Adventure Leads to Personal Growth

Dear Gwynn Valley Families and Friends,

Here we are at the end of another beautiful and action packed day at Gwynn Valley! Main Camp is getting into a rhythm again as C2 campers settle into the flow of camp. We are into our second A day of discoveries, which means that campers went to their A day program areas for their 2nd of 3 instructional periods. As I walked around this morning, I heard and saw so many moments of excellent instruction from our program leaders and quite a few ‘lightbulb’ moments with our campers. I watched one camper in particular struggle with her wet exit today in kayaking. For those of you who don’t know, paddlers are secured into white water kayaks with something called a skirt. Before we allow campers to even practice paddle skills on the lake, we make sure they are comfortable with exiting their boat in case they flip over. Even for adults, this can be an anxiety inducing situation because even though it’s easy to get out, the process defies your natural instincts of how to get your head above water. This camper was very hesitant to flip over in the boat, but after talking it through with Niek, our kayaking instructor, and after successfully completing a few intermediary steps, she was able to pull it off. You could definitely see an expression of triumph on her face when she swam out from under the boat after popping the skirt and swimming out of the boat. It challenged her, and she was able to rise to the occasion.

Our Mountainside and Riverside campers are heading out tomorrow for four days in the field. The Mountainside climbers will be heading to Linville Gorge where they will climb at a wide range of sites that area has to offer. The Mountainside bikers will head into Dupont, where there will have access to more single track miles than they can cover in 4 days. The Mountainside paddlers will head for the Lower Green and perhaps to the Tuckaseegee and Nantahala rivers after that. The Mountainside pioneers will be heading out into Pisgah for 4 days of hiking along the Art Loeb trail, fortified by the snacks they made before leaving, to include homemade beef jerky. Riverside will be heading out for their backpacking adventure along the Roan Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a challenging portion of the AT with lots of ascent and descent, but the amazing views make it worth their while!

The 4 day Adventures are truly the pinnacle experience on Mountainside and Riverside, as they are marked by a level of personal growth and community strengthening that we don’t see gained as readily through other parts of the program. The true growth that we witness in these campers cannot be summed up by the number of miles they rode or the class rapid that they paddled down. Rather, the growth can be seen in their ability to pick themselves up from a failed attempt and try again, even when they’re not sure that a second or third attempt will be successful. It’s evident in their expanded capacity to empathize with other people and cheer others on through the crux of a climb. It’s seen in their ability to problem solve as a team and come up with creative solutions to the situations that require a plan B.

Of course, adventure and challenge look really different to each individual, which is part of the beauty of being a camper at Gwynn Valley. Given all our different programs and activity areas, campers have the opportunity to choose how they want to challenge themselves each day. Adventure does not always mean climbing, paddling, biking or hiking. Sometimes adventure means signing up for an activity that you’ve never tried before. Sometimes adventure means milking a goat or feeding a baby calf, especially when you are an Echo camper and the calf is bigger than you! Sometimes adventure means getting up on stage in front of the rest of camp and sharing a talent. Speaking of which… we had many very talented performers at the Main Camp Talent Show this evening!! Some of our Main Camp Cabins were on campouts, but those who stayed behind brought down the house with musical talent, magic tricks, random skills, and comedy skits. Our 2 South Africans MCed the event; their accents and costumes and goofy humor helped keep everyone laughing in between acts.

Tomorrow is Special Day at Gwynn Valley, which means the whole day centers around a theme. So far this summer we have had Superhero Day and a Tough Mudder. A few leadership team members have been actively planning all of tomorrow’s events in secret. Part of the fun of Special Day is that you don’t find out the theme or activities until breakfast that day. Many campers were guessing what the theme might be over dinner as they discussed ‘best Special Days’ from years past. We’ll just have to wait and see what is revealed over pancakes tomorrow morning!! Until then… sweet dreams GV world!