Never To Be Forgotten

August 14, 2014

Summer Camp FriendsToday was the final day of camp for our 2014 season, and looking back, recalling all the excitement and action of the past 10 weeks, we’re so grateful for the experience. It’s been a truly remarkable summer. We could point to many reasons for this, and while it’s tempting to list accomplishments or the successful special events that populated our weekly calendar, I think the most delightful aspect has been the bonds of friendship we all gained with the wonderful girls, staff members and directors who comprised our camp community. It was the relationships we formed that will keep this summer unforgettable. Here’s how Lucy Maud Montgomery put it.

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

Thank you everyone for contributing your enthusiasm and energy, your care and kindness, to our time together. We will miss you all. We’ll miss laughing and playing together, supporting and encouraging each other. We’ll miss you, friends, but also look forward to next summer when we can be together again.


Shoulder to Shoulder

August 13, 2014

Willy Wonka JR Camp PlayThis afternoon the entire camp, plus a few of the invited parents of girls performing, gathered for a special event in the gym, which, like last night’s banquet, was the culmination of creativity and hard work spread over many days during the session. It was this session’s musical, Willy Wonka JR! Throughout the session the cast members have been learning songs, rehearsing choreographed dances, and memorizing lines for the main characters in this well-known story of Charlie and his quest for a golden ticket to tour the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. We had campers of all ages playing the main parts: Willy Wonka, Charlie, Grandpa Joe, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teevee, and an entire crew of Oompa-Loompas complete with orange skin and green hair. The songs were wonderful too— “Cheer Up Charlie,” “Pure Imagination” and the “Candyman,” standing out as favorites. Watching the performance, I could really tell the girls were enjoying themselves. Thanks to everyone, particularly the drama instructors, for making it an enjoyable afternoon for everyone!

Campfire Closing Night of CampCamp Spirit Candle GirlWe closed the day, and the session, tonight as Rockbrook girls have closed their session every summer since the camp was founded in 1921— with a special campfire we call our “Spirit Fire.” Different from the zany exuberance we’re more accustomed to around here, this is a chance to slow down a little, clean up a little (We wear our “whities” uniforms.) and enjoy a campfire together paying tribute to the experiences we’ve shared, the deep relationships we’ve formed, and the personal strides we’ve made together at camp. The scene is beautiful— counselors and campers gathered around the fire, squished shoulder-to-shoulder, maybe sitting on a welcome lap, inching as close as possible together, stars and tall oaks high above, crickets chittering about, all glowing a dim orange from the fire and nestled in the woods we have come to know and love so well. Adding to this are the traditional songs sung as part of the Spirit Fire program. Here’s a 1-minute recording of a song from last night.

The program also included campers and counselors from each age group presenting short speeches summarizing how they feel about Rockbrook and relating what they’ve learned during the session. Sarah also spoke, tonight giving everyone a challenge to enliven their “Rockbrook Spirit,” their kindness and generosity of attitude, their authentic selves, back home and at school. We closed the Spirit Fire with everyone lighting their own small white candle and forming a row around the lake, singing softly. With the water reflecting candlelight back onto everyone’s faces, surrounded by all these friends, and filled with so many great memories from the last few weeks together, this was an emotional, beautiful moment. I can’t think of a better way to mark the great camp session we’ve had together.


A Night at Pride Rock

August 12, 2014

Rock Climbing KidS CampCanoe Camp KidsHorseback Riding KidLately the girls have been clamoring for a few of the special trips and activities we offer throughout the session, only now with perhaps some added urgency because they know we are reaching the end of our time together this session. Many of the them have been asking to ride the zip line one more time, for example. When the announcement was made at breakfast that we’ll have the zip line available today, you could hear a fluttery murmur of girls asking each other if they would do it again. Likewise, the trips offered to climb Castle Rock have been easily filled with repeat rock climbers. Since there are five different routes up there, that makes plenty of sense. The particularly avid climbers all want to get on another route, and probably one of the harder ones. Here’s another example: canoeing on the French Broad River. Emily took a group out this week to take advantage of the beautiful weather we’ve been having and to have a chance to just float along together.  Horseback Riding is no exception either. Campers who love riding have been eager to spend more time with their favorite horse, to ride Lacy, or Moe, or Smoke, for example, “one more time.” The same can be said for all of the regular activities at camp, for as we move toward the end of the session, we will be holding several special events that preempt our daily camp routines, events like the barn party (a chance for riders to demonstrate their skills and others to enjoy games with the horses), tournaments with Camp Carolina (when we challenge the boys to Archery, Riflery, and Tennis competitions) , the musical production (that’s tomorrow), and so forth.

