Chasing Raindrops!

Dear Parents & Friends,

My guess is most of you have been watching our weather the past couple of days.  Well, we’ve faired very well and didn’t let a little rain stop us from carrying on here at GV.  It rained, drizzled and spat off and on all day long.  Programs went on as planned including several hikes to The Rock which is always a “high” light.  The view wasn’t very good today and it was even hard to see our lake but we had fun getting there which is a challenge.  It’s uphill all the way and the last bit utilizes ropes to hold onto and pulling oneself up some steep roots and rocks.  It’s well worth the climb and especially so on a clear day.

There was a fire going in the Pavilion most all day as campers came from swimming and boating to warm themselves and chase the goosebumps away.  Tonight the Young Leaders were gathered there sampling the cobbler they each made separately with the kitchen.  I sampled some and it was delicious.

Mountainside had a training day today and at least one group ended up doing a bit of hiking instead of climbing.  The climbers met with rain almost halfway up the trail to the Glass this morning.  There was no dry rock to be found.  The hikers hiked, the paddlers went to section 0 of the French Broad, the Earth Skillers skilled on their little tract of land on the camp property and the bikers got very familiar with our trails here instead of going out of camp.

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 is certainly an option.  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 wall but we would like to see you go higher or at least 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.

So enough of that because 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, cole slaw, and watermelon.  Music played and people paraded and danced and went on hayrides and tried all kinds of creative challenges.   The rain held off and we ended about 8:40 tonight and then everyone was off to the cabin.  Tomorrow will be a full day and we are expecting some more rainfall.  We will do our best to chase those raindrops away.  Send us some sunny skies and we will see you in two days.  Stay tuned!

PS Having a little trouble with internet tonight so no pics!

Bikes, Boating, & Climbing Beta!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We had a great day on the Tuck today with Riverside.  Leaving camp this morning it had started to rain a bit but there was patchy sun throughout the day except for lunch.  Our day on the Tuck was the same and it only started to rain once we got off the river.  Everyone learned a lot today and the water level on the river was perfect.  They are headed back to the same section tomorrow to beef up the skills they learned today.  We’re expecting more rain tomorrow but one does not notice it while you’re on the river surrounded by water.  I think most of the group saw a Bald Eagle today just above Railroad Rapid.  I missed the sighting because I had gone ahead to set up for some video shots as they came through the rapid.  The Eagle sighting location is also just a few steps away from where an old  Harrison Ford movie was shot called “The Fugitive”.  There’s a train collision scene where he escapes and the train still sits there today.

We had lunch on the river at the bottom of Railroad Rapid on a huge rock that sits in the middle of the river.  Just below Railroad is 1st Hole, 2nd Hole, Moonshot, Double Drop, Snicker’s Challenge, Sling Shot, Surprise Hole, and Sharkstooth.  The Tuck has a lot of action and it’s certainly not boring.  Only two boats went over today.  One at Snicker’s and pillow in the river just jumped up near the end of the day.  Wish I could go tomorrow because I’m sure everyone will hone their skills even more.  We also got to partake of Jump Rock which is about a 15-foot jump from a rock into the river.   It’s very deep and we always stop there for the experience.

Bikers in Main Camp also went out today utilizing the trails of Dupont State Forest.  They started at Fawn Lake biked a big loop around that end of the Forest.  Over 100 miles of single track is designated there.  It’s a great place to ride and also another site where several movies were filmed; “The Hunger Games” and “Last of the Mohicans”.  Everyone did well according to Zach and staff with lots of up and down to balance things out.

Main Camp Climbers walked to the base of Looking Glass today and got in several climbs before being run off by rain.  Looking Glass is a giant granite plug that has eroded away over the to expose some smooth rock with eyebrows or horizontal cracks that etch its surface.  Some are small with only room for fingers and toes and others are much larger.  It looks as though smooth lava ran down the surface to form them.  The view from the Glass is terrific and once campers climb above the trees the heavens and miles in many directions just open up.

