Adventures at GV, away from camp, and on the stage!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Somehow I find myself settling into the peace and quiet of another cool mountain evening here at Gwynn Valley. What a full day we’ve had!  

Our first news item of note today was saying goodbye to our Mountainside campers and staff after breakfast. Five adventure groups headed out in separate directions for three days away from camp. Rock Climbers made their way to Looking Glass in Pisgah National Forest where they’ll climb at the Southside and the Nose. The Backpackers also headed to Pisgah, where they will be starting a 12 mile loop at Pink Beds, complete with gorgeous lookouts and refreshing swimming holes. The Mountain Bikers will be camping near Dupont State Forest and plan to spend most of their daylight hours biking single track and cooling off in the many swimming holes and waterfalls. Whitewater Canoers started the day with a bit of lake practice at GV to finalize boat partnerships and then headed over to the French Broad for their first taste of moving water. The Earth Skills crew made their way over to ‘Wolf Den,’ which is a piece of private land we rent and dedicate to the pursuit of practicing skills needed to survive off the land. On Wednesday evening, the Mountainside community will reconvene to tell their tales of adventure and mishap and resilience and success on their journeys away from camp. 

Back on Main Camp, campers enjoyed a day of CHOICE. With sign ups in both the morning and afternoon, there were endless opportunities to choose! Many campers followed up on projects they started in discoveries last week such as preparing for the Main Camp Adventure Trips that will take place on Thursday of this week and rehearsal for the Fine Arts production this evening. Other activities offered sign ups that would allow campers to try out an activity they may have missed last week and wanted to experience, such as wheel throwing at pottery, bead weaving at Shady Grove, archery on the Gatehouse Green, and climbing at the tower! In other areas, brand-new activities were offered for the first time in the session such as a 2-hour hike to the Rock (an excellent lookout point just 30 minutes past Possum Manor) and another hike to Connestee Falls (a waterfall and swimming hole about 30 minutes past Hillside). I love these days at camp where possibilities feel limitless and campers wake up feeling anything can happen. At breakfast this morning, my table family talked about their “B session bucket lists.” We talked about all the things we want to try or do or accomplish over the last few days off the session. The structure of this second week of B presents a wonderful opportunity for campers to practice visualizing the future they hope to realize and then follow through to make that happen. 

We wrapped up the day with a fun and creative play put on by our amazing Fine Arts Team. This was truly a camper driven production! The theme was time travel, which we all know can be dangerous… As campers moved through the ages, they left traces of the future that impacted the past and had to be corrected to hold together the fabric of time. We all laughed at knights riding giraffes and WWI soldiers armed with only water guns. Camper imaginations were showcased front and center reminding us all of the silliness and joy of child-centered creative thinking. 

Tune in tomorrow for more updates!

We’re all superheroes here at GV!

Dear Families and Friends,

Today was an incredibly special day at Gwynn Valley… it was our very first Special Day of the summer! Specials Days happen on Sundays during the two and three week sessions. During these unique programming days, cabin groups spend the day together exploring new activities and games that are only offered once a session. There’s always a theme and a story to unite the day, and today’s Special Day theme was Superheroes!

We started the morning with a sleep in for all campers and staff, which was much appreciated after a non-stop week of fun. For breakfast we had pancakes, fruit, and bacon; a favorite Special Day breakfast! At the end of breakfast we were all met by the ‘evil villain’ who arrived at GV last week for our big game and who is notorious for stealing the desserts at camp. He had broken free of the spell he had been put under before and now it was up to the campers to discover their own innate magical abilities and turn the ‘evil villain’ good once and for all! The campers went with their cabin groups to explore lots of special games and activities set up around camp. They worked on their water abilities by going off of the zipline, mastered their wind control with an obstacle course created and run by the Young Leaders, and outsmarted the water pixies with a game of camouflage to master their earth powers. With 18 different activities being run around camp, there was much to do and see!

