One of Those Perfect Days!

Dear Parents and Friends,

Another great day at GV and it actually doesn’t take much to pull that off.  You start with great campers and thank you very much for providing those.  Then you place them with great staff  – a key ingredient.  You throw in a little sunshine, excellent food and the right amount of program for everyone and voila.  It’s been one of those perfect days here and I’m enjoying this session with these campers very much.  I have a terrific table this session with lots of talkers that chat about all kinds of subjects and of course much discussion about what’s going on at camp and what they are doing in their activities and cabins.

Another great way to get to the core of camp life is to attend an open house in a cabin.  All the leaders in camp are invited by each cabin every session to join them for an open house discussion.  This is done with two camp leaders and just the campers.  Their staff are not there and the purpose is  to see how things are going in the cabin as well as in program, how their counselors are doing, and are they gelling as a group.  Life begins in the cabin and works outward and staff really make it happen in this situation.  A well run cabin is usually a happy cabin.  The same is true in program where staff are organized and creative.  So…. in essence the open house is a forum for looking a little deeper into the overall life of a cabin unit and the boys or girls in that group.  I along with another member of our team, sat down with Sunrise today and spend about a half an hour talking with them about what they are doing, what they are looking forward to, what they are enjoying and what they might like to change about GV.  Of course, with that last part of the question, I tend to get drink machines, thicker mattresses, video games, and the like.  It also helps me to get to know the campers better.  In this case I also talk about what they plan to do next year, since all of them will be eligible for Mountainside and that can lead into some good discussions.  It’s a great exercise and one that we’ve been utilizing for a long time.

There are a lot of checks and balances in our camp life.  We do a lot of looking at weather on an hourly basis.  As I write I have the local weather up on my other screen to see what’s going since we’re experiencing a rain shower.  I’ve got a couple of cabins out tonight and I constantly look at weather when this is the case.  I also look each day at river levels.  Since the end of our B session, we have not been able to tube down the French Broad because the water level has been too high.  The same has been true with our creek hikes.  Our own Carson Creek has been up quite a bit this summer and we’ve haven’t had a true creek hike in many weeks as we’ve had in the past.  Our creek hikes have been shorter and located on flatter sections of our waterway.  We have several trips going out of camp over the next several days and we make determinations about skill levels, ability to listen and follow directions before we send them out on these trips.  We have two going out tomorrow – climbing and kayaking.  Campers must pass a battery of skills and also feel confident in their own skin to take on these challenges.  We do our best to make the trip enjoyable for all and hopefully get folks to stretch themselves as they learn in a new environment.

Web of Life had a creek they wanted to explore today and in order to get to it you have to go down a very steep embankment.  I was available to set up little lowering system that allowed the campers to safely be lowered down this 130 foot steep slope and it was quite an adventure.  The hillside is covered in rhododendron which provides a lot of handholds but there had to be a backup system and that made it possible.  Each camper was tied in and lowered down into the creek bed where once assembled, they hiked out via the creek.  While waiting on everyone to get down there was ample time to explore the creek and look for critters.  This kind of experience builds confidence and stretches ones comfort zone for going into deep dark forests, getting dirty, being in an unfamiliar place, using your body and mind to navigate down a slippery slope and not being able to see the bottom.   Everyone had a blast and it was just another way to get to a place in camp that’s rarely explored.  We all walked out downstream and it took about 15 minutes to get back to “civilization” and camp proper.

Children need to feel accomplishment and feel a sense of control even when they’re nervous or a bit reticent about something.  As we all know there is much written and said about conquering our fears and putting ourselves on the line.  At camp we create perceived risk  which is not actual risk.  To these campers this was perceived as being risky but in actuality it was quite safe and controlled.  Using this paradigm, you can move mountains with these campers and use these experiences as stepping stones for experiences they will encounter later in life whether it’s applying for a job or learning to say no.  Many of the 16 campers that did this over the two activity periods expressed  nervousness,  but none back downed or said they didn’t want to do it.  All had a great time exploring our “alternate” way down to the creek and all its mystery.

Life is full here and opportunities for learning about what’s around us and what’s in us abounds.  We like use the following phrase; playing outside and growing inside.  Stay tuned!