The Last Full Day of C1

Dear Families, Friends, and Loved Ones,

It’s a wrap on another day here at Gwynn Valley, and what a full day it’s been. Today is the last full day of C1 so we had a wide variety of things happening around camp. It was a normal morning with sign-ups for both our C and C1 campers. We had pendant making at blacksmith, Stand Up Paddle Boards at the lake, hemlock tree climbing behind the Office, and fishing and johnny cakes at the mill, to name a few. This isn’t to mention the fact that we had our Main Camp Adventure Trips that went out. These MCATs are trips that our campers are invited to join based on what the program leaders and our leadership team have observed in the various discoveries of biking, climbing, kayaking, and camping skills. These campers left this morning directly after breakfast to go to some of the local areas where they could practice the skills and knowledge they’ve accumulated over the 6 days of discoveries. 

Meanwhile on camp, some areas were visited by three very important visitors. These visitors are videographers who have been at camp for four days interviewing some of the campers, several of the staff, and our directors in addition to visiting most of our activity areas. They are gathering material for a series of new videos that will come out this fall, but we will post with a set release date when that happens. 

Following a full morning of activities, most everyone sat down to a delicious meal of sesame chicken with rice, salad, and fruit. A couple of our C cabins took today to have some cabin bonding time by having a picnic lunch around camp. After lunch our campers moved out to the basketball court to shuck some delicious corn before singing in the lodge. It was after singing that Ami, our amazing programmer, dismissed our C1 cabins to begin the task of packing their bags for tomorrow. From here, we did something a little different, we moved our C cabins out underneath the hemlocks for our afternoon sign-ups. This minor change in setting gave a nice burst of life to an otherwise constant at Gwynn Valley. 

During our afternoon, our C cabins were able to choose from activities like biking and bugs, horseback riding, making popcorn at the mill, and kumihimos. While all of this was happening our C1 cabins finished backing and went to the pool with their pillowcases for pillowcase day. For those of you who don’t know, pillowcase day is a tradition here at GV where campers will go with their cabin group and go to the pool with a pillowcase. So then where do the pillowcases come into play? Well campers soak their pillowcases and fill them with air and use them as floatation devices. It is always such a blast and the campers love it. In the wise words of Grant Bullard, we are fostering the simple joys of childhood. 

After such an active afternoon at the pool, and various other activities, it was a welcome sight of homemade pizza, salad and corn from the farm, and fresh fruit, with a delicious dessert of Chef Megan’s brownies. But what truly made the night was campfire. Campfire was the musical that our fine arts discovery groups have been working on since the beginning of the session, and boy could you tell. The story was similar to Peter Pan with a captain of a crew of cats, mermaids, and an ending where you weren’t quite sure if it was true. The cast, stage crew, costume artists, and staff who helped all got such a round of applause it was clear to those who were cleaning the kitchen that the play was a huge success! 

Though we are sad to see our C1 campers go home tomorrow we know it’s not goodbye but see you next summer. We will see the parents and friends of our C1 campers tomorrow morning at 9:30 and hope you stay for gathering in the cabin at 10:30. For our C families, there is so much more coming, so stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog! 

A World Cup Special Day

Dear Families and Friends,

What a special day we had at Gwynn Valley! Today was Special Day here at camp, and what an incredible day it was! We started the morning with a little sleep in, giving everyone time to catch up on sleep after a busy week of fun! Since the kitchen had a bit more time to prepare breakfast, they treated us with pancakes, bacon, and fruit! There were many happy and full bellies, excited to learn what the theme for the day was. With the World Cup Final playing today, there wasn’t any other theme as appropriate! 

Special Day is always a treat, as it allows cabins more time together during the day. Cabins had the morning to visit over 20 different team-building stations. At the Lake we had stations such as, “sink the canoe” where an entire cabin sat in a canoe and paddled with their hands across the lake and back all while trying not to sink their ship! On the green, campers enjoyed some fun and challenging team-building exercises that are often used with our Mountainsiders! Other fun activities included World Cup flag Memory Matching, Dragon Tail Tag, and Giant Jump Rope. Our Young Leaders spent the morning running their own activity. They painted camper’s faces with USA themed designs and encouraged them through a relay race they had created. It was a wonderful morning to watch these teens have an opportunity to be true leaders in camp.

