To the Top!

July 30, 2015
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Summer Camp Rock ClimbingSqueezing your feet into tiny, rubber soled shoes, wearing a climbing harness and helmet, and being tied to a bright pink rope that stretches up 100 feet over a rock above you, can be a little intimidating. If the rock is steep, like the climb called “B-52″ on the south side of Looking Glass Rock, climbing it might even seem impossible. But that’s exactly what a small group of Rockbrook girls did this morning thanks to Rita and Nicole who led their trip. With a lunch of burritos packed, along with all the necessary climbing gear, the girls left Rockbrook around 8am, hiked up the mile-long trail, and arrived at the base of the rock, a little sweaty already, set to climb. The first pitch of B-52 is rated 5.8 and is not a simple climb. It takes courage, strength, and determination to take each step up, balancing on the eyebrow shaped edges of rock. You have to really trust that your feet won’t slip because handholds are scarce on this route. Every move feels a little risky— despite knowing you’re on a top belay —so in the face of that (perceived) risk, you have to be brave to make progress up the rock. These Rockbrook girls showed exactly that kind of strength and bravery because they all topped out the route! We might say they left their comfort zones at home!

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

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

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

Girls summer camp kids

Power with a Heart

July 29, 2015
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Camp Horseback Riding ClassHorse Jumping Girl at Summer CampWatching the campers ride has been an especially fun treat recently. Dozens of girls have signed up for riding, some for their very first experience working with a horse, and others with more advanced skills. We have nine staff members devoted to teaching horseback riding at camp this summer, and with 30 horses in the RBC herd, there’s always a lot going on at the barn, from tacking up for a mounted lesson, to the farrier trimming the hooves on one of our Connemara ponies, to feeding and mucking out stalls. For the campers, there’s always something to learn too, both about the complexities of caring for the horses, and also about how to improve their riding skills. Today a beginner-level lesson in the upper ring had the girls doing a great job walking their mounts, steering them independently, while down in the lower (larger) ring, the advanced riders were working on jumping what looked like about 2 feet over rails. Both groups seemed happy and proud of their accomplishments.

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

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

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

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

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

Sliding Rock Thumbs Up Girls

Adding Some Edge

July 28, 2015
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Rafting Silly Kids Posing
About once a week we head over to the Nantahala River for whitewater rafting, like today, when two groups of Middlers and Seniors made the 2-hour run down the river. Being the only girls summer camp that has a permit to run these trips (The US Forest Service issued us the permit back in the early 1980s), we decided long ago to make rafting a big part of our adventure program. We don’t charge extra for the trips and we let everyone who’s old enough (Middlers and Seniors, in our case) sign up to go if they like. All of this has made rafting very popular with Rockbrook girls, with about 90% of them choosing to raft every summer. For many, it’s their favorite adventure trip out of camp. Rockbrook really is “that rafting camp,” as one person put it.

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

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

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

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

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

Camp Kids Hugging

Eager Energy

July 26, 2015
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camp friends at summer campWhen you gather together this many friends, all packed and ready for an extended “sleepover,” it’s exciting… like this morning when we welcomed our third session campers to Rockbrook, and we were jumping up and down, cheering, and screaming with delight as each camp friend arrived. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect— sunny skies and the cool morning temperatures we’re accustomed to here in the mountains —but what made the morning fun, was how eager everyone was to see each other and get camp started. That eager energy, which I suspect is fueled by months of anticipation, sped everyone through the “check in” process (meeting office folks, browsing the latest RBC gear, and consulting with the medical team) and added muscle to delivering the trunks to the cabins. As girls arrived throughout the morning, there were Welsh ponies to meet (“Cool Beans” and “Cloud Nine”), short hikes to the biggest waterfall on the camp property (“Rockbrook Falls”), Gaga Ball and Tetherball to play, and friendship bracelets to make. For girls starting their very first session at Rockbrook, and for those returning to the place they already know, this was a great day.