While our Main Campers and Young Leaders enjoyed a Special Day full of super activities, Riversiders and Mountainsiders were busy with adventure preparations and send off activities. After breakfast, we said farewell to our Riversiders as they left for their hiking adventure, the third and final four-day trip they’ll take for the session. They started their hike at Black Balsam, and will be hiking down the Art Loeb Trail over the coming days. All together they’ll be hiking about 15 miles. Mountainside spent the morning packing for their adventures. They will leave tomorrow and five separate groups will depart for three days of biking, paddling, climbing, earth skills, or hiking. There was a great deal of excitement from our Mountainsiders at meals today as they discussed the training they’ve had for their trips and the excited nerves they’re all feeling for all that’s to come!

As our day came to a close, our whole camp community gathered in the Lodge for our Sunday Service. After such an active day, this was a nice, quiet way to wrap up our evening. Each week we have a theme for Sunday Service as well, and this week we focused on the wonders of our beautiful planet and natural surroundings. Both Anne and Grant shared readings on the wonders and joys of God’s Green Earth. Many campers shared music as well as readings and poetry. We closed this evening program they way we do every night, listening to Debbie’s magical fingers play out Sheep May Safely Graze as cabin groups walked quietly across the green and off to bed.

Another Beautiful Day at Gwynn Valley

Dear Parents and family,

It was another beautiful day at Gwynn Valley. Everyday is filled with the joy of trying new things and growing in so many ways. Piled on top of this is good weather, blue skies and sun drenching our property just enough for a cool dip in the lake or our Carson Creek that runs through the middle of camp. It’s those simple joys of childhood we all talk about. So what made today different, besides the weather and the laughter of children? That’s the magic, nothing was truly different than any other day. We had three delicious meals prepared by our wonderful kitchen staff. Our grounds were well cared for by our maintenance team, buildings were clean and laundry was taken care of by our housekeeping team.

The day started with some delicious banana chocolate chip bread that our wonderful bake staff made, in addition to an egg and cheese bake, with cantaloup and grapes. It always brings me joy to know that our campers are loving the food when they keep getting up to get more, and with a breakfast like the one we had today, I understand why. Moving from breakfast campers went on to their discoveries. They continued to build their skills, from waterfront activities like Navy Seals, horseback riding, to blacksmithing, and up to the Bong Tree where they worked on tye dye, and candles. It was the last day of Discoveries for B Session and next week will feature sign-ups and many trips out of camp where skills will be put to use.

It always catches me by surprise how fast the time goes here at camp. It’s hard to believe it’s been just over two weeks since our Riversiders arrived and left for their climbing adventure. Tomorrow they will leave for their third, and final adventure. This time they are heading out to do some backpacking and will leave tomorrow after breakfast. We have loved having them back in camp, and while it’s lovely having them with us, the final adventure is such an important part of their program. Each camper is challenged to carry everything they need to live for 4 days from their backpacks. That includes food, clothing, cooking gear and group gear like tents and shelter. They also all chip in with cooking and clean up and rotate those responsibilities throughout the trip.

I’m so happy the gorgeous weather stayed with us all day. We had a wonderful afternoon where campers signed up for their favorite activities. One exciting piece of news is that we now have a couple of Auto Belays on our climbing tower and we’re attaching cowbells on all our climbs. The bells will be a reward as they reach the top to show their resilience and grit in going out of their comfort zone as they clamber up a 50-foot wall.

After a long day of activities and delicious meals, the day wrapped with our Hillsiders mountain dancing in the lodge while our Brookesiders went up to do their Mountainside tour. It was so exciting listening to Grant call out the dances, while Debbie’s piano music drifted out of the doors and windows of the lodge. Listening to the dance calls, and hearing the familiar lull of campers laughter and joy, it made me appreciate the amount of trust you all give us. It is always such an honor you give by allowing those of us at Gwynn Valley to partner with you in raising these children. Sometimes the effects of camp linger long after the experience and we always hope that’s the case. Stay tuned!

A Fantastic Summer Solstice!

