C-1er’s We Will Miss You and What a Last Great Day!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It was a brilliant day at camp as we wound down in our C-1 Session.  Trips out of camp today were great and the campers took advantage of our warm and clear weather to bike, climb, and paddle.  I went out with the Kayakers to the French Broad this morning.  We ran section zero which is a good beginner river with enough rock jumble and riffles to certainly turn over a boat.  Several campers took a swim and all got back on that horse and tried it again.  We spent time learning ferrying, peel-outs, eddy turns and maneuvering around rocks and strainers on the river.  The coolness coming off the water was a welcome relief to the heat that was everywhere else.  Climbers went to the Nose area today which has a wonderful view once you climb over the height of the trees at the base of the rock.  Once you reach that point it’s like earth and sky just opens up before you.  It’s as though you could reach out and touch most of Pisgah National Forest at your fingertips.  The bikers headed to Dupont to tackle the ups and downs of single track and found Ridgeline to be their favorite trail.  Most folks like it because it’s downhill flow and no pedaling to speak of is required. Just keeping it between the lines is pretty important.  They had a great time and enjoyed the coolness of biking in the shade of rocks, roots, mud, sweat and gears!

These trips really propel campers into new areas they may not have tried before.  Athleticism isn’t always just about traditional sports, but those we that we focus on at camp that have an outdoor bend and that flesh out those hidden talents.  It’s fun to see campers come alive and excel in new environs. These trips are a culmination of building skills throughout camp in each activity.  Our main camp training provides a solid foundation for expeditionary learning outside the “nest”.  Taking on new environs, relying on the skills you’ve learned at camp, taking it to the next level and pushing yourself a little harder than you’ve done before, creates new found confidence and stepping stones for greater things to come.

Our Fine Arts group put on a familiar favorite tonight at campfire that everyone loves called “The Cat in the Hat”.  It was a crowd pleaser and the campers did a great job with their parts, sets and costumes.  Many thanks to Lauren, Debbie and Drew for directing and writing some music.  Before the play started Anne and I also recognized our campers who had been at camp for 4 and 5 years or longer.  Afterward we looked at pics from the session and a short video from C-1 that is linked here.

C-1 Recap Video

This afternoon while our C campers went to regular signups, our C-1 campers began to pack for tomorrow’s departure and then went to what we call pillowcase day where it’s a final swim with your cabin and taking along your pillowcase and learning how to make it float.  I will leave the details of this magical transformation to be told to you by your children.  It’s another simple skill we learn at camp.

We also ate our last meal together as a table group during tonight’s dinner.  We will eat by cabins in the morning and for lunch and dinner tomorrow.  Meal times are special because you get to be with a whole new group of people.  Our table has been a lot of fun and we’ve had lots of laughs and many conversations.  Our last meal tonight was Pizza, salad from the farm, watermelon and of course brownies.  The pizza was made here at camp including the crust all from scratch.  The brownies were beyond heavenly and it was a great dinner to end on.

It’s been a wonderful session and we know you will be excited to greet your children and hear about their camp experiences.  We hope they will consider a longer session next summer and join us for perhaps 2 or 3 weeks.  I have heard many of them say that they miss their parents but don’t want to leave camp.  We will certainly miss them.  Stay tuned and see you soon!

It Was Indeed a “Special Day”!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a day we’ve had…. hot and beautiful weather with a breeze all day long and big puffy clouds filling our exceptional view of the mountains.  Every Sunday at camp, when it’s not an opening day, is “Special Day” and it was truly  special.  The theme today was Disney and it’s so interesting how Disney has impacted children’s lives.  Each station had its own theme or Disney movie that it portrayed.  There were a total of 10 stations and they were divided by morning and afternoon, 5 in each.  The Lion King, Cinderella, Mulan, Hercules, Inside Out, Zootopia, Toy Story, Alice in Wonderland, Moana (2 stations), Finding Dory, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Jungle Book were all represented. It was a good day to get wet and there was plenty of opportunity for that.  During midday we could have used a little Frozen weather to ease the heat.

