A Wonderful Way to Spend Our Day!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We just finished our Friendship Campfire for Session C, C-2.  At campfire we honored the campers who have many years of Gwynn Valley summers.  As a tradition at our final campfire we honor those who are coming for their 4th and 5th year with a blanket for the 4th year and a wooden plaque for their 5th year.  This was the first year to also honor those beyond the 5th year of attendance and those who have been here for 8 years received a “compass” with Gwynn Valley engraved on the back.  We seem to always be finding our way in life and we hope that our time at GV provides the right directions and paths that we choose to take.  We also honored our Young Leaders, this year being our second year to have that program.

Tonight at campfire our camp actors performed “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Suess and it was delightful.  Hat’s off to Lauren, Drew, Debbie and mostly the children for their time, energy and performance of such a classic.  We watched a short video and saw photos from the session near the end after our thespians performed.  Debbie finished off the evening playing, “Sheep May Safely Graze”, which has been a part of campfire for many, many years.  It’s a beautiful song and if you linger after the end of our Closing Campfire you’ll hear it.  It comes after the staff sing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You”. Hope you’ll linger and listen and then join us for lunch with most of that meal coming from our farm.  There were a few tears tonight as campers knew our session was ending.

Looking back to an earlier part of our day we had lots of trips out of camp today.  The Main Camp Kayakers had a grand time on the French Broad.  The campers did a great job and earned their river fins today.  Other trips out today included hikers to Pisgah National Forest near the stone wall of John’s Rock. The climbers went to the Nose of Looking Glass Rock which is probably the most famous climb there.  It’s a good feeling coming back to camp after such a successful day.  Our bikers also rode the singletrack of Dupont State Forest ending on Ridgeline Trail which is a roller coaster of fun.  There were some tired puppies when these trips returned.  All of these groups had a 7:30 breakfast on the Pavilion to get out early and then hiked, biked, climbed and paddled through the morning and early afternoon.  Groups made it back for afternoon swims at the pool (pillowcase day) and to finish up packing.

This morning in Main Camp at home we held our last signups for the session and there was lot’s to do.  Campers fed the calves, and dug potatoes and picked corn, which was readied for tomorrow’s lunch here at camp.  Mountainside had a leisurely day and they unpacked gear and lounged after their adventures.  Both Riverside and Mountainside got a swim into today.  It was the perfect day for it.  Tonight at dinner we had our usual meal of home made pizza (including the crust) and of course salad, grape salad and fresh corn.  Brownies also came after pizza and the energy level was high.  There’s nothing better than good food and good friends to makes spirits soar.  One camper at my table said she loved her parents but didn’t want to go home.

Tomorrow when you arrive your children from C, C-2 will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  We do these each night and check in with campers to find out how their day has been.  It allows staff to see how the children are doing since they only see them at morning wake-up, rest hour, before and after meals and bedtime.  Our days are full and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  At 11:00 and after the gathering in the cabin there is our program in the Lodge for parents, friends and campers.  Thank you for sharing your children with us this past 10 days and 3 weeks.  We’ve had a wonderful session and hope to see all of these children back again next summer.  It’s been a great session and a great group of children.  Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday Tajar!

Dear Parents and Friend,

Greetings from the land of FUN! The Tajar visited us last night and there was evidence of his mischief in Downtown GV this morning.  Boats, buckets, bowls, lawn mowers, tables, chairs and anything that didn’t grow hair was somehow amiss.  If you don’t know who the Tajar is, just ask your child.  Each session we celebrate his birthday and everyone comes to the party in costume.  This event has been going on at Gwynn Valley for a very long time.  We have a big picnic with burgers and dogs in the Pavilion and everyone eats outside and then we all attend a giant carnival on the soccer field.  It was the perfect day for the Tajar because he doesn’t like rain.  When wet he’s not happy and would much rather stay dry.  The carnival consisted of Face Painting, Smack the Rat, Soccer Shootout, Hayrides, Bucket Breakup, TP Toss, Frisbee Throw, free food including ice cream, popcorn, snow cones, Guess the M&M’s, The Penny Toss, Sponge Throw, a Giant Water Slide, Fidget Ladder, and Strongman Hammer Test.  There were all kinds of costumes at the Ball and Carnival.  I’m sure you’ll recognize some characters from your household.

