A Full Day

Dear Parents & Friends,

We  finished up our day with a dance at campfire followed by some Tajar Tales.  Winnie, Head Counselor on Hillside lead us in several dances tonight, including one from his native Holland.  Winnie has been teaching international dance for many years.  Between his dance calling and Debbie’s piano they were a dynamic duo.  It was a hot evening to dance, but we cooled off in the lodge by listening to RB (Rick Brown) read from his Tajar Tales.  RB wrote the Tajar Tales many years ago and it’s a joy to have him here this summer to read them out loud.  He’s our Fine Arts Cluster Leader and also the editor of the Tajar Times. Just the tip of the iceberg of talented staff at GV.

A good many cabins were on campouts tonight in various sites around the property.  Those sites by the creek are best for putting one to sleep.  My favorite is Hidden Stall and Indian Cave at opposite ends of camp.  Many campers will be camping out again on Tues. night and we’ll have another dance for those who missed tonight’s events.  Mountainside finished their mini-adventures today and will be preparing for their end of week adventures coming up.  They are a great group and I believe our camp photographer got a good many pics of them today at the waterfront after the dinner hour.  Speaking of food we had a great lunch today consisting of caramelized pork chops, sweet potatoes with butter, broccoli with cheese sauce, fresh bread, pineapple and fresh salad. A delicious meal and much of it coming from the farm!  To add to our farm fare folks were at the farm picking beans and carrots. On a visit to farm today I noticed our blueberry bushes are getting some ripe berries so we’ll be sampling those soon in some pancakes.  Did you notice the barn swallows in the pictures from today.  They always nest and have their babies in the midst of all that commotion of milking cows, weighing produce, hatching chicks, counting eggs, and mixing food for all the animals.  I suppose they love the activity.

With the weather so hot today the zip line was a favorite activity that drew huge crowds. And so it goes with all the waterfront activities.  A couple of our staff had birthdays today and of course we sing our own special birthday song to them.  It’s not the traditional happy b-day song but one that came to camp many years ago and suggested by Richard Chase who wrote the Grandfather Tales and The Jack Tales.  Both books are great stories of lore from our mountain culture.

Gwynn Valley celebrates much of that culture through our simple joys of childhood approach to programming.  As we go through the week we hope you will see that it doesn’t take screens and keyboards to keep children’s interest and sense of curiosity.  It’s those simple joys that take us back to our roots in our outdoor environment where children are guided by a caring and mature staff. Stay tuned!

Day 2, A Session

June 12, 2010

The magic of camp has begun in our first full day of Session A.  I just left campfire and the finale to our introduction skits.  Camp is now quiet and is well on its way to sleep as we had some great times today.  It was our first full day of program with the weather cooperating throughout and all activities going full steam ahead.

Paddling was a cool item today with the temps so high.  It was the place to be for Mountainside as they started their mini adventures as well as Main Camp there for their kayaking and swimming.  In between when no one was using the lake Riverside came down for a session on the lake with me before they leave for their climbing segment to Linville Gorge.  They’ll be gone through Wed and we’ll hope for good weather and lots of climbing.  Archery was aiming for a full house all day and got it.  We had our first bull’s eye in the beginning of morning program.  I don’t remember what cabin the young man came from.  Mountain bikers traversed the property all day long both for the Main Camp program and Mountainside.  Some of the folks rode the trail to the top of the mountain while others worked on skills on flatter terrain.  We have two excellent instructors working with the bikers named Erika and Erin.

We also left our cabin groups at meals and everyone is sitting at a new table getting to know one another.  As we talked around the table everyone told one thing about themselves that was true and one thing that was not.  We had to guess which was which and it was fun. We learned a lot about one another in the process and had fun doing it. There was a good bit of fun at the climbing wall today with Mountainside and Main Camp.  The Arborist Tree climbers were also ascending the big Poplar tree just outside the Gate House (office).  Everyone learned a good bit about knots and enjoyed ascending the ropes using two knots they learned.  The campers learned to tie neat knots because “a not neat knot is a knot not needed”.  That’s one of those little things the campers learn as they dig deeper and climb higher into the skills.  Putting on a harness and being able to check all your systems along with a counselor is a part of learning what it takes to clamor up the wall or the rock.