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

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

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

camp assembled girls smiling

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

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

good camp girl friends

Marvelous Events

July 22, 2015
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Summer Camp Party CostumesAs we’ve arrived at the last day of our session, it’s time for everyone at camp to gather for several special all-camp events. Some have been in the works for weeks, like the fantastic Banquet presented by the CA (9th grade) campers. Kept hidden since the very first day of the session, the Banquet’s theme defines all aspects of the event: the colorful, painted posters lining every inch of wall space in the dining hall, decorations hung from the rafters, costumes for skit performances, special food and music. The Banquet is really an elaborate, highly decorated, over-the-top, party that’s so much fun everyone really looks forward to it.

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

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

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

Girl Camp KidsFinal Campfire Lake Procession

Second Session Video Part Three

July 21, 2015
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Robbie from Go Swan Filmworks recently spent another day at Rockbrook filming, capturing on video some of the ordinary sights and sounds of camp life. The edited clip, despite being less than 2 minutes long, conveys wonderfully the atmosphere of camp so loved by the everyone here.

We hope you enjoy watching!

P.S. If you missed the two earlier videos of Second Session, they are here and here. :-)

That Takes Muscle!

July 18, 2015
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George Peterson giving a wood turning demonstrationSanding wood turning projectWe were lucky today to host local artist George Peterson and his wife Margaret (who is an Alumna of RBC) for a workshop on wood turning. George works with wood and is known nationally for his carving, etching and finishings of both functional pieces and sculptures. He’s shown his work across the United States, in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta for example, and recently returned from a gallery opening in Japan. You can see a few examples, including his latest work with old skateboards, on his Web site: The Circle Factory.

Beginning with a block of wood, George demonstrated how a wood lathe spins the block, and when he carefully presses a sharp chisel into the whirling wood, twisty shavings fly away. It’s mesmerizing to see how a uniform bowl is revealed, like it was hiding inside the block of wood. After removing it from the lathe, George then showed the girls how he uses an electric carving tool to shape the bottom of the bowl. The best part was next; giving it a try themselves! With George guiding the tools, the girls took turns working on their own shallow bowls, shaping and sanding them to a smooth finish. After branding each piece with the letters “RBC,” the girls added a coat of mineral oil to bring out the wood’s grain and give the bowls a protective and pleasing shine. George presented 4 workshops throughout the day, giving the 12 girls in each a really cool, unique wooden bowl to keep as memento from their camp session this year.

camp girl weaving on the loomgirls in yoga poses at summer campcamp horseback rider girl

Meanwhile, the full range of in-camp activities kept hands and feet busy all day. Badminton in the gym, loom weaving in Curosty, horseback riding down at the stables, yoga in the Hillside Lodge, climbing at the Alpine Tower, swimming at the lake, shooting at the archery and riflery ranges: all examples that come to mind. Action springs up in every corner on a day like this, but also a yummy, mid-morning muffin break, free time before lunch to chill out, and a delicious rest hour before jumping right back in for the afternoon. The pace of our day here at Rockbrook is wonderful.

Fairy garden house at summer campHidden in the shade among the ferns and broad-leafed hostas (which by the way are sometimes called “Plantain Lillies”) just behind the office, a few junior campers have discovered a fairy garden. It’s a delicately cultivated part of the forest really, an area that catches the eye as somehow more alive, more intentional and definitely more beautiful… painted rocks, colorful leaves and flowers, neatly arranged pieces of bark, sticks and lots of moss. After discovering it, it made complete sense to help the fairies be more comfortable, so using popsicle sticks, candle wax, string and beads, the campers built houses for the fairies, one with a back porch and another suspended from a low-hanging branch. On the roof of one house, they made their intentions clear by writing, “Welcome Home.”  Now, thankfully, the fairy garden is a fairy village, proving again, thanks to these generous, creative campers, that Rockbrook is a “Fairyland of Beauty.”