These trips out of camp really build confidence and take on us amazing journey’s that are so different from our city lives.  We get to experience wilderness in its rawness and ever-changing beauty.  Understanding the power of the river and the ways to harness it comes slowly but creates a respect that is lifelong.  The size of the rock and its massive expanse is intimidating and warm to touch on a sunny day.  We explore its grainy, grooved features to find just the slightest edge to place our feet and grasp with our hands as we inchworm up its side.  And biking is a balance, shifting gears and our weight over the bike to carry us over rocks, roots and uneven ground that we only thought was possible by foot.  With peddles in the “attack” position, speed is not always your friend but quick judgment and scanning 15 feet out to where the track is best suited for the next revolution of the tire.

Campers come back from these trips changed and you can see it in their eyes.  It’s always good to come home, have a hot meal and be a part of getting ready for the next adventure.  Stay tuned!

Breezes, Clear Skies and Full Lives!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What a great day here with beautiful and breezy weather today.   When you’re having a great time, things tend to speed up and go too fast.  We held sign-ups this morning and after lunch so campers took this opportunity to do things they loved to do and even try a few new activities.  Several cabins were off program just spending time together, which is always a good thing to do.  Camp was covered in activities today as groups went to the Rock, one went tubing and one went to Connestee Falls to swim and others just played and spent time on their own.  Capture the flag and whiffle ball ruled the athletic field in and around that vicinity.

It was a great day to go to the Farm and those baby calves aren’t so small anymore.  Soon they will be weened from the bottle and turned into the pasture on their own.  No more coddling by campers and being bottle fed twice a day.  It’s always interesting to see their reaction when they’re set free.  They look puzzled at first and most skip and jump once they realize they’ve paid their freedom ticket.  Folks were also milking at the farm today.  Milking is hard work if you’ve never done it and it’s a workout for your hands.  It takes a certain technique and a lot of patience.

Arts and crafts were churning out many artisan pieces in our arts arena.  From delicate beadwork to clay sculpture, the creative juices were flowing.  Batiks began as drawings and will progress tomorrow.  Fishing always captures the individual who wants to catch the big one.  This time of the summer, fish are very smart in our Mill Pond.  They know exactly how to remove that worm from the hook and are getting a little picky about their diet.  Any catch today was a good catch and we had some success.  Horse riders toured camp all day allowing children to ride who had not ridden previously.  There were trail rides as well as along our much-used paths and byways. Horses capture a lot of children’s hearts.

Blacksmithing was making hearts today, which is no easy task.  Maybe you’ll be the recipient of a handcrafted chuck of metal from our Blacksmith Shop.

After supper activities is always a nice time at the end of the day.  It’s cooler and is perfect for some running sports like ultimate Frisbee or soccer.  Tonight it was ultimate and of course Thunderball.  If you’ve never played ultimate it’s fast-paced with lots of running.  You can’t run with the disc but can throw it a long way.  As soon as it’s missed by the team that throws it, the other team gets the disc.  It’s very similar to many of our sports taking the best of each.  It does take some skill to throw and it’s also a game of opportunities where you get many chances to catch and throw.

Riverside spent their day on the Green River and will be going to the Tuck tomorrow.  I will be going along on that trip to shoot some video.  I’ll keep you posted on their progress.  Mountainside had sign-ups on their own today as well as some went through our ropes course.  The course starts at the climbing wall and then snakes its way through the area around the wall ending with a giant swing to dismount.  The first 10 feet are like a freefall and then you began to arc into the swing aspect.  Mountainside will be holding their first training day of the session tomorrow and will head out in many directions for each adventure.  By now each MS camper knows which adventure they will be on, and it’s just a few days as they prepare for next weeks off camp trips.

Tonight’s campfire was put on by our Fine Arts Players and they performed in splendid fashion.  The title of the play was “Big Foot Cinderella”.  You really had to be there to understand the plot and the transformation of Sasquatch.  There’s much about camp that is hard to put into words and even pictures.  There’s so much that goes on in our camp world each day.  Many times I will ask campers what they did that morning or afternoon and they can’t remember.  Their brains are full and so are their camp lives.  They certainly fill our lives and I’m sure you agree.  Stay tuned!

