New building projects, new programming, etc.

Mountainside is Bigger and Better than Ever: We’re adding a NEW ADVENTURE!

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

Happy Holidays from Gwynn Valley!

Dear Campers, Parents and Friends,

As we all know, blessings come in so many different ways.  As families and friends gather for this time of year it is especially important to recognize and give thanks for all that is good and all that brings peace and joy.  Sometimes even our challenges open doors that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened.  Anne and I are especially grateful for our campers and families and the work we do here at Gwynn Valley.  We believe that a good camp experience is an essential part of developing the whole child and the outcomes translate in wonderful ways on the big stage of life.

Camp is a place of community providing multiple positive opportunities for interaction and character development.  And … it’s just plain fun.  Maggie has always said, “camp brings out the best version of ourselves”.  I do love the Holidays, all its ceremony, spiritual significance, friends and family, good food and more.  What I cherish almost as much is our opening of camp, which captures much of what the Holidays embody.

We are doubly excited this year to be in the process of building our new Dining Room, Kitchen, Program Office and Staff Living Room.  Things are going well and we’ve included a video to update you on construction.  We’ve also shared video highlights from all of our sessions as well as our 2016 “U Rock” video.  We hope this brings back fond memories of the summer and will provide you and your family anticipation of our 2017 summer.   Please note that any Mountainside and Riverside footage is included in the Main Camp sessions that correlate with those dates.   If you haven’t reapplied for this summer, be sure to check our session availability here or contact our office.

U Rock 2016

New Building Construction

A Session Highlights

B Session Highlights

C Session Highlights

D Session Highlights

E Session Highlights

 

Peace and Joy from all of us to you and yours!

Grant , Anne and the GV Team

Exciting Times Here in the Valley!

Dear Gwynn Valley Friends,

These are exciting times here in the Valley.  Registration has opened for our 2017 season for campers and staff.  After some time off, we’re all back in the office and ready for some great changes coming to camp starting this fall.  As we all know, camp has a long history and many children and adults have come through the doors of Gwynn Valley in the last 81 years.  As we celebrate another great summer and our past, we also must look to envision our future.  We recognize our strengths in working with young people and partnering with parents to create great experiences for children and teens.  In order to offer quality programs we must keep our site up to date and viable as well.  

Many of you know that we are in the process of razing our Dining Room/Kitchen/Upper Dwellings building.  The Upper Dwellings building has occupied our site since the early 1900’s when Camp Connestee for Girls was in operation.  Since that time many additions and renovations have been added to that existing structure.  It has housed everyone from Miss Mary Gwynn to members of the leadership team over the years.  The downstairs has also acted as a “staff living room/counselor lounge”.  In the past 30 plus years, the building has expanded and more renovations, rooflines and facilities have been added.  Last year we began to take a look at our dining room and its aging roof that has been leaking and needed to be replaced.  Dale and his staff and professional contractors have re-roofed and patched it for years.  Due to the low pitch and ceiling height, the dining room has been very warm. The kitchen, where our wonderful food is prepared each day also was a hot environment in which to work and has shown its age and space limitations in recent times.  

Through discussions with architects and contractors it became evident that any work would be fruitless in trying to tie into existing rooflines and structures.  The age and structural integrity of the existing buildings was not going to support a new renovation.  Building code, as it relates to living structures that are attached to kitchens have also changed and the two require a great deal of work to make them safe for all parties involved.  At that point, it became evident that a total remake of the site was needed.  “Livability and workability” are concepts we embraced as we began to look to the future.  We wanted the design of the new building to be enduring, economically vibrant, efficient, functional, aesthetically pleasing and a comfortable place to add to the quality of life here at camp.  With these things in mind we began to move forward in the project for the new center of “downtown GV”.  The project will encompass our dining room, kitchen, program office, a covered outdoor pavilion with a fireplace and a staff living room.  Living quarters from the upper dwellings will be built in another location.  

