B Session Closing – Playing Outside and Growing Inside!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our B Session today. We’ve had a wonderful time for the two week session.  Soon you will receive a link to an evaluation that we are hoping you will participate in.   We appreciate you taking the time to help us keep Gwynn Valley an outstanding program.

For those of you that have arrived home we hope that your child’s experience has captured all the magic of what camp can be. We know you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and that the camp experience will become a great memory. Placed in the hands of a mature staff a camper really gains a good bit from “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for sharing your children with for two weeks.  Hope to see you next year!

Grant & Anne

Trips Out and Ending on a High Note!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We just finished Friendship campfire and during dinner it rained for the first time all week.  The rain felt good and we needed it to restore the moisture to our mountain coves.  It was such a good day and campers broke into song in the dining room tonight during dinner as we were finishing the meal.  Mountainside has historically lead songs for breakfast the following morning for pick up day and  everyone was so happy and we’ve had such a great session.  The meal must have played into that as well.  Fresh made pizza, salad, grapes and topped off with brownies.  I had a camper at my table that doesn’t eat pizza and he had three pieces.  There was plenty for everyone including some specialty pizza’s like kale and mushrooms, vegi, and some other flavors.  Eating here is a highlight at every meal.  We spend time together at the table and don’t just eat and run.  There’s always time for good conversation and finding out more about each person in our small table groups.

We held sign-ups this morning and those in Main Camp enjoyed their last sign-up for the session.  We also had several trips out today including climbers that went to climb the classic Sundial on the Nose area of Looking Glass Rock.  The Nose area has several great climbs and our climbers took no time in getting to the base of the rock this morning and having the climb to themselves.  Climbing is not a boisterous sport and many groups yell and talk loudly while waiting to climb.  Our climbing staff engage 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 activity.  I went and visited with those seeking more heights this morning at the climbing wall at camp.  Campers signed up for the Tower Swing which is a small portion of our ropes challenge course here at camp.  It’s a challenge by choice component because you can go as high as you want before you release yourself for the giant swing.  Your friends and program mates pull you up and you let go when you’ve reached your preferred height.

Our bikers were out today as well and traveled to Dupont State Forest to ride some single track there.   Mountain biking is such a natural for us here at camp.  We have over 3 miles of single track trails for the campers to train on.  More miles of trails are being established in our surrounding area each year.  Our crew traveled to Lake Dense which is a good place to swim and is on the way for a nice trail called Three Lakes.  They stopped off at Bridal Veil Falls which was used in two popular movies; Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games.

Our kayakers took to the water again today and paddled the upper French Broad which was the perfect first time trip for many of these folks.  Also our hikers from Nature and Camping Skills hiked around John’s Rock that overlooks the fish hatchery and has a grand view of Looking Glass.

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.

Friendship campfire included Anne and me presenting blankets and plaques to our 4 & 5 year campers as well as recognizing those who have been here for 6,7,8,9 and 10 years.  Over the winter we decided that our 8 and 10 year campers would receive a compass for 8 years and a stool for 10 years.  Throughout life we are seeking and finding our way.  There are things that draw us in certain directions and as the First Nation people believed, it our destiny to travel the medicine wheel or the compass.  We hope our campers always seek good direction and are able to call upon their internal compasses to lead them in good ways.  10 year campers have been at camp a long time and have reached for many heights with their experiences and adventures in our programs.  We should never stop reaching and when we need help there are those close by to usually assist.  Sometimes just a step up means a lot, so we provided them with a simple stool to lift them higher as a symbolic gesture.  This stool was patterned after one I made in the 7th grade that Anne and I still use.  It’s located in our pantry and helps us to reach and attain things we can’t normally gain access to.  It’s been a seat and stool for our children and now our grandchildren.  Several staff even go beyond the 10 year mark because they started as campers.

Campfire concluded with campers and staff viewing photos that you all have seen these past 12 days.  We also presented the video that you may already have seen online.  If not, here it is.

