Mountainside has returned!

Hello, families and friends!

Guess what! There’s a guest author for today’s Gwynn Valley news! Allow me to introduce myself. I am…the Mountainside Shelter.

The Mountainside Shelter? Hold on a second! you might say. The Mountainside Shelter! Isn’t that a…building? And you would be correct. I am the 50-foot-by-30-foot pavilion up in Mountainside that serves as the gathering place for 65 Mountainside campers and staff throughout the summer. Depending on the day or time, you might see Mountainsiders convene in me to attend outdoor skills classes, choose sign-up activities, perform skits, organize adventure gear, play games, have discussions, gather around a fire in my fireplace, and sing songs. I have a great life, and I love providing my campers with a beautiful space to congregate. Though my primary function is to protect people from hot sun and cold rain, I’m more than just a pretty roof. I’m also a writer! And today, I was asked to compose Gwynn Valley’s news update. And I couldn’t be happier!

Well…it’s true that I’m happy NOW. But during the last few days I’ve actually been…pretty lonely. You see, as most of you know, a big focus of Mountainside is outdoor adventure. Shortly after arriving at GV, all the campers get to try out five adventure activities: backpacking, earth skills, mountain biking, rock climbing, and whitewater canoeing. Then, they pick their favorite activity and receive two additional days of training in that activity. The culminating event in Mountainside is the “Adventure.” That’s when all fifty Mountainsiders–plus their amazing staff–split into five groups and depart on four-day trips away from camp to pursue their chosen activity. This session’s Adventure started this past Monday. The campers were so excited! Right after the wake-up bell rang, they all gathered inside me to collect the adventure gear–tarps, tents, stakes, stoves, pots, and much more–that they had compiled the day before. Then, they carried all the gear down to the Dining Hall, ate a quick breakfast, loaded themselves (and their gear) into vans…and they were off! The vehicles disappeared over the horizon, bound for distant forests, rocks, and rivers. I was very happy for them…but I also missed them. The rest of the day Monday–and all day Tuesday and Wednesday–were totally quiet.

Hours passed. A few leaves fell. Butterflies drifted by on the breeze. Carson Creek babbled nearby. But for those three days, I remained empty. No campers gathered on my floor to swap jokes and tell stories. No staff huddled together in my corners to confirm the plan for the next activity they were about to lead.

Sure, it was a little sad. But every time I felt sad, I reminded myself about the true purpose of camp. You see, as I’ve heard the Mountainside Head Counselor explain to groups of campers many times, there’s a lot more to camp than just playing games and singing songs. When you look under the surface, you’ll see that camp is really about helping people grow and develop into their “best selves.” It’s about expanding comfort zones, and building character, and engaging with people face-to-face, and making deep friendships, and learning how to live as part of a community. And–as the Head Counselor likes to say–outdoor adventure is an AMAZING teacher of all these qualities.

For example, consider whitewater canoeing, in which two paddlers have to work together to guide their boat down churning rapids. Simply put, success in whitewater canoeing requires TEAMWORK and COMMUNICATION. On the first day, things may look a little awkward. Both paddlers are still getting the hang of the different strokes, and they haven’t figured out how to coordinate their efforts. But by day four, that same boat is starting to look like a well-oiled machine. The paddlers have learned how to talk to each other, to synchronize their strokes, and to put their canoe right where they want it on the river.

How about rock climbing? What an incredible teacher of PERSEVERANCE and the value of ENCOURAGEMENT! At the rock site, campers have the opportunity to try climbs with a variety of difficulty levels. Imagine a camper who has ascended dozens of feet up a sheer cliff. Just when she’s not sure she can go any further, she hears a chorus of voices shouting from below: it’s her friends, cheering her on! Buoyed by the support of her community, she overcomes the next hard move. Another twenty feet up, however–her foot slips. She falls. The rope catches her. And she faces a choice: try again, or ask to be lowered. Her belayer calls up, “You can do it! I believe in you!” And our climber reaches out, grips the rock…and ascends. She falls again. A third time. And a fourth. But does she quit? No. She. Keeps. Trying. Finally–accompanied by an eruption of cheers from below–she completes the climb!

