Campouts Galore & Twilight Play

Dear Gwynn Valley Families & Friends,

Today started with a misty mountain morning here at Gwynn Valley! The fog sat beautifully on top of the lake and the mountains surrounding our valley, making for a scenic morning as campers left their cabins and lined up for breakfast. Most of the mist burned off as we ate our very southern breakfast of biscuits, gravy & grits, which left us with plenty of sunshine during morning activities. On Main Camp this morning we had our second B-day of Discoveries. This second day really allows for campers to progress and build on the skills they were introduced to on the first B-day (Tuesday). The kayakers who learned to wet exit last time moved on to paddling skills today; climbers who focused on tying in and basic movement last time were able to put their skills to use in the hemlock trees; GV Rescue learned new and more complicated water rescue techniques, building on the material covered last lesson; archers tried out new kinds of bows and shooting techniques….etc. etc. Camp is such a great place for kids to try new activities and learn new skills that they may not have the chance to do at home. It’s incredible to see how much they can retain and how quickly they can build on their skills in these discovery progressions. When I spent some time with the climbers at the hemlocks this morning most of them remembered how to tie the figure eight follow through knot with little prompting. Being able to tie in quickly allowed them to maximize the climb-time. Over the next week there will lots of opportunities for campers to show off the skills they are building now such as the musical performance (totally created by the discovery campers) next Wednesday, lots off camp trip opportunities for those who want to further their adventure activity skills (climbing, biking, paddling…), and all sorts of opportunities to wear, display and admire finished craft products.

While Main Camp was moving through their discovery progressions this morning, Mountainside embarked on another day of “Mini-Adventures”. In the three week sessions, Mountainsiders spend a full day trying out each of the four adventure options: rock climbing, mountain biking, paddling and pioneering. Climbers spent the morning at the climbing tower learning how to belay and then headed up to “The Rock” to test out their new skills on a real rock here on property. Bikers made use of our camp trails and skills course. They spent the morning learning about the basics of gears, shifting, body positions, and movement on the bike and then tried out some of the more challenging single track camp trails later on in the day. Paddlers headed off camp to Lake Julia in Dupont State Forest. This lake is larger than our camp pond and it gives the group plenty of space to practice strokes and master the art of straight-line-paddling. Pioneers also left camp today to do some hiking at John Rock in Pisgah National Forest. While hiking, they also talked about how to plan ahead and prepare for wilderness trips including allowing campers to help decide what supplies to bring along that day. Campers reported back that the hike was steep but it was totally worth it for the view at the top! By tomorrow afternoon all Mountainsiders will have tried out each of the four adventure options and will submit their preferences for the four day adventure. Campers will be placed on Sunday and training days will begin next week in preparation for the big adventure during the last week of camp. The adventure is really the pinnacle experience on Mountainside and everyone looks forward to finding out what activity they will be doing and who will be in their group.

The afternoon came and went with a flurry of sign-up activities and a quick rain storm during the second hour of activities leading up to dinner. Fortunately, the weather cleared up around 6:00 PM and all 12 cabins were able to leave for their campouts without a hitch! Cabins Mountain View, Echo, Playhouse, Raccoon Ridge, Aching Legs, Blue Ridge, Chestnut Hollow, Possum Manor, Rosebay and Sunrise will be making use of our campout shelters tonight. Everyone left with plenty of dry wood and some amazing fire starters made by OLS earlier this week (lent balls from the dryer covered in wax) so everyone was able to get a fire started and get dinner going without too much trouble. You may not know this about our staff, but each of our cabin counselors is also a professional chef well versed in the art of cooking hot dogs, pizzas, quesadillas, veggie stir fry and of course SMORES on an open flame. The cookout / campout experience is a time-honored tradition here at Gwynn Valley. Every camper goes on a campout at least once each session, and though some are a bit anxious about sleeping outside in the time leading up to the trip, campers often come back with amazing stories and a great sense of accomplishment. When I was a cabin counselor, I always found that this was the solidifying moment for the cabin — it is the experience that really brings the group together as a whole.

For those Main Camp cabins left in camp tonight, we had Twilight Play as our evening program. Twilight Play is really an extended version of after supper activities, but instead of playing outside for half an hour we let campers continue playing for much longer after dinner. We offer about 12 – 15 activities; camper favorites this evening included a scavenger hunt on horse back, sunset archery, candle making, swinging from the climbing tower on the high ropes course (an activity normally reserved for Mountainside and Riverside campers!), kayaking on the lake, and a very serious (but ultimately non-competitive) cannon ball splash contest. Mountainside was split between cabin cookouts & their own little twilight play down at the farm where they harvested potatoes and played with baby animals. Riverside is enjoying the last night of their climbing trip in Foster Falls, TN. We can’t wait to have them back on camp tomorrow to hear all about their adventures over the last four days and to enjoy their company for a few days before they head out paddling next week.

It seems that twilight is long gone and even the lightening bugs are tucking in for the evening so I suppose I will too… Good night Gwynn Valley community!