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“What’s with that white squirrel crossing sign?”

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Happy Thanksgiving from Camp Pinnacle! We hope everyone is enjoying this time with friends and family. This is a great time to focus on all for which we are grateful. All of us here at Camp Pinnacle are thankful for all of the families who are part of our camp family. We are thankful to have this wonderful life of sharing the outdoors with over 600 campers every summer, and for the great facility and staff who help make this possible. We are also lucky to be located in a very biologically diverse area and have our forests and streams full of animals that call Camp Pinnacle home.

“What’s with that white squirrel crossing sign?”dsc_20502

Many people ask themselves this question as they drive through camp. Camp Pinnacle is a pretty special place to a lot of campers and alumni; it is also a very special habitat to over 14 species of mammals, 14 types of reptiles, and dozens of amphibian, fish, and bird varieties, all special in their own way. In today’s “Nature Nugget” I want to focus on a unique species native to Camp Pinnacle: the white squirrel.

What is a white squirrel?

White squirrels are a version of Sciurus carolinensi, commonly known as the eastern grey squirrel.  There are two varieties of genetic differences that cause white coats. The first is albinism, caused by a mutation on a gene that codes for pigmentation. This also results in red eyes. The other is a white morph, caused by a different gene. Though naturally occurring, this trait in eastern grey squirrels is very, very rare.

A resident white squirrel outside the office.

A resident white squirrel outside the office.

 

Why are there white squirrels?

It’s rare to see a white squirrel, except at Camp Pinnacle, because white squirrels are likely to be less successful as a species because except in snowy climates they are more visible to predators. Predators to squirrels such as hawks really like it when their prey is highlighted white against the forest colors!

There are a few areas in the US that have very high numbers of white squirrels, including our neighbor Brevard, NC, which hosts the White Squirrel Festival. This could be for a few reasons. This could be a few reasons. Predators are less frequently found in town. This cancels out the negative selection against the white squirrels.  After a few generations, all you get are whites, and they can spread to the rest of the town!

How did they get here?

Apparently, the white squirrels of western North Carolina originated from a carnival animal truck. According to Brevard resident Mrs. W.E. Mull, a pair of white squirrels was given to her brother-in-law, H.H. Mull, by Mr. Black of Madison, Florida, in 1949. A carnival truck had overturned and the squirrels were caught by Mr. Black when he observed them playing in his pecan grove.

Mull gave the squirrels to his niece, Barbara, who unsuccessfully tried to breed them. In 1951, she married and left home. Eventually, one of the white squirrels escaped, and Mr. Mull soon let the other one go. Before long, the squirrels began breeding in the wild and appeared in several areas of Brevard, NC. They have since spread through the surrounding area, and have a thriving population.wht-s

The next time you are at Camp Pinnacle, keep a look out for our lucky little white squirrels. Legend has it seeing a white squirrel means that you are going to have a good day!

Once again, happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Camp Pinnacle!

Camp Pinnacle is Building a Brand New Dining Hall

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A Preview of the Future!

A Preview of the Future!

We are building a new dining hall!  We hope you agree that a brand new dining room is exactly what Camp Pinnacle needs as we try to make camp little bit better each year!  A few campers already knew this secret because they got to meet architect, Ken Gaylord during the summer and add their feedback to the plans.  For everyone else, we hope this will be an exciting surprise!

While our goal is for campers to spend as little time indoors during the summer as possible, the dining room is the one indoor space where we consistently gather.  Though we will miss the history and tradition of the old dining room, we all know how crowded and hot it had become. We also know that sometimes, meal time is interrupted by “spontaneous” song and dance. From a safety perspective, rather than limit our fun, we wanted to make sure the floors could safely support 200+ folks jumping up and down with raucous enthusiasm.

architect-3We have been planning the new dining room for two years as camp continues to grow.  And we have definitely outgrown the dining room! We promise to keep the flags that celebrate the states and countries we come from along with the plaques that celebrate our storied history. The new dining room will still maintain a rustic, campy feel and we know our students will enjoy more elbow room at the table, a spacious feel with better air circulation, better views of the lake, and great design featuring more porch and outdoor dining space.

Our last school group, the Galloway School from Atlanta, GA,  departed Pinnacle on October 28 and the construction project began on November 2.  It was sad to see the historic dining room come down on Nov 7, but we are even more excited for what lies ahead.  More important than a dining room, Chef Richard will still be serving the same great food next summer and has ideas to make our camp cuisine even better!

It was Sad to See the Old Dining Room Come Down!

It was Sad to See the Old Dining Room Come Down!

We will continue to post updates on Dining Hall construction so you can follow the project online. We expect the new dining room to be operational in mid – April. Of course Tom, George and the facilities  team will be continuing to improve the rest of camp.  Expect continued remodeling of girls cabins, new floors in boys cabins, renovation of our Gaga pit and several more upgrades  and surprises as we prepare for summer 2017!

Where once a building stood!

Where Once a Building Stood!

What Could We Possibly Be Doing this Time of Year?

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It was a great summer and we wish our campers were still here. After all, nothing is as much fun as camp.

But since you all are in school we have had to make do without you. It would be a shame for a place as magical as Camp Pinnacle to lay fallow.

Welcoming Battleground Academy 6th Grade to camp.

Welcoming Battleground Academy 6th Grade to Camp Pinnacle

Rest assured, we haven’t been idle! There have been people at Camp Pinnacle virtually every single day since camp ended in early August.

The week after camp, we hosted Camplify.  This is a scholarship program that allows great local kids to attend summer camp.

For the next two weeks we hosted two sessions of Camp Grounded which is a technology free adult summer camp.  And did they have fun!

We have hosted a wedding virtually every single weekend.  Who wouldn’t want to get married at camp? If you think Richard’s camp food is good, you should see his wedding reception spreads!

The wedding we are most excited about is Fayssoux’s wedding on Saturday, October 8.  We are all thrilled for Fayssoux and her fiancee, JG as they begin their new life together.

And every week, in partnership with Adventure Treks, schools visit us for science or outdoor educational programs.  It’s fun to have school kids at camp and we are certain that virtually every student thinks their time at Camp Pinnacle is the best four days of school ever! Three weeks ago, Connor Dial was here with his school, Battleground Academy. Last week, Tate Sheriff and his school, University School of Nashville visited us. This week, Audrey Smith is here with the Galloway School sixth grade.

Seven Hills School Learning to Cook outdoors.

Seven Hills School Learning to Cook Outdoors.

We are already getting excited for next summer and we have big plans for improvements to make camp even better.  Stay tuned next month for a major announcement about our biggest improvement ever.  Suffice it to say, we have listened to your feedback and our 2017 improvements will address your suggestions.

We miss you and we can’t wait until summer 2017!