Special Day at Pirate Cove! ARRRRGGGGG!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a brilliant day here at camp.  The weather was perfect but not all appeared as it should.  Several days ago we were visited by a crusty band of Pirates.  We managed to chase them from our land and they returned this morning in greater numbers demanding we find all the jewels that Gwynn Valley possessed.  After breakfast they had us go through many challenges to secure the jewels and pledge our loyalty to them.  It was, needless to say, a harrowing day on the high seas.  At their helm was a Jack Sparrow gone bad villainous character whose greed led him to the treasures of Gwynn Valley.  His bullying ways were anything but our week of KINDNESS that surrounded all of camp.

Tuesday of this past week was Camp KINDNESS Day all across the nation.  We’ve been living that creed all week so everyone worked very hard to stave off these scurvy pirates who invaded our cove.  Campers were tested in so many ways from Walking the Plank, Tripwire Pass, Flintlock Finesse, River Crossing, Pirate Cove, Logic Lock, Cannonball Catapult, Hook Hurling, The True Pirate Test,  Water Run, Puzzle Map, Bob the Pirate, Sunken Treasure and more!!!  It was so much fun and the weather of sun and a few passing clouds made it all the better.

There were several skits throughout the day in the Dining Room and it all culminated this evening when our villainous friend arrived to take “his jewels” and was met by the beautiful and courageous Elizabeth Swan.  When she entered the Dining Room one little camper from Primavera ran up to her to give her a Gwynn Valley hug.  She bested that villain and turned his heart to pure kindness and the GV jewels and camp was saved.  Of course, there were lots of Arrrgggg’s throughout the day and bad Pirate jokes…like “What subject are pirates best in at school?  Arrrrrrt.” “To err is human, to arrrrr is seriously Pirate”.  Like I said, lots of bad jokes but totally rated GV!

I can’t believe we have only 4 more days left in the session for Main Camp.  Sign-ups start again tomorrow morning and Fine Arts will deliver the drama to camp tomorrow evening.  Tuesday we will see Mountainside start their Training Days and Riverside will beat them out the door tomorrow heading for their river component on the Green River.  They will be out through Thurs. of this week.  Even though there’s just a little time left there is much to look forward to in the days ahead.

All of camp spent most of the day outside.  Our outdoor play increases children’s physical activity level and we certainly did that today. Children who play outdoors are more likely to be active learners. Children who move and play when out of school are ready for the attention often needed for classroom learning. Time spent outdoors increases persistence. Outdoor games often require persistence, patience and help with focus. Children have the opportunity to try and try again if their attempts fail.  And…. outdoor play is fun. Children who are happy are successful learners. Children are naturally happy when they are moving, playing and creating outside. This joy opens them up for experimenting, learning and growing.

On a final note, most of the games and fun involved cooperative and collaborative work today.  Kindness was seen everywhere as children encouraged one another to take on challenges and the team concept was prominent all day long.  I’ll end on a quote from Mother Teresa that I voiced tonight during our Vespers Service after dinner.  “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless”. Stay tuned!

Soaking up sunshine, playing hard, and eating well!

Dear Gwynn Valley Friends and Families,

I’m not sure what the weather was like where you’re reading, but today at camp it was gorgeous. The blue skies and sunshine were just right for all the fun things we love to do outside! The waterfront was very popular at sign ups this afternoon with a tubing trip on a nearby section of the French Broad River and lots of activities on the lake front. Nature and Kayaking did a very popular cross-over activity where campers kayaked around the edge of the lake looking for frogs in all stages of life. Natalie, our kayaking instructor, taught campers about boat safety and basic strokes. Darcy, our Camping Skills + Nature (CSN) instructor, helped campers find signs of frog life and identify the frog that those eggs or tadpoles might eventually become. Pottery and Mill also did a fun cross over activity called ‘Slip and S’cream’ which involved campers covering themselves in slip, going for a swim in the lake, and finishing up the afternoon by making ice cream at the mill. There were of course normal waterfront activities going on as well including the rope swing, traverse line, and free swim. Riverside was out on the lake as well getting in some practice for their upcoming canoeing adventure. The RS group will take on their first river – the French Broad – with a day trip tomorrow. Riverside is out of camp 4/7 days each week, and we cherish the days were they get to play on camp with the rest of our community. It so wonderful to have everyone together at meal times and in activities around camp!

