Second Session Video Highlights

July 5, 2015
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Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks hung out at camp again this week dropping into different activities with his camera. Combined with a few still images and footage from our adventure trips, he’s edited a short highlights video for us.

It can sometimes be difficult to understand all that goes on at Rockbrook, or more importantly, how it feels for the girls to be here. This video does a fantastic job conveying a healthy slice of camp life.

Take a look! We think you’ll really enjoy it.

Sheer Joy

July 4, 2015
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4th of July CampersWe don’t take the 4th of July lightly around here. In fact, it might be the peak of the summer, combining everything we love about Rockbrook and then pushing it just a little higher, adding a tad more intensity, and turning up the volume… all, of course, just for the fun of it.

We began the day early, before the regular rising bell, like camp has for decades on the 4th, with the equestrian staff riding down the cabin lines shouting, “The British are coming!” The staff had braided red, white and blue ribbons into a couple of the horse’s tails and one had a small flag fixed to its saddle. As the campers woke to the sounds of hoof beats outside their cabins and all this strange yelling about “the British’ (which by the way, Paul Revere probably called them the “Regulars”), they stumbled out onto the hill, still dressed in their pajamas, for a flag raising ceremony led by the Hi-Ups and everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing America the Beautiful.

At breakfast, the campers were met by the first wave of decorations meant to help celebrate the 4th of July. The dining hall had streamers, posters, ribbons, and balloons hung in every direction. We set a pile of red, white and blue head bands, stickers and temporary tattoos on all the tables, and combined with the campers’ own festive shirts, tights, and hats, the patriotic color scheme was elaborate, to say the least! Rick had eggs, sausage (veggie too) and oven roasted red potatoes for breakfast, and after singing several songs like “Yankee Doodle,” “Your a Grand Old Flag,” and Katy Perry’s “Firework,” the girls were definitely in the spirit of the day as they set out for their morning activities.

For the afternoon, we scheduled a fun, exciting series of all-camp relays that ran the campers in stages between the Alpine Tower at one end of the camp to the Landsports field to finish up. Part group games, part physical tasks, and part cooperation relays, the entire event challenged three teams (red, while and blue) comprised of girls mixed from all three age groups. Each team started by dressing and decorating themselves with washable body paint in their team color, and by creating a team cheer. Also, all the girls on each team selected an individual relay, a particular challenge to tackle and advance their team toward the finish.

Greased watermelon relay game at the lakesponge bucket relay gamevictory pose shaving cream girl

There were 17 (!) different relays in all, so everyone had a role to play for their team. There were traditional relay race events like Dizzy Lizzy, Greasy Watermelon, Sponge and Bucket, 3-legged, and Egg and Spoon, but also silly challenges like moving marbles from one bucket of water to another using just you feet, and passing a banana backwards down a line of people lying on the ground, again using just your feet. One game used water pistols to roll a beach ball, another challenged the girls to sidestep while holding a balloon between a partner’s head, and still another required the group to thaw a frozen t-shirt as fast as possible. Dashing from relay to relay, the girls were so excited to finish their event and then cheer on their teammates as the mob grew larger the closer it got to the Landsports field. There we had music and watermelon to enjoy while the final events completed. We had a pie eating contest, and a crazy red, while and blue shaving cream fight at the end of the afternoon. But as a final surprise, Richie, Rockbrook’s builder and facilities manager, arranged to have a firetruck ready to spray a huge fountain of water up in the air. Instant rainstorm! With fun, danceable pop music blasting, the girls sweaty and messy from the relays and shaving cream, they had a complete blast together dancing around as the fire hose showered water.  Almost unimaginably, it was a moment of sheer joy for everyone.

water squirt ball relay gamecrunched head balloon game relaybanana pass relay game

After cleaning up, we all enjoyed a traditional picnic on the hill, a yummy supper of grilled chicken breasts, baked beans, corn on the cob, and potato chips. We don’t serve soft drinks at camp ordinarily, but tonight we offered the girls each a can of Cheerwine, kept cold in the creek in front of the Goodwill cabin. For dessert it was shortbread, strawberries, blueberries and fresh whipped cream— red, white and blue.. again!

