A Spectacle of Excitement

An opening day of camp is a spectacle of excitement. It’s the start of something we’ve all been looking forward to, and is something that’s filled with possibility, great feelings and new experiences. Just about everyone involved knows this feeling— the parents driving into camp with jittery children in the backseat, the campers themselves who’ve had to wait for many, many months for this day, and the enthusiastic cabin counselors literally jumping up and down to greet the campers as they arrive. Even the directors! All of us at camp were very excited this morning to open our second session of camp.

summer camp arrival

I want to thank everyone for managing all of the pre-camp tasks we asked of families this year. In addition to all the regular health forms and camper information forms, this was another year that included covid-19 concerns and this created an added burden leading up to camp. We know that is was a lot, but we’re also very thankful that everyone, without exception, took care of the details. We done!

The parents being prepared helped make the check-in procedure go smoothly too. Our staggered arrival times and “drive-thru” stations kept the line of cars moving steadily ahead all morning. The highlight of the process was hopping out the car and meeting each camper’s counselors. Our crew of luggage guys worked steading all morning as well, quickly moving trunks and duffles to the cabins where the girls could begin setting up their cabins together.

Setting up the cabin has become a fun group activity now that the different aged girls are arriving at similar times. It really helps make everyone feel included as they arrange trunks in the cabin, share decorations, and pick their bunk more collaboratively. In fact, this whole day is an extension of this process as the girls spend most of their time with their cabin group.

camp cabin group tour

Lunch was Rick’s signature homemade mac-n-cheese. This is a perpetual favorite for open day. And Rick does it right. Mountains of shredded cheese, pounds of elbow macaroni, mixed with a roux of butter, milk and flour, and baked until bubbling hot. Everyone loved it.

The cabin groups also spent time walking around and touring camp. This was a chance to visit the different activity areas and to learn where to find the Health Hut, the Office, the Dining Hall, the Gym and the Lake. We also spent time visiting the camp store to pick up the items parents ordered for their campers. Soon you’ll start to see those new sweatshirts, bucket hats and water bottles in the photo gallery.

The afternoon brought all of us to the lake, all the counselors, directors, lifeguards, and campers too. It was time for our “swim demos,” which is the process where we ask everyone to demonstrate their ability to swim. The lake has various areas that are appropriate for different swimmers, deeper and more shallow areas for example. To make sure everyone finds the best area, we check how well everyone can swim, tread water, and be comfortable in our chilly mountain lake. We all take turns jumping off the dock (cheering support!) swimming and treading water for a minute, and then receive a colored wrist band and tag. The three different levels are easily identified with this color coding.

The lake is such a popular place to be, we want to make sure everyone has a chance to cool off on those sunny summer days. We now have a full board of tags, one for each person who can swim in the lake, maybe take a ride down the waterslide, or just float lazily in a tube.

We’re off to a great session, and the girls are ready to dig into their first rotation of activities starting tomorrow. They selected their activities tonight, so they are eager to say the least!

Let me remind you to send mail… lots of it! The girls check their mailbox after lunch each day, and it’s a big deal to see something waiting for you in your box. Likewise, it’s a little disappointing to see your box empty. So write those letters! And send those emails (Instructions for sending mail are here). Everyone loves mail at camp.

A Special Energy

Every camp session has a certain momentum to it, a feeling of accelerating energy, that becomes incredibly powerful with each passing day. The girls enjoy themselves more and more, are more quick to laugh at things, and are more eager to dive deep into camp life. All of those great camp feelings— enthusiastic support from everyone around you, friendly encouragement, a general sense of belonging and wellbeing, a joyful approach to whatever arises —become more regular and true. Part if this is because we are simply more familiar with camp life and therefore we come to expect these feelings. But, of course, the quality of our camp experience is mostly derived from the the deepening friendships we form while here. All this time together, doing so much together, creates a special kind of energy that builds on itself, day after day.

monsters camp party

The end-of-session all-camp events, for this reason, are particularly exciting and powerful. One such event is the camp play, which this session was “Shrek the Musical.” This was a chance for campers to play their favorite Shrek characters, including that beloved green ogre, the princess Fiona, the evil Lord Farquaad, and Donkey. In addition to spoken parts telling the story of Shrek rescuing Princess Fiona, the show included singing and fun dance routines.