Today was the last day of Main Camp Discoveries, meaning that campers will have more opportunities to choose their activities each day at both AM and PM sign up times. Many campers will leave camp for day trips in climbing, biking, kayaking or camping skills and nature. All campers going on trips participated in the related Discovery this past week; the trip marks a culmination of their learning in that activity and is often a session highlight for those campers who love adventure sports. There will be other capstone experiences for campers who were in activities such as the Fine Arts play on Monday night, horseback riding excursions on the Hunt Farm across the road, advanced crafts sign ups, and so much more! There will also be many, many opportunities to try out or revisit all of the standard activities we have to offer around camp like blacksmithing, pottery, archery, sports, waterfront, climbing, biking, fine arts, farm, mill, etc.

Speaking of the farm and mill, we had an incredible dinner tonight thanks largely to those 2 program areas as well as our very talented kitchen team! The menu included: pulled pork which had been slow roasted since the day before, 2 types of homemade BBQ sauce, coleslaw made from farm veggies, corn bread made using corn meal ground at the mill from white corn grown at the farm, fresh sweet corn picked this morning at the farm and shucked by campers after lunch, tomato + cucumber salad made from farm veggies, and baked beans to round out the menu. Every item on the table except for the baked beans was made from scratch in our kitchen. We are beyond lucky to eat this well and so grateful for the culinary team who works hard everyday to deliver delicious and nutritious meals to our dining room tables 3 times each day.

After dinner, we had a lot of different activities going on that were split by age group. Hillside went to the Lodge where Lauren and Debbie led the group in traditional mountain dances that had everyone laughing and sweating and ready for bed when the night was over. Brookside went to visit Mountainside and learn more about this older program area. After a few games, campers broke up into small groups with a few campers and counselors from each program area to help younger campers uncover some of the mysteries of Mountainside. As I visited different groups, I heard great conversations and peer mentorship happening all over the Mountainside green. Riverside was engaging in an evening of Random Acts of Kindness, following our celebration of National Camp Kindness Day of July 24. The RS group was out climbing on this day and so decided to celebrate this evening by leaving notes of gratitude and appreciation for all of our support staff to find at breakfast tomorrow morning. Young Leaders were helping Scott decorate the dining hall for Special Day tomorrow. By 9:30 this evening, our central gathering space had been transformed into a pirate ship! I can’t wait to see campers faces when they enter this space tomorrow at breakfast and the theme for the day is revealed.

There are many more surprised in store for campers tomorrow, but I won’t spoil any of those now. Tune in tomorrow to hear about the adventures of Special Day!

 

Sunshine Brings Out the Best and We Play All Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

We have had a beautiful and action-packed day here in the Valley! The weather was sunny and warm all through the day with just a few clouds and a super sunset tonight.  I just got back from the Lodge where Mountainside took advantage of a night of Mountain Dancing.  Kevin, Debbie and I called the dances and they had a great time.  It was the first time we’ve danced with MS all summer and to make this a tradition.  Many of them have been on MS before so at the end we ended quietly like we do in Main Camp every night, with Debbie playing “Sheep May Safely Graze”.  Some hadn’t had that touch with camp in a while and I think it brought back some memories.  Looking back is not as easy when you’re young because you always want to be older.  Perspective comes with maturity and just for a while tonight everyone shared in that same perspective.

After breakfast, we transitioned right to our A-Day Discoveries on Main Camp. For some campers, this means a day of wrapping up projects and polishing skills in half of the discoveries they have chosen for the session. For some program areas, the lesson was totally wrapped up today. For example, weavers took their finished projects off the loom and tied them off, potters were working on glazing their wares and most craft projects were coming to fruition.  B day will come tomorrow for the two other activities that campers have on alternate days.  Those who are part of the Fine Arts production will share their hard work with the rest of camp next week. For those who are in outdoor adventure Discoveries such as biking, climbing, whitewater kayaks, and camping skills and nature, there will be off camp trip opportunities all next week.

