Good evening from Gwynn Valley! It seems we had found ourselves at the end of another wonderful, magical day here at camp full of discovery, adventure, and joy. So many things happen here in the course of a day that it is hard to write short blog posts like this one. I don’t think I’ll capture it all but I will try to get a representative picture for all you readers at home.
This morning brought our first round of B-Day discoveries for our Main Camp program. Each Main Camp camper has 4 morning activities, or discoveries, which meet 3 times over the course of the E-session week. The first day of morning discovery is a day of introduction, which lays the ground work for the next 2 meetings, but mostly it’s just a lot of fun! Mountain bikers could be seen going up and down the Green in front of the Lodge practicing their braking and shifting techniques on their newly fitted bikes. Farmers could be seen oohing and ahhing over a baby chick hatching at the farm after coming in from picking the penultimate corn harvest of the summer. Millers went fishing in the mill pond and learned how to make grits, corn meal and chicken feed. Divers practiced their movements on land using gymnastics mats before trying out a few basic dives into the lake. Potters learned the basics of working and attaching clay through pinch pot, coil, and slab building methods; wheel throwing will come later on in the week. Indian Bead Weavers learned the basic weaving technique and started their first bracelets of key chain projects. Archers learned the basics techniques and safety procedures using a standard recurve bow; compound bows will be used later in the week. Kayakers practiced their wet exits until everyone in the class felt comfortable flipping over and getting out of the boat. Horseback Riders started off in the ring today but will work towards a trail ride later in the week. And that’s only a few of the discoveries going on!
This afternoon brought corn shucking, singing in the Lodge, rest hour, 20 afternoon sign ups to choose from, and beautiful sunny weather. Our SITs (Staff in Training) took a spin on the new high ropes course during rest hour. They may have missed their afternoon siesta, but the tower swing at the end of high ropes course will leave you feeling more awake than a nap ever could! The SITs have been looking forward to this since they arrived 2 weeks ago, and the smiles on their faces when they finished spoke volumes. It was great to watch these teenagers coach each other through the elements and support each other so completely.
Today was also a big day for our 2 older adventure programs, Mountainside and Riverside. Both of these program areas are just over 2 weeks into a 3 week session and both embarked on 4 day adventures this morning. All of our adventure groups will return to camp on Friday, August 9, just in time for Tajar Ball! We will have lots of exciting photos and stories to share from their trips later on in the week.
For Riverside, this is their 3rd and final adventure. They will spend the next 4 days backpacking a section of the Appalachian Trail north of Asheville. This is a well-loved section often done by our Riversiders; it is full of grassy balds that make for amazing views of the surrounding mountains. For our Mountainsiders, this is the 1 and only adventure of the session; it is the experience they have been working towards for the last 2+ weeks. Riverside is a very small group (12 campers, 4 staff) so they are able to do each of their 3 adventures together. However, Mountainside is a much larger program, so those campers are broken down into 4 groups of 7-10 campers, each of which will do a different activity for their adventure. One group will spend the next 4 days hiking and learning about survival and pioneering skills in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Another group will spend those days camping and mountain biking in Dupont State Forest. Yet another group will spend their time paddling canoes on a couple of near-by rivers such as the French Broad, the Green, and possibly the Tuckaseegee or the Nantahala. The last group will be camping and climbing in Pisgah Forest near Table Rock and Linville Gorge. Even through the Mountainsiders part ways for this 4 day adventure, they spend most of their time together as a whole group and they will be very excited to reunite with their cabin mates and friends later on in the week.
Many Main Campers are having a little adventure of their own tonight! 10 out of our 20 Main Camp cabins cooked out and camped out at one of our many campout and cookout shelters around camp. Even though lots of groups are out tonight, there is plenty of space to spread out at GV so each cabin has a quiet, natural place all to themselves. The campout can be a little daunting for some campers leading up to the evening, but without fail campouts end up being the absolute favorite experience of many campers. I know my breakfast table tomorrow will be full of stories about starting fires, roasting s’mores, giggling in their sleeping bags, and falling asleep while listening to the sounds of a healthy, thriving forest at night.
For those 10 Main Camp cabins left in camp tonight, we had a wonderful campfire in the lodge. We kicked off the evening with some good old Mountain Dancing. Jess, who is running our crafts program this summer, called the dance tonight while Debby played on the piano. Jess is an incredible dancer and an even more incredible teacher – she led the campers through a number of dances following the energetic tunes coming from Debbie’s corner of the Lodge. After working up a sweat, we all settled down for a few Tajar Tales to get us in the mood for sleeping. R.B. (or Rick Brown) is the author of our Gwynn Valley Tajar Tales and we were lucky enough to have him here tonight as our story teller. R.B. has worked at Gwynn Valley on and off for the last 3 decades and we are so glad that he and his children joined us for D&E this summer!
As campers left the lodge this evening a light rain that held off all day finally began to fall. A light rain in the evening is just what we need to keep the crops healthy, to make the grass green, and to provide a little white noise on the tin roof of the cabin or campout shelter as campers drift off to sleep.