And what about mountain biking? Pedaling up a long uphill teaches GRIT. Rising again after the occasional fall teaches RESILIENCE. Flowing down a twisty, turny downhill trail teaches the power and joy of LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

I could go on…but wait a minute? What’s that I hear? The sound of a 15-passenger van pulling into camp! Oh, joy! The campers are returning! As the afternoon proceeds, one van after another arrives at Gwynn Valley. The vehicle doors swing open, and a tribe of adventurers emerges. Dirty, tired, scratched, and a little bug-bitten, yes–but glowing with the joy, accomplishment, and satisfaction of their journeys.

After dinner this evening, the victorious Mountainsiders once again gathered beneath my humble roof. How wonderful to have them back! It was a delight to listen to their stories. The earth skills group, for example, told the tale of their Earth Skills Olympics, and how much it taught them about CREATIVITY and PROBLEM SOLVING when they had to transport water without using store-bought containers, make string using only plant fibers, then burn through that string using a fire built without matches or lighters. The backpackers explained how they developed CONFIDENCE throughout the course of their trip. For instance, they described how, when they hiked four miles on day one, it felt exhausting and overwhelming. But on day three, when they hiked EIGHT miles–it seemed easy and fun!

So…even though I miss my campers when they’re out on adventure, I love knowing that they’re building such amazing life skills in the process. The rivers and rocks, trees and trails, mountains and valleys have much to teach, and the campers return from the wilderness a little stronger and wiser than when they departed.

That’s it for now! Until next time…this is the Mountainside Shelter, over and out.

What a DAY!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been an incredibly beautiful day in the mountains.  I was not at camp all day but coming back around dinner time tonight it was just perfect weather for being a camper at Gwynn Valley.  I spent the day with one of our Mountainside groups paddling on the Tuckaseegee River.  More on that later. 

It’s the perfect night for a campout here at camp.  For all of you new to GV, we have about 11 different campout shelters scattered around the camp.  They are three-sided huts with a floor and up off the ground a foot or two. Each site has a fire ring and each shelter can fit a whole cabin.  Some are next to creeks and others are just around the corner from camp and ”downtown GV”.  All are quite primitive, and you can’t really tell that you’re nearby and for all intents and purposes, one could be on a million acres in Pisgah National Forest.  They are the perfect place to spend your first night out and many of our campers have never camped out before.  The groups always take dinner with them and cook over an open fire.  With not a raindrop in sight today – it was perfect for outdoor cookery.  Island Ford, Peter Pan, Raccoon Ridge, Possum Manor, Chestnut Hollow, Aching Legs, and 7th Heaven are all out tonight. 

Brookside is Mountain Dancing in the Lodge tonight; which Hillside did two nights ago.  The Brookside cabins can take on a few more sophisticated dances than the Hillside group so it’s a different night for them. 

Tomorrow is another day of Discoveries here with campers working on skills in the morning and choosing different activities in the afternoon.  Those who love certain activities can usually go back in the afternoon to experience those again.  With the good weather today, waterfront activities were quite popular.  Creek Hikes are fun in the afternoon when it’s hot.  We have multiple creek sections to hike in (literally hiking in the creek) and some are deep enough to swim in along with several small waterfalls you can get under.  For the more advanced creek hikers, you can walk up the creek from Mountainside to Connesstee Falls which is spectacular.  The farm continues to thrive in so many ways and our corn and vegetable crops are roaring.  Sweet corn and glazed carrots, potatoes, beef brisket, freshly baked bread and homemade cheesecake were for dinner tonight.  I was hungry returning from the river, and it was a wonderful meal.  My table had clean plates with no leftovers in the bowls. 