The main event of the day, however, was something that’s been secreted planned since the first day of the session: the banquet, which is a themed dinner party celebrated by the entire camp. The 9th grade campers, our “CAs,” selected for their secret theme, The Lion King, based on the classic Disney Movie from 1994.  Their title was “A Night at Pride Rock.” As the photo below shows, the decorations were awesome, very colorful representations of African animals, the “Pride Lands,” and specific scenes from the movie. They hung colorful lights from the rafters which made the glitter of the posters sparkle. They (again the CA girls came up with all of this!) had souvenir red cups for each camper and candy decorating all of the tables, as well as animal masks, temporary tattoos, and special stickers.

Lion King Party Banquet

The costumes were also really great with all of the major characters from the movie represented. Of course, they dressed as the lions Simba, Mufasa, and Scar, but also Zazu the hornbill, Timon the meerkat, Pumbaa the warthog, and the “shaman” mandril Rafiki. Several counselors dressed up as hyenas completing the cast. It was a magical moment for the campers as they entered the dining hall and were greeted by these characters. Everyone seemed both astonished and excited as the full experience of the music, decorations and characters combined in the surprise.

Zazu Bird CostumeMeerkat Kid CostumeBaboon Kid Costume

The program included a series of skits and dances focused on the main songs from the movie: “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata,” for example. They served hamburgers and french fries, chicken wings, and “zebra cakes” for dessert. They played music from the movie alternating with well-known pop music, which of course got the campers, dressed proudly in their blue RBC t-shirts, up to dance.

It was a fantastic party overall, a complete experience that everyone really enjoyed. The CA campers had fun, but also worked hard making that happen. Thanks girls!

Lion King Kids Costume


The Simple Things

August 11, 2014

Last night, we held my without-a-doubt favorite event of each session: the shaving cream fight. It is an event at which girls leave their manners in the cabin, put aside all their instincts that demand that they stay clean and orderly, and give no thought to the rules–because there aren’t any.

Sneak AttackGot ya!Messy and HappyWatch out!The Latest StyleThis event is camp’s equivalent of giving a child an expensive gift for her birthday, only to have her play with the empty box for the next month or so. We spend a lot of time and energy putting on elaborate events for the kids throughout the session. And they do enjoy them–but nothing can quite equal the utter, visceral joy of being handed a bottle of shaving cream, and told to just go nuts.

Something about the simplicity of it all–pick up shaving cream, shake can, spray onto as many people as you can, get as messy as possible–lends itself to a beautiful sort of mindlessness. There’s no goal that you must reach, no way to win or lose, and, most importantly of all, no fear that someone might judge you for looking like a walking marshmallow. There is only the can in your hand, the grass between your toes, and the grin on your face.

It’s the simple pleasures such as this one that I believe is camp’s greatest gift to campers. Too often in the real world (and yes, sometimes even in the camp world), we overlook the tiny things in the world around us that can bring us joy. We are too intent on the big picture, on making this world and our lives exactly what we want them to be, to stop and focus on the details that are of no real use to anybody, but still can chance our lives and make them more beautiful. We tend to miss the trees for the forest.

Take the campers I saw in the lake yesterday, swimming back and forth, intent on finishing their mermaid laps in time to get the Dolly’s trip prize. Would there have been any real harm done if they had stopped their swimming, and floated silently in the sunshine for the rest of Free Swim? What about the camper I talked to a few days ago, trying to race through “Hamlet” before the end of camp, so that she would have time to write her report when she got home? What if she had forgotten the deadline, and taken a few moments to slow down and appreciate the mellifluous rhythms of Shakespeare’s language?