During lunch today there were songs playing from different movies and soundtracks.  You would have loved that fact that most of the campers knew most of the songs and were singing along.  At one point it sounded like a giant children’s choral group singing a song from Frozen. There was lots of discussion at our table both at lunch and dinner about favorite Disney movies.  I asked if anyone had ever seen Old Yeller which is the first Disney Movie I remember.  A few of the campers had seen it.  We tried to think of other older movies and I was surprised by their knowledge of some well before their time.  One of my all time favorites is the Toy Story series.  So many of the movies are written for children and adults and can cover both audiences enjoyably.  At this point in time about 161 movies have been made by Disney…. And there are many more in production.  There’s a remake of Peter Pan and Mary Poppins coming in 2018 and ’19 as well as another Toy Story coming June of ’19.

We held Vespers tonight and it ended early so several cabins made their way to the Gatehouse Green to soak up the view and sunset.  It’s a great place to unwind from the day and get in that wind down frame of mind.  There was also lots of talent at Vespers including Hugh playing Sheep May Safely Graze which I wrote about several nights ago.  Debbie said it’s the first time she’s ever had a camper play that song in her 39 years.  Emmaline dedicated, You Are My Sunshine, to her sister in Playhouse. Cyprus blew everyone away with his drumming solo.  Charlie from Wildwood played the piano without missing a beat and Table 28 sang What a Wonderful World.   At the end of Vespers our Head Counselors dismiss everyone.  We have Michael Johnson visiting from Scotland, who used to be Hillside Head Counselor.  Just for ole time’s sake he dismissed Meadowbrook.  The girls loved it because as they say, he talks funny.

We’re about to embark on our last days of C-1 and there will be several trips out tomorrow for paddling, climbing, and mountain biking crews.  Our C-1 campers have had a great time and it’s been non stop since they arrived.  These last few days will fly by and soon camp will be a memory and we hope one that lasts.  Stay tuned as we make every moment special in our “Simple Joys” world of camp.


Hummingbirds, Cake & Appalachian Entertainment!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Every day at Gwynn Valley is truly an adventure. When you wake up in the morning, you have an idea about where the day will take you, but you never really know what will unfold as the hours roll on. Today, was one of those days full of magical surprises. At the top of the list was a first time experience for me…I hand fed a humming bird! Our Camping Skills and Nature campers rescued her after the heavy rains at rest hour. This adult, ruby throated humming bird was found totally soaked and fluttering around on the ground along the path to Mountainside. The CSN group gathered some supplies from the kitchen (a box, a hand towel, and some simple syrup) and went about setting up a mobile recovery unit for Esmerelda (the hummingbird). She responded well to the sugar water and soon started to chirp. (Did you know that hummingbirds chirp?) Campers and staff alike were mesmerized by this tiny little bird. As afternoon activities ended, campers said goodbye and Gus (our CSN program leader) kept watch over her until dinner. Just before the meal, Esmerelda took off again and after a false start finally flew off into the evening! In a wonderful, fated way, our kitchen had prepared hummingbird cake (a southern classic) for a special dessert in advance of our Appalachain Celebration at campfire.

While campers were practicing care of a hummingbird, our Young Leaders were getting First Aid & CPR certified through the Red Cross. They spent the day on the pavilion watching videos and practicing CPR on manikins and first aid bandaging techniques on each other. I can’t imagine a more scenic location to learn life saving skills! This group has had a great week so far spending time helping teach in discoveries, participating in leadership seminars, and perform acts of service around camp and in the Brevard community… as well as a few fun activities around camp and day trips to nearby Dupont and Pisgah!

Today Riverside was busy preparing for their next trip out of camp. They will spend the next 4 days canoeing and camping on the Green, French Broad, Tuckaseegee and Nantahala Rivers. I think that group has really enjoyed their time in camp, but feels ready to head out again on another adventure. They don’t all have the ‘groucho marx’ move down just yet (see Grant’s blog post yesterday if you’re lost!) but after a few more hours of lake practice today they were looking river ready!

Mountainside enjoyed a day of cabin activities. They finished up all their mini adventures yesterday and now have a few ‘down days’ in camp before they start training next week. As part of the cabin activity rotation, each cabin will participate in the high ropes course, a craft activity, a waterfront activity (usually a creek hike to Connestee), and a survival lesson with our resident physician, Dr. Terry Hassler. Our Wildwood boys each got a chance to start their own fire using some of Dr. Terry’s survival techniques, which they seemed to quite enjoy. The tower swing is always a big hit as well, and a creek hike on a hot day certainly can’t be beat!