Dear Families and Friends,

Another wonderful day has passed here at Camp Gwynn Valley! Today is the Summer Solstice and we celebrated our extra long day of sun with play, exploration, and fun! We started the day with a delicious breakfast that included homemade scones, scrambled eggs, and fruit! There’s nothing quite like waking up to a warm scone on a cool morning at camp.

After a delicious breakfast, our Main Camp campers got to work, building on the skills they started learning two days ago in their B day Discoveries. Some campers enjoyed climbing on the rock wall, creating elaborate tie-dyes in crafts, or going on trail rides with the horses (to name a few). There all always amazing stories to be heard at lunch after a big morning of adventures that were had and challenges that were overcome. Our Mountainsiders shared many exciting stories at lunch of their third mini-adventures. Because the campers get to test out four of the five adventures, it’s always exciting hearing them come back and share which minis they loved or felt challenged by. One Mountainsider at my table shared how much fun she had at the Earth Skills mini-adventure and that after she had tried it out it was tied with climbing as her number one choice! It’s wonderful hearing our campers excited to try new things and living in the growth mindset that camp fosters. We didn’t just enjoy good conversation at lunch! We also got have chicken gyros with homemade tzatziki sauce, salad picked from the farm, rice, ratatouille, and feta cheese! A delicious meal and a great chance to talk about foods from other cultures, different languages, and our favorite GV meals!

After lunch, we had our very first day of shucking corn for the summer! Every year around B session, our corn crops start to come in and the campers who are signed up at the farm get to pick about 500 ears of corn each day! These ears are brought to main camp where every camper and staff help to shuck three ears which we will enjoy the following day or that evening. It’s such a great experience seeing every camper participate in the preparation of camp’s food even in this small way.

After an exciting morning and lunch, we enjoyed sign-ups and a wonderful rest hour. Here at camp we appreciate our campers and staff so much. The days are busy, but we always try to show that appreciation the best way we can. Today we celebrated our program leaders and gave them a chance to swim in the lake and go off of the zip-line during rest hour. These incredible program leaders spend their days teaching in their areas of expertise and rarely get a chance to enjoy the water on a hot day. It’s always wonderful to make their day in any way we can!

We continued the day with a wonderful afternoon! Main Camp enjoyed sign-ups and Mountainside had a blast on their final mini-adventures. While these groups continued on their days, our Riversiders were hard at work creating their community project. These campers decided to help create a path to one of our campout shelters called Broccoli Patch. They worked all day to clear and establish a path that will be used by all campers for years to come. It’s such a great opportunity for our campers to make a lasting impression on camp.

Our Young Leaders were also learning and growing today! They spend the whole day in their CPR and First Aid certification course! After working tirelessly getting their certifications, they enjoyed an evening hike to The Rock (one of the properties on camp) to enjoy the sunset.

Dinner this evening was a wonderful experience, and not only for the pork loin, homemade rolls, vegetable medley, roasted potatoes, and cabbage! We love to celebrate birthdays at GV and it’s no exception for our staff. This evening we were able to celebrate the birthday of one of our head chefs! As we introduced her to the dining hall, explaining how she helps to feed every campers and staff member at camp, the dining hall erupted into applause! Camp provides opportunities for every individual to feel appreciated, and it’s so beautiful to see such perfect examples of it!

For our evening program, all of camp paraded down the gravel path to our gatehouse green where we celebrated the Summer Solstice and the natural beauties we have at camp. As the sun was setting, and a fire was roaring in the fire pit, there was a perfect feeling of peace in the air. Camp allows so many moments to appreciate the beauty around us, and today was truly no exception.

Gorgeous day at GV for an ACA Accreditation Visit!

Today was another perfect Gwynn Valley day! It was one of those mid-session days when everything feels ‘in the groove.’ Children and staff are feeling comfortable with the rhythm of camp; skill progression is evident everywhere as campers are halfway through their morning discoveries; and friendships in cabins and table families are really starting to blossom. Around camp today, everyone seemed at home in their activities, cabin groups, and in the dining hall!

