Rafting Video

Here’s a little video from our recent trips down the Nantahala. Whitewater rafting adventure at Rockbrook!

Creative Exuberance

Girl works on clay slab in camp ceramics class

One of the best epiphanies that happens at camp is when a young girl discovers her creative side, when she realizes that she can be artistic, imaginative and make wonderful things. Camp provides daily encouragement and opportunities to experiment with arts and crafts, to be bold and expressive using all kinds of physical media. At Rockbrook this means working with soft clay, yarns and fibers, threads, paint and ink, dyes, cloth, leather, wood and beads. Lately, the arts instructors have presented some pretty cool projects giving everyone something new to try. Girls are rolling out slabs of clay and pressing patterns made from scraps of lace. They’re sewing buttons and pieces of yarn to make sock puppets. With baskets of colorful thread, they’re learning about weft and warp, knit and pearl, back and half stitches. Blending melted crayons and thick black ink on paper, they’re creating bold multimedia designs. There’s incredible satisfaction here because your girls are seeing real results from their creative efforts. It’s showing them that amazing things can happen, far beyond what they might first expect, if they step out and trust their creative abilities.  What a great lesson for later in life, no matter what their eventual calling!

Camp girls hike near waterfall
Summer Camp Girl Kayaking
Summer Camp Girl Rock Climbing

Today has also been filled with outdoor adventure trips, with girls and their instructors hiking, kayaking and climbing nearby forests, rivers and rocks.

The Hi-Ups (16 year-olds) took a “Hunger Games Hike” into the Dupont State Forest to visit a couple of sites where scenes from the recent movie were filmed. We scrambled up and over rocks to get the best view of Triple Falls, snapping pictures all the way. Feeling the cool spray at the bottom of a 100-foot waterfall while standing in bright warm sunshine is quite a feeling!

A group of kayakers spent the morning, and another the afternoon, paddling the French Broad River with superstar instructors Andria and Leland. They chose a great introductory section to practice ferrying (crossing the current from one side of the river to the other) and catching eddies (pulling into calm sections of the river, downstream from obstacles), both important whitewater kayaking skills. Reports back at camp were all positive and brimming with excitement.

Two groups of Middlers, meanwhile, spent the morning or afternoon activity periods rock climbing up on Castle Rock. There are six routes available up there and today the girls hopped on the two named “Shazam” and “Wham,” two of the more challenging options, each requiring both face and crack climbing techniques, as well as some real strength in steep spots. But boy can these girls climb! They may have slowed down to figure out a complex series of moves, maybe tried a tricky section more than once, but for the most part the girls scampered right up the 75-foot climbs. At the top, a fantastic view of the French Broad River valley is the reward, as well as the satisfaction of surmounting the challenges of the climb. When climbing, it can take real grit and concentration to forget how high up you are, and real muscle and balance to reach each handhold. These girls have got it all, and it shows!

Tonight we had a Disney-themed dinner where posters and other decorations transformed the dining hall and the campers and counselors dressed up like Disney characters (loosely interpreted- camp versions). Here too, creativity fueled the enthusiasm for dressing up. Using face paint, borrowed items of clothing, goofy hairstyles, and a few accessories, like “Mickey Ears,” we ate with various super heroes, princesses, a mermaid, a chipmunk, a chef, and a few bears. These Rockbrook girls love to dress up- “just for the fun of it.” They love the feeling of being silly, laughing their heads off with each other, posing and singing as loud as they can. It’s just their wonderful exuberance coming out in creative colorful ways.

Summer camps girls pose in Disney costumes

Confident Sense of Adventure

Camp counselor with girl camper

During one of the many tours of Rockbrook we’ve been giving lately, a parent asked an excellent question. “What do you look for when hiring counselors?” It’s really an important thing to ask, and it’s something we think about a lot, all year round, in fact. We know that our counselors are certainly role models for the campers, but also friends, teammates, sisters and moms to the girls as well. The first thing we look for in a counselor is simply an enthusiastic, energetic, friendly young (high school graduate or older) woman who loves children. The best counselors are naturally “kid people.” They have an innate ability to connect with children, to listen to them, and communicate with them authentically.  This allows them to become really good friends and to forge great trusting relationships with the campers.  Of course, this makes camp fun and rewarding for everyone, camper and counselor alike. Even more specifically, another trait we look for in counselors, among many others, is a confident sense of adventure. This describes someone who isn’t scared to branch out and try new things, who is generally up beat and positive even when faced with the unknown or when something isn’t going exactly right (Raining? “No big deal! Let’s sing some rain songs…!”) Having a confident sense of adventure means being resilient, flexible, creative and improvisational. See how those are great qualities, and something that makes a wonderful role model for girls? There really is a lot of that going around at RBC.

