Third Session Video Part Two

August 11, 2015
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We’ve got another wonderful video from Robbie of Go Swan Filmworks!

After spending just a day at camp this week, quiet and clever with his camera, Robbie again captured precious scenes from life at Rockbrook and put together this short 2-minute clip.

Like the first one from this session, we think you’ll really enjoy seeing it.

Happy and Tired

August 8, 2015
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At breakfast this morning we announced a special activity the girls could select today: attending a wood turning workshop presented by local artist George Peterson. George is married to an Alumna of Rockbrook and has two daughters who attend camp. He is known nationally for working with wood, shaping, etching, carving, burning and finishing it into amazing functional and decorative pieces. He just returned from showing his work in Japan, and has worked with galleries in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta as well. One of his bowls was recently chosen for the oval office! His Web site, The Circle Factory, shows some of his latest work. Check out what he’s done with old skateboards.

George Peterson Wood ClassWood carving workshopSanding Wooden Bowls

George started by demonstrating how a wood lathe can spin a block of wood, and allow his sharp chisel to cut away curly shavings, slowly revealing a uniform shape. It was a little loud, but so fascinating to watch a bowl materialize from the block with each chip of wood removed. After forming the interior of the bowl, George demonstrated using an electric carving tool how to shape the exterior and bottom. This wasn’t just a demonstration though. George was ready for each girl to have her own bowl to work on. He had the interiors started, and with George guiding the tools, the girls carved and sanded their bowls, readying them for the final two touches: burning the letters “RBC” using a metal brand, and adding a coat of mineral oil to protect the wood and give it a pleasing shine. Throughout the day, in a total of 4 workshops, campers were carving and sanding very cool wooden bowls, now keepsakes of their session at Rockbrook.

Water Pistol Lake GameWatermelon Lake GameThe Rockbrook lake already has floats, beach balls, kickboards, noodles, tubes, and other assorted floating balls and toys, but today the lifeguards added a few other items “just for fun,” as they put it. For the morning periods, it was an arsenal of water pistols, and water shooting devices. The junior campers in particular had fun spraying each other, easily refilling their weapons with water from the lake. In the afternoon, suddenly there was a watermelon to play with. Some of the older girls took turns swimming with it, tossing it from the diving board, and watching it— after a very excellent splash —slowly resurface. After each toss and loud kerplunk, the girls would laugh and laugh, ready to pass the watermelon back up for another throw. Simple stuff, I know, but you would love it too!

Camp Dance Younger GirlsCamp Dance Older GirlsTonight was an event that many of the girls, especially the older campers, look forward to all session, and that has become a camp tradition over the years: a dance with Camp Carolina. We probably fired continuously all of our tankless water heaters this afternoon, and the very few mirrors in camp attracted a constant crowd, as the girls prepared for the night, pulling out a special outfit or maybe dressing in a silly costume. Once again we split the two camps and held two dances, our Juniors and Middlers staying at the Rockbrook gym with the younger boys and our Seniors and Hi-Ups dancing in the CCB dining hall with their older boys. At Rockbrook, our friend Marcus (aka, DJ Dawg) played all the music, doing a great job selecting songs the girls know, as well as songs with popular dance moves like “Watch Me.” At both dances we outnumbered the boys about 2:1 making the night, for the girls at least, more about dancing with their friends than with the boys. Sweaty and tired from jumping and dancing around for an hour and a half, the older girls were very excited and chatty on the ride back to Rockbrook. Happy and tired: that’s another good camp day.

Ordinary Extraordinary

August 7, 2015
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Green river plungegirl playing tetherballTwin day at summer campCamp girls inside of their cabinBracelet making taped to legI’d say today was an ordinary day at camp, but that makes it pretty extraordinary too.

Take kayaking. Leland and Jamie brought a group out to the upper section of the Green River for an all-day event. With moderate class II and III+ rapids, paddling this river is quite an accomplishment.

At the lake, the lifeguards organized a fun relay race for the girls who signed up for swimming. The race involved two teams swimming a lap while wearing a t-shirt that after each lap they passed like a baton to the next girl.

In the WHOA (Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure) activity, the girls were learning how to build a fire. Starting with the tiniest twigs and working up to larger sticks, their goal was to use just one match… And then to roast marshmallows for s’mores!

Today was “twin day,” which meant that the girls were encouraged to find a friend and coordinate what they wore to match like twins. Wearing the same color t-shirt and braiding hair similarly, made several sets of “twins” around camp.

All of the ceramics classes were busy glazing their work. Bowls thrown on the wheel, extruded pots, slab tiles and coil mugs —now had several layers of muted color that, after being fired in the kiln, will turn vibrant.

The girls rehearsing for next week’s musical performance filled the hillside lodge during the first free swim period. On the porch, a few campers worked on friendship bracelets. Just outside on the tetherball court girls were taking all challengers, and down the hill from there, two girls decided to spend their free time playing tennis.

For lunch Rick made everyone’s day by serving heaping baskets of his fresh, homemade focaccia bread. There was also his secret recipe chicken salad and tuna salad, along with fresh, local black berries, but the bread stole the show. I saw some tables go back 4 times for “seconds!”

It rained briefly during rest hour, but soon afterwards girls were firing guns down at the riflery range and proudly saving their targets, swimming in the lake again, and batting the ball around in a game of gaga.

