Three trips went out of camp today, the kayakers, mountain bikers and OLS and WEB folks.  Everyone had a great time and it was a fantastic day for leaving the base camp and exploring the mighty French Broad River, single track in Dupont State Forest, and trails in Pisgah National forest.  My personal favorite was the biking trip because I sneaked out of camp for a couple of hours to bike with them and shoot some video.  If you’ve never been to Dupont State Forest it’s a wonderland of over a 100 miles of trails.  The group started at Fawn Lake and proceeded down Reasonover Creek Trail to Turkey Knob Trail which is one of newest trails in the forest.  It’s a roller coaster fun ride for several miles and descends well into the southeastern part of the park.  From there they went to Winter Green Falls for lunch and onto Gion Farm for more riding ending at Hooker Falls.  I left them after lunch but I would guess they put in close to about 12-13 miles today.  It was good riding by everyone including some deep creek crossings which got us a little wet.

Dupont is magical and being outside and riding mostly in the shaded forested single track can’t be beat.  Ask any mountain biker why they do it and you’ll likely hear, “because it’s fun.” My knee-jerk response when people question this sport is no different. But it should be. There’s a reason everyone from pre-schoolers to former presidents and school-aged children to cycling legends have fallen in love with riding their bike off-road. In addition to being fun, mountain biking offers a plethora of physical, emotional and social benefits to those who partake.  Eating lunch on a rock in the middle of a cold rushing mountain stream, with your feet in the water, after a long climb and fun descent….and there’s more after that.  Priceless!  Stay tuned!

Happy Monday and More to Come!

Dear Parents & Friends,

I’m constantly amazed by the children we have here at camp.  I think they are more articulate and seem to know so much more than I did at say 8, 9, or 10.  Children have more access to outside stimuli and every kind of screen has the potential for so many types of information whether relevant or not.   Frankly, I learn a lot about children by talking to them at the table.  We spend a fair amount time eating at camp and it’s quality time.  You can usually tell pretty quickly who is not used to sitting at the table and having conversation.  It doesn’t take long to establish this habit at camp because hundreds of us are doing it all at the same time.  This broad list of topics and conversations are endless.  Some campers just plop right down and start talking while others need sometimes several meals together to warm up to new folks at their table and new adults.  We changed tables yesterday so everyone came to lunch and greeted new table groups.  As in a typical family you have many personality types and this makes it fun for me.  Our table family is usually 7 or 8 campers and 2-3 adult counselor types.

Mon Campfire 002 Mon Campfire 099

Even though the campers seem older they are still children.  They need nurturing at camp just like they do at home.  I was helping a little girl this morning who was just trying to squeeze in too much; finish her pottery project, get to the next activity and most likely didn’t eat enough breakfast.  She just melted down and really needed some time to decompress and know that everything was going to work out, and it did and soon she and Anne were off to her next activity – climbing!  As an adult I sometimes fritz over the same things- trying to fit too much into a short amount of time.  Camp goes at a regular daily pace and it’s like hopping on a moving train sometimes.  You’re running down boarding platform, your suitcase comes open and all your clothes come flying out and you just want to stop but you don’t want to miss the train or the next activity.  It’s ok at camp, because there will be another train coming along shortly and you’ll have plenty of friends that will be on that next train and more stops along the way to take advantage of.  Life moves quickly and children’s lives seemed to have tripled in speed since I grew up.

This is why I think camp is so good for children.  Even though our days are full, it has a consistent routine, much like you’ve created at home.  Camp is a safe and nurturing environment where children can fail, pick themselves up, try again and gain the confidence to succeed in any number of ways.  There’s always a mentor to help them along the way and to encourage them in their decisions.  Camp provides experiences that promote self confidence and growth.  Research has shown that parents, camp staff and campers report significant growth in areas including leadership, independence, social comfort, developing strong values and learning decision making skills from the camp experience.

My personal biggest outcome for children is based on building relationships in the camp experience.  Making new friends at camp is one of those jackpot bonus aspects found at camp.  Living, working and playing together 24/7 allows us to achieve a greater view of acceptance of those around us.  By the way, acceptance is one of our four values here at GV.  Living in our cabins, eating at our tables and attending activities with lot of different people soon make us realize that we are not the center of the universe and cooperative and collaborative living is essential.  This is achieved throughout the day in teachable moments and in a nurturing and fun way.

Traditional organized camping is over a 150 years old and has become a part of the fabric of America.  It should be available for all children if they want it.  It’s been a success for that long because it’s an extension of the teaching classroom and offers the child another way to learn and build relationships.  Those two things right there are great but there’s more.  Camp encourages a respect and love of our natural world.  Just look how many children have been touched by the farm and our attention to nature here at Gwynn Valley.  It’s hard to unplug in this world but GV plugs them into a world without screens that is real, imaginative, scientific, and creates a direct relationship to their world.  Camp also keeps us physically active.  It’s a place where can you play all day, eat healthy food, feel good about yourself and go to bed tired, fulfilled and happy as a clam.  Then wake up and do it all over again.

