Opening Camp Renaissance Style

August 2, 2015
Leave a Comment

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 a 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

Fantastic Views

August 1, 2015
Leave a Comment

Girls mountain top hikingImagine absolutely perfect weather… sunny deep blue skies, a light breeze, low humidity, an occasional wisp of clouds, with morning temperatures in the low 60s, barely reaching 80 degrees in the afternoon. Well, that’s what we had today, and it was glorious. So much so, it inspired us to take a hike with the Hi-Ups along the Art Loeb trail as it crosses into the Shining Rock Wilderness. This trail passes over many of the highest peaks in the area, like Black Balsam Knob (6,201 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6,056 ft), for example. The elevation of Rockbrook, as a reference, is 2,250 feet. Hiking at this elevation feels really high, since everything around you slopes steeply down to hills and valleys below. There are fantastic views in most every direction over the rocky and sparse landscape, with only short bushes, and very few trees to count. The girls loved stopping to take in all this beauty and, of course, to take plenty of photos as well.

Girl Gaga Ball GameGirls Shooting RifleOur “Sports and Games” activity has introduced GaGa Ball (or just Gaga) to the girls and now every moment of free time gathers a group of girls at the gaga pit for a game. GaGa ball is a form of dodgeball where players slap or hit a soft ball around a small octagonal-shaped, walled court. The object is to hit other players with the ball without being hit yourself. Girls have to bend down to slap the ball, keeping it low, but also jump up to avoid a ball hit at them. It’s a fast-paced, physically demanding game that can accommodate up to 12 or so players at time… Perfect for an impromptu game with friends at camp.

The camp rifle range is down a path leading away from the gym (and gaga pit). Newly constructed for this summer, the range allows up to six shooters at a time. It is 25 meters from the firing line to the target, and girls score 5 shots per target shooting .22 caliber short ammunition in our bolt-action rifles with open sights… no scopes, or automatic loading. The girls have to load and shoot each round individually. This slows everything down at the riflery range encouraging the girls to focus and aim more carefully when shooting. With both ear and eye protection in place, time at the rifle range has a more relaxed pace than most things at camp.

Camp Game Show ManiaTonight’s evening program involved the whole camp in a trivia game. Hosted by Bill Grimsley down in the gym, the game pitted 4 contestants against each other per round of questions. We chose random members of the Juniors, Middlers, Seniors and Counselors play each round. Bill has an entire game show set complete with podiums, illuminated score boards, and buzzers, making the whole event more realistic and entertaining. He directs the show by asking girls questions and awarding points for correct answers. The questions tended to be drawn from pop culture (movies, music, books, and news personalities), but also about Rockbrook (for example, “What are the two rock faces on the camp property?”). Some questions became “challenge rounds,” which meant contestants could earn extra points by completing a task like hula hooping the longest or being willing to eat something unappealing like a spoonful of canned oysters in hot sauce, for eample. The crowd cracked up watching their friends struggle with these challenge rounds. The winners of each round earned a special treat their entire cabin shared later in the dining hall, a giant cookie cake. It was a great evening, full of enthusiastic cheering, celebrations and good silly camp fun.

By the way, the answer is “Castle Rock and Dunns Rock” :-)

Camp Swimming girl pair

Letting Go

July 31, 2015
Leave a Comment

“Letting go” is a phrase that seems particularly apt when you consider life at camp, even more so at an overnight camp like Rockbrook. In so many ways, the campers let go of the familiar while they’re here. Think about it. They find themselves sleeping in rustic, 90-year-old wooden cabins with eight or so other people. When they look up in their bed, they more than likely can spot a spider or two. Instead of the whir of an air-conditioning system as they fall asleep, the sounds of crickets and other nocturnal forest creatures linger in the background. Even what they eat— homemade hummus, grilled barbecue tempeh, corn tamales, and strawberry white chocolate muffins, for example —is foreign to many of the girls. All of their familiar screens— TVs, computers, smart phones, and tablets —gone! And of course, most of the activities at camp offer new experiences, from shooting a real gun, climbing a real rock, and using a vintage floor loom, to diving into the freezing cold water of our lake. With so many new things, it’s impossible to cling to what you already know.

