Good Food, Good Fun!

Dear Camper Families & Friends,

Time flies when you’re having fun here at Gwynn Valley.  It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of another action packed day!  Our day beamed sunny and bright and the afternoon brought some much needed rain to cool things off.  We are well into our Discovery activities and those will be winding up on Sat.  Next week we should be hosting some trips off camp with various groups including Mountainside and Riverside.  This morning marked our second out of three days of Morning Activities on Main Camp, so activity groups were like a well oiled machine as each group worked through their program specific curriculum.

Our kitchen is knocking it out.  Along with our fresh food that comes from the farm we have a great kitchen staff that turns that raw food into something very special each meal.  Tonight we had soft and hard taco shells with homemade guacamole and all the trimmings.  If that wasn’t enough our chef Megan whipped up Tres Leche for dessert.  You can’t buy food like we have here.  Our Mill helps out too and churns ice cream for events like the upcoming Tajar Ball next week.  The Mill was built in 1890 and it utilizes the water power to make ice cream among other food items.  It’s some of the best around.  We buy our milk and butter locally from a nearby dairy who also sells us our ice cream mix.  Most modern milk is homogenized, however ours is not. Homogenization is a process whereby all the fat molecules are mechanically forced to be the same size. (With homogenized milk, the cream doesn’t separate to the top and is dispersed throughout.) During homogenization the original fat globule membrane is lost and a new one is formed that incorporates a much greater portion of casein and whey proteins, potentially leading to milk related allergies. I’ve only done a little reading on this and I’m sure some of you have researched this a lot more.  Our milk tastes so much better this year and it’s just over 3% and you have to shake it when you open it.

Several days ago we apprehended a baby snapping turtle in the lake and today we set him/her free again but a bit farther from camp.  Many children had a chance to view this prehistoric like creature.  They can get quite large and ferocious looking but they are very timid around people and swim the other way unless they are caught on land.  Our little cove has an abundance of creatures and going out with the Web of Life crew is a treat because we always find something new and different each day.  We’ve been collecting Japanese beetles that are sitting calmly on our ferns in the “Forget Me Not Stream” that runs underneath the Lodge.  Yes, there is a stream that starts on the other side of the building and eventually runs into the lake.  It used to be the water fountain for camp.  There were cups you dipped in a small reservoir and drank directly from the spring where it came out of the ground.  Of course all that has changed and we’ll not see those practices again.

Our adventure programs had a very successful day as well: Mountainside campers enjoyed their first full day at GV to include two sets of mini-adventures. Mini-adventures mark the time where campers rotate through and sample each of the four adventure options: climbing, biking, paddling, and pioneering, so that they can make a better decision about which adventure they want to do for their 2 day trip later in the session. Mountainside held their infamous Dutch Auction tonight at their Lodge and I’m sure there was lots of laughter.  Riverside returned from their four day paddling trip where they took on the Green and the Tuckaseegee Rivers.  Riversiders were all smiles as they recounted their triumphs and challenges from their four days in the field. Now they have a few days back at camp to prepare for their next and final adventure: backpacking!

These young folks are developing some skills and working toward some great outcomes.  You’ll be hearing more about outcomes soon.  This year Gwynn Valley and about 20 other camps collaborated with Clemson University to conduct a comprehensive evaluation or our camp programs and to better understand your perspective as parents.  In addition to learning about your child’s camp experience, we also want to gain a greater insight into how parents today are making decisions for their children.  We hope that information will help us continually improve our camp programs and services.  So..Stay Tuned!

Helicopters, Dancing, Tajars and Campfires!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished two different campfires in two different parts of camp, so talk about multi-tasking.  I was in the Lodge with Brookside campers, Debbie and assorted counselors and called our mountain dancing evening.  We started with a warm up of Hokey Pokey, Sasha (a Russian Folk Dance), Going to Kentucky, Paddy Cake Polka and ended with a Virginia Reel and the infinite spiral to send everyone home.  Debbie’s fingers were smoking on the 88’s and everyone was sweating at various levels.  A good many cabins were off program tonight camping and cooking out.  It’s a beautiful night to do that after another dry and hot day.  We had a few thunderings but nothing ever materialized over camp.

