Birds of a Feather— A Mom’s Perspective

July 28, 2014

Bentley Parker
Rockbrook Camper, Counselor, Camp Mom

The Parker Girls

It had never crossed my mind that new situations involving unfamiliar people or circumstances could be uncomfortable for some, especially friends I knew well. I thought this was a skill acquired by adulthood, one that came with age. I had obviously taken for granted these social skills that I acquired at camp, where I’ve been coming since I was 7, which required me to meet new people and try new things every summer.

A Break on the RangeSynchronized FloatingYoga on Tutu TuesdayJust Hanging AroundHappy CamperI’ve realized I have been mistaken in assuming situations like this were easy for all, as I have often purposely met other moms outside of school, meetings, and sporting events to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable by walking in alone. I’ve recognized that the inexplicable confidence and laughter still comes naturally for me, as I was the only mom who stuck to the dress up plan and showed up to the premier of Hunger Games with pink hair. I’ve come to better understand that the unfamiliarity of people and situations surpasses the comfort zones of many, making the prospect of walking into a room with strangers and making a friend seem impossible.

I’ve now developed an even better appreciation of how these skills are developed as I’ve gotten the privilege to watch your children cultivate friendships and give birth to these character traits here at RBC. I recognize the confidence they develop when they come to camp not knowing anyone and yet leave with lifelong friends. As a mom of 3 girls, these are skills I can’t teach my children. These are skills that I’m grateful they have had the opportunity to gain here at Rockbrook.

I’ve also come to the realization that some of the tightest bonds I’ve formed have been with friends who were “camp girls,” long after our camper days were over. They were instantaneous friendships, because we immediately knew we were alike in so many ways. We had survived screened cabins, appreciated nature, respected various personalities, experienced new things, desired leadership, and possessed camp silliness.

If you are a parent of a camper reading this, let me assure you that you are providing a lasting legacy for your daughter. This opportunity is equipping her with a skill set that may seem invisible at first but that she will utilize throughout her lifetime. There are no words to adequately describe the bond camp creates or the traits acquired here, but the experience speaks for itself. She will continually reap the benefits of her camper experience throughout her life, and it will shape the person she becomes as a grown woman.

Camp birds are of one type of feather, and the bonds of the flock will always keep them together!

“How did we come to meet pal? What caused our paths to blend? ‘Twas fate we came to Rockbrook, and you became my friend.”


Eager Introductions

July 27, 2014

Camp Horse GirlCamp Cabin GirlCamp came alive again this morning as we welcomed 135 campers and opened the Third Session of Rockbrook. About 25% of these girls, those who are new to camp this summer, seemed extra-wide-eyed as they first stepped out onto the hill and were greeted by the mob of cheering counselors, the balloons, and the horses(!). The whole scene percolated as luggage was stacked and moved down the lines to cabins, campers and counselors introduced themselves to each other, and girls finished checking in and settling into their cabins. With campers arriving throughout the morning, soon there were groups of girls spreading out through the camp, some off on their first hike to Rockbrook Falls, others learning the basics of friendship bracelet making, and still others testing their Ga-ga ball skills. Everyone— campers, counselors and Directors alike —was really excited to get started. It’s time for camp!

Lunch was a delicious “comfort food” meal of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese (which has the most wonderful breadcrumb and cheddar crust on the top), salad, mixed berries and sliced watermelon for dessert. Combined with the two super-stocked salad bars, it was a perfect introduction to camp food— simple, wholesome, and equally yummy. Sarah made several announcements after the meal introducing everyone to some of the dining hall procedures… for example, where to find the vegetarian option, how to get extra milk to drink, what to do when your table needs seconds of something, and how to best stack your table’s dishes in a way that will help the Hi-Ups with their clearing job.

Hi-Ups Lead SongsInstead of Rest Hour today, each cabin of girls and their counselors (and CIT in some cases) held a cabin meeting to play a few ice-breaker and name games, further introducing each other. They also discussed their cabin responsibilities, the daily schedule at camp, and learned about several important safety rules at Rockbrook (e.g., don’t run down the grassy hill… especially in the morning when the grass is wet… and doubly, when wearing flip flops!).