2017 B Session Highlights

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 you’re welcome to stay and have some delicious GV farm food at 12:00.  Thanks for sending us such great children.  We’ve had a wonderful session! Travel safely and it may be raining here when you arrive.

Tajar’s Birthday and Time to Fun It Up!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another cool morning gave way to a wonderful day again at camp.  It was our last full day of programming and it started out with a bang.  The Tajar was full of folly last night and left much evidence of his mischief as we arrived to breakfast.  There were kayaks in the hand washing sinks and inner tubes spelling his name out on the Green.  Tea cups were hanging from trees as well as a few bikes that seemed to be a little out of place as well. This all set the stage for a super Tajar Ball that just ended a little while ago.  Games and stations filled the soccer field and everyone was there including Mountainside and Riverside, both of whom returned from their adventures today.  On our final full day tomorrow, it will be nice to have everyone back together.

I spent most of the day bounding from program to program starting at the Mill (where they were making ice cream) this morning and then visiting with pottery, weaving and the Bong Tree, where campers were tie dying.  From there it was on to Nature and Camping Skills with campers learning about our variety of trees here and Camping Skills were trying their hand at the finer points of setting up a tarp.  Later in the afternoon after a delicious lunch of chicken penne pasta, salad, broccoli from the garden and fresh baked bread, I was getting sporty with sports, climbing, kayaking and SUP boarding.  About the only places I didn’t see today were the Farm and Horses.

As reported earlier Mountainside and Riverside returned today from their adventures and all is well.  All groups were back by Tajar Ball and enjoyed the cookout, games and a carnival 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.  Sometimes I think for some of our older campers their experience and the processing of that experience really carries forward and provides some lasting memories and experiences.

We hope that some of what we do as a community for one another rubs off and that your campers bring some of camp home.  Rituals like clearing the table, declaring a rose, bud and thorn for the day, sharing, and being kind to new people we meet are all part of camp life and more.  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.  Some more Main Camp campers will be venturing out again tomorrow to climb at Looking Glass, bike at Dupont State Forest and kayak on the French Broad.  Looking Glass is a huge rock dome located just off 276 in Pisgah National Forest.  When you’re on most of the climbs on the Glass it feels like you have the heavens and horizon in your hands.  Sky and earth are vast as one looks out for miles at nothing but layered green rolling mountains in all directions.

Our Tajar Ball picnic was served on the Pavilion and everyone took to the Green to eat and get ready for the Ball.  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, chips and watermelon.  After everyone has eaten, it’s off to the soccer field to try your hand at a multitude of games and carnival like events to participate in.  There’s ice cream, cookies and music if you want to dance and play games at the same time.  There’s even a giant mountainous water slide which most everyone ends up slip sliding to the pool at the bottom.  We play the Macarena at the end of the Tajar Ball and we must have had 90% of camp out there to dance and close things down.  It’s a good way to celebrate the next to last night of camp.  There’s structure on the field in the form of games and things to do but it’s nice to have the campers choose their evening participation and travel the soccer field wherever they want.  Free play is important and I think after a structured day of activities it’s nice to run around and do what you want to do.  Events and stations are varied and there’s something for everyone.  No child is left without a chance to fun it up.

As we wind down our session, you may find that your camper will come home tired and full of camp.  Memories and experiences may come slow or fast and certain things at home may spark more camp moments.  Our aim is growing your child through outdoor living, playing and getting the right mix of camp life that opens doors for real life.  We had a blast today and I’m sure the Tajar was pleased with all the fun and folly we had.  Stay tuned!

So Much To Do, So Many Adventures and So Much Fun!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It was another very wonderful day here at camp with another cool evening.  From sweatshirt to sweatshirt the morning and evening dictated warmer clothing.  Campers will use their sleeping bags as comforters again tonight and it will be hard to pry them from their warm beds in the morning.  Sleep will come fast and easy as a sliver of a moon has begun to sink in our Western Sky.  Cabins of children were out on the Gatehouse Green to watch the sunset and get a glimpse of our Blue Ridge Mountains against an almost October like evening.  Some were playing and running in the carpet like grass, others were being read a story and some just chasing fireflies.