Girls Aiming Archery bow and arrowThere’s more. Camp girls, simply by virtue of being away from home, also let go of their parents in certain ways. Free from the prescriptions, intervention, and inspections of mom and dad, this means making all kinds of decisions on their own. It might mean deciding to adjust certain habits of personal hygiene (brushing hair or taking a shower less often for example) because more important (i.e., more fun) things are happening like a ga-ga ball game before lunch or great conversation before bed. Being at Rockbrook, girls don’t depend on their parents to fill their free time, to dictate what always comes next, or to solve every problem. Of course, there are excellent counselors here, wonderful people to guide this freedom, but camp gives girls the opportunity to experiment with things and gain more confidence after seeing how their decisions turn out… good and bad.

Camp Yoga KidsAsking the campers themselves about how they feel at camp, I’ve heard the older girls say camp is their “happy place” where they can let go of their worries.  Different from the competitive atmosphere of school and the insecurities it can breed, the Rockbrook community is defined by compassion, kindness and generosity. Camp is a place of encouragement where, instead of being left out, ignored, or put down in some way, girls feel supported, respected, and affirmed. In this kind of community, girls don’t worry about how they look, whether or not they’re “good” at a particular activity, or if they’re “cool” enough to be included. All those worries fade away at camp when the point of things has nothing to do with evaluation and everything to do with simply having fun.

Letting go of worries like this also empowers a girl to let go of her polished persona, that “face” she believes others want her to be. Joining a camp community like Rockbrook, knowing she’s truly a part of it, trusting the people around her and caring for them in the way they care about her, inspires her true personality, spirit and character to shine through. It can be a remarkable transformation for a person. By being so supportive, camp opens up a space for a girls’ authentic self to emerge and grow.

So after letting go of all these things at Rockbrook, what’s left? Simple stuff: Authenticity, Nature, Friendship, Joy, Creativity, and Community… a life that feels really good. That is camp.

Zip Line Camp Kids

To the Top!

July 30, 2015
Leave a Comment

Summer Camp Rock ClimbingSqueezing your feet into tiny, rubber soled shoes, wearing a climbing harness and helmet, and being tied to a bright pink rope that stretches up 100 feet over a rock above you, can be a little intimidating. If the rock is steep, like the climb called “B-52″ on the south side of Looking Glass Rock, climbing it might even seem impossible. But that’s exactly what a small group of Rockbrook girls did this morning thanks to Rita and Nicole who led their trip. With a lunch of burritos packed, along with all the necessary climbing gear, the girls left Rockbrook around 8am, hiked up the mile-long trail, and arrived at the base of the rock, a little sweaty already, set to climb. The first pitch of B-52 is rated 5.8 and is not a simple climb. It takes courage, strength, and determination to take each step up, balancing on the eyebrow shaped edges of rock. You have to really trust that your feet won’t slip because handholds are scarce on this route. Every move feels a little risky— despite knowing you’re on a top belay —so in the face of that (perceived) risk, you have to be brave to make progress up the rock. These Rockbrook girls showed exactly that kind of strength and bravery because they all topped out the route! We might say they left their comfort zones at home!

Dot Painting ProjectOn the back porch of the Hobby Nook cabin, the Painting and Drawing activity meets. The porch has several long tables and benches, good lighting, and all the supplies to experiment with different painting and drawing media. It also is surrounded by old-growth rhododendron bushes that provide good shade, and on most days there’s a light breeze blowing through making the porch a delightful place to work. Recently the painting instructors, Tessa and Jess, have been helping the girls learn how to blend colors by using a dot-painting technique. This requires mixing paints on a palate before applying it to the canvas, or in this case, on a small square of card stock. The girls blend the paint using a wooden brush, then dip the other end of it in the paint to apply it. It’s a deliberate process of repeated blending and application to achieve different degrees of shading and slight color variation.  And the results are awesome! I’ve seen some really cool examples of the camper’s work: a boat splashing through the waves, a detailed vase of flowers, and a closeup of an eye… all really well done.

