It was the sunniest of days and the rainiest of days…

Dear Camper Families & Friends,

Time sure does fly here at Gwynn Valley… It’s heard to believe that we are at the end of another action packed day!

Our sunny morning began with some breakfast burritos: spinach tortillas, scrambled eggs, black beans, potatoes, and fruit plus a cereal bar for those who prefer a simple breakfast. This flavorful and filling breakfast fiesta was definitely a great way to start the day and was very well received at my breakfast table! This morning marked our second out of three days of Morning Activities on Main Camp, so activity groups were like a well oiled machine as each group worked through their program specific curriculum.

The sun continued through lunch when we enjoyed lasagna, salad, and more fruit. And the rays stayed on us as we sang songs in the lodge, selected afternoon activities at sign up, and headed off for rest hour. The clouds started to roll in a bit as we collected ourselves for afternoon activities and we had to alter plans for an hour or so as some heavy rains came through. Mill, crafts, and other indoor activities carried on as normal. Our outdoor living skills group gathered under a cookout shelter and learned how to make a fire out of flint and steel and stayed cozy around the fire as the rain came down. Many other groups collected in the lodge and the dining hall for games, coloring, friendship bracelets, and story time. As one camper said to me as we gathered in the lodge: “I love the rain because it keeps the grass green and helps all the plants grow at the farm, but I don’t like the rain because I’d rather be climbing!” Fortunately, we had a great afternoon of indoor fun and we’ll have another chance to get on the climbing tower tomorrow!

For dinner we enjoyed a Tex-Mex feast complete with beans, ground beef, rice, guacamole, veggies, salsa, sour cream, cheese and watermelon for dessert. After dinner we went into twilight play, which is our evening of extended after supper activites including the climbing tower swing, bareback riding, sit on top kayaks, capture the flag, candle making, and many other fun activities! Twilight play is always a popular night at camp. There is something really magical about playing outside until the fire flies remind us that dusk is fast approaching and bed time has arrived!

Our adventure programs had a very successful day as well: Mountainside campers enjoyed their first full day at GV to include two sets of mini-adventures. Mini-adventures mark the time where campers rotate through and sample each of the four adventure options: climbing, biking, paddling, pioneering so that they can make a better decision about which adventure they want to do for their 3 day trip later in the session. Mountainside also had a great evening at the farm feeding calves, harvesting, weeding, and playing trumpets made out of squash plant stems. Riverside returned from their four day paddling trip where they took on the Green, the Tuckaseegee and the Nantahala Rivers. Riversiders were all smiles as they recounted their triumphs and challenges from their four days in the field. Now they have two days back at camp to prepare for their next and final adventure: backpacking!

As I sit here reflecting on the day, my open house with Connestee Cove really sticks in my mind. For those who many not be familiar with the term, open house is a time when cabin groups invite one leadership team member and one program staff member to visit the cabin sometime during the first half of the session. This is a great way for non-cabin staff to get to know our campers better, to keep leadership and program staff plugged in to cabin life, and to get some feedback about how the session is going from the camper’s perspective. We talked about everyone’s favorite activities (crafts mostly in this cabin!) what everyone is looking forward to (the campout and Tajar Ball, of course) and what challenges campers have been experiencing. I was so impressed as I listened to these 9 year old girls describe the conflicts and resolutions that they have worked through over the past 4 days of camp. On the surface, these girls were talking about  organizing the bathroom and helping each other with their chores, but on another level they were talking about practicing life skills like problem solving, empathy, effective communication, personal responsibility, collaboration, etc.

When we tell prospective campers and families about the Gwynn Valley experience, we often focus on all the activities and hard skills that campers will learn while they are here: how to paddle a kayak, how to make a mug out of clay, how to shoot a bow & arrow, how to milk a goat… but their emotional intelligence and social skills will also develop and grow as they live and work and learn here in their cabin groups and in the larger community. Of course these skills are developing all the time at home as well – with friends, on sports teams, through group project work at school – but it is so amazing to witness a snapshot of this growth and development taking place. Moments like these remind me of what a gift and a joy it is to work with children. Thanks for sharing these special young people with us!

Good night world. Tune in tomorrow for another update!