Meanwhile, as the cabins began their walking tours introducing them to the different activity areas of camp, each of the lines (Juniors, Middlers, and Seniors) took turns at the lake demonstrating to Chrissy, the Head of the waterfront, and the lifeguards everyone’s swimming ability. With all the directors and the entire team of lifeguards helping, Chrissy carefully explained to the girls our “Swimming Tag System,” the “Mermaid Club” and all the features of our lake, including the water slide, diving board, and shallow swimming area. Some say the most difficult part of the Rockbrook swim test is not the swimming (out and back about 50 feet each way) and treading water (for 1 minute) it requires, but rather the shock of the “refreshing,” cold water. This afternoon the weather was perfect for a dip in our mountain stream-fed lake: hot and sunny! After passing their test and receiving their green swim bracelet, the girls proudly added their swim tag, now with their name written on it, to the tag board, ready for when they arrive at the lake for a swim.

Counselor SkitsAll dry and eager for the next event, everyone gathered on the grassy hill of camp for a quick assembly. Sarah greeted everyone again and introduced all of the Directors, the Line Heads, and the special Activity Heads at camp. All the age groups took turns singing their Line song, and the Hi-Ups (10th graders) led the crowd by teaching and singing one of their favorite Rockbrook songs, “Take a Little Bit of Ginger.” Shifting down to the gym, we next learned about all of the activities offered at camp by watching the counselors present short skits, often songs, about the different projects, trips, games and events they have planned for the session. These skits are chances for the instructors to show off cool equipment, entice the girls with new projects, and to demonstrate the enthusiasm they have for their activity. Later tonight, the girls will sign up for their first set of four scheduled activities, so knowing the options is an important first step.

We are settling in here at camp, quickly getting to know each other, already singing songs, wearing costumes to dinner (Hats!), and fully excited about the first day of activities tomorrow. Be sure to follow along by checking the online photos available each day in your parent account, subscribing to these blog posts, and perhaps liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter or Instagram. These are the best ways to keep up with what’s going on at camp.

Camp Swim Friends


Tenisha’s Spirit Fire Speech

July 25, 2014

During the Spirit Fire that closed our recent Second Session, Tenisha was one of the first-year counselors who spoke about her experience on the staff at camp. She described her feelings as someone new to Rockbrook, and how the character of our camp community has affected her. We thought it was wonderful, and wanted to share it.

Nisha Morrison

“Sitting at home and thinking about what I would do this summer, I knew I wanted to do something different, something new and extraordinary. I wanted something where I would make memories that I could reminisce about later, something that would teach me lifelong lessons, something that would teach me how to be a better person, but most of all I wanted something that had a positive environment where I could be happy.

After watching the camp videos over and over on the website, I knew I would find all those things at RBC. Seeing all the smiles and laughter, all the costumes and events cemented my decision to apply. When I spoke to Sophie on the phone I knew I made the right choice. Listening to her enthusiasm about camp, my first thought was she’s not real. There’s no way someone could be that excited about anything, but my second thought was that I have to see what sparked so much happiness and excitement.

From the moment I entered camp I was greeted with genuine welcome from the Directors and counselors I had never met before. Within the first week I had friends and by the third I knew I had found life long friendships. I remember one day I was walking down senior line being greeted by smiling faces and it wasn’t until I reached the end that I realized my cheeks were aching from smiling so much. I was genuinely happy. I realized that even though I reached the end of the senior line, I didn’t want to reach the end of my time at Rockbrook.

Rockbrook: where girls learn to grow. When I came here, I had no idea I would be one of those girls. With the help of the the Directors, my co-counselors, and other counselors who came to be close friends, I found that I grew into a Rockbrook girl who stops every chance she gets to take in nature and appreciate her, who laughs and smiles everyday because she’s surrounded by kindhearted people who care, who wakes up with a spider by her head and doesn’t panic but catches it and release it outside, a girl who became a sponge wanting to soak up every song, every fact about the camp activities and traditions.

