Give Thanks and Get Outdoors!

Dear Campers, Parents, and Friends,

One of my favorite times of the year is approaching this week- Thanksgiving and then the Holiday’s for many different faiths just after that.  We here at Gwynn Valley have so much to be thankful for as we roll into this busy season.  Enrollment has been very strong this year and staff hiring is going well as we prepare for another great summer here at camp.  Our building project is progressing nicely (see pics). Anne and I were on the site today meeting with builders and architects to go over details during the construction process.  It’s exciting to envision what the next few months hold as our dreams are created right before our eyes.

Kitchen and Program Office Walls going up

Kitchen and Program Office Walls going up

Looking through the kitchen wall toward Dining Room and Lake

Looking through the kitchen wall toward Dining Room and Lake


Wall separating Dining Room from Kitchen

Wall separating Dining Room from Kitchen

It’s also been very dry weather here and forest fire precautions are at an all time high.  It has been good for building purposes but not so good for our normally rain forest environment.  We haven’t had a good rain here in over a month and a half.  Fires are just to the south of us near the NC/SC border and have been contained to some extent.  We could use about an inch and a half of rainfall to turn this situation around.  Living where we do, I’m optimistic that rains will come and all will be well.

With Thanksgiving just a day away and Black Friday just after, I’m proud that many stores have chosen to close their doors for the day of Thanksgiving and have urged their employees to get together with family and friends.  We believe that family and friends mean a great deal and that our employees deserve time off to rest, re-energize, and reflect on the spirit of the season.  Last year REI, the outdoor retailer, was closed on Black Friday encouraging everyone to Get Outdoors!  We whole heartedly agree.

We find that more and more of our campers come to camp with less and less connection with nature.  While National Parks visits were higher than they’ve ever been last year, the demographics are not what you might think.  It’s the greying generation who are visiting, camping, hiking, and soaking up our brilliant natural resources.  The parks belong to us all but only some are using them.  Seventy one percent of millennials said they would be “very uncomfortable” on a one week vacation without connectivity.

To make a long story short, we encourage you and your family to get outside this weekend at some point.  Go for a hike, ride bikes together, have a picnic if the weather is good, because any time spent outdoors with loved ones is good.  Nature does us a world of good and affects everything from stress hormones to heart rate to brain waves to protein markers and indicates that when we spend time in green space, there is something profound going on.  Research has shown that being outdoors helps lower the incidence of a host of ailments including, anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, and migraines.  Outside environs also help those of us with ADD and ADHD.  When we engage outdoors we stimulate areas of our brains responsible for problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, and creative thinking.  We gain curiosity and a sense of balance between our technological world and our natural world.

So… get outdoors over the next few days and spend quality time with family and friends.  We live in and around beautiful places and don’t forget to give thanks for that also!

PS     In the past I’ve posted some videos by Danny MacAskill who is a mountain biker of exceptional skills.  If you or your family mountain bikes, or if you don’t , it’s fun to watch.  Danny is a Scotsman and the video showcases some of Scotland’s natural beauty.  Click on the link below to view Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out!

Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out

The Spirit of Camp and Election Day!


Dear Parents, Campers and Friends,

We are winding down from probably the most beautiful time of the year (my opinion only) here at camp.  Most of the leaves have fallen and the weather has been brilliant over the past several weeks.  We actually need some rain, but that I’m sure will come.  We’ve had successful home shows on our annual promotional tour, with some yet to occur over the next couple of weeks.  Anne, Maggie, Andy,  and I have enjoyed seeing our camp families on the road and meeting new ones as we travel about the southeast and beyond.  Enrollment is strong and staff hiring is going well.  Our building project is right on schedule with walls and framework beginning in a couple of weeks.  Most of the time since camp ended has been devoted to building a strong foundation for this project and we all know how important strong foundations are in our buildings and our lives.

I communicate this news to you on Election Day, which is and should be a day to celebrate our freedom to choose candidates to represent us on many levels of government and also relish in the fact that we are so fortunate to live in a democracy.   With this backdrop of beauty, progress, and the privilege to exercise our right to vote, I have been disappointed by the way many campaigns have taken a darker path to reach their goals.  For the past many weeks Anne and I have been the recipients of mail, email, social media, phone calls and seen way too many derogatory commercials by candidates trying to vie for our vote.  The mudslinging and fearmongering has reached an all-time high.

Through all this, I think of our children who are witnessing this unnecessary back and forth dialogue that literally shakes the foundations of our lives.  And then I think of camp.  Camp is a place where children and adults come from all walks of life to gather together to learn, live, work and have fun with one another.  Camp is where we teach one another to lay our personal differences aside and enjoy the time we have with old friends and new ones in this beautiful place.   One of our camp values, created by Mary Gwynn, is acceptance. Camp has always been and always will be a “no put down zone”.  No matter who you are or where you come from you will be lifted up and given a chance to experience life in a positive and forgiving setting.  We are not perfect and we know that.  At Gwynn Valley we do our best to create an atmosphere of civility and respect for those who enter our gates.

Let’s utilize this camp spirit as we move forward after this week.  Let us hope and pray for peace and unity in our country no matter who is chosen from the balloting.  It is time to adopt a humble spirit to cross the boundaries and barriers that have polarized our lives for the past many months.  Let us go forth to rekindle a spirit of moving forward together, on common ground.  We must keep those foundations strong for those who are just beginning their lives.  We should mentor and guide these children and young people in the spirit of good citizenship and kindness for all man and woman kind.  We look forward to having your children join us this coming summer here at Gwynn Valley.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Nelson Henderson