Head Counselor Ashley was out on the Gatehouse Green (our office field that looks out to mountains) with Hillside, our youngest campers.  They assembled at the Lodge just after “After Supper Activities” and were charged with finding our campfire site by going on a short scavenger hunt.  No counselors could help and they had to solve 4 clues to get to the Green and enjoy the campfire built there and view our distant mountains.  Once there they learned about the Tajar, a mystical and magical part of camp since its beginning.  Just so you parents know, the word Tajar is pronounced like the word badger except with “T” sound.  In fact the Tajar is something like a Badger, something like a Tiger and something like a Jaguar.  Notice that I said “something like” because he is different from those animals.  The more you get to know the Tajar, the more you will find that the Tajar is a most curious animal.  And… you become more curious to learn more about him and even to the point that when you do get to know him he becomes your friend.  Anyway… the Hillsiders had some costumes that were for their counselors and they dressed each one up and then the staff had to act out more tales about the Tajar.  I wasn’t there but I heard it was priceless.  Usually when counselors dress up in costume it’s priceless!

Frankly our staff make camp.  It’s all about the kids, but the staff really make it happen.  They are probably some of the coolest young adults that your children know and the campers get to really know them.  Many of you may be wondering what to expect of your camper’s counselors.  It’s an important question as we care for your most prized possessions. We are only as good our staff.  Anne and I can be the best directors in campville, have the finest facility and program, but must have the staff to drive it all. Good camp counseling provides the same values that you expect at home.  We call this “en loco parentis” or in place of the parents.  It’s packaged a little different and has a cast of many who work each and every day with your children.  Our staff are talented, they’re fun, patient, energetic, kind, and very cool.  We’ll talk more about this later on.

There’s been a lot written about Helicopter parents and we here at camp are the perfect helicopter parents.  We call it the “Zone of Awareness”  or eyes on, ears on and engaged.  As you know supervision is key in our environment and it’s not a hovering kind of supervision but one that is a permissible invitation to discover and try new things with activities and people.  Injected in this and more are our camp values which our staff start receiving in the Spring and more intensely when staff training begins.  In the end I see that children really remember their counselors more than anything else at camp.  They may have had fund on the climbing wall but it was that staff member who talked them through the difficult section and praised their resilience for trying again.  Staff create camp memories or “Camp DNA”.  Stay tuned!

Australia Day! Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Today was Australia Day at camp and I felt like we were there because of the heat.  Actually it is winter there now. The temps were hovering around 90 degrees in parts of camp today.  The good news is that most everyone stayed either cool in the shade or in the pool or lake.  Even our Riversiders stayed wet on their river trip as they spent their first day on the Tuckaseegee River.

Each week on Tuesday we celebrate our diversity in the form of International Day, among our staff and campers. Today was our first International Day and all day long starting before breakfast, we learned about the country down under.  The “Bloke’s and Sheila’s” did a great job of educating us to the customs, history and also the food from that part of the world.  Lunch today was a Barbie outdoors or Barbecue in our country and tonight we had meat pie and lots of vegetables and a chocolate dessert.

Having our International staff really adds to the program.  There’s the obvious with their accents interesting idioms that we sometimes scratch our heads about until we dig a bit further.  The Aussies have a lot of these and tonight we learned many of them.  You’ll have to quiz your children when they come home.  Camp has the advantage of bringing celebrities in just for a cameo role at campfire.  That happens a good bit on nights like tonight.  Steven Irwin stopped by to identify some rare and endangered species that were scattered through our crowd in the Lodge tonight.  Of course many campers don’t know Steve since he joined the heavenly hosts of animals several years ago.  Still they enjoyed his antics and of course, wouldn’t you know it, a croc just happened by that he had to tackle and tame.

Speaking of animals we captured a baby snapping turtle in the shallow water of the lake today.   This one was the size of a large hand and wasn’t really able to escape.  We have him or her in an aquarium for a day and then we’ll release it down at the river.  There’s a nest located on our dam at camp that was dug this Spring and we’ve been watching the nest to see if they might hatch.  Compared to Australia, we don’t have that many dangerous and deadly animals.  It’s always good to teach campers to respect the critters of nature and know that even a small snapping turtle should be taken seriously.  That even goes for our animals at the farm as well as our horses.

