A Calm at Twilight

July 21, 2014

Friendship Bracelets on the PorchTonight, during Twilight, I took a walk. Ordinarily, in that quiet hour just after dinner, I’m holed up in the office answering emails or returning phone calls. But tonight, after two gloomy days of drizzling rain, I decided to walk out beneath the clearing skies and see what there was to see.

Twilight is always a bit of a hodgepodge—you never know quite what you’ll get. There could be an all-camp event, like a dance or auction; there could be an impromptu gaga ball tournament, or a meeting of Rockbrook Readers on the Hillside Lodge porch; or there could be no organized events at all, just campers milling about and choosing their own way to fill the time until the bell rings for Evening Program.

Gaga TournamentTonight was that third sort of Twilight—the best sort, in my opinion. Campers ranged across the hill in the waning light. Clusters of girls sat on the still-damp grass, making friendship bracelets, chatting about their day, and watching the sun set.

A line of older campers, wearing workout clothes and kneepads, trooped down the hill to the gym, to play some volleyball. They talked and laughed as they made their way down the hill—some linked arms, some called up to their friends, sitting on the hill, asking them to come and watch the game.

Just Hanging AroundDuring this particular Twilight, the Dining Hall was being cordoned off by the CA’s. They’ll spend tonight and all of tomorrow transforming our everyday Dining Hall into another world of their creation. Their excited laughter seeped out from beneath the sheets they’d hung over the building’s screens and doors (to guard against curious eyes). Already, I could feel the anticipation for tomorrow night’s Banquet beginning to build.

Say Cheese!I sat with two Juniors on Hiker’s Rock for several minutes, watching as they built a fairy house (I tried to help, but I don’t have quite the knack for fairy architecture that they do). Their focus was admirable, and their conviction was complete that this structure would indeed be the home of Rockbrook fairies—and who am I to say that they were wrong?

Everybody Smile!The whole of Twilight was like this—peaceful, quiet, and happy. Mixed into the atmosphere, I think, was the knowledge that things would begin to speed up again soon. Tomorrow, there will be a steady increase of energy and anticipation, leading to Banquet. Wednesday will be a blur of packing, moving, plays, and Spirit Fire. Thursday, camp ends.

But tonight, we all took a breath together. We relished one last time the quiet and the ease of camp, and didn’t allow anything to make us to feel hurried or anxious. We sat beneath the dripping trees, and watched as night settled into place around us, content simply to be with one another.


Full Circle

July 20, 2014

Rainy Day View

As my 13th session at Rockbrook comes to a close, the image of a circle keeps coming to mind. The circle of life is ever apparent and intimately experienced when much of your time is spent outside. The circle of cause and effect is somehow more immediate here. A Rockbrook MothHellos and goodbyes cycle round and round, and are felt to the core by most who pass through this space. The rain comes down, then it gently lifts back up to the sky, and then falls back down on the mountains once again. We even sing songs about silver and gold friendships, and we sing them in rounds. “A circle is round. It has no end. That’s how long I want to be your friend.” All of these circles are never ending, just as circles should be. I know this because I have seen these particular circles since my first year of camp, when I was eight years old. The depth and intensity of their colors may vary, but they are part of why Rockbrook keeps calling me home.

“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get.” These truths apply wherever you go in life, but I have realized this summer that this circle is closer and more immediate here at camp than anywhere else that I’ve lived. ReunionsI don’t know if that is because we all live closely together in this beautiful microcosm of humanity, but I know that it happens. Speaking to a friend at the beginning of camp, we pondered on what made a specific person so magnetic and universally loved by all. We noticed that this person offered up her spirit wholly and unguarded. In a world that is often cautious and fearful, her openness and undiluted truth was beautiful to those around her. So she was surrounded by unguarded love and truth and beauty. I saw countless examples of this among people of all ages here at camp. Those who gave themselves fully and without reservation were met with like gifts ten fold. Even those with gray clouds and walls around them early on, were affected by all the positivity and unconditional love around them. They began to give off light, and it shone right back on them even more brightly. And it didn’t take long. Maybe life is more like a multifaceted mirror. Maybe that mirror is round, like a disco ball of light and color.