But I know it’s not that easy. Of course everyone would prefer to slow down and appreciate the little things, but the big things feel too important, too pressing to ignore even for a moment. Stopping to smell the roses feels like a luxury that simply cannot be afforded.

But at camp, thank goodness, that particular luxury comes cheaper. Camp gives both campers and staff the chance to slow down and focus the significantly less important, and more joyous, things. Of course there are still moments, even at camp, when we too get caught up in the big picture. The completion of mermaid laps, the execution of the perfect skit, the nitty gritty and ins and outs of the daily schedule, even the completion of a blog post–all of these things can draw our eyes away from the joys all around us.

Which is why the shaving cream fight, and other camp events and activities like it, are so important. They strip down our priorities and interests into those that are most vital to our happiness. They train us to look past the things that seem important, and focus on the quieter things that really are. Put more simply, they allow all of us–camper, counselor, and director–to just slow down for a minute and remember what it feels like to just be kids.


A Look Behind the Scenes

August 10, 2014

Bentley Parker — Camp Mom

I think I was supposed to write on the events of the day here at RBC, but I wrote about the ones that make those events happen. I just thought that you, as parents, would fully appreciate learning more about these great leaders that your girls will, most certainly, come home talking about.

Let me begin by saying that this blog entry was left to my discretion. Our humble full time staff here at Rockbrook would not choose to be boastful by having an entry written about them. But, Mama B has the password, and I feel this post is well deserved!

As a camp mom, I get to show up and do what comes natural by helping out in situations that warrant a mom’s attention. My duties seem simple compared to the ones of the full time staff around me who work all year and around the clock in the summer to provide the very best camp experience for our daughters. I am amazed every year at the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes requiring countless hours of planning and organization. What appears to campers to be spontaneous activities, really takes hours of planning to make it happen. Every detail of all planned activities here at Rockbrook has been thought out months ahead of time, so that everything runs smoothly down to the daily muffin flavor, bead color, and set of paddling gear.

This is all made possible by a staff that has a passion for Rockbrook Camp. They were all campers and/or staff here previously, which makes their jobs personal. They all have a great love for this camp, and their goal is for our daughters to have the same great experience that they did. They work continuously to make it even better. They each have gregarious personalities and each possesses individual gifts, that when combined, make RBC run like a well oiled machine.

The descriptions below are only a portion of all the tasks that the administrative staff accomplish here at Rockbrook. I took the liberty of interviewing a variety of campers and counselors here this session because when I try to describe such an amazing team, my words seem inadequate.

SofieSOFIE-She describes herself as “a counselor the counselors,” but she’s so much more than that!  Her gift is with people, and her spirit is electric. She does interviewing that takes place all year, as she handpicks the young women that will lead your children. And, I must say, this is one of the best staff of counselors that I have ever seen. Their energy is continuous, and their smiles are never ending. The personalities spotted by Sofie have meshed perfectly with one another, and the joyous spirits have transplanted  to the campers, providing  a perfect camp atmosphere.  The counselors all laugh with her and enjoy her company here at camp, but they have the utmost respect for her. She holds them accountable in a joyous way that makes them want to strive to be better leaders. One counselor described her as “the sun,” and I think that’s a perfect description.

GraceGRACE-She can be spotted here at camp with what she calls her “squinty smile,” and she’s easy to identify because it’s always on her face. If you listen carefully, you can also find her by hearing her laughter, which makes her the perfect liaison between the girls and parents.

She’s on top of any situation that may arise with campers, and she does such a beautiful job of communicating with young girls in a way in which they can relate. She also insures that your girls have every opportunity to participate in all their desired activities here at camp, so that their experience is all that they hoped it would be. She has the gift of organization as shown by her assurance that each child is on the appropriate list for the activity that they have chosen, and that the counselors of that activity are anxiously awaiting their attendance. She spends a great deal of time pairing pen pals, which the girls look forward to, and allows new campers to feel connected before their arrival. Cabin assignments are also a crucial part of Grace’s job, as she carefully places each child with a peer group and counselor for each session.

