Today we took our first outdoor adventure trip with the campers, and it was a great one. Two buses and a van of senior- and middler-aged campers took the day to go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River over in Swain County. We departed right after breakfast, and with a brief snack/bathroom stop we arrived at the river for an early picnic lunch at Ferebee park. The sun was warm and bright as the whole crew munched on the sandwiches, chips and fruit Rick packed for us. A short drive up river to the put-in, we met the Rockbrook guides who had our rafts and all the equipment we would need (lifejackets, paddle, helmets, etc.) ready to go.
As you may know, Rockbrook is the only girls camp that has a permit to run its own rafting trips down the Nantahala. This allows us to have our own gear, hire our own expert guides, schedule the trips to our liking, and send down the river as many campers as we need without having to charge extra fees. Rockbrook was awarded this permit back in the 1980s, and since the Forest Service is not issuing any new permits, we are lucky to have it. Rafting has easily become the most popular adventure trip at Rockbrook, with just about every Middler and Senior taking the opportunity. Our permit doesn’t allow us to raft our Juniors because of age and weight restrictions. Today’s trip was perfect… Beautiful sunny warm weather, very few other rafts on the water, exhilarating moments in the rapids, and fun splashing around during the calmer parts of the river. Singing, sometimes screaming, chatting and laughing all the way down, these girls were having a ball.
Meanwhile back at camp, the looms in Curosty, our fiber arts cabin, were clicking with girls weaving headbands and placemats. Curosty is one of the early buildings erected at Rockbrook that, along with the Goodwill cabin, were moved here from a plantation in South Carolina, so it predates the camp. It once was used as the camp office but now it is filled with colorful yarns, tabletop and floor looms, and girls learning an ancient craft. The whole space, filled with calm yet highly creative energy, evokes a wonderful, timeless feeling.
Down the hill toward the gym, the archery range was busy with girls firing arrows at their targets. Learning the proper way to handle the archery equipment and the important safety rules of the range are the first steps, and then with a little coaching about technique, it doesn’t take long for campers to be able to pull back an arrow and hit the target. It’s such a satisfying sound, that “thunk” the arrow makes when it hits. It’s an even more satisfying sound to hear the girls’ cheers when someone hits a bullseye, and thereby joins the “bullseye club.”
I wanted to call your attention to an short article by Michael Thompson recently published in the New York Times. Thompson is the author of Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow, a book where he examines the character development benefits that come from a sleepaway camp experience. He believes that letting children go, taking breaks from the shelter and protection we parents instinctively provide, is an important milestone in a child’s development. In his NYT article, entitled “Why Camp Counselors Can Out-Parent Parents,” he makes the same point by observing that camp counselors are, different from parents, “super cool,” admirable role models that kids want to learn from. The counselors at Rockbrook are well-trained, have excellent inter-personal skills, are full of enthusiasm for life, and are simply down-to-earth, genuine good people. They are just the kind of “parents” we’d all be proud to call our own.