Earlier today Mountainside and Riverside came home and are safe and sound sleeping in their own beds tonight.  Each group had their share of fun, learning and adventure while out since Sunday.  They all came back with smiles and stories to tell, memories to remember and that’s what counts.  We’ll look forward to having them back at our tables tomorrow at breakfast.

There will be several Main Camp trips out tomorrow with Kayakers, Mountain Bikers, Hikers and Climbers.  The kayakers will head to the French Broad on section zero.  Many  were doing their final preps today on the lake and getting psyched.

I attended a few activities this morning including the Mill, Pottery, Bong Tree, Horseback Riding, Arborist Climbing and Biking.  This afternoon I ran a signup which I rarely get to do.  Dr. Dave helped me with it and it started with an ancient map that was given to me many years ago.  A hermit who used to live at camp gave it to me and just said, “steep, water and bring a rope”.  The map gave us several clues that we followed and found the spot where we set up a rope and lowered campers into the 100 foot  “Abyss” and onto a small flowing creek bed at the bottom.  Dr. Dave went first and helped everyone get down and then we had to hike out.  It was quite an adventure and we didn’t have to twist any arms to get people to sign up today to join us.  As it turned out we found what I call the Lost Cove Ravine which runs parallel to our Connestee Falls Trail.  If you follow the creek you end up at the Mill.  You would never know it’s there because the rhododendron is so thick,  “it’s like a basket being woven in the earth”, as one camper said today.  It was a cool and shady way to spend our afternoon in the 90 degree weather we experienced.

Real Basket Cases

Tomorrow will be signups in the morning as all of our Discovery Activities ended today.  In the afternoon will be pillowcase day for all of camp when everyone, but Mountainside and Riverside, goes to the pool (not all at once mind you).  There is a method to this madness.  Tomorrow evening will be Friendship Campfire and our last one for the session.  We keep things moving right till the end of the session.  I think the three week campers will need a couple of days of rest upon returning home.  We were up a little later tonight and tomorrow is a big day for us all as we wind down from a very active and fun session.  I wish we could keep them all for another week.  Camp does a world of good.  If you’re feeling a little “campsick” and missing your children we understand.  They’ve provided a great deal of joy in our setting.  Anne and I sent all of our children off to other camps when they were younger and we know how you feel.   We missed them and also knew how it would help them grow being away from home and our familiar setting here.  Camp is a wonderful supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships, unplug from technology, connect with nature, and participate in human-powered activities. Camp allows children to relax and enjoy just being kids. I truly believe there’s a camp for every child.  Thank you for choosing Gwynn Valley.  We appreciate you sharing your children.  Stay tuned!

Viva El Mexico!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We are celebrating Mexico Day here at camp today.  Our morning started off on the Green learning about Mexico’s independence and it only got better as we took history and turned it into food.  Our breakfast and lunch so far today has been wonderful and this is authentic Mexican food.  We had huevos chorico, (scrambled eggs with spicey sausage), Plantanos Fritos (Fried Plantains), crumbled queso,  crema (sour cream but not sour), Salsa Verde, Conchas (wonderful pastries), cantaloupe, and hot cocoa with cinnamon.

I needed to get out to work that breakfast off, so I spent time at Arborist climbing.  They tackle our two giant poplar trees right in front of the Gatehouse.  Instead of climbing the tree, you climb the rope connected to the tree.  This method is used by arborist, so as not to harm the tree.  It’s challenging and fulfilling as you slowly inch your way up the rope.  We don’t use mechanical ascenders, but knots called the distal hitch, which grabs the rope under pressure and releases when not.  There’s a safety belay for this, so never fear.  From there it was onto the pool where our shallow swimmers were getting some confidence lessons and proper stroke lessons.  I remember learning to swim and for me it was all about confidence and feeling like I was able to do it on my own.  Once there, I never looked back.  Swimming opens a lot of doors at camp and even in life.  Most our campers can swim but a few need some help with that small ratio teaching and encouragement.  Great strides were being made this morning.

The Mill was preparing to make authentic tortillas and they were in the midst of that when I followed the horse back crew up the trails to get some footage of them riding in our shady forest land.  They were following one of our single track trails that run up near the top of our property on the NE side.  It was fun to see our riders using a trail that traditionally is used by the bikers.  It’s a steady climb and then an equally steady descent.  Our advanced riders got to take advantage of this and they deserve it.  On the way back I wanted to sample one of those tortillas but didn’t make it in time.  I’m sure they were delicious.

