Third Session Video Part Two

August 11, 2015
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We’ve got another wonderful video from Robbie of Go Swan Filmworks!

After spending just a day at camp this week, quiet and clever with his camera, Robbie again captured precious scenes from life at Rockbrook and put together this short 2-minute clip.

Like the first one from this session, we think you’ll really enjoy seeing it.

According to the Campers

August 10, 2015
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Once again, I thought we could publish a few pieces written by the campers themselves, telling us what Rockbrook has meant to them, and what they might have learned this session. We asked a Junior, and three Seniors (writing together) to share their thoughts, and these are the results!

So Much Shaving CreamThree Musketeers

Kate (9)–South Carolina

Rockbrook is a great place because it’s a place where girls can learn. They don’t just learn they become stronger people. When I first came to camp, I was not a really strong person. I did not make my bed, or clean much.

Then the day of camp came. From that second ’til now, I can tell all the girls and I have become stronger people and friends. I think that Rockbrook can make you meet a pal for life. I did, and we have told each other many secrets.

I also think my counselors are right about the saying “FFF” (Fierce Fabulous Females). That’s what you will become if you come to Rockbrook.

Hugs!

Rachel (14)–Virginia; Sanders (14)–Texas; Emily (14)–Georgia

When the three of us, Rachel, Sanders, and Emily, volunteered to write a snippet of the camp blog, at first we were unsure of how to put our thoughts into words. Should it be funny, formal, poetic, etc…? But, as we talked about it, it seemed to write itself:

To us, Rockbrook is waking up with a tangle of signatures strewn above your head. It’s coming back to friends you haven’t seen in a year, and feeling like you never left. It’s the deafening crunch of gravel at rest hour, and star-gazing on the Hill when you’re supposed to be asleep. It’s the nights when the sky is within your reach, and the darkness is your blanket.

Rockbrook is arguing with your counselor over the existence of a Fairy Party [editor’s note: just a dream…], and redetermining what “dry” means. It’s days in which laughter’s as constant as breath, and the cardinal’s glow stays with you all year. It’s the smile on your face when you’re singing your favorite camp song at the top of your lungs.

Rockbrook is home.

Going Old-School

August 9, 2015
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The Winners!On Sunday, our campers took part in a longtime Rockbrook tradition: Miss RBC. Judging by its name alone, you might think that Miss RBC is just a regular, run-of-the-mill beauty pageant. You might also wonder, then, why it has any place at a summer camp that doesn’t tend to glorify those things that are glorified in typical beauty pageants.

Not to worry, though—our Miss RBC is a glorification only of the most Rockbrook-y values: silliness, fun, crazy costumes, and teamwork. The “contestants” (one from each cabin) put on their craziest costumes, parade around the gym doing their funniest beauty-pageant walk, and answer questions such as “Would you rather get to school every day riding an elephant, a dragon, or a witch’s broom?” (The answer that was given to this question, incidentally, was “elephant,” though I myself would have chosen the broomstick—the relative discomfort is outweighed by the fact that it can neither step on you, nor set you on fire).

A CappellaQuestion-and-AnswerGirls that, at school, might only be praised for their looks or their popularity, are celebrated here for the size of their sombrero, or for the fact that they knew that the only logical response to the question “What is something that should never be vacuumed,” was, “The fur of a medium-sized squirrel.”

Why was that the answer? Who knows. But the response was hilarious, and the whole gym applauded hard and loud for that contestant.

Still, the contestants’ question-and-answer portion is only one part of the Miss RBC process. The part that the campers (and staff) look forward to the most is definitely the talent portion. In the talent portion, entire cabins take the stage to perform something together—sometimes it is a dance, or an original song, or a skit, or anything else that they can think of. In recent years, the campers have tended to focus on elaborate dances, set to their favorite songs, which we play over the loudspeaker.

