Happy Birthday Tajar!

Dear Camper Families & Friends,

Today happens to be a very special day at Gwynn Valley. It’s the Tajar’s birthday! No one knows for sure how old the Tajar is, but he has been around Gwynn Valley for a long, long time. The Tajar is part tiger, part jaguar, and part badger. The Tajar is a very curious creature who lives in an old tree somewhere near camp. He is really a very nice guy, always willing to listen to a story or help carry firewood or do anything you ask. But sometimes when the moon is just right or it happens to be his birthday… the Tajar can become full of folly! Today was one of those days. On their way to the dining hall this morning, campers discovered a kayak in the mill pond, canoe paddles spelling “TAJAR” on the Green, cups and bowls in the trees around the dining hall, and too many little bits of folly to count! The Tajar even moved a few dining room tables outside so that campers could enjoy some al fresco dining. I saw many wide eyes and astonished camper faces walking to the dining hall this morning. After breakfast all the non-cabin staff set camp right again and we carried on with morning activities and a mostly normal day.

What a beautiful day it was at Gwynn Valley! Although we had a few rain showers in the late morning and just before lunch, the big storms we were promised never really arrived. We enjoyed another sunny, warm, beautiful day at camp. Even with the rain, all of our activities were in full swing. Most activities carry on unless there is a threat of thunder and lightning. Many places around camp have ‘natural umbrellas’ like the hemlock trees where our climbers ascend to the very top and the many leafy trees that shade our creeks where the Camping Skills and Nature group were searching for salamanders and crawdads. Other places have man-made roofs like our crafts areas, our climbing tower, the Lodge (where we do fine arts), the Mill, etc. And of course all our waterfront activities don’t mind if it rains because they are already getting wet!

This evening we had a big birthday party for the Tajar. Everyone dressed up in costumes to that the timid Tajar might also be able to dress up and join us for an evening of fun. We started with a big cook out: hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, coleslaw, potato salad… it was a feast! Then we had a big carnival style party with hay rides, face painting, guessing games, darts, a strong man competition, bubbles, darts, corn hole, and a slip’n’slide. There were lots of other games and quite a bit of dancing as well. At the carnival campers also enjoyed some homemade mill ice cream, made from scratch cookies from our kitchen, and homegrown popcorn. Everyone had a big time and when we closed down for the night campers left happy but ready for bed.

Our Older Programs, Mountainside and Riverside, are on the move today and tomorrow. Today, Riverside returned safely from four days of climbing in Tennessee just in time for dinner and Tajar Ball. The Riverside crew was all smiles and excitement telling me about the walls they climbed, the waterfall pool they swam in, and the big repel they each did. Riverside is a smaller community of 10-12 campers and they spend 4 days out of every 7 in the field either rock climbing, white water canoeing or backpacking. It’s always a treat to have Riverside back in camp and to hear about their experiences in the field.

Mountainside is bigger and slightly younger group of 40 campers. That group has spent the last 5 days in camp sampling the different adventure options (mountain biking, rock climbing, white water canoeing, and backpacking). Each member of the Mountainside community picks one of the four adventures to specialize in. Tomorrow morning, each adventure group of roughly 10 campers will head their separate ways for 3 days and then the group will come back together to close out the session. I just finished watching the sunset with Mountainside as part of their Adventure Send-Off Ceremony. The campers wrote letters to their future selves and talked about their hopes and fears for the Adventure ahead. They are all ready and excited to head out tomorrow morning!

It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of another day at Gwynn Valley. So much happens each day, but the time passes very quickly. I often have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the little moments or else the session (or the summer!) will slip by unappreciated.