Until Next SummerThe Thursday before last was the first time I had ever been here for a Closing Day that wasn’t my day to leave as well. This took me out of my own feelings, changed my perspective, and brought into clear focus the intensity and beauty of emotion in that day. I had been there on Opening Day and seen campers say hesitant goodbyes to their parents, (and for many,) happy hellos to their camp friends. Now I was seeing them come full circle, with tearful goodbyes to friends and ecstatic hellos to parents. The emotion was palpable. As I looked through my camera lens, I was moved by the utter rawness of the feelings I saw. The joy was just as intense as the heartache, and it was all being felt at the same time.

So as this session comes to a close, I take solace in knowing that the circle keeps going around and we will be in this place again. I hope to hold tightly to the truth that what I experience is simply a reflection of what I am putting out there. I take with me a deeper understanding of how connected we all are. Sarah read us the words of Chief Seattle at our first chapel this session. His words illustrate this interconnectedness far better than I ever could: “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Dolly Robertson Herron
Camp Mom

Summer Flowers


Beautiful Results

July 19, 2014

The cold front that brought yesterday’s drizzle stuck around today keeping the temperatures in the 60s and everyone covered up in fleeces, sweatshirts and rain jackets. The low temperature this morning was 60 degrees and the high this afternoon was 65! Keeping it cool in the mountains! Weather like this may move us inside for the most part, but it also inspired us this morning to build fires in the Lodges’ fireplaces. Now a warm crackling fire was the backdrop to the drama class in the Junior Lodge, and was something even more soothing for the Yoga girls in the Hillside Lodge. It also seemed completely normal to roast marshmallows for s’mores in the Lakeview Lodge. It’s such a cozy feeling— the dry warmth of a wood fire on a chilly day like this.

Camp Wood Turning DemoWe were very excited today to welcome a guest artist to camp, George Peterson. George works with wood crafting both sculptural and functional pieces. He carves, etches and scars the wood using different tools and techniques to make each piece completely unique. He’s displayed his work in galleries across the United States (CA, MI, IL, PA, GA and NC to name a few states), has been featured in magazine articles, and has pieces held in prestigious museum collections (Boston Fine Arts Museum, for example). Here’s a link to one of his most recent gallery exhibitions. George is also the father of two girls who attend Rockbrook, and his wife Margaret is an Alumna of camp.

Camper sanding wooden bowlGeorge and Margaret spent the whole day with us presenting two wood turning workshops for the senior campers. George began the sessions by demonstrating how he uses a lathe to turn a log into the shape of a bowl. The whir of the electric lathe, the shower of twisty wood shavings, and the emerging bowl was very impressive to witness. Each girl then was given a walnut bowl to finish. George had prepared these in advance, turning them and letting them to dry to the point when they were ready to be sanded. In addition to sanding, each bowl needed some carving on the bottom, and for this the girls used an electric oscillating tool, with George guiding the tool as they carved.

Wood Carving Camp ProjectCamp displaying carved bowlFinished Carved Bowl

Some bowls had developed interesting cracks as they dried, and for those, Margaret and George demonstrated how to use a waxed cord to sew across the cracks, giving the bowl a really cool look. Everyone was able to add another finishing touch by branding their bowls with the letters “RBC.” George brought a metal brand which after being heated in a torch can burn those letters into the wood. The final finishing came when the girls applied a coat of mineral oil to their bowls bringing out the deep brown color of the walnut and adding a subtle shine to the wood. This was a very special experience for everyone, both informative and fun, and in the end, one with beautiful results.

Upper Green KayakingLearning to BelayDo you know how to belay? Well the girls who signed up for climbing were learning today. Belaying is the technique used to protect a climber from falls by using a special “belay device” to adjust the tension and slack in a climbing rope. It requires careful attention to the climber and a very specific pattern of hand motions manipulating the rope. The belay device (We use something called an “ATC”) adds friction to the rope when needed, making a great deal of strength unnecessary, and allowing even a small girl can keep a larger person safe while climbing.

This cool wet weather hasn’t hampered our kayakers. Just the opposite! They took a trip today to the Upper Green River, running a 4 mile section of moderately difficult class II and class III+ rapids. This is fast section with several large rapids that require accurate lines and strong paddling at times. Consequently, it’s rare to see a group of campers handle the Upper Green this well. Our Rockbrook girls crushed it!