As we skip through this last week of camp, take note that about 65 of our campers are in a three-week session in our Mountainside and Riverside programs.  All of them are out adventuring this week and will return tomorrow night.  Mountainside bikers are in Dupont State Forest; hikers are up in Pisgah hiking around Shining Rock and areas nearby; Earth Skills is based near Dupont on a private piece of land and living the primitive life; Paddlers are on the Tuck one more day; and Climbers are in Linville Gorge taking on the rock and magnificent views there.  Our oldest group, Riverside, is hiking the Art Loeb trail from 6,200 feet down to the Davidson River Campground and will have taken thousands of steps in their 25-mile hike.     

Life is good whether you’re here in Main Camp enjoying all the activities or out in the wilds of Pisgah and beyond.  Many of our campers are new to Gwynn Valley and new to the many activities that are being offered.  Whether you’re crafty making something with your hands or wily as you stalk the creek creatures, or try to ring the bell at the top of the climbing wall, or bounce along our single track trails mountain biking, or learn about and feed the many baby animals at the farm, there is always something fun and something to challenge you at camp.  Look no further than our small community crisscrossed by wonderful mountain streams with worlds of interesting things right underfoot.  It’s the kind of place where friendships begin and many blossom into bonds lasting a lifetime.  Most of all, it’s the simple joys of childhood. 

PS – Just a note about paddling today with Mountainside – It’s one of my favorite activities at camp.  We took lots of photos and video and hopefully, you’ll see it over the months ahead.  Stay Tuned!

Celebrating sunshine and friends from afar!

God aften Gwynn Valley families and friends! 

Every Tuesday throughout the summer, campers and staff celebrate a country or group of countries represented by members of our community. The 40 or so international staff members who are hired each year through the J-1 Visa are actually here on a cultural exchange program – not a work program. The primary goal of their travels is to share their culture and ideas with the people of the United States and for them to learn about our culture. 

On previous international days this summer we celebrated staff and campers from Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, England, Scotland, and South Africa. Today we celebrated our staff from Denmark and Ireland! Campers learned about these two countries through food, music, children’s stories, photos, videos, maps, language lessons, bits of history, and more! Lessons on Danish and Irish culture were sprinkled throughout the day, like little treasures to be found on a cultural scavenger hunt. 

Food is an important part of our international celebrations here at camp. Humans have built identity and connection through food for as long as we have existed, and we find that the act of sharing food from home that is familiar to you but new for others can be a really fun and powerful experience for our international staff. To kick off the day, campers enjoyed a full Irish breakfast complete with eggs, bangers (sausage), baked beans, roasted tomatoes & mushrooms (more of a hit with counselors than campers…!), soda bread (a traditional Irish quickbread that rises with baking soda and buttermilk instead of yeast), and fruit. For lunch, we traveled north to Denmark for Danish meatballs, orzo salad, green salad, rye bread, and fruit. One camper at my table said the meatballs were “much better than at Ikea” which Mads (our resident Dane) interpreted as a great success. For our last meal, we returned to Ireland for a classic dinner of roast chicken and potatoes, green beans, carrots, green salad, and homemade dinner bread. It was the kind of hearty meal that you might see on a Sunday dinner table back in Ireland or across the Atlantic here in the southeastern US. The crowd favorite for the day were the homemade apple danish loaves, which were served for dessert this evening. With children, it’s hard to beat dessert no matter what language you’re speaking! 

Campfire tonight was another great opportunity to learn about the culture and history of our friends overseas. Campers did an amazing job helping share that culture through Irish dance and by acting out a Tajar Tale in which the Tajar mailed himself to Denmark. For those of you at home who haven’t heard about the Tajar, he’s part myth and part GV mascot; he’s had lots of stories written about his adventures and folly over the years. Tonight’s story was brand new to us as Mads wrote it just for our international campfire! The Tajar took us along as he learned about Danish family traditions, the Danish language, legos, music festivals, cold swims and warm saunas, and the secret to being voted the happiest nation in the world for 7 consecutive years. We also took a trip to Ireland with an Irish-American staff member (Conor OShaughnessy) who brought us along as he reconnected with his cultural roots, aided by our Irish staff members Hannah and Emma.      