Summer camp water slide girlYou may have noticed that recently there are quite a number of photos in our online gallery of girls hurtling out the bottom of our lake’s water slide, affectionately known as “Big Samanatha.” The lifeguards open the slide during the two free swim periods, one before lunch and the other before dinner. Perhaps because it’s been so dry and warm lately, but also because it’s simply a lot of fun, the free swim periods have been very well attended (coming down to the lake is optional during those blocks of free time before lunch and dinner), and hence the slide has been getting a nice workout. After walking along the boardwalk and climbing the tower to the start of the slide, it can take some nerve to launch yourself because at the top, you are about 50 feet in the air as you stare down the 150-foot slick vinyl. It’s a surprisingly quick ride down, and a pretty big splash waiting at the bottom. For most girls, that means holding your nose and letting out a quick scream before hitting the water. It’s a fun ride, and after a short swim, an easy walk back around for another slide.

One last thing… A friend passed along an article that I thought you also might appreciate. Written by Margie Warrell, it makes the case for teaching girls to be brave, and goes further to suggest six things we can do to encourage that quality. Here is the article. Like we know well here at Rockbrook, there is much to be gained from being Kind, Silly and Brave.

Girls summer camp kids

Power with a Heart

July 29, 2015
Leave a Comment

Camp Horseback Riding ClassHorse Jumping Girl at Summer CampWatching the campers ride has been an especially fun treat recently. Dozens of girls have signed up for riding, some for their very first experience working with a horse, and others with more advanced skills. We have nine staff members devoted to teaching horseback riding at camp this summer, and with 30 horses in the RBC herd, there’s always a lot going on at the barn, from tacking up for a mounted lesson, to the farrier trimming the hooves on one of our Connemara ponies, to feeding and mucking out stalls. For the campers, there’s always something to learn too, both about the complexities of caring for the horses, and also about how to improve their riding skills. Today a beginner-level lesson in the upper ring had the girls doing a great job walking their mounts, steering them independently, while down in the lower (larger) ring, the advanced riders were working on jumping what looked like about 2 feet over rails. Both groups seemed happy and proud of their accomplishments.

It’s always been a question why some girls are so keenly drawn to horses, as so many girls love riding here at Rockbrook. The Kitchen Sisters have just released an episode of their podcast “Fugitive Waves” that explores this phenomenon. It’s entitled “Horses, Unicorns and Dolphins.” In the 20-minute episode, we hear the voices of young girls, authors, research scientists, and lifelong riders describing why they ride, and how they feel in their relationships with these powerful animals. My favorite line from the program is when one rider describes horses as “power with a heart.” In a sense this summarizes it. Horseback riding is so meaningful, so magical, for girls because it includes a special relationship with that heart, an emotional collaboration with that power, and fundamentally, a unique form of friendship between two beings. For those open to this sort of relationship, there’s really nothing quite like horseback riding.

Camp Tennis GirlAll of the other Rockbrook activities kept the campers busy throughout the morning activity periods. At tennis the girls worked on their volleys, while at archery and riflery, they steadied their aim. The girls climbed the Alpine Tower, and swam in the lake, if they weren’t stretching into yoga poses in the hillside lodge. Some made tie-dye t-shirts, and others sewed pillows. Some knitted hats, as other girls tied new bracelet patterns out of colorful embroidery floss. There was volleyball in the gym and cartwheels in the gymnastics area, as the WHOA instructors demonstrated how to build a fire. It’s astonishing how many different things the campers were doing at the same time all over camp!

Kids Playing Under WaterfallAlso this morning, a group of Junior campers took a “swim” hike to Moore Cove in the Pisgah Forest. Dressed in their swimsuits with towels and water bottles stashed in day packs, they followed the gentle uphill trail into the cove. It’s a short walk that ends at an 80-foot tall waterfall. It’s been pretty dry lately, so the falling water was more like rain as it dripped over the rock high above. This made a perfect place to cool off in the warm sunshine, and the girls made great use use of the opportunity letting the water spray all over them. They played in the pool below and had a great time building cairns from stones they found… a real forest experience, real play, and definitely real fun.