And most of all, thanks to Rockbrook, I became a girl who found her very own spirit fire that she had no idea she carried. It burns brighter than ever now. So thank you Rockbrook!”

Thank you, Nisha!


A Single Afternoon

July 24, 2014

Emily’s made another short video, this time focusing on some of the fun packed into a single afternoon at Rockbrook. Take a look!


The Richness of Our Days

July 23, 2014

Spirit Fire CampersThere’s a strange time warp that happens at camp, a sense of time that’s accentuated during a long session like the one we are finishing today. It’s peculiar how time passes here because for some reason it seems to both speed by, but also creep along day by day. Oddly you hear both kinds of comments from campers and counselors: “Wait? It’s only Wednesday?” and “I can’t believe it’s already time for Banquet!” My best explanation for this points to the richness of our days, to the incredibly abundant range of activities, surprise events, conversations, and meals we enjoy everyday. Packed into each day are so many things that engage, thrill, and perhaps challenge us. Camp life means making things, being with people, and going places. One moment we might be breathing hard from climbing the Junior Hill, and another we’ll be wringing a few drops of water from our hair thanks to a passing rainstorm. With this much going on— “constant activity” is not an exaggeration —we’re never “wasting time.” We’re filling our days to the brim with nature, relationships with caring people, excellent food, and dose after dose of silly fun.

Life at camp slows the passing of time because it accomplishes all of this. Adding up the sheer volume of new and different experiences, reflecting on it just a bit, paying attention to its details, we simply have a lot of time to recall. At camp, it’s hard to ignore the daily abundance of novel experiences and that slows down our perception of time. Simultaneously, however, these experiences are also really fun. They’re exciting, stimulating and fully engaging. With the collective spirit of camp amplifying every moment, we’re not having fun sporadically; we’re having a blast virtually every minute of our waking day. Because the abundance of our experience at camp is also an abundance of fun, our sense of time speeds up. After all, time really does fly when you’re having fun. The time warp of camp life, its seeming speed and span, springs from this unique combination.

Spirit Fire Friends
During our closing campfire tonight, our “Spirit Fire,” several campers and counselors stood to speak about what camp meant to them this session, recalling fondly the richness of their days at camp. For many, camp felt “too short” but also “the best summer of my life.” New campers described being nervous about camp at first, but quickly realizing that Rockbrook is a welcoming, encouraging, positive place ready to bring out everyone’s best. Returning campers talked about the incredible friendships they’ve formed at camp and how every summer they return, those friendships become more important to them.

Spirit Fire CandleSitting together like this under the white oaks, circled around a blazing orange fire, the deepest meanings of camp come to the surface.  Camp has brought us all closer together, just as it has challenged us to grow a “little in the spirit of Rockbrook.” The Spirit Fire is a beautiful ceremony in this way, celebrating all that we’ve experienced together. After hearing from the campers and counselors, and Sarah’s reflections on the session, everyone lit a small white candle and slowly formed a line around the lake. We stood for a few minutes looking out at the many reflections of candlelight in the water. It was a marvelous scene, and the perfect way to close the Spirit Fire.

Thank you everyone for your enthusiasm and support over the last few weeks. It’s been a phenomenal session, and we’re so proud how everyone helped make that possible. We look forward to welcoming you back the “Heart of a Wooded Mountain” soon!