Speaking of the dining hall, the food today was exceptional! Oatmeal, oatmeal toppings, fresh peaches, and crispy bacon made for a great start to the day. For lunch, we had pasta primavera with a farm-fresh pesto and summer veggies along with green salad and fruit salad. I’m sometimes amazed by how much pasta children can eat when accompanied by parmesan cheese, but I also know my table-mates were playing hard today and needed re-fueling! We had my all time favorite snack at the end of rest hour: homemade granola bars! Finally to round of the day, our kitchen team treated us to meatloaf, sweet corn, peas, carrots, rice, and blueberry cobbler for dessert! Because we don’t get dessert every night at camp, I think children (and adults!) enjoy the sweet treats even more.

Mountainsiders enjoyed their first full day of MS1B, diving into their mini adventures. As part of the Mountainside program, campers sample activity periods of rock climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, and earth skills over the first few days of the session. Later on, they choose one of these activities to specialize in for their 3 or 4 day adventure.

Riversiders were back in camp, taking the morning to unpack and unwind after 4 days of white water canoeing. This afternoon they took on the Challenge Course at the climbing tower, playing around on elements that are 30 feet in the air. Some campers have no fear while they’re so far from the ground, and others are shaking every moment they’re up there, but together they encourage each other, practice empathy with their partners, and move through the challenge together as a team. I was fortunate enough to watch a sweet moment as the group encouraged one particularly nervous camper to make the leap off the swing platform. I was touched by the way other Riversiders rallied to support their hesitant friend, reminding him that he was safe and that he could take on this challenge if he wanted to.

Young Leaders spent the day Rafting on the Chattooga River with guides from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. They are the only program in camp to go rafting and this is always such a popular day for our oldest GV campers! Even though these young adults are in many ways ready to take on the responsibilities and challenges of camp leadership, they are also still teens who crave adventure and exploration and play. The Young Leaders program offers the best of both worlds with opportunities to flex those leader-muscles mixed in with opportunities to play and relax and celebrate the simple joys of childhood all over again.

In administrative news today… after months preparing …  we hosted two American Camp Association (ACA) Accreditation visitors! Our visitors poured over all of our paperwork before arriving and then spent most of the day observing activities in action and visiting key areas around camp like cabins, the kitchen, the health care center, etc. The main purpose of the ACA accreditation program is to educate camp owners and directors about industry standards and best practices related to camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. There are  about 250 individual standards that cover Health and Wellness, Facilities, Program, Administration, Staff Training, and more! Tucked in among all of the above sections are Mandatory Standards that you cannot miss. We have to provide written and verbal evidence in meeting the standards, and of course, we are also responsible for ensuring policies are followed as part of the in-person visit. Through the accreditation process, visitors are looking into every nook and cranny of our organization via paper and in person. Camps are up for re-accreditation on a five year visit cycle with paperwork due in the between. This is a voluntary compliance and one we gladly take on to make camp a better place for campers and staff alike!

Our staff and campers did an amazing job today, going above and beyond on this important visit day. From campers answering questions about how program areas run to program leader interviews, this was really a chance for us to shine and show what a wonderful, intentional, safe, educational, and FUN program we run! After gathering mountains of paperwork throughout the winter and spring it was time to walk the talk and demonstrate all the great things we do here at GV. While I’m always a bit nervous leading up to the visit, I know how important this exercise is in creating the best possible place for children. We always grow and learn from the preparation that goes into the visits.

Tune in tomorrow for more GV news!

The FUN Never Stops and There’s More!

How do you spell fun at camp?  All capitals, right! FUN! I see it everywhere I look and it’s like waves at the shore – some big and some small but always in motion and never ceasing.  We do have a lot of fun at camp and it’s a great environment to enjoy being with friends and learning new skills.  Each and every day brings new challenges, choices and decisions campers have to make, and relationships that we’re always building and nurturing.  I’ve probably said this before, but camp is all about relationships.  We, of course, start at the cabin level, program activity areas, table groups and just chance encounter at other times. 