As night fell, the finale of the day was our own fireworks show. Chase was ready with glow sticks for all the girls and a playlist of fun music to blast during the show. For the next 35 minutes, we all enjoyed another dance party, as the girls twirled their glow sticks, sang along to the music and cheered with every sparkling blast in the air.

It’s hard to beat a day like this with one celebration after another, one exciting surprise after another. When you have all these great people having this much crazy fun, I can’t think of a better way to spend the 4th of July.

crazy camp girlshappy messy camp girls

Smiling Faces

July 3, 2015
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Smiling Camp FriendsSmiling Teen CamperAnother remarkable thing about life at camp, something that distinguishes it from ordinary events at home and school, is that when you walk around and see camp girls interacting with each other and their counselors, you are very likely to see someone smiling. It often includes laughing too, but incredibly, there are smiles while doing crafts, grins jumping to avoid the gaga ball, smiles at the lake, atop a horse, while on belay climbing, even while just walking down the cabin line on the way to lunch. Our online photo gallery provides a glimpse of this, and while it’s not everyone at every minute, it’s almost unsettling how regularly you encounter a smiling face during your day at Rockbrook. Recently a mother and her daughter touring camp noticed it as well. The daughter said, “Everyone here is so nice and friendly,” referring to the smiling greetings she got throughout the tour.

The best way to understand this phenomenon, of course, is to attribute the smiles to how the girls are feeling at camp, to how relaxed and happy they are here. All of the fun things we do at camp contribute to this happiness, as does the fantastic food, and beautiful, wooded mountain setting, but I suspect this feeling of camp life is more essentially derived from our spirited community than from what have or what we do. Put differently, it’s our relationships with the caring group of people around us, based upon respect for one another, that inspires this deep feeling of comfort and happiness. It’s the people who make smiling the language of Rockbrook. Knowing you belong to this community of kind, “sweet” people, “nice and friendly” folks, is a powerful force. Feeling it, you can’t help but smile. I’d say we’re all fortunate to feel it, and smile, everyday at camp.

Teen Girl kayaking celebrationToday was a big day for adventure trips, with rock climbing, canoeing, zip lining, day hiking and kayaking all pulling campers out of their regularly scheduled activities. We announce these trips during meals, sometimes at dinner to sign up a trip leaving early the next morning, and sometimes at breakfast for shorter trips, like to our zip line course for example. The kayakers were particularly excited about their trip because it was an all day paddle down the lower section of the Green River, near Saluda, NC. This section of the Green is perfect for beginners because its class I and II rapids offer plenty of opportunities to practice ferrying and catching eddies while not being too difficult. Instructors Jamie, Marjorie Ann, Leland and Andria led 9 campers down the river.  A highlight of the day was stopping to play at the “Surf Rapid,” a spot where a standing wave is formed in the river allowing boaters to scoot in, pointing up stream, and be held in place. Surfing in the mountains of North Carolina! Now after tackling the Green, these girls are excited to paddle more challenging rivers. Stay tuned, because next week, we’ve got plans!

Kayaking surfing whitewater wave

A Haven of Encouragement

July 2, 2015
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Camp dancing girls in mirror
I was talking with a CIT (17-year-old “counselor in training”) recently, and she told me something interesting. She said, “Rockbrook taught me how to dance.” She had been a camper for many years before this summer training to join the Rockbrook staff, so I wasn’t too surprised, thinking that she had probably taken our dance activity and learned different moves there. But she went on explaining that before camp she was too shy to dance at all, “so embarrassed,” she remembered “hiding at middle school dances.” And then she said something really profound. “Rockbrook proved that I’m stronger than I think.”