Tying the knots for a bracelet
bracelet being tied to camper's toe
pottery thrown on the wheel

This year we are having the jewelry making activity meet on the porch of the hillside stone lodge. This porch, which is made of rough-sawed, oak planks, overlooks the lake and at the right spot, has a view of the mountains in the distance. There are a few rocking chairs out there and a big table with benches for the girls to use as they tie friendship bracelets, twist wire, string beads and weave necklaces. It’s a beautiful setting to spend time learning new friendship bracelet techniques (like that toe-tie!), and naturally just talking and laughing about nothing in particular. 🙂

If you’ve ever tried to throw a pot on the wheel, you know that it’s not easy. It takes great patience to learn because there are so many ways a spinning ball of clay can crumple, wobble or even fly off the wheel. Everything can be going great, perfectly centered, and then suddenly your nice bowl collapses and it’s back to square one. All of this makes it such a victory, a moment of pride, when a camper successfully throws something on the wheel, especially the first time.

Posing on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Hi-Ups took an exciting trip into the Pisgah Forest this afternoon, stopping first at Looking Glass Falls. This is one of the most well-known waterfalls in this area, partly because it’s about 60-feet tall, but also because it’s easily seen from the main road. We came ready to swim, so after walking down to base, all of us swam through the pool and the spray just past where the water was crashing down. A few of the girls ventured closer to let some of the water smack them on the back, but it looked a little intense, if not painful, so there weren’t many takers. The cold mountain water and the roar of the falls was enough for most of us. Back in the buses, it was then just a short trip further to reach the Pounding Mill overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our favorite stopping spots up there. It’s 4700 feet up (Rockbrook’s elevation is about 2350 ft) and provides a grand view of Looking Glass Rock below, a popular rock climbing destination.  By the time we arrived it was getting near dinner time and there was a stop at Dolly’s in the plan as well, so today we came just for the view and a quick group picture.  It’s always nice to get a little altitude!

Camp is an Adventure

Outdoor Adventure Struggle

Camp is an adventure! It is because it gets girls outside for all kinds of exciting activities. Climb high up a real rock! Paddle a raft down through whitewater rapids. Sleep in the woods far from the “comforts of home.” These, and other outdoor activities, are just plain thrilling.

But why is that? What makes something a thrilling “adventure?”

The answer might be a little surprising, but it actually boils down to danger. It’s true; an adventure activity always carries a degree of risk. It’s an activity where we “take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome” (as my dictionary puts it). So for example, rock climbing includes the risk of falling. Whitewater boating has the risk of capsizing, and when camping in the wilderness there’s always a chance of horrible weather (among other things!).

But of course adventure isn’t about getting hurt or experiencing some disaster (there’s safety training and equipment to help with that). It’s about avoiding danger despite the threat of it. Adventure is about overcoming the difficulty and conquering the fear associated with an activity.

Adventure activities are thrilling because we can actually do them despite the risk. Through our own efforts, applying specialized knowledge and skills, we succeed in the face of possible failure. Sure it might be a struggle, but it feels great. Yes, an adventure activity can be difficult, but also really exciting to face it and win!

That’s why, incidentally, adventure activities are so good for boosting kids’ confidence.

Being at Rockbrook provides so many great ways to be adventurous, opportunities to try activities that may look a little scary, but then with the right instruction, encouragement and role models, to also manage the risks and cope beautifully with the challenges involved. Very cool stuff!

Camp Kayaking Adventure

Summer Kayak Adventure Camps

Part of the adventure program at Rockbrook is whitewater kayaking. It teaches girls the important safety and paddling skills to enjoy this great outdoor activity. Summer adventure camps in this area are a great places to learn about whitewater kayaking.

OK, but what is that thing she’s wearing? Well, it’s not a new fashion statement in bathing suits. It’s a kayaking spray skirt, and it’s one of the most important bits of equipment in this adventure (as is the boat, paddle, helmet and PFD). Most whitewater spray skirts are made of soft neoprene. They are designed to fit tightly about the paddler and around the rim (“coaming”) of the kayak’s opening (“cockpit”)… not too tight and not too loose. It’s purpose is to keep water out of the boat when paddling, but especially when rolling back up after a flipping.  You can imagine that the skirt, which is like a little wetsuit for your middle, also helps keep you warm boating through a chilly mountain river.  They feel a little funny when you first try one on, but also pretty cool since it’s such an adventure sort of thing to wear.

