Eclipse at Gwynn Valley Was Spectacular!

Parents and friends,

The recent solar eclipse at GV was spectacular.  We hosted several groups of friends and family who scattered themselves all over the property where there was an open view.  We had a few clouds, but were able to see about 95% of the evolution to totality and back which was amazing.  See video link here:  Eclipse at Gwynn Valley

With camp over, it’s been too quiet around here.  Our last post-camp work staff are leaving today and tomorrow as we’ve properly closed camp.  The next big event will be registration opening on Sept. 1 and later on we’ll be hitting the road for our annual promo tour.  We’ve got some great video footage from the summer that we’ll be bringing on the road of every session as well as an update to our promotional video.  Also expect to see the newest version of our annual “You Rock at GV” video.  I think you’ll like it.

As the fall and winter approach there are several big projects in view.  We hope to have a new website up and running in Oct. and will be building a new staff cabin on the Brook.  We lost some staff housing with our new construction of dining room and kitchen last year and need to replenish some space for the coming summer.  We’ll keep you posted on other happenings as they occur.

Thanks for sharing your children during our 82nd summer here at GV.  Anne says it was our best summer ever and I tend to agree.  Hats off to our staff who made it so and many thanks to all who contributed in so many ways.  Hope that you and your family has had a great start to the school year.  Let us know if you have camp feedback and stay tuned!


E Session Campers Were the Icing on the Cake!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our E Session yesterday. We’ve had a wonderful time hosting your children and it was a great group to help us end our summer season.  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 us here at camp.  Hope to see you next year!

Grant & Anne

Video from E Session  –      E Session Recap

Last Full Day Was Spectacular!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We just finished our Friendship Campfire for Session E.  What a great session it’s been and a wonderful way to end our summer.  We were treated to nearly perfect weather all day today and we finished strong.  Our morning Discovery’s were running full steam ahead and I stopped for some time to observe our Arborist climbers ascending the tree out in front of the Gatehouse (office).  Ask your children about these giant poplar’s that shade us, provide an activity and are beautiful.  In passing I came upon our horses and their mounts riding down the camp road and stopped to walk with them for a while.  From there it was on to our friends with Nature where they were hunting the rare striped salamander that lives in our little stream that used to be the camper water fountain or springhead.  In times past and before health laws, there were several tin cups that hung around the spring and campers and staff would just dip their cup in the tiny reservoir to quench their thirst.  Now day’s the water flows freely out of ground year round and then goes under the Lodge between the Dining Room and Green and then into the lake.  The salamander makes his home in this tiny world where ferns, jewel weed, sweet shrubs and other plants shade his private quarters.

From Nature to Camping Skills was a nice transition and watching the children building a fire to make pancakes.  Not only did I stay to observe the fire building but also to sample the pancakes.  I’ll admit I went to lunch a little stuffed, but well stuffed.  Mountainside and Riverside has great days today and lounged, swam and finished putting away all their gear from their adventures.  Both groups showed up after lunch today to sing with us in the Lodge.  Some of them went to the front of the Lodge to help lead songs.  They all know the songs we sing because many of them have been here for so long.  Tomorrow you will hear some of the songs we sing after lunch every day, here at camp.  All Main Camp cabins went to the pool today for the ritual pillowcase swim day.  You learn to inflate your pillowcase with air and it will float you depending on your size or perhaps the size of your pillow.  It’s basically a fun final event for the cabin after packing.

At campfire tonight we honored the many campers who have attended camp for years.  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.  We also honor those staff, SIT’s and campers who’ve gone beyond the 5 year mark.  Milestones are now 8 years with a compass and 10 years is a sturdy stool that has our logo and name on it.  It’s made by our own Team Maintenance crew and wood from camp.  It’s always special to have these campers stand and be recognized.

After camper recognition our Discovery drama groups performed skits they had adapted from the Jack Tales book.  It was delightful and harkened back to the tall tales that came out of back hollers of our Appalachian Mountains.  Our photographer and video dude showed slides and video of the session highlights just after our Fine Arts performers.  The link for the video is here.

E Session Recap

It is on the camp website as well as the Campminder site and Facebook.  Songs were also shared and we finished off the evening with Debbie 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 tomorrow you’ll hear it.  It comes after the staff sing, “The Irish Blessing”. Hope you’ll linger and listen.