Our Main Camp climbers were out at Looking Glass today on the south side and climbed near a place called Stage Ledge.  It has a number of challenging one pitch routes perfect for our group and their skills.  I asked Spencer how they did and he was very pleased.  Part of being at Looking Glass is knowing rock etiquette and we really work on that when we’re there and other groups are around.  We’re always proud of our camp’s behavior, focus and attention to the area around us.  Our climbing philosophy engages as many campers as possible so there’s little idle time or just sitting around waiting to climb.  That takes training and give our staff credit for this.  We get lots of compliments from local guide services about our groups and it makes me very happy.  This should be true in every outdoor – out of camp venue.

Creek hiking went out twice today – once this morning with younger campers  and once this afternoon with those who went the distance all the way to Connestee Falls.  It’s a spectacular creek hike because you’re in the creek the whole time and culminates at the Falls.  There are several swimming holes along the way to cool off in.  It was a hot morning so the pool was a welcome relief.  Every creek hike emphasizes three points of contact with the stream surface because rocks and water can be a little slippery.  I love going  on creek hikes because it makes you feel like you’re in deepest Pisgah and there could be a giant hellbender just at your feet.  We’ve seen them before and know they are there.  If you’ve never seen one, they are just a giant salamander and quite ancient looking.  They live in most of our large and rocky cold water streams here in WNC.

Mountainside and Riverside will be finishing up their adventures tomorrow and coming home tomorrow afternoon.  No news is good news from them.  They will be walking out, riding their last ride, climbing their last climb and paddling their last river tomorrow.  By this time tomorrow night they will have showered and be ready for our traditional Tajar Ball.  Can’t wait to have them back in camp.  They will have stories to tell.

We had a brief shower just before dinner tonight and it really cooled things off.  I’m waiting to see what they had for dinner.  I will be hard to top our lunch menu today: Tacos al pastor, Queso cebbello, creamy salsa verde, ensalada del col (col slaw), Chicken, Mango, and watermelon….some of the best tacos I’ve ever had.  My oldest son’s birthday is today so we’re having a little family gathering for him tonight.  I’m sure Mexico Day will continue and be festive and wonderful.  It’s nice to celebrate our different nationalities each week here at camp.  I always learn so much from our international staff.  Stay Tuned!



“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” The Wind in the Willows

Dear Parents and Friends,

It is a beautiful sunset here tonight and as you can guess that made for a great day.  I must admit I wasn’t here much today because of going out with the Main Camp Kayakers on the Green River.  We got home about 6:30 but they saved us lots of dinner including chicken pot pie, fresh bread from our kitchen, cauliflower, carrots and salad from the farm.  And, you can bet, we were all quite hungry. Everyone did a great job on the river and the learning curve went way up.  The Green was full of water today given that we’ve had lots of rain in WNC over the past couple of weeks.  We put in on the second half of the river and paddled through several good size rapids including S Turn (where we practiced some S turns and peel-outs), before getting to Big Corky, the largest rapid on the river.  I eddied up to catch video and Hannah placed herself near the beach on river right for a rescue boat and Davis (our leader) stayed up top with the campers to release them on our paddle signals.  Because the water is so noisy you have silent paddle signals that tell you when to go, stop, right, left, I’m ok and emergency.  Everyone made it through in different places on the rapid.  It’s a little hard to read until you get into it.  And even for folks like me who have probably 200-300 runs on this river, there’s sometimes a new rock in the middle of the rapid that wasn’t there last year.  Things change, water moves things and moving water is very powerful.  After running through the standing waves of Little Nantahala, we cruised into Jacob’s Ladder, a series of three ledges running from river left.  Each ledge has a big eddy and just out from that strong current are lots of rocks and more safe places (eddies).  Ideally you eddy hop down the ladder and today they made some attempts but the water pushed them down the main channel and onto Sunday Ledge the next rapid.  It has a very smooth surfing wave and is a lot of fun to try in your boat.  We had some swimmers there but were set up to handle that situation.  It was a great day on the river and we learned much and as Winnie-the-Pooh says, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.”

I was told by Anne that after lunch today the sun disappeared for a while and soon the skies darkened.  The storm came through south of us and we got just a tad of rain and afternoon program went as planned.  This afternoon several cabins went “off program” on creek hiking, tubing, lake kayaking, and hiking trips. Going off program is mostly FUN, but it also provides great opportunities to bring the cabin group closer together. Some of those going off program today will also be camping out tonight.  It’s the perfect night for it.  No clouds and no chance of rain.  For those cabins who stayed in normal program today, we ran a wide range of sign ups including making ice cream at the mill, tree climbing, farm, dip candles, kumihimo, biking the Main Camp trail, zip & traverse line at the lake, and quite a few more.

