Plenty of Sunshine & Adventure Return!

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a gorgeous day here at Gwynn Valley! We started with some rain, but the clouds parted late this morning and the sun has been shining ever since. It has been a bit wet this week, so a sunny day like today was well appreciated around camp. Several cabin groups took advantage of the clear skies this afternoon and pulled ”off-program” for hikes, creek hikes, and swims around camp. For those cabins who stuck with normal program, we offered a wide variety of sign up activities this afternoon including mountain biking, hemlock climbing, horseback riding, the last corn picking of the summer down at the farm, hand-building creations at pottery, fishing and open fire cooking at the mill, basketball, lake ‘line’ fun (zipline & traverse line), sit on top kayaks, candle making, pool swim, and many more! This morning all campers participated in Main Camp discoveries which ran as normal allowing camper to continue progressing through the teaching and fun that takes place each morning.

The dry weather was also appreciated by our seven cabins camping out this evening. While at Gwynn Valley each Main Camp cabin does at least one camp out during the session. The camp out night is an evening when cabin groups walk to one of our 11 camp out shelters around camp, build a fire, cook dinner over the fire, roast a few s’mores, and watch the fire flies roll in. As it gets dark, campers tuck into sleeping bags and spend the evening sleeping peacefully in the moonlight. Our camp out shelters are 3-sided with a roof to keep the water out but let in the sounds of the forest and allow for star gazing beyond the roof line.  For many campers, this is their first experience sleeping outdoors, and we strive to make the experience a positive one. We hope that camper experiences at Gwynn Valley like the camp out will help to inspire a life long affinity for the wonders and joys of the outdoor world.

Today was a very happy day for our Older Programs! All four Mountainside groups (climbers, canoers, mountain bikers, & pioneers) as well as the Riverside group (backpacking) returned safely from their adventures all over western North Carolina. These five groups were some of the happiest crews I have seen come back into camp this summer. They were covered in mud and bursting with stories of strengthened friendships, obstacles overcome, and totally shredding the gnar. Campers definitely develop technical skills while out in the field; Grant touched on this yesterday when he mentioned his time with the Mountainside canoers and their progress towards the Mighty Nantahala River today. All groups showed tremendous gains in both their skills and their confidence across all adventure areas. Even more powerful than these technical gains is the growth in their relationships with others and their confidence in themselves. Tonight on Mountainside we had a banquet to celebrate Mountainside’s return to Gwynn Valley. All Mountainside campers and staff who went out on trips over the last four days gathered together in the Mountainside Lodge to enjoy delicious food and phenomenal company. Watching campers interact in this celebratory environment really highlights their comfort and confidence in the camp environment. I wish that I could bottle up the feeling in the air on Adventure Banquet night and give it back to these young teens on those challenging days back home: the first day of school, testing days, sports try outs. If ever your camper’s confidence waivers, I hope they can remember how brightly they were shining tonight.

While Mountainside was busy celebrating their return to camp, those Main Camp cabins who weren’t camping out participated in Mountain Dancing and Tajar Tales with Debbie, Jordan, and Daniel in the lodge. Mountain Dancing is a great way to get out the crazies and work up a sweat before bedtime. We wind down the evening with a few Tajar Tales to ease the transition into bed time. Two cabins (Sunrise & Raines Cove) who missed the earlier Mountainside Visit were able to do a tour of Mountainside this evening. These boys asked some great questions about Older Programs and I hope we see some of them up on the Mountain next summer!! Riverside had a relaxed evening full of 9-square, gear cleaning, showering, and chill time in cabins… much deserved after 4 days of backpacking on the Art Loeb! With 3/3 adventures complete (climbing, canoeing, backpacking), this group is feeling accomplished and ready to enjoy a few days in camp.

As we approach the end of the summer, our camp community is challenged to stay true to our of philosophy of being present. It is only natural as you come upon a transition time like the imminent end of summer that your mind starts to wander. As we catch ourselves thinking about the next stage, we always encourage both campers and staff to stay where their feet are! We only have 8 days here at Gwynn Valley during E session, so we cannot afford to spend any of that precious time with our minds somewhere else. The practice of staying present is a wonderful exercise in mindfulness.

I hope you sleep as well as the Gwynn Valley campers who are already deep into a REM cycle tonight!