Tonight’s campfire celebrated three of our international day countries, Netherlands, Poland and Germany.  We had meals to match the country starting with chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast which was a total hit. (I’m just giving the highlights here.) For lunch a Polish soup and fresh bread along with vegetables and fresh salad wasn’t too shabby either.  Dinner was egg noodles with roast beef, kale and carrots from the garden and other sides plus Black Forest cake.  According to the campers the kitchen hit a grand slam today, but seriously folks, they do it every day.  As I tell them at my table, “you can’t buy food like this”.

For morning program, we again held sign-ups and everyone seemed to enjoy the many choices that were available.  Lake swimming was sparse and will be until our weather warms a bit but we’re not complaining because it’s so pleasant in the sun or shade.  We’re revamping our promotional video and had some folks at camp today running around with cameras and capturing campers as they went about their daily routine.   Everyone wants to be on GV-TV and we are doing our best to capture video for our session highlights which we produce in the fall.  Jacob our camp video guy produced a short clip today that is just from B Session and please click on the link to see it.  B Session Highlights

Things move quickly at camp and there’s always a project, trip out, special happening, extraordinary event, special moment and lots of movement.  The good news is that movement is good for mind, body and soul.  People who exercise their bodies and minds have far more cortical mass than those who don’t. Simple biology supports an obvious link between movement and learning. Oxygen is essential for brain function, and enhanced blood flow increases the amount of oxygen transported to the brain. Physical activity is a reliable way to increase blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain.  We all benefit from play and creative play! That play translates to healthy living at camp, eating well, learning, being with other people and gaining life experience.  Camp does a world of good.

Camp to the child seems large and distances shrink when you’re older until you leave camp proper (downtown GV) and venture out farther.  I went on a hike with a small group today to “The Rock” which is up near the top of our property.  It’s a rock promontory that captures a beautiful view of our valley and all the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. One can see Mt. Pisgah, Cedar Rock, Pounding Mill, Devil’s Courthouse, and Shining Rock from our “Rock”.  Only a couple of the campers had been there before so it was a first time for the rest.  It’s a great view point but not an easy hike with some steep rope climbing over roots and rocks to get there.  It’s an adventure in of itself.  We spent some time there and then went to the other side of the rock where no one had been.  Sophie and Cooper, old campers, now staff, had never been to the other side.  Just passing between one side and the other is kind of spooky and fun.   It’s a great place to learn about ant lions which build conical shaped holes that unsuspecting insects fall into and get captured.  Our hike and tour took about 2 hours but it went quickly and everyone was buzzing about the views and being up there when we returned.  So much to do, so many adventures and so much fun, so stay tuned for more.

One Day in a Most Excellent Week!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Campfire is over and it’s been a truly cool mountain day.  Our morning temps before breakfast were in the low 50’s and at my house it was 52.  Most everyone came to breakfast in sweatshirts and it was sweatshirts on till about 10:30.  We’re looking at another cool night.  Good for sleeping when you’ve had a good camp day under your belt.  I just left campfire and our Fine Arts put on a musical tonight and it was the best I’ve seen in years.  They will perform a song on closing day from the story which Debbie wrote.  In fact she wrote all the music for it.  I’ve put the words to their closing song at the end of my letter.  The overall story was about a king who wanted all the beautiful things in the world for himself and the thing he wanted most he couldn’t have until he gave everything away.  There’s more, but I’ll let your children share with you the entire story.

With our Discovery’s over for the week we had signups this morning and this afternoon after lunch.  The cool weather this morning didn’t encourage the folks who normally swim in our lake much incentive to take a dip till the afternoon.  Our pool on the other hand was much warmer and attractive for those wanting some water therapy.  Several years ago our pool was almost as cold as the stream water in our Carson Creek which runs through the center of camp.  I’d say that hoovers around 55 degrees which is chilly to swim in.  We invested in a pool cover after many years of pool water only being in the 60’s.  Now our pool water stays above 76 and it’s inviting on almost any kind of a weather day.  It’s the little things in life here at camp.

