That Satisfying “Thunk”

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.

Kids Whitewater RaftingAs 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.

Camp Kid WeaverGirls Aims Archery bow and arrowMeanwhile 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, was moved here 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.”

Rockbrook Camp CounselorsI 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.

Rockbrook’s Katniss

One of the most appealing things about Rockbrook is the opportunity to try new things.  Many times  you’ll be able to try activities that you wouldn’t be able to do at home for one reason or another.  For example, you may want to learn how to roll a kayak, but you don’t have one at home.  Try it at camp.  You may have always wanted to climb a rock, but who has access to a rock face and a professionally trained outdoors crew on a regular basis?  Climb one (or two, or three) at camp.  You get the idea — camp is the perfect place to try new things!

This could be the reason that one of the most appreciated Rockbrook activities is archery.  Who has the resources/equipment to try an activity like archery on their own?  Not many, that’s for sure.  For years, Archery has been one of the most sought after activities at camp.  That esteem has only increased thanks to the fact that the most celebrated book-turned-movie series out right now is The Hunger Games, a story in which the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is depicted as an underdog, then champion, then heroine.  And, as we all know by now, the skill that sets Katniss apart from the rest — she’s a magician with a bow and arrow.  Katniss with a bow and arrow is like Michael Jordan with the basketball as time expires during the playoffs: GOLDEN.  So, it’s only fitting that archery’s popularity as an activity at camp has soared.  Suddenly we find ourselves thinking: I want to be like Katniss.

This is where Rockbrook and Katniss collide.  Longtime Rockbrook girl, Marston, decided early on that archery was one of her favorite activities at camp.  It didn’t take us long to see how much Marston enjoyed archery, and bullseye after bullseye proved that she was pretty good at it too.  Besides loving archery, Marston’s also a pretty big Hunger Games fan.  Check out the photos below of Marston, on the left, and Katniss, on the right.  I’m no expert when it comes to archery technique, but I think Katniss could take a few tips from Marston.  Such focus, such form!

You go, Marston!
You go, Marston!

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

So Marston’s a super archer and she likes The Hunger Games.  Cool coincidence?  Here’s another awesome addition to the saga: Jennifer Lawrence, the Oscar award winning actress who plays Katniss, seems pretty hip by any standards, and Marston met her!!!!!!!!!!!!  Exciting, huh?  Archery, Katniss, Marston, and Rockbrook all coming together.  I wonder if Jennifer got any good shooting tips from Marston?  Maybe the two can set up a meeting on the range.  I have my money on the Rockbrook girl, our very own version of Katniss!

Martson and Jennifer Lawrence pow-wowing on the red carpet.
Martson and Jennifer Lawrence pow-wowing on the red carpet.

Summer Camp Archery

So let’s say you get to summer camp and you’ve never tried archery. Sure you’ve seen it on TV and you know it means pulling back an arrow in a bow, releasing it while aiming at a target, and hopefully hitting the target in the center. But you’ve never really tried it before.

Summer Camp Archery GirlAt first, it’s kind of funny. After learning the basics about the equipment and how to shoot, you give archery a try and shoot arrows over, under, to the side, and anywhere but on the target. Slowly but surely though, each round lets you make small adjustments. A little coaching gets thrown in, and you are soon scoring points on the target.

Next thing you know, you’re hooked, and you’re selecting archery again for one of your daily camp activities. Archery becomes one of your favorite things to do at summer camp.

That’s cool, but what do you do when you get home from camp? How can you keep shooting, and improve you archer’s skills? Well, there might be a local archery club near you. You could also form an archery club and join the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) organization.  If you can find an adult supervisor, set up a safe archery range, and gather the proper equipment, you can begin to practice shooting archery all year long.  This might be tough to do by yourself, but if you can get several friends and their parents to get excited about the idea, you can do it!  Your club can then compete in local or regional tournaments, and you might even be able to join the youth world team and compete in other countries representing America.

Archery can be a lifelong sport, and just think, it all started at summer camp.

The Fun of Archery

Shooting Archery at Camp

Archery for teens and kids is still an amazingly popular thing to do at camp. Even if you’ve never held a bow before, let alone shot an arrow, it doesn’t take long to figure out the basics. And before you know it, you’ll feel really good about hitting the target, even getting a bullseye. Archery is a really old activity. Some of the oldest arrowheads found are more than 50,000 years old, for example! When you think about it, archery has been a part of probably every society to some extent. Wow! And now here it is at a summer camp for girls called Rockbrook!