The other event held at the end of the main sessions is the “Banquet.” This is a BIG deal, and is something everyone looks forward to. It’s essentially a huge party with music and dancing, decorations, special food, and costumed characters entertaining. The 9th grade campers (our CAs) plan and present the banquet, keeping its theme a secret until revealing it on the second to last day of camp.

monster camp party costumes

This session the theme focused on the Pixar characters from the movies Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University. They called it, “Monsters Incamporated.” This was a colorful and fun banquet theme. Taking styles from the movies, the dining hall was decorated with painted doors, Monster University sorority and fraternity insignias, well-known characters from the movies, balloons and streamers. The CAs themselves dressed up too. We saw Mike Wazowski, Sully, Randall, Celia, Art, Janitors, Members of the PNK (Python Nu Kappa) Sorority, Hardscrabble, Johnny, Roz and others. There were skits enacting a couple of scenes, and dance numbers combining several characters.

The tables of the dining hall were arranged to leave plenty of space for dancing, which everyone enjoyed between scenes performed by the CAs. The tables had decorated cups for everyone, a variety of candy treats, and small cans of soda. The meal was “Ears and Eyes” (tortellini and meatballs), “Mini Mikes” (green grapes), and “Green Goo” (Chips and Guacamole). Dancing and singing, eating and drinking, colorful and loud— it was a fabulous party.

candle ceremony campers

The final event of the session, which occurred on the last evening, was the closing campfire. This “Spirit Fire” is a tradition reaching back to Rockbrook’s very first summer more than 100 years ago. It’s a chance to reflect on the session and what we’ve all learned from being together at camp. Different campers and counselors take turns giving short speeches, alternating with traditional songs sung around a roaring campfire. Tonight we heard a camper talk about feeling immediately accepted at Rockbrook. Another said that she had found “another home” at camp. One staff member was surprised how much camp meant to her after taking a few years off from being here.

The Spirit Fire brings up these sorts of feelings. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with so many friends with whom you’ve shared so much— it brings up emotions. It makes you appreciate what’s special about camp. It makes you feel good about yourself and your place in this positive community. The Spirit Fire ends with each person lighting a small white candle and then processing around the lake. This creates a beautiful ring of candlelight reflecting off the water of the lake. The girls sing softly and after a few minutes head back to their cabins for their last night at camp.

Thank you everyone for being a part of camp this session. Thank you for recognizing the value of camp, and for trusting Rockbrook to provide the kind of summer experience your girls need. It’s been a wonderful session, and we look forward to seeing everyone again very soon.

Frolic with the Foam!

Tonight we witnessed how these Rockbrook girls know how to let loose! After dinner and signing up for next week’s activities, we had an all-camp shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide dance party down on the grassy sports field. It has a gently sloping area for the long sheet of plastic, a couple of water hoses to keep it slick, and a large area for everyone to romp around in.

shaving creamed trio
shaving cream fight laugh
shaving cream hairstyle
camp shaving cream kids

First we piled up about 150 cans of shaving cream (not menthol!). We lay out the slip-n-slide plastic and soaped it up a bit. We got a water sprinkler going. We set up our sound system. Add a bunch of excited camp girls, and you have a shaving cream fight!

They came dressed in their swimsuits and wearing their water shoes. They tossed their towels in a pile, grabbed a can of shaving cream and were off!

Some first sprayed a little of the foam on themselves, as if testing the can. But most immediately began chasing someone else, can outstretched ready to fire away. Of course, that’s exactly the point, emptying every can of shaving cream on everyone there. Frolic with the foam! Squirt it, slather it, and smear it everywhere and on everyone.

Yes, there’s running to get away from an attacking friend, but really, everyone realizes its fun to slow down just enough to be caught and splattered with the white slippery stuff.

The mood is complete hilarity, laughter turned up as high as it will go. Laughing perhaps as hard as they have ever laughed. There’s a mischievous twinkle in their eyes as they sneak up on people with a handful of shaving cream, ready to strike. There’s also a sly grin as the girls enjoy themselves, since getting this messy is ordinarily “not allowed” at home.