Lighting and learning to build a good fire in the woods is another important skill for camp and OLS was providing that training today.  John Post is our resident outdoorsman and has worked in several programs at GV.  The farm with all its animals was also a favorite today.  What camper doesn’t want to feed a baby calf or goat and feel the satisfaction of picking the vegis for the evening meal in the dining room.  Our farm is the best and children really love all aspects of it.

This friends, was just an inkling of our typical day at GV.  We’d love to tell you more but we do want you to enjoy all the stories that will be shared around the dining room table when your children return home.  Part of that magic is that parents aren’t here and the campers are relying on one another and great staff to guide them through each day.  We hope your day has been as enjoyable as ours!  Stay tuned!


Opening Day Session A

Parents & Friends,

What a great opening day here at Gwynn Valley.  Parents and campers arrived this morning after long drives and eager smiles.  Everyone settled into their cabins and then off to lunch for a wonderful buffet of good food from our Kitchen.   After lunch it was off to the lodge for a bit of music, sign-ups and back to the cabin for a very short rest hour.  Who truly wants to rest on the first day of camp?  Activities began soon after as well as swim assessments.  Several campers told me our swimming pool was too cold.  I told them the heater comes on (up) around 6:30 in the morning and shuts down (goes down) around 8:30 in the evening.  I received some puzzled looks from that statement.

All activities were running strong and everyone jumped right in with both feet.  Natalie, our camp photographer is taking lots of pics today for all you parents who are feeling a little camp-sick.  That’s a great bunch this session and I sat in on their campfire tonight to view several of their cabin skits.  Mountainside starts their mini-adventures tomorrow as they take on skills from Pioneering, Climbing, Mountain-biking, and Paddling.  Riverside starts their Climbing adventure on Sunday.  They were out on the Green this afternoon working on some initiatives and group bonding.  They’ll spend time on the lake with me tomorrow to prepare them for the second week which is paddling.

Waterfront was splashing about with our little ones in the sit-on-tops and lots of swimming and zip lining at the lake.  I did not get a chance to spend time with horses or outdoor web of life but I did hear that the “Websters” captured some wild Appalachian lobsters (crawdads) in the creek.  Outdoor Living Skills is pursuing a camping skills theme this session so I can’t wait to see what they are up to.

Campfire in Main Camp tonight was cabin skits which are always fun times 10.  Children can be so comical on stage as well as their counselors.  We’ve got some great little actors with lots of talent that abounds when they get under the lights.  Winnie, Head Counselor for Hillside and “K” Head Counselor for Brookside will be directing the campfire tonight.  Skits usually are without props but with a lot of enthusiasm.   Ah, the simple joys of Gwynn Valley.

We are so plugged into our techno world at home and just one evening can produce the oohs and ahhs from simply acting, singing, and dancing creatively that brings us back to the basics.  Our human powered environment is well on its way to another great summer here at Gwynn Valley.  Our 75th summer to be exact and were so proud to have you be a part of it.  Hope you had safe travels back home.  Stay tuned!



New’s from Session E


Dear Parents & Friends,


A beautiful but hot day here at GV.   We just finished up our intro skits at campfire and everyone is back in their cabin and getting ready for the sandman.  Riverside took off this morning and I made their cabin photo just before they pulled out to tackle a 38.5 mile hiking trip in 4 days.  They are starting at Davidson River Campground and then up to about 6000′ on the Parkway and back again to the start in a big loop.  Great country they’re hiking through.  Mountainside starts their adventures tomorrow and they are off in 4 directions, one for each point of the compass.

How about those girls at candle making this morning.  Can you believe you start out with just a wick and it develops into a candle after many trips through the dipping line.  They were very excited about making their first candle.  Then it was on to the Mill where a couple of cabins were milling and chilling.  The milling crew were going hard and milling all that corn from the corn crib as fast as it was coming off the cob.  The boys were into it and all gathered around the mill watching the fine powdery mixture come from the mill hopper.  Next it was to be screened to separate the corn meal, grits, and chicken feed from the mixture.  While in the process they had also cooked up a batch of Johnny cakes and were enjoying them while they worked.  The girl’s cabin was not chilling but fishing and all I heard were screams every time they got a bite from the fish at the mill pond.  No fish was actually landed during the scream fest but it was none-the-less exciting to watch.  Bait was going left and right and those trout were well fed this morning.