It was time for some big excitement after dinner— a dance with the boys of Camp Carolina. Actually, we held two dances, with Rockbrook hosting the youngest boys, and CCB deejaying a dance for our Senior girls and Hi-Ups. We also organized a “Dance Alternative” activity in one of the Lodges for those girls who didn’t feel like dancing. If you take a look at the Photo Gallery, you’ll get a sense of how these dances are primarily a time to be silly, sing to your favorite pop songs, and jump around with your friends. For the younger girls dance, our friend DJ Marcus kept everyone moving with several group dances like the “Cha Cha Slide,” while over at Camp Carolina, the older girls leaped about to “Sandstorm.” Time flies at these events, but after the last song, we had to say our goodbyes and head back to camp. We enjoyed the whole evening. Thanks Camp Carolina!

Camp Dance GirlsCamp Dance Teens


Bullseyes and Blackened Butts

July 18, 2014

Dry Spice Rubbed PorkBig Grill BarbecueBarbecue pork at CampIt would be easy to go on and on about the food we all enjoy here at Rockbrook because everyday Rick and his team of cooks in the kitchen serve us wonderful, healthy meals. Lately dishes like his homemade lasagna (made with Rick’s special marinara tomato sauce, and 3 kinds of cheese!), freshly baked Focaccio bread (imagine the giant bowls of flour and the jug of bubbling yeast used to make the dough), and Caesar Salad with his own croutons and homemade dressing come to mind. Thanks to Rick, Rockbrook meals are complete and always yummy. One counselor commented that she looks forward to returning from her day off because she can “eat well again.” You might think our staff would be tired of the food we serve and be craving “real food” out in the “real world,” but when our camp food is this good, it’s the other way around.

Accomplishing this isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of planning, preparation time, and hard work by lots of hands. Today we all enjoyed an amazing example as Rick presented a meal of pulled-pork barbecue he seasoned and grilled over the last 2 days. Let me describe some of the process. He started with 171 pounds of “Boston Butts” (pork shoulder) and rubbed each of the 16 pieces with a dry spice blend of brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, dry mustard, black pepper, plenty of salt and his “secret ingredient” coffee. Next on our 8-foot grill hot with charcoal, he cooked everything until completely charred on the outside, carefully adjusting the temperature to make sure there’s plenty of smokey flavor added. This step alone took several hours! Each blackened butt, then goes on a rack pan so it can be baked at a low temperature for another 10 hours or so. This crucial step removes most of the fat leaving the tenderest meat behind. Once out of the oven and mostly cooled, and after “resting” a bit, the final step was to pull the meat apart creating the strands that give traditional southern barbecue its unique texture. Rick began this process by ripping the pieces apart with a custom-made shredding tool attached to a drill, and finally pulling the remaining chunks by hand. That’s some work! At dinner, Rick served this delicious, smokey seasoned pork with a homemade vinegar-based sauce and soft buns to make barbecue sandwiches. He added freshly cut coleslaw, and warm baked beans to complete this very southern meal. And it was fantastic! After second and even third helpings, several of us felt perhaps a little too full, but also completely satisfied.

Girl Camp ArcherArchery BullseyeToday’s weather turned wet on us with light grey cloudy skies, temperatures in the 60s and an occasional light drizzle of rain. That moisture, while deepening the greens of the forest around us, brings out colorful raincoats and rubber boots as the girls make their way between activity buildings. Most activities stayed indoors, but the rain was light enough to allow some, like archery for example, to carry on. This meant wearing long sleeves of some sort or even a raincoat, but the girls seemed unfazed and even shot quite well, as you can see here with Sophia’s bullseye arrow.

Jug Band FireTonight’s Evening Program split the camp, because of the rain, into two groups for an Appalachian-inspired campfire program in the main Lodges. Somewhat reminiscent of the old television show “Hee-Haw,” the girls came dressed in flannel and jeans, found bandannas to tie back their pigtails, and even painted freckles on their cheeks. We called this program “Jug Band” because it included plenty of familiar songs to sing— “Mountain Dew,” “Cider Song,” and “Wagon Wheel” for example —and we encouraged the girls to play along on improvised instruments like shakers or other “jugs.” The program alternated between songs, funny skits, and opportunities to tell jokes. We learned, for example, what the sushi said to the hornet… “Wasabi!” And apparently, what you give a pig with a rash… “Oinkment.” With warm fires crackling in the fireplaces this was a delightful way for both groups to enjoy the cool misty evening, and a wonderful way to wrap up the day.


