Finally….. a Little Rain, Longest Day and Bellyaks!

Dear Parents & Friends,

I write as campfire is concluding right outside my window.  Six cabins are on a campout tonight so we have a pretty small camp gathered around the fire in the field.  We’re actually celebrating a late Summer Solstice which is the longest day of the year.  That was of course around the 20th of the month.  It’s never too late at camp.  There was a play put on by the Fine Arts group that acted out a Cherokee Legend about the animals of the forest.  Debbie played some music on her melodica or pianica.  I told a story about the Kanasta tribe who lived near camp.  If you look at the picture in this blog you will see a pointed mountain right in the middle of the pic.  That’s called Pilot Mtn. and was where the lost tribe lived.  Nature class did a skit as well and then our Head Counselors, Daniel and Molly read the Lorax.

Solstice campfire

We finally got some rainfall today but not enough to quinch the great thirst our land is having.  No activities were cancelled and no thunderstorms near camp. Main Camp kayakers went to the Green River today and had a wonderful time.  Nature went on a hike near the Fish Hatchery and spent some time at the Hatchery itself learning more about our native fish.  Mountain Bikers will be going out tomorrow and another kayaking group will be out tomorrow as well.  Climbers will hit the forest on Thurs.  Keep in mind these are all Main Camp campers.

We had sign-ups this morning and in the afternoon and so everyone got to choose what they wanted to do all day long.  One of our staff has a connection with a company called Bellyak which is kayak you lie down on or can sit on or can kneel on.  We have their demo fleet for a few days and are exploring with them on our lake.  I think campers really enjoyed paddling them with their hands.  By the way, you don’t use a paddle, they are hand powered.  Definitely a different way to access the river!  Blacksmithing combined with candles today for a two hour event.  One hour you made a candle holder and the other you made candles to go in the holder.  After an hour each group switched so you came away with a double bonus.

I love the simple skills of working with our hands and our imaginations.  Camp is so good for us in so many ways.  We work on projects and performs skills that may not be possible anywhere else.  Outdoor sports provide different ways to use our bodies and coordination to reach an end goal like a hard move on rock, running a class two rapid with a partner, negotiating a rock garden while biking or simply carrying everything you need on your back for several days.

We also try to emphasize team play here while holding competition to a minimum.  We all play for a team in some way or another; a work team, a project team, a surgical team, and you’ve got to become a vital part of that team to succeed.  Camp teaches you to live in a cabin as a team, eat at the table as a team, share food as a team after hiking 10 miles with a backpack through the rain, and carry those boats to load on the trailer after an exhilarating and hard day on the river.  Phil Jackson, NBA coach once said, “The strength of the team is each individual member.  The strength of each member is the team”.

Some campers learn by observance, watching a touch on the soccer ball, a behind the back dribble, or just keeping your heels down when trying to smear your climbing shoe on a steep piece of rock.  We learn to predict (think about) our movements before we execute them (move) so that we control them better (Flanagan, Vetter, Johansson, & Wolpert, 2003). This ability suggests that all motor activity is preceded by quick thought processes that set goals, analyze variables, predict outcomes, and execute movements. Pulling this off requires widespread connections to all sensory areas and culminates in the brain’s cerebellum, which controls balance, movement and coordination. “  Others have to have that coach or counselor to help them through those steps and again practice until confident on their own.  And some may never get to that skill set, so we have to figure out what skills that child does have.  One camper may be able to climb like a monkey on the wall but is deathly afraid of heights 20 feet off the ground.  Another camper may flail on the wall but slowly makes it to the top.  They both have much to learn and through trial and error, they can see one another gaining more skills as they try for new levels of achievement each time.

The good news is that movement, is good for mind, body and soul.  People who exercise their bodies and minds have far more cortical mass than those who don’t. Simple biology supports an obvious link between movement and learning. Oxygen is essential for brain function, and enhanced blood flow increases the amount of oxygen transported to the brain. Physical activity is a reliable way to increase blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain.  We all benefit from play and creative play!

Camp is a great place where failure or feeling like a loser most always leads to success because we can try again and again.  Gwynn Valley is a trusting environment where we achieve growth in our activities under the guidance of a mature and caring staff.  That is what we do best with a constant eye on those playing on the fields, out in the field, or just around camp. We make sure that camp includes all levels of fair play and in the end we all win.  Stay tuned!