 After the morning activities, we enjoyed an extended rest hour where campers and counselors had a chance to rest from a busy morning. The afternoon was a bit different, with four different activities running for all of Main Camp. The biggest and most popular activity was the chance to watch the Women’s World Cup in our dining hall! Campers and counselors alike poured in at the start of activities and there a hum of excitement in the room as the game started. For anyone around camp, it was easy to tell updates from the game based on the cheering coming from inside the dining hall. Our campers who were not as interested in the World Cup enjoyed free time on the Lake, Soccer, and Thunderball, and crafts in the lodge. It was a wonderfully relaxing and fun day for everyone, allowing all of camp to feel recharged for the next few days of fun!

Mountainside also enjoyed their own Special Day! Campers played human foosball on their Mountainside green, searched for the Frenchman to give them updates on the game, enjoyed lake fun, and watched the World Cup with Main Camp in the afternoon. 

We bid farewell to our Riversiders this morning as they left for their paddling adventure. These incredible campers and counselors will spend the next four days paddling along rivers including the French Broad and Green. 

As Special Day came to an end, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of meatloaf, potatoes, succotash, and salad. After dinner and After Supper Activities, campers, dressed in white, gathered in the Lodge for our Sunday Vespers service. The theme was ‘God’s Great World’, and we were gifted several songs and performances by our talented campers and staff. As we ended the evening with “What a Wonderful World” sung by a few of our Dancing Waters campers, there was a joyful and calm feeling among the crowd. We have many reasons to be thankful at camp; the staff who join us from all over the world, the campers who spend their summers playing at camp, and the beautiful land that we are able to call home here at Gwynn Valley. We hope you all had your own special days, and that you may take a moment to think of the gifts you have been given this week. 

Another Gorgeous Day at Gwynn Valley

Dear Parents, Families, and Friends,

It’s been another gorgeous day for the books! The sun was out all day and while we did have some cloud cover, and a few rumbles of thunder, our day carried on with no interruptions.. There was a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and fruit followed by the final day of C1 Discoveries. Some campers finished up their crafts projects like basket weaving, batik, and pottery projects. While others are taking away skills like mountain biking, horseback riding and horse care, along with kayaking, archery, and stand up paddle boards. All together, it’s been an amazing 6 days of growing skills, learning new things, and broadening horizons. 

After an exhilarating and full morning, campers and staff sat down to a delicious meal of Brats, buns, watermelon, pasta salad, and cowboy fries for lunch. Corn is coming in fast so after lunch, all campers and staff headed out to the basketball court to shuck 3 ears of corn each which we enjoyed at dinner. Moving to sign-ups campers got to choose from a variety of activities from getting to make anything they wanted in blacksmithing, sitting with Debbie to make some cool braille critters, to corn cob boats at the mill. In addition to crafts, campers were able to sign up for archery, going on the zipline and traverse line at the waterfront, or heading down to the farm to pick some vegetables and play with the baby animals. 

For dinner we had some delicious chicken cacciatore, with broccoli, corn and green salad, both of which were from our farm. It’s always so amazing to see what our kitchen staff put together in ways that allow our campers to expand their palate and try something new that they normally wouldn’t or would be hesitant to. Whew, our campers ate a lot of pasta! Tonight we also had six of our Main Camp cabins camping out, which left our dining hall feeling extra large. Our cabins who are out must have planned for the perfect weather as we are expecting partially cloudy skies and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees. 

Once after supper activities end and campers move from running around on the green, or trying to spot the Tajar, our Hillsiders head into the lodge to start their evening of Mountain Dancing while our Brooksiders head up to Mountainside to learn about that program and are told how MS is similar and yet different to Main Camp. It always seems like there’s something magical that happens here in the valley around this time. The cicadas come out and start to chip, the sun begins to set over the mountains, casting the sky in pinks, purple, violet, and orange, and the sweet sound of children’s laughter can be heard across the green. I always appreciate this time of day, when the temperatures cool and the sky looks like a picture perfect painting, always unique, it makes me take a moment and reflect on the day. I think about the day as a whole, the smiling faces of our campers, and what a gift it is to help these amazing children’s world grow just a little bit bigger, and create memories with them. 

While it’s time to close another day, I would like to share with you one of my favorite songs we sing at campfire “Goin’ Back To Carolina.”  The song goes: I can hear the soft winds blowin’ through the valleys and the hills / I can hear the soft winds blowin’as I go, as I go, / I can hear the soft winds blowin’ through the valleys and the hills / I’m goin’ back to Carolina, bless my soul, bless my soul. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog and may your evening be just as peaceful as ours at camp.

The Layers of Friendship!