And messy it is! Unavoidably so. In about 5 minutes, there’s white foam everywhere— no person unscathed. Getting the shaving cream in your hair is part of the fun. Friends help each other with that goal, and soon there are mohawk styles, helmets of foam, twists and random blobs decorating almost everyone’s head. Some of the littlest girls made it a goal to cover every inch of themselves with shaving cream, while some of the oldest girls want to draw on each other and pose for a group photo.

Throughout this “fight,” the girls would take turns sliding down that sheet of plastic. All that shaving cream covering them made the ride fast and easy. Yes, messy here too, as the water and foam sprayed up during each slide. Some of the girls really loved the slip-n-slide, taking ride after ride.

Even though we made participating in all of this optional, this was one of the largest shaving cream fights I can remember. It was most popular with the Middlers and Juniors, but there were plenty of Senior girls enjoying the event as well. All-ages fun!

As the sun was setting and the many cans of foamed had been emptied, a few girls took their last ride down the slip-n-slide as others began hosing off. The temperature was dropping and these girls needed a warm shower.

Letting loose like this with your friends feels really good. It’s all smiles from the girls because I think it taps into a basic urge to be completely silly and experience a moment free from regular decorum. It’s the messiness of it all. We can’t be messy like this ordinarily, so when we can, it’s hilarious and fun. There’s really no other feeling quite like a shaving cream fight at camp.

shaving cream fight sunset

An Energizing Jolt

It’s hard to beat a summertime trip to Sliding Rock. If you haven’t heard of the place, it’s a spot in the Pisgah National Forest where Looking Glass Creek flows over a sloping outcropping of granite. Over eons, as the creek has cascaded over the rock and splashed into a pool below, its surface has been worn (mostly) smooth. Fun seeking humans at some point discovered that a person could sit down at the top of the rock and have the force of the moving water send them accelerating down the rock ending in a splash at the bottom. The ride is 60 feet long!

Tonight we took a big group of Middlers and Seniors to Sliding Rock so that everyone could experience this classic summertime activity here in the mountains of North Carolina. Like last week, we loaded 6 buses and vans, filled them with 6 lifeguards and all their equipment (e.g. rescue tubes and a backboard), 18 counselors and the rest of the seats with campers. We again arrived “after hours” when the area is officially “closed.” This helps avoid the crowds common during the day and allows us to essentially “take over” the place with our own staff and procedures. Plus, when we show up, it’s quite a sight. We end up making a long line of excited girls, clapping and cheering for their friends as they slide two by two.

The sound of this crowd, plus the roar of what is essentially a waterfall, makes being there intensely exciting. There’s also the temperature of the water, which is typical of the mountain streams around here. It’s what some describe as “refreshing” and others as “shockingly cold.” Either way, the water provides an energizing jolt that seems to launch each ride into a scream inducing thrill.

Needless to say, the girls love Sliding Rock! Even the senior girls who have come to camp for years are excited to brave the slide again. It might be a little scary, and it’s definitely kind of chilly, but the overall feeling is not to be missed. One camper said she looks forward to sliding every year. Most of the girls want to slide multiple times, hopping right back in line after swimming out of the pool. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fading light of the evening, we’d slide for hours. But after everyone slid 3 or so times, it was too dark to continue.

But that wasn’t the end of our evening. There was one more stop to make, one that also has become a highlight for just about every girl who attends Rockbrook— a stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar. The girls literally run from the buses to join the line to select their flavor. Dolly’s has unique combination flavors named after many of the area summer camps. For example there is “Gwynn Valley Vortex,” “High Rocks Arctic Slide,” and “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion.” There is one flavor, “Chosatonga Cheer,” that has an intense blue color, so intense that it leaves your teeth and lips a distinctly blue tint. It’s fun to eat and apparently delicious too!

