Escaping the Heat with Riverside & B Session Begins!

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The first day of summer has arrived bringing with it a wave of heat and a fresh group of campers joining us for new Main Camp and Mountainside sessions. However, to start, I’d like to highlight the incredible four-day Riverside trip I’ve just returned from, where we escaped the heat on some of Western North Carolina’s most beautiful rivers. Our adventure took us down the Tuckaseegee and Green rivers, immersing us in the world of whitewater paddling. The Green River served as a great introduction for our newer paddlers. It’s an ideal place for getting comfortable in the water and working on those fundamental paddling skills. Even though it’s more beginner-friendly, the excitement was just as high. There’s nothing quite like seeing a camper’s face light up as they successfully navigate their first rapid or catch their first eddy.

On the Tuck, we worked on more advanced skills; we tackled ferrying across the current, making peel-outs from eddies, and even tried surfing some of the rapids. It was fantastic to see campers confidence grow as they mastered these more technical maneuvers. One of the highlights from the adventure was the Snicker Bar Eddy Challenge. This is a difficult eddy to catch in Slingshot Rapid on the Tuck, a challenge for the campers working hard to master the art of whitewater canoeing. Watching the kids give it their all to catch that tricky eddy was amazing, and celebrating with Snickers on the Blue Ridge Parkway afterward made for a perfect end to the day.

As we transitioned back to Main Camp, we found our B Session in full swing. The Farm is buzzing with activity – campers are feeding cows, tending the garden, and learning about our farm-to-table program. In the craft areas, creativity is flowing as kids explore different projects, from weaving colorful friendship bracelets to throwing clay pots on the wheel. Helping place campers into their new discovery activities when I got back made me want to sign up for a few myself!

Our Mountainside campers are growing and trying new things as they start their Mini Adventures. Whether they’re scaling the climbing wall, hitting the mountain biking trails, honing their paddling skills, or navigating trails in backpacking; it’s great to see all these kids stepping out of their comfort zones. The nervous energy at the start of each session quickly transforms into excitement and accomplishment as they learn new skills and debate which adventure they may want to go on next.

Seeing the bonds of a Riverside group paddling tandem canoes is special, but my favorite place to watch connections form is back at camp in the dining hall. Watching kids link arms as they walk into the dining hall, seeing new friendships blossom over bowls of cereal, and hearing the laughter and chatter about the day’s adventures – that’s the magic of Gwynn Valley.The true essence of camp life shines through in countless moments each day; moments that could seem ordinary but here are extraordinary. Whether it’s campers supporting each other through challenging rapids, sharing stories of their day over plates of farm-fresh veggies, or cheering on friends at the climbing wall, the bonds forming here are remarkable. I can hear it in the late-night giggles echoing from cabins and see it in the animated conversations over meals as kids eagerly recount their daily adventures. These connections, forged through shared experiences and mutual support, are at the heart of what makes Gwynn Valley a wholesome place.