Backpacking Reflections

Every week at Rockbrook, we offer adventure trips out of camp where the girls can hike, swim, paddle or climb in the nearby National or State forests. These trips are always optional; like all the activity offerings here, the girls themselves select whichever they like. Often how they select involves considering who among their friends will also be signing up, what they’ll be missing when out of camp, and sometimes a consideration of what seems new and interesting.

Today a group of girls returned from a backpacking trip through a high elevation area in the Pisgah Forest. Clyde and Jane led the trip that included visiting a waterfall on the Flat Laurel Creek and a morning hike to the summit of Sam Knob (elev. 6050 ft). The girls took some time during the trip to reflect and write about their experience, so I thought it would be nice to publish some of their thoughts. When you read what they wrote, it’s clear they really got a lot out of the experience.

Teen hiking

“Though it doesn’t even come close to the excitement and wackiness of Jayne and Clyde’s Everglades adventures that Jayne recalled as we sat around the fire, here is a little recap of our overnight hike. Started with a 45-minute bus ride where I talked with Sarah Jane and Mae about our favorite Netflix movies, our dogs, and our favorite thing about our houses.Then a simple but gorgeous (and mostly flat!) hike to the campsite. Collapsed onto the ground with our packs still buckled. Pitched tents with no help and relaxed in Mae’s Eno hammock. While the burritos warmed on the fire Clyde made, we played the World Map game where we shared memories from our childhood home and where we want to be at age 25. I stood on my tiptoes on a small piece of moss to show how tiny Rhode Island is. That was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip because I learned a lot about people such as: Mia lives in London and used to live in Germany. Jayne told stories around the campfire. Then s’mores (we polished off a 64 marshmallow bag… Ooops). Peed in the wilderness. Bonded with tent mates as we successfully removed two mating daddy longlegs and a moth, then talked about life. Clocked out at 11ish. Then up and at ‘em at 5:15am for sunrise hike! HA HA just kidding. Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade so back to bed until 8:30. Woke up (part 2) to oatmeal and packing then stunning waterfall, then top of Sam Knob then back to the bus. I’d say first overnight hike = GREAT SUCCESS!!” — Ellery

Teen Hiking Girls

“I’ll preface by saying that I am not someone who considers herself athletic. Not in the slightest. However, if you were to tell me that Rockbrook was offering a position on the same overnight hike that I just returned from, I’d accept that offer in a blink of an eye. This trip pushed me in so many ways and although the saying goes “nothing changes overnight” I certainly returned to base camp with a new notch on my belt that will (and already has) help me grow as a person. On this hike I learned that pitching a tent easily and very quickly reveals one’s inner character. Some think rationally and set up the tent within a matter of minutes. Others take their time cracking jokes and making fools of themselves. Some others offer their help without being asked. Some might lay low in the helping department (and in the hammock at the campsite) and provide entertainment. These characters discovered early on in the trip, continue to blossom and to take new forms. The trailblazer, the campfire storyteller, the pack mule who is more than willing to lessen another’s load, and the photographer, observing the action and capturing it as they relax on a sturdy rock. Each character is integral and a crucial part of the hiking experience. With each of these characters by my side, it suddenly became much easier to hike. It was the difference between exercise being a burden and an adventure.” — Sarah Jane

Campfire Hanging Out

“Well, it sure was a trip, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Being out in nature with friends is truly one of the most enjoyable experiences. Even when wet, dirty, and overall just disgusting, we can look past the inconveniences and still keep a good attitude. I know that this trip will definitely be held in my memory for many years. I made new friends, and got to know past friends even better. I learned new tricks, both for camping and for knot tying. It was a great first-time backpacking experience. I always felt strong and powerful, like I was ready to take on the world, one muddy trail at a time. Of course, I wouldn’t go it alone. I would travel far and wide, but I would never have to look for a friend because I would always have many with me. Even when clean clothes, games and food were short, we could spend time together to feel fresh, entertained and fulfilled. I think that’s why I was never hungry on the trip. Even though we hiked a lot, sweat a lot, and burned tons of calories, I survived on one burrito, some oatmeal, and trail mix. Truly fascinating. I guess being hot, sweaty, tired, and hungry is no match for the good feeling you get from being outside with friends. I could tell that I had a good time even when I wasn’t doing anything in particular. I would walk down the trail, red-faced and sticky, and I would be beaming, even when there wasn’t anything to smile at. It’s something I could get used to.” — Mae

Rock Water Hiking

“Over the whole trip we hiked 5 miles, saw many pretty views, and got to sleep in tents. Even though we were different ages we all bonded so much. We all learned something new about each person. It was beautiful. I have never seen anything like it. It was so magical and an experience I will never forget. When we woke up, we went on a hike to a waterfall. It was super special because we got to look behind us to see the top of the waterfall, and in front of us to see a view of some beautiful mountains. Then we went to the top of Sam Knob, and the view was breathtaking. I would not trade the experience for the world. Then we hiked back and we were all exhausted, but knew it was all worth it. Back to the first day, we hiked 2 miles in just under an hour. It did not feel long at all. It was not that steep. It felt pretty flat. When we got to our campsite someone was already there, so we went back to a vacant spot for us to sleep. We learned all about what to look for as a sign of a good campsite. We also learned how to leave no trace by packing it out. We had to figure out how to put up a tent with no help. After we got our sleeping situation all figured out, we sat around the campfire and learned a lot about where we all live and what we want to be doing when we’re 25. We ate our burritos and s’mores as we talked. Then played a few riddle games including black magic and the elephant game. Overall it was super fun, and an experience I will never forget.” — Mia