Tomorrow when you arrive your children will be waiting for you in their 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.  Mountainside and Riverside parents will gather earlier at 10:30 as well.  After the friendship circle there is our program in the Lodge at 11:00 for parents, friends and campers.  You can stay and enjoy a wonderful GV lunch at noon if you like.

Camp offers children a better sense of their own culture. Camp is a place where children can think about their own values and share with others about themselves.  We’ve done that our table this session and I have loved the group of campers and staff I sit with for three squares a day.  We have really gotten to know one another over these 8 days.  We learned that we’re all different and also have many things in common.  Being in the larger camp community provides an opportunity for children to understand themselves a bit more as they learn about others. Camp gives campers both cultural roots and the chance to understand children who have lives that are different than their own.  We also belong to something we call camp.  It’s unmeasurable and isn’t easily articulated when you’re young, but I can sense it in the way they react to the end of the session and parting.

Thank you for sharing your children with us these past 8 days.  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 summer for us.  I can’t think of a better way to end our summer and I hate to see it come to an end.  We had a blast with our E session and I’m sure they will look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.  Safe travels and stay tuned!

Again the link for the video is here:      E Session Recap

Celebrating the Tajar’s Birthday and A Great Day At Camp!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We awoke this morning to the Tajar’s folly with all kinds of pranks in downtown GV.  There were so many things moved and out of place we hardly knew what day it was and where we were.  Tables from the dining room were on the basketball court.  Tubes from the lake were all over the Green.  Folks had different name tags on and didn’t even know it.  People were walking backwards thinking they were walking forwards.  Cups were hanging from trees and of course the word Tajar was spelled out on the Green with kayak paddles.  Despite all his folly we made it through another wonderful day at camp intact and just ended on a great Tajar Ball note.  More on that later.

I spent some time this morning with climbers who were on their last day of Main Camp Climbing and taking on our two Arborist trees.  Arborist climbing is very different than tree or tower climbing here at camp and originally was used to access trees without spiking the trunk or limbs.  It’s an environmentally friendly way to get up into trees.  Through a series of knots and hitches you literally climb the rope you’re hanging on and inch your way up like a silk worm.  It’s a strenuous workout for legs and arms but you’re able to hang freely while climbing and 98% of the time making no contact with the tree.  I shot some good video this morning with a drone of the two groups that were climbing and am looking forward to using that later in some camp highlight reels.

I followed the bikers on their Discovery this morning on a trail ride throughout camp.  We have differing trails that wind through, over and up some of the single track here on the property.  This was the A groups last day of Discovery and they were going for it.  The Mill made ice cream this morning and of course everyone was happy about that.  What child doesn’t want ice cream about 11 AM?! There were several cabins getting the last tie dye session in today.  Dye was mostly on the shirts and it’s a good thing we wear aprons and gloves or you might have greeted a tie dye hand or two on closing day.

Several special events took place today and one was the release of the baby calves.  All summer long they have been cared for and bottle fed twice each day by our campers.  Today was the day they were set free to go into the big field.  It was in essence graduation day at the farm.  A slew of campers and staff took their lead lines and walked them to the entrance of the field.  Some bounded away kicking their heels up and frolicking along the way while others were hesitant and weren’t quite sure what they were getting themselves into.  Keep in mind these babies were born back in late April and early May.  The whole affair reminded me of opening day of camp when some campers just can’t wait to get to their cabins while others are bit reticent with parent’s parting goodbyes.

Another annual event is when the “smart fish” are left in the Mill Pond who have resisted the worm, corn and bait and haven’t been caught.  There’s only one thing left to do and that’s drain the pond and let the campers get in there with nets to catch the remaining hold-outs.  You can’t release the water all at once or the trout would escape to the lake.  You open just a board width next to the drain and slowly let the water into the lake.  As the level drops the fish are easier to catch… well for the first two minutes, until the campers start stirring the mud up on the bottom and you can’t see a darn thing.  As the water drops lower and lower the trout literally have no place to go except into the nets.  There were some big trout remaining with some weighing in around 2 pounds.  The campers squealed as trout swam at their feet between their legs and all around them.  I didn’t stay to get a final head count but it was numerous.