The biggest thrill of the day came after dinner when we held a dance, as Rockbrook has for generations, with the boys of Camp Carolina. The girls eagerly look forward to this night as a chance to clean up a little (which of course means firing all of the camp’s tankless water heaters at once), dress up a little, but really to giggle, be silly (again!), and jump around with each other. Tonight we held two dances simultaneously, the Juniors and Middlers staying here in our gym to dance with the younger boys, and our seniors and Hi-Ups heading over to the CCB dining hall for their dance. At Rockbrook, we invited our friend Marcus (aka, DJ Dawg) to pump out the music. He always does a fantastic job playing songs the girls know, as well as songs with popular dance moves like “Y.M.C.A.” The older girls spent a solid hour and a half dancing, at one point forming a conga line, singing along to the songs, and sweating as the night wore on.  That much dancing takes muscle! A little tired and definitely hot on the bus ride back to Rockbrook, the girls seemed to have all good things to say about our excellent night out.

SR teen camp dance girlsmiddler camp dance for girls

Switching It Up

July 17, 2015
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Different special events, “Rockbrook Surprises,” switched up our day today. We like to do that around here, change our routine by announcing surprise events, establish an unexpected theme for the day, or offer additional activities that the girls can do instead of following their regular schedule. It might be having a pancake breakfast in the lodges, or making it “Side Ponytail Day” (or “Twin Day” or “Superhero Day,” for example), or offering a hula hoop making workshop, to name just a few recent examples. It’s part of the playful spirit at Rockbrook to be excited about surprises and changes like these, and it’s another way that everyday at camp is extra special.

Camp beach girl reading on towel camp girls blowing bubbleThe lifeguards surprised everyone by announcing that they would be hosting beach parties during the activity periods today. That meant bringing out the outdoor sound system to play fun summertime music, having bubbles to blow, frisbees to toss, and other games to play. It was a bright, sunny day today, so as the girls sunbathed, played and read, they enjoyed taking breaks for cool lemonade, and later cold frozen popsicles. It was a fun, yet easygoing scene, at times rising into a singing dance party, only to then slow down to apply more sunscreen and splash in the water a bit… a lovely beach in the North Carolina mountains!

Shaving Cream FightSlip and slide camp girlThe roar was deafening when Chase announced the next surprise after dinner: a shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide down at our sports field. And the roar came from all directions in the dining hall, from the area where the Junior campers sit and equally from the Senior area. Girls of all ages were pumped to participate. A shaving cream fight is pretty simple. You need everyone dressed in their swimsuits, a large grassy field, and enough shaving cream so everyone can be armed with a can. Like all great games, there’s no keeping score, no clear beginning or ending point, and the only reason to play is for the fun of it. Some girls would run up and spray you directly from their can, while others would load a blob in their hand and plaster it on your back or chest, or in your hair. Actually, just about anything goes, making part of the fun becoming completely covered with the stuff. There was a certain devilish grin on the girls’ faces as they raced around smearing their shaving cream, but also wide-eyed surprise when someone snuck up and smacked them on the neck with a handful of the white slippery foam. Painting designs in the foam and styling wild hair formations soon became part of the fun, but we also pulled out a long sheet of plastic so, with some water sprayed on it from a garden hose, we could have a slip-n-slide. We added a little soap to the plastic, but with everyone so covered in shaving cream, the girls had no trouble zipping down the slide. It took a short run and then a belly flop to ride about 80 feet! These photos (clicking them brings up a larger version) should give you a sense of just how fun and crazy an evening it was.