What a wonderful affirmation of our mission at Rockbrook! Driving everything we do— from the program activities, special events, adventure trips, to the silly songs we sing at meals, for example, there is a camp culture that emphasizes kindness and generosity, attention and care for all those around us. For the counselors and campers alike, camp is a haven of encouragement, perfectly suited to foster self confidence, resilience and ultimately self esteem. Our goal for everyone here at Rockbrook is for them to realize that their authentic self, who they really are, is strong and beautiful. We hope camp provides real experiences proving that deep strength and beauty. You might think, you can’t dance, because maybe someone once gave you a funny look, but let’s try it and you’ll see you can! Figuring that out, and applying that confidence to other things, is such a fantastic lesson for young girls to learn, and camp makes it possible.

girls horseback rider in two-point positionA trip down to the horseback riding facilities of Rockbrook, down past the Carrier House, through the tunnel, and left at the French Broad river, never fails to impress. Members of the equestrian staff (all nine of them) will be hustling with barn chores, working with horses and campers preparing for the riding lessons that happen throughout the day. With 30 horses in the RBC herd this summer, and at last count, 88 girls taking horseback riding lessons this session, there’s a lot going on! Many of the girls are brand new to riding, but have by now learned how to tack up, mount, and feel comfortable on a horse. Most have quickly progressed, confidently walking and steering their mounts, over poles and in the two-point position. This photo shows instructor Gabby leading Coby, a 20-year-old, chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, as he helps a camper experience her first trot. It’s a great example of how the Rockbrook riding instructors are excellent and genuinely love introducing girls to riding, teaching them new skills, and helping advanced riders grow stronger and more confident. With this kind of quality instruction, these Rockbrook girls are really getting good!

camp water slide splashingOn the far side of the lake where the waterfall splashes in, there’s a dock and bridge leading to a set of stairs up a 30-foot tower. The top of that tower is the launching point for our water slide, affectionately known as “Big Samantha” (for no other reason than a few years back a Junior camper named it that, and it stuck). Made of soft vinyl that’s nice and slippery when we run a little water down it, the slide provides a 50-foot screaming, cool ride into the lake. One by one, the girls climb the tower, hurl themselves down the blue vinyl tarp, with spray splashing up, and finish by shooting out into the lake below. A short swim back to the exit ladders awaits, and then it’s back around for another slide!

indoor climbing wall camp girlWhen it turned drizzly late this afternoon, the climbing instructors moved from the Alpine Climbing tower into the gym so they could set up the climbs on our indoor climbing wall. The wall takes up one corner of the gym stretching about 25 feet from the floor to the rafters. Being in the corner, one route up uses both walls, teaching the girls a climbing move called “stemming” often used in a dihedral (inside corner). The wall has colored tape marking six different routes which vary by the size, shape and placement of the holds. The most difficult portion in slightly overhanging, which requires significantly more finger strength just to stay on the wall! Today each girl who signed up for climbing picked 2 different routes to attempt. The instructors coached them along the way encouraging the girls to focus on technique rather than simply getting to the top— balancing, shifting weight, and making each move slowly and smoothly. It was great to see the girls understand this coaching and climb beautifully.

Girls Camp Campers

Giddy with Wet Hair

July 1, 2015
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Kayak Camp Roll ClinicWhen you squish yourself into a colorful plastic kayak and seal yourself inside the boat by snapping a rubber, elastic skirt over the cockpit opening, like 16 or so Rockbrook girls did this morning, the boat feels like it’s part of you, making it fun to maneuver through the water. Using a double-bladed paddle, the girls can turn their boats quickly. In moving water though, when currents and obstacles can surprise you, these boats can suddenly tip over. At that point, a kayaker can slip out of her boat by tucking forward and pulling a loop on her spray skirt, performing a so called “wet exit.” There is a more advanced self rescue technique, however, called an “eskimo roll” where the kayaker stays in the boat. Rolling a kayak takes some practice to learn, so today Jamie, Leland and Andria, our kayaking instructors taught a “roll clinic” to girls at the lake. They demonstrated the coordinated series of actions a roll requires— tuck, set, sweep, snap, and lean —head, hips, shoulders and paddle all working together. Then, working one-on-one, they helped each camper learn the technique. Later, several Seniors proudly let me know that they “got their roll” and they were excited to get out on the river tomorrow.