Slowing It Down

July 17, 2014

Yoga Camp PoseRifle NamesYesterday, I wrote about the physical activity of camp, highlighting a few of the ways we charge up at Rockbrook, but there are also activities where we ease off a bit and enjoy a slower pace. Yoga is probably the best example. It meets in the Hillside Lodge, and like its twin, the Lakeview Lodge, this building is constructed from massive cut blocks of grey granite, has a 4-foot tall fireplace on one side with a long porch on the other, and a beautiful hardwood floor inside. The Middlers use this Lodge for their Evening Programs, but during the day, it’s a sanctuary of colorful yoga mats, calm music, and relaxation. Mary Alice, our main yoga instructor, leads the girls through flexibility and concentration exercises followed by demonstrations of yoga poses. This might mean simply lying face up on the mat and listening to quiet flute music with hints of lavender oil in the air, and with that concentration established, then sitting up into the “Hero Pose” or “Thunderbolt Pose.” There is plenty of variety according to the age of the girls in the class, but for everyone taking yoga, it is a refreshing experience that nicely balances with other activities in camp.

Riflery could be another example of an activity more focused than frenetic, more composed and concentrated than brisk and busy. Like Yoga, target shooting benefits from first calming down and being aware of your breathing. There’s a stillness to riflery. Once the Instructor gives the standard command to commence firing, the shooters take plenty of time to load each bullet into their bolt-action, .22-caliber rifles, and to take steady aim at the target before firing. When shooting, there is no talking on the rifle range, and with everyone wearing ear protection, only the muffled popping sounds of the rifles can be heard. Scoring each 5-shot target is part of the fun, but I think the girls also enjoy the simple pace of riflery. Here too, it can be a nice change given the tempo of most things at Rockbrook.

Reading a book floating in the lakeRock Climbing Cool GirlHere’s another great example of taking it easy at camp— floating in the lake with a good book during the Free Swim period before lunch (or dinner). Most days, you’ll find a few girls doing exactly that, comfortably settled between the chilly water below and the warm sunshine above. I’d say that’s one of the joys of summer! All of these periods of free time, in fact, can be used to take things a little easier at camp. They are chances not only to follow your own interests, but often to simply take a break as well, whether that be to hang out with a book or take a quick shower.

Rock climbing is, at least in one way, another interesting example of a Rockbrook activity built upon careful concentration rather than rapid coordination. Certainly, it’s physically difficult. It does demand arm and leg strength to stand up on small rock ledges and to grip oddly sloping finger holds. At the same time though, rock climbing is akin to meditation as it too benefits from a calm and attentive state of mind. Successfully climbing a difficult route means ignoring how high you are and slowly working out the balance, hand and foot moves needed. Climbing too fast is sure to mean skipping an obvious hold or lead to awkward movements, making the whole experience more difficult and perhaps frustrating. The best rock climbers will look smooth and fluid, calmly in a state of “flow” as they move up the rock. With all the rock climbing at camp— trips to Looking Glass Rock, Castle Rock, and to our Alpine Tower just today —I think some of the girls are becoming a little obsessed with the feeling of “energized focus” rock climbing provides.

Ah, but we can’t “keep calm” for long around here! Tonight for our twilight activity, for example, we offered a classic, a shaving cream fight and slip ‘n slide.  Put together a mob of enthusiastic girls dressed in their swimsuits, give them about 150 cans of shaving cream, and just get out the way. That’s about all there is to one of the funniest, messiest, craziest, and most squeal-inducing events around.

Shaving Creamed ChildGirl Shaving CreamedShaving Creamed Kid

Frolicking with slippery foam like this, sneaking up and smearing a handful of the stuff in your friend’s hair, feels as exhilarating as it does mischievous. It’s yet another chance to do something rarely allowed at home, and to do it with a huge group of equally enthusiastic friends. It’s amazing that something this simple can be this fun, but it certainly is.