I can’t verify that this other special event happened, but many of the girls told me of a dream they had last night where they were woken up by glowing fairies and invited to a dance party on the hill. With bright, beautiful stars shining above, girls from all over the camp, every age group, were there dancing and eating candy and snacks. Was it real, or a figment of our collective imaginations? It’s hard to tell!

shaving cream group of girls

A Fun Sandwich

July 16, 2015
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Alpine Climbing Kids CampDance Kids CampThere’s news from the climbing staff down at the Alpine Tower, our 50-foot tall climbing tower located in the woods behind the gym. If you rode our bus shuttle on opening day you may have caught a glimpse of it. It’s an impressive structure made from 20-inch diameter treated telephone poles, 14,000 lb aircraft cable, 1/2-inch galvanized bolts, Crosby clamps and 1-inch think nylon ropes… all fastened into a pyramid shape creating 3 sides where girls can climb. There are different routes up each side, some with rope ladders, climbing walls, swinging logs, and all sorts of handholds bolted to the poles. With dozens of ways to climb the tower, some straight forward and others being a tricky challenge, it can satisfy all kinds of climbers. The news is that a few “crazy climbing girls” have climbed to the top using all three sides of the tower and have begun attempting them again while blindfolded. Yes, blindfolded! It might sound impossible to climb without seeing, but these girls can do it, carefully feeling for good holds, making slow progress and trusting their climbing instincts to stand and balance on each foot. It’s amazing to watch!

There are amazing things to watch in the dance studio as well. Located in the Lakeview Lodge, with its stone walls, 4-foot fireplace, and hardwood floor, one end of the studio has a wall of mirrors perfect for rehearsing group choreography. They may not start out completely in sync, but it’s fun for the girls to practice their moves, giggling as they figure things out. The instructors tell me the girls are preparing two different dances that will be part of the musical to be performed at the end of the session. That will be fun to see!

Waterfall Campers HikingCanoe Trip PackingIn addition to the in-camp activities, our out-of-camp adventure trips have been heading out in multiple directions all week. The recent fantastic weather has made the conditions for hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing just perfect. Here are some of the trips… The kayakers have been to the Green River, the French Broad River, and the Tuckaseegee River so far this week and they are planning to paddle Big Laurel Creek tomorrow. There have been day hikes to the Dupont State Forest to marvel at some of the waterfalls, for example, the Hi-Ups hiking to High Falls to take a swim at the pool of water below. Rock climbers have set up multiple routes on Looking Glass Rock out in Pisgah, spending all day out.

One special outing thrilled a whole cabin of Middlers last night. It was an overnight canoeing trip on a section of the French Broad. They packed tents, food and cooking gear, as well as everyone’s personal belongings (clothes, sleeping bag, etc.) in 8 canoes for the trip. They paddled along the gently moving water, the river bank curving left and right, for about 2 hours to reach a grassy campsite where they pitched their tents, cooked dinner and enjoyed making s’mores around the campfire before heading to bed. The next morning under bright sunny skies (Yay!), after pancakes for breakfast, the crew repacked their boats and paddled a shorter section of the river to the takeout spot. It was an excellent trip.

Meanwhile, the girls back at camp had a chance to bust out (actually re-create by swapping elements) costumes again. For our “Twilight,” that block of free time between dinner and our “Evening Program,” the counselors organized a game that crossed a scavenger hunt with Halloween trick or treating. Wearing their costumes, the campers hunted all over camp for places to find someone handing out treats (stickers, glow sticks, small toys and candies). Groups of wacky, colorful girls had a grand time pausing for photos while they scurried about searching for the next goodie to add to their bags. It was a brief, fun special event sandwiched into another full day at camp.

Halloween Costumes Campers

Kind, Silly, Brave

July 15, 2015
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There’s no doubt that camp is a remarkable experience for girls. You can see it everyday here at Rockbrook, see it as you browse through the online photo gallery, and hear about it if you ask the campers and counselors how it feels to be here. Of course, camp means having sensational fun, a “really great time,” but as we’ve said many times before, it’s more than that. Coming to Rockbrook means forming relationships, joining a community with a distinctive culture and language, and perhaps most importantly, learning important things about yourself that can make a difference to you later in life.