Today was a good day to try something new in the afternoon because tomorrow there will be no programs except for a camp wide swim at the pool and lake.  I think at least one cabin went tubing today.  Our tubing run is about 2.5 miles and we take out across the road so it’s a short walk back to camp.  Campers are in tubes and we also take a raft for safety which sometimes acts as a tug boat for the little yellow tubes floating behind like ducklings.  With the recent increase in rainfall it was a quick and fun ride down the flat French Broad near camp.

As the dinner bell rang tonight everyone showed up in costume to celebrate the Tajar’s birthday.  There was a cookout complete with burgers, hotdogs, chips, all the trimmings, watermelon, cole slaw, and beans.  That was just the beginning of a food fest.  After dinner we had a shower move in and everyone retreated to the dining room while the rain passed.  Some events were moved indoors and some went on outside like the giant waterslide.  There were games of many different varieties including minute challenges, pyramid ping pong ball challenge, splat the rat, balloon darts, the shell game, pong bowl, soccer shootout, football toss, slackline, waterslide, hay ride, giant bubbles, swurfer swing and the sponge toss.  Inside the Lodge there was face painting, tin can topple, corn hole, and guess the # of M&M’s.  Some of the campers just camped out at the Waterslide which is like a big jungle slip and slide that ends in a big splash pool.  As a camera man you can’t stand too close to that pool. It was a chilly evening so we ran warm water into the slide to help with cool temps.  There was also ice cream, cookies and popcorn if you didn’t eat enough dinner.  There will be some tired campers tomorrow because after a full day we also went hard until 8:30 this evening playing and having fun.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Camp helps a child develop a powerful identity which makes children feel confident in front of others and provides them with something genuine to like about themselves. A child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when he sings, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help a child find something to be proud of that she can do well. The camp experience not only helps the child discover what he can do, it also provides him with an audience that shows appreciation. With all the activities and experiences that Gwynn Valley offers, there are many experiences that provide the inertia that propel children in positive ways and are stepping stones for life’s skills.

Tomorrow morning is the last day of Discovery and in the afternoon we’ll be packing our bags and going for sessions at the lake and pool.  We have another wonderful day of opportunity, fun and the “simple joys” coming up and will be sad to see our session and summer come to an end.  Stay tuned!

Camp Community reunited to celebrate New Zealand & South Africa!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today was a very special day at Gwynn Valley. We celebrated the countries of New Zealand and South Africa all day long by eating their national dishes, enjoying skits before meals, singing national anthems, and of course having our whole evening program devoted to children’s stories, dances, and songs from these countries. Our kitchen crew relishes the opportunity to partner with international staff to bring traditional meals to life in our dining hall. We try to make kid friendly versions of foreign foods, and campers often discover that different can means really tasty. I know that every camper at my table found at least 1 new food that they really liked! For breakfast we had a traditional South African pap or porridge made of corn, which tasted a lot like grits. There were all sorts of toppings to add to the grits including sausage, baked beans, and tomato jam. To round out the meal we also had rusks, which is kind of like biscotti made from corn. Much like biscotti, South African rusks are usually dipped in coffee or tea, specifically rooibos (or redbush) tea. Lunch was also a South African meal; we enjoyed Bobotie, yellow rice, mango chutney, sliced bread, and watermelon. Bobotie is South Africa’s version of shepherds pie with ground beef below and egg on top. For dinner we circumnavigated the southern hemisphere and landed in New Zealand for fish & chips with sides of peas, carrots, and fresh green salad. Pavlova for dessert rounded out a day of delicious new foods for our campers!

Today was also special because our Mountainside and Riverside campers returned from their 4 day trips know as Adventures. These older programs have been in session since July 23rd, and have been working toward this week’s trip for some time. The Mountainside group split into four groups of campers participating in four different activities across Western North Carolina. Although campers did encounter some weather while out in the field, they all came home safe, warm, dry and FULL of stories! The bikers spent the last 4 days biking around Dupont State Forest, enjoying the single track as well as the wonderful waterfalls and swimming holes. Paddlers set up a base-camp and traveled to the Lower Green, French Broad & Tuckaseegee rivers. Pioneers backpacked along the Mountains to Sea trail in Pisgah National Forest, celebrating wonderful views and enjoying a few wild blueberries along the way. Climbers spent most of their time at Linville Gorge where they managed to stay unbelievably dry given the rain that all other groups encountered. This group was able to climb every day as it only rained in the evenings and overnight. Riverside, who has already spend 4 days each rock climbing and white water canoeing, spent the last 4 days backpacking in Pisgah as well. This group had a great time and enjoyed their time together exploring the beauty of our nearby wild places.