Shaving Creamed Friends


Intensified Action

July 16, 2014

Rockbrook GymnasticsRockbrook DanceThere’s no shortage of action here at Rockbrook. With all the swimming, jumping, hiking, climbing, and other sports going on everyday, there are girls wielding their athletic power all over camp. In the Lakeview Lodge, for example, we hold our scheduled dance classes. One side of the lodge is lined with mirrors and the open hardwood floor is polished perfectly for learning and practicing all kinds of dance moves. All three age groups are working on choreographed dance performances they plan to reveal next Wednesday during the intermission of the camp musical. It’s hard to describe the style of these dances other than to say they are “modern pop-eclectic” with a few traditional ballet moves sprinkled in. In any case, the girls are certainly working hard to sync their moves, and will definitely have a great show for us next week.

Another example of rhythmic action, combined with balance and flexibility, is the gymnastics classes being taught by Elaine Trozzo in our gym. Elaine has been teaching gymnastics at Rockbrook for 11 summers now, and as you might guess, is extraordinarily qualified. She has been a gymnastics competition judge, coached competitive teams and holds a USA Gymnastics certification, but more importantly, she is wonderful working with the girls, always patient, encouraging, and knowledgeable. Lately, there has been quite a bit of work on the balance beam with the girls progressing through basic skills like foot placement and core muscle control to more advanced moves and dismounts. The girls have also done well on the high bar, while some are perfecting their flips using the mini tramp, and other are focused primarily on stretching and then learning a floor exercise (e.g. a back walkover). Very impressive stuff!

Rockbrook Horse CampGirls Horse Camp RiderDown through the tunnel and over in the horseback riding rings, girls are also being active, balancing and working on their coordination, “dancing” in a way, only in this case there are horses involved. Our Head of Riding, Kelsi, has a full schedule of riders established with, in some cases, five different mounted lessons occurring simultaneously. There are different mounted lessons for riders with different abilities. So while 3 girls might be walking their horses in one ring, 4 other riders may be guiding their mounts over ground lines, and the most advanced riders jumping their horses over different heights of rails. With 28 horses at Rockbrook to care for, and ride, and so many campers ready to ride, the equestrian staff stays busy!

Camp Girl in a grit pitRockbrook Camp Sliding RockThe extraordinarily great weather this afternoon seemed to actually intensify the typical action we enjoy at Rockbrook. Being Wednesday, it was “cabin day,” that time of the week when we take the afternoon to do something as a cabin group or together with our entire age group, allowing all three lines to do something different. Today the Juniors held a princess party in their lodge with special snacks, music and of course costumes. The mini session Seniors took a ride into the Pisgah Forest for a picnic dinner, trip to sliding rock, and visit to Dolly’s Dairy Bar. But the Middler Line held the most elaborate event, a “Southern Block Party.” This included “Southern” snacks like Cheetos and Sugar wafers, line dancing, and the corn hole game. They also had fun painting colorful hand prints (using easily washable paint) on Cool Beans and Cloud Nine, two of our most famous white ponies. The funniest, and messiest, activity however was something the counselors called a “Grit Pit.” This consisted of a baby pool filled with, yes, grits (uncooked, but made with warm water). For those brave enough to try, the goal was to sit in the pool and cover yourself with as much grits as possible. Outrageous, certainly, but also a really fun, completely novel experience for the girls too. Using a digital scale to measure, camper Claudia topped everyone else with 16 pounds (!) of grits stuck to her in the end. Don’t worry though; like our hand-painted white ponies, all the gritty mess easily washed right off with a quick rinse under the hose. If you take a look at the photos from the event you’ll see that it was pretty silly, but also that everyone was grinning from the thrill of having this much fun in one afternoon.

Finally, I can’t help but include this photo of a day hike a few Seniors took with Clyde this morning up to Black Balsam mountain. It’s such a gorgeous spot, and in this amazing weather, it’s truly breathtaking.