As mentioned last night we started our trips out of camp today and I was lucky enough to go on the mountain biking trip to Dupont with a group of guys.  Yes, it was an all guy trip except for Tanya from New Zealand who is one of the bike instructors along with Peter who is the other.  Peter grew up at camp and went through all our programs.  Both are doing a wonderful  job of teaching and getting campers to reach for new heights on bikes.  I was basically along today to video and I think I got some pretty good footage from the day.  One never knows until you get back.  I certainly enjoyed riding with the campers and seeing them challenged as well as having fun.  Dupont State Forest  has over a hundred miles of trails and there’s everything one could want there.  The campers started out riding on the skills course and waited for me to run the shuttle because we left the car in a different place than we started.  There was a fair amount of climbing but we ended the day with an all downhill descent to our van and trailer.  I tried to capture a lot of action and stayed close behind some of the boys as they descended their favorite parts of the afternoon.  Camper’s always love the downhills.  I can understand why and it’s fun to see them zooming through the forest over smooth single track and undulating curves and berms on the trail.

I love the simple skills of working with our hands and our imaginations.  Camp is so good for us in so many ways.  We work on projects and perform skills that may not be possible anywhere else.  Outdoor sports provide different ways to use our bodies and coordination to reach an end goal like a hard move on rock, running a class two rapid with a partner, negotiating a rock garden while biking or simply carrying everything you need on your back for several days.  Getting up on a stage and singing or saying lines in front of 300+ people is not easy either.

We also try to emphasize team play here while holding competition to a minimum.  We all play for a team in some way or another; a work team, a project team, a surgical team, and you’ve got to become a vital part of that team to succeed.  Camp teaches you to live in a cabin as a team, eat at the table as a team, share food as a team after hiking 10 miles with a backpack through the rain, and carry those boats to load on the trailer after an exhilarating and hard day on the river.  Phil Jackson, NBA coach once said, “The strength of the team is each individual member.  The strength of each member is the team”.

Stay tuned for the rest of a most excellent week here at GV!


The Quiltmaker’s Song©

Verse 1: Weave me a tapestry of silver thread, out of the fabric of the life you led, empty yourself, and let your love be spread, for it shall, your comfort be! And every morning, when you make your bed, think on the meaning of the words I’ve said! Give of yourself, and learn to love instead! And my gift, will set you free!

Chorus 1: And you, like the mighty king, let your heart take wing, you can learn to sing! Oh, you! Come and join my song, let your voice be strong, you can sing along! And you, like the mighty king, let your heart take wing, you can learn to sing! Oh, you! Come and join my song, let your voice be strong, you can sing along!

Verse 2: Listen for the message, that your heart can hear, sweeter than a melody upon the ear, give yourself away, and let your light shine clear! It is love, that holds the key! Look into the darkness, for it will not stay! Never fear the shadows, they will fly away, just before the coming of the rising day, for the path is yours to see!

Chorus 2: And you, like the mighty king, let your heart take wing, you can learn to sing! Oh, you! Come and join my song, let your voice be strong, you can sing along! And you, like the mighty king, let your heart take wing, you can learn to sing! Oh, you! Come and join my song, let your voice be strong, you can sing along!

—By Debbie E. DeBord. (Friday, June 16, 2017.)

Special Day is Truly Special!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It was Special Day at GV and it was just that.  We got a little extra sleep in this morning so breakfast was pushed back to 9:00 which meant everyone got an extra 30 minutes before breakfast.   Every little bit helps because camp is so busy.  Breakfast was hot off the griddle pancakes, butter, bacon, fruit, and lots of syrup.  My youngest daughter works in the kitchen and was cooking this morning and she was sure that they fixed well over a thousand pancakes.  We also had a little extra rest hour today which is always great.  Sunday’s are days when our activity leaders have the day off so we plan a camp wide game that everyone participates in.  Today’s theme was “Spy’s Are Among Us”.  So many, in fact that they kidnapped the program leaders from their day off and held them hostage.  It took the entire camp and the Tajar to get them back by this evening.