Of course, Main Camp programming went on as normal throughout the day. We did experience periods of rain in camp, but all activities carried on as normal. This morning campers went to their 2nd meeting for B-day discoveries, where they continued with the curriculum they started in Tuesday’s classes. This afternoon we had a wide range of sign up activities on offer. All the staples were there: mountain biking, fire building, Tajar Times (our daily news publication), horseback riding, archery, stand up paddle boards, blacksmithing, etc… there were a few unique activities this afternoon as well. Nature and Waterfront joined forces for Lake Critters: a snorkeling activity that taught about the ecology of our lake. The Grist Mill ran a 2 hour dutch oven cooking activity where campers made a cobbler over the mill fire. Waterfront offered a creek hike to Connesstee falls, the waterfall on Gwynn Valley property. Crafts introduced some new activities today with felt making and beaded wind dancers that proved very popular. And the farm was made extra special today by the calf who was born overnight! Campers squealed with delight when they met this young calf who was less than 24 hours old and already over 50 lbs.

Tomorrow is sure to be another exciting day at Gwynn Valley. We will be celebrating the Tajar’s birthday, so who knows what sort of silliness and fun our campers might encounter! You can rest assured that there will be lots of costumes and a very fun birthday party where our whole camp community will celebrate the Tajar.




Rolling On the River!

Dear Parents & Friends,

I’m back at camp after a great day on the river with Mountainside.  I left camp this morning about 8:30 and met them in a little town called Dillsboro where the Tuck Gorge starts.  It’s about a 4 ½ mile trip with consistent whitewater the whole way.  The group is camped just outside a portion of Dupont State Forest.  It’s a great place to camp because it’s public but only one group is there at a time.  The gate stays locked and it’s nestled in a pine and hardwood forest not that far from Gwynn Valley.  They spend their nights there and drive to the river each day.  Today was spent on the Tuckaseegee.

I am the designated video boater who goes first and catches everyone coming through the major rapids or as I tell the campers, they are on GVTV.  They did a great job and will be heading back to the Tuck tomorrow to build on those skills they learned today.  There are so many eddies to go for and special places that challenge you and are fun.  Robert, camp’s instructor does a great job with the campers.  He’s been with us about 6 years and is a professor in the Wilderness Education Dept. here at Brevard College.  Today was a progression to bigger water, more pushy and a wider river.  The campers did flip drills so that everyone has their self-rescue down if they go over.  They also practiced a lot of peel outs, S turns, and hitting eddy’s.  They are well prepared and should do a great job tomorrow.  This group worked very hard today and will reap the benefits of this tomorrow.  Besides learning about the river, strokes, and maneuvers, the campers had fun swimming and jumping in fast moving water.  This is all under the guise of getting everyone familiar with fast water and how to properly handle yourself in that water.  They jumped off railroad rock which only sticks about a foot out of the current but you are trying to ferry your body to the other side of the river (about 25 feet).  It’s fast, bubbly and refreshing and it’s a confidence booster.  The campers also took advantage of JUMP rock on river about 2/3 of way down today.  It’s about a 15 foot rock that is easily climbed and then drops straight into the water.  There’s plenty of depth and it’s fun to jump in two’s and three’s. Everyone went at least 4 or 5 times today.

Back at Main Camp it didn’t rain all day and was sunny and beautiful.  Tonight we hosted a quintet of musicians who live locally and all started playing bluegrass music when they were very young.  The Creekside Crawfish are 10, 11, 13, 14 and 15 years old.  Anne and I bid on them at a local fundraiser last winter and we were lucky to get them here.  The campers danced and had a grand time.  We have a young musicians mentoring program here in our town that goes into the schools and local Boys and Girls Club to teach children guitar, bass, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin.  It’s been a worthwhile endeavor and these kids are just a few that have come through the program.

