Rockbrook Camp News Archive

There's always a lot happening at a sleepaway camp like Rockbrook, and this blog is the way to keep up with it all. We regularly post news updates, photos of camp happenings, reports of special camper events, and Rockbrook surprises about it's program, campers and staff.

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Shoulder to Shoulder

August 13, 2014
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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
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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
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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.

Playful Balance

August 9, 2014
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

A Marvelous Beginning

August 3, 2014
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Camp Counselor with small girl camper“Rockbrook Request: new campers!” That’s what the counselors cheered this morning as we prepared to welcome our August Mini Session campers. It’s always exciting for new friends to arrive at camp, but that’s especially true for this last session of the summer. These are the campers who have been waiting the longest for camp, and for that reason have been banking their camp enthusiasm for months. Now, finally, as they drove into camp and everything was suddenly real— actual counselors, a bunk bed to choose in the cabin, and so many people to meet! —all their stored up energy was ready to come out. That kind of anticipation can at times also bring with it a few butterflies, but that’s something that ordinarily fades quite quickly once we channel that energy into the daily action of camp life. From the smiling faces I saw on the hill, that’s already begun.

Right before lunch, the whole camp assembled on the grassy hill just below the Junior Lodge. Off in the distance, you could see the blue ridge mountains and easily make out the shining face of Cedar Rock, thanks to the clear sunny weather. For the newly arrived campers and the full session girls alike, it was great fun to sing the Line Songs together, find out which cabins won the “Mop Award” (best inspection record) this week, and, for some, to try out their new Crazy Creek chairs. The Hi-Ups led everyone in singing the camp song, and before heading to lunch, we all posed to capture an all-camp photo. Here is that photo. It’s a little hard to make out everyone in a group this large, but if you click and download the high resolution version (which make take a few seconds), you’ll have a better view.

All Camp 3rd SessionLunch made everyone happy because Rick prepared a grand breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, homemade fried red potatoes, mounds of bacon, bowls of steaming yellow grits, and a mixed fruit salad of melon, strawberries and black berries. There were a few girls who preferred cereal, granola and yogurt, but everyone was happily stuffed by 1:30!

Camp Swimming FriendsTaking advantage of the sunny warm afternoon, the mini session girls toured the camp ending up at the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability to the lifeguards and receive their swim tag. This simple test requires them to swim out about 50 feet, back the same distance, and then tread water for one minute. We don’t insist everyone take the text— a few girls always opt out it seems —but we do require girls be good swimmers if they are to participate in the water related activities (e.g., kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and sliding rock trips) or swim at the lake without the aid of a life jacket. Girls can always change their mind and take the “swim demo” later if they prefer. As I mentioned yesterday, the lake is a lot of fun (Take a ride down “Big Samantha,” our water slide!), and that can be a strong motivator!

To really kick things off, we held a pirate-themed carnival this afternoon down on our grassy sports field. For both the campers and counselors, this was first of all an opportunity to invent and show off a pirate costume, so with red bandanas wrapped around their heads, a few plastic swords, painted mustaches, hats and hoop earrings, including a few full buccaneer costumes, we had an impressive pirate crew. But like all great parties, we had games to play (with prizes to win), different snacks to eat (cotton candy, snow cones, and soft pretzels), and plenty of dancing and music pumping the whole time. The girls had a blast teaming up with buddies and running from game to game snacking along the way. They were tossing rings onto coke bottles, softballs in buckets, and beanbags into corn holes. They were bobbing for apples and making giant bubbles with hula hoops. They had their faces painted and their fortunes told by “Gypsies.” They raced to blow a bubble from the piece of bubblegum found hidden in a pie pan of flour. They tossed green “slime” (a thick solution of food coloring, jello powder, flour, and water) at three volunteer Hi-Ups… just for the hilarious fun of it. In addition, on one end of the field we set up two inflatable challenge games to play: an obstacle course race and a pillar jousting competition.

Ball Toss Carnival GameCarnival Camp Kid with snacksCamp Carnival Challenge

Beyond all these activities, costumes and snacks, what really made this event “the best party ever!” as one Junior camper put it, was the easy, joyful enthusiasm arising from everyone. So much laughing and smiling, spontaneous dancing, and genuine friendship making everything better! It was remarkable to see all these girls have such great fun and open up to the feeling of camp.  I can already tell, these girls are going make this session marvelous.

Camp Pirate FriendsPirate Camp Friends

Crazy About Activities

August 2, 2014
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Horseback Riding CamperHorsback Riding ChildLet’s not forget about riding! Down through the tunnel and on the level pastures near the river, girls are working with horses every activity period. Most are taking mounted riding lessons and learning to post (rising and falling rhythmically in the saddle) while their horse is trotting, or to balance and sit properly while in a canter. A few more advanced riders are working on jumping low rails, while the first-time riding girls are excited to get their horses to walk. This morning, during the second activity period, and despite the cloudy cool weather, there were four lessons happening simultaneously.  Later, other girls who had signed up for the “Stable Club” spent their activity period bathing and brushing two of our veteran Connemara ponies, Annie and Danny. Kelsi and the whole riding staff are keeping all our “horse crazy” girls at Rockbrook happily busy.

Child Swimming at summer campChild Wall Rock ClimbingThe Rockbrook Lake, like the riding center, is another part of camp that is a favorite for many girls. We might call them “water crazy,” but again, even in less that ideal weather (i.e. more cool than hot, I’d say) you can count on a group of campers ready to jump of the diving board, zip down the water slide, swim “Mermaid Laps,” or just float around in a tube.  Dunn’s Creek, the mountain stream that feeds our lake, keeps the water temperature quite “refreshing,” so it takes a real zeal be wet on a regular basis. My guess is that for these girls, the water temperature is trivial compared the thrills the lake has to offer. Like they say, “You get used to it!”

The “climbing crazy” girls at Rockbrook have many opportunities to satisfy their appetite as well. Instead of one area, though, they have three places on the camp property where they can tighten their harness, buckle their helmet, and tie into a belay rope. They can climb our 50-ft Alpine tower choosing any one of its many different elements, work out on the climbing wall in our gym, maybe learning to “stem” (stretch to two wide footholds) in the corner, or get out on Castle Rock to hop on “Whim,” “Wham” or “Bam,” three of the most popular routes of there. Each of these climbing areas offers a range of challenges keeping our climbers coming back for more.

Of course, there are not just horse, water and climbing crazy girls at Rockbrook. There are girls keen about crafts, sports, and drama too. There are tennis girls and nature girls, kayakers and hikers. With almost 30 different daily activities at camp, most everyone has a favorite, and if given the chance, will spend extra time pursuing their preference. While more true for some camp activities than others (e.g., the ones mentioned above), it is possible, in other words, for campers to focus their choices even as our sign up system encourages them to explore a variety. As they switch activity selections every three days, have regular options for adventure trips, and fill 3 blocks of free time each day, campers can find, if they desire it, a good balance of diversity and emphasis in how they spend their day at camp. It’s possible to be excited about all your activities at Rockbrook, and a little crazy about some as well.

Camp Teen Girl Friends