The Cup SongCA's Talent

This session, however, we decided to throw a twist into these usual proceedings: no pre-recorded music. That’s right, we went old-school. We were a bit nervous, when we made this announcement, that it might throw the girls off and make for a less exciting talent show; as usual, however, we shouldn’t have doubted that our campers would rise to the occasion.

What unfolded Sunday afternoon, was absolutely the best Miss RBC I’ve ever seen. Cabins wrote and performed songs, sang in a cappella, performed beautiful dances while one cabinmate sang a pop song into the microphone, and one cabin even brought out pots and pans from the kitchen and performed a percussion piece. The talents were imaginative and daring, and all were incredibly impressive. We were so proud to see our campers rise to this new challenge and put on such a great show!

Happy and Tired

August 8, 2015
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At breakfast this morning we announced a special activity the girls could select today: attending a wood turning workshop presented by local artist George Peterson. George is married to an Alumna of Rockbrook and has two daughters who attend camp. He is known nationally for working with wood, shaping, etching, carving, burning and finishing it into amazing functional and decorative pieces. He just returned from showing his work in Japan, and has worked with galleries in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta as well. One of his bowls was recently chosen for the oval office! His Web site, The Circle Factory, shows some of his latest work. Check out what he’s done with old skateboards.

George Peterson Wood ClassWood carving workshopSanding Wooden Bowls

George started by demonstrating how a wood lathe can spin a block of wood, and allow his sharp chisel to cut away curly shavings, slowly revealing a uniform shape. It was a little loud, but so fascinating to watch a bowl materialize from the block with each chip of wood removed. After forming the interior of the bowl, George demonstrated using an electric carving tool how to shape the exterior and bottom. This wasn’t just a demonstration though. George was ready for each girl to have her own bowl to work on. He had the interiors started, and with George guiding the tools, the girls carved and sanded their bowls, readying them for the final two touches: burning the letters “RBC” using a metal brand, and adding a coat of mineral oil to protect the wood and give it a pleasing shine. Throughout the day, in a total of 4 workshops, campers were carving and sanding very cool wooden bowls, now keepsakes of their session at Rockbrook.

Water Pistol Lake GameWatermelon Lake GameThe Rockbrook lake already has floats, beach balls, kickboards, noodles, tubes, and other assorted floating balls and toys, but today the lifeguards added a few other items “just for fun,” as they put it. For the morning periods, it was an arsenal of water pistols, and water shooting devices. The junior campers in particular had fun spraying each other, easily refilling their weapons with water from the lake. In the afternoon, suddenly there was a watermelon to play with. Some of the older girls took turns swimming with it, tossing it from the diving board, and watching it— after a very excellent splash —slowly resurface. After each toss and loud kerplunk, the girls would laugh and laugh, ready to pass the watermelon back up for another throw. Simple stuff, I know, but you would love it too!

Camp Dance Younger GirlsCamp Dance Older GirlsTonight was an event that many of the girls, especially the older campers, look forward to all session, and that has become a camp tradition over the years: a dance with Camp Carolina. We probably fired continuously all of our tankless water heaters this afternoon, and the very few mirrors in camp attracted a constant crowd, as the girls prepared for the night, pulling out a special outfit or maybe dressing in a silly costume. Once again we split the two camps and held two dances, our Juniors and Middlers staying at the Rockbrook gym with the younger boys and our Seniors and Hi-Ups dancing in the CCB dining hall with their older boys. At Rockbrook, our friend Marcus (aka, DJ Dawg) played all the music, doing a great job selecting songs the girls know, as well as songs with popular dance moves like “Watch Me.” At both dances we outnumbered the boys about 2:1 making the night, for the girls at least, more about dancing with their friends than with the boys. Sweaty and tired from jumping and dancing around for an hour and a half, the older girls were very excited and chatty on the ride back to Rockbrook. Happy and tired: that’s another good camp day.

Ordinary Extraordinary

August 7, 2015
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Green river plungegirl playing tetherballTwin day at summer campCamp girls inside of their cabinBracelet making taped to legI’d say today was an ordinary day at camp, but that makes it pretty extraordinary too.