All adventures get back tomorrow including Riverside.  We will be ready to welcome them back into camp and hear all the wonderful stories they’ll have about their adventures.  At camp, they experience fresh air, exercise, a balance between routine and unstructured time, and all the good food their bodies need. Over the past several days they’ve also experienced some mountain weather from cool rainy days to sun sweating afternoons like today.  Not that s’mores don’t have a place at the campfire, but a good camp experience is also about helping children find healthy lifestyles. Counselor’s care certainly includes  a child’s physical health, bringing out the camper’s best by encouraging manageable amounts of challenge and conveying to the camper a belief in the child’s physical capacity to cope with the challenges before them. That’s important for children’s long-term physical development. We were certainly doing that today.  Small doses of running challenging rapids and trying new moves in the boats were all a part of our day on the river.  You could tell at the end of the day this group was more confident and more skilled than even the day before.  Camp is all about learning, gaining an appreciation of your surroundings, and is truly fun.  That kicks off again tomorrow morning and everyday here at GV.  Stay tuned!

Weaving Your Way Through Camp – So Many Opportunities!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Even though it started a little rainy this morning during breakfast, our day was cool and cloudy with the sun peaking through every now and then.  We had some showers about 4:30 but nothing that ran us indoors.  Brookside just finished their evening of Mountain Dancing and about 6 cabins are camping out tonight at various shelters around camp.  For you parents who might be thinking these campers are sleeping on the ground, let me provide more info.  Our camping shelters are three sided with a roof and are up off the ground at least a foot.  There’s a fire ring at each site and plenty of area around the shelter to explore and gather firewood.

Our Mountainside and Riverside groups are into their second night of being out of camp.  We heard from several of them and everyone is doing fine.  It’s been wet but not to the point of impossible by any means.  I will be going out with the paddlers to the Tuck tomorrow.  Paddlers usually get wet and stay wet so it doesn’t matter.  When you’re surrounded by moving water all day a little rain doesn’t faze you.  Given the choice, I’d rather have it falling from the sky than be swimming alongside my boat.  Even on paddling trips we make sure campers are wearing paddling jackets and staying warm.  It’s just part of taking care of oneself in those conditions.

I went to the climbing tower this morning to shoot some drone footage of those little spiders moving up the wall.  I also visited with the mountain bikers as they made their way around camp.  The climbers and bikers were in their first morning of Discovery and doing well, learning knots to knobby tires.  With the slippery weather they stayed close to Main Camp but will venture out of our trails over the next few days.  Climbers will test themselves on our trees tomorrow and scale some our Hemlocks just next to the lake.

Going to the Mill is like stepping back in time, because the Mill was built in 1890.  That’s a long time ago and one of the aspects of the Mill is talking about your life as a child in those times.  While at the Mill there are many implements and artifacts from that era including corn husk dolls and toys made from corn cobs.  That was about the extent of that “Toys R Us” storefront from that time in history.  It was a simple life.  Besides learning about grinding corn from our corn crib, there was also a group outside fishing from the small pond below the waterwheel.  The campers inside the Mill learned about the dried corn they would be grinding, how to take it off the cob and then how to “process” it after it had been ground up.  It is a many stepped system that they go through to reach the final products of corn meal, grits, and chicken feed which goes back to the farm.  We consume all the corn meal and grits here at camp.  We learned about the weevils and the moths that live by eating the dried corn and how to get rid of those.  Of course the Mill puts on a different face when it offers “corn cob creations” which it did today.  It’s a time when you can’t believe what you create from just a corn cob.

While near the Mill this morning I visited the weavers up in Shady Grove.  We have 11 floor looms that campers can create intricate patterns on.  They use a combination of their own designs and also the levers and foot pedals of the loom to design their pieces.  It’s a methodical pace that takes patience and focus and the final product is very nice.  Another craft that harkens back to simpler times is taking a dried gourd that’s grown at camp and clean it up, paint it, cut it out, sew things into its thick skin and create a piece of art or perhaps a vessel to hold life’s treasures.  The gourds dry out in an old barn through the winter and each has a distinct knack for patterns of mold and mildew that once scrubbed off, reveal a nice skin that is easily decorated.  The first phase of cleaning the gourd is the hardest.  You get it down in the creek next to the Mill and scrub with all kinds of brushes and pads to get down to the nice layer.  From there it’s up to you to design it with your own purpose and ways to enhance its natural beauty.

Working with your hands and learning handicrafts is very satisfying.  It might come in the form of building your first fire or creating a piece of tapestry on the loom.  We live in such a mechanical world and technology surrounds us.  It’s nice to involve ourselves in activities that are “human powered” with simpler approaches to an end result.