Tonight after dinner was Twilight Play which is always a hit here at camp.  You’re able to take almost any activity and it’s like a regular period during the day.  Campers love it because they’ve just refueled from dinner and it’s in the cool of the evening.  After unloading gear from the trip I spent some watching the campers try the Traverse Line at the lake.  Only about 1 in 40 campers make it across and it’s challenging.  It’s a new challenge for most and it’s ok to not make it.  New experiences give our minds a fresh start by awakening the need to focus and push ourselves a bit more.  When children arrive at camp they are surrounded by new people, a new place and ways to play. Counselors and new friends provide support to explore this newness, learn from it, and enjoy it.  Whether it’s meeting a new friend, dealing with an obstacle on a hike, making art out of natural material, or working with their team to take on a challenge, camp has opportunities for children to exercise creativity and use their imagination.  Spending time in nature at camp gives children the time, freedom, and control to play in imaginative ways and collaborate creatively with other children, like building a dam on a creek or creating the back-story of the crayfish they caught in the creek.  That energizing push to explore their ideas will help campers become better problem solvers, communicators, and collaborators.  And most of all, better people!

It’s been another full day here at camp and there’s so much to tell you, but of course, I’ll leave most of that to your children.  There’s a lot of bonding here at camp and I feel that camp is based on building relationships through experiences that we have with each other.  In most all of our cabins children’s bodies and minds are slowing down as they think about their day and imagine what tomorrow might bring.  Stay tuned!

A Special Day inspired by Dr. Seuss!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Every Sunday at camp, when it’s not an opening day, is “Special Day” and today was truly  special!  The theme today was Dr. Seuss. Campers moved around camp participating in different activity stations with their cabin groups. Each station was inspired by a different book and brought to life by our counselors. There was a ‘wet loop’ and a ‘dry loop’ that took up a morning or afternoon activity block. The ‘wet loop’ included water activities at the pool and the lake. The ‘dry loop’ had cabins moving through 5 stations around camp. Activities and games were inspired by Oh the Places You’ll Go, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax, The Sneetches, Hop on Pop, and many others.  Our Young Leaders took on a big role with Special Day as they planned and implemented their own station on the ‘dry loop’. They created an obstacle course based on “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” which campers loved!! The whimsical and imaginative spirit of Dr. Suess was well represented throughout the day.

Our Older Programs all had busy days as well. Mountainside and Riverside both left camp for their 4 day adventures. Riverside has already spent 8 days paddling and climbing and will spend their final 4 days in the field backpacking on the Foothills Trail. Mountainside is split into 4 different groups and these campers have been working hard to prepare for their overnight trip that will last 4 days as well. Climbers are headed to Linville Gorge, with a day in Rumbling Bald to get them started. Bikers will spend the whole time in Dupont, with other 100 miles of incredible trails just outside their tent flap! Canoers went to the Tuckaseegee today (it was a low release) and will spend the next 3 days paddling rivers across WNC. The Mountainside backpackers are in Pisgah, spending much of their time on the Art Loeb Trail. We look forward to hearing about their adventures when they return to camp on Wednesday!

Despite some threatening clouds in the distance, the weather today was perfect. It was cloudy at times, but the rain storms never quite materialized at camp. It was hot enough to swim, but not too hot to be playing hard outside all day! Special Day is always a very full day for campers, and Vespers is a wonderful way to wind down after a long, hot day of playing. The theme tonight at Vespers was “God’s Community.” Campers and staff shared songs, poems, and readings that centered on this theme and of course we all enjoyed Debbie’s beautiful music. It was an very welcome early night for our campers. Hopefully a good night’s sleep will leave them energize for another exciting week of discoveries, activities, and trips out of camp!