Those archers today were shooting at all kinds of targets like balls and hoops.  If you’re wondering why their bows are pointing toward the ground it’s because the targets were close to the ground.  Not close to the ground the arborist climbers made their way up the ropes toward some of the large limbs of our two tulip poplar trees in front of the Gatehouse.  It’s a great activity because it’s a good workout and one has to be patient as you inchworm your way higher off the ground.  Unlike traditional climbing, there’s no immovable wall in front of you…..just you, your rope and gear, and thin air.

The Potter’s were working on their mugs and containers that they learned to “throw on the wheel.  I’ve never had that talent and am envious of those who can sit down and learn this skill.  Working with clay seems so therapeutic and I love going by the Pot Shop to see all the different creations that come from its artists.

All three meals were exquisite today and I especially liked the potato bar with chili and all the fixings to go with it.  Of course, those potatoes were picked on the Farm or I should say dug on the Farm.  The Farm is the gift that keeps on giving and every meal contains something fresh from our bounty of farm food here at camp.  It’s that time of the season when tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cucumbers are combined to a make a wonderful vinegarette salad that is fresh, fresh, fresh! Our extension of the farm, the Mill, was making their own versions of a waterwheel and trying all kinds of methods to make the wheel turn.  I think used dried corn cobs worked the best.

Mountainside spent some time at the Farm last night and you might be seeing those photos today.  I think they have as much fun at our farm as the Main Camp campers.  You’re never too old to hang out with Farmer Dale and his farm hands.

It’s been another great day here at GV.  As Mountainside danced tonight, Main Camp played a giant game of BINGO with lots of counselor props and shenanigans. We have fun as we play and we learn as we play.  We are learning in so many different ways. Stated in a recent Patagonia clothing catalog, “The world often expects children to put aside childish ways in favor of preparing for the future.”  Here at camp, we know that play is an important element in preparing children for the future.  We as adults should play more often as well.  Hope you got some play in today.  Tomorrow is another day of opportunity.  Stay tuned!

 

Twilight Play Is the End to a Perfect Day!

Dear Parents and Friends,

What a great day here at camp.  The weather couldn’t have been better with lots of sun casting itself in the low 80’s and a nice cool evening.  Tonight was Twilight Play which is an extended after supper games and program time.  There were all kinds of activities open from,  dessert over an open fire to swimming and soccer.  I played a very long game of whiffle ball, which went on so long that we lost track of the score.  You play two outs per inning, pitcher’s poison (which means get the ball back to the pitcher before the runners reach their base.  No steals are allowed and depending on if you use the skinny bat (no strikes are counted) or the fat bat (strikes are counted), it’s a fast-paced game and everyone gets to bat a lot.  There were inside the park home runs, doubles, triples and lots of singles.  No one struck out and some of our youngest campers played.  My guess is that the actual score would have been about 34 to 37, which produces many hits and a great deal of action. No gloves are needed.

Everyone got a little giddy toward the end and we eventually ended up playing roller bat.  If you’ve never played, you only have one batter and everyone else is in the field.  After the ball is hit the person who catches the ball has three chances to hit the ball laying facing the thrower.  Keep in mind a whiffle ball doesn’t travel far.  Roller bat regressed into tackle the person with the ball and we were saved by the bell ringing.  Boys will be boys and everyone had a great time.

It was the perfect day to go climbing and tree climbing was the choice of the day.  It was a great day for being up high and scanning the Blue Ridge Mountains off to the west.  The Brookside mountain bike skills area also captured much interest as did the Blacksmithing Hut just off the biking trail.  When you’re at camp you can always hear the banging of the hammers against the anvils set up for our young blacksmiths.  There’s work going on when those hammers ring.

