You may not know that after the campers go home for the summer, Merrie-Woode stays quite active through the off-season! This past fall, before the Tajar settled down for his long winter nap, we had the privilege of welcoming a number of local groups for outdoor adventure activities, retreats, and education sessions at Camp.
Believe it or not, the first group to arrive at Camp after the close of the August Session was all male! Approximately 50 father and son pairs, all from military families, enjoyed a weekend retreat led by John Brantley. John and his wife, Patty, are former Associate Directors of Merrie-Woode from the 1980s. John continues to be a regular Chapel speakers and orientation instructor at Merrie-Woode. His sons, Drew and Chase Brantley, have been on the Merrie-Woode staff as counselors during the past decade. Their company, BAM Adventures (short for “Becoming A Man”), facilitates this gathering each fall to foster improved communication between fathers and sons, giving them tools and strategies to build a community of strong healthy men. The attendees participated in a number of activities, such as boating on Lake Fairfield, scaling the climbing wall in King Arthur’s Court, and competing in an Amazing Race, designed to let sons build their confidence as leaders, while fathers learn how to mentor and serve as role models. Along with the Brantley family, some of our Merrie-Woode counselors were staff leaders for this retreat, including Tara Tecce and Sarah T. Davis.
Not long after the BAM retreat, a group of college students from North Greenville University’s Outdoor Leadership Program arrived at Camp for a four day skill-building program. They practiced their leave-no-trace skills while camping on the waterfall field, honed their climbing techniques on Old Bald, paddled kayaks on Lake Fairfield, and conducted orienteering exercises throughout Camp. Several North Greenville students and alumnae have been members of the Merrie-Woode summer staff, and our Outdoor Adventure Coordinator, Kelli Talley, is a graduate of the program!
In late September 2019, we were pleased to host students from Western Carolina University’s Parks and Recreation Management Program for an overnight as part of their Outdoor Adventure Activities course. Students in the PRM program learn skills to prepare for careers in outdoor leadership, city and county recreation, military recreation, resorts, tourist attractions, camps, leisure services, or the land agencies. The group enjoyed a tour of Camp, a Q&A with Merrie-Woode staff, two activity sessions for kayaking and rock climbing, and a cookout at Lily Pad. Merrie-Woode has been fortunate to hire many counselors from WCU in past summers.
Blue Ridge School held its second annual Harry Potter-style sorting ceremony and team challenge day at Merrie-Woode on September 25, 2019. All students in 5th and 6th grades began their day by being “sorted” into one of four houses which then competed against each other in four activity challenges. Each house’s team earned points by completing challenges in boating, climbing, archery, and drama games. With a cookout lunch in Lily Pad and a celebration of the teams in Castle at the day’s end, this event proved to be a memorable way for Blue Ridge students to build camaraderie for their houses at the beginning of the school year. Being part of a house allows the students to encourage each other, make friends in different groups, and learn to practice good teamwork.
On October 11, 2019, Merrie-Woode hosted the Cashiers Historical Society’s Annual Preservation Awards Dinner in Castle for the second year in a row. This year the Cashiers Glenville Volunteer Fire Department’s new museum was honored with the Jane Nardy Archival Award (Merrie-Woode received this award in 2018 for its Centennial Archives). Local retailer, Guiliana Kaufman, also received an award for best reuse of an historic building for her shop, Narcissus. Board members and friends of the Cashiers Historical Society also celebrated the release of their book, Faces and Places of Cashiers Valley, a collection of photographs and essays about local residents.
Other groups that come to Merrie-Woode throughout the year include local students from Summit Charter School. This year the high school students received climbing instruction at King Arthur’s Court and on Old Bald, while the second graders enjoyed a day of outdoor fun at Camp. Southwestern Community College’s climbing program holds one day instructional sessions on Old Bald for their students. Likewise, the Boys & Girls Club of the Plateau brings its members to Camp for different types of events, such as team building sessions on the Low Ropes Course or outdoor adventure experiences like paddling on Lake Fairfield. Finally, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cashiers recently entertained its members with a llama walk around Merrie-Woode.
With this busy off-season schedule, the Tajar does not get much of a break! Nevertheless, we are grateful that Merrie-Woode is not only a beloved second home for its campers, but for many members of the local community who also benefit from its natural beauty and exceptional facilities.