As we ended our Aussie campfire tonight one theme rang through and that was “no worries mate”. In other words, we’re having a great time and while we don’t wish you were here, I wish you could see through some sort of portal the fun and learning that is going on at camp.  And we’re making new friends and building relationships along the way.  So stay tuned for more to come in the days ahead.

Camp Bring Out the Best Version Of You!

Dear Parents & Friends,

As I write, children are pretty much like a pile of puppies in their cabin.  You’ve seen that scenario where they play all day and then suddenly they all collapse in a heap.  In this case they all have beds to collapse in and many are sound asleep by now.  You could see the content on many faces tonight at campfire and some were just about ready to drift off as we sang our last song.  Our first full day always is full and it was also a hot day.  Good for any and all activities here at camp.  We started the day sitting at breakfast with our cabin groups and then at lunch we were with our new tables.  It’s an adjustment because no one sits with their cabin counselor or cabin mates.  Twenty eight tables give us a chance to really mix it up.  The good news is everyone is aware of their own table by dinner and know names and where folks are from.  I had two boys at my table last session that were about 4 years apart in age and went to the same school in Charlotte but didn’t know one another.  It’s a small world.

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I spent most of the afternoon working over at the pool.  For years we heard the complaint that our pool was too cold to swim in unless it was a really hot day.  Over the winter I did a lot of research on warming pools.  We received some bids on heating our pool by means of solar hot water, geothermal heating, gas/propane and I finally decided on a pool cover.  Given our bend toward sustainability the solar and geothermal were logical choices but were cost prohibitive.  Given the fact that we only use the pool about 9 weeks made it just uneconomically feasible.  So, today we just finished laying out two 22 X 83 solar blankets that will keep the heat in overnight and then they’ll be removed in the morning just in time for swimming.  We’ll keep you posted on how this works but these covers can add as much as 10 degrees from overnight heat loss.

Discovery activities kicked off this morning and we also ended our Mountainside 1-A session this morning.  Campers left quite happy from 10 days of adventures and learning new skills under the guidance of our mountainside staff.  A few gypsies stayed over to attend the second 10 day session which starts on Wed.

After the closing campfire I spent the morning at the climbing wall shooting some video and pictures from the top.  It’s been a while since I’ve been on top of the 50’ tower and it offers a grand view of camp in that area.  Some kids scamper right up the sides and others meander and others just deal with going a few feet off the ground.  What makes us fearful of things like this and sets us up to feel uncomfortable in certain settings? I know there are many factors that play into this.  I will say that camp provides the chance for children to conquer some of their fears in a few of our programs.  That could be something as simple as reaching under a chicken to collect eggs or going off the zip line into the lake.  I think that camp is the perfect place to understand the concept of “challenge by choice” and that’s ok to feel uncomfortable about certain parts of camp and activities.  We encourage and provide second, third and more chances for success and we try and turn “I can’t” into “I can”.  Our goal is to safely allow children to leave their comfort zones – stepping out and then stepping back in.  And as I said above, it could be something as simple as moving to a new table where you don’t know a soul.  Camp is such a good proving ground for so many of life’s experiences that we’ll face as we get older. Our stepping stones of living, working and playing together here help to develop the whole child into what I think is the best versions of ourselves.  Camp really brings that out mainly because there’s little pressure and you have many chances to succeed and try new things.

Making it to the top of wall is a great achievement and learning the commands, knots, trusting your belayer and being willing to try again does bring out the best version of you.  Our camp T – shirts this year say “playing outside and growing inside”.  What could be better! Stay tuned!