I caught up with the Echo boys at the lake and after their swim lessons at the pool, they were at the lake kayaking, swimming and going off the zip line.  There was one little guy who was obviously a bit timid about going off the zip.  It took a fair amount of positive coaxing by the staff to get him to try it.  Waterfront director Cindy swam out in the water to intercept his zip and with some trepidation he launched down the wire and into the lake landing within an arm’s reach of Cindy.  From there he swam back to shore on his own.  I was there and just watched until he got back in line to do it again.  I caught his eye said his name and pumped my fist.  He returned the gesture and in several minutes time went at least three more times with no coaxing at all.  Then it was cannonball contests and minnows and sharks with Steve.  One of the Echo boys said he had seen the zip line in the Gwynn Valley “commercial” (our camp DVD) and he wanted to know if I was going to make a commercial while they were there, because he wanted to be in it.  Priceless!

Lunch was the next order of the day with baked chicken, fresh bread, rice, gravy, and fresh peas and carrots.  After lunch everyone went outside to help shuck corn which was picked this morning by the campers that went down to the farm.  Everyone has to shuck about three ears.  We had that corn for dinner tonight.  Speaking of commercials, what grocer could advertise a fresher crop – from farm to table with salt and butter, there’s nothing better.  And yes folks, our corn does have worms because we don’t spray it with insecticides.  Those bigger worms go over to the Mill Pond and are gobbled up by the fish or back to the farm to the chickens – all a part of the web of life.  After shucking corn everyone went to the Lodge to sing and as always our singing counselors led from the stage as Debbie was at the 88’s.

Signups for afternoon activities happened after singing with a variety of things to do from Jackson kayaks to mountain biking to pottery animals.   It was a busy afternoon here at the GV cove.  My blog is just the tip of the iceberg for what happens here each and every day.  Before I sign off, I just want to say that these kids are here and unplugged and having a great time.  The camp experience is an American tradition because of the value it adds to the lives of kids.  Camp helps children:

Grow emotionally

Develop values like respect, honesty, caring, and sharing

Develop critical skills, such as leadership, independence, personal responsibility

Participate in physical activities and exercise

Connect to nature

Form authentic relationships

Take healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment


I am a firm believer that the camp experience should be available to all children.  As I told my staff during training this spring, we are creating Camp DNA as we embed memories deep into the recesses of the children’s brains.  Now and later on they will recognize many of the values mentioned above.  Simply put, camp is an essential part of a child’s development. Stay tuned!



Kayak/Canoe and Biking C Session, 09

This is footage taken of Main Camp at the end of C Session.  Two different groups went out that day.  Bikers went in the morning and Paddlers went out that afternoon.  The Bikers went on two different trails, up Jim Branch and down Ridgeline which is a great downhill.  The Paddlers went on the French Broad near Pisgah Forest and paddled about 3 miles of the river including the confluence of the Davidson River where we were practicing our river swimming.  Enjoy!

United Kingdom International Day 7/21/09 C Session, 09

Our UK staff prepared a fun-filled day with skits, songs, and activities galore! Every Tuesday is international day here at camp where staff from each celebrated country give the children a taste of their culture and what life is like in their country.

Paddling & Biking Video


Parents & Friends,

This is video taken two days ago on the French Broad and also at Dupont State Park.  Our Main Camp campers were involved in trips that day and we had a group of canoers and kayakers go out that day as well as a group of mountain bikers that afternoon.  Everyone had a great time and hope you enjoy the short clip.   Sorry about the lack of camera focus.  It’s hard to teach and coach while filming.

We had 8 canoers and 5 kayakers go with us on Wed. to the French Broad several miles away in the community Pisgah Forest.  Everyone did great.  This is a good beginner section of the river but it starts off with a bang which can intimidate people.  Several of kayakers did go over but self rescued and got back on that horse.  None of the canoers turned over but came close.  We stayed at the first rapid working on ferrying, which is moving the boat from one side of the river to the other while facing upstream.  It’s all about boat angle and keeping that angle correct in relationship with the current.  The faster the current the less the angle you need.  The slower the current the more angle you need to cross from one side to the other.  We also taught river swimming even though some of them got experience before we reached that point of the trip.  In a safety talk you always discuss swim position if you either wet exit a kayak or turn over in your canoe.  This section has a great place with a big sandy beach to teach river swimming.  It also the confluence of the Davidson River and the French Broad.  The Davidson is fast, clean and cold flowing right out of Pisgah National Forest while the FB meanders throughout the valley in slow fashion on its way to Asheville.  We spent several hours working on ferrying, some peelouts and eddy turns at various point downstream.