There was a total of 10 different stations that campers went to during the morning and afternoon with lunch and rest hour in between.  Each station had challenges and some were wetter than others.  It was another great day to get wet and take on many “Spy” challenges.

We had a wonderful dinner of fried rice and chicken with fresh peas, fruit and bread.   We changed table assignments today and one camper who is quite talkative and engaged at the table said, “My parents are both really good cooks and this food has been as good as theirs”. We slowed things down a bit after dinner tonight with our Vespers Service and call it an early evening to get us started on the right track for our last week of camp.  There were some tired campers at Vespers service tonight.  They will get to bed early tonight and it’s a full week ahead. 

It’s been a full week behind us and Sunday’s are always very busy.  Tonight we have our mid session staff gathering to check in with everyone and spend some quality time in getting our staff some time to relax as well.  There’s good food and time and we split camp into two groups so you have enough cabin coverage.  Tomorrow Mountainside leaves for their adventures and our Main camp children will be going off site for biking, paddling and climbing.  Riverside left for their last component of their three weeks here.  They will be hiking on the Foothills Trail just not too far from camp.  It should be a fun and productive week for all of camp.  You might say it will be the icing on the cake. I can’t believe we only have four full days left in the session.  This second week will fly by.    Stay tuned as we launch into our last week of B session!

Saturday at GV and More to Come!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We just wound down from Mountain Dancing in the Lodge and had 6 cabins join us for the hoe down.  Dances included Hokey Pokey, Going to Kentucky, The Bluebird Dance, and of course the Russian Folk dance called Shasha. Everyone had a great time and Debbie was magnificent on the 88’s.  She can play about anything and if you don’t know her, she’s our camp pianist and is visually impaired.  Check out her skills on closing day when she adlibs all the action on stage and in the room.

While we were dancing and cavorting, other Hillside cabins were camping out.  It’s a good night to sleep in one of our shelters and cook over an open fire.  Camping out is something many of our children have not experienced and it can be fun and exciting.  Just hanging out by the fire and eating a meal cooked by your counselors is a treat.  And then there’s s’more’s.  Mountainside was host tonight to our Brookside campers who went up there to visit and learn more about our MS program.  They will be leaving Monday for their adventures and it looks like they will have good weather for their time out.  Hopefully our Brookside campers will want to graduate up to the MS program at some point.  It fits the bill for those who are finishing 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.  As many of you know, Mountainside is 40 strong plus 10 staff who work solely with that group.  Sessions are either (2) ten day sessions in the beginning of the summer or (2) three week sessions later on.  Their adventures include Mountain Biking, Backpacking, Rock Climbing and Whitewater Canoeing.   It’s a wonderful program for campers beginning to enter those adolescent years.

Riverside leaves tomorrow morning and I went up to the Riverside boys cabin today to attend their “Open House”.  This is a touch base meeting with just the campers and no staff.  A leadership member or two usually attend.  It’s a way to gauge how well things are going and check in with the campers on the program, how they are getting along and generally talk about their experience so far.  Great group of guys up there and as stated they are headed out tomorrow to start their backpacking component.  They will be tackling the Foothills Trail.

Several activities are getting ready for next week’s off camp trips including, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking and rock climbing.  Each group from Main Camp and mostly Brooksider’s will be going to Dupont for biking, the Green River for kayaking, Pisgah Forest for hiking and Looking Glass Rock for climbing.  Campers are getting excited for the Monday, Tues., and Thurs. trips out of camp.  It’s always a highlight to provide that next level of experience for those who have shown great interest and have improved on their skills to venture farther from the nest.

Today was a second day of Arborist climbing here at camp.  It’s one of my favorite activities where campers don’t actually climb on the tree but ascend ropes connected to the tree.  It’s the same method that a tree arborist uses to carefully and safely, without harm to the tree, get up in them to make sure they are healthy.  It’s a fairly strenuous workout but is like nothing else we do here.  You don’t have climbing holds or a wall or tree limbs to hold on to.  You do have a belayer and your own strength and determination to get up there and into the tree.  Our two arborist trees are right next to Cabins Playhouse and Mountain View.