Of course, today was also a typical day in camp complete with a morning of discovery activities like mountain biking, blacksmithing, pottery, camping skills, nature, archery, horseback riding and many more! This was the first of three classes for our B day discoveries, meaning campers were attending classes for the first time and will continue to visit these areas and deepen their knowledge base as the week goes on. 

This afternoon held another round of ‘sign ups’ or free choice activities that campers can attend to try out new activities or revisit the ones they know they love. Sign ups included classics such as leaf print bowls at pottery, fishing at the mill, a creek hike to Connestee Falls, and watermat at the lake. There were also some internationally-inspired activities like making Christmas hearts out of paper (a Danish tradition) and Irish dancing, which campers performed at campfire tonight. 

The weather was absolutely gorgeous today starting with a cool foggy morning, peaking with some afternoon sun that made the lake very inviting, and then returning to cooler evening temperatures that inspire campers to snuggle down into their bunk beds or sleeping bags. As I walked through camp this evening, I relished the sound of the secret serenaders who sing a goodnight song to each cabin on camp. Tomorrow will be the half-way point for E session, but these last few days of E will also be our last days of the 2019 summer season. With nostalgia already setting in, we are cherishing each moment with the E campers! 

First Full Day of E

Dear Parents, Family, and Friends,

Today was the first full day of E session and what a day it has been! We started the day with a delicious breakfast of bagels, scrambled eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, and cereal. With such a filling breakfast, main camp campers were ready to head back to their cabins to find out which discoveries they got. With a few scattered sun showers to cool off activities, the morning was filled with the laughter of children, smell of campfire smoke from the Mill, and all the campers running around during their activities. 

We also had our Mountainsiders and Riversiders head out for their various adventures. Our Riversiders went to hike the Art Loeb Trail through Pisgah National Forest and will be picked up on Thursday. Meanwhile the MS paddlers are going to paddle the Green River, earth skills went to a location we call Wolf Den near Dupont State Forest, climbers headed out to Linville Gorge, bikers went to Dupont, and backpackers headed to the Mountains to Sea trail in Pisgah. For our Mountainsiders, this adventure gives the campers the opportunity to grow and challenge themselves in the activity they chose earlier in MS3.

With a morning full of activities, lunch was a delicious and much needed meal of baked potato bar with chili, broccoli, and apples, along with other smaller toppings. Campers also learned what tables they were assigned to, as these tables will be where they will eat for the rest of the meals while they are at camp. These tables are a mix of campers across various age ranges, cabin counselors, program staff, and leadership. By having tables which are a mix of people, we find campers are able to meet and understand people who they might otherwise not have the opportunity or chance to speak to. 

Campers were eager to get to shuck corn after lunch. While we may have the occasional camper who doesn’t like the idea of shucking corn, the majority all find the task as one of their most memorable experiences while at camp, though it does help that we can shuck around 1,000 ears of corn in a week. 

In the afternoon, campers were able to choose two activities they wanted to do. These activities range from horseback riding, zipline, going to the farm, camping skills or nature, cooking at the mill, making pottery whales, climbing the tower, making a nametag at blacksmithing, and so many more. While our Thorguard Lightning detector went off once during the first hour of these activities for around 10 minutes, campers were still able to partake in their activities with minimal impact to the remainder of their afternoon sign-ups. 

Dinner seemed like a rather empty affair as we had 14 tables closed due to several cabins that were cooking and camping out and Mountainside, and Riverside who are on their adventures. Following dinner, campers choose what they wanted to do for After Supper Activities. Some of the more popular activities were parachute games on The Green, Tajar Spotting, and friendship bracelets. It was so exciting seeing campers run around and ask staff to prove they weren’t the Tajar by performing their best death defying leap. 

In place of campfire this evening, Hillsiders headed into the Lodge for Mountain Dancing, while our Brooksiders played a game called “Tajar Mission / Secret Agent”. This game involved taking messages from one country, being represented by a program leader, to another country, all while avoiding the chaos agents who want to plunge the world into…well chaos. This was such a fun game and good way for our Brooksiders to see and play up in the Mountainside cove.