Take kayaking. Leland and Jamie brought a group out to the upper section of the Green River for an all-day event. With moderate class II and III+ rapids, paddling this river is quite an accomplishment.

At the lake, the lifeguards organized a fun relay race for the girls who signed up for swimming. The race involved two teams swimming a lap while wearing a t-shirt that after each lap they passed like a baton to the next girl.

In the WHOA (Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure) activity, the girls were learning how to build a fire. Starting with the tiniest twigs and working up to larger sticks, their goal was to use just one match… And then to roast marshmallows for s’mores!

Today was “twin day,” which meant that the girls were encouraged to find a friend and coordinate what they wore to match like twins. Wearing the same color t-shirt and braiding hair similarly, made several sets of “twins” around camp.

All of the ceramics classes were busy glazing their work. Bowls thrown on the wheel, extruded pots, slab tiles and coil mugs —now had several layers of muted color that, after being fired in the kiln, will turn vibrant.

The girls rehearsing for next week’s musical performance filled the hillside lodge during the first free swim period. On the porch, a few campers worked on friendship bracelets. Just outside on the tetherball court girls were taking all challengers, and down the hill from there, two girls decided to spend their free time playing tennis.

For lunch Rick made everyone’s day by serving heaping baskets of his fresh, homemade focaccia bread. There was also his secret recipe chicken salad and tuna salad, along with fresh, local black berries, but the bread stole the show. I saw some tables go back 4 times for “seconds!”

It rained briefly during rest hour, but soon afterwards girls were firing guns down at the riflery range and proudly saving their targets, swimming in the lake again, and batting the ball around in a game of gaga.

Shaving Creak Fight Hair stylingThe most exciting event happened after dinner during our “Twilight” activity period: a huge shaving cream fight for the entire camp. Like all Twilight activities, this was optional, but we still had about 140 girls, some from all age groups, arrive at the grassy landsports field dressed in their swimsuits “ready to rumble” with some slippery white foam. A shaving cream fight is not much of a “fight” really. It’s more a shaving cream bath, or hairstyling session, or friendly body painting party. As the girls run around spraying and smearing each other, laughing hysterically, it’s takes very little time before everyone has shaving cream in their hair, on their stomachs, arms and backs. Some, thanks to their friends, literally get completely covered with the stuff. We also brought our a long sheet of plastic to make a super fun slip-n-slide, made even better with all that shaving cream lubricating everything. This is another example of silly camp fun. Sure it’s messy; sure it’s loud; but, it’s just as wonderful too.

Overall, I’d say we had an ordinary extraordinary day.

Extraordinary Shaving Cream Fight Group of Girls

Face to Face Living

August 6, 2015
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pottery camper at summer campThe other day I was talking with a young counselor about camp and whether there was anything about the experience this summer that has surprised her. She had attended camp for 7 years as a camper already, so I was curious if she recognized anything different now that she’s older. She quickly said that she was having a blast with the campers in her cabin, and that she loves being a counselor because she gets to know the girls so well and do so much with them. She was surprised how “intense,” “emotional,” and “fun” camp is.

Put a little differently, life at camp is face to face living. We’re all in this together, sharing everything (costumes, food, pink eye —well, we try not to share that last one!). When we’re at camp we pay attention to each other constantly. We are very close, feel truly connected, to a lot of people. Being at Rockbrook means accepting the intimacy, thrills and challenges of community… but in exchange, building countless heart-felt relationships, deepening our humanity, and yes, having  a lot of “fun.”

By making this observation, I think this young woman, without knowing it, was also commenting on ordinary life outside of camp. Essentially, it lacks the closeness, the rich, personal experience that defines our days at Rockbrook. Ordinary American life, generally speaking, is more about individual consumption, privacy, personal advancement, and ego-centric entertainment— all while being mostly blind to the other people around us. As we speed along the course of our lives, tightly tethered to our smartphones, community is too often left in the dust. Feeling dis-connected, bored and alone, can easily be the sad remainder.