The Gold Rush Comes to Gwynn Valley and Saves Us!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Here we are at the end of another great  and action packed day at Gwynn Valley! Main Camp is getting into a rhythm again as C2 campers settle into the flow of camp. We are well into Discovery’s, which means that campers are gaining skills in each morning activity.  As I walked around this morning, I heard and saw so many moments of excellent instruction from our program leaders and quite a few ‘lightbulb’ moments with our campers.  Activities bring forth challenges and fun.  Sometimes adventure means milking a goat or feeding a baby calf, especially when you are a Primavera  camper and the calf is bigger than you! Sometimes adventure means getting up on stage in front of the rest of camp and sharing a talent.  You might be challenged by simply trying to weave with a Kumihimo Wheel, or by tying your own figure eight knot, but either way you do eventually get it and it’s even more fun when you can remember the next time on your own.  I think every day at camp has teachable, learnable and funable moments.

Our Mountainside and Riverside campers are heading out tomorrow for four days in the field. The Mountainside climbers will be heading to Linville Gorge where they will climb at a wide range of sites that area has to offer. The Mountainside bikers will head into Dupont, where there will have access to over 100 miles of single track.  The Mountainside paddlers will head for the Lower Green or perhaps the Tuck.  We had a lot of rain today so both river banks will be full.  The Mountainside pioneers will be heading out into Pisgah for 4 days of hiking along many of the trails that trace our backyard range.  Riverside will be heading out for their backpacking adventure also in Pisgah with lots of ascending and descending, but the amazing views make it worth their while!

The 4 day Adventures are truly the pinnacle experience on Mountainside and Riverside, as they are marked by a level of personal growth and community strengthening that we don’t see gained as readily through other parts of the program. The true growth that we witness in these campers cannot be summed up by the number of miles they rode or the rated class rapid that they paddled down. Rather, the growth can be seen in their ability to go beyond what they feel they are capable of and if they fail, pick themselves up and try again. The great thing about this is that we emphasize “challenge by choice” and encourage them to take the high road to excellence.  There’s a lot of power when you have others to help you along who are supporting you in reaching the crux of climb, bike, paddle and hike.   All of Mountainside was on the Gatehouse Green tonight participating in their adventure sendoff’s and spending time together one more time before they’re upcoming departure.   It was idyllic as a beautiful sun set on one side and the moon appeared over the tree tops just opposite the sun.

We had a storm today during lunch that lasted past our rest hour.  Everyone was stuck in the Lodge for a good while, but we got to go to our 3rd and 4th activity periods despite the weather.  The golden sun came back out later toward dinner and all was well.  Speaking of gold, we held a surprise campfire tonight that is called GOLD RUSH.  Maggie brought the game to camp and it’s a blast.  Anne and I got up after dinner and talked about how we were going to have to work another 50 years to pay off our new Dining Room and Kitchen.  And just when we thought desperation set in, Jed came in and said that he had heard tell that Gwynn Valley was built on a mountain of gold and if we could find enough we could pay off the building in one night –debt free.  We liked that idea so we encouraged all our campers to help us.  Of course there are challenges with looking for gold.  There were Robbers, Sherriff’s (good guys),Tax Collectors, and Guides who were either out for our money or to help us keep it.  And you might guess that this story ended well.  The campers found enough gold to pay off the debt and a bit extra that might even build something new next year.  We were saved and everyone helped.

Tomorrow is Special Day at Gwynn Valley, which means the whole day centers around a theme. It looks as though our theme will be Dr. Suess.  Some events will be silly and some not no silly, but fun.  A few leadership team members have been actively planning all of tomorrow’s events in secret. Part of the fun of Special Day is that you don’t find out the theme or activities until breakfast that day. Many campers were guessing what the theme might be over dinner as they discussed ‘best Special Days’ from years past. We’ll just have to wait and see what is revealed over breakfast tomorrow morning!! Until then… stay tuned!


River, Fire, Heat, Crafts, Attack Position and Ending With Winn Dixie!

Dear Parents & Friends,

As the mist on the mountains settles into our view the sun has faded and evening is here.  It’s cool now after a thundershower, again during dinner tonight and just before campfire. Good timing! It was a hot day here and I managed to escape some of that by being out with the kayakers for a good portion of the day.  It was for some, their first trip out and for others, their second of the C session.  We’re trying to get them Green Ready which means a trip to the Green River next week.  We paddled the upper French Broad which got a lot of rain late yesterday and was up for our time on the water.  We ferried, peeled out, caught eddies, played, swam, threw ropes for safety, and repeated all of the above throughout the day.  There are several good challenging rapids on the section where we would stop and ask everyone to perform certain maneuvers.  We only had one boat go over, but others came very close.  Leaning downstream when you’re ferrying and peeling out is the most challenging aspect for most paddlers.  As soon as your edge catches that upstream current and you’re not leaning (downstream) the right way, it’s curtains.  We all go over in good time and with campers, we want it to be early to help with confidence before moving on to bigger water.