Today was another one of those days.  I think you probably get the picture after viewing the photos each day and even then the photos can’t quite do it justice.  Today’s weather was perfect with no rain and just a couple of little thunder claps off in the distance.  Mountainside left for adventures this morning the Main Camp Bikers went to Dupont State Forest today to ride the rolling single track there.  Dupont contains over 100 miles of biking trails and is a paradise for the beginning and advanced biker.  We held signups for all day today and children enjoyed choosing all four activities today.  To top off the day we had a little celebration of the summer solstice (longest day of the year) with a whimsical touch and a campfire on the Gatehouse Green looking out toward Pisgah.  It’s a kids life here at GV and we’re living the dream!  Stay tuned!

Special Day!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a day!  It is our “Special Day” at camp and a special day for all you fathers out there.  So.. happy Father’s Day!  Special Day at camp is a time when the whole camp participates in a camp wide activity that can last all day long.  This morning after a leisurely wake up bell at 8:30 and a 9:00 breakfast we assembled in front of the Lodge to find out what our mission was for the morning.

There were 4 different stations that were geared toward the cabin group effort and teamwork.  Each station was quite different although similar in some ways.  Our young engineers put their brains to work to create the perfect egg drop cushioning system.  They were given some articles like tape, a plastic bag and one balloon.  They could, however, use any natural materials they could find from the forest.  Many eggs did survive the free fall and countdown from the balcony of the upper dwellings.  Another engineering feat came from putting together a few objects that would float your counselor on the lake.  Campers had a limited about of raw materials and did quite well.  Some of our 6’4” men were pretty hard to keep afloat.  I think only one cabin built a raft that kept their counselor dry.  Of course the fun of this was to get them wet!

Then there was the last water on earth and campers had to convert atomic water into fresh water to save our planet.  Not only did they have to transport the water but had to do so from 15 feet away using only tarp cord and a stretchy old bike tire.  You will be pleased to know that we can all drink deeply of our bounty of water tomorrow saved by the Gwynn Valley Water Crusaders.  Can you imagine skiing on the back on someone else’s skis or say walking on a long ski with your whole cabin standing on the same skis you are standing on.  That friend takes teamwork.  Mind Games, your talent perhaps; then the Jedi Mind Game could leave you saying “use the force Luke”.  Mind and movement were combined and all we lacked were light sabers.  Tower Buildings was the other engineering feat that filled out our morning.  Marshmallows, toothpicks and longer sticks had everyone trying to build the tallest structure.  Last but not least this morning was the Human Knot where you had to untangle your whole cabin to reach the next challenge.  All this was in just in the morning hour.

While the cool of the morning was for stretching our intellect, the afternoon was reserved for activity, getting wet and staying cool.  There were potato sack races, rescue the ducks from the pool, find the yellow brick road through the forest and back to the soccer field, the obstacle course Part 1 and Part 2, mud crawl, lake raft challenge, retrieve the package and then deliver it, hoola hoop hop, ring of fire, spiderweb, ice bath in a raft, bomb tree at the Bong Tree (arts area), netting crawl, and the finale was a giant shaving cream party on the Green.  Yes we got very dirty today and we cleaned up and smelled much better after the shaving cream party.  You would not have recognized some of your children covered in white cream.

We had a wonderful dinner of chicken pot pie, fresh broccoli, salad and cabbage from the farm and huge bowls of fruit.  There were some tired campers at Vespers service tonight.  Our theme was God’s Creations and several cabins and individuals chipped.  The boys from Aching Legs helped me with a skit about the Giant Sequoia Trees.  It’s been a full week and a full day.  What’s better is there’s more to come.  Tomorrow Mountainside leaves from their adventures and our main camp children will be going off site for biking, paddling and climbing.  It should be a fun and productive week.  Stay tuned as we get into our last week of B session!  Again, Happy Father’s Day to you guys out there.

Adventure Awaits!

Dear Camper Families and Friends,

The weather was absolutely perfect today. Everyone was grateful for the sunshine and slightly cooler temperatures that we experienced. It was still hot enough to swim, but not as warm as it has been for the last few days.

Today marks a definitive half way point in B session; just before lunch we finished up  our last Morning Discoveries! At the start of the session, each camper chooses 4 activities to return to 3 times over the course of the 1st week of camp. This repetition allows campers to get involved in more intricate projects like weaving a table runner or throwing, trimming, and glazing a piece of pottery. This structure also allows for more targeted skill development and a progression of skills over multiple sessions. Though our discoveries are over, we will continue to see the fruits of those classes over the next week. Our musical cast will perform their original work on Tuesday evening. Our adventure activities (Kayaking, Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking and Web of Life / Outdoor Living Skills) will go on off camp trips to the Lower Green and French Broad Rivers, DuPont State Park and Pisgah National Forest. Sign ups this afternoon were abuzz with sessions for those who are interested in participating in next week’s off camp trips. More on those next week as the trips unfold…

Today was also a busy day for Mountainside and Riverside as they prepare for their multi-day off camp trips. Riverside leaves tomorrow for 4 days of backpacking along the Appalachian Trail. As part of their trek they will experience this incredible view and many other wonders of nature.