Forest Marker ShoesAlso this morning, Jayne and Hunter led a group of girls on a hike to one of the highest points east of the Mississippi River, Black Balsam Knob (6214 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6040 ft). With a lunch packed, they left Rockbrook (2300 ft) and drove up and up, through misty clouds, to the Blue Ridge Parkway where the Art Loeb trail crosses near the road. This is way up there, high above most of the trees in the area, and even above the clouds filling the valleys below. This photo shows a US Geological Survey Bench Mark, indicating a point where the elevation has been measured and recorded (as well as the variety of footwear that can tackle this kind of high altitude hiking!). This was a great trip, exposing the girls to a uniquely stark, natural environment. The feeling being up there is amazing and everyone loved the impressive view.

For our afternoon cabin day (when individual activities are paused, so each cabin group can do something special together), we gathered all the Middlers and the Mini Session Seniors for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest, and a stop at Sliding Rock. Ready in swim suits, we drove to our favorite picnic area and had hotdogs, homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit. We ate quickly— we’re always building appetites here at camp! —and then ran around a bit playing tag games before loading all the buses again for the short trip to “the Rock.”

Sliding Rock Girls CampSliding Rock Summer Camp

Sliding Rock is formed by Looking Glass Creek as it cascades over a 60-foot dome of rock ending in a deep pool at the bottom. It’s our habit to visit Sliding Rock after the area is officially closed to the public, but because we have a Forest Service permit that requires us to be self-sufficient with respect to first aid and lifeguards, we are permitted to slide after hours. This is great because, like tonight, we often have the place to ourselves and our mob of girls (82 of them this time) can enjoy more slide time. Visiting Sliding Rock is also our habit because the girls absolutely love it. It’s the roar of the “freezing” water as it spills down the rock. It’s the piercing screams of the girls as they take turns slipping, spinning and sliding down. It’s watching your friends splash and swim at the bottom. It’s all just super fun.

To top off the outing, we made one more stop— Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Everyone screamed (again!) with excitement when we pulled into the parking lot. With “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” and other “Camp Flavors” on the menu, as well as more traditional flavors to chose from, it was simple for everyone to order a sweet treat they liked. Once again, when the Rockbrook girls arrived and everyone had their cup or cone, Dolly’s became quite a party. With this many girls, it doesn’t take long for them to start singing songs, laughing, and posing for silly photos. Back in the buses, still giddy with wet hair and probably a smudge of ice cream on a face or two, we were soon back at camp, happy to warm up and turn in for the evening.

Girls Summer Camp

Loud and Lively

June 30, 2015
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Teenager girls choresFresh baked muffinsThe “Hi-Ups” are our 16-year-old, 10th graders at camp. They live together in a special two-story cabin “high above” (hence their name) the camp in the woods behind the dining hall. This cabin, in addition to having a bright front porch with a clear view of the final zip line in our Zip Course, is rumored to have secret amenities these oldest campers enjoy. For example, according to some junior campers, the Hi-Ups have a flat screen TV and a Jacuzzi in their cabin… Wink, wink 😉 The Hi-Ups are essentially in charge of the dining hall. They arrive before each meal to set all the tables. They serve the large bowls and platters of food, fill drink pitchers, distributing what each table (cabin of girls) needs for every meal. Then, when everyone is done eating and the announcements have wrapped up, the real work begins— cleaning the dining hall. That means racking up the dishes for the CIT dishwashers, wiping down tables, sweeping the floor, and emptying all the trash cans. You can imagine, with almost 280 people eating, this is quite a chore. It helps to have many Hi-Ups, like the group of 15 this session, but in any case there is work to be done. And this group is doing that work superbly. With a little Taylor Swift playing in the background, they are cheerfully tackling these chores 3 times a day. You’d be proud if you saw them.