This was a night of great camp fun— singing camp songs in the bus, catching the adventure of sliding rock, and enjoying a yummy sweet ice cream treat. And all with loads of laughs and good vibes from dozens of friends. Such genuine exuberance! It can’t be beat.

camp girls sliding

Intolerable Anticipation

Today we opened our June mini session and welcomed 77 campers to Rockbrook to begin their 2-week session. It was an exciting morning for everyone, certainly for the girls arriving because they were finally starting their time at camp, but also for the current full session campers and staff already here because they now had a new group of friends to meet and play with while at camp.

new summer camp girls

About half of the girls arriving today were brand new to camp, and about half are on the Junior Line (grades K-4). You could feel everyone’s jittery excitement as the cars pulled up at each stop in our drive-thru check-in process. I imagine the girls were feeling a unique combination of nerves, almost intolerable anticipation, but also deep-down eagerness.

Meeting your counselors and the other girls in your cabin amplify these feelings, but the best way to harness this energy is to get started doing things. So that’s what we do. The first job, after quick introductions, is to set up the cabin, making beds, arranging trunks, etc. But then it’s time to tour the camp, and get a sense of the different activity areas, the dining hall, and other landmarks like the stone lodges, the tennis courts, the gym, and the lake for example.

A quick assembly of the whole camp on the grassy hill gave everyone a chance to sing a few songs, meet the Directors, Line Heads, and the Hi-Ups, and catch a glimpse of the mountain view in the distance.

big lake jumping kid

For lunch, Rick and his fantastic kitchen crew prepared a camp classic: tacos. With bowls of homemade guacamole, salsa, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, refried black beans, and ground beef, as well as stacks of crunchy taco shells, it really hit the spot. And since the weather was perfectly sunny and breezy, we turned it into a picnic and ate outside on the hill.

After lunch, during rest hour, the mini session campers who just arrived changed into their swimsuits and walked down to the lake to learn about our swimming “Tag System” and to demonstrate their swimming ability. They took turns jumping off the dock, swimming and treading water to prove how comfortable they are in the water. There are three different colors of tags based on swimming ability, each indicating which part of the lake is best for that person (deeper for strong swimmers, and perhaps wearing a life jacket for beginner swimmers). Everyone who wants to cool off in the Rockbrook lake can do that in some way or another.

We had another all-camp special event in the afternoon— a festival of sorts focused on the theme of “animals.” We called it “Petting Zoo.” And if you saw the farm animals on hand, you can see why! The girls were able to feed a calf, a baby pig, a couple of goats, and chickens. There were many animal-rated other activities too: hobby horse races, animal costume bingo, making felt animal headbands, a flamingo ring toss game, face painting, and a huge limbo line. Of course, there were animal crackers as a snack, and with many of the girls dressed in different animal costumes, we had an afternoon menagerie!

Bandits and Dancing

Saturday at camp is mostly a day of regular activities. “Regular” means a schedule of two periods that meet in the morning and two in the afternoon. These are the time slots when the girls rotate through the different activity options available around camp. Woven between these slots are blocks of free time when a game of tetherball, or reading your book, or taking a shower is what feels right. Two of these free time blocks are “Free Swim” periods when the lake is open, giving girls a daily opportunity to cool off even if they did not take swimming as one of their activities.

summer camp square dance
summer camp line dance

After dinner on Saturdays, we always plan a special event. We usually keep it a surprise, and like all great camp gatherings, we integrate a theme that inspires a genre of costumes.

Tonight it was two-part event. The first for an all camp scavenger hunt, where the girls roamed about the camp in their cabin groups looking for gold coins. This “Gold Rush” was challenging! The coins were carefully hidden, sometimes under bushes, behind trees, and even in the creek. Also hidden has a special “Golden Nugget” that if found was worth a unique prize itself.

Also roaming about were counselors who acted as “Bandits” intent on stealing the gold a cabin group had gathered. The bandit would approach a group and demand its gold. The group could keep its gold if it could answer a riddle or sing a particular song that the bandit named. “What’s the 14th word of ‘Oh I was born’?” (“toot” is the answer.) Or an easier one, “What’s the first name of the woman who founded Rockbrook?” (“Nancy”). Avoiding the bandits and finding as much gold as possible— that was the game. The prize for the most gold and finding the golden nugget was a trip to Dolly’s later in the session.