It was a good day to be on the water both river and here.  When we got back we all took a dip in our lake to wash the sweat off and the river.  While there Jr. Lifeguarding was training.  I asked one of the campers at my table tonight what they did and she explained the most important aspect is learning to save someone by first learning the different ways you can help them without you having to get in the water and possibly becoming a victim as well.  I do remember the old motto of Reach, Throw and Go but that has since been totally revamped and is much safer than it used to be depending on your skills and qualifications.  All of these young fledging “guards” are learning to use what we call a Rescue Tube which all of our staff guards hold while at the lake or pool.

You of course will notice our Blacksmithing program from the pictures.  We did a trial run last year for just our session B campers and are running it B-D this summer.  It’s working beautifully and is both physically challenging and artistic at the same time.  One has to score some accurate hits with the hammer on the anvil to get exactly what you want.  From just watching Pat and Danny instruct, you learn a lot about the metal and the many tricks to getting to the next chapter of taking raw steel and turning into a useful item.  Children are making pendants, hooks, bottle openers, horse shoe picks (for those riders) and an assortment of other smithy items.  Of course the appeal is you’re handling something hot and one has to have the right safety gear and listen to directions.  It’s not an activity that many schools or arts council’s offer so that makes it even more exciting.

On the metal theme one of my favorite activities at camp is Mountain Biking.  You straddle your metal steed to balance and peddle yourself through the rigors of single track here at camp and off our property.  Pretty much everyone can ride a bike but there’s so much more about shifting your weight, riding in the attack position, braking, gearing, cadence, and the list goes on.  We start every biking activity session with a check of each bike that’s performed under the watchful eye of the staff and tell campers they should do this with their own bikes at home.  It takes less than 5 minutes and is worth the time.  You may even have them checking your bike before a ride.

Although sometime the brunt of jokes at camp, “Basketry” is very popular here and it takes patience and time to weave a nice basket.  The crafts arena at GV offers the camper a host of different artistic pursuits, whatever your medium.  Scott, Pam, Brynn and others can introduce you to strings, bangles, paint, dye, wax, thread, weavings, clay, buttons and beads that provide almost anyone a creative outlet.

We’re all aiming toward something in life and you will appreciate the young archer pic who is obviously visualizing hitting the target before she releases the arrow.  Such concentration and dedication to this ancient sport as she channels her zen to the arrow tip to find the eye of the bull.    This kind of focus is the fodder that starts movie themes.  Archery is one of our most popular activities at camp and we’re offering it more than ever this year.  We got feedback from campers that they wanted more archery and we provided.

Our aim is of course to please and as Mary Gwynn once said, “it’s good to challenge ourselves each day”.  We feel that should be the case as we encourage campers to step out and step back into their comfort zones.  Take a chance, jump higher, run faster and get up there on stage and show your mettle. This was certainly done tonight when our Musical Theater group performed a play called Winn Dixie. It was about a dog and her owner who were of course best friends and had some excellent life lessons entwined throughout the story.  I’m sure the campers will perform a song from the play on closing day.  With that, I must close and bid you all sweet dreams and stay tuned!



Farm Campfire and a Beautiful Day!

Dear Parents and Families,

It was a hot and sunny day here today and we began with clear blue skies without our usual morning fog that sets into the French Broad Valley on normal days.  No rain came until dinner time and lasted through the meal and was gone by the time after supper activities started.  With our clear cool morning we had some local videographers here to shoot aerial views of our dining room and kitchen complex.  It was the perfect morning and the kids loved watching the drone work its magic.  The same crew came back this evening to video our evening meal and capture the new facility from the inside.  We love our new building and it’s really added to camp in so many ways.   Today was our second day of Discovery and campers were talking about their activities from the morning.  There is so much going on it’s hard to choose what to do next sometimes.  This choice system is great for children because many have not had the chance to chart their own day and make decisions like, what will I do for my Discoveries and what will I choose just for today.  And this goes on for 10 days or 3 weeks.  It’s nice to have that freedom and also in this environment where you try out things with your friends or focus on a theme like adventure, crafts, nature, farm/mill, sports, theater, or all of the above.  For a child it’s like having the world as your oyster.