Painting Girl at summer campThere’s an irony to this, too. Think of all the daily technology we utilize ostensibly to be more connected to each other: text messaging, emails, social media posts, and telephone calls. Thanks to modern communication technology, it’s simple to announce what you’re doing, ask someone a question, or look up information. The ease and convenience of using these technologies has made them ubiquitous threads of modern life. At the same time— and here is the irony —it seems they are isolating us as human beings. Sending a text message is a thin gruel compared to the deep feelings that accompany being present with someone you care about. An email conveys only a shadow of its sender. Facebook, despite its attempt to offer a “multimedia experience,” can’t touch the emotions of being with supportive friends. There’s no electronic translation for kindness. If our ordinary lives are increasingly defined by these diminished forms of communication, if we’re left with only these rarefied connections to other people, then, as we become more isolated, our humanity is going to suffer.

Thank goodness for camp! Here we feel more connected than ever despite (maybe because of) giving up our electronic communication devices. For good reason, we unplug to connect more fully to those around us. Life at camp feels good because it begins with wholehearted connections, with the messy and rewarding energy of a community. The contentment your girls feel at camp springs from living face to face, directly and without the filtering “convenience” of technology. It’s providing them proof that having kind, compassionate relationships with other people is a bumpy, fun path to a rich and rewarding life.

camp girl friends

An Inviting Waterfall

August 5, 2015
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North Carolina Sliding Rock
Here in the “Land of Waterfalls,” as this part of western North Carolina is sometimes called, there are almost 250 named waterfalls to be found. It’s the area’s steep mountains and rocky geology, combined (ordinarily!) with plenty of rain, that create these falls from the broad network of streams and creeks that drain into the French Broad River. Rockbrook itself is an example of this, as Dunns Creek flows down through the property forming several cascading waterfalls, including “Rockbrook Falls,” a popular hiking destination for the campers.

Beyond the beauty of these waterfalls, many of them are spectacular places to play. Even the largest of them, like High Falls in the Dupont State Forest for example, have bubbling pools of water at their base, perfect spots for a daring swim. Stepping into the water below a waterfall is intense. It’s loud and you feel a definite spray thrown out as the water crashes down. Plus, our mountain streams are always chilly, as everyone at Rockbrook knows after swimming in our lake.

Sliding Rock North Carolina CampersPair of Sliding Rock girlsProbably the best example of an inviting waterfall is Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest. This is an area where Looking Glass Creek glides over a steep, sloping rock for about 60 feet, ending with a short drop into a pool at the bottom. It’s a unique mountain water slide. Over the years, as the area has become well known, the Forest Service has organized it, charging a fee, providing parking, lifeguards and first aid services during the busy summer months. It’s a very popular place among visitors to western North Carolina.

We love it too, even to the point, in fact, of bringing all of the Middlers and Seniors to Sliding Rock each and every session. Tonight it was time for the entire Middler line, plus all their counselors to take a trip to the rock. That meant marshaling 70 campers, 21 counselors, 3 lifeguards, 3 vans, 3 buses, an SUV, 2 camp directors, and 2 additional bus drivers. We had quite an army of RBC enthusiasm, when we arrived around 7pm, which by the way is after it is officially closed. This is the best time to bring a group this large because we can avoid the typical daytime crowds, have our own lifeguards, and spend more time sliding.

Sliding Rock GirlsSliding Rock CelebrationThe experience of sliding down the rock is exhilarating. The ride itself thrills everyone— feeling the shock of the cold water on your back as you sit down at the top, the disorienting bump and spin as you accelerate toward to splash awaiting at the bottom, plunging deep into the pool for a moment before popping up to see the smiling lifeguards nearby ready to help you swim to the edge and climb out of the water. Each slide takes a few seconds, giving the girls plenty of time to scream, wide-eyed, clutching each other even tighter before hitting the pool below. I heard a couple of girls take a breath mid-scream, mid-slide, and scream a second time before holding their nose and squinting their eyes tight before their splash landing. All around there are friends cheering each other on, clapping and singing camp songs while they wait their turn to slide. The entire evening was filled with laughter, shrieks of delight, and voices of encouragement. There was time for the girls to slide multiple times, but as it grew darker and lips turned bluer, we knew it was time to dry off and roll down the hill to our final stop of the evening.