We will be changing tables tomorrow.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my table this session.   We’ll all get new campers and staff at our tables for the remainder of the session.  It’s good to change tables and meet new people even though I’ve gotten pretty attached to one I have now.  It stretches us in making new friends and being in new social situations.  A table group takes part in a ritual that is probably one of the most important things we do in the course of day and that is sharing food.  Sharing food is good for the body and the soul.  Sharing good Gwynn Valley food certainly makes life brighter.  A good recipe is enhanced more by good company.  Stay tuned as we take on new and exciting things each day this coming week!

Gold Rush at Gwynn Valley!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today was truly a golden day of summer! After the recent rain, we enjoyed every moment of gorgeous sunshine that we were lucky to receive at Gwynn Valley today. Aside from a few sprinkles this evening, we have had sunshine all day long. With Riverside still in camp preparing for their next trip and Day Camp in full swing, our entire camp community was on site today enjoying the multitude of golden opportunities to take advantage of all that camp has to offer! The golden day continued as we ended our day with a camp wide game of Gold Rush followed by some golden dessert… but I’m getting ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.

After a tasty breakfast of blueberry muffins, fruit, sausage, and cereal, we jumped into our last round of A Day discoveries. This means that campers were visiting their A day Discoveries for the 3rd time. The 3rd program Discovery visit is typically devoted to capping off the learning progression or finishing a longer term project. In pottery, campers glazed the pottery pieces that have been working on the last 2 sessions. In acting, camper were running through their lines and getting performance-ready. In climbing, campers moved on to their final climbing style in their progression (Arborist climbing). Bikers advanced their biking on some of the more challenging trails around camp. The weavers finished off their projects on the loom. It was a day where campers could leave morning activities with the knowledge that they had accomplished something.

For lunch today we had a real crowd-pleaser! Campers love quesedilla and tortilla chips with all the good toppings: guacamole, salsa, beans, sour cream, cheese, and fajita veggies. After lunch we went over to singing in the lodge and sign ups where campers watched skits of all the activities on offer for the afternoon. Lake fun, tubing, climbing, fishing at the mill, hemp bracelets, and thunderball were all big hits this afternoon. Pottery and Camping Skills and Nature organized a combination activity making leaf print medallions which campers really enjoyed. Campers at the horses went for a nice trail ride in search of shade around camp, which both campers and horses appreciated!

For dinner tonight we had roasted turkey, salad, roasted veggies, homemade sunflower & flax seed bread and gravy. It was a mini-Thanksgiving feast, which fit well with today’s thought for the day. “We cannot be grateful for everything, but in every moment we can find something to be grateful for.” – David Steindl-Rast

After dinner we had a camp wide Gold Rush game. This was a surprise for campers and they had a blast running around camp finding hundreds of rocks that were spray painted gold. There were many characters – some of whom helped them in their quest to collect the gold, and some of them slowed down the campers as they tried to reach the grand total goal of 200 lbs of ‘gold’. After all cabins had worked together to collect enough gold we celebrated with sun-butter cookies, which are gold in color. This was about 8:15pm so our younger Hilllside campers headed out for showers and an early night in bed while, which I think they really appreciated. Brooksiders went on to do cabin campfires and roasted marshmellows at a few fire rings around camp until the fire flies started to come out.

Mountainside, Riverside, and Young Leaders also continue to have great sessions! Mountainside finished up their mini-adventures today and are being sorted into their adventure groups this evening based on camper preferences. The adventure fairy will deliver their placements and campers will spend the day tomorrow preparing for their trips as well as doing a few sign up activities. Riverside did some service work this morning working on re-establishing an old and infrequently used trail on camp and then did the high ropes course this afternoon. They head out on Sunday morning for a 4 day backpacking trip on the Foothills trail. Young Leaders are really enjoying their time participating in main camp activities as they assist in morning discoveries. This evening they were able to try out blacksmithing, which has been a popular new activity this summer!