I think children/campers gain so much independence, confidence, resilience and a desire to succeed by coming to camp.  Children need to learn in different ways and not just in traditional class rooms.  Learning math skills is very important and learning to paddle a boat with partner rates high on the “emotional intelligence quotient” that camp provides.  The community life of camp is hard to beat.  Spending time away from video games, social media and television help them to make personal connections with others and engage in new environments.   I feel that the outcomes from summer camp greatly enhance your academic life on the traditional school end.    Recent studies found that the average child between the ages of 8-18 spends 45 hours a week interacting with electronic media.  Being outdoors and breathing in fresh air during activities makes people feel great. It cleanses their lungs and improves blood circulation throughout the body, resulting in increased energy levels and an overall euphoric feeling for a “natural high.” And then there’s the exercise factor! Physical activity builds self-esteem and motivation at every age.  An outdoors camp lets children reconnect with nature. The exposure to new habitats and creatures encourages children’s instinctive fascination with science and nature and opens up their world to new ways of thinking about the world around them.  Camps get children out in the field and out of their comfort zone, exposing them to new experiences they may never have dreamed of and perhaps spark a new interest that lasts beyond their week(s) at camp.

Riverside was here all day and will be packing up soon to leave on Sunday for their last component of backpacking.  They’ve been paddling on the Green, Tuckaseegee, and Nantahala Rivers this week. We are thrilled to have Riverside with us for a few days before they take to the mountains.  Another added bonus of our new facility is that Riverside gets to eat with us whenever they are in camp.  That’s also true of Day Camp, who used to eat at the Brookside Shelter.  Now they join us for lunch and have the Pavilion to themselves.  Mountainsider’s also had a homecoming of sorts at dinner. Today was their second MS Training Day, so bikers, paddlers, pioneers, and climbers spent all day out of camp training for their Adventures which will begin on Sunday as well! I think having such an active day made our dinner of chicken, rice, garden fresh salad, garden broccoli and cornbread even better.  By the way the chicken tonight was courtesy of the farm.  We raise chickens before campers arrive and have them prepared for summer eating.  Our summer chickens mostly lay eggs for baby chicks.

The farm is cranking this time of year.  It’s been so busy, that I forgot to tell you about the birth of baby piglets that happened just over a week ago.  I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures.  Note the pic in this article from the farm that has campers collecting corn from the corn crib.  That corn meal will be the cornbread we will have next week.  C Session harvest by campers includes sweet corn, potatoes, beans, carrots, cabbage, more corn, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, blueberries, and more corn. There are also many baby animals requiring love, attention, and possibly a bottle feeding with each camper visit: piglets, goat kids, and calves. Campfire tonight was the annual Farm Campfire and all its characters and carrot cake was served up.  Farmer Dale told some stories and clogged, the Needle Nose Vise Grips played several songs and there was a corn eating contest.  It was an evening of farm fun and laughs with campers and staff participating on all levels.

I’m a believer in camp and I thank you for sharing your children with us.  While we grow vegetables at the farm, we also are helping your children grow into many ways through all the opportunities that camp offers.  We hope you see that growth and outcomes when they return home.  Stay tuned!

Opening Day of C-2, Riverside Returns and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We welcomed our new campers for C-2 today and got off to a rousing start to begin that session. For those of you that dropped off your children today, I hope that you’re safe and sound and at your destination. You were shown to your cabins today by our SIT’s and Young Leaders. They are a hard working group of young people who have been at Gwynn Valley for many years. They work in the Kitchen, Stables and throughout camp as well some live in cabins with campers. Those campers who are here for three weeks had signups this morning while the new campers were arriving. With a bit over half the camp, it was just a small intimate group to sign up this morning. As new campers arrived we were priming the pump for another great session. Right after lunch everyone signed up for Discovery activities. These are activities that take place every other day for a 3 day period. Campers have 2 activities in the AM on Mon., Wed., and Fri., and 2 more activities on Tues., Thurs., and Sat. The campers have many choices and as always the afternoons are for signup as well, when many different one time activities are offered. Both times of the day are lots of fun. The morning focuses mostly on skills and the afternoon, some skills and the experience of trying something new just for a short period of time. Following are the Discovery activities offered in the morning:

Farm/ Mill, Archery, Standup Paddle Boards, Horseback Riding, Climbing (three kinds), Nature,  Candles, Soccer, Fine Arts Musical, Blacksmithing, Weaving, Junior Lifeguarding, Mountain Biking, Pottery, Weaving, Needlepoint, Material Marbling, Camping Skills & Nautre, Kayaking and Soccer.  Lots of choices and lots of things to do!