Today was one of those relationship days as we started a new Mountainside session.  Campers arrived this morning coming from many places far and wide.  These 50 strong campers are all about stretching their boundaries as they move through those adolescent years.  Those years typically describes the years between 13 and 19 and can be considered the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood.  “Adolescence can be a time of both disorientation and discovery”.  I like that discovery word.  My hope is that the Mountainside campers will discover new aspects of themselves and possibly lock on to some real “camp” values that they can use throughout the years ahead. 

On Mountainside, I see the awkwardness of both the girls and the boys here at that age.  This magical age as I remember from my own experiences is being bombarded by so many feelings, thoughts, and influences.  Making friends at camp is so important because we stress the importance of “Acceptance”, which is one of camps values.  Camp is one of the few places where mistakes or hiccups can occur and you get more chances at being a better friend, climber, artist, biker, farmer, or being just you.  It’s an environment where you can reach and fail and reach again and again and hopefully you gain.  That word “a- gain” can bring about new confidence, learning to explore your limits, feeling support from others and just knowing that you did your best.  Resilience and grit build their foundations and these attributes all contribute to steppingstones of being a happy well-adjusted person.

So, what appears as just plain fun grows like our crops on the farm into many varieties of deliciousness and tastes coming from the camp experience. If you have a Mountainsider here with us this session, thank you for sending them.  Our wish for them is a safe and sound session full of laughter and adventure.  And for those who joined us on Sunday, your children are well into the thick of our session.  As I conclude, all of Main Camp just finished a camp-wide game to save the dessert from an insidious outside villain who needs a good camp experience to change his ways.  Part of my day today was spent roaming activities and seeing firsthand what fun we’re having as well as the learning that’s taking place.  It’s a nice combination!  Stay tuned!

What a Way to Celebrate Australia

Dear Parents and Families,

What an amazing day! We had our first International Day here at camp and it was such a blast. What is International Day you may ask? These happen every Tuesday in our B, C, C1, C2, and D sessions. On each of these days we celebrate and learn about one to three countries we have represented in both staff and campers that year. Today we celebrated and learned about Australia.

While the activities still run and not much changes in comparison to our normal schedule, a few things are different. These changes started with our wakeup. Rather than the bell that we use to signal the changes in our day, we had our Australian staff go around to all cabins to wake up our campers with an “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” and an “Oi, Oi, Oi”. From here our campers and staff got ready and headed down to the dining hall for  a skit where we learned a bit about the founding of Australia featuring Captain Cook and Steve Irwin as our narrator. After that we enjoyed a delicious Australian breakfast with toast, jam, eggs, sausage, bacon, strawberries, bananas, cooked tomato wedges, and cereal.

It was a hearty breakfast to give energy for our second day of discoveries where our campers got to experience their B day activities. They chose these activities on Sunday once they arrived, discoveries and are set up to allow more focused on the progression of a skill or set of skills than trying some of everything, like they do for afternoon sign-ups. Discovery options range from biking, Camping Skills and Nature, to Blacksmithing and Pottery, to Sports and the Farm. There are so many wonderful activities to choose from!

It was such a fun morning that lunch seemed to just pop up out of nowhere, and keeping with our day of Australia we had roast chicken with rice, broccoli, carrots, salad from our farm, and homemade bread rolls with honey butter. We carried over our Australian cultural learning to singing in the lodge where we sang a mix of both traditional camp songs, like It’s a Beautiful Day to Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree. During our afternoon activities, we enjoyed some rain which cooled us off after a warm morning.

Dinner was just as delicious as Breakfast and Lunch with a meat pie, oven chips (or fries and we call them), tomato sauce (Ketchup), green beans, and lamingtons for dessert. With all of this delicious food, and our Mountainside staff being out, it’s always nice to see our community sharing with each other. Tables would send a camper or staff member up with their extra Lamington to give it to another individual in the dining hall that the table agreed on. It’s such a joy receiving that one extra dessert or being able to see that look of appreciation on the person’s face when you share that extra piece with them.