It’s never easy to give up something that carries so many memories and has been at the center of camp for so long.  Change does not always come easy and we’ve heard many people express their sentiments about the project.  Camp’s site and buildings have been updated a lot in 20 years.  It is time to redesign this facility to work better with our numbers and our program.  The new design will bring so many good things to the table in the next chapter of Gwynn Valley.  Creating a new building also means creating a design that blends into our rustic setting. This will be an important part of the process as we make our way into the construction phase. Sustainability has always been an important part of our philosophy and we are working with electricians, lighting experts, plumbers and builders to utilize every means we can to save energy.  Post and beam rafters will accentuate the inside of the Dining Room and adjacent pavilion that will reach toward our waterfront.  The pavilion will offer a safe space for bad weather as well as a great meeting spot for evening programs and special times.  Final drawings and designs are beautiful.  This opportunity will also allow us to put our overhead power line underground that has spanned the Green for many years.  While we’ve lost a few trees, planting new ones will give us a chance to strategically place them where we need shade as well as open up our view to the Blue Ridge off to the West and North of camp.  Pathways will remain similar to what they are now and gathering areas for meals will be similar to what they have been in the past.  Downtown GV will be virtually the same, with a welcoming doorway for planning program and to partake of the wonderful food that has been a tradition at Gwynn Valley.    

While exciting things are taking place just down the path, we’re also working on revamping our website.  Look for some great new ways to view Gwynn Valley on your computer, tablet and phone.  

In October and November, we will be out on the road promoting camp, seeing our alumni and meeting prospective families.  Look for a gathering near you and bring a friend.  We’re excited about camp and the changes for 2017.   Stay tuned for updates and pictures from our project.

Welcome Maggie Curme!

Gwynn Valley is excited to welcome Maggie Curme as our new Assistant Director of Older Programs.  Maggie comes with a great deal of experience at Gwynn Valley and is already digging deep into the work here at camp and preparing for another awesome summer at camp.
Maggie grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina where she attended Dilworth Elementary, Charlotte Country Day, and Myers Park High School. She temporarily left North Carolina to study Environmental Studies, International Relations, and International Development at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Washington, DC. At Georgetown, Maggie was involved in many campus clubs and organizations including: EcoAction, Georgetown Radio, Intentional Relations Club, the Sustainability Committee, and Outdoor Education. While taking classes, Maggie worked part time for both Saxby’s Coffee, as a barista & manager, and Georgetown Outdoor Education, as a manager, guide, guide class teacher, and pre-orientation trip leader for incoming freshmen and transfer students. In her junior year, Maggie spent a semester studying abroad at La Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile. Before and after the semester, she also traveled to Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Since graduating in May 2010, Maggie has split her time between traveling abroad and working in Washington, DC. From September 2010 – May 2011, Maggie traveled and worked in New Zealand and Australia. After returning to the U.S., Maggie moved back to D.C. to work as a government contractor at SRA in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Management.  
 Maggie enjoys traveling, cooking, learning new languages, running, climbing, hiking, practicing yoga, spending time outdoors, listening to music, taking photos, spending time with old and new friends, and being at Gwynn Valley! For 12 out of 24 summers, Maggie has spent at least 1 week (and many full summers) at Gwynn Valley. She is a former Camper (Hillside, Brookside, Mountainside), Staff-In-Training (SIT), Counselor (Hillside, Brookside, Mountainside) and Head Counselor (Mountainside).  Maggie has many positive memories of overcoming both physical and emotional obstacles while at GV, and she hopes to continue this pattern of  growth in her newest Gwynn Valley incarnation: Assistant Director of Older Programs. Maggie takes on every new challenge with energy and enthusiasm — and this new position at Gwynn Valley will be no exception!  You’ll be seeing Maggie on the road this winter as well as opening and closing days here at camp.  We’re excited to have her back at camp and know she’s going to be a great addition to our year round staff.