ChaseCHASE-Chase exemplifies the epitome of the Rockbrook Spirit, and I think this is essential for someone planning all the events that your girls attend here at camp. She makes everything “fun,” as shown on your girls faces as they attended a pirate party, World Cup soccer night, pancake breakfast, overnights, vegetable garden cutting, and the list goes on. I can only imagine the preparation it takes to get ready for a party for this many girls with various silly activities and snack choices. She makes it look easy, and the greatest part is, she has the best time of all!  She has insured that all the activities are stocked with all the necessary equipment and supplies. A great deal of her time in the off season is spent ordering beads, paint, fabric, clay, string, and all the necessary supplies needed so your daughter can create masterpieces to bring home. Her jovial spirit is evident in everything she coordinates, and a good time is had by all.

SARAH and JEFF Carter-I can honestly say I don’t have any conception of the quantity or  variation of tasks this couple accomplishes on a daily basis to run this camp so successfully. If I attempted to describe their efforts, I’m sure I would way under estimate the time and energy it takes to run such an extraordinary organization. But, I can say with confidence, that every detail is considered, every activity researched, every staff member contemplated,  and every aspect perfected.

JeffJEFF-Although he may appear to be in the background to many of the younger campers, he plays a profound roll in the experiences of the older campers. As a past Rockbrook hiking instructor, he has a great knowledge and love for the outdoors that he enjoys sharing with the older girls. He provides great safety skills and a sense of security for the girls that are transitioning to counselors, on their three day overnight. One counselor stated “He had a great Rockbrook experience, and he wants to give back so that girls can grow, learn, and pass it on to their campers.” Jeff has a keen awareness of everything that is going on during camp. He’s always there to making sure everything is running according to plan. His state of the art website is work of its own, and he’s constantly seeking improvements to be made each year.

SarahSARAH-Sarah fully appreciates each and every Rockbrook tradition, and she values its meaning. She has worked very hard to preserve the heritage here that she remembers as a child. It is such a joyful experience for her and for the rest of the moms who attended here, to be able to share this with our daughters. Her gentle, calm spirit  makes campers comfortable, and she handles all situations with such grace.  Whatever circumstance she is faced with at camp,  she exemplifies patience, which puts everyone around her at ease. She not only knows each and every camper by name, but she recognizes their distinct qualities. She fully appreciates each of your daughters’ uniqueness, and how they contribute to their cabin community.

When you have owners and staff who are emotionally invested, it drives them to make camp all it can be. Their spirit for camp is contagious, and your daughters will hold on to the memories they have helped create throughout the year. I am grateful that all the girls who attend Rockbrook are the beneficiaries of such a passion, aimed at the creation of a great camp experience!


Playful Balance

August 9, 2014

Zipline Camp Girl The Rockbrook zip line and swinging bridge is a special camp activity we offer like other adventure trips (e.g., backpacking, kayaking, and canoeing). The girls sign up for it whenever it’s announced in the dining hall, like today after breakfast. This means skipping one of their regularly scheduled activities, but riding the zip is such a thrill, almost everyone does it at least once while they’re here. The girls meet the instructors at “Hiker’s Rock” to gear up with their harnesses, helmets, and special dual-wheeled pulleys. They then hike up into the woods behind the dining hall to the start of the swinging bridge. This is a 100-foot long suspension of steel cable, rope and wooden planks, hung between two huge boulders about 60-feet in the air. The bridge is challenging— some might say “scary” —because it wobbles as you walk on it, but also because we intentionally removed several of the planks leaving gaps to balance across. Once on the far side of the bridge, now perched high on a rock ledge, the girls take turns clipping their pulley into the 450-foot long cable that stretches across the camp, passing in front our new office building and ending on a wooden platform. It takes some courage to step off the ledge, but as the girls feel the ride’s acceleration, they’re immediately smiling, often screaming, and having a great time.