Water not falling from the sky was felt in the lake, pool, and creeks as everyone enjoyed the warmth of the sun as campers boated, swam and played in the water around GV.  The Watermat or “Scream Machine” was fully turned on today.  It’s simply a giant water pad that can support the weight of many campers. They all wear PFD’s and have a blast on top and around the “Mat”.

We’ve been espousing the virtues of the program but camp life really starts in the cabin and works outward.  That’s one reason we hold what we call “Open House” in each cabin every session.  That’s when a leadership team member and an activity leader visit the cabins to meet with just the campers.  It’s a great way to ensure that your child’s experience in the cabin is a good one and to make sure that the counselors are doing a good job.  We visit with the cabin for about a half an hour and talk about a lot of things; their counselors, what they are looking forward to, favorite activities, how they are getting along and many other topics.  It provides good insight into their cabin life and how it’s going.

There are lots of checks and balances at camp.  We have lists, roles, check-ins, meeting spots, roll calls, buddy systems, and other ways of supervision and guidance during our busy days.  The structure is never heavy but underpins the organized chaos that camp is.  With that organized chaos should come fun, learning and many chances to build relationships throughout the camp experience.  It’s life outdoors, without screen time and the focus is on the “simple joys of childhood”.   We could all use that so stay tuned!

 

Better Weather Ahead But Still The Fun Quotient Exists!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Our day was cool this morning with a rain shower just before rest hour today.  The evening turned out nice and we participated in an all-camp game for after supper activities.  Despite our weather, the fun quotient continues.   Our game tonight was called the Color Game where each team (cabin) had to collect 6 primary colors.  Sounds easy but with trolls, pixies, and leprechauns running around camp it was no small task.   Our dinner of BBQ chicken, cornbread muffins, succotash, honey butter, salad, rice and black-eyed peas fueled our needs and sent us scurrying all over camp.  At our table, I asked who experienced something brand new today and most responded to that with creek hiking, wet exit in a kayak with a skirt on, tree climbing, weaving on the looms, etc.  I also asked what they were most looking forward to in the week ahead: their campout, rock climbing trip out of camp, Tajar ball, tie-dye, and more.  There is always something to look forward to at camp.  Each cabin usually keeps a calendar of events so the children know what’s coming up in camp.  There’s a good bit on our schedule each day and every day has a significant event for someone or sometimes for everyone.  Tomorrow night is Twilight Play which is a longer after supper period almost like an extra period during the day.

Tree climbers were working on their belaying skills and providing vocal support for those climbing in the trees just next to the Gatehouse.  Everyone climbs trees at some point in their life but few get to experience the thrill of climbing to sixty feet right up the trunk of a hemlock tree.  The views of the camp and the distant mountains are wonderful.  There’s a whole other world up that high and it makes you want to fly or live at that altitude.

Right next door is our 1890’s Grist Mill, (yes, that’s when it was built). Our miller campers were grinding corn and sifting it into cornmeal and grits.  The cornmeal in our muffins tonight was ground at the Mill several days ago.  Not much has changed in those 125 plus years at the Mill.  Everything is done by hand.  The exception to that is our fancy ice cream maker that runs off the water-powered mill wheel.  You guessed it, it churns almost perfect ice cream every time and any flavor you can think of.  There is also fishing at the Mill as well as outdoor cookery.

Also on my travels today, I stopped by the Bong Tree to see candles being made.  These were dip candles and it does take some patience but well worth it.  You actually start with just a wick and in a while, after multiple dips, you begin to see your candle grow and increase in size.  There are many colors and scents to add to the mix.

In the afternoons there are usually several sports games going on.  Thunderball is certainly a favorite.  We started playing Thunderball about 8 years ago here at camp.  It’s a game that came over from Israel and is a form of dodgeball with the exception that you don’t actually pick the ball up and throw it.  You slap it with your hand or fist and try to get others out by hitting their legs from the knees down.  Sometimes I think there are campers that would play all day long and never tire of this game.  Of course, our other most popular game here is soccer.  There’s rarely a day that goes by where there’s not a bit of fotball that’s played. Archery is another sport at camp that’s very popular.  Our sports crew have done a good job of teaching it this year.  It’s like Thunderball in its appeal to children.