In the evening I went on a Main Camp mountain biking trip to Dupont State Forest and left just after dinner with the group.  This area also happens to be where the Mountainside Bikers are.  We saw their campsite, gave them a yell, and kept riding.  One of my favorite trails in Dupont is Ridge Line which forms a loop with Jim Branch trail.  You ride up Jim Branch and at the half way point you come out at a place called Gion Farm.  There is a great little trials area there with some obstacles to ride like a see-saw, several skinnies (logs flat on top to ride on) and other fun things for kids and big kids and this is a short clip in the video.  The ride down Ridge Line is like a 2 mile long roller coaster with lots of dips, turns, and banks on a single track trail.  It’s a blast and the campers loved it.  We made it back to camp just at dark, grabbed a couple of left over cookies from the kitchen and sent them off to bed.  We did miss the Aussie theme campfire tonight but riding Ridge Line in the cool of evening was too good to pass up.




B Session


Dear Parents & Friends,

It’s been a great day at camp and we just finished campfire with Brookside.   We’ve finished up our Discovery week today.  Tomorrow is “special day” and we’ll keep you posted on that.  Tomorrow is also a free day from program when our activity heads take time off.  Tonight at campfire we did a switch a roo with our campfire on Thurs. when half the camp went to the pool after supper and the other half danced and heard stories.  The dances and stories were appropriate to the age each evening.  Tonight we danced the Paddy Cake Polka, a Virginia Reel, and the Gay Gordon.  We then settled back for a couple of Tajar Tales and the story of Jumping Mouse.  I really believe that “children of all ages” love to be read to.  I was quite surprised to see how attentive Brookside was to the stories we read.  It was a nice way to end the evening.

Great food today at camp starting with breakfast all the way through dinner.  Breakfast was eggs and sausage, fruit, cereal, biscuits and of course all the trimmings.  Lunch was mac and cheese with fresh green beans from the farm, cabbage from the farm, and fruit.  Dinner was meat loaf, salad, roasted potatoes, and brownies.  A very child friendly day at the table.

Next week we’ll go to full “sign ups” all week long and campers will be able to do a variety of activities each day.  The farm is in full production with lots of fresh vegetables that are being picked each day.  From farm to table is just the norm around here.  I ask you what grocer can make that claim and guarantee such a fresh product.  If you’ve ever read Barbara Kingssolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I think she would like Gwynn Valley’s farm and mill program.  I eat most any kind of food and I realize how healthy our diet is during the summer when camp is going on.  There are always fresh vegetables on the table with almost no pesticides or herbicides.  Our beef is all free range and even though we don’t eat our chickens or pigs they have a pretty good life with all the attention they receive.  We don’t produce enough eggs in the summer to consume those but you can bet we do in the off season.  My kids love to collect eggs at the hen house.  The Farm is a special place and Dale our site manager has done an outstanding job there through the years.  Cindy at the Mill, has taken that program area to a whole different level and does an incredible job each summer.  Besides creating the program at the Mill, she has literally taken the campers back in time with all the accoutrements from that 1890’s era.  Cindy is a teacher in Spartanburg, SC during the school year.  It’s staff like these that make Gwynn Valley.

Mountainside and Riverside will soon be departing for their adventures.  The children on MS chose their adventures tonight and staff will meet tomorrow morning to hash out all the choices and go over the groups.  Riverside leaves tomorrow morning for their Backpacking adventure.  They are heading up into Pisgah and will be on the Art Loeb Trail headed toward the Parkway gradually climbing as they go upward to and end of just over 6000 feet in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area.  If you’ve never been up to this area, there is an easy hike you can do even with small children that located just off the Parkway.  You walk up a portion of the Mountains to Sea / Art Loeb Trail and on a clear day can view a good bit of southern Pisgah National Forest and see as far east and north as Mt. Mitchell, highest point in the east.  There are so many wonderful places just nearby.

Don’t hesitate to call us if you’re up this way during the off season.  We’d love to recommend a hike or bike trail for your family.  Stay tuned for more on their adventures tomorrow!