Camp Archery Pull GirlOn the flat area near the gym, the archery instructors have been helping girls improve their shooting techniques. There are a few safety rules on the archery range to learn first (e.g., the shooting commands), but then there are tips about how to stand, to draw and hold the bow, to aim, and to release. Archery requires proper balance, breathing and concentration too, so the girls have plenty to work on! It’s exciting when someone gets a bullseye and thereby has her name announced at lunch as joining the “bullseye club.” These girls are really getting good!

Gymnastics Camp TeenMeanwhile, nearby inside the gym, Elaine Trozzo our longtime gymnastics coach has been working with the girls on the balance beams, both the high beam and low beam depending on the skill she’s teaching. She’s going over basic walking techniques with the beginners, but also helping a few girls improve their jumps, turns and dismounts. Elaine does a great job keeping her classes fun and informative by combining drills and games. She always begins with a few minutes of stretching to warm up, and lately has been finishing with runs on the mini tramp with girls taking turns doing tricks like flips and tucks onto the landing pads. It’s nice to think how the skills developed in gymnastics— strength, balance, and flexibility, for example — easily translate to other physical activities and sports.

Like dancing… for, despite a passing band of rainy weather after dinner, tonight we were all excited to dance with the boys of Camp Carolina. We actually held two dances, the Juniors and Middlers staying here in the Rockbrook gym, and our Seniors loading up eight buses and vans to make the trip over to Camp Carolina’s dining hall for their dance. We also offered an alternative activity for those girls who thought dancing wasn’t their thing tonight. These dances are fun for the girls because they are mostly about jumping around with each other, being silly and singing to the music. The boys are almost simply a backdrop (though perhaps less so for the oldest girls). Several of the more popular songs have well-known choreographed group dance moves like the “Cha Cha Slide,” or even that classic, “YMCA.” Overall, this evening was a chance to dress up a little, maybe get your hair “just right,” and enjoy a night of playful dancing.

Camp Dance ChildrenCamp Dance Teens


This is Me

August 8, 2014

Pair of Camp kidsCamp Counselor Camper GirlCanoe Trip KidLast week I wrote about how the many examples of “imperfection” and “incompleteness” around us at camp— in the environment, in our abilities, and even in our personality and appearance —can be understood as beautiful. I suggested that the Rockbrook camp culture, as it celebrates our differences and eccentricities, parallels in some ways the Wabi-sabi aesthetic. Camp is a place that loves our quirks. It’s a safe place for being “who we really are,” a special place where everyone can proudly say “This is me!” and feel they belong, are supported and loved.

We understand this and work hard to make Rockbrook that kind of haven. Instead of suggesting all of us should fake it to align with some “perfection” of personality or appearance, camp is a community built upon authenticity— real selves having real relationships in the real world. Here at Rockbrook, we know the value of honest communication, spirited cooperation, sincere generosity, mutual respect and care. As I’ve mentioned before, these values make this an extraordinarily friendly place where relationships are knitted tighter than what’s ordinarily possible. I believe this is what makes camp so much more than just “fun.” It’s what makes camp meaningful, and ultimately transformative for the girls here.

Put differently, Rockbrook is a place where we all can feel comfortable being vulnerable. The camp community, as it both celebrates and supports our individualities, inspires the courage we might need to open up and expose who we really are. Life at camp isn’t so scary, but instead feels joyful and liberating.

All of this brings to mind Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012), and its argument for cultivating a habit of vulnerability. The book observes that most people spend too much time “armoring” themselves against social criticism (and its associated feelings of shame) and as a result tend to be isolated from the people and deep experiences around them. Brown argues also that learning to accept our vulnerability can enhance our relationships with others, inspire us to be more creative, and make our everyday work more enjoyable. Retaining a spirit of vulnerability (which is different than weakness, by the way) is a powerful means of personal growth.

Sound familiar? We know camp is “a place for girls to grow,” as we’ve often claimed, and now we have Brown’s research and writing to explain how it works. It’s particularly interesting how she argues that vulnerability is “absolutely essential,” and that “we can’t know love and belonging and creativity and joy” without it. If so, and if Rockbrook is a safe place for young people to feel comfortable with their imperfection and incompleteness, to be proud of their true selves (… “This is me!” …), to be vulnerable, then camp life provides a great benefit far beyond the activities and special events recorded in the photo gallery each night. It may just be the perfect place to learn not only about your authentic self, but to explore what it means to live a “Wholehearted life” rich with true connections.