Other camp activities that make us move are the Swurfer Swing, the Rope Swing, and 9 Square in the Air.  All three are crowd pleasers.  The Swurfer was invented in Charleston and I saw one at a camp home show several years ago and knew it would be a hit at camp.  You stand on it instead of sitting.  Several years ago we added a rope swing to the lake for some air time before you hit the water.  There is also the Tension Traverse which is a difficult challenge for most and few make it across the lake.  I learned about 9 Square at a national conference and played for a couple of hours inside a hotel ballroom with all adults.  It’s fast-moving fun for all ages.

As stated above, there is always something new for campers every day.  It’s akin to going to your favorite candy store and picking just what candy you want to sample today.  This candy is actually good for you and makes you smarter, stronger, more agile, eager, resilient, and most of all it’s fun.  You also get to share with your friends.   Our outdoor play is mostly structured and it’s so much fun to play outdoors all day, sleep under the stars as several cabins are doing this evening and cook dinner over an open fire.  It’s just good for the body and soul.

Outdoor play increases attention span. Often children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks or sitting still for long periods of times are significantly more successful after time spent outside. Outdoor play is imaginative. Because there are no labels, no pre-conceived ideas, and fewer rules, children must create the world around them. In this type of play, children use their imagination in ways they don’t when playing inside. We’re playing outside and growing inside here at Gwynn Valley! Stay tuned!

Australia Day at Camp!

Dear Parents & Friends,

G’day Mates and today was Australia here at good ole GV.  The whole day was mixed with good food, visits by the Man From Snowy River, The Wiggles and a wonderful evening campfire that included many campers dancing, singing and being in skits.  Our international staff did a great job giving us a first-hand look at so many aspects of their country which lasted all day long.  The food was also a highlight as we tried several unique Ozzie treats.  Least liked was probably Vegemite, which is very salty paste that one has to develop a taste or perhaps like it instantly.

Every Tuesday is International Day here at Camp so we get to know a lot about the countries that many of our staff and children come from over the summer.  It’s a great way to learn about a country’s customs, food, songs, stories and general facts.  I think it’s also a great addition to our program to have someone in your cabin who may speak a different language, has a strong accent or doesn’t come from our own country.  Camp is the kind of place that brings people together.  It’s an even playing field for campers and staff alike.  Our staff grows very close after working together for over 10 weeks.  Campers do the same and some camp friends stay friends the rest of their lives.

Our Ozzie friends started us off this morning by reading a short from The Man From Snowy River.  We heard more stories at campfire tonight and lot of other entertainment.

Campers were on their B Day of Discovery this morning and taking two brand new activities.  I wonder how many folks were trying out things they have never done before. Our cool morning started a bit foggy/cloudy and then the sun popped out.  I headed to the farm where they were just beginning to feed the baby calves.  Many of us are really hungry at breakfast because it’s the longest time between meals.  Well, these calves are the same way.  They are ready for those giant bottles of formula mixed with milk.  It doesn’t take long to drain about 2 liters.  Their instinct, even with the bottle, is to punch mother’s milk pouch, so you’d better be standing to the side because this happens frequently during the process.  From there it was into the cornfield where we picked over the remaining ears of 15 rows of corn.  There were about 12 children and each one picked about 25 ears of corn. Within just a few minutes we had 300 ears of silver queen, which was shucked by everyone after lunch today.  The farm is a magical place where people, animals, and food create a pretty cool part of the circle of life.

Coming back from the farm, I dropped by the pot shop where they were taking “slip” (used clay) and putting it in a blender to liquefy it.  You then use concrete dye to color it and pour it in a mold; wait a few minutes and pour it back out.  You repeat this with several colors and out comes what they call rainbow pottery.  I didn’t get to see the finished product but I’m sure it will be very cool.  Just next door in Yanderside, the campers were marbling paper to put on their keepsake boxes.