Dolly’s Dairy Bar! You might think that swimming in 58 degree water, ending up chilled and wet, would discourage girls from enjoying ice cream, but that would be wrong. These girls were psyched to order their favorite of Dolly’s unique “camp flavors” of ice cream: “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” “Soar Super Storm” or “Wayfarer Overload,” for example. I think they have almost 60 different flavors in all, and they are delicious! Now mostly warmed up, we had a great time signing songs while enjoying our cones. By the way, Dolly’s will be open on our Closing Day next week… yes, even that early in the morning. You might want to plan on stopping. 😀

Dolly's Ice Cream Stand

Third Session Video Highlights

August 4, 2015
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Describing camp life, revealing what makes simply being here loved by the girls at Rockbrook, is really difficult. Of course, we try all the time —by writing regular blog posts, and posting hundreds of photos to our online gallery— but the experience is too rich, too complex, and too emotional to convey completely.

Fortunately, there is video, and we have a great one to show you. Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks has been working with us this summer to produce several short videos about Rockbrook.  Here is his most recent.

Take a look! You will love it.

P.S. Be sure to have the volume turned up. Hearing camp is amazing!

A Friendly Fear

August 3, 2015
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Last week, there was an open spot on a zip lining trip, and, since I have the greatest job in the world, I filled it. It was the first time I had been on our new, expanded zip line course, complete with three zip lines, one tight rope, and two rope bridges. I am not ashamed a bit to admit that my heart was beating double-time the whole time I was up there.

Keeping an Eye OutAnd I definitely was not alone in that sensation. Most of the girls that I was with had done the zip line before, and jumped out into thin air every time without a second thought. But hanging back in the back of the line with me was one brand new camper, whose eyes were just as wide as mine felt. She turned to me just before we got to the first zip line, and said, “I’ve never felt like this before.”

I asked her what she was feeling, and she listed out sweaty palms, dry mouth, beating heart—in short, she described fear. Here she was, far from home, standing high on a mountain, and she was feeling, for the first time in her life, fear. Now, she knew of course that she was wearing a harness, a helmet, and that she was hooked onto each line by two different tethers. She knew, intellectually, that she was safe. But that doesn’t stop the body’s natural reaction to the contemplation of jumping off a high rock face.

Suiting UpBut still, despite her fear, she jumped.

Most of our campers, thank goodness, lead relatively safe lives. They can go through whole days, weeks, and months without feeling the rush of adrenaline that comes along with fear, and this is certainly not a bad thing. Still, in our modern, comfortable world, it can be easy to forget the immense benefits of fear.

Let me clarify that by fear, I don’t mean the spine-tingling fear associated with horror movies or true danger. I mean that moment of breathlessness felt at the base of the Alpine Tower, looking up. I mean the bottom dropping out of your stomach when you’re about to go down the Nantahala Falls in a raft. I mean the way a heart can clench in nervousness when you’re stepping out of the car on Opening Day. I mean the way a tongue can tie itself up in knots when meeting new friends.

I mean the true discomfort of being utterly outside of your comfort zone.

Here at camp, we live outside of the comfort zone. We brush our teeth in sinks shaped like troughs, we live in cabins with screens instead of windows, we try new things each and every day that seem crazy and terrifying. We push ourselves, in a safe environment, to challenge ourselves, grow, and find new limits to our bravery.

Flying HighAnd yes, this can be scary. It can be terrifying. But it can also be a transformative experience. That fear can precede the moment in which a girl decides that she wants to spend the rest of her life paddling, rock climbing, or even just putting herself out there and trying new things. That fear can precede a moment of true growth.