If you’d like to learn more about Brené Brown and her research, you can watch her TED talk. So far it’s been watched more than 12 million times.

Camp Group of Girls


A Very Cool Setting

August 7, 2014

Camp Yoga ClassGirls Nifty KnitterThe Hillside Lodge, one of the original three stone lodges built in the 1920s from rock quarried here on the property, is the setting for our Yoga activity. It’s a wonderful space— a smooth, hardwood floor, rough-cut stone walls, a 4ft fireplace with stone mantel, paned windows and thick oak doors. It has very simple log furniture, a few low benches, but is otherwise a nice open space for Line meetings, morning assemblies, and evening programs. During the daily yoga classes, the girls spread out their colorful foam mats on the floor, and Mary Alice, the head instructor, plays calm relaxing music while introducing basic yoga poses and positions. The building is itself beautiful and calm, so it’s the perfect place for doing yoga.

Another very cool setting for one of our camp activities is the shady back porch of the “Curosty” cabin. There you’ll find girls doing needle crafts like knitting, embroidery and cross stitching. This log cabin is one of two (the other being the “Goodwill” cabin) that Mrs. Carrier moved here from her family’s plantation in South Carolina when she founded the camp in 1921. We think both cabins date from before 1888, when her father and mother purchased the plantation.  Cool and breezy, and with the creek quietly gurgling nearby, the Curosty cabin porch is a great place to hang out and knit, and of course chat. Some of the girls are using traditional knitting needles, but these hoop-shaped “Nifty Knitters” have been very popular lately. Working with colorful yarns, these hoops make it easy to weave tubes that become woolen hats. You may have seen photos of a few being worn around camp, in fact.

Camp Lake RockBeans and Plantains for LunchThe lake also comes to mind as a unique part of the environment at Rockbrook. In particular, it’s neat how gigantic rocks frame it, with the biggest being about 25 feet tall next to the water slide. A waterfall constantly tumbles down on one end, and on the other there are two huge flat boulders where the girls can spread their towels and lounge in the sun after swimming. Hidden in the woods among huge trees, and filled by the cold mountain water of Dunn’s Creek, the lake attracts girls all day long. It might be to catch tadpoles, or to cool off in the water, or just to sit nearby, but the lake is a big part of our day at camp. And we love it!

I can’t not mention today’s lunch because it was amazing. Rick made us black beans and posole, and served it with roasted plantains, queso fresco, salsa, sour cream and tortilla chips. The beans had a wonderful smokey, but not spicy, taste that balanced the mild posole (hominy) nicely. Combined with the sweet plantains, it was delicious. Of course the salad bars (which included pasta, chicken, tuna and rice salads, as well as fresh veggies) and peanut butter and jelly station were also seeing plenty of action, but overall I’d say most of the girls tried this traditional Latin American meal. And by many accounts, really enjoyed it.

Camp Drumming CircleOur after dinner, optional “Twilight” activity was a festival of rhythm and dancing tonight as we welcomed back Billy Zanski for another of his west African drumming workshops. Billy has been playing Djembe for years, has studied under master drummer Bolokada Conde from Guinea, and now teaches private lessons from his drum shop in Asheville. He’s great with the girls and is an enthusiastic instructor. Arriving loaded down with different Djembe and Dundun drums, Billy led us through several rhythms up in the Hillside Lodge with campers and counselors taking turns on all the drums. The dundun bass drums kept everyone together with a core beat while some girls slapped their djembes, and others danced with colorful scarves or responded to Billy’s rhythmic chants. This many drums being played together is loud and infectious, somehow obviously social, and uplifting. In the context of camp, already a place of happy enthusiasm, it’s guaranteed to to be really fun as well.