The second part of the event was a “Hootin’ and Hollerin’ Square Dance” held down on the Rockbrook House lawn. This large, flat, grassy area is perfect of a large group dance. The girls had a great time learning a few moves like a do-so-do, the Virginia slide, and version of the Boot Scootin’ Boogie.

camp summer dancing fun

The girls came dressed for a county dance with lots of denim, flannel shirts, bandannas and boots. We saw a few pigtails and western hats too.

The Hi-Ups enjoyed leading the dances, picking out the music to be played, and setting the silly, fun tone of the whole event. A highlight was the huge line of girls, hand-in-hand, “winding the clock,” spiraling inward toward the center of circle.

Outdoor dancing with your friends on a warm summer evening. Clapping along to the music, smiling and laughing at the awkwardness of it all. Suddenly feeling free to let go a little… what could be better? And what a great example of the joy camp inspires.

A Decision to Leap

One of the special thrills at Rockbrook, something that every camper can experience if they choose, is to ride through our zipline course. “If they choose” is important because, like all of the activities here, it’s up the girls themselves to decide what they would like to do. Nothing is mandatory. So if someone doesn’t want to swim in the lake, or take riflery, or climb the tower, or only do craft activities (there are eight different ones!), that is perfectly fine. We want girls here to feel empowered and this agency is a simple way for them to experience that.

high flying zip girl

Signing up for the zipline does take some nerve. After all, there are three different zips and three different challenging bridges to cross during the hour or so of making your way through the course. Like many high adventure activities, there is special safety equipment involved and important protocols that must be followed. There’s a certain degree seriousness to it, which can add to the jitters a girl might have. But it also looks really fun, and almost everyone in camp is eager to give it a try.

We designed the course to be scenic, to be a progression of challenges, and to be a unique thrill. The course is woven into the forest with each zip going between huge boulders, among the trees and even a waterfall above the main part of camp. The first zip is slower, and the last is an eye-popping, you-can’t-help-but-scream, blast. The girls wear a helmet and climbing harness tethered to a dual-wheel pulley with a steel backup clip. Launching on a zip, trusting this equipment, takes courage, but the exciting payoff comes right away as the girls zoom through the air waving their arms. Their being brave, their making a decision to leap, despite being a little nervous, ends up being something they really enjoy, and will probably look back on fondly. The lesson, even if they can’t say it out loud, is that they are stronger than they think. These girls can do things!

summer camp dance class

Dance is one of those camp activities that you can do elsewhere but is uniquely different at camp. When campers sign up for dance, they don’t know what the instructor will choose to teach. It might be a ballet skill, or a particular Hip-Hop move, or a country line dance routine. What’s guaranteed though is that the scene will be lighthearted and upbeat. There’s a playfulness to learning dance, as everyone starts out being kinda clumsy, making moves with odd timing. This tone, plus the fact that friends are trying to learn together, makes taking dance really funny too. There’s something particularly hilarious about watching your crew twist or spin in the wrong direction or on the wrong beat. The wall of mirrors makes this inevitable. Dancing and laughing: it’s a great combination.

Girls Sliding Rock

It was time for another classic camp thrill last night after dinner— a trip to Sliding Rock, with a stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar afterwards. After a little late start, we arrived at “The Rock” when nobody was there, giving us the whole place to ourselves. Since we had six buses and vans full of girls and counselors, that was a good thing. We placed two lifeguards at the top of the slide and four at the bottom, giving us plenty of eyes on the girls as they slid two-by-two. As you might expect, the water is “mountain stream cold” and is, like riding the zipline, something that takes a little nerve to try, but once you literally take the plunge, it’s an exciting experience. It’s so fun, most girls immediately want to do it again. In fact, because it was getting dark, we had to end the sliding, even though there were girls who would have gladly kept going.

