A Full Last Day of E!

Dear Parents & Friends,

Another day has ended here at GV and we’re about to end our E Session and summer with your arrival tomorrow.  Our campers rose to a cool and overcast day filled with some sun, and a few showers in the afternoon but no thunder.  Activities proceeded as planned.  I was at the pool enjoying the cool water on a hot muggy day along with every camper in Main Camp (not all at once mind you).   We held our last day of Discovery this morning to a slight breeze as the clouds flew overhead.  With the waterfront open many campers took to SUP boards, kayaks and several finished off their Jr. Lifeguard certs.  In other parts of camp, children were ascending trees, finishing off art projects, mountain biking on the Mountainside Trail, building fires, finishing up art projects, searching the woods for critters, and getting ready for tonight’s play and a host of other activities. 

We run a half-day of program because everyone packs in the PM after lunch singing and lost and found is handed out in the Lodge.  After packing, Mountainside heads to the lake along with Riverside and Main Camp as stated earlier goes to the pool.   Despite the rain this afternoon it was a great water day falling from the sky and all around us.  Campers come to the pool with their pillowcases and learned to wet them and then capture air inside and twist the end to form a floating pillow.  It’s a great trick and it really works. 

About 5:00 this afternoon the skies cleared and the sun came back out to bring some bright closure to our day.  After supper activities went as planned as everyone played in their favorite camp games and lounged and relaxed with some art, music, and stories in their favorite camp places.  The Thunderball court attracted the usual suspects of the hardcore players who can’t get enough.  Many dedicated campers went to look for the Tajar but didn’t find him.  My guess is he had too much fun at his own Ball last night and slept through the day.  He is rather old you know but has the energy of a whirlwind when he’s awake.  He loves to sleep and once he dozes off he’s hard to wake up (even with all the commotion of camp).

At campfire tonight we honored the many campers who have attended camp for years.  As a tradition at our final campfire, we honor those who are coming for their 4th and 5th year with a blanket for the 4th year and a wooden plaque for their 5th year.  We also honor those staff, SIT’s and campers who’ve gone beyond the 5-year mark.  Milestones are now 8 years with a compass and 10 years is a sturdy stool that has our logo and name on it.  It’s made by our own Team Maintenance crew and wood from camp.  It’s always special to have these campers stand and be recognized. 

Our fine arts group put on quite a show tonight adapted from several stories from the Jack Tales book.  These are old Appalachian folktales that have passed down for many a year.  They also sang a song that was about an old apple tree. 

Tomorrow when you arrive your children will be waiting for you in their cabins.  At 10:30 there will be a cabin friendship circle where all can join in.  We do these each night and check in with campers to find out how their day has been.  It allows staff to see how the children are doing since they only see them at morning wake-up, rest hour, before and after meals and bedtime.  Our days are full and it’s a good way to learn about the children’s experiences.  Mountainside and Riverside parents will gather earlier at 10:30 as well.  After the friendship circle, there is our program in the Lodge at 11:00 for parents, friends, and campers.  You can stay and enjoy a wonderful GV lunch at noon if you like.  Lunch is early tomorrow, which allows you to join us and still have plenty of daylight for your drive home.

Camp is a place where children can find their direction by learning about new skills that they uncover.  Camp is a place that puts them in direct touch with the outdoors and makes them feel more comfortable in those surroundings. The warmth of the community wraps around you like a blanket and reminds you of all the memories that are created here.  We call that “camp DNA”.  Growing up has never been harder and camp is a great place to learn about oneself and those around you as you grow.  Relationship building is the keystone here and so important throughout life.  Learning to live with those who are different and learning to accept one another for who we all are.  It’s a place of challenge and “successful failure” where you pick yourself up and try again.  It’s a place where “I can” replaces “I can’t”.  While E Session is only 8 days, I hope you’ll see some positive outcomes from your camper’s GV experience.  Drive carefully and see you tomorrow!

Free to be you and me

Dear GV families and friends, 

The blue skies were totally uninterrupted today at Gwynn Valley, which was a reflection of our day overall – perfect weather, happy campers, and smooth sailing in camp! On day six of E session, campers are well into their discoveries, making progress and developing skills in the areas they’ve selected for morning classes. Afternoon sign ups had a few special end-of-summer activities on offer including the Snappy Release Party, in which we set free the orphaned snapping turtle who has been part of our Camping Skills & Nature program all summer, along with some classics such as tubing in the French Broad River, trail rides on horseback, speedy skits (improv) with fine arts, kumihimos in the shade (not Shady Grove) with crafts, and free swim at the pool, among others! With hot temperatures and no rain clouds in sight, waterfront was especially popular this afternoon. 

Evening program tonight is always a camper favorite of the session. Tajar Ball is our end-of-session carnival celebration and costume party honoring the Tajar’s birthday. The day starts with folly and mischief as campers come down to the dining hall. Kayaks and tubes were out on the green and Debbie (our blind camp pianist) was up on a lifeguard stand at the lake!! Don’t worry, no one was in the water… but both Debbie and campers had a big laugh about the Tajar ‘promoting’ her to head lifeguard! Silliness followed us throughout the day with creative spelling on our menus and other touches of the Tajar’s folly. 

Of course, the biggest celebration of the day was the ball this evening. Our amazing kitchen team prepared a massive cookout feast complete with hamburgers and hotdogs, watermelon, coleslaw, baked beans, edamame, and all the toppings you could want for a burger or dog. Cabins picnic-ed on the green and the free-flow of dinner offered a more informal meal time with campers free-playing while waiting for their turn to get food or after finishing their meal. Of course, everyone was eating dinner in full costume, so when you looked out on the green you saw jedis and wizards breaking bread with princesses and celebrities. After dinner, the real party began complete with 20+ carnival stations like hay rides, balloon darts, tin can toss, giant bubbles, face painting, guess-the-number of skittles, cornhole, a photo booth, limbo, and an amazing dance floor in the middle of the carnival. Campers also enjoyed ice cream and cookies for dessert at their own pace throughout the evening. 

One of my greatest joys each summer is watching campers step into the freedom that camp offers. From the backdrop of our 400 acres of natural playground to the programmatic emphasis on choice, Gwynn Valley is a place where children are set up with opportunities to explore and express themselves. Of course there is always a safety net in the form of staffing or policies that manage for the risk involved, but the kids don’t necessarily see those nets that are set up to catch them when they test our their camp wings for the first time. All they know is that they are flying when they complete that first project at blacksmithing or put their arm around a new friend.   

There is also a freedom that comes from the pure, unfiltered celebration of simple joys. Campers are free to just be kids here in a way that isn’t always possible in our fast-moving and high-pressure modern world. Whether crawling in the mud or singing silly songs with your friends, we are a judgement free zone that helps kids (and staff!) get in touch with their inner child. Unfiltered joy was on display tonight in a big way at Tajar Ball. Gwynn Valley was originally designed for younger campers and we do keep our focus on that 5 – 13 year old range, but I sometimes see this celebration of inner child even more strongly in our teen campers. Watching the Young Leaders and Riverside campers stay late at Tajar Ball and do laps on the massive, inflatable water slide was a perfect example of these fleeting expressions of unbridled joy in our teenagers. Parents – I wish you could have been here to witness it! Not a screen in sight, and no thought of doing-it-for-the-gram (instagram)…. just huge, goofy grins and shrieks of joy as these teens went down the waterslide again and again as the sun set and the moon rose and the stars emerged one by one. 

Tune in tomorrow to hear about and see the celebrations of simple joys that are sure to unfold tomorrow.

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: NPR.org/2018/11/19/669319079/radio-replay-bringing-up-baby) 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!