Dear Parents & Friends,
We awoke this morning to the Tajar’s folly with all kinds of pranks in downtown GV. There were so many things moved and out of place we hardly knew what day it was and where we were. Tables from the dining room were on the basketball court. Tubes from the lake were all over the Green. Folks had different name tags on and didn’t even know it. People were walking backward thinking they were walking forwards. Cups were hanging from trees and of course, the word Tajar was spelled out on the Green with kayak paddles. Despite all his folly we made it through another wonderful day at camp intact and just ended on a great Tajar Ball note. More on that later.
I spent some time this morning with climbers who were on their last day of Main Camp Climbing and taking on our two Arborist trees. Arborist climbing is very different than tree or tower climbing here at camp and originally was used to access trees without spiking the trunk or limbs. It’s an environmentally friendly way to get up into trees. Through a series of knots and hitches you literally climb the rope, you’re hanging on and inch your way up like a silkworm. It’s a strenuous workout for legs and arms but you’re able to hang freely while climbing and 98% of the time making no contact with the tree. I shot some good video this morning with a drone of the two groups that were climbing and am looking forward to using that later in some camp highlight reels.
I followed the bikers on their Discovery this morning on a trail ride throughout camp. We have differing trails that wind through, over and up some of the single track here on the property. This was the A groups last day of Discovery and they were going for it. The Mill made ice cream this morning and of course, everyone was happy about that. What child doesn’t want ice cream about 11 AM?! There were several cabins getting the last tie-dye session in today. Dye was mostly on the shirts and it’s a good thing we wear aprons and gloves or you might have greeted a tie-dye hand or two on closing day.
Several special events took place today and one was the release of the baby calves. All summer long they have been cared for and bottle fed twice each day by our campers. Today was the day they were set free to go into the big field. It was in essence graduation day at the farm. A slew of campers and staff took their lead lines and walked them to the entrance of the field. Some bounded away kicking their heels up and frolicking along the way while others were hesitant and weren’t quite sure what they were getting themselves into. Keep in mind these babies were born back in late April and early May. The whole affair reminded me of the opening day of camp when some campers just can’t wait to get to their cabins while others are a bit reticent with parent’s parting goodbyes.
Another annual event is when the “smart fish” are left in the Mill Pond who have resisted the worm, corn, and bait and haven’t been caught. There’s only one thing left to do and that’s to drain the pond and let the campers get in there with nets to catch the remaining hold-outs. You can’t release the water all at once or the trout would escape to the lake. You open just a board width next to the drain and slowly let the water into the lake. As the level drops the fish are easier to catch… well for the first two minutes, until the campers start stirring the mud up on the bottom and you can’t see a darn thing. As the water drops lower the trout literally have no place to go except into the nets. There were some big trout remaining with some weighing in around 2 pounds. The campers squealed as trout swam at their feet between their legs and all around them. In total I think they caught just over 30 fish. Today was a good day to try something new in the afternoon because tomorrow there will be no programs except for a camp wide swim at the pool and lake. I think at least one cabin went tubing today. Our tubing run is about 2.5 miles and we take out across the road so it’s a short walk back to camp. Campers are in tubes and we also take a raft for safety which sometimes acts as a tug boat for the little yellow tubes floating behind like ducklings. With the recent increase in rainfall it was a quick and fun ride down the flat French Broad near camp. It rained a bit late this afternoon and a visitor commented that during the pouring rain, the waterfront was alive with laughter and squeels of delight and pure funess.
As the dinner bell rang tonight everyone showed up in costume to celebrate the Tajar’s birthday. There was a cookout complete with burgers, hotdogs, chips, all the trimmings, watermelon, cole slaw, and beans. That was just the beginning of a food fest. After dinner, we had a shower move in and everyone retreated to the dining room while the rain passed. Some events were moved indoors and some went on outside like the giant waterslide. There were games of many different varieties including minute challenges, pyramid ping pong ball challenge, balloon darts, the shell game, pong bowl, soccer shootout, football toss, slackline, waterslide, hay ride, giant bubbles, swurfer swing and the sponge toss. Inside the Lodge there was face painting, tin can topple, corn hole, and guess the # of M&M’s. Some of the campers just camped out at the Waterslide which is like a big jungle slip and slide that ends in a big splash pool. As a camera man, you can’t stand too close to that pool. It was a chilly evening so we ran warm water into the slide to help with cool temps. There was also ice cream and cookies if you didn’t eat enough dinner. There will be some tired campers tomorrow because after a full day we also went hard until 8:45 this evening playing and having fun.
Camp helps a child develop a powerful identity which makes children feel confident in front of others and provides them with something genuine to like about themselves. A child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when he sings, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help a child find something to be proud of that she can do well. The camp experience not only helps the child discover what he can do, it also provides him with an audience that shows appreciation. With all the activities and experiences that Gwynn Valley offers, there are many experiences that provide the inertia that propel children in positive ways and are stepping stones for life’s skills.
Tomorrow morning is the last day of Discovery and in the afternoon we’ll be packing our bags and going for sessions at the lake and pool. We have another wonderful day of opportunity, fun and the “simple joys” coming up and will be sad to see our session and summer come to an end. Stay tuned!