We wrapped up the evening at Dolly’s so everyone could enjoy a cone of their favorite flavor. This is so popular with the girls, we make sure every camper gets to sample some Dolly’s ice cream while they’re here at camp. Good stuff, for sure!

summer camp teenagers

A Rainy Rafting Day

As we loaded the first three buses and vans early this morning, we had a hunch it was going to be a challenging day. The weather forecast called for patchy rain, but we had 70 people signed up to go rafting. The real question was how much rain would fall over at the Nantahala river, and could we avoid the heaviest periods of rainfall. Despite that uncertainty, the guides left at 6:15am to stage all the equipment in advance of the first group of campers arriving. And despite it being early in the morning, that first group woke up early for a quick breakfast before leaving around 7. Dressed in their swimsuits, with towels, water shoes, and a backpack of warm dry clothes for after the trip, and a little bleary-eyed, we were off!

summer camp rafting girls

Sure enough, as we drove toward the river, the skies darkened and a light drizzle began falling. And by the time we reached the put in to the river, we’d passed through periods of real rain alternating with a cool mist.

The Nantahala is already known for its chilly water temperature (because it’s fed partially by a hydroelectric project that pulls water from a deep lake), so to add a cool rain and cloudy skies meant making an even chillier experience. Fortunately, we were prepared for that, and gave all of the campers blue spray jackets to wear. These repel the rain and help retain some body heat when paddling.

It was a rainy rafting day. Was it miserable or disappointing? No! Just the opposite— it was uncomfortable for sure, but also exciting, adventurous, and still very fun. The girls laughed and splashed their way down the river, taking turns “riding the bull” on the front of the raft. They had a great time posing for photographs and chatting in the boat. In each rapid, when there is an even greater chance someone might fall out of the boat, the splashing was extra thrilling.

Rafting is always a challenging experience to some degree. It’s something that’s a little scary ordinarily, but when it’s rainy like today, it’s even more so. What surprises the girls though is that even with their nervousness, their nagging worry perhaps, they find themselves leaning into the situation and doing just fine. What seems like something they would usually avoid, if given the choice, they in fact enjoy quite a lot.

Rafting helps them learn that approaching new experiences together, having friends around you in uncertain situations, makes a big difference. Rafting proves that when you’re nervous, it’s comforting to have your pals right there with you. That support helps you be more confident to give things a try, to be brave even when you’re not sure how things will turn out. Camp is full of these experiences. And, a rainy rafting day is a particularly good example. Today the girls showed real resilience and grit to stick together, endure some challenging conditions, but still have a blast on the water.

campers dressed as old person
granny costumed counselors

Meanwhile back at camp, we suddenly found that many of the campers and counselors had mysteriously aged dramatically. Instead of blond and brown hair, we saw many people with grey and white hair. Instead of girls running up and down the Rockbrook hills, folks were moving more slowly, almost limping along with one hand pressing their backs as if slightly in pain. The yoga class went from doing downward dog poses to easier moves that allowed these folks to sit in a chair. At the lake, instead of diving board tricks and waterslide splashes, there were people taking a gentle water aerobics class.

What was going on?

Curlers in their hair? Walking canes? And so many nightgowns! Well, it was a day of costumes at camp, of grannies and grandpas. It was a chance to take on a character and dress up. It was a chance to drop a “dad joke” and maybe speak with a higher pitched, scratchy voice.

After dinner, there was a brief fashion show on the hill. Anyone interested could take turns showing their best geriatric style. With music and an announcer narrating the scene, everyone clapped and cheered for each presentation… all just for the fun of it.

Capping things off, tonight’s evening program was a raucous game of bingo in the dining hall. The grannies and grandpas selected their bingo cards, and as the pingpong ball numbers tumbled out of the cage one by one, they placed pieces of cereal on the matching numbers. Round after round, lucky (seemingly) elderly people would raise their arms and shout “BINGO!” excited to win a prize. Like so many things at Rockbrook, the whole day was funny and fun… silly, joyful fun.

girls relaxing on porch at camp

Leap Into Camp Life

The first full day of camp today came alive beautifully. You might think that the girls would ease into things, maybe need some further introductions or explanations, and therefore move a little slowly at first. You might think some lingering uncertainty about what to do would keep certain things from happening right away. But none of that is true. Instead, like a light switch, everything at camp energized simultaneously.

kids washing a horse

For example, down at the riding center our staff taught lessons in all four rings for all four activity periods. The girls are assigned different lessons based on their ability and experience riding, and hence there are many lessons happening at once. This allows the more advanced girls to ride different horses and work on different skills. It’s quite a complex task to organize 32 horses and 7 instructors to teach these lessons everyday, but our Riding Director Kelsi has years of experience taking care of it. Our “Stable Club” also met today. It’s a chance for interested girls to spend more time with the horses, helping with grooming and washing them for example. It’s a great way to increase their understanding of horsemanship.