My zip lining buddy grew that day. I knew it the moment she flung herself off onto the final zip line—the longest and fastest zip line. I heard her scream out in joy, and saw her smiling hugely as she went zooming away. She met me on the other side (after my own breathless ride), with her cheeks flushed, and her smile undiminished.

“That,” she told me, “was awesome.”

Opening Camp Renaissance Style

August 2, 2015
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Girls arrive at summer camp Welcome August Mini Session campers; welcome to Rockbrook! For girls returning after already knowing camp and for those who were arriving for the very first time, this was the big day they had been waiting for. Now with a fervent mix of excitement and likely a dash of anxiety, both intensified by the months of anticipation they’d been tolerating, their time at camp could finally begin. What a relief! The check in process— meeting the office folks, browsing the latest Rockbrook logo gear, consulting with the nurses, and stopping for a quick “hair appointment” —went very smoothly, and in no time the girls arriving had met their fabulous counselors and the new bunk mates they’ll be getting to know so well over the next 12 days. Right away, after a couple get-to-know-you games and simply having the first of many, many conversations, I could tell we’re going to have really tight cabin groups this session. It’s neat to see camp friendships forming so quickly.

Right before lunch, the whole camp gathered on the grassy hill overlooking the mountains for a quick assembly of introductions, a silly skit performed by several counselors, a few songs led by the Hi-Up campers, and a demonstration of our lightning warning system (it sounds a very loud horn warning the whole camp to go inside whenever it detects lighting, or the possibility of lightning, within a several mile wide radius.). Part of the assembly included assigning the “Mop Awards” to the cabin group from each line that had the highest overall inspection scores for the previous week. This session the awards, which are actual mops, where decorated as board games… again, just for the fun of it. The winning cabins from each age group get to keep the awards to display in their cabins, like a trophy, until the following week when a new cabin will more than likely take the title.

During rest hour, which happens right after lunch, Chelsea and her team of lifeguards opened the lake for all the newly arrived mini session girls. She took this time to orient the girls to the lake, explaining the safety rules there and asking everyone to demonstrate their swimming ability so she could assign them buddy tags. The chilly mountain water feeding our lake can be a shock, even for returning campers, but today’s bright, warm, sunny weather made the water feel even better.

Festival Kids in CostumeFestival jousting inflatableFestival Face Painting

The rest of the afternoon became the main event of the day, an amazing Rennaissance Festival held on the grassy lawn of the Clarke-Carrier House in the center of camp. Built between 1895 and 1889 by H.P. Clarke, the father of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier, this house was designed by noted Asheville architect Richard Sharp Smith. The campers walk past it on their way to the tunnel that leads to the stables for horseback riding. The house has winged porches on each side and a terraced lawn circled by ancient boxwood bushes. Our festival took place all around the house, including the nearby paths through the woods.

water balloon catapultFestival Hair Styling with flowersGirls Festival Costumes

Like so many events and parties at Rockbrook, we began with costumes, encouraging the girls to be creative as they dressed up for the fair. Masks, dresses, jester hats, ribbons, feathers and flowered headbands, all added color to the festivities. We invited our friend Billy Zanski back to set up a drum circle and play for the girls as they arrived at the event. Right in the center of the lawn an inflatable jousting game was set up, while spread around it were different activities the girls could sample: face painting, a water balloon catapult, a jello toss, and a silly “photo booth” featuring Renaissance-themed props (scepters, masks and crowns, for example). Of course we had plenty of fun snacks too: cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, and roasted chicken legs to go around. Down one path a fortune teller was reading palms. Another path led to a story teller, and the most popular led to a magical fairy garden revealing small shiny treasures, bubbles, and twinkling lights. One area had counselors braiding hair using flowers, rainbow colored tinsel, and ribbons, while nearby others were offering temporary tattoo designs using henna. Renaissance music played, and a juggler wandered around entertaining. There was so much to do! All this, combined with all these excited, happy girls, dressed up and silly in the best ways, made the whole event a spectacular success. It’s the kind of day we love around here.

Cabin inspection award