Campers have Mountain View


Independence with Responsibility

July 15, 2014

Pancake PicnicCamp Fire Starting ClassIt has always been part of Rockbrook’s mission to go beyond simply entertaining our campers and to focus also on how we can provide more lasting benefits to the girls who attend camp. We certainly work to make sure everyday here includes something delightful, surprising and fun. If you merely look at the variety of activities available, all the free time options, and daily special gatherings (Twilight periods, Evening Programs, dining hall skits, assemblies, and all-camp events), it’s clear Rockbrook girls are having a blast. They’re outside, they’re actively engaged with creative, adventure, and athletic interests, and they’re laughing their heads off along the way.

But of course camp is much more than a series of amusements. It’s almost cliché to say it— partly because we (and others) talk about it a lot! —but there’s no doubt that a positive sleepaway camp experience helps build important character traits that serve children well later in life, traits like those “21st Century Skills” you may have heard about: Communication, Confidence, Compassion, Cooperation, Collaboration, Creativity, Courage, and so forth.

There are many aspects of camp life one could name that contribute to this transformative power: its emphasis on positive human relationships and the friendly, tight-knit community we enjoy, coming immediately to mind. There’s a starting point, however, I would say even a prerequisite to this character growth, something that if missing will reduce the camp experience to merely a vacation, or some other fleeting form of entertainment.

Camp Needlecraft Class on back porchAt the most fundamental level, camp is a powerful environment for character development because to provides children an opportunity to act independently. On a daily basis, kids at camp can exercise their independence. Without being tightly managed by parents or teachers, they get to make their own choices about what they’ll do, where they’ll go and ultimately, who they’ll be. This is quite a lot of freedom for kids when you think about it, and it might even make a parent nervous! What if she doesn’t brush her hair, or wears the same dirty shirt over and over again!? What if she doesn’t take tennis and finds rock climbing more her style? What if she stays up late and sleeps less (or more!) than usual? What if the freedom of camp meant “Do whatever you want?”

This would be a legitimate worry if not for the structure of camp life. Keep in mind that at camp the campers can’t do simply anything they chose. The freedom camp provides to act independently without parental authorization comes with significant limitations as well. There are, for example, clear procedural rules at camp— a daily schedule of activities, safety protocols, and how to clear dirty tableware after a meal, to name a few. Perhaps even more importantly, there are likewise social expectations where the girls realize the importance of treating each other with kindness, caring, generosity, honesty, and respect, for example. The camp environment, our culture and community, is built upon the support of these structural and social limits, and the camp staff, our cabin counselors primarily, serve as nurturing role models who embody the ideals from which they are derived.

Girls waving while in whitewater rafting boatWhat we have at camp is freedom with limitations, or to put it differently, independence with responsibility. This is important because one without the other would critically fail our campers’ developing character. At one extreme, unstructured independence would lead to an “anything goes” form of chaos, and kids would fail to grapple with the 21st Century skills mentioned above. At the other extreme, rigidly scripted behaviors would rob kids of their decision making power leaving them with mere recipes for life poorly suited to cope with the complexities of a changing world.

Camp life finds that balance by providing girls the freedom to make their own choices while also taking great care to guide those decisions appropriately.  And it’s this balance that teaches kids how to be responsible. So while she’s choosing to go whitewater rafting, or to spend a quiet afternoon decorating a memory box in KIT, or perhaps chatting with a friend on the hill after dinner instead of taking a shower, she’s exploring how to act responsibly as well.  By absorbing the positive values of camp— things like respect for others, appreciation of Nature, and courage to try new things —she’s developing qualities that will help her navigate responsibly in the future.

Rafting the nantahala river falls

Well, I may have gotten a little carried away here, but I wanted to report that your girls aren’t just eating pancakes on the hill in their PJ’s, or learning to build a fire, or blasting through the Nantahala Falls, or singing ’till their their throats hurt, or zipping down sliding rock— all things we enjoyed today. They’re making independent decisions all day long, and you’d be very proud, maybe even a little surprised, to see how confidently and responsibly they are making their way.


A Wrench in the Schedule

July 14, 2014

Ready for the Plunge!In many ways, the days here at camp run like clockwork.

Wake up at 8 AM. Breakfast at 8:30. Morning Assembly at 9:15. First Period at 9:45. Muffin Break at 10:45. And so on. Our schedule sets the pace of our day, and forms the framework of every camper’s experience. It is comfortable, and familiar; while it may contain countless activities that they had never dreamed they’d ever try, it is still what the campers expect after years of unchanging school routines.

