The Dragon That Ate Gwynn Valley!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another splendid day at GV and time is flying.  It’s hard to believe that we are winding down D session. Today was another beautiful day here at camp with sunny skies and all activities in high gear.  We had a little thunder and a sprinkle of rain but nothing to send us indoors.  This second week we have signups both in the morning and in the afternoon.  Today was also international day here at GV.  We celebrated with our all of international staff tonight and it was quite a campfire.  Steve Irwin showed up to identify a few rare species in the audience.  Several international rock stars were there, as well as Elvis was in the house!  Don’t ask me why, but he was here.  Also the Queen Mother showed up for several brief minutes and she flew in with James Bond.  Folks from Kiwi land showed us how to perform the Poi, which was hilarious when novices tried it.  Lots of laughter!  We also visited Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine.  It was a fun evening filled with lots of information and interesting tidbits from each country.  Tonight’s meal was authentic Mexican and was prepared by our Hispanic staff in our kitchen.  Juan came out and introduced the meal in Spanish and English.  This is Juan’s 8th year working with us here at camp.

Several groups were also out of camp today including Climbers, Kayakers and Hikers.  Each group came back with many stories. Kayaker’s went to the Green, Climbers were at the Nose at Looking Glass Rock and Hikers went to John’s Rock which overlooks the Pisgah Fish Hatchery and a wonderful view of Looking Glass.  With a telescope the Climbers and Hikers could have almost seen one another.  With all these great trips, one trip that stuck out was shared by a camper at my table.  We were talking about trips out and she said, “You don’t have go off site to have a good time.  I had the best day ever at Conesstee Falls today. “  It’s a waterfall on the upper end of our property and is about a 30 minute hike from Downtown GV.  There’s a big pool you can swim in and go right underneath the falls to get quite a shower.  I could tell she’d had a great time.  You could see it in her eyes.

In my meanderings this afternoon I videoed a small group of 8 campers and staff playing flag football.  They were into it and playing razzle dazzle rules which is always more fun.  The true highlight for the day was our insurance company came out today for a visit (friendly visit), and showing camp to some of their new employees and a company they are trying to align with.  As part of the tour, I had taken them through our Mill where the campers were making corn cob creations which campers can produce everything from cars to people to jet planes with a little glue and ingenuity.   Later, as we were walking along during change over of activities, one of our youngest campers came up with a dragon she had made at the Mill.  It was very realistic and I said, “looks like you’ve made yourself a nice dragon from the Mill” and she said, “Yep and also a villager for the dragon to eat”, pulling a small figurine from behind her back and sticking it the dragons mouth.  Everyone in our group roared and well, that’s camp.  Imaginations run wild sometimes.

I also helped out in biking today with a couple of campers who signed up and didn’t have quite the skills to ride some of our trails.  I happened to follow them to video and realized along with the instructor that they needed some extra help.  So, I took the two and we made our way around some of the easier riding areas in Main Camp. They gained some confidence trying some trickier terrain after some gearing lessons and just riding around on the grass.  Satisfaction comes easy when people are willing to learn and confidence can boost the experience for another go at an activity later on.

With all our good weather the Farm has been booming.  We’ve had the perfect mix of sun and rain this week.  They picked over 300 ears of corn this morning and we had it for dinner tonight.  Lunch was great today with fish cakes from our fishing at the Mill, fresh salad from the garden and other scrumptious dishes.  After lunch everyone leaves the dining room to help shuck all that corn.  It’s a bee hive of young people pulling shucks off, learning what it looks and feels like and finding the occasional worm that will end up as food for the chickens when the shucks are taken to the farm to be rummaged through.  Camp is a great place for self-discovery.  No one swoops in and says don’t touch that worm or maybe you just shouldn’t be biking.  Instead we say, yes you can and let’s try again and work up to this harder trail on another day.   Every day at camp is a day of opportunity.  Stay tuned!

You’ve Got a Friend At Camp!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a gorgeous day here today.  The temps were about 10 degrees cooler than they have been most of the summer.  Cool breezes blew all day and we had relief from the humidity that’s been occupying our skin over the past few days.  This of course made for great activity conditions both on and off site.  We had several trips out of camp today including Main Camp bikers, and climbers.  With the weather and prep they did beforehand every single trip was a success.  There were some tired campers from the trips but that makes the day and sleeping even better.

Bikers went to Dupont and rode on one of my favorite trails called Reasonover and then on to Turkey Knob Extension and finished up with Ridgeline which is a roller coaster of a ride and a great way to finish.  Climbers went to the Nose area at Looking Glass Rock and were like spiders out there today.  They set up three climbs that campers had multiple opportunities to climb.

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

For those that wanted a dry land experience there was so much to choose from including in the sports arena: basketball, fat bat baseball, soccer and of course the infamous Thunderball, aka, GA GA.  The afternoon saw campers competing in a Decathlon with a variety of activities.  Many campers are already talking about the upcoming Olympics.

A beautiful day ended with our Thespians putting on their drama performance for Main Camp this evening.  They did a great job and it was all done by the campers with help from Ami, Julia, Debbie and a multitude of cast members.  They performed the Lorax and wrote several songs to go with their version of the book.

Just a quick word about Mountainside and Riverside; Mountainside had their “mid summer’s night dream” over across the road at the Hunt Farm.  It’s a beautiful setting and this morning they learned what adventure they will be going on.  Riverside started their water component today with a trip to the Green River to get their paddling legs.  We’ll keep you posted on their progress.

We talk a lot about program at camp but I feel the essence of what we do is about the bonding and friendships that happen at camp.  They are different from those that occur at school and on sports teams. The intensity of living together and experiencing life together, without distractions, creates the ideal setting to form lifelong friendships and really get to know people well.  Friends are one reason and a big one, that campers and staff return to Gwynn Valley year after year.  At camp, there is time for friendship.  Time relaxing, getting to know each other, and making memories while communicating face to face instead of over the a phone or the internet.  Miss Mary Gwynn, our founder built her camp around inclusion, respect and kindness.  There’s little competition, no color wars, tribes, no A team or “in crowd”.  Staff gently coach campers who need to develop social skills in areas such as listening skills, initiating conversations, and understanding non-verbal  cues.  Camp is made up of children of all varieties being together and involved in great activities.  Staff are trained to help kids connect and one of the best places I think this occurs is at the table.  You have more variety there and all different ages.  No one can tune out with earphones or just be a wall flower.  Questions are always being asked and ideas thrown out all the time in between bites.  I see friendships forming and being valued every day.  There’s nothing better.

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