Sunshine in the Smiles of Our Campers

Dear Parents, Family, and Friends,

We hope you all have reached your homes or the place you are staying for the night safely. We had a beautiful day, if a bit overcast. This session we have a mix of both returning and new campers. Upon arrival, all campers were greeted and told which cabin they will live in for the next week, and were shown the way by our Young Leaders. 

Once all the parents left, campers were taken down to the dining hall for a lunch buffet of sandwiches, and to figure out which four discoveries they wanted to do for their time at camp. For our families and friends who don’t know, discoveries are activities where campers will focus on the accumulation of skills. This means that they will learn how to post on horseback, in addition to the care of a horse, how to properly shoot a bow at archery, learn the ins and outs of a jackson kayak, or make a variety of candles at the Bong Tree, named after a storybook, which is one of our arts and crafts buildings where we do tie dye, batik, candles, and all “messy” crafts. These are only a fraction of what is offered. Campers will learn which discoveries they are in tomorrow morning. 

Later in the afternoon campers moved as a cabin group to several areas around camp. Every cabin went to the pool for their swim test, six went to the Bong Tree for tie dye, some went to the soccer field or the Gatehouse green for sports and archery, in addition to several other areas. This first day always seems like it goes by in a matter of an hour or two, rather than 12.

It was such a treat that our Young Leaders got to Sliding Rock, located in Pisgah. Sliding Rock is a naturally made slide where the water has worn away harsh edges and is a popular spot for locals and travelers alike, to have a quick splash in refreshing mountain water. The Young Leaders are such a help to our community, by being an extra set of eyes at program areas, helping the staff with questions that the younger campers may have, to setting all the tables in the dining room for all three meals.

Following dinner, campers participated in After Supper Activities, this is an additional time where campers are able to choose from a variety of activities, ranging from active ones like Games on the Green, Jedi Training, or Tajar Spotting, and calmer ones like friendship bracelets, or wading in the creek. During this time, our Mountainsiders and Riversiders got some time to spend together before they head out for their adventures tomorrow. Riverside went to the center and packed while Mountainside played some games on the Gatehouse Green as the sun started to descend in the sky. 

It was such a wonderful opening of E and those of us on staff can hardly believe this is our final session of the summer. We are so excited for this last group of campers and can’t wait to impact their lives and share with them the joys of Gwynn Valley, from our youngest in Playhouse and Chipmunk Hut, all the way to our Young Leaders. This final week is going to fly by and before we know it, we will be seeing all of you to pick up your campers. But until then, we’ve got a week of memories to make, smiles to share, lives to impact, and friendships to be made. Till tomorrow we wish you all pleasant dreams.

A Perfect Final Day of D!

Dear Families and Friends, 

What a wonderful final day of camp! We started the morning with our very last sign-ups of the session for Main Camp. Campers were offered activities like flag football, making campfire apple crumble with camping skills and nature, and trail riding with horses (to name a few). We also had a very special sign-up offered. Due to a few storms last night, we weren’t able to open up the slip and slide we had for Tajar Ball. Fortunately, we were able to keep it throughout the day and offer it for morning activities. Campers had a blast going down the slip and slide and playing Thunderball throughout the morning! 

As the afternoon rolled around, Main Campers packed and prepared for pillowcase swim. This is a highly anticipated afternoon for many campers who look forward to the joy of turning their normal pillowcases into personal floaties.

While Main Camp enjoyed their final day of camp fun, our older campers who are staying for 3 week sessions participated in their own activities. Mountainside spent the morning playing a big game all together and the afternoon in sign-ups! Our Young Leaders practiced communication skills in a morning leadership session and tie-dyed in the afternoon! We welcomed back our Riversiders who finished their four day paddling adventure. They recounted stories of their amazing adventure with other campers as soon as they got back on camp, claiming that it was the best adventure they had been on yet! 