Look, Mom, No Hands!But the schedule isn’t what the campers remember. Those day-to-day routines aren’t what they can’t stop talking about when they come home at the end of the session. They remember the spice, the excitement, and the spontaneity that are mixed into every piece of the schedule–surprising bits of joy so bright and exuberant, that the campers would never consider the camp schedule to be as unspectacular as their morning commutes to school.

Halfway UpThese surprises can be as small as a cabin making a spur-of-the-moment decision to all wear cowboy boots and Zorro masks to lunch, or as big as the adventure trips that we offer to campers every single day. Just yesterday, for instance, we offered five.

Between zip-lining, Castle-Rock-climbing, Green-River-kayaking, Cascade-Lake-canoeing, and Nantahala-rafting, every camper, from youngest to oldest, had the opportunity to throw a wrench into their schedule, and make their day spectacular.

Mid-FlightThey took their chance, threw out the schedule they had adopted on opening day, and set out to see the world in a new way–maybe from fifty feet above camp, zipping through the air. Maybe from the spectacular vantage point at the top of Castle Rock. Maybe from a tiny boat in the middle of a vast lake. Comfort zones were left far behind, without a second thought, by campers intent on having an adventure.

On the Road to Cascade LakeI had the pleasure of greeting these girls when they returned from their trips. They looked exhausted. And dirty. And sweaty. And really, really ready for a good night’s sleep. But they also looked bright-eyed, and thrilled with themselves. Even though they were utterly spent, they still jumped at the opportunity to list out everything they had accomplished that day, whether it was a hand-roll in a kayak, or the courage to step off a tall rock and zoom through the air on the zip line.

It would be back to the schedule tomorrow. Back to the more typical camp days, full of the smaller, though no less wonderful, accomplishments, like tackling a new friendship bracelet design in Jewelry Making. But they didn’t mind. They had made their day spectacular. They’d figure out a way to do the same for tomorrow, tomorrow.

 


An Awesome Afternoon

July 13, 2014

Welcome to camp! This morning we were extremely excited to open our second July Mini Session and welcome 96 girls to Rockbrook. About 60 of these are girls returning to camp from a previous year, and for them this was an especially exciting day because they would be finally seeing their old camp friends. There may have been some butterflies mixed with the excitement, but that’s completely normal. For the new girls seeing Rockbrook for the first time, their wait was finally over. Dressed in their blue RBC t-shirts, most of them, they knew this was the start of something good. The cheering and enthusiasm of the counselors set the tone right away.

Camp Chapel ProgramSummer Chapel CamperMeanwhile, since it was Sunday, the Full Session campers held their “Chapel” program, this time on the theme of “Friendship.” What a perfect camp theme! After all, making friends, being a good friend, and gaining the self-confidence to do this well is a major part of camp life. We do so many things together and share so much experience, it’s almost inevitable that you will find girls both older and younger than you to be friends with.  The Chapel program allowed some of the girls to talk about what it meant to be friends with someone, and many of the comments suggested things like being “nice,” a “good listener,” and “being supportive.”  All great ideas!

During the assembly on the hill today, we took this great photo of every camper and counselor in camp. A few staff members were absent because it was their scheduled day off, but this photo gives you a sense of how many people are here at Rockbrook. If you click the photo a larger version is available.

Whole camp second session 2014

After Rest Hour, our grassy sports field was the scene of an fun all-camp special event that, like so many others at Rockbrook, involved costumes, special snacks, music dancing, games and prizes, all based on a theme, in this case, a Pirate theme. Dressed in their best Pirate attire, the girls found a variety of games to play like a ring toss, corn hole with bean bags, bobbing for apples, a water pistol squirting a ping pong ball, and finding a piece of gun in a bowl of flour. One station was painting faces with colorful designs or just a skull and cross bones. At another a pair of “Gypsies” were reading palms and telling fortunes. The girls could decorate eye patches, or try to make a giant bubble with a hula hoop. One activity allowed girls to toss a cup of “slime” (a green, thick solution of jello powder, flour, water and food coloring) at someone, or vice versa, to be “slimed” by someone else. The snacks included cotton candy, snow cones (which were great in the hot, sunny weather), and soft pretzels. We also had two inflatable challenges to try: an obstacle course and a jousting competition. There was plenty to keep everyone busy and entertained as the girls tried each of the options. It was an awesome afternoon and a great way to kick off the session.

