Dear Parents & Friends,
We awoke this morning to the Tajar’s folly with all kinds of pranks all over camp. 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 backwards 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 silk worm. 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 today of the two groups that were climbing and am looking forward to using that later in some camp highlight reels.
I followed the horseback riders this morning on a short trail ride and also spent time with the two wheeled horses on our mountain bike skills course which winds through, over and up some of single track here on the property. This was the A groups last day of Discovery and they were going for it. The Mill was making Johnny Cakes this morning and everyone was getting to sample them complete with either home churned butter or molasses. Both were good.
There were several cabins getting the last tie dye session in today. Dye was mostly on the shirts and good thing we wear aprons and gloves or you might have greeted a tie dye hand or two on closing day. Nature Skills and Camping took a hike to the Rock this afternoon as a signup and they were justly rewarded. It was the perfect afternoon for it. It was cloudy this morning but didn’t sprinkle on us until late morning. The afternoon was partly cloudy and sun shiney. From the Rock you can see all the way to the Parkway, Mt. Pisgah over to Shining Rock and Devil’s Courthouse. It’s a great view and you literally look right down on camp. The last few feet are a scramble but well worth the time and effort to get there.
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 opening day of camp when some campers just can’t wait to get to their cabins while others are bit reticent with parent’s parting goodbyes.
Another annual event is when the “smart fish” left in the Mill Pond have resisted the worm, corn and bait and haven’t been caught. There’s only one thing left to do and that’s 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 and 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. I didn’t stay to get a final head count but it was numerous.
I think at least two cabins went tubing today. Primavera was one who took along a GoPro to capture the event. 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.
Many campers signed up for the Swing by Choice this afternoon. Campers wear a chest and sit harness and are secured into a cable that is about six feet off the ground. Your cabin mates grab a rope and haul you upward till you’re almost parallel to the ground and you release a short length of cord that acts as a go button and lets you fly in a pendulum arc between two telephone poles. It’s a challenge by choice swing because one can release oneself at any time and at any height. Campers must wait until they are Mountainside age to participate in the full experience of the ropes course and the swing from a higher point of take off.
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 except for the Strongman (ring the bell) Challenge, Waterslide Mountain, Hay Ride, Giant Bubbles, Swurfer Swing and the Sponge Toss. Inside the Lodge there was Face Painting, Tin Can Topple, Corn Hole, Guess the # of M&M’s, Hide the Ping Pong Ball, Balloon Dart Throw and others. Some of the campers just camped out at the Waterslide Mountain which has you climb to the top and slide your way to the bottom of a big splash pool. As a camera man you can’t stand too close to that pool. There was also ice cream, cookies and snow cones if you didn’t eat enough dinner. There will be some tired campers tomorrow because after a full day we also went hard until 8:30 this evening playing and having fun. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.
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 fun sessions at the lake and pool. We look forward to seeing you and have you share in our world of the “simple joys of childhood”. Stay tuned!