Main Camp campers spent the morning completing their last discovery. I saw many proud campers walking around with intricate weaving, needlepoint, candles, and other crafts projects that they have been working on all week. Campers participating in adventure activities (climbing, biking, kayaking) have the opportunity to go on a trip out of camp early next week as an extension of their skill development. After our trip meeting this afternoon, many campers seem excited about the opportunity to practice their skills off camp! These main camp trips provide a great opportunity to develop skills that they will continue to build on through Mountainside and Riverside. On Monday evening the C1 performance of Cat in the Hat will be shared with camp, followed up by the C session Musical (Because of Winn Dixie) later in the week. Many other activities don’t have such obvious, tangible products as a result of the discoveries, but I know that campers have certainly grown in their skills through repeated instruction in their activity areas this week.

Today we were also gifted an extended rest hour. A heavy rain and thunderstorm came through around 3:15, just as rest hour would normally be ending. Fortunately, all campers were still in their cabins and enjoyed some extra time together. Many cabins used this time in fun and creative ways. Some groups played cards or other games, some built forts, and one very enthusiastic Brookside girls cabin had a dance party! I think some of our younger cabins may have used the time to nap a bit longer, as kids can be tired after so many days of playing so hard. Sometimes these unplanned moments – like getting stuck in your cabin for an extra 30 minutes after rest hour – turn out to be some of the camper’s favorite memories. Just like I said at the beginning, you never know exactly what the day will hold, so you have to remain open to the simple joys that might wander into your path as you move through the day.

Our day at camp ended with an excellent performance by Todd Elliot, a classic Appalachian musician and story teller. Both Main Camp and Mountainside were enthralled from start to finish! Todd told stories about his chickens, fiddle contests, and characters from Appalachia. Each story was told accompanied and embellished by his fiddle playing. At the end of the night, he and Debbie jammed together and serenaded campers as they headed off to their cabins for bed.


Imagination at Camp – Powerful!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It was an almost perfect day here at camp with great weather, a short shower during lunch and everyone enjoying the best that GV has to offer.  Some Brookside cabins went up to Mountainside tonight to see what that program is all about.  Mountainside is for those finishing 6th, 7th and 8th grade and who better to tell the story than the campers themselves.  It’s an honest and informative visit for Brooksider’s who are of age to attend next year or possibly the next.

Several cabins were also camping out tonight and it’s been dry enough to get a fire going easily.  Last week and the week before there was some wet wood and fires for cooking on campouts were a challenge.  It’s not an elaborate cookout but tasty none the less and certainly there’s always s’mores. What would a campout be without them!  When Anne and I first came to GV, chocolate had been eliminated from the s’mores recipe.  One of our first acts was to reinstate chocolate back into the recipe.  Yes, it might hype the occasional camper but it’s definitely worth it.

I spent a good portion of the morning with Riverside and working with them on the lake to ready their skills for the river starting Sunday.  They did pretty well and seemed to catch quite a bit of information for the first day.  We ended with some games where everyone got wet in and out of the boat and I introduced a move called the “Groucho Marx”.  Don’t ask me about the name but I learned it many years ago.  You exit the boat and leave your partner either in the boat of outside on the opposite side to hold it steady for your re-entry.  I know this might sound confusing, but you place the back of your head against the side of the canoe and have your arms on the rails or the gunwales like you’re holding on to a chin-up bar.  You go under still holding on to the boat and place your forehead on the bottom of the boat while rolling and tucking backwards into a backward somersault that lands you in the boat.  One you get it, you got it.  I’m not as good as I used to be but I can still pull it off.  Ask your Riversider about it.  Maybe we’ll get a photo series.

Most of Hillside was with me and Debbie tonight at Mountain Dancing in the Lodge.  Hillside boys were learning how to swing gently and not have their partner bouncing off any Lodge Walls.  You’ve gotta love their enthusiasm.  Of course all that changes when their next partner in a mixer dance is a girl.  You’re lucky if the boy is willing to take hands and usually only at the girls coaxing.  It’s a dance in itself and one that plays out each time when we dance.  We certainly don’t want to rush that developmental stage.  Our focus is about inclusivity and making new friends instead of exclusive relationships.  We make friends in our cabin groups, table groups and activity groups and even at Mountain Dancing.  Camp was made for friendship.  Some camp friendships last a lifetime.  Camp just does kids a world of good and we’re so glad to be a part of that “good”.