Opening Day of B Session!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Opening Day for B Session was the best.  Great weather in the morning for greeting you all and getting your campers settled.  After a good lunch we presented activity skits for Discovery to help campers decide what they wanted to take over the days ahead for their morning activities.  This is important because there is so much offered in the morning and in the afternoon.  Over the course of 6 days of Discovery they have 4 activities in the morning and two different ones each afternoon.  For those new to GV, morning sign-ups are for building skills and afternoons more for the experience, possibly adding to those skills and trying new things.  Swim assessments were scheduled this afternoon along with activities.  It takes a while to get through all those but it’s worth it and allows us to determine which campers need some help with their strokes.  We were briefly interrupted by a short thunderstorm mid way and then the sun came back out and all was well.  After sign-ups all activities in Main Camp were running full steam ahead.  Activities offered this afternoon were Pottery, Sports, Fine Arts, Mill, Horseback Riding, Crafts, Swimming, Web of Life, Climbing, Farm and Outdoor Living Skills.   Activities just for today were pre-assigned and get children right into the flow and tomorrow we start on the choices they made today.  Many more activities are scheduled for tomorrow.

Sunday Afternoon 181 Sunday Afternoon 244

Tonight’s dinner is our traditional mac and cheese with fresh salad and broccoli from the farm garden.  To top that off we have a giant cookie for each cabin group.  This summer we have a faculty member  from Johnson & Wales Culinary School working in our kitchen so desserts have been over the top this first week.

After dinner there were after supper activities and then all campers attend our first campfire for the session.  Cabins were introduced at campfire tonight via Cabin skits which are always great.

Mountainside had their closing ceremony tonight and Anne and I went up to the MS shelter to honor them and their time at GV.  Several  of those campers have been at  camp for as many as 8 years.  What a great crew up on Mountainside and also a great staff.  Hat’s off to the staff for putting together such a great session.

As morning activities kick off tomorrow know that your children are learning and “living the GV dream” as one camper said.  This is our 80th year of camping and many more to follow.  Camp takes children to a new level of community life that even school and family can’t always imitate.  Campers have a chance to make choices and become independent in their time with us.  Camp creates a sense of confidence and resilience.  Camp also offers a sense of belonging to something that is greater than oneself where we still practice the GV values of simplicity, acceptance, a strong connection to the natural world and in a non-competitive setting.  We’re looking forward to a session of the simple joys of childhood for the days ahead.  Stay tuned!

PS – I’m putting the blog on both our webpage as well as the Campminder site where you all can view photos.

Closing Day of A Session… MS1A & RS1 still going strong!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s hard to believe that our first session of the 2015 summer has already ended! The families of our A session campers started to arrive after breakfast. Happy reunions were seen all over camp this morning as children ran into the arms of their parents and showed them their favorite spots around camp. Cabin groups (and their families) had a final friendship circle in the cabin and then went down to the lodge for our Closing Campfire. Through skits and songs, farm and mill reports, and recaps from our head counselors, we do our best to summarize the session and help parents understand everything that has happened over the last week. Of course, it’s hard to explain the magic of camp to someone who has not lived it, but we do our best to try.

Today was also a closing day for our first week of Day Camp. Parents and grandparents gathered this afternoon for their Closing Ceremony. Much like the Main Camp Closing Campfire, campers sang songs and performed skits to explain all the fun they had this past week!

MS1A Mountainside campers are still out on their Adventure, and we eagerly await their return tomorrow! For tonight, only Riverside campers and our A–>B Session gypsies are still in camp. These two groups are doing their best to take advantage of all the wide open spaces around GV. I forsee some excellent lake time tomorrow. Everyone will have their own tube, kayak, stand up paddle board, and canoe!

It’s fun to have the run of camp, but we are really looking forward to having a full camp again on Sunday when our B session campers will arrive!


Last Full Day of A:(

Dear Parents and Friends,

Perfect day at camp and just as we ended Friendship campfire a sprinkle of rain cooled things down a bit.  I can’t believe time has flown so quickly with our first session.  It was such a nice way to begin our summer with so many wonderful children.  80 years of camping has provided and produced many memories of summer camp experiences.  I feel that we are creating camp DNA or camp memories.  But…it’s not over till it’s over and we have breakfast and a wonderful campfire planned for tomorrow morning.  As I backup through the day, certainly a highlight was dinner tonight which was our traditional last meal of pizza.  This was not just your average pizza either.  All were homemade pies and you had a choice of plain cheese, pepperoni, or vegetarian.  Add some fruit and a fresh salad from the garden and wait… we’re not done.  Through the years I’ve had my share of brownies at camp.  This summer one of our kitchen managers is a head pastry chef at Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute in Charlotte.  We are excited to have Megan and tonight she made the best brownies I’ve had in years.  They were awesomelylicious. One of my six year old table buddies told me that she loved caramelized onions after I mentioned the onions on the vegis slices.  Since when does a six year old know about caramelized onions.  I’ll get back to the main theme here in a minute after another great quote by a camper.