Shaving Creak Fight Hair stylingThe most exciting event happened after dinner during our “Twilight” activity period: a huge shaving cream fight for the entire camp. Like all Twilight activities, this was optional, but we still had about 140 girls, some from all age groups, arrive at the grassy landsports field dressed in their swimsuits “ready to rumble” with some slippery white foam. A shaving cream fight is not much of a “fight” really. It’s more a shaving cream bath, or hairstyling session, or friendly body painting party. As the girls run around spraying and smearing each other, laughing hysterically, it’s takes very little time before everyone has shaving cream in their hair, on their stomachs, arms and backs. Some, thanks to their friends, literally get completely covered with the stuff. We also brought our a long sheet of plastic to make a super fun slip-n-slide, made even better with all that shaving cream lubricating everything. This is another example of silly camp fun. Sure it’s messy; sure it’s loud; but, it’s just as wonderful too.

Overall, I’d say we had an ordinary extraordinary day.

Extraordinary Shaving Cream Fight Group of Girls

Third Session Video Highlights

August 4, 2015
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Describing camp life, revealing what makes simply being here loved by the girls at Rockbrook, is really difficult. Of course, we try all the time —by writing regular blog posts, and posting hundreds of photos to our online gallery— but the experience is too rich, too complex, and too emotional to convey completely.

Fortunately, there is video, and we have a great one to show you. Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks has been working with us this summer to produce several short videos about Rockbrook.  Here is his most recent.

Take a look! You will love it.

P.S. Be sure to have the volume turned up. Hearing camp is amazing!

Opening Camp Renaissance Style

August 2, 2015
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Girls arrive at summer camp Welcome August Mini Session campers; welcome to Rockbrook! For girls returning after already knowing camp and for those who were arriving for the very first time, this was the big day they had been waiting for. Now with a fervent mix of excitement and likely a dash of anxiety, both intensified by the months of anticipation they’d been tolerating, their time at camp could finally begin. What a relief! The check in process— meeting the office folks, browsing the latest Rockbrook logo gear, consulting with the nurses, and stopping for a quick “hair appointment” —went very smoothly, and in no time the girls arriving had met their fabulous counselors and the new bunk mates they’ll be getting to know so well over the next 12 days. Right away, after a couple get-to-know-you games and simply having the first of many, many conversations, I could tell we’re going to have really tight cabin groups this session. It’s neat to see camp friendships forming so quickly.

Right before lunch, the whole camp gathered on the grassy hill overlooking the mountains for a quick assembly of introductions, a silly skit performed by several counselors, a few songs led by the Hi-Up campers, and a demonstration of our lightning warning system (it sounds a very loud horn warning the whole camp to go inside whenever it detects lighting, or the possibility of lightning, within a several mile wide radius.). Part of the assembly included assigning the “Mop Awards” to the cabin group from each line that had the highest overall inspection scores for the previous week. This session the awards, which are actual mops, where decorated as board games… again, just for the fun of it. The winning cabins from each age group get to keep the awards to display in their cabins, like a trophy, until the following week when a new cabin will more than likely take the title.

During rest hour, which happens right after lunch, Chelsea and her team of lifeguards opened the lake for all the newly arrived mini session girls. She took this time to orient the girls to the lake, explaining the safety rules there and asking everyone to demonstrate their swimming ability so she could assign them buddy tags. The chilly mountain water feeding our lake can be a shock, even for returning campers, but today’s bright, warm, sunny weather made the water feel even better.

Festival Kids in CostumeFestival jousting inflatableFestival Face Painting

The rest of the afternoon became the main event of the day, an amazing Rennaissance Festival held on the grassy lawn of the Clarke-Carrier House in the center of camp. Built between 1895 and 1889 by H.P. Clarke, the father of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier, this house was designed by noted Asheville architect Richard Sharp Smith. The campers walk past it on their way to the tunnel that leads to the stables for horseback riding. The house has winged porches on each side and a terraced lawn circled by ancient boxwood bushes. Our festival took place all around the house, including the nearby paths through the woods.

water balloon catapultFestival Hair Styling with flowersGirls Festival Costumes

Like so many events and parties at Rockbrook, we began with costumes, encouraging the girls to be creative as they dressed up for the fair. Masks, dresses, jester hats, ribbons, feathers and flowered headbands, all added color to the festivities. We invited our friend Billy Zanski back to set up a drum circle and play for the girls as they arrived at the event. Right in the center of the lawn an inflatable jousting game was set up, while spread around it were different activities the girls could sample: face painting, a water balloon catapult, a jello toss, and a silly “photo booth” featuring Renaissance-themed props (scepters, masks and crowns, for example). Of course we had plenty of fun snacks too: cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, and roasted chicken legs to go around. Down one path a fortune teller was reading palms. Another path led to a story teller, and the most popular led to a magical fairy garden revealing small shiny treasures, bubbles, and twinkling lights. One area had counselors braiding hair using flowers, rainbow colored tinsel, and ribbons, while nearby others were offering temporary tattoo designs using henna. Renaissance music played, and a juggler wandered around entertaining. There was so much to do! All this, combined with all these excited, happy girls, dressed up and silly in the best ways, made the whole event a spectacular success. It’s the kind of day we love around here.

Cabin inspection award

Fantastic Views

August 1, 2015
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Girls mountain top hikingImagine absolutely perfect weather… sunny deep blue skies, a light breeze, low humidity, an occasional wisp of clouds, with morning temperatures in the low 60s, barely reaching 80 degrees in the afternoon. Well, that’s what we had today, and it was glorious. So much so, it inspired us to take a hike with the Hi-Ups along the Art Loeb trail as it crosses into the Shining Rock Wilderness. This trail passes over many of the highest peaks in the area, like Black Balsam Knob (6,201 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6,056 ft), for example. The elevation of Rockbrook, as a reference, is 2,250 feet. Hiking at this elevation feels really high, since everything around you slopes steeply down to hills and valleys below. There are fantastic views in most every direction over the rocky and sparse landscape, with only short bushes, and very few trees to count. The girls loved stopping to take in all this beauty and, of course, to take plenty of photos as well.

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

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

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

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

Camp Swimming girl pair

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