Our dances with Hillside campers are fun and they do learn some dances but the dances are not too intricate.  It’s more about movement and keeping them somewhat organized while they move about the floor. After dancing they were off to bed and before they left the Lodge, we calmed things down with a tune that Debbie plays at the end of each campfire.  It’s been played for many years at camp and it’s called “Sheep May Safely Graze”.  If you stay for campfire on closing day of C Session she will play it at the end of campfire.  It’s a beautiful song so check it out at the following link: Sheep May Safely Graze. It’s a great song to calm the natives and you can just see the children replaying their day, some going so far as to lie back and close their eyes.  I’m sure that many are going to the imaginative realm after a full day of sounds, scents, salamanders, soccer, swimming, sun light and shade all careening through their minds. Imagination is a big part of camp and imagination creates happy stories that your child can remember and tell for a long time.  “Imagination can be more powerful than you think”, says parenting expert and psychologist, Dr. Randy Cale.  “It allows you visualize life situations and act them out mentally to decide what the best course of action is. With guidance, children can use their imagination to help them solve just about any problem. They can prepare for just about any situation and gain remarkable confidence. And the really cool part here is that each and every time that they practice, their belief in themselves and their skills grows stronger.”  You can just see the growth here with new and different challenges and experiences each day.  Playing Outside and Growing Inside!  Stay tuned!

No Rain Today and Who Could Ask For More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Here we are at the end of another busy and beautiful day. It was first day in a while that we haven’t had rain.  It did rain a bit on our paddlers in Dupont on Lake Julia but none here at camp.  Several cabins were again camping out tonight, cooking dinner over an open fire and it’s the perfect night for it.  Every cabin at camp goes on a campout regardless of age.  Our campout shelters are built up off the ground and are closed in on three sides with a shed roof.  All have campfire circles for cooking and hanging out around the campfire and several are close to or on the main creek (Carson Creek) that runs through camp.  It’s such a good experience for these children to camp out with their cabins.  For many of them it will be their first time and possibly first time cooking over a fire.  Meals are simple so please don’t think that they are cutting up vegetables and sautéing them or anything fancy.  It’s usually pan pizza, quesadillas or hot dogs.  Once they get to Mountainside and Riverside meals become a lot more sophisticated.

Today was our second day of Open Houses, which is when we have leadership staff and program leaders visit cabin groups in their camp homes (the cabins) while cabin counselors take a 30 minute break to refresh themselves or prepare for program. During Open House, the visitors ask campers about camp life, cabin life, and their counselors. This gives campers the opportunity to discuss matters of all kinds with adults who are not directly involved in cabin life. It’s a great way to find out if counselors are doing a good job in the cabin, because children will let you know if they aren’t.  It also gives us lots of great ideas about how to make Gwynn Valley better. One of my favorite questions to ask is “What is one thing you would never change about Gwynn Valley and one thing you think we could change to make Gwynn Valley better?” Sometimes we hear suggestions such as “Make the pool or lake warmer!” or “Serve dessert every day!” Today I visited 7th Heaven and everyone was having a great time so far at camp.  They are looking forward to their upcoming campout and really like their counselors.  Most of the guys are returners to camp and we also had a couple of first timers.  Changes those boys wanted was a new shower house.  Brookside girls got a new one a couple of years ago and it’s nice.  Could be time for the boys.

Speaking of desserts… we had banana pudding at dinner this evening.  That was on top of chicken breast, edamame beans, a vegetable medley, rice and fruit.  Our kitchen team continues to serve creative, crowd pleasing meals 3 times each day. For breakfast this morning we had blueberry muffins that melted in your mouth and everyone loved it.  That along with eggs, apple juice and a variety of cereals and yogurt hit the spot.  For lunch we had meatball sandwiches, salad, fruit and something else good that I can’t remember.

We had campers in trees this morning and making their way to the top of our two hemlock trees near the office.  I started our tree climbing program our first year here because camp didn’t own climbing gear and we hadn’t developed the “Rock”.  I used my own gear that first year and we’ve climbed those trees ever since that time.  It’s a different kind of climbing but is the same for teaching tying into the harness, belaying and learning all the commands.