From there it was onto Dancing Dreams where Camping Skills & Nature were learning to build fires in the damp morning conditions.  Building a fire is not always easy and some of these youngsters were trying for the first time.  Each group had a small fire starter (a small bit of wax rolled in newsprint), to spur that flame on.  When it rains about every other day, it’s hard to find dry wood.  We did get our share of rain today but the good news was that the thunder only thundered a bit during dinner so we were all cozy and partaking of some great GV food.

All in all, it was a rainy day especially in the afternoon but we went right on with activities.  You only get wet skin deep at camp and rest assured we do encourage raincoats.  Today a couple of showers crept up on us so I for one was caught out in the sprinkles.  Camp can sometimes be unpredictable and we always have a backup plan.  We are spontaneous and creative with our program and the adjustments to our schedule and day.

Life at camp comes with lots of alternatives and many choices abound.  Camp is a place where youngsters can make their own choices in the context of a structure that is safe and appropriate for their growing bodies and minds.  Camp can stretch us and yet bring us right back to our comfort zones.  I think this breeds successful outcomes and allows children the chance to make good choices and be accountable for themselves.  Resilience, independence, confidence and an appreciation for those around them are just a few of the stepping stones reached at camp.  Today was the start of our Camp Kindness Day and tonight staff is reading stories about acts of kindness to their campers.  We can never offer up to much Kindness to one another.  Stay tuned!

A Day of Discovery and More!

Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a great first day of program here at camp and we’ve had good weather the day through.  It’s been cool in the morning with some clouds and the sun poked its head out later in the afternoon.  Discoveries started this morning and there were lots to choose from.  Check out these possibilities:

Jr. Lifeguarding, Mountain Biking, Archery, Climbing, SUP boards, Acting, Pottery Wheel Throwing, Farm/ Mill, Creek Hiking, American Sports, Darcy’s Survival School, Soccer, Creek Stomping, Navy Seals, Blacksmithing, Whitewater Kayaks, Candles, Weaving, Marbling, Rainbow Pottery, Horses, Set Design and Backstage, Tie Dye-Orama, and Baskets.  Whew ….. and that’s a lot of offerings and it’s just for the morning.

I checked in with our bikers as they were going through some work on shifting gears and learning to peddle in a seated and attack position.  This is a skill that not every child comes to camp with but our grassy Green in front of the Dining Room is a great place to learn in case one comes off their bike.  From there they rode a couple of trails around Main Camp and back to the bike shed.

I also visited with horses where children were working at both ends of the riding ring on different skills.  One group was walking their horse over cavallettis.  These are poles laying on the ground that they have to step over.  The other group was learning to keep their horse moving in an ever-tightening circle and also turning back 180 degrees to go the other way.

Blacksmithing was forging ahead as usual and campers were using their strength, artistic talent and coordination to shape, flatten, smooth, curve and twist very hot metal.  Protection and safety is a key ingredient in this activity and campers are asked to wear a leather apron, long pants, safety glasses, gloves and closed toed shoes.  Blacksmithing is tucked away near the pool and next to a cool clear creek where it’s cool most of the day.  This is a rather unusual activity for 99% of our campers and not many have had any experience doing this before.  It’s amazing what heat and the right tools can shape and form into very useful objects.  You need to be 10 years and above to participate.  It’s an activity to look forward to when you’re younger.

Today after lunch we held our first sign-ups and there were a plethora of activities available for the PM.   The weather stayed mighty fine and the lake was a popular outlet for energy and fun.  The Zip Line, Tension Traverse, WaterMat and Rope Swing were in high demand.  The farm was also a good place to be this afternoon since it was such a cool afternoon.  Piglets were getting a lot of attention and baby calves are growing from all those bottles of formula being fed to them twice a day by our campers.  The farm is an amazing part of Gwynn Valley that captures our imaginations and the reality of actually picking your own food and have it served sometimes that same day.  No grocer can offer that advertising for fresh food from the garden.  Like an army, we run on food and it’s good food prepared by hands that really care.  More on that later.

Campfire for Brookside tonight was Mountain Dancing and for Hillside it was real campfires with s’mores.  Mountainside went down to the farm tonight and Riverside began their climbing component today over in Tennessee.  All is well here at GV so stay tuned!