I teamed up with Gus from Nature today to offer a trip to “The Abyss of No Return”.  We found an old map of camp that had some directions, yet vague, but exciting and very curious.  One has to be lowered by rope into the Abyss and it a muddy and slick way down.  Once there it’s hard to get back up so we follow a creek and hopefully find our way back to camp.  It’s a pretty cool part of the property and it was a two hour activity this afternoon for 12 campers.  We even had Dr. Ben go with us because he too, was curious.  We got very dirty and wet and everyone had a blast.  We passed, what we thought was, the Tajar’s cave.  That got lots of airplay time.  Imagination is a wonderful aspect of camp and it breeds creativity and a chance to think outside the box.

Camp helps children feel in control of their lives. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten. The goal here is to encourage a child’s sense of self, their perception that they have some say over daily activities at a camp. They learn to fix problems when they happen.  They learn to self-advocate.  They learn that their world is manageable with some help.  Camp is simply a great place for children to take a good bite out of growing up, but not too fast.  Stay tuned!

We Only Get Wet Skin Deep!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It takes more than a little rain to dampen our spirits here at camp.  All activities were running strong today as we arrived for breakfast with some sprinkles from the sky.  It rained off and on all day but never too hard and was just the perfect temperature to swim or go on a creek hike if you wanted to get even wetter.  We never really got any full sun but quite a few glimpses of blue sky every now and then.  We have about 6 cabins on campouts tonight but they all should be hunkered down in the shelters by now.  They cooked out and camped out but left Downtown GV around 6:00 and it’s almost 9:30 now.  Every cabin goes on a campout at least once while at camp.  Unless the weather is really bad and they can’t get a fire going they stay in one of 12 different shelters here on the property.  It’s good cabin bonding time and there’s nothing like cooking out over an open fire and enjoying the sounds of the forest and streams around you.  Everyone usually comes back by breakfast and it makes for an early morning rise and shine.  Those who didn’t camp out tonight either were involved with a camp wide game or came into the Lodge with me and Debbie to do a little Mountain Dancing.  We had a great time and everyone was involved.

I went by several activities this morning and this afternoon on my rounds.  I first started out at the farm where campers were experiencing so many firsts.  Feeding a baby calf a huge bottle of formula started things off.  While counselors were explaining the process the calves (all 17 of them) were braying at the top of their lungs waiting to be fed.  They know the routine these days after 8 weeks of camp.  They are very tame and always want more contact with campers after the milk is consumed.  They will settle for a rub or scratch here and there and you can tell they are just big pets.  Soon all the calves will be weaned from their bottle and turned loose in the pasture.  At this point they are old enough to eat grass.  From there it was on play with the baby goats, pick corn for tonight’s meal and check in the baby chicks and the piglets.  I think everyone’s favorite is the piglets.  You’d better tuck your shoe laces inside your shoes because they love to chew on the laces and untie your shoes.  They go right for the feet as soon as campers enter the pig pen.  Pick them up and they squeal, which is loud, but mostly cute.  They are just the right size now for being able to hold them.  They will get bigger soon and you wouldn’t be able to lift them in another month or so.  Big Mama just lies there and nurses all day long.

The chicks are easy to hold and if you place them in your hand on their back and rub their belly they will fall asleep.  We also give the campers an opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of a chick which is fast at about 300 beats per minute.  The goats literally are a bunch of “kids” in a pen jumping and leaping on things including an old stump there. They rarely stay still enough to be held but campers sometimes luck out and find one ready for some affection and gentle strokes.  When the session is over it’s interesting to see them all make a beeline to their mom’s to tell them about their encounters with campers.  The mom’s listen intensely just as parents do when receiving a loving child.

An extension of the Farm is of course our 1890’s Grist Mill where campers learn to about what life was like at the turn of century from the Mill’s perspective.  Most everything was done by hand and little automation was available.  We have a couple of “gadgets” in the Mill that shell the dried corn off the cob and separate the corn cobs into a bin when completed.  Now that’s automation for that era.

From the farm it was onto to Horseback and observing campers riding our trails at camp.  My wife is the rider in the family and my only knowledge of horses is they eat a lot.  Campers love to ride and we have many who have experience and many who don’t.