In the world of Older Programs…….. Riverside returned from 4 days of climbing at Foster Falls, TN. They encountered some rain and spent their last day at Cedar Rock up in Pisgah National Forest.  You can actually see it from camp if you know what you’re looking for.  They still managed to climb at Foster Falls and loved swimming in the pool at the base of the falls. They were glad for warm showers back at camp this evening and they are looking forward to a few days on camp before they head out paddling on Monday. Mountainside groups went on their 3rd of 4 Mini-Adventures. Two groups were off camp paddling and pioneering in Dupont State Park while the other two groups climbed and mountain biked here on property. Before I came in to write this evening, I spent a little time with Mountainside out on the Gatehouse Green which has our wonderful view and looks out toward Pisgah.  Both girls cabin were all circled up and talking and both the boy’s cabins were playing a game called Ships and Sailors which at various times broke in Ships, Sailors and Wrestling.  Counselors were monitoring and it was all good.  I love this age and Mountainside is the right program for these folks.

Tomorrow is another day of opportunity, and after a full day like we’ve had, that camp bunk feels so good and I would say that most will sleep till  the bell tomorrow morning.  Good dreams had by all.  Stay tuned!

A Great American Day and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Wow and the fun never stops here.  Yesterday was an unbelievable day as we celebrated the 4th here at camp.  It was such a full day we had little time to catch you on all the details of our “Great American Day”.  We started off with a wake up by Paul Revere riding through camp telling us the British were coming.  At eight our downtown GV was filled with famous patriotic tunes until our own Statue of Liberty welcomed all the immigrants from our many international destinations here at GV.  Miss Liberty stood on our lake shore as most of our international staff made their way past her raised torch to our fair land.  Each international had their country flag draped over their backs.  After they all came ashore Miss Liberty read from her own inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” It was a fitting occasion as we at camp all know the importance of acceptance, which is one of our values.

From there it was on to breakfast and then out on the Green for our traditional “4th” dance party.  It was a good way to get the blood flowing and celebrate some great American tunes.  From there it was on to our morning Discovery’s.  After lunch there was singing in the Lodge and a pie eating contest for counselors.  Everyone cheered for their counselor and out of nowhere a renegade Mountainside counselor impersonating George Washington took the prize.  After sign-ups in the afternoon we all met again in downtown GV and formed 2 lines to welcome some celebrities and famous people to dine with us.  We had Betsy Ross, the cast from Friends, Taylor Swift, Shirley Temple, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Uncle Sam, George Washington, John Glenn, Georgia O’keef, and many more.  Our dinner was the best beef brisket I’ve ever had.  The meal was introduced by Obama’s voice but we couldn’t figure out who or where it was coming from.  The brisket was devoured and for dessert – apple pie and whipped cream.  Near the end of the meal one table started to sing the national anthem and everyone just rose faced the flag and started to sing along.  It was totally impromptu and moving.  Campfire was a continuation of our Great American Day with an episode of American Idol which was filmed here last night.  Ryan See-Vest was our MC as we celebrated a history of Boy Bands starting with the Beach Boys, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC and the Jackson 5.  There were dance performances and campers lip synching to a variety of songs.  After a full day of entertainment it was off to the cabin get ready for bed and then back to the lake for FIREWORKS!!  As you can imagine we were all pretty tuckered out at the end of the day.  I slept like a rock and know the campers did too.

Today was another excellent day here at camp and I spent the morning watching Mountainside and Main Camp at the climbing wall and then moving on to Mountain Biking taking footage of campers riding on some of our camp trails.  From there I made a whirlwind tour of the pool, horses and just a glimpse of pottery.  This afternoon I spent a short amount of time with Mountainside climbers who had gone to the rock. Everywhere I went there were teachers teaching and doing a great job.  Our staff shares a lot of information each day.  I often hear from staff that children ask a lot of questions.  This is a good thing.  Staff learn to not go too slowly and bore them with details and let them figure some things out on their own unless it has to do with safety.  Sometimes when things slow too much campers get fidgety and entertain themselves.  And then there are times when details are very important and teaching is progressive in nature.  We all learn differently and we have to throw out a big net to make sure we’re getting on everyone’s wavelength. For many years while teaching paddling, I taught using the whole-part-whole method.  Show the stroke, then break it down part by part and then show it again and talk about it and what it does to your boat.  We can sometimes get into analysis paralysis when teaching skills and I’m always adjusting my technique with each group I work with.  Teaching is a gift and at camp we’re working toward betterment of our teaching techniques and the way we impart information to children.  You know pretty quickly if you’ve perked their interest and if you have them wanting more.  It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve hit the target.