Dear Parents and Friends, 

It’s hard to top July 4th at camp but darn if we didn’t do it today.  It was a bit cooler this morning and everyone was enjoying the nice weather and sunny skies.  Big thunderheads moved in later in the afternoon, but we have our reliable Thorguard to tell us when we are safe to be outdoors and in the open.  Thor did go off today but while we were eating and again just after our 4th activity period.  We have the makings for a good sunset tonight after our very special all camp game.  The Ham Burglar came out to dinner tonight and proceeded to steal all of camp’s dessert, which didn’t go well with our campers in Main Camp.  Our desserts are much too delicious to allow them to be frittered away by the Hamburgerlar and his evil minions.  Our program leaders became superheroes and lent a hand to our cabin groups to get the dessert back from villian’s army.  It wasn’t an easy task, but everyone was still energized from our 4th celebrations. 

I want to drop back in time a bit to provide a little look into the C-1 Session.  Many of our campers are returning from previous years and as they move through each age group and program it’s nice to see them connect on opening day after not seeing one another for a year.  Many have made friends at camp and do make it a habit to stay in touch over the winter months.  I was struck by many meetings and one stuck out.  One of our young SIT men is from Spain and his name is Ignacio.  He was an SIT last year and at lunch on opening day several of his boys from last year recognized him and they gave him hugs.  Obviously, these boys had bonded with Ignacio in the cabin and everyone was a year older and it was nice to see them reuniting after a year. 

Friendship and making new friends is a big part of camp and I think in many ways is the essence of what camp is all about.  Some life-long friends are made here.  I had two young men visit us today who were at camp for several years and their last year being 1998, which was our first year here at GV.  They’ve stayed close these many years and have gravitated to different parts of the country and got together in NC to see one another and visit camp.  Both are married and doing well and have fond memories of GV.  Today was just one of those days when we had 4 different people come by camp who were alums.  Two brought their young children to tour camp and introduce them to GV.   I’m admitting my years of camping in this statement but already this summer I’ve had 4 children attend camp this summer whose parents were campers of mine many years ago.  One of those is actually a summer staff member. 

Tonight, Mountainside is enjoying a relaxed evening of extended Twilight Play where they are participating in a number of activities from Archery to the Farm.  Riverside returned home yesterday after 4 wonderful days climbing in Tenn.  They were on the lake this afternoon getting ready for their next outdoor component – paddling.  They will leave on Sunday to start their next adventure.  Mountainside finished up their mini-adventures today and will choose their end of session adventures in the next day or two.  There will be some training days next week as well as some prep work and good bonding time for those 50 campers up in the cove.  Main Camp heads out on Monday for various trips off site for kayaking, mountain biking, climbing and hiking.  Each will visit our landscapes around Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Park.   

Our mountain view is a layered picturesque scene much like the generations of campers who have attended camp.  We will be celebrating 85 years at the end of next summer, so all of you are welcome to join that magic time after camp in Aug. of 2020.  Jeff, one our year-round employees who is a part of our crack team maintenance passed me on the trail tonight just before our evening ended and children were in many parts of camps enjoying one another’s time together and twilight activities.  Laughter and shouts permeated the air and Jeff said to me as we passed, “simple joys”.  He was right, another great day at camp and being outdoors.  Stay tuned!

A Fantastic Fourth of July!

Dear Friends and Families, 

Happy 4th of July! What an incredible day we had celebrating Independence Day with the whole of camp. We were woken this morning not by the bell, but by several of our counselors on horseback, shouting traditional Cherokee greetings! As all of the cabins excitedly went down to meet for breakfast, we circled the lake and heard a Cherokee creation story about the land that Gwynn Valley is on. Our story involved several animals and was reenacted by our counselors on the water mat. It certainly made for an educational and entertaining morning. 

A special part of any international day we have at camp is the food we get to try, our kitchen does their best to recreate traditional dishes, and today’s meals were no exception. For breakfast, we enjoyed bacon, cheese, berries, yogurt, granola, and homemade grits which had been ground at our Grist Mill! A classic and delicious southern American breakfast. 

After breakfast we enjoyed a dance party on the Green with all of camp, it was a fabulous start to the day and made everyone even more excited for a big morning of discoveries, mini-adventures, and more! 
Before lunch, we enjoyed a parade of famous Americans! We were visited by stars such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and several other celebrities. The campers cheered them on as the stars made their way through the crowds! It’s amazing how many of these celebrities resembled our staff!

For lunch, we visited Philadelphia and enjoyed some Philly Cheese Steaks, tater tots, and green beans from our farm. There were many seconds and thirds asked for by our campers, definitely a favorite lunch so far! The afternoon was filled with fun activities, lots of laughter, and plenty of sunshine. As Main Camp enjoyed sign-ups, we welcomed our Riversiders back from their four-day climbing adventure! The dining hall felt full having every cabin group around to join in on the fun and celebrations of the 4th.