Carnival Obstacle CourseCamp Carinival Ball GameCamp Water Pistol Game

Pirate Eye Patch Girls


A Terrific Evening

July 12, 2014

Camp Lake SwimDuring the two “Free Swim” periods of each day, 45 minutes before both lunch and dinner, it’s common to see a good number of girls swimming laps at the lake. Some using kick boards and others varying their strokes, girls are clocking laps back and forth. And they are keeping count of exactly how many they finish, because if they reach 200 (150 for Middlers, and 100 for Juniors) they join the “Mermaid Club.” You can imagine completing that many laps is no one-day affair; it takes dedication and multiple trips to the lake. When a camper joins the Mermaid Club, Chrissy, our Waterfront Director, will read out your name in the dining hall during the announcements after a meal, and then the whole camp sings the “Mermaid Song” inserting the camper’s name in the final line. Chrissy wrote the song, and here are the words.

The Mermaid Song

Way down at Rockbrook in the chilly lake,
There were some girls a-swimming,
Who started to shiver and shake.
We saw some scales a-glinting,
And tails they did sprout!
Lo and behold a mermaid and the whole camp did shout
“Oh Mermaid, Mermaid, What’s your name?
[name]! [name]! You’re a mermaid!”

More of a chant than a song, it’s an honor to be recognized by everyone in this way. In addition to the recognition, some girls are (at least partially!) motivated by another perk awarded members of the Mermaid Club each session: a trip to Dolly’s Dairy Bar. For girls who simply love the waterfront, the water slide “Big Samantha,” the diving board, or just floating around on a tube in the sun, this is a concrete way to show it. Here’s a short video to give you a better sense of it all. I wonder if your girls are striving to join the Mermaid Club… (Hint. Hint. You could write them and ask!)

Gym Games at summer campFor those who prefer more land-based activities to fill their free time, the gym is one place to go because there’s bound to be a basketball or dodgeball game in the works. Right outside the gym, the GaGa pit is a great option. The tennis courts are also available to practice your serve or just to hit a few ball with a friend. A group of “Rockbrook Runners,” which includes walkers, leaves for a loop around the camp during the first Free Swim of the day. Like the Mermaid Club, the Rockbrook Runners have a club based on how many loops/laps are completed by the girls. It’s the “Marathon Club,” and as you might guess, the runners aim to finish 26 miles while they are here for the full session (though less if at camp for fewer weeks). And yes, the same extra sweet, creamy reward awaits those who run the required amount. Running for ice cream… I suppose that makes sense in some way or another.

The tankless hot water heaters were humming constantly this afternoon after we announced at lunch that tonight we would travel over to Camp High Rocks for a square dance with their boys. After braiding a lot of clear hair, dressing in whatever combination of flannel, jeans and bandannas we could gather, our entire camp made the short journey up the mountain (10 bus/van loads plus a couple of cars for extra counselors!). When we arrived, the boys were waiting for us out on their tennis courts and the bluegrass music was already playing from a set of speakers on the small hill nearby.  Some of the girls seemed a little nervous about not knowing how to square dance, but the High Rocks boys, and their counselors, were friendly and relaxed about the whole event and helped the girls learn different moves. Once we got going that uncertainty passed and soon everyone was smiling and laughing with every turn and do-si-do.

Camp Square DancersCamp Square Dancing

After about an hour of dancing, we took a short break to mingle and recharge with some homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and lemonade. A little more dancing and we were back down the mountain discussing what made tonight’s square dance (for some, surprisingly) so fun. Maybe it was the outdoor setting with beautiful evening sunlight, or the lighthearted friendly atmosphere, or the opportunities to talk with each other, or the gentlemanly behavior of the High Rocks boys, or the genre of the music (… Well, for the girls, maybe not that.). Whatever the reason, we were all sure it was a terrific evening.

summer camp girls