After sampling all of the trip options (white water canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and pioneering), the Mountainside campers submitted their preference forms yesterday evening. The magical sorting machine (also known as the Mountainside Head Counselor and Logsitics Team) sorted everyone’s preferences last night and adventure placements were announced today at lunch. Everyone was excited to meet their fellow adventurers and with all 1st and 2nd choice placements, they seemed to be a happy bunch!  On Monday morning, these groups will head their separate ways for 3 days and 2 nights of wilderness fun.

This evening we had lots of little evening programs all over camp. Hillside cabins went to the lodge for Mountain Dancing with Debbie followed by a few Tajar Tales to wind down the evening. Brookside met up with Mountainside for our Mountainside Visit. This is an opportunity for Brookside campers to learn about all the myths and mysteries of the Mountainside program. What do your cabins look like? What are mini-adventures? Where is the Moutainside Lodge exactly? What happens if you’re not a very good biker? Who is Proud Mary?  All this and more plus lots of games and songs around the campfire up on the Mountainside Green. It was a fun evening for both the Brooksiders who learned about a new program and the Mountainsiders who stepped into the role of leader and teacher. Riverside was up in the shelter packing for their trip and making GORP for their new few days in the field.

There were many adventures today and many more to come over the following days… but for now the serenaders are making their rounds and the lightning bugs are telling us that it’s time for bed at Gwynn Valley! We can’t wait to see what adventures tomorrow with bring!


Rainbows and Ice Cream!

Dear Parents & Friends,

As I write, all of Main Camp is playing a game that has everyone pursuing colors of the rainbow and the pot of gold at the end.  Six colors have to be gathered from counselors wearing one of the colors who paint a dab of paint on each cabin member’s arm and this should be easy…, but it’s not because there are SIT’s running around in tye dye shirts that if they tag any member of your cabin you loose one color.  And then there are the erasers, wearing white who take all of your colors.  There’s lots of running around but you must stay with your cabin group and counselors.   For all their hard work there has to be a reward and yes there is a bowl of gold waiting at the end.  Their bowl of gold will be ice cream for everyone.  My window at my desk is filled with the scene of half of Mountainside playing games on the gatehouse green and the other half is down at the farm visiting there.  They will switch tomorrow evening.

30 minutes later….  Everyone is quite happy despite a few bee stings during the game.   Ice cream can heal most anything at camp.  We had a couple of raspberries from mountain biking today and after a quick clean up and mending some of the scrapes out came the popsicle from the medical team to calm the nerves settle the emotions.  It works most every time.  We love rewards for our triumphs and our pain.  These campers were entitled to some treats tonight because they played hard.  The evenings at camp are a lot of fun because the temperature drops and the sky slowly reveals its state of dozing off into a dreamland of colors.  The combination of our backdrop of mountains and the evening sky calms the natives and brings a great ending to each day.  Our pasture view is our version of the western big sky and each night it’s different.  We who live here take it for granted sometimes and we shouldn’t.  That sometimes goes for a lot of things in life that we’re used to seeing and experiencing.


Take our fixture of Debbie, for example.  She’s been at camp for over 35 years and plays beautiful piano.  She also accompanies everything that goes on while we’re in the Lodge for any camp wide event there.  Many may not know that she’s visually impaired and can’t see anything but the brightest light.  She listens intently to what is happening at the time and plays a musical background description for anything and all.   There are sound effects and musical theme’s that pertain to what the moment and scene brings.  Today during sign-up skits a staff member was talking about signing up for the Tajar Times (our camp newspaper).  Debbie was playing like a teletype machine but in a musical way.   I don’t know if any campers or staff heard it but it’s so Debbie and she does this all the time.  Her notes just float out of the piano and around the Lodge and hopefully some of the staff and campers gather it in.  You will see her at the piano on closing day.  Just listen and hear her talents.

As camp keeps running, Anne and I have our other lives that keep running too.  Today I had a dentist appointment at 8:00 this morning and while driving, I was listening to NPR about the new Pixar movie called “Inside Out”.  It sounds like another success story for Pixar and if I can capture this in a few words, it’s about the life of an adolescent 11 year old girl with the story taking place mostly in her head.  What happens to her on the outside is fairly normal, but inside her head there’s a whole different dialogue going on with her emotions who are brought to life in the movie.  We actually see this everyday here at camp.  This is especially true on Mountainside and in some of our older Brookside girl’s cabins.  I watched a trailer earlier today and it looks great.  It’s one of those movies that’s probably as much for the adults as it is for the children.

I think camp is much the same way.  We’re here first and foremost for the children and we see so many benefits gained from their many camp experiences.  As adults we also gain from these experiences and are taught some valuable lessons along the way.  Camp is a fun and rewarding place to be.  Sure it has its challenges and we see those every day as well.  When all is said and done it’s just a great experience for all involved.  Camp does children a world of good and it’s not too bad for us big kids either.  I’m thankful for the creativity of Pixar and what they bring to the table.  I’m more thankful for you parents who share your children each summer and also my staff who are working with all those emotions and little personalities.  Take your children to see this movie when they arrive home and stayed tuned to our stories from life at camp.