Closing nights are always a favorite with the menu consisting of pizza and brownies as a treat! The dining hall was buzzing with excitement as campers enjoyed their final meal with the table groups they’ve sat with for the last week. 

After dinner Mountainside, Riverside, and Young Leaders parted ways to enjoy their own evening programs while Main Camp gathered in the Lodge for Friendship Campfire. Campers were recognized for their years spent at camp, our fourth year campers received blankets while fifth year campers received a plaque! These are treasures that campers are able to cherish over the years, bringing even more joy to their camp experiences. We finished the evening with a video and slideshow from our photo and video team. Campers loved seeing the silly and fun pictures of themselves from the session. 

It was a magical day at camp, and a perfect end to a perfect D session. Thank you for sharing your campers with us, they have made this session incredible! We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow at pick up and having you all back next summer! 

Festive Days and a Little Haze!

Dear Parents & Friends,

My guess is some of you watch our weather here on most days.  We had threatening skies all afternoon but it never dampened our spirits for the Tajar’s birthday.  We started our day with several trips out of camp – climbers and several other groups of Mountainside.  The climbers headed to Looking Glass to the North Side which has some overhanging features that protect the climbers from the rain.  They had a great day exploring that part of the “Glass” which is one of many giant granite domes in Pisgah.

I spent the afternoon with the Mountainside paddlers and we hit the might French Broad just near the confluence of the Davidson River and the FB.  Cooler clear water fell into our laps from the Davidson where we stopped to swim and practice our whitewater swim technique (nose and toes up and feet downstream.  There are three places on the mile and half run where we practice running moves like ferrying, S turns and peel outs.  The group had a great day and no one a dunking in the river.  All other groups faired well and in getting ready for the adventure coming up on Monday.  They have another training day on Friday as Session comes to a conclusion.  Those of you with campers in Main Camp and Mountainside probably will not see your Mountainsider that day. 

While the morning was beautiful the afternoon thundered and grumbled and showered a bit.  You might say that it was a good day to curl up and read a book but not here at GV.  That would not fit our philosophy that Mary Gwynn created many years ago, which was “do something difficult every day”.  That something might be different for everyone.  Camp is a place where you can really stretch your legs and failure which sometimes occurs is a good thing.  It’s ok to struggle a bit here in our camp world.  You get lots of chances to recreate whatever it was you were doing.  Sometimes that involves recreating yourself and learning about yourself more fully and honestly.  There’s a big support system here and it’s in place to help campers step up to the next level.  Camp is a great place to build resilience and confidence.  You don’t have to make it to the top of the wall but we would like to see you go higher and try harder than you did the time before.  Encouragement from peers and our staff enables campers to do some great things on their own.  Outcomes are important and we want those outcomes to be building blocks for the future. 

Camp is also all about building relationships with one another.  Defining relationship skills is both straightforward and complex. On the surface, relationship skills is an umbrella term we use to define ways we seek, form, and maintain healthy and supportive connections with other people. “According to Deci and Ryan’s (2000) Self-Determination Theory, feeling connected to others, which they call a sense of relatedness, is a basic human need; people are wired for human connection and we are at our best when we have healthy relationships in our lives. We can see the power of healthy relationships in the earliest stages of life (check out a fascinating episode of NPR’s podcast Hidden Brain, where host Shankar Vedantam explores new research about babies and how they develop relationship skills: and what happens when young children do not have the opportunity to practice developing healthy relationships with others.”  ”The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies relationship skills as one of five competencies that characterize social-emotional learning. Relationship skills, according to this framework, enable a young person to “communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed” (CASEL, 2019).”

I saw that in evidence today on the river as tandem boating teams needed to communicate to navigate the waters and talk with one another as they tried different maneuvers.  We really see this everywhere at camp, in table groups, cabin groups, program groups, and just a simple game or sharing an activity at camp.  Learning how to do new things together brings children together and provides a sense of belonging.  We all feel good when someone crosses the Traverse Line over the lake and as hard as it is, we all want to make that accomplishment.  The POWER of camp is something we’re always trying to improve on as we celebrate individual strengths as well as relational connections. 