All of the Senior campers gathered later this afternoon for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest, and a stop at Sliding Rock. Our picnic this time included a huge pile of watermelon, baked spaghetti the kitchen prepared for us in advance, salad, and sliced baguettes. I’d say it was far more of a complete meal than a “picnic.” One girl bragged to me that she ate 14 pieces of the bread! After eating, we enjoyed digesting our dinner a bit by running around playing a game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl.” Akin to musical chairs, this game gets the the girls running from one place to another in a circle with each round identifying a new “Rockbrook Girl” for the center of the circle. There’s a lot of laughing and screaming, like all great outdoor games. It was a short trip in the buses back to “the Rock,” and soon the girls were zipping down the natural water slide splashing into the deep pool at the bottom. It’s hard to describe how much the girls love sliding rock. As you slip, spin and roll through the “freezing” cold water, it’s only natural to scream your head off, and as you watch your friends, to laugh hysterically. It’s all great fun.

“Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” came next when we stopped at Dolly’s Dairy bar. If not that flavor, then some other sweet treat topped off the outing when everyone ordered their favorite in a cup or cone. Eating the ice cream, even after all the chilly sliding, really heated everyone up and in no time we were singing songs, posing for more photos and simply enjoying the evening together. It was the perfect way to finish up an excellent trip out.

Sliding Rock Thumbs Up Girls

Adding Some Edge

July 28, 2015
Leave a Comment

Rafting Silly Kids Posing
About once a week we head over to the Nantahala River for whitewater rafting, like today, when two groups of Middlers and Seniors made the 2-hour run down the river. Being the only girls summer camp that has a permit to run these trips (The US Forest Service issued us the permit back in the early 1980s), we decided long ago to make rafting a big part of our adventure program. We don’t charge extra for the trips and we let everyone who’s old enough (Middlers and Seniors, in our case) sign up to go if they like. All of this has made rafting very popular with Rockbrook girls, with about 90% of them choosing to raft every summer. For many, it’s their favorite adventure trip out of camp. Rockbrook really is “that rafting camp,” as one person put it.

Last night we also gave the girls the option to spend the night at our outpost camp before their rafting trip. Over in Macon County and adjoining the Nantahala National Forest, Rockbrook acquired and improved this unique piece of property with camping shelters (simple screened, structures), a small bath house, and a dining hall where we can have our meals. It’s a great place, “out in the middle of nowhere,” literally “at the end of the road,” where we can enjoy camping only 15 minutes from the river. It’s a beautiful place too. We had a wonderful time together last night singing songs around the campfire, making s’mores, and listening to the nighttime calls of a nearby whippoorwill. I was impressed by how relaxed and happy all the girls were as they spent their time together on the overnight, particularly because the group was made up of a few teenagers as well as young girls who had just finished 5th grade. There wasn’t one person trying to be cool, or exclusive. Instead, they all happily hung out together, slept in the same shelter together, sang songs and laughed at each others jokes. This showed me that these girls really trust each other, and that despite their age differences, really like each other too. It was a remarkable expression of “Rockbrook Spirit” that would make you proud to witness.

Kid Zip LineZip Canopy Course BridgeThere is another adventure activity popular with the girls at camp— we run it almost everyday —and it’s unique because of Rockbrook’s topography: our zip line course. Instead of zips and bridges going from platform to platform suspended in trees like most zipline “canopy tours,” our 3 ziplines (2 of which are new this summer) and 3 bridges (2 new ones here too) are suspended between gigantic boulders. The cables are bolted directly into solid rock making them extraordinarily strong anchor points for each span. The first zip is especially cool; it begins high to the right of “Stick Biscuit Falls,” the 50-ft waterfall directly above the camp, and slowly passes you across the front the falls, about 80 feet in the air, as you slide along the cable to a rock face on the far side. The next 150-ft zip begins at another boulder and sends riders over a gulley below, filled with rhododendron and mountain laurel. From there the riders make their way across the 3 swinging bridges: a beam, cable, and platform bridge. The final zip is a screaming 450-ft ride all the way back to camp. It takes a group of eight campers about an hour to complete every thrill of the course.

Camp Kids Love MuffinsNight Zip Line KidsSpeaking of our zipline course, two groups of senior campers took their ziplining to a new level after dinner. They went at night! It’s true; staying up late, we used headlamps attached to our helmets, other flashlights and glow sticks to illuminate our way. Part night hike, part group dynamics initiative, and part edgy idea, the girls had a blast zipping through the dark, launching themselves into the night with just their headlamp for orientation. As we moved from point to point, the girls had a good sense that this was a little over the top, making it even more fun than they expected. A couple of them said to me, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” A small creative twist turned something already pretty cool, into the “coolest thing ever!”