Kind Camp GirlsKind Girls at Camp with FriendsLately, I’ve been thinking more about how camp is a “place for girls to grow,” about the ways that girls benefit from their time at Rockbrook. There are many, but let me focus on three of the more important ones: being kind, silly and brave.

I think Rockbrook teaches girls to be kind. There are lots of reasons for this, but most of them spring from the close relationships we have with each other as a community. Being all girls may have something to do with it, as does the fact that we do everything, all day and night, together (There’s a kinship for all of us here), but the spirit of Rockbrook is rooted in being sensitive to the needs of others, in caring and generosity. The closeness of camp life, realizing that we are all together and that we all belong, fuels our sympathy and compassion for each other. It makes us kind. This explains why it’s the other campers who are first to jump right in and help comfort someone homesick in their cabin. Kindness is at work when hundreds of friendship bracelets are exchanged every session at Rockbrook. It’s true affection for each other that sets the tone in every conversation around camp, while weaving baskets, feet in the creek, and twisting tie dye t-shirts, for example. Camp simply encourages heartfelt relationships. As we all relax and open up our true selves, we grow closer to each other, and kindness blossoms naturally. It’s darn right magical!

Silly Camp Lake BathingSilly Camp Spa Treatment

Rockbrook reminds girls that being a little silly is a good thing. There are times, of course, when we all have to be serious, but in many situations there’s room for lighthearted humor, a dash of exuberance, and more than one color. At camp, things are more silly than not, as we easily burst into song, ordinarily add costumes to whatever we find ourselves doing, and are quick to laugh throughout the day. Life at camp feels good, and is more fun, partly because we’ve found a balance between serious tasks, like keeping our cabins clean and taking care of our health, for example, and the joy to be found by appreciating the silly side of our personalities. Camp teaches us that there can be a playful dimension to most things. We dance when setting the dining hall tables. We can sing… gosh, anytime! Waiting in line for muffin break, we can braid our friend’s hair, adding a flower we just picked. We can dress like twins with a bunk mate, just for the fun of it. For girls at camp, it’s pretty easy to smile all day long and to make everything whimsical. In addition, developing this habit of cheerfulness nurtures the girls’ creativity. Learning that it’s OK, even preferable, to include some of their silly side when completing a task is like being given permission to mix things up a bit, to get creative while being productive. That’s why you see Rockbrook girls happily helping around camp, adding decorations to just about everything, and enjoying the most routine tasks. Being silly means being creative, and when done together, that makes something fun, no matter what.

Brave Zip Line CamperBrave Camp KayakerIt’s also true that Rockbrook helps girls be more brave. Simply deciding to come to camp, to leave the safety and familiarity of home, takes courage. So being here alone— navigating daily decisions (what to do during free time, for example), taking care of ordinary personal needs (remembering to take a shower, for example), and interacting with so many different people, unusual foods, and new activities —requires some degree of bravery. In addition, some of our camp activities themselves require the girls to muster their courage. It’s completely natural to be afraid of stepping off a rock tethered to a high zip line cable, or to approach a new whitewater rapid in a kayak, or even to stand up in front of the whole camp to tell a joke during the lunch announcements. But these Rockbrook girls are choosing to do it— proving they are both capable and brave. A shy quiet girl at home suddenly is first to fly down the water slide at the lake. A girl who might never choose to join a painting class (thinking, “I’m terrible at art”) feels inspired to join her friends and enjoy the process of being creative. With encouragement springing from every direction, girls may discover the confidence to try all sorts of things they might never be brave enough to accomplish otherwise, from the physical challenges of sports, to the personal challenges of getting along with their cabin mates.

Life at camp inspires and encourages girls to be kind, silly and brave. It provides regular opportunities, wrapped in the guise of “Big Fun,” to develop these aspects of their personality. We hope that as they grow up, and carry the spirit of Rockbrook with them out into the “real world,” your girls will be happier and more successful strengthened in these ways.

Super Silly Camp Girls Group