But, enough about outcomes and serious topics and more about our day.  We had so much FUN tonight at Tajar Ball.  Usually, it’s held on the Athletic Field but with the unpredictable weather, we held some events indoors and out.  There were all kinds of games there plus and an appetizing array of dessert.  Our meal was cookout style with dogs, burgers, beans, chips, coleslaw, and watermelon.  Music played and people paraded and danced and tried all kinds of creative challenges.   Even though it rained and boomed overhead we held on to the giant waterslide overnight and will program it in tomorrow for those who missed out because of weather.  Tomorrow will be a full day and we are expecting some more showers.   We will do our best to chase those raindrops away.  I’m not looking forward to this session ending because we have a wonderful group of your children!  We will see you too soon.  Stay tuned!  

An Amazing Costa Rica, Argentina, and Mexico Day!

Hola Familias y amigos, 

Today was international day at camp and we were fortunate enough to learn about Costa Rica, Argentina, and Mexico! We started the day learning about Costa Rica and sharing a traditional Costa Rican. One of our counselors this year is from Costa Rica, and several of our American staff spent the year working Costa Rica. It was wonderful to hear stories of their time spent there, and have them share some Costa Rican culture here at camp. 

After breakfast, Main Camp participated in sign-ups, several of our Main Campers participated in off camp trips that left before or right after breakfast. These campers went whitewater kayaking on the Green River and biking in DuPont State Forest. 

Main Camp enjoyed a busy morning while Mountainside participated in sign-ups of their own. In the afternoon, Mountainside completed several community service projects, including trail maintenance and gardening around camp. We are so grateful for the improvements they made, and they had a blast doing it. 

For lunch we visited Argentina and had a yummy meal of pollo, befe, y chorizo (chicken, steak, and chorizo). As our meal was served, we had a very special guest visit us; Messi, the world famous Argentinian soccer player, scored a goal right in our dining hall! What an exciting meal. 

After rest hour and a delicious snack of Mexican street corn, Main Camp headed off to their second round of sign-ups for the day. With the afternoon heating up, many campers chose to cool off with a water activity, while our Young Leaders challenged themselves by completing the high ropes course. 

For dinner, we celebrated Mexico, enjoying a delicious mole chicken dish with a refreshing pitcher of horchata on every table. Our Mexican staff even set up a gorgeous Dia de los Muertos altar in the corner of the dining hall, complete with an offrenda (offering) of sweets, flowers, and candles. We were honored to share in this beautiful Mexican tradition. 

The fun didn’t end with dinner. We were treated to a delightful campfire where we explored wildlife in Costa Rica, learned about diversity in Argentina, and witnessed the wrestling match of the century in Mexico. As the festivities wound down, our international staff sang “Remember Me” from the movie Coco. With this soothing lullaby as our background, campers said goodnight and headed off to bed after a day filled with trying new things, learning, and of course, fun! 

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun at Camp

Dear Parents, Family, and Friends,

It’s hard to believe we are halfway through D session. Time has really flown by here at camp, and we hope it has for you as well. It has been a full day, starting with the first day of AM sign-ups. We do morning sign-ups when discoveries are over, as it allows the campers even more opportunities to try different activities and perhaps do something they haven’t already tried. We also said goodbye to our Riversiders as they headed to The Green River for their second adventure, canoeing. While we are sad they needed to head out so soon after returning from climbing, the campers and staff were excited to being their next trip and test themselves in new ways and practice the skills they were learning for the past two days while they were here at camp.

We also had two Main Camp Adventure Trips go out, Camping Skills and Nature and Climbing. Campers are chosen to go on these trips based on what the instructors have observed in discoveries and sign-ups. Most of the time, these campers are also on Brookside. On these MCATs, campers will get real world practice in regards to the activity. The climbers headed out to Looking Glass Rock while the CSN group went to Black Balsam for a hike.  