NC Meadow Hiking

“On this trip I experienced amazing new things that I never would have before. First, we hiked two miles of a straight path with a few muddy spots. It took us a little while to find the perfect camp spot but when we did it felt so nice to take our bags off. We set up camp and then made a campfire. Then we learned things about each other by playing world map while our burritos got warm by the fire. Even though some of the burritos were burnt, they were still delicious. Afterwards, we told stories and had s’mores. We played black magic, which I did not understand for a long time. Then we went to our tents because we were all exhausted. Even though we were really tired it took us a while to go to sleep. When we woke up at 5:15am we were even more tired. It started raining so we all decided to go back to sleep instead of seeing the sunrise. The second time we woke up it wasn’t raining and we went for a hike to a waterfall. It was gorgeous! By the end of the waterfall, my shoes and socks and feet were soaking wet, but at least it was so fun. Then we hiked to the top of Sam Knob. It was tiring, wet, and muddy, but all of that made the hike better. And when we finally got to the top it was one of the prettiest views I have ever seen. From beginning to end, this hike was and always will be an amazing memory I will never forget.” — Emma

NC Hike Overlook

“From the minute I hopped off the bus and felt the weight of the pack on my back, I knew I was in for something special. I have to say, knowing that I have never done a trip like this before I probably would have never learned as much as I did if I didn’t have Jayne and Clyde and Rebecca. They really just made the trip with the games and the hikes and their leave no trace knowledge. I feel so enlightened. I also learned a lot from the campers like how to set up a tent. Ha Ha. I don’t think I would have had the bravery to hike down that waterfall if I didn’t have them with me either. The waterfall ended up being the most exciting part of the hike. When I stood on that rock and looked at the view ahead I just felt everything in me break free. All the tension and tightness in my back from the pack just released off me. Those are the kind of feelings I live for. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to venture out of the city and feel the breath of life and see mountains of trees and never ending skies. I also love the huge space of just grass and flowers, the meadow where we dropped our backpacks off. It’s another whole feeling being in the mountains and this trip is one I will never forget.” — Karma

Teen Hiking Pose

CAs Hike to John Rock

9th Grader CA campersWe took the CA campers on a hike to John Rock yesterday. All 20 of them, their 5 counselors, Jessi and Jeff made the mostly uphill hike from the fish hatchery to the rock. It’s a fantastic walk through the woods, crossing several streams and moving between micro-environments. Ferns, and then mountain laurels. Rocks, then a grove of just white pine trees. Right now the mountain laurels are blooming, so parts of the trail wind you through a tunnel of white and pink flowers. Then at the top it’s a breath-taking view across to Looking Glass Rock (in the background of this photo), one of the most remarkable feature in the entire Pisgah National Forest.

We took the hike to discuss what this session’s banquet theme will be. Starting with almost 40 different ideas, these 9th graders slowly narrowed down the list and finally settled on a fantastic idea. For the rest of the session, they’ll work on decorations, costumes, skits, songs, dances, and a special menu to match their theme. It’s a big event, and a big surprise for everyone else in camp. Stay tuned for the big reveal!

Hiking Girls

Girls Adventure Hiking Trip

Let’s not forget hiking! All the girls who come to Rockbrook can count on a hiking and camping adventure. It’s not required or anything, but just about everybody takes a special trip out of camp to spend a night camping out in the forest, either at one of our outposts (at the Nantahala River or nearby camp below Dunns Rock) or in the nearby Pisgah National Forest. Even the youngest campers look forward to being outdoors, sleeping in their sleeping bag, messing around with their flashlight 🙂 and of course, making s’mores over the campfire.

Hiking and camping like this is big fun for the girls, but more than that, it reconnects them with nature. Away from the ordinary distractions of being inside (home, school, car), they settle down and become more aware of the world around them. This makes it easier to appreciate the people around them too, and thereby to make friends. It’s amazing, but hiking and camping provides an almost magical context for girls to enjoy being with each other while at the same time growing socially.

Steep Hiking Adventure

Steep Castle Rock Hiking Girls

Here’s a picture of a hiking group at the top of Castle Rock, one of the two massive rocks on the Rockbrook Camp property (the other one being Dunn’s Rock). From up there, the view is out across the French Broad River Valley and out to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s an amazing spot to see Cedar Rock (another climbing destination) and on a clear enough day, Tennent Mountain (a backpacking spot up near the Shining Rock Wilderness area). Sitting at this spot on Castle Rock your elevation is almost 2,450 feet above sea level. Below you is a 150 foot rock cliff and further below is the main part of camp which has an elevation of 2,250 feet.

You knew hiking the trail from camp to Castle Rock was steep uphill; now you know how much! You’re hiking up about 200 feet in about half a mile.  Sure there are switch-backs, but that trail is steep!