Mountainside spent an afternoon on their final day of mini-adventures. Once these campers have been assigned an adventure, they will have several training days where they will get to gain skills and challenge themselves on their chosen adventures. 

As dinnertime neared, we were gifted a few rain showers which cooled off the temperatures from the warm day. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken, mac n cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, and corn from the farm. Thanks to our amazing kitchen crew, we even had a special dessert of homemade cupcakes! It was a delicious meal that left everyone full and happy. 

After dinner, we were entertained by several of our campers and counselors during our campfire. The campfire showed off the greatest hits of the US and informed us about our national monuments, national parks, and even a few favorite dances such as the Cotton Eyed Joe (taught to us by a few of our campers). It was an incredibly fun evening for everyone! 
It wouldn’t be the 4th of July without fireworks! After dinner and campfire, our campers went back to their cabins to change into PJs, enjoy a friendship circle, and get ready for bed. When it finally was getting dark, campers and counselors made their way to sit around the lake with flashlights in hand. Our Maintenance Crew put on an incredible fireworks display across the lake which lit up the sky and left the whole camp amazed. Hearing the oohs and ahhs of campers, and seeing faces light up with excitement was a highlight of the day. 

It has really been an amazing day at camp. Thank you for sharing your campers with us so that they can help to make these amazing memories!

Twilight Play, Adventures, and an Inspection!

Dear Families and Friends, 

Another great day has passed at Gwynn Valley and what a full and exciting day it was! We started our morning enjoying the cool mountain air. It’s always a pleasure waking up to fog over the lake and then watching it dissipate as the sun rises higher in the sky throughout the morning. As the morning warmed up, campers had a chance to enjoy their second day of A Day Discoveries. On the second day, campers have the chance to further a skill they’ve learned, work on a craft they started two days prior, or for some, practice their lines for the upcoming Fine Arts play!
On Mountainside, campers participated in their third day of mini-adventures. These campers will have one final day of minis tomorrow before making their decision about the full-length adventure they will be going on later in the session! 

Our mornings are always exciting at camp, and this morning was no exception, with a visit from our health inspector! Every year we are visited by the health inspector who we show around our cabins, our health hut, and kitchen (to name a few). We strive for a clean and safe environment at camp and do our best each day to make sure that goal is achieved. We were all thrilled to hear that the inspectors were pleased with the standards we uphold and gave us a score of 98! 

As we were busy showing off everything we do for the health and safety of our campers, we were also showing off the parts of camp that make it so fun for our visiting videography crew. We heard more interviews from campers and staff today, talking about why they love camp so much. The best part of my day was being able to listen in on how much our campers are able to take away from their camp experiences. Hearing our campers talk about why they love being able to unplug and make such strong connections with others was such a beautiful experience. 
The rest day was filled with sweet reflections from campers, lots of sunshine, and the general fun that makes camp, camp! 

This morning, campers learned and chose activities for our special evening program called Twilight Play. This evening program is a chance for campers to have another activity period during the day! Some campers could enter their names in a lottery to participate in activities such as Sunset Archery, Climbing up the Tower Swing, and even Horse Painting where campers were able to actually paint on the horses! For our campers who didn’t want to participate in the pre-assigned activities, they were able to choose from several other activities such as lake fun, popcorn, and stories at the Mill, and even making Dip Candles with crafts! 
With so much excitement happening, it was certainly a fun and full day, leaving everyone happy, fulfilled, and excited for tomorrow’s 4th of July adventures! 

A Great Day at GV!

Dear Families and Friends, 

Every day at Gwynn Valley feels like the best day, and today was certainly no exception! On Main Camp, we spent the morning enjoying our B Day Discoveries! This was a chance for our campers to dive into two of their chosen activities and they will get two more days to build on their skills. Some campers enjoyed expanding their knowledge in Jr. Lifeguards, some challenged themselves climbing the tower, and others spent a morning at the farm, picking veggies for meals and playing with the baby animals. I was talking to a camper today about how much she loves the opportunity to choose the activities she does. I think it’s such a special part about camp that we can empower our campers to discover what they enjoy and take the opportunities provided to challenge themselves in new ways. 

Our Mountainsiders were able to challenge themselves today on their second day of mini-adventures! These campers get a chance to test out 4 of the 5 adventures to better make their own choice for which adventure they will choose later in the session.

Riversiders have enjoyed their second day of the climbing adventure. We surely miss them at camp but can’t wait to hear their stories when they arrive back on July 4th! 