The same thing happened this morning when the girls discovered that the Rockbrook baker had added some edge to today’s muffin flavor: “chocolate chip cookie dough.” You might be wondering how to make a “dough” muffin?  You first bake a chocolate chip muffin, but then serve it with a blob of cookie dough on top. An outrageous topping, I know, but also, oh so good. They really were something else. I heard from several girls, in fact, that this was their new favorite muffin flavor.

We’re off to a fantastic start of the session. With this many really wonderful girls at camp, it’s no surprise.

Camp Kids Hugging

Getting into the Groove!

July 27, 2015
Leave a Comment

IMG_9764_mThe first full day of camp is always a mixed bag of emotions for our campers. For campers young and old, new or returning, there’s a lot to process throughout this day. New activities to try, new people to meet, new friends to make… It can seem just as overwhelming as it is exciting. This is the day that marks the start of the few weeks these girls have waited 12 months to experience again, and that knowledge carries a lot of anticipation and anxiousness as the girls leave breakfast to enter a day of fun, creative activities.

Our staff are very attuned to the first-day jitters. We encourage everyone to wear their name tags to make the introduction to new peers as easy as possible. We also make sure to cater to all experience levels in each activity, helping a novice pinch-pot maker feel as comfortable as an expert wheel thrower. This is integral to our philosophy behind activities at Rockbrook.

IMG_9846_mIMG_9924_mWe’re also so excited to start this day because the girls have each customized their own activity schedule. This independence isn’t easy for every girl. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to do what someone has told you to do, but taking the braver step to choose their own activities is a huge sign of growth and maturity. Rockbrook encourages our campers to lean into the discomfort of trying new things, and to create a “new normal” for themselves where they achieve things they may have never thought possible.

One particular group of campers experienced a Rockbrook milestone they have probably been looking forward to since their very first day of camp ever, driving up the gravel hill years ago. The two cabins of CAs—the second-oldest group of campers—proudly announced at lunch that Banquet is coming and that they are pumped!

IMG_0355_m(2)The CAs ventured after breakfast with Jeff into the DuPont forest on a hike that mirrored their brainstorming process. On the drive there, the girls threw out as many ideas of potential Banquet themes they could think of, many of which I suspect they’ve been dreaming up all year long. Upon arrival in the trail parking lot, we read aloud every idea to give the girls a chance to begin to sift through themes they really liked. Throughout the hike, Jeff stopped the girls three times. At each stop on the trail they discussed pros and cons of certain themes, each time eliminating a few as they went. The group engaged in good discussion, honoring each individual’s thoughts and ideas. The energy in the air was palpable and the collaboration between the girls was inspiring.

IMG_9887_mFinally, as they reached the peak of the mountain, the 2015 Third Session CAs emerged from the forest with a Banquet theme that all girls were excited about. They’ll spend the next few weeks hard at work in their secret, off-limits “Cabin 9″ at the end of the lower line working with paint and glitter to transform the Dining Hall into a whole new world. Get ready, folks, because these CAs are going to put on a show!

Dinner tonight was the best representation of camp really being in full-swing. We thought yesterday was grand, having so many new arrivals and feeling the camp filled with fresh excitement. However, at tonight’s pizza dinner, the Dining Hall was roaring with happy conversations and enthusiastic (and loud!) singing. We cheered, we requested so many songs, and we sang our hearts out. As fun as yesterday was, we can now say that camp has officially started. Our Third Session 2015 campers are finally here, immersed fully in camp life. Let the games begin!