This afternoon we had our usual sign-ups of biking, arts and crafts, blacksmithing, archery, wall climbing, basketball and volleyball, and more. Our Mountainsiders also got some PM arts fun by having the opportunity to go to the pottery shop and get their hands dirty, in the literal sense. Some of our campers also had some additional training for our Kayaking MCAT on the lake. This group of campers will leave tomorrow morning after breakfast for a river trip. 

During dinner, our dining hall seemed exceptionally small with  all of Mountainside out for their Midsummer Night Banquet at the Hunt Farm and several cabins on campout. For those of us who remained in the dining hall, we had an exceptional meal of BBQ chicken, rice, corn from the farm, salad, homemade cornbread, and broccoli. 

With such a fun and exciting day full of smiles, laughs, friendships and adventure, campfire was a nice time for campers to see what the Fine Arts discovery had been working tirelessly on. The play was “A Night at the Art Museum”, similar to the film “Night at the Museum” but with a GV twist. The story took place in an art museum which appears normal to the public, but once night falls all the paintings and artwork come to life, with only the night guard to witness. It was clear to see the amount of dedication our campers took during their discovery period to help write the play, practice, learn all new original songs written by Debbie, and for the stage crew and costume designers to bring the story to life for the rest of camp to see. It was such a perfect end to an amazing day. We hope yours was half as full and exciting as ours here at camp. Tune in tomorrow for another blog and International Day. 

A Truly Magical Special Day

Dear Parents, Families, and Friends,

Today was Special Day at camp, and the last one of the summer. For Special Day Molly, one of our Main Camp Logisticians, planned a day full of magic with the help and support of our leadership team, and cabin counselors. These days revolve around a theme and today’s was Harry Potter. The dining hall was decorated to resemble the dining hall of Hogwarts, with the floating candles, and stone walls. Campers were excited to see Dumbledore again, after UK day last Tuesday, and were told that for today only the magical world was making an exception by allowing GV campers and staff entry to Hogwarts and knowledge of the magical world. 

Campers started out their magical training this morning by moving with their cabin groups to various tasks around camp. This training involved transporting messages from Harry Potter at the Mill to Ron at The Cabin in the Sky while avoiding Mr. Weasley, cleaning up the mess left by pixies on The Green, swimming with mermaids in the lake, finding the correct pattern of brick tapping to open up Diagon Alley in the lodge, and more! It was so much fun seeing the campers practice magical skills while counselors were able to fulfill some of their childhood dreams of  attending Hogwarts. 

In the afternoon, campers were able to choose from a variety of sign-ups in order to get more practice with their magic. These activities involved broom making, synchronized swimming with mermaids, charm making, divination readings with homemade hemlock tea, defense against the dark arts through archery, and so much more. While the Harry Potter series came out and was finished before these campers generation, it was truly thrilling to see counselors share the story of Harry Potter and passion they felt for the magical world with their campers. 

Main camp weren’t the only ones to participate in Special Day as our Mountainsiders did their own Harry Potter Special Day. They celebrated by having some of the same activities like wand making, dueling each other with pool noodles and frisbees, quidditch, and designing their own house flags. They were also able to jump into the Lake during rest hour and cool off. We love getting to see our Mountainsiders relax with chill time when their mini-adventures are done and before they go off on training days. Our Riversiders also got some training in for their canoeing adventure. Today they went canoeing down The Green River with Kevin, Grant, and Robert Dye, our specialist canoeing instructor. This practice is so important as it allows the campers to get a feel for how the river behaves, with the rapids and obstacles that lie just below the surface of the water, which they don’t get when they practice on the lake at camp. 

Wrapping up the day, all campers and staff got dressed in their whites for Vespers. Vespers is a time when everyone at camp, Hillside, Brookside, Mountainside, Riverside, counselors, and program leaders get together in the lodge to reflect on the day, share something they feel fits into the theme for service, and wind down after a long day. Today’s theme was Spreading the Friendship. It was lovely listening to songs, poems, and music that our campers and staff shared. Thank you for allowing those of us at camp to experience the wonders, joy, and magic your children bring into our lives. Till Tomorrow!