Another Hi-Up responsibility is distributing the muffins during our morning “muffin break.” The kitchen crew bakes up a surprise flavor of muffin each morning in time to give everyone a warm, soft, usually quite sweet, treat between the 1st and 2nd activity periods (around 10:45). The Hi-Ups grab the trays of muffins, and hand them out to the other campers trough a screened window slid open on the end of the dining hall porch. Today we enjoyed pumpkin muffins, and the day before that classic chocolate chip. When you write your girls at camp (sent an email lately?), ask them what their favorite muffin flavor is so far. I bet the word “chocolate” will be in their answer!

Girl Loading a GunCamp Quilting ProjectThe second day of activities moved everyone about the camp today being creative, active and adventurous along the way. In pottery, a few girls were trying their hand on the potter’s wheel while others were pressing lace into slabs of clay to make decorative tiles. The jewelry making activity was introducing beads and multi-strand friendship bracelets, while in Curosty, tabletop and floor looms clicked away. A group of juniors sat in the sun by the creek weaving baskets just as other girls worked on watercolors with the counselors teaching painting in Hobby Nook. We heard the pop of .22 caliber rifles from below at the riflery range and the “thunk” of arrows finding their targets at the archery activity area. Girls were learning back flips in Gymnastics, and cross-court volleys in tennis, playing ga-ga ball and later a huge game of kickball on the landsports field. Climbers were “on belay” climbing the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock high above camp, while 2 groups of girls made their way through the RBC Zip Line course (which has 3 zips through the woods and 3 different bridges connecting start and end points). The kayakers and canoers were busy learning strokes on the lake, as other girls practiced their cannonballs off the diving board.

Rafting crazy RapidSuper Costume at Summer CampMeanwhile, 64 campers took rafting trips today down the Nantahala River in Swain County. We offer these trips to all the Middler and Senior campers (Junior campers are too small according to our Forest Service permit) and generally about 95% of them sign up. The trip is that fun! The first group of 5 rafts spent the night camping at our nearby RBC outpost, waking up and arriving at the river to meet our veteran guides at the river’s put-in. The weather was a little misty starting out, so we suited up all the girls in blue spray jackets for extra warmth. After smashing through the rapids “Patton’s Run,” “Pyramid Rock,” and “Delbar’s Rock,” the sun poked out and it felt great. The Nantahala is a nice beginner’s whitewater river providing a balance between easy, calm sections and rapids that build as you go. In this way, the whole trip alternates between singing camp songs while floating along and screaming your head off through the bumps and spray of the larger rapids. The sun stayed out for the afternoon trip, and we were all back at camp in time for dinner.

For a special dinner too, because tonight was Birthday Night! And even better, it was Super Hero Birthday Night! So out came the costumes… Batman, superman, spiderman (their female versions of course). We saw Captain America, Wonder Woman, Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and many, many spontaneous, highly imaginative, super girls. All over the dining hall, as everyone sat according to their birth month, there were exclamations of “Pow!” “Bam!” and “Whamo!” Mixing the cabins and age groups like this was a fun way to both celebrate everyone’s birthday and enjoy 12 different homemade birthday cakes that the Hi-Ups decorated earlier today. We must have sung “Happy Birthday” or shouted it out 30 or more times! Still, it was a silly, loud and lively, meal made even more fun by all the great girls being together and enjoying it.

Tennis Camp Girls

Truly Meaningful

June 25, 2015
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Camp Uniform GirlsSpirit Fire Candle LightingSpirit Camp Fire Line UPAs we romp through our days here at Rockbrook, dressing up, singing zany songs, laughing and smiling more than not, it’s easy to forget that a big part of what fuels this exuberance is something quiet and deeply emotional. There are feelings at work here, feelings of kindness, caring and generosity that have defined our camp community, and it’s these positive feelings for each other, deep down, that make what we do so much fun. How much we all love camp deepens as this “Rockbrook Spirit” grows, drawing us all-the-closer each day.