— Chrissy

Eager Energy

July 26, 2015
2 Comments

camp friends at summer campWhen you gather together this many friends, all packed and ready for an extended “sleepover,” it’s exciting… like this morning when we welcomed our third session campers to Rockbrook, and we were jumping up and down, cheering, and screaming with delight as each camp friend arrived. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect— sunny skies and the cool morning temperatures we’re accustomed to here in the mountains —but what made the morning fun, was how eager everyone was to see each other and get camp started. That eager energy, which I suspect is fueled by months of anticipation, sped everyone through the “check in” process (meeting office folks, browsing the latest RBC gear, and consulting with the medical team) and added muscle to delivering the trunks to the cabins. As girls arrived throughout the morning, there were Welsh ponies to meet (“Cool Beans” and “Cloud Nine”), short hikes to the biggest waterfall on the camp property (“Rockbrook Falls”), Gaga Ball and Tetherball to play, and friendship bracelets to make. For girls starting their very first session at Rockbrook, and for those returning to the place they already know, this was a great day.

Swim test girl jumps in lakeIt was easy to carry this energy forward into lunch as we enjoyed another of Rick’s yummy “comfort food” meals— his homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, and fresh fruit salad, plus a gluten-free pasta dish, and the regular super-stocked salad bars, and peanut butter and jelly station. While eating, the girls had no trouble launching into favorite camp songs, their hands clapping and waving to “An Austrian Went Yodeling,” for example. There’s no shyness here, as everyone was swept into the exuberance. It’s always remarkable how quickly the good feeling of camp springs up.

After a shortened rest hour for cabin meetings, the different age groups came down to the lake for a quick dip to demonstrate each person’s swimming ability. For clear safety reasons and as part of our American Camp Association accreditation, we want to make sure everyone is comfortable in the water before jumping off the diving board into the deep end, zipping down the water slide, or going out of camp for a whitewater rafting or kayaking trip. All of the lifeguards and all of the directors are involved in these “swim demos,” some in the water, some handing out the swim tags and swim bracelets, while others answering campers’ questions, or just helping them through the process. The mountain stream that feeds our lake is notoriously “invigorating” (or “feezing,” depending on your point of view), so it can take a little coaxing and encouragement to build up each swimmer’s nerve before jumping in off the dock. Today was no different; the girls screaming just before they hit the water, but also having a ball with all their cabin mates ready to take their turn.

For years now at Rockbrook, we ask our campers to select their own activity schedule twice each week, having multiple chances to try different things while they’re here. We’ve found that giving the girls themselves (rather than their parents beforehand) this responsibility, this independence, helps bolster their confidence. It helps them realize they can make a good informed decision themselves and enjoy the outcome.

camp assembled girls smiling

Late this afternoon, after a quick assembly on the hill with songs, introductions and skits, we organized a fun camp tour for the girls to orient them to the different activity areas. The tour brought them everywhere in camp, stopping along the way to meet the instructors, see demonstrations, hear songs and enjoy skits about what each activity offers. They met the climbing staff at the Alpine Tower, the kayaking instructors at the lake, and the ceramics counselors in the upper studio. They tromped out into the woods to visit the Nature Nook, down the path the the riflery range, and back up to Hiker’s Rock to meet the WHOA (“Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure”) leaders. The whole event was a great way to learn both where everything happens at camp but what each activity has planned for the session. Some of those weaving projects look pretty cool! Now understanding all of this, the girls were ready to choose their first set of activities tonight before bed. In the morning, we’ll launch right into everything. We’re set!

Today was the day when we reacquainted ourselves with camp, or for some, when we first began to know “the Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” I can tell this will be a great session. We’re going to laugh, play and sing (a lot!), share meals, reconnect with nature, and get to know each other really well. Stay tuned; we’re excited!

good camp girl friends

A Day of Hugs

July 23, 2015
1 Comment

Closing our long session of camp, as we did today, is always emotional, and often a tearful experience for all of us— campers, staff members, and parents too. Combined with the happiness of reuniting with family members, today brought on a sudden sadness from realizing that everything we’ve been loving about camp is ending… at least for now. Today we had to say goodbye to the freedoms of camp, to all the action, the silliness, creativity and adventure built into everyday of the last few weeks, but more intensely, to all the wonderful people of camp, to the love and support everyone cherishes about life at Rockbrook. There are friends here, true friends who we will miss deeply even as we know that camp will always welcome us back. It’s been a day of hugs, where we try to embrace, for just a moment longer, how Rockbrook feels and what it truly means.