Hands in the Real World

August 6, 2014

Paging through the Rockbrook photo gallery, it’s quickly obvious that our girls are extraordinarily crafty. In the Curosty Cabin, one end of the dining hall (“Hodge Podge”), Hobby Nook Cabin, the two pottery studios and several of the porches around camp, we’re being creative and making things. It might be with fibers or clay, and it might require a brush or a loom, but dozens of girls have arts and crafts projects in the works.

Camp Bracelet GirlKid Weaving Loom CampCamp Shirt Painting

Throughout every day, in other words, Rockbrook girls are working with their hands. They’re twisting (friendship bracelets), braiding (basket reeds), tying (and dying t-shirts), painting (still life compositions), rolling (coils of clay), gluing (paper collages), sewing (stuffed animals), and weaving (loom fabrics). Here, take a look:

This is great stuff for several reasons. Working creatively with different materials like this encourages kids to experiment, try unusual combinations, and “see what happens.” There’s a joyful attitude toward the process and the end result. Also, though, I think there’s a benefit from simply working with real stuff, as opposed to what modern life ordinarily requires from us, namely a daily experience built upon abstract constructions and virtual representations (think about all those screens!). Perhaps, as we’ve lost our “manual competence” (recalling Matthew Crawford’s argument), we’ve also diminished a basic satisfaction of being human, the feeling of making something useful and beautiful. If so, then camp is a welcome return, making all the arts and crafts at Rockbrook concrete opportunities for girls to be creative while recalling the deep pleasures of interacting with the real world.

Summer Camp Kayaker GirlGirl Gaga GameThis photo shows a few girls playing Ga-ga Ball in our octagonal Ga-ga pit located near the gym. If you haven’t heard of it, this game is all the rage. It’s essentially a form of dodgeball (sometimes called “Israeli Dodgeball”) where players hit a small ball with their hands instead of catching & throwing it. Any number of girls can play, and the goal is to hit other players in the leg without being hit yourself. It’s fast paced, as the ball flies around the pit bouncing off the walls, girls jump wildly out of the way, and players who are hit hop out of the pit. Like other forms of dodgeball, the game continues until one player remains. At that point, of course, everyone hops right back in the pit to start another game. During free times at camp, before lunch and dinner, for example, you can count on a crowd down at the Ga-ga pit.

Our head kayaking instructors, Leland and Andria, have been working with lots of girls at the lake preparing them for river trips. In addition to learning about the gear, the girls are practicing basic kayaking techniques like how to “wet exit” (escape the boat when it flips), and different paddle strokes to maneuver the boats. They are very excited to master these basics and were even more so to sign up for the trip to the Tuckaseegee River today or the Green River tomorrow. These girls can kayak!

Sliding Rock KidsDolly's Ice CreamLater this afternoon, for our Cabin Day activity, all the Middlers and their counselors took a ride into the Pisgah Forest for a picnic up near the Blue Ridge Parkway. We brought hot dogs (and grilled veggie dogs), pasta salad, fruit and potato chips to eat for dinner, and afterwards spent a little time digesting by playing a huge game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” on the grassy field. This name game was even more fun tonight with a group this size (almost 90 campers and staff members).  Our next stop took us to Sliding Rock, where the girls had a blast zipping down the 60ft, natural water slide. As you might guess the water of Looking Glass Creek that forms the slide is a “refreshing” mountain temperature (i.e. really cold!), so part of the fun is belting out a scream to match the intensity of sitting down in that water. Just about everyone was daring enough to take the plunge, and some went down 6 or 7 times in all. Very exciting fun… but there was one more stop to top things off— Dolly’s Dairy Bar. With their combination “Camp Flavors” like “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” and traditional ice cream flavors, Dolly’s offers a sweet treat for everyone’s taste. The girls happily lined up to select their flavor and then, after that first yummy lick, enjoyed sitting and chatting with one another on the porch or at the tables nearby. When Rockbrook arrives at Dolly’s, like tonight with our big group, it becomes quite a party with the girls singing songs, laughing and posing for photos. Now dark outside and our hair still wet, but happy and excited, we loaded up the buses and headed back to camp finishing an excellent outing.