There are so many chances for human interaction and no screens.  For most, if not all children, life with screens will come soon enough.  As a soccer coach many years ago, I told my teams that soccer is a game of many touches.  You have many chances to make contact with the ball.  Camp is analogous to soccer because you have so many chances to build relationships while here.  These small steps of independence, gaining skills, confidence, resilience and even leadership grow into bigger stepping stones as we grow older.  Spending time with talented staff members rubs off on children and they emulate a lot of what is passed down.  You as parents see that every day as your children become like you in so many ways.

Some days at camp the weather and the desire to extend the day takes us to what we call Twilight Play.  We basically open a good many of the camps activities for an hour after dinner.  Some are specialty activities like the Tower Swing and others you might have a chance to do on any given day.  The weather is cool, we’re refueled from the meal (Lasagna tonight!), and everyone wants to just play.  It’s a great way to end our day and then off to zzzzland.  We will of course sleep well, wake up refreshed, start another great day at GV and repeat.  Not a bad life for a camper!  We all benefit in small and large ways each and everyday! Stay tuned!

Happy 4th of July!

Dear Parents  and Friends!

We hope you’ve had a wonderful 4th of July and just finished our annual Fireworks Show and it’s been a full day.  Camp has celebrated in so many ways during this time of our nations history.  We will catch you up on our day tomorrow.  Hope all is well in your home or wherever you are.  We’re having a blast at camp!  Stay tuned!

Intermittent Sun and a Little Rain Never Spoils the Fun!

Parents and Friends,

Our first full day at camp was pretty darn good.  We had a wee bit of rain just during lunch and it was over before the end of sign-ups and allowed a rain free rest hour and afternoon.  Having a tin roof on your cabin is different than home where you rarely hear the rain unless the windows are open.  We hear the rain from all sides in our screened cabins and the metal roof accentuates the sound. Sleeping in an open air cabin has so many advantages.  Many of our campers live in air conditioned homes this time of year and the evening and early morning sounds take some getting used to.  You really hear the birds start their symphony way before the sun comes up and light spills into the cabin long before the wakeup bell sounds.  It’s a simple existence but is an important part of camp.  Right there you’ve covered two of Gwynn Valley’s values: Simplicity and an Appreciation of the Natural World.

Today was our first full day of program so the morning consisted of Discovery Activities that engage the camper in 4 different activities of building skills.  The afternoon activities provide different signup opportunities each day and campers sign up each day for a range of 1 or 2 hour activities.  In some cases you can go back to similar activities in the afternoon that provide more fun and practice in something you might have participated in that morning.  Discovery Activities consisted of the following for C/C-1:  Mountain Biking, Whitewater Kayaks, Campsite 101, Shelters, Candle Making, Dream Catchers, Printmaking, Weaving, Needlepoint, Farm, Mill, Musical (Because of Winn-Dixie), Play (The Cat In The Hat), Horses, Nature, American Sports, Archery, Soccer, Creek Hiking, Junior Lifeguarding, SUP Boarding, and Water Quidditch.  And folks, that’s just the morning activities.

Today was also the day when we learn which table we’re assigned to.  Everyone has a new table after 3 meals with your cabin on the first day including breakfast today. At lunch today you sit with folks that you don’t know and get to know counselors who are not in your cabin.  The ages are varied as well so it’s like a large family at the table.  It takes a meal or two to learn everyone’s name but soon we’re working together and having good conversation.  The table is one of my favorite places in camp because GV has exceptional food and you really get to know the folks you sit with.  There are so many questions to ask at the table one hardly ever runs out of conversation material…like… if you could only eat 5 foods the rest of your life what would they be.  Or, how many pets do you have, what’s been your favorite family vacation, do you have a cell phone, favorite movie or favorite Disney movie, most interesting food you’ve ever eaten and so on.  You learn so much about one another because some topics are like expressways to more fun things to discuss while eating good food.

Camp is a magical place where we really live and exist just for children.  It’s a child’s world and one where you become the very best version of yourself as Maggie says.  I think that goes for staff also.  After several days of camp our adult lives take on a whole new meaning.  While camp is certainly busy, it moves at a slower, more consistent place.  Sometimes slow and consistent really keeps us on track and is great for all involved.  Camp is that kid “happy place” where you don’t have to worry about anything except why can’t I take all the activities each and every day.  As adults we talk about not enough hours in the day to sometimes get all the work done and at camp there’s not enough hours in the day to enjoy all the fun.  It’s that place where children can make their own decisions, set and achieve goals, try new things, understand a sense of belonging to a group larger than oneself (cabin, activity & table), develop grit, resilience, confidence and all under the guidance of some very cool counselors you will hear about when your camper returns home.  We call it the Simple Joys here at GV.  Stay tuned!