Yesterday I sat in on what we call an Open House.  This event is a chance for a leadership member to go into the cabin without the counselors being there and spend about 30 minutes with the campers.  This gives us an opportunity to find out how things are going and if staff are doing a good job and campers are getting along.  We ask a number of questions and ones that center around the counselors leadership style and their interactions with their campers.  I asked, “can you describe your counselors in three words or less”. After many repeats of pretty, nice, happy, loving, caring, one camper very confidently said, “balanced, thoughtful, and principled”.  Incredible, I thought and how’s that for an answer.  Keep in mind these are 9 year old girls.  Parents, you’re doing a good job out there and keeping me on my toes.

This afternoon while everyone packed we held pillowcase day at the pool and cabins came by to get checked over by the nurses and doctor before going for a refreshing dip.  You had your choice of water activities and it was the perfect sun shiney day for it.  The tradition of pillowcase day goes back many years.  Yes, you do bring one of your pillow cases, get it wet and whirl it around over your head until it’s full of air, twist the open end shut and voilà, you have a personal floatation device.  This comes from an old lifesaving technique where you can do the same with a pair of pants.

This morning we had sign-ups and all activities were going strong.  I visited the farm, horses, biking, archery and some beading at Yanderside.  We started off the morning with pancakes and then off to the cabin for clean-up.

It’s been a great session and the children have made lots of new friends, explored the world around them, and learned that “I can” is much more powerful than “I can’t”.  Magic has happened in their short time with us.  In an environment created just for them, they’ve learned real life skills, developed self-esteem, and gained a sense of independence and community.  By playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, and becoming part of a camp family, they have created some memorable moments this week.

As you arrive tomorrow morning, we look forward to seeing you and hope you hear many good stories over the next few days from camp.  This session is always full of lots of new campers.  Seven days is such a short amount of time in our adult world but to many of our first year campers it is perfect for their first experience.  We wish we could keep them longer but it’s good to leave a place when the timing is right and you want to come back.  As stated earlier Gwynn Valley is 80 years old this summer and we hope to see everyone back again for another year of the simple joys of childhood. If you can stay and enjoy campfire tomorrow morning you’re also welcome to join us for a delicious lunch that comes from our farm and garden.  Drive carefully and stay tuned!

The Tajar’s Birthday!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today is a very special day at Gwynn Valley. We had three birthdays at camp today: 1 camper from Brookside who turned 11, 1 counselor from Hillside who turned 24, and 1 Tajar who turned…well we’re not exactly sure how old the Tajar is. With 5 birthdays a summer it’s easy to loose track of your age! When it’s your birthday at camp, your whole cabin goes up to the microphone to make an announcement after a meal. 1 person announces the special birthday verse while the rest of the cabin cover’s the birthday person’s ears so that they can’t hear the verse until it’s sung to them by the whole camp. See below for the words one of the birthday songs that was sung today. The 3rd and 4th lines are written specially for each birthday person. During the last line everyone claps and yells out a number until the birthday person holds up their hands on the age they have just turned.

Today, today, today, today, today, today’s your birthday!
Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray today’s your birthday!
Here’s a guy who loves the pool,
And we think he’s really cool!
Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray today’s your birthday!
Tell us when to stop… 1 (clap), 2 (clap), 3 (clap), 4 (clap), 5 (clap)……!