It Just Feels Good

July 22, 2014

Fiber Arts CampWandering into Curosty, our fiber arts activity cabin, is like stepping into a working artist’s studio, maybe even a artists’ cooperative, because greeting you are colorful materials, finished and partly finished projects, and many hands busily creating. It’s a wondrous place. The cabin itself is built from 19th-century, hand-cut logs. It has a wood floor and a stone fireplace on one side, and draping its double-hung windows are bright red curtains. In one corner there are three 36-inch floor looms, and along two walls there are small tables with tabletop looms. The walls, though, are the most interesting because almost everything is covered with finished weavings, shelves with spools of thread, balls of yarn and strips of cloth. Embroidery floss, cane, reeds, kudzu vines, twigs and feathers are stacked or hung nearby. Three different areas display example projects the girls can make, things like bright baskets, complex loom weavings, lanyards, dream catchers, pot holders, hats, scarves, purses and wallets. Leading this creative whirlwind of weaving is Melanie Wilder who comes to us from Warren Wilson College where she is a supervisor of the Fiber Arts Program there. You can see Melanie in the background of this photo spinning yarn. She seems to always have a new project in the works for the girls. For example, they have a large group weaving that uses different bits of yarn, cloth and other fibers to create a mountain scene rather than a geometric pattern. She’s having some girls hammer a leaf between two pieces of cloth to transfer color from the leaf into the cloth leaving a neat design. The overall atmosphere in Curosty is joyfully creative as girls experiment with all these different materials and techniques. Sitting with friends, creating with your hands, twisting, threading, and tying different colorful strands, all while having time to chat, tell stories and laugh— being in Curosty just feels good.

High Ropes Course Kids ClimbingAt the Alpine Tower, our 50-foot High Ropes Course located in the woods behind our gym, the girls are working with a different sort of fiber, an 11 millimeter braided climbing rope. Instead of weaving, these girls are tying their harnesses to the rope so a staff member can belay them while climbing one of the 30 or so different routes to the top platform. The rope stretches from the climber up and over a pole above the platform and back down to the belayer on the ground. The tower is an excellent introduction to rock climbing because it requires the same balance, smooth motion, concentration and focused strength. Likewise the equipment and safety protocols are the same. With some routes being designed for a complete beginner and others requiring both polished climbing skills and strength, the Tower is an adventure activity that keeps girls coming back for more. After reaching the top platform, the climber is slowly lowered by the climbing staff members belaying. It’s possible— and a lot of girls do this intentionally for fun —to flip upside down on the rope, the belayer suspending you with your head a few feet from the ground. It’s a goofy stunt. After climbing the tower, and perhaps our climbing wall in the gym or one of the five climbs on Castle Rock, don’t be surprised when your daughter asks you to go climbing with her at the local gym. Not only will it be fun, it’ll be because she wants to show you she’s good at climbing, and knows what she’s doing.

1950s Diner BanquetTonight our 28 CA campers, our 9th graders, unveiled the theme of their secret banquet, and it was a great one: the 1950s. They called the banquet “1950s Diner.” The painted decorations, the floor-to-ceiling posters which lined every inch of wall space, referenced not just the music, the movies and television shows, and the fashion of that decade, but also diner food. In fact, for dinner they served classic hamburgers and french fries, with root beer, ice cream floats. Some of the CA girls wore poodle skirts, while others dressed like greasers and “Pink Ladies” from the movie Grease. One girl zipped around the dining hall on roller skates delivering plates of food. We also saw Marilyn Monroe, Lucile Ball, Debbie Reynolds, Ernest Hemingway, and a special guest appearance by Elvis. The skits were dance numbers with a giant cast of CAs reproducing dances like the “Hand Jive” and the “Twist,” for example. Alternating with songs from the 50s (“Jailhouse Rock,” “Rock Around the Clock” and “Johnny B. Goode”) and modern day pop songs, much of time was spent as a celebration dance party.

Camp 1950s Costume DanceCamp 50s Diner BanquetElvis Costume Party

It’s hard to explain why, but campers and counselors alike often remark the banquet is the highlight of their entire session. Considering all of the zany fun of camp, this is extraordinary. Yes, the banquet is really fun. The surprise might be a big part of that, as is the thrill of having candy decorating your dinner table. More significantly though, I think the banquets are a true expression of the relationships we’ve formed while at camp, the true friendships and connection we now feel with so many wonderful people. It’s that, combined with an awareness that this is our last crazy celebration together before the session closes. That’s why there is so much hugging at the banquet, and often tearful embracing. It’s an emotional time for must of us. We can feel that this is a very special time of our lives.

Kids Camp 1950s Banquet Party


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.