This afternoon I spent time at the climbing wall and the soccer field.  Climbing on our three sided wall is always fun.  It’s right next to the creek and is cool because of all the shade surrounding the wall.  Campers were utilizing the easy and medium side their first day out.  They first learn how to put on their harness and helmet and those should fit correctly and be secured.  Then they learn about knots and helping to backup belay.  This gives them something to do while the counselor is belaying and occupies their time rather than just waiting to climb.  It’s all challenge by choice and they can go as high as they want.  We urge many tries if they don’t make it to the top, because camp is a place where there are many opportunities. The wall is 50 feet on each side and each side has its challenging spots as you make your way up.  You have to trust your feet and legs as well as your hands and arms.  You also have to trust your belayer who is holding you safe on the wall.  We have to remind them that you’re tethered the whole way up and if you do peel off, you won’t fall but a couple of feet as the rope stretches under your weight.

Camp is about the familiar (playing a sport or game you play at home) and the unfamiliar; trying new things like milking a cow for the first time.  It’s about leaving your comfort zone, eating new foods and being pushed in positive ways.  It’s about sleeping out in a shelter and being surrounded by new friends and listening to rain on the tin roof.  Camp is much more and for each child it’s different.  What you’re imagining by reading this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Stay tuned and we’ll try and reveal more of that iceberg each day.  There is no rain on the radar and the katydids are back out calling their call.   Stay Tuned!

Opening Day of E Session!

Dear Parents & Friends,

A cool morning turned into a warm day as we opened E Session.  Many thanks for dropping off your children as we finish off our summer with many who are experiencing camp for the first as well as returners to GV.  We are so pleased to have your child, whether new or returning, to live the “simple joys of childhood” here with us.   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 they are part of the GV family.  It doesn’t take long and already I’m seeing friendships being formed.

Those that have been to camp before know that we start off our first day of camp with a bang.  There’s not a lot of down time the first day or any day, but especially the first day when campers might have a tendency to think too much about home.  Activities were assigned the first day with campers Climbing, Horseback Riding, Arts and Crafts, Tie Dye, Sports, Archery, Pottery, The Farm, The Mill, Fine Arts, Waterfront and more.  Always an active part of camp, the Waterfront had the Zip Line humming with camper after camper trying to go for the Spider Man.  The web spinner would be proud of our fledgling “spidies”.  Others were going off our rope swing and loving the chance to cool off in the lake.  Some were trying the Tension Traverse which is a real challenge located at the lake.  You may see some photos of this as the week progresses.

After lunch campers got a glimpse of the kinds of activities they can take in the morning while at camp which are called Discovery programs.  They get 4 choices for an every other day schedule, one each hour of the two hour time slot. These activities work on progression of 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 a longer time for focusing on one activity.

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 as well as be comfortable for your first day of swimming at camp. Those stronger swimmers will have access to both the lake and the pool for swimming.

Tonight’s dinner was a delicious noodles and bolognaise sauce , salad and broccoli 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.

After supper activities are a free time for campers to choose one activity after dinner.  It changes each evening and a variety are offered each night.  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.  Tonight after the activities we held our first campfire program leaders introduced themselves in skit form.  We also learned about the Tajar – a camp legend for many years who is a friend of children far and wide.  For those new to GV it pronounced Ta’ jer.

Mountainside and Riverside will be leaving tomorrow to head out on adventures.  Mountainside will be going to Linville Gorge for climbing, Dupont State Forest for biking, various WNC rivers for paddling, and Mountains to Sea Trail for backpacking.  They will be out of camp for four days.  They were out on Gatehouse Green tonight for a special evening before they leave.  Riverside will be heading out for their backpacking component to take on the Foothills Trail and will be out for 4 days as well.

Tomorrow brings our first full day of camp and as we move into the session. Camp is a great place for these young people.  It’s full of life building moments and experiences that sometimes they can call upon down the road of life’s moments.  With guidance, they  are empowered to make decisions on their 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 an environment where they are guided in skilled activities that you can learn and continue into your adult life.  We maximize our time outdoors, playing hard, eating our farm grown food, and getting good rest by night.   What more could a camper ask for.  The “simple joys” of GV abound and it’s an exciting time as we begin our session. Stay Tuned!

D Session Closing – We Will Miss You & Best for the Rest of the Summer!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Thank you for a great ending to our D Session today. We’ve had a wonderful time hosting your children.  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 us here at camp.  Hope to see you next year!

Grant & Anne

Video    –      D Session Recap

Three generations at Gwynn Valley.