Learning to kayak at summer camp is great fun, even if you’ve never tried it before.  We’ll help you each step of the way, provide all the equipment (yep, even the spray skirt!), and cheer for you as you get better and better.  You’ll be smiling too!

It’s Your Adventure Girls

Adventure Girls

Are you ready for some adventure girls? Are you ready to put yourself out there, or up there as the case may be? Camp is the perfect place for girls to try out outdoor adventure sports. There’s rock climbing, high ropes course climbing, wilderness backpacking, camping, hiking, whitewater kayaking and rafting, to name just a few.

But what makes these adventure activities? They all are a little intense, a little uncertain, and a little scary. They often test girls’ mental resolve and determination, and sometimes require physical effort beyond the ordinary. Adventure activities usually require special safety equipment and techniques as well (think ropes, paddles, helmets, tents, etc.).

When girls first try adventure sports, they are usually surprised how well they can do. With quality instruction, encouragement, and some practice, most of the girls at camp can climb a real rock, paddle a kayak, and camp overnight in the woods— and this in just their first year at camp! Everywhere you look there are adventure girls at camp.

Kayaking for Kids

Kid Kayaker

Whitewater kayaking is really catching on with the kids at Rockbook, and not just with our Seniors. Our Middlers, kids in the 5th or 6th grade, are also excited about kayaking.

You might think that is a little young to start such a technical sport, but the camp girls are usually quick to catch on to what’s involved. They learn about the equipment and basic techniques in the Rockbrook lake, and when ready, then move to one of the local rivers.

Even on the Rockbrook Camp property, there is a short section of the French Broad river that provides a great teaching rapid. It’s a nice cove of the river perfect for learning to ferry, peel out, and catch an eddy— three important kayaking maneuvers. Next stop? The Green, the Tuckaseegee, and the Nantahala rivers!

Adventure for Girls

Girls Climbing Camp Adventure

Girls of all ages get at least a taste of adventure while at camp. Even the youngest girls (who, having finished kindergarten, can be as young as 5 years old!) are able to gear up and climb our 50ft Alpine Tower. Even before leaving the ground it’s an adventure— fitting the helmet, tightening the harness, clipping the rope to everything, and learning the belay commands. This kind of outdoor adventure camp activity introduces girls to a few technical details of climbing while at the same time providing a nice balance of physical and personal challenges. It’s balancing up little holds and remaining calm and focused despite a fear of heights.  All good things!

Kids Kayaking Adventure

Kids Adventures Camp Kayaking

Gearing up for another adventure at camp! This time it’s kids whitewater kayaking on the lower Green River over near Saluda, NC.  Learning to paddle a kayak is another outdoor adventure activity that’s incredibly satisfying for kids.  Camps provide everything they need to get excited about the sport— the right equipment, step-by-step instruction, qualified supervision, and a perfect whitewater river.

It’s really fun to strap on all the gear and settle into one of the cool kayaks, even if it is a little scary at first.  But after kids practice getting out of the kayak when they flip over (a “wet exit”) and eventually rolling back upright (a “roll”), they become more confident in the boat and can use their paddle to maneuver around obstacles in the river.  It really gets fun when the camp kids can play on the river, surfing waves, running rapids, ferrying, and catching eddies.

Kayaking adventure for kids at camp.  Very fun stuff.

Kayaking Adventure at Camp

adventure kayaking camps

Outdoor adventure is one of the core camp activity areas at Rockbrook. Our outdoor adventure summer camps focus on backpacking (hiking and camping), rock climbing, whitewater rafting and kayaking. Most recently, rock climbing and kayaking have become increasingly popular, especially with the teens and older girls at camp.

After learning basic kayaking techniques like how to “wet exit” (That’s when you get out of the boat when it tips over upside down.), or how to “roll” (That’s when you roll back rightside up instead of wet exiting.), we head out to some of the local rivers for more outdoor action.  For the more advanced paddlers, we’ll even take trips to the Nantahala river, a Class I, II and III whitewater river nearby.  The mountains of NC, and the rivers that run between them, are just perfect for summer camps and this kind of adventure.