Young Leaders had a busy day, spending the morning helping out with discoveries on Main Camp. During rest hour they were able to play and lounge on the Lake with the Water Mat. After a full morning, they stretched their leadership muscles in one of their first Leadership Seminars for the session. 

With so much excitement happening around the World Cup, we do something that we don’t often do, and showed the semi-final game today as an afternoon signup. There were so many campers and staff cheering on both the US and England, you could hear the cheers all over camp when the final score came through. Sunday will certainly be a special day knowing that the USA will be making it to the finals!

In other exciting news, we welcomed a crew of videographers to camp today who are busy helping us create new promotional videos to show to prospective campers and staff members! They will be visiting for several days throughout the session and will capture the moments that make camp so special. Today they were busy interviewing staff members and some campers about their favorite things about camp. It was so great being able to listen in and hear all of the wonderful ways camp has shaped so many individuals’ lives. 

As I’m writing this, while the sun is setting and campers are enjoying their respective fire times with cabins or listening to Tajar Tales in the lodge. I’m so grateful for the full and exciting days that camp provides, thank you for sharing your campers with us. Keep an eye out for more excitement this week as we prepare for the Fourth of July and Special Day! 

A Fun Filled First Full Day of C and C1

Dear Parents, Family, and Friends, 

What an amazing first day of our C and C1 session. We had a great opening day with campers choosing what Discoveries they wanted to do, and today they found out. Discoveries are various activities around camp where campers will alternate between their four chosen program areas. Unlike the afternoon sign-ups, Discoveries are for the campers to improve and develop skills in each area. Campers were able to choose between waterfront with Stand Up Paddle Boards, Kayaking, Creek Hiking, and Water Quidditch, or sports with Archery and soccer, horseback riding and horse care, to crafts like wheel throwing in pottery, needle point, basket making, weaving, and so much more! 

This morning we also had our Riversiders head out to their first of three adventures and we have heard that they have arrived safe and sound. Their first adventure is rock climbing at Foster Falls in Sequatchie, Tennessee. These Riverside campers will practice teamwork, communication skills, and begin fostering their small community through their time together doing community chores, and playing games with each other. 

Following morning discoveries campers and staff sat with their assigned table for lunch. These table assignments will remain for the rest of our C1 session. These table assignments allow our campers and staff to get to know people outside of their age range, side of camp, as well as other staff members who they may not otherwise get to know. While learning these new names is tricky and normally takes two or three meals to get down, it’s always so exciting being able to say “hi” to those who sit at your table during activities or in downtown GV. My table and I have already started creating fun memories with each other, like a game of telephone but rather than repeat what you heard, you say what you think of in response to what you were told. For example, the game started with “Grant” which then moved to biking and trees and somehow ended up with avocado. 

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 pace. 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 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. 

A Great Opening Day! C Session 2019

Dear Families and Friends, 

What a wonderful day we had at camp! Today was our opening of C and C1, MS2, RS2, and YL2 sessions! With an influx of campers and parents, camp felt full and everyone’s excitement was palpable. There were cheers and hugs as campers eagerly learned what cabin they will be in and who their cabinmates will be for the next 10 day or 3-week sessions. 

Our Main Campers spent the morning getting to know one another in the cabin and settling into their homes for the session. When the afternoon rolled along, cabin groups were able to participate in an assigned activity. Some groups were able to tie-dye shirts (something every cabin will get to do throughout the session), some groups went on a horseback ride, while other cabins were able to shoot bows and arrows at archery! Our Main Campers will all have a chance to try out all of the activities offered throughout the session during their discoveries and afternoon sign-ups! 

It was a warm afternoon, and luckily every cabin was able to enjoy a swim in the pool or lake for their swim assessments! There’s nothing quite like jumping into a cool body of water on a hot summer day in the mountains. After our Riversiders had their swim assessments, they went straight to belay school, where they learned proper belay and climbing techniques for their upcoming climbing adventure. These amazing campers will leave tomorrow morning for a four-day climbing trip in Tennessee. We’re excited about their adventures and already missing them at camp! 

On Mountainside, the campers joined in a scavenger hunt all over camp to find their mini-adventure preference forms! Over the next few days, the mountainside campers will get to participate in training days where they will get a taste of four out of the five adventures offered (climbing, biking, paddling, hiking, and earth skills). After the campers try out each mini, they will get to choose which full adventure they will spend three days on!

With so much happening on camp, and such perfect weather to enjoy it in, it’s been a fantastic opening day! We are so grateful you all have shared your children with us this session and are looking forward to the days and weeks to come! We hope you all had safe travels home and are enjoying your own adventures over the next few weeks.