Tajar Ball!

Dear Parents and Friends,

It’s Great Outdoors Week this week and what a great way to celebrate the outdoor realm by being at Gwynn Valley. I was up at the climbing wall today and saw some firsts. Climbing in cowboy boots is possible. After all, Paul Petzoldt, the founder of NOLS, climbed the Grand Teton the first time in cowboy boots. Why not get a head start here at Gwynn Valley. They were red cowboy boots at that. Today was a perfect weather day here and the last day of Mountainside and Riverside adventures. All Mountainsiders returned today and every adventure came back smiling. Riverside completed their three weeks with a 4 day trek on the AT. They were tired but happy for the experience.

We started out the morning with a little Tajar Folly because it’s his birthday. There were SIT’s on the roof of the Upper Dwellings, cups in the trees, kayaks on the Green and tables upside down in the dining room. The Tajar gets very frisky on his birthday. We’ll talk more about the Tajar Ball later.

Potters at the Pot Shop were glazing their pots and getting them ready for a final firing in the kiln today. Campers were also making corn husk dolls at the Mill which I’m sure was going on in the 1890’s when children would come to the Mill with their parents and collect the corn shucks to make all kinds of things. The morning went very quickly and I spent most of it at the climbing wall videoing the climbers from inside the wall. We have a couple of windows cut into the wall that allow access to the outside about 30 feet up and it’s fun to get that perspective. They’re sometimes surprised to see me up there inside the tower. Several campers were tackling the hardest part of the wall today which is the negative angled side or the overhung side which leans away from you. It’s all about keeping your legs under you and not just arm strength. It’s also strength to body weight ratio as well. Some of our youngest smallest campers just jump right up the wall. Climbing is a wonderful sport because of the trust you develop with your belay counselor. Without that rope and knowing that a responsible adult is holding you, it would be difficult to reach those heights. The equipment and the trust factor make it all possible and then it’s just you and the wall. Add to that, you’re in the shade in a forest with a rushing stream just below you and all your friends are encouraging you to reach the top and go for it. Even if you don’t make it you’ve accomplished a lot.

Several days ago I talked about why outdoor activities are so good for children. Outdoor play increases attention spans. I see very focused children on the climbing wall, trying to test their mettle on the Tension Traverse over the lake, negotiating a steep banking turn on a bike, throwing their first piece of pottery on a wheel , aiming at a tiny bulls eye 40 feet away and many more situations like these. I don’t always see children focused when we’re doing announcements at meals or when some adult has gone on too long. My wife’s motto this summer is to talk less and say more. Children are bombarded by so much every day. Children who have difficulty with pen and paper tasks or sitting still for long periods of time, are significantly more successful after they’ve spent time outdoors.

And then there are the health benefits. Time spent outdoors improves children’s immune systems. Healthy children are stronger learners. As children spend more and more time outside, their immune systems improve, decreasing time out of school for illness. At camp the air smells different, no air conditioning alters the temps and filters out the smells. We are probably over all, dirtier than we would be at home and we probably come in contact with more germs in the dirt and woods. Maybe those germs are good germs or “cleansing germs”. Dirt collects in those places that sometimes creates a smudge of black or brown or sweat streaks coming off the head or face. One of the guys climbing today had Band-Aids on both knees and tonight at the Tajar Ball they had both fallen off. My guess is he is in a state of almost contact skinned knees from playing so hard. I referred him to our camp nurse who took a look at the knees and declared better to have fresh air than more Band-Aids. They did take a trip to the health hut to wash them off with soap and water.

Tajar Ball tonight was completely outdoors including our picnic dinner. Burgers, hotdogs, cole slaw, tomatoes, potato salad, onions, potato chips, popcorn, snow cones and of course ice cream. All of this and then traveling around to 10 different stations and participating in many fun activities from dunking your counselor in a the dunking booth, fortune telling, soccer shoot-out, fishing, penny drop, guess the M&M’s, can toss, slack lining, balloon animals and hats, hay rides, strongman contest, and more. My guess is there will be some tired puppies in the cabins tonight. Tomorrow is the last day of camp and it will go way too quickly. Sleep well sweet kings and queens of GV and have wonderful dreams! Stay tuned!