Session C, C-1 Opening!

Dear Parents & Friends,

As folks arrived this morning it was clear that most of our families and campers are returners to Gwynn Valley.  In making the rounds today, I was just up on Mountainside where they were playing a game called “Breaking Up Housekeeping”, (strange name but fun game).  The question was, “how many years have you been at GV”.  There were many campers who had been at camp 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 years.  One our values at camp is acceptance and we acknowledge the fact that we come from many places and have a lot to share which includes new friendships.  What a better place to do that than camp and especially Gwynn Valley.  We make it a priority to incorporate those new campers into our fold and make them feel that are part of the GV family.  It doesn’t take long and already I’m seeing friendships being formed.  So, new families to camp or new siblings to camp, rest assured we will embrace you first timers.

On our first day we jump right into program after some time choosing our “Discovery Activities” and these start tomorrow morning.  Just for this afternoon every cabin went to at least three activities, which included:  Camping Skills and Nature, Fine Arts, Pottery, Archery, Sports, Crafts, Tie Dye, Mill, Farm, Climbing, Horses, Archery and Lake Fun.  We also took time to swim assess everyone.   No matter whether you’re a returning camper or a first timer, we get going right into program, making you feel right at home.  Mountainside and Riverside were getting to know one another in their own way with games and challenges to build a cohesive and strong community.  Mountainside Mini Adventures start tomorrow and Riverside leaves for their climbing trip.

As mentioned above, we also had swim assessments this afternoon. The swim checks allow us to gauge how well campers swim and their comfort level in the water.  These are done in the pool where you can easily see the bottom and its only 5 ft. deep at the DEEP END.  It’s a great teaching pool and allows those who are a bit uncomfortable in the water to take it on gradually.  The depth starts off about 4 inches and gradually goes to the 5 ft. mark.  The pool is a wonderful way to build confidence in the water and gain new swimming skills. Mountainside and Riverside complete their assessments in the Lake.

After lunch we held our Discovery Skits, which provides campers with a glimpse of the kinds of activities they can take in the morning while at camp.  They get 4 choices for an every other day schedule, one each hour of the two hour time slot. These activities work on progression skills and give the camper a chance to carry a project through to the ultimate end whether it’s paddling, creating a piece of art, biking more difficult trails and much more.  Afternoon signups happen every day for either two one hour activities or one two hour period.  The two hour provides a chance to extend that activity time and really experience the moment.

Tonight’s dinner was a delicious noodles and alfredo sauce , salad and vegis from the farm, and the GIANT COOKIE with each cabin’s name on it.  We will move to our tables tomorrow at lunch where we’ll mix up ages and programs and you’ll have yet another group that you belong to at camp.

We got a little rain and thunder before dinner tonight and the meal was postponed for about 30 minutes, so our after supper activities were put on hold and campers and staff went straight to campfire.  Normally we have after supper activities which are a free time for campers to choose one activity after dinner.  Activities are rotated each evening so there’s a lot of choice.  Usually there’s a ball game or two of some sort, games on the green, some kind of arts & crafts, story telling, and any number of other activities.

Tomorrow brings our first full day of camp and as we move into the session. Camp is a great place for your children because we offer a slice of their development that is hard to repeat at home and school.  It would be nice if schools could offer some of the advantages camp has to offer.  Camp is a place where opportunity knocks often with so many choices.  It’s a place where you can just be you and you’re accepted by your cabin mates, program mates and table mates.  There’s no pressure and you quickly learn that life is simpler here.  For older campers who are tied to their devices, we’re unplugged.  You also get to make decisions on your own and live in a large family like atmosphere.   It’s a place where you’re under the watchful eye of staff who are younger than parents and pretty cool.  It’s a place where you’re guided by enthusiastic and skilled staff.  We maximize our time outdoors, playing hard, eating well and getting  good rest by night.   As many of you know we emphasize the “simple joys” of childhood.  It’s a good time to be a camper here at GV for Session C!  Stay Tuned!