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the end of another golden day at Gwynn Valley. All our campers are already fast asleep dreaming of what tomorrow will bring. Check back tomorrow for an update of all the fun that is sure to come!


That Australian Current Swept Through Camp – Dude!

Dear Parents and Friends,

I’m sure that many of you have been following the weather and the tropical depression southeast of us as it makes its way toward the mountains.  Believe it or not, we haven’t had that much rain.  We’re scheduled to get some thunder storms later this evening and by now most of our campers are off to zzzland.  Tomorrow will be cloudy but the rain won’t come again till late evening, so our day will be cool with sprinkles like we had today.  Blacksmithing has been a cool activity for those who are working with hot metals.  They are set up in a shelter we call Dancing Dreams which is right next to a small creek and surrounded by trees and rhododendron.  Scotty and Pat are teaching Blacksmithing this year and they have 6 campers per activity period.  Scotty is only here for B session this summer, so Pat will take over for the rest of the summer.  It’s nice to have an activity that is so primitive in its origins.  It certainly harkens way back before even the Mill was built in 1890. I’m sure there was a blacksmith involved in helping to create many of the metal parts that the Mill used.    The camper’s who took the morning Discovery are working toward more than one project while those that sign-up for the afternoons are getting a project done in an hour.  It’s been a great activity again this year and everyone loves it. I suppose the down side is that you have to be 10 and up.  I’m sure you’ve seen some of the photos over the past few days.   Scotty uses a propane furnace to heat the metal instead of coke or coal.  It burns much cleaner and hotter and you don’t breath the smoke from the aforementioned.  The campers have made a variety of things to use and wear – Candleholders to hooks for the wall.

Another sort of primitive activity that compliments the farm is our Mill.  Zeke is running our Mill this year and is cooking daily as well as making ice cream and of course milling – producing corn meal and grits for our kitchen.

Tonight we celebrated one of our International days and focused on Australia.  Dude, that Australian current swept through camp all day long and we all jumped in.  We have about 7 or 8 staff from that part of the world and they did a wonderful job of introducing us to their country all day long.  Meals and activities had an Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie focus throughout the day.  This evening at campfire there were skits about Finding Nemo as well as some characters like Steve Irwin who showed up to locate some rare GV fossils and living specimens.  My favorite Nemo clip!

Mountainside started their adventure rotations today where they were trying 2 of 4 different adventure activities they could choose to end on in their session.  They were climbing, paddling, hiking and biking all day long.  They will rotate groups again tomorrow and afterward will prepare for their adventures coming up on Monday.  We’re looking at better weather next week while they are out in the field.

Our staff are our greatest asset with the exception of your children.  We do our best to partner with you to make camp an extension of your home and the ideals you want to set for your children while here.   The “Golden Rule” reigns at camp for both staff and campers.  Treating everyone with kindness and patience will show compassion.  Our hope is that campers will model this behavior on their own.  Politeness and manners in our culture are important when so many people interact on a daily basis.  Less and less of our culture communicates person to person with one another, so it’s important that building relationships is key in our camp life.  Camp is a great place to extend the hand of civility with one another and it pays off.

Our staff unplug in the presence of campers and during the activity times when children are around.  Electronic devices cannot be used in the cabin and only have restricted use in 2 locations in camp – the staff living room and the welcome hut.  You will not see a counselor talking on their cell phone as they stroll through camp.  Children need to see that their counselors are not dominated by electronic devices but are users of other equipment at camp like bikes, pottery wheels, carabiners, horse reins, bows, and a gentle touch given to a baby farm animal.

We work hard in an ongoing fashion to make sure that staff are doing a good job with campers.  We start preparing by sending our staff value based messages in preparation for entering our child oriented world early in the Spring.  When staff training comes in late May, we re-emphasize the importance of the simple joys of childhood and why their role as a camp counselor is so important.  In the end I see that children really remember their counselors more than anything else at camp.  They may have had fun on the climbing wall but it was that counselor who talked them through the difficult section and praised their resilience for getting to the top.  We strive to partner with you to create lasting memories here at Gwynn Valley.  Stay tuned!

