Hello, Gwynn Valley Community! This is Kevin MacDonald, new assistant director at GV. I’m looking forward to meeting you all when camp begins in just a few short months! Today, I’m excited to bring you some updates about GV’s “Mountainside” program. As many of you know, Mountainside is for campers finishing sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, and is offered in ten-day and three-week sessions. During each Mountainside session, campers participate in many of their favorite traditional camp activities (like crafts, sports, and a visit to the Farm). But that’s not all! A major focus of the Mountainside program is outdoor adventure, which means campers get to have tons of fun while learning great new skills and exploring some of the most beautiful wild places in North Carolina! In the past, Mountainside was limited to forty campers per session, and there were four adventure activities they could try: backpacking (also known as “pioneering”), rock climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater canoeing. This summer, Gwynn Valley is adding a new Mountainside cabin (Sunrise), increasing the size of the program to fifty campers per session, and adding a fifth, brand-new adventure activity: Earth Skills. What are Earth Skills? I’m glad you asked!
“Earth Skills” are knowledge and techniques that allow people to thrive in the wilderness using only what nature provides. Also known as “primitive arts” or “survival skills,” the basic idea is the same: find resources in the woods (like sticks, rocks, leaves, and clay), then transform them into things you need to survive in the wilderness (like shelter, water, fire, and food). Most Earth Skills are ancient: the techniques we’ll be practicing in Mountainside are the same techniques that hunter-gatherer cultures from all around the world have been doing for thousands of years. As you learn and practice Earth Skills, you’ll connect deeply with the land around you and discover how to be “at home” in the forest. In fact, Earth Skills experts can walk into the woods with nothing but the clothes on their backs and survive quite happily for as long as they want! Getting that good requires many months (and sometimes years) of study and practice–but this summer is a great time to start! Join us for Earth Skills in Mountainside and…
- Explore firecraft! Learn several ways to create and maintain fire (including how to make fire by rubbing sticks together). Then, harness the power of flame to cook tasty meals and treats.
- Hone your knife skills. Knives are incredibly useful and versatile tools, and being able to use a knife is a fundamental wilderness (and life) skill. Learn numerous ways to work with knives safely and proficiently!
- Roam the landscape to gather leaves, nuts, branches, vines, seeds, and fruit. As a “nature artisan,” use these materials to create beautiful and useful items such as baskets, bowls, spoons, pouches, cordage, dye, and jewelry.
- Get down and dirty tracking and trailing humans and animals. Learn “invisibility” techniques such as natural camouflage and stalking so you can blend into the woods and travel across the landscape undetected.
- Become a wild-tender of nature’s garden. Learn to identify, harvest, and prepare wild edible plants.
- Learn about wilderness survival, and discover what to do if you’re lost in the woods. Explore the art of navigation using maps, compasses, and primitive techniques.
- Construct forts and shelters out of nothing but sticks and leaves.
I put together a quick video of me demonstrating an Earth Skill: the art of making fire by friction using the “hand drill.” Check it out by clicking here!
Of course, “Earth Skills” is just one of the five adventure activities that Mountainsiders get to try. Perhaps you’d rather paddle raging rivers, climb epic cliffs, hike through wild places, or zoom along twisting trails on a mountain bike. In Mountainside, you can try it all! If you’ve never done anything like this before, don’t worry. We teach total beginners everything they need to know to be successful, and campers who have done the activities before will be challenged to grow in their skills, judgement, competence, and confidence.
Hard to believe…but there are only 79 days until our first Mountainside campers arrive! I look forward to seeing you then….
All the best,
Kevin and the GV Team