It was a beautiful day to open C-2 and we sailed through the afternoon with bright sunny weather until just before dinner a little thunder sent us to our safe areas of camp.  Our lightening detector Thorguard didn’t go off, but we don’t take any chances with nearby storms.  The southern and eastern part of our county got lots of rain.  Our Thor system doesn’t go off after campers go to bed or until about 8:00 in the morning. It does however alert us in sleep and quiet times with a strobe light that can be seen in the middle of camp.

We don’t waste any time getting things going on the first day of camp. We held to our usual schedule of a 1:00 lunch since we have campers from the C session here for 3 weeks. After sign-ups the new campers visited the Waterfront, Mill, Sports, Archery, Climbing, Lake Fun, Tye Dye, Farm, and Horses. We all received new table assignments tonight for dinner and I’m with a great group of campers and staff at table 4.  We only have one new camper at our table and C/C-2 is full of returners.  One of Gwynn Valley’s values is Acceptance and I feel we do a great job embracing new people into the fold here at GV.  We are a no put-down zone and really give everyone a chance to be who they are.  Anne does a great job of placement and making sure that not too many friends are together to form cliques in cabins.

Mountainside continues their training days tomorrow, going into 4 different directions to get ready for their adventures starting on Sunday.   Riverside returned from the Nantahala today after having spent 4 days on the river.  Mountainside has a great staff this summer as does Main Camp and Riverside.  We really value our staff and appreciate the work they put in with your children. The work they do is what makes camp. Anne, Maggie and I do our best to get out into program every day and on some trips.  By getting involved in program and visiting activities we are able to see into the heart of our program. It brings us great joy to see a group of campers enthralled and focused on one of many activities here at GV.

As our evening closed down, our new campers came to the Lodge for a little Mountain Dancing.  It was the perfect thing to end the day, combine age groups and give everyone and chance to be active before their night of camp.  We danced 4 dances and then it was off for cabin meetings and friendship circle which is every night in the cabin.  We’ll talk about that later.

As you know we take lots of photos each day her at camp and you’re looking for your child and a happy face. We try to take some photos showing children really focused on the work and play they are participating in. As we go through the session, I hope you’ll get a glimpse of the work these young staff members are doing with your children. Many of them have come from the camper ranks and have reached counselor nirvana. It is tough work but you already know that because you’re all doing that at home. Stay tuned!

C Session, Mountainside and Riverside Marches On!

Dear Parents & Friends,

As our C-1 session campers left today we still have our C session campers rolling right along and having signups all day today.  Mountainside started their training days today to get ready for adventures next week.  They chose their adventures a couple of nights ago and each group is using this time to prepare and work on skills.  The MS group will all head out on Sunday as will Riverside on their next outdoor component.  Riverside is out paddling this week and ran the Tuckaseegee today and should be on the Nantahala tomorrow.  The Tuck to the Nanty is a good stepping stone and it’s easily within their reach.  We can’t wait to hear the stories from their adventures and look forward to having them back in camp.   I was out on the Mountainside paddling trip with them today.  We warmed them up on the mighty French Broad not too far from camp.

Creek hikes and tubing were the order of the day for some of our waterfront activities.   A creek hike is a fun exercise and today was no exception.  Our creek is spectacular as you ascend to the upper reaches of our property.  You feel like you’re out in the middle of the national forest but you’re only just few hundred yards from camp.  We always take a lifeguard on the trip even though the pools are barely 4 feet in most places.  Along on any trip is a radio, a first aid kit, an epi pen and staff qualified in first aid and CPR.

For those of you that still have children in camp, tonight is special.  We had ice cream on the Green and showed a movie in the Lodge.  The movie is Zootopia, which I haven’t seen.  It should be an early night and then up in the morning regular time and off to activities for those C campers.

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 hope you will hear stories and songs as the weeks go by and camp becomes a great memory.  Placed in the hands of a mature staff a child’s life is expanded by “playing outside which produces growing inside”.  From all of us, thanks again for a great session.  Wonderful children, great staff and the Simple Joys of Childhood at Gwynn Valley!  Hope to see you next year! For those with children in our C Session stay tuned for the latest news and hope you’re having as much fun as we are.  If you haven’t seen the video we showed the children last night, here it is.

C-1 Video Re-cap