It’s really a difficult thing to describe, but here’s a lovely message from a parent that speaks to it:

kaitie U. From 2007

I cannot believe that 10 years have passed since we first made our way up the gravel driveway to camp. It really did not dawn on me until Kaitie came home that this was her last year as a Rockbook Camper. She loves her special time there so much, I guess I thought it would just go on forever. Until I read her statement that she gave at Spirit Fire and saw the tear stains on the ink, I didn’t fully appreciate how much this summer meant to her. I was touched by the raw emotion she expressed and the anxiety she feels about the possibility of never returning again in the same capacity. Rockbrook is more than just a “camp” that she goes to for a few weeks every summer. Rockbrook is a part of the fabric of her very being. It is a part of her philosophy of living. She sees the world through the eyes of a 7 year old little girl who found her way through the heart of a wooded mountain, cabin by cabin, to become the amazing young woman she is today. I find it difficult to put into words…it is the way she stands, the way she walks and the smile on her face when she speaks of this special place that is hers. I cannot thank you enough for everything you have given her.

I hope you have a great rest of the summer. Know that she is thinking of you every single day. I cannot imagine better thoughts.

Laurie Uebelhoer

Thanks everyone for a great session! We’re all looking forward to when we can see you again at Rockbrook.

Marvelous Events

July 22, 2015
Leave a Comment

Summer Camp Party CostumesAs we’ve arrived at the last day of our session, it’s time for everyone at camp to gather for several special all-camp events. Some have been in the works for weeks, like the fantastic Banquet presented by the CA (9th grade) campers. Kept hidden since the very first day of the session, the Banquet’s theme defines all aspects of the event: the colorful, painted posters lining every inch of wall space in the dining hall, decorations hung from the rafters, costumes for skit performances, special food and music. The Banquet is really an elaborate, highly decorated, over-the-top, party that’s so much fun everyone really looks forward to it.

The theme for this session’s Banquet was “The Great American Road Trip.” It featured characters dressed like tourists as they traveled to different cities and attractions across America. They stopped in New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and Los Angeles to see a music video being filmed. The posters decorating the dining hall walls showed all these places plus other American landmarks like Chicago, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Las Vegas, and even the Pisgah National Forest. The posters were outstanding… some of the most well-drawn, with colorful details, I can remember. The biggest surprise, however, came when the campers realized that all of the tables and chairs in the dining hall had been removed, and they would be sitting around checkered tablecloths on the floor for a picnic! Each picnic tablecloth included a basket of assorted candy along with the platters of chicken fingers, french fries, small canned drinks, and fruit kabobs. The whole banquet was marvelous, and easily one we’ll all remember.

Peter Pan Acting Camp KidsThe entire camp, campers, staff members and a few lucky parents, all were thrilled today to watch our camp musical, Peter Pan. This is the familiar story based on the Disney film where Peter Pan whisks away three children to Never Land where they encounter Tinkerbell and other fairies, the Lost Boys, Indians and Captain Hook. Using all homemade costumes and simple scenery, the girls put on an excellent show singing songs like “You Can Fly” and “Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me.” Marvelous is a great way to describe this event too. I’m certain everyone who saw the show would agree.

Campfire Camp ProgramWe closed the day with a campfire, our traditional “Spirit Fire.” As the sun dropped behind the huge poplar trees across the lake, the whole camp dressed in their “whities” (camp uniform) and gathered around the fire ring near Vesper Rock. For the next 40 minutes or so, the fire blazed, the crickets chirped and many voices sang traditional Rockbrook Camp songs like “How Did We Come to Meet Pal,” and “In the Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” We heard first-year campers stand and describe how they’ve settled in at camp, and also from returning campers about what Rockbrook means to them after so many years. Sarah spoke about friendship and the special sort of friends you make at camp. She described them as “Chocolate Chip Cookie Friends” because they make you feel that good. Arm in arm, huddled together as they sang and listened, the scene was emotional and beautiful, marvelous in so many ways. We closed the campfire as Rockbrook girls have for generations, with a candlelight procession forming a line around our lake. Each girl, with a small white candle lit from the Spirit Fire, stood facing the lake softly singing, absorbing the warm feelings of affection reflecting all around.

Girl Camp KidsFinal Campfire Lake Procession