When it is the Tajar’s birthday, the whole camp celebrates all day! For those of you who do not know, the Tajar is a magical creature who lives here at Gwynn Valley. He is half tiger, half jaguar, and half badger. The Tajar is very shy and very playful, and he loves making mischief around camp. We have a whole book of Tajar Tales that we like to read and quite a few songs about the Tajar as well. Today when we came down to breakfast there were kayaks out on the green, chairs in the trees, hoola hoops everywhere, and Table 7 had been replaced by a disc golf goal! That silly Tajar was busy last night, but I guess it was worth it because all the campers were laughing as they lined up for breakfast this morning. The celebration continued throughout the day, but the real party happened this evening. During dinner we had a big cookout with hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and chips. It was delicious! And everyone looked great eating in their costumes. I personally ate with a doctor, a ninja turtle, a princess (who also had a beard), a ballerina, a hippie, Duke the Mouse, a person wearing a feather mask, a red panda, a cat, a kayaker, and someone wearing tye die from head to toe. After dinner we all went outside for Tajar Ball where campers and staff enjoyed carnival games, hay rides, dancing, story time with Debbie, a massive slip’n’slide, water balloon tossing, egg races, thunderball, pin-the-tail-on-the-Tajar, and lots of other great games. We also had homemade ice cream from the Mill for dessert. Everyone in camp was dressed up in a costume so that the Tajar (who is very shy!) could put on a costume himself and join in on the fun without being noticed. I didn’t see him myself, but I heard from a few campers that he was spotted over by the face painting station.

In between the birthday festivities, we had our last morning of Discoveries and this afternoon we did sign ups. After discoveries this morning, we saw lots of finished art projects carried around by proud artists and heard from many campers about the skills they grew over our morning sessions. A few cabins went off program this afternoon for cabin tubing trips, creek hikes up to Connesstee Falls, and regular hikes around the property.

Today was also a big day for our Older Programs. Riverside returned from 4 days of climbing at Foster Falls. We were thrilled to have them join us at Tajar Ball where we heard stories of climbing hard and high, rappelling from the top of a 150 foot cliff, and climbing behind a waterfall! It sounds like it was a truly magical trip for our oldest campers. Many photos were taken and RS parents should be able to see those tomorrow or Friday. Today our Mountainside campers were busy preparing for their 3 day Adventure, which begins tomorrow. Mountainside campers choose either mountain biking, pioneering, rock climbing, or white water canoeing for their 3-day, 2-night trip off camp. We can’t wait to hear all of their magical stories when they return to camp on Saturday!

It’s hard to believe how quickly time has flown this session. Tomorrow our Main Camp campers will do 1 last morning of sign ups and then the afternoon will be spend packing up and hanging at the pool with our pillow cases! Pillow case day is a time honored tradition at Gwynn Valley and a fun way to spend your last afternoon at the pool. More on this tradition tomorrow. As we come to the end of a session we always remind campers to slow down and enjoy every moment as it will all be over too quickly. We know you are all looking forward to seeing your children; Friday morning will be here before we know it!


Unstructured Free Play !

Dear Parents & Friends,

We deserved a beautiful day today and got it.  Perfect day for all activities at camp!  We’re in the process of shooting a new camp promo video and our film crew of two were here all day today.  It was fun walking around with them to various activities and watching them work.  I told the campers a couple of days ago that professionals were coming.  They’re used to seeing me everywhere with a video camera but I’m an amateur.  I learned a lot watching how they film and use all kinds of film terms like B roll footage.  I think I’m somewhere down the line shooting X, Y or Z footage.  What was really fun was their interviews with the campers.  We would approach an activity and they would just kind of nestle right in and start talking and asking questions to campers about the activity they were participating in while shooting footage.  Some children are just naturals around the camera and do a great job with filling the video with good script and lines.  The crew will be back about 7 more days during the summer hoping to capture the essence of Gwynn Valley.

Which… brings me to a point, what is at the essence of what we do? It can be said in so many ways.  We are here to “do a world of good for children”; “Playing Outside and Growing Inside” is what our 2015 T-shirts say; “camp is a stepping stone for many life skills”; “camp takes up where school and family don’t”; “camp brings out the best version of you”; “camp is all about building relationships”; “my summer top 40 usually includes: this is a repeat after me song”; “trying to get your friends who don’t go to camp to understand the great experience you’ve had there”; “my counselors were probably the coolest people I’ve ever met”; “camp is my second home”; and the list goes on.

