Last Awesome Day Of A Great Session!

Dear Parent and Friends,

As I write, it’s almost dark and just a wisp of red is in the western sky.  Campers from several cabins got to the Gatehouse Green to see the last remnants of ole Mr. Sol.  On the other end of camp a three quarter moon has risen over the Lodge and a few cabins have lingered there to see it peep over the trees.  Campfire preceded our dusk sky show and we celebrated the end of our last full day together in our ritual “Friendship Campfire”.  We sang songs, recognized campers and staff who have been here for many years and watched video highlights from the session as well as a slide show of choice pics you all have been viewing over the past many days.  (See the video that we saw at the bottom of this news!)

Our last full day of D was truly a great one.  Signups this morning were great fun for all and also those who ventured off site for biking and hiking.  It’s good to get out of camp and see the world beyond GV.  Our National Forests and State lands that surround Gwynn Valley are amazing and there are so many wonderful places to go and experience nature in its finest.

Archery always draws a crowd and campers took advantage of our last day to sign up for archery.  Campers love target sports where they can zero in on the bulls eye.  We have a variety of bows that some of our youngest campers can shoot and some that are of the compound variety that take a bit more skill.  Most of our activities have appropriate sized equipment for as many people as possible.  Our little 1 ½ Jackson kayaks are so tiny and they’re made just like an adult boat but just a lot smaller.  They are perfect for our program.  We also run some bikes with 24” tires for those smaller 2 wheel types.

Riverside returned today having spent their last two days on the Nantahala River.  It’s always a chilly day at the Nanty with water temps year round about 48 -54 and air temps today were much warmer thank goodness.  The RS group had 4 great days of paddling and all came back with big smiles.  I ran into them just after they returned later in the afternoon.

The last afternoon of a session is always packing and pillowcase day and all the cabins made it to the pool for a final swim in the GV “cement pond”.  You can do amazing things with your pillowcase after it gets wet.  Fill it with air and it will keep you afloat for quite a while.  It’s fun to go down the slide to see if you can fill it up before you hit the water.  After all of today’s activities, folks were ready for our traditional last night of pizza (fresh baked crust and all by our kitchen), salad from the farm, fruit and our unbelievable, better than best, tasting like heaven, party on your taste buds, brownies that you could ever imagine.  They’re not big but they pack so much in a square it’s like an all you can eat dessert banquet.  Some choose to eat small portions, a tiny morsel at a time, while others are dunkers who love the floaties in their milk at the end of the glass.  And then there are the inhalers.  The literally breath in the brownie and it’s gone.  Campers always say they could eat the whole platter and I’ve often wondered just how many they could eat.  After a belly full of pizza it would be a challenge to go two or three.  As pizza was served on plates the dining room became very quiet and as the meal went on, the volume rose.  When dessert arrived there was a euphoric feeling that was unmeasurable.  We went around the table and asked our campers their favorite aspects of GV.  We heard lots of different things from the food, to certain events, to favorite programs to campouts and so on.  There’s nothing like good food and good people to bring camp to another level of joy.  We had it tonight.

During announcements at campfire tonight, our head counselor’s Daniel and Molly told everyone that  breakfast would be 30 minutes early tomorrow because we were having visitors come and those visitors would be parents, coming to pick them up.  Suddenly you felt that they knew that it was almost over.  Yes, I love my parents but I’m having so much fun and do they really have to come tomorrow.  The good news is they did have fun and they will be glad to see you in the morning.  There were a few tears and some sad faces that the session is coming to an end.  The beauty of camp is that JOY sustains us.  There is so much joy here and you see it every where every day.

Speaking of joy, I’m sure you’ll be joyful as you arrive tomorrow to pick up your children.  They will be waiting for you in the cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.   After the cabin friendship circle, we welcome you to join us in the Lodge for our end of session campfire at 11:00.  After that feel free to have lunch with us and maybe walk around camp to see some of the activity areas.  See you tomorrow and safe travels.

Video from tonight:    Session D Highlights

The Tajar Makes Folly On His Birthday!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Today we awoke to the mischief of the Tajar.  He moved tables around, boats upside on the Green, teacups hanging from trees and somehow managed to get the SIT’s to sleep walk to the Green and sleep in the kayaks.  When we came down for breakfast they were snuggled in their sleeping bags fast asleep.  His prank must have included a sleeping spell because they were very hard to wake.  Well… I guess he knew we were celebrating his birthday so he preceded it with a bit of Tajar folly.  The campers get a kick out of it and it is fun to watch their reaction.  The Tajar Ball, held after dinner, is always a hoot and everyone comes dressed in masquerade.  There were astronauts, princesses, monsters, dragons, kung fu fighters, skeletons, aliens, unicorns, fairies, golfers, Kings and Queens, ballerinas, ball players, runners, brooms, turtles and much more.  What you can imagine you can be with a little costuming here and there.