Happy Summer Solstice (Even though we didn’t see the sun)!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s been another great day at camp and happy summer Solstice.  It is the longest day of the year and we just finished our Solstice campfire where campers traveled to 4 different stations to learn and participate in this fun and ancient evening.   Backing up to the morning we had some rain today but none that chased us inside or even required a raincoat.  Even with the weather we hit the trails at GV going in all directions by foot, hoof and bike.  Campers from all over camp traversed our many trails as well as walked the creeks and hiked many paths.  Our 300 plus acres are full of wonder and beauty.  No matter where you go on the property you will find something that is interesting.  A keen eye and sometimes silent footsteps take you even closer to the miracles of nature around us.  I met our mountain bikers this afternoon on the long trail above camp which can be hiked, run, horse ridden or mountain biked.  It’s suitable for all four.  There were beautiful scarves being made in Arts and Crafts this afternoon.  They were out drying, full of color and varied in design.  Our kayakers are getting ready for a river trip which will happen next week.  You’ll see two kinds of kayaks at GV.  The sit-on-tops are easy to paddle and maintain a straight line with little effort and even the smallest camper can paddle them.  The whitewater kayaks are hard to keep in a straight line and if you turn over you have to either roll it back up or wet exit which is what they are working on now.   Those who feel comfortable with their wet exits and have learned to handle their boats on the lake will be going off site for a trip, most likely to the French Broad which is in our backyard.  Near the end of the session we’ll perhaps have a trip to the Green River which is about an hour away and is a little bigger water.

Despite our cool and drizzly weather, the waterfront was a popular place today.  There is someone almost always on the zip line when the waterfront is open.  It’s a great ride and everyone’s challenge is to perform a Spiderman (hanging upside down) while zipping.  Harder than it looks!  We’ll try and get some photos.  Another popular component at the lake this summer is the rope swing and the tension traverse.  It’s just a few inches over the water and you walk the cable holding on to a long rope that is attached to the top of the rope swing.   The farther out you get the more difficult it is and very few campers or staff have made it all the way to the opposite bank.

Soccer and archery rounded out the morning on the sports pitch.  There’s at least one soccer game every day at camp and more often there’s more than one.  After all it is the world’s #1 sport (behind ACC Basketball).  Pottery, while not a sport, does take a fair amount of coordination.  I’ve been in camping a long time and haven’t yet been able to master the proper throwing of a pot on the wheel. I suppose it takes practice just like everything else. That being said there were lots of pinch pots and slab pots being made today, which is what I need to stick to.

Our Riverside group  came home today after 4 days of paddling.  They ended their paddling component on the Nantahala, a swift and cold river about two hours from here.  The year round temperature of the water hovers around 48 – 50 degrees.  They had a great day on the river hitting lots of eddies and playing in spots like “surfing rapid”.  Everyone had showered and eaten by dinner and I’m sure they will sleep like tired puppies tonight.   One of the nice aspects of our new dining room is that we have plenty of room for Riverside to eat with us now.  When they’re in camp they eat along with Main Camp and Mountainside.  We also welcomed a new batch of Mountainsider’s today and they had an afternoon and evening of get acquainted games and challenges.

At camp, some kids practice sports, some practice instruments, and some practice their belly flops.  One thing that ALL campers practice is independence!  Gwynn Valley provides a nurturing and safe environment for kids to face challenges on their own, and that can be incredibly constructive to a child’s character, resilience and grit.  Author and psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, put it this way: “I think camp is the best emotional preparation for a successful college experience, because you practice being on your own, keeping track of your clothes; you practice living in a community and getting along with challenging roommates — all of the skills you need for true independence.”

When campers can draw upon an experience of overcoming a challenge on their own, it gives them a positive memory to draw from when facing future obstacles; say, preparing for that really big math test or interviewing for that first job.  Camp provides a world of good, each and every day here at GV.  Stay tuned!