I think what we do with and for children is found around every corner.  Tonight during after supper activities I had been in the Lodge setting up the sound system for Mountain Dancing which was great.  I came out onto what we call the Green.  It’s a grassy area between the lake, mill, and lodge.  It used to be a terraced corn field back in the day when the mill was built around 1890.  Now it is a sloping grassy playground where a multitude of games are played from fat bat baseball to jump rope, to learning how to ride in the attack position on a mountain bike.  I looked out on the Green where about 30 kids were playing Red Light / Green Light.  Sharing the same space was another group just simply rolling hoola hoops down the hill and trying to jump and dive through them.  How did we ever get to point that finds us looking into screens for our entertainment.  This simple unstructured free play just happened.  Children were happy, they were running, jumping, rolling in the grass and without a care in the world.  Children, I’m convinced, need more of this in their lives and camp is that vehicle.  This is just one piece of that essence and it’s happening all the time here.  Our video folks marveled at the way life is served up here in our Valley.  We had prepped them, provided schedules, brochures, old videos, but you just have to be here and live it to understand it.  We do our best to capture it in pictures but still that just doesn’t sometimes even scratch the surface.

Just being outdoors adds to the vitality of program and being here.  There’s a great ad I saw on TV recently, that shows a whole family engrossed in their screen of choice sitting at home on a beautiful day.  They hear a knock at the door and it’s a bear along with several other animals of the forest who take the family hostage, throw them in a van and whisk them off to a wild place where they can connect with something way more magnificent that the multi-chip device that rules their existence.  This and other ads can be found on

We are having a great session and soon you will be able to tap into hearing what the essence of your child’s experience was here at camp.  Stay tuned!

Good Food and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another great day here at GV!  We had some rain this afternoon and spent some time indoors playing games and watching the buckets of rain fall.  Indoor Thunderball works just as well as outdoor Thunderball.  It was a very cool morning but by 10:30 the temps began to rise and so did the activity level.  Tonight’s dinner and lunch was delicious.  At lunch we had pitas with sautéed chicken and tzatziki sauce and tabouli, with all kinds of trimmings and tonight for dinner was Sloppy Joe’s with sweet potato french fries, salad from the garden, snow peas and broccoli from our garden.   The kids loved it and so did the adults.   Mealtimes are great at camp because we really do sit at the table and converse.  Everyone at our table chips in and campers at the table do their share as well. Campers learn a lot about managing a table of 10 people where cooperation is key.  There’s lot of please and thank you’s and in a room with 350 people one needs to keep things orderly and tidy as best we can.  There’s hardly a meal goes by that someone doesn’t turn over a drink or drop their silverware on the floor.  And that’s an “all for one” moment when everyone tosses their napkin into the spilled liquid and the spiller retrieves a towel or more napkins.  No one fusses or cries over spilt milk, we just clean it up, continue our conversation and keep eating.

I was able to get out into program today to visit with climbers, pottery, bikers, and headed down to the farm this afternoon to watch the feeding of all those baby calves.  After getting to the farm our ThorGuard Weather station went off and lots of rain ensued.  Our lightening detector lets us know when we have an approaching storm.  It measures the lightening factor about 12 miles out and we get a long 15 second horn blast that lets everyone know to get to a safe shelter.  This technology has saved a lot of time and has taken away the human error of us trying to monitor the weather channel and other sources (which is  delayed up to 10 minutes).  When the storm has passed through, the horns sound a different tone to provide the all clear signal.

Tomorrow we start our Open House sessions when a couple of members of the Leadership team visits cabins to meet with campers without the counselors being  there.  It’s a way to make sure that staff are doing their job and taking good care of the children.  I am invited to go to Running River and Walnut Run tomorrow.  Open House is such a good way to get a read on the health of the cabin and how their camp experience is going.

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

There’s never a dull moment at camp.  Main camp had their first Mountain Dancing campfire and we did the Hokey Pokey, Going to Kentucky, Sasha (Russian Folk Dance) and read several Tajar stories.  The other big story for tonight was that about half the camp cooked out tonight and were scattered at various cookout shelters preparing and eating dinner.  A fire and food tastes very good after a wet afternoon.  I know of one particular creek hiking group that was especially hungry when they got caught in the rain today.  They burned lots of calories and came back to camp ready for warmth and good food.  They received both!  I met them not far on the trail to camp with some fleece and dry towels for the last part of the journey.  We hope the weather will be better tomorrow and please join us for more peeks into life at GV.  Stay tuned!