One of the most memorable moments of our International Days has to be campfire. It is through these that our campers are able to have a little more time to learn about the culture, history, and people from the countries we are celebrating. Our campers and staff learned a popular dance they have in Australia in addition to learning about the Aboritional people, and some of the celebrities that call Australia home. Perhaps the only tough thing about International days is that they always add a country onto the list of places for me to learn more about, or visit!

Enjoying the Natural Wonders of Camp! B Session 2019

Dear Families and Friends,

What a wonderful day here at Camp Gwynn Valley! Our first full day of B session was an absolute blast, filled with a morning of discoveries and afternoon sign-ups. In our Main Camp discoveries, campers  were able to make hair pins in the Blacksmithing, go creek hiking around camp, and pick veggies at the farm (to name a few activities)! The weather has been beautiful today, with lots of sun and warmth that made swimming in the lake or making crafts in Shady Grove extra nice.

On Mountainside, we sadly said goodbye to our MS1A campers, wrapping up our first MS session for the summer. As campers and families reunited, there was a buzz of excitement as stories were shared from a fun filled session. Wednesday we will greet our MS1B campers for another 10 days of adventures and fun!

Riverside spent yesterday on the French Broad River for the first day of their adventures, and moved on to the Green River today for another exciting day of paddling. We are looking forward to seeing them in a few days and hearing all about the stories they have to share!

Our Young Leaders enjoyed a cookout on our Hunt Farm and will be camping out there tonight as well! They are one of several cabins on Main Camp who will get to cook their dinner over a fire (s’mores included!) and spend the night outdoors in one of our shelters around camp.

Hearing about all of the adventures and activities that our campers have had today and over the past few days, I’m so grateful for the appreciation of nature that camp allows. From being able to grow and pick the food that we eat at the Farm, canoeing, and camping in the forest, we do our best to spark a connection and appreciation for nature in all our campers.

B Session Opening Day 2019 – A Fun Filled Day!

Dear Families and Friends,

Today was a wonderful day at camp! With the opening of B, the sending off of Riverside on their second adventure, and the final day of MS1A, there was so much to do! We saw many familiar faces as well as some new ones as we greeted our Main Campers this morning. The love that everyone was feeling for camp was palpable in the air. You couldn’t help but smile as former bunkmates were reunited for another summer, and new campers were warmly greeted by cabinmates who would soon find themselves as best friends.

As camp greeted many campers for B session, Riverside headed out for their second adventure of three, to go paddling off camp for four days.
Every Main Camp cabin had a chance to cool off in the pool for their swim assessments, as well as enjoy more cabin bonding at activities such as horseback riding, milling, and playing improv games in fine arts (to name a few)! Throughout the session, campers will be able to sign up for more of these activities during the afternoons as well as get a more in-depth exploration of four activities for their morning discoveries.

As we welcome our B session campers, we are sadly preparing to say goodbye to our MS1A campers who have spent the last 10 days with us. They enjoyed a morning of signups with activities such as capture the flag, watermat, and friendship bracelets! In the afternoon they packed and enjoyed some lake time, and finished off their day with a friendship campfire.

Over the past 10 days, friendships have been formed and memories have been made, as we enter into this new session, we are looking forward to more of the moments that make camp so special!

Adventures Home and Some Just Starting!

Dear Campers and Friends, 

For those of you that have campers here from Mountainside, Riverside, Young Leaders and the stayovers for Main Camp, it’s been another beautiful day.  All of Mountainside ended their adventures today and all are back in camp safe and sound after three days of being in the field learning, challenging themselves and sleeping under the stars.  Fortunately, we’ve had great weather so it’s been a great time to be adventuring. 

Riverside will be leaving tomorrow for their canoeing component.  I spent several hours on the lake with them over the last couple of days and they are getting their flat-water transition to whitewater legs.  Robert Dye, our yearly resident canoe guru will be with them for the next four days.  It’s an excellent crew and I enjoyed my short few hours with them. 

As many of you know A Session closed yesterday, so today has been very relaxing for those staying over and those here.  We are all looking forward to hearing about Mountainside’s adventures and inviting new campers into our community tomorrow morning.  Stay tuned!