Tonight during our closing “Spirit Fire,” we witnessed just how powerful these feelings are for your girls. How they sat (arm and arm, as closely as possible), what they said (about the friendships and personal confidence they’ve discovered at camp), and how many of them were moved to tears during the campfire —made it clear how truly meaningful this session of camp has been. Since 1921, Rockbrook girls have closed their sessions in this way, paying tribute, essentially, to each other, recalling that the personal strides they’ve experienced, while derived from inner courage, were largely made possible by the support they felt from their friends.

It was beautiful to see, girls of all ages expressing their gratitude, gathered around a fire, with stars and tall trees all around. The evening closed with Sarah lighting a candle from the campfire, and everyone then lighting their own small white candle. Guided by only candlelight, all the campers and their counselors then formed a line around the lake, facing inward. With crickets and frogs punctuating their soft singing, and golden candlelight reflecting off the lake, the whole scene was just gorgeous. There’s just no better way to affirm what camp means to us, and to mark the great session we just shared.

First Session Video Part Two

June 24, 2015
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We had such a great response from the last video we posted, we’re excited to share with you another one taken during First Session. Robbie from Go Swan Filmworks again spent the day with us this past Saturday filming short moments of life at Rockbrook. He’s edited all that footage into this little video. We love it, and hope you will too!

Feels Just Fine

June 23, 2015
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Cool Swim Girls at Summer CampThe intense summer heat the southeast has been experiencing has crept up this wooded mountain too. While not quite record setting, we’ve been only a couple of degrees shy of that, and everyone’s been remarking lately about the heat and humidity. Fortunately, Rockbrook is at an elevation of 2,250 feet above sea level, and that helps temperatures drop at night. So while we have broken into the 90s a bit in the afternoon, we are enjoying 60s in the cabins while sleeping. Add to that the many opportunities to cool off in our mountain-stream fed lake (the “Free Swim” periods before lunch and dinner, for example), and all this summer heat feels just fine.

Gaga Jump GirlFriendship Bracelet MakerIt’s hard to say exactly, but a very high percentage of the girls here, both campers and staff members, have water bottles that they carry around throughout the day… even more so, now, with this extra warm weather.  Well, It might be surprising, but with more water bottles around, we also see more friendship bracelets because they are often tied to the bottle’s handles. These are not simply campy decorations, though I suppose they are that too. No, these are unfinished friendship bracelets, now being carried around, always at-the-ready for a little more knot tying. The water bottle handles make perfect fixed points for tying the strands, yet also a great way to bring that fixed point with you on the go. Most girls will have more than one partially completed friendship bracelet dangling from their bottle, having several open projects because they have multiple friends in mind to receive them. There are a lot of friends. Camp is just that way.

The mastery being revealed these days at the Ga-ga pit is marvelous. With many hours of practice sharpening their skills, there are girls playing who are so agile, they are consistently in the game the longest. They leap from one foot to the other avoiding the ball, easily anticipating what each bounce will bring. It’s amazing to watch these girls play such a fast-paced game, and it’s equally exciting for them to play too.

Camp Super HeroesCaptain AmericaSince the very first day of camp this session, the CA campers (our 9th graders) have been planning a surprise party for the entire camp. After secretly choosing a theme for their party (their “Banquet”), these girls have since worked everyday to design decorations, music, costumes, skits, dances, and special food —all revolving around their theme. Their theme? Superheroes! The girls dressed as their favorite hero, 16 different ones. In addition to Spiderman, Batman and Ironman, we had Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, and Batgirl to even things out. They performed a skit that assembled thes powerful women, and another that featured the Avengers (Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, and Captain America). The meal included “Superman Skewers” (fresh strawberries. blueberries, bananas and pineapple), “Power Sticks” (celery and carrot sticks), “Pop! Chicken” with Steak Fries, and “City’s Rubble” (Oreo puddling with gummy worms) for dessert.

Dressed in their new blue RBC t-shirts, everyone at camp danced and sang together between the skits and choreographed dances, as plenty of candy (and pop songs) fueled the whole event. So much stimulation— happy excited friends, food, music and dancing —it’s easy to see why the Rockbrook Banquets, including this one, are a highlight of every camp session. They are awesome!

Cmp Super hero costume party