In and On the Water

August 5, 2014

Morning Outdoor Pancake PicnicWhen the camp bell rings at 8am each morning, when it’s typically cool and foggy making everything a little grey and moist outside, there’s rarely anyone out on the hill in the center of camp. That was true this morning too, except several staff members were quietly scurrying around to set something up in all three of the stone lodges. They had folding tables, stacks of plates, bowls of fruit, chocolate, maple and caramel syrup, whipped cream, and colorful sprinkles. They were clearly up to something, excited about the unannounced treat they had in store for the campers. The best clue explaining all this was the griddles, spatulas and huge bowls of pancake batter they finally carried out from the kitchen. It was “Pancakes and PJs,” a surprise breakfast cooked and served in the lodges, and enjoyed by everyone while sitting outside in one of the red porch rockers or on the hill in crazy creek chairs. With sausage and fruit on the side, the girls loaded up their pancakes with sweet toppings, and spilled out everywhere to chat in small groups and watch the sun break through the fog. Something completely new and different, it was a delightful way to wake up and start the day.

Girls with the feet in a streamCamp Water Slide FunIt’s always easy to play in the water at Rockbrook. First of all, the lake itself  provides a place to cool off, take a swim, ride the water slide, or just float in a tube. But my favorite way the girls play in the water here is by exploring, often during their free time, one of the many streams cutting down from the hills above the camp. One of these, near the Curosty cabin, flows along a grassy bank making it a perfect place to soak your feet (even when wearing long pants!), float and race your flip flop shoes, keep reeds wet when weaving a basket, or hone your Hydraulic Engineering skills by building a dam from rocks, sticks, bark and mud (Fortunately, these dams are never completely watertight!). The other, which passes in front of the Goodwill cabin, flows over and around several large rocks making it a thriving habitat for stream creatures like crayfish, salamanders, and water striders. It’s great fun for the girls to wade into this stream, paper cup in hand, and inevitably scoop up something interesting, and wiggly. Standing on one of the big rocks in this stream, a camper exclaimed, “This is the most beautiful place on earth!” At one level, I think she’s right. It’s certainly a place full of wonderful plants and animals ready to discover.

Camp French Broad FloatCamp Nantahala FloatCamp Girls Nantahala CelebrationIt’s also easy to play on the water at Rockbrook. This is because throughout the week we offer optional canoe, kayak and rafting trips on many of the local rivers. After the girls learn their basic strokes on our lake, they can sign up for these trips. For example today, Emily led a group of 6 canoes on a leisurely float down a section of the French Broad River near camp. This river is wide and lined with trees in this section. The water moves along gently making it a very relaxing paddle. Meanwhile, further west in the mountains, a group of Middlers and Seniors were spending the day whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. Some of these girls spent the night at our outpost camp, while others came just for the day to raft. Clean and very cold, the Nantahala River provides a great whitewater workout… of muscles paddling and bouncing over the rapids, and of vocal chords screaming with delight to every bump. It’s a thrilling adventure for the girls.

Our silly side came out after dinner tonight when the Middlers presented an all-girl “Prom” for our twilight activity. Essentially a dance party, the girls dressed up and came down to the gym to dance and sing to their favorite “girl power songs.” The posters decorating the walls reminded us of famous strong women (e.g., Jane Goodall) and “girls’ bands, like Taylor Swift. The dancing was lighthearted and carefree, free of criticism, competition and posturing. It was both fun and funny, partly because Rockbrook is simply a friendly supportive place, but also I think because there were no boys around. This all-girl, “no boys allowed,” environment, one that eliminates the powerful gaze of the opposite sex, allows our campers to loosen up a bit and enjoy themselves as they truly are— friendly, sensitive, caring young ladies. Without concern for what “the boys might think,” girls, particularly teenage girls, thrive, becoming more confident and self-assured as they develop positive relationships with those around them. At camp, this translates to simply having a great time with your friends. I think everyone here would agree; camp should not be about boys. Instead, it’s about us— living together in this beautiful place, growing closer as we share all these special experiences, and celebrating the fun of it all.

All Girls No Boys Dancing