We have a picnic on the pavilion before the Ball and everyone eats on the Green, weather permitting, which it was tonight.  Burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob, chips, watermelon, lemonade and all the trimmings are served up by activity leaders.  At the Ball there is ice cream, rice crispy treats, and popcorn.  The ice cream is made at the Mill, the treats in our kitchen and the popcorn is grown at the farm.  The Carnival portion of the Ball is on the soccer field.  There are all kinds of things to participate in including hayrides and so many games you can hardly participate in all of them, plus a giant waterslide.    Campers love it and staff have a pretty good time as well.

Mountainside held their first training day today and it was a good day to have it.  They will have another day on Friday to get ready for Monday’s adventures.  Bikers will be going out again tomorrow to ride the single track of Dupont.  Camping and Nature Skills will also be headed out to John’s Rock which is deep into Pisgah.

Riverside will return tomorrow from their paddling component and a day on the Nantahala.  We look forward to having them back.  They really add to our program with their years of experience at camp.  Another group of older folks that have been outstanding this session are our SIT’s (Staff In Training, aka- Slaves in Training).  They have just been fabulous and have been great additions to our cabin and program life here at camp.  And let’s not leave out our program called Young Leaders, which just started last year.  They’ve really added to the camp community and pitched in whenever there was a need.  All of these folks are old campers and have come through ranks of Main Camp, Mountainside and Riverside.  They are future staff members in the making.

I spent the morning going around to different activities including the farm.  Besides tending to all the animals they picked the corn we had tonight at the Tajar Ball.  I was able to get some good video from the corn field.  This time of year there is nothing better than corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes which also graced the plate tonight for our picnic dinner.  The Farm to table at GV is amazing.  Our food is plentiful and tastes wonderful.  Enjoy this pic of fresh bread just out of the oven this afternoon, which will be served in the days ahead.

On a different note this marks the 156st year of organized camping in the US.  And with over 60 percent of parents reporting that their child continues to participate in activities learned at camp, we are planting the seeds that grow into a lifetime of service to communities.  Community gardens are a good example of one of those services that is thriving right now.  Camps are teaching great lessons and values that build on the same values you parents are trying to instill.  I’m proud to partner with all of you to make the best possible young person that we can. Gwynn Valley is dedicated to that mission and we hope that you will reap some of the benefits when your child returns home.  Stay tuned!

International Day and River Meanderings!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another splendid day at GV and time is flying.  It’s hard to believe that we are winding down D session. Today was another beautiful day here at camp with sunny skies and all activities in high gear.  I spent the entire day going out with Riverside to the Tuck.  They paddled their hearts out and I didn’t get back to camp until 6:30.  We spent over 5 hours on the river today.  I’m sure that everyone will sleep well tonight as they ready themselves for the Nantahala for the next two days.  It was a warm and sunny day so everyone was going for it, which meant lots of boat spills.  Part of preparing for the Nanty is making sure you can rescue your own boat.  We spent some time turning over in swift water to practice this skill.  Everyone performed beautifully and they will need those skills because the water temperature on the Nanty is usually around 50 degrees in the summer and if you turn over, you don’t want to spend time in water.  It’s a cold and clear river.

As you all know, this second week we have signups both in the morning and in the afternoon.  Today was also international day here at GV.  We celebrated the countries of France, Ireland and Russia with our staff from those countries tonight at campfire.   The meals were breakfast – France; lunch – Russia, and dinner – Ireland.  I only ate breakfast and dinner and both were fantastic.  I could have eaten a horse tonight when I got back and the Irish stew, bread and vegis were great.

Several other groups were also out of camp today including Climbers, Kayakers and Bikers.  Each group came back with many stories. Kayaker’s went to the Green, Climbers were at the South Face at Looking Glass Rock and Bikers went to Dupont State Forest.   With all these great trips, one trip that stuck out was shared by a camper at my table.  We were talking about trips out and she said, “You don’t have go off site to have a good time.  I had the best day ever at Conesstee Falls today.“  It’s a waterfall on the upper end of our property and is about a 30 minute hike from Downtown GV.  There’s a big pool you can swim in and go right underneath the falls to get a natural shower.  I could tell she’d had a great time.  You could see it in her eyes.

Can you see it in their eyes?

With all our good weather the Farm has been booming.  We’ve had a lot of sun this week which has really caused certain crops to grow and corn being one of those.  I heard this evening they picked over 300 ears of corn this morning and we will have it for dinner later on this week.  After lunch everyone leaves the dining room to help shuck all that corn.  It’s a bee hive of young people pulling shucks off, learning what it looks and feels like and finding the occasional worm that will end up as food for the chickens when the shucks are taken to the farm to be rummaged through.

Camp is a great place for self-discovery.  “I can’t” is replaced by “I can”.  I saw a lot of that today on the river.  Riversider’s feeling their way in the water and out of the water.  Gaining confidence, being encouraged and coached in ways that really produce growth and a better understanding of things that may have been seen as scary before.  We say “let’s try it again and here’s a way will help you with this challenge”.  Every day at camp is a day of opportunity.  Stay tuned!

Focusing on creativity!