The zipline was likewise squealing with excitement today as the first cabin groups took their turn on the course. With three zips (the first of which glides past “Stick Biscuit Falls,” the waterfall up behind the camp office) and three wiggly challenge bridges, it’s an exciting adventure. We’re planning for everyone, all ages of girls at camp (Yes! even the Juniors!), to have a chance to ride the ziplines this summer.

archery camper girl

Archery and riflery are always popular activities at Rockbrook, quick to fill up with eager shooters. One girl told me she would take riflery every period if she could! Archery is similar in that anyone can learn to do it, and see real improvement in a short amount of time. Our instructors teach the important safety protocols and the essential techniques, and then the girls improve simply through practice. It’s a satisfying accomplishment when they hit a bullseye and join the “Bullseye Club.”

Over in the gym, Leo, our new gymnastics and tumbling coach, taught several classes of girls how to do cartwheels and back walkovers. He’s got years of teaching cheer squads and is great at providing tips and tricks that make learning these moves a lot easier. The girls are really excited to make progress on learning those skills.

All over camp today there was virtually no hesitation to leap into camp life. We’re playing games, and spending all day outside. We’re laughing and learning. We’re enjoying each others company and conversation. We’re eating well and sleeping even better. Camp life feels really good, and the girls are really enjoying it, even more than perhaps expected.

That’s a true joy to see.

The Delight of the Morning

You can’t open a summer camp without the people. And today people finally showed up! After months of thinking and planning, Rockbrook opened its first session of 2022 this morning. Our staff arrived last weekend to work through a series of orientation meetings and trainings covering topics like health and safety protocols, how to teach activities, tips for managing cabin group dynamics, and how the philosophy of Rockbrook guides what we do here. Honestly it’s a lot of discussion about what camp will be like, what we will be doing, so while informative, it just adds fuel to the feelings of anticipation leading up to opening day.

Excited summer camp counselors

So it was very exciting for all of us to see those first campers arrive at around 8:30 this morning. Dressed in their red and white staff uniforms, our counselors were literally jumping up and down with excitement, clapping, singing, and playing games on the hill waiting for their girls to arrive. Everything we’d been talking about was coming to reality!

Our drive-thru check in procedure worked very well. Each station from the office folks to the nurses was organized and efficient, and that helped keep the line of cars moving nicely. And the staggered arrival times spread everyone out enough that we never had a rush of families arriving at the same time.

I want to thank all of our families for being so organized and arriving having complied with all of our pre-camp protocols. We know it was a burden to arrange for a PCR covid-19 test, to track symptoms for a week, to complete all of those forms (!), and package medicines especially for camp. Thank you! We’re certain that your efforts will play a critical role in our running a safe and healthy camp. It really means a lot.

girl camp smiles

The absolutely perfect weather added to the delight of the morning— old camp friends reuniting, new campers being welcomed and suddenly finding themselves swept along as cabin groups began setting up their bunks. Soon groups of girls led by their counselors were exploring camp, warming up the tetherballs, and getting to know each other. The organic beauty of Rockbrook was sparkling all morning long, and mixed with the joyful cheers of everyone arriving, it was extraordinary.

Lunch was a perennial favorite: Rick’s homemade mac and cheese, fresh fruit and salad. All hot and cheesy, its a pasta dish that always pleases the crowd. It took about five minutes before a song broke out during lunch, and then only a few minutes longer for another to bubble up. It’s part of the fun of having dozens of friends sitting together for a meal.

The afternoon brought us all to the lake because the lifeguards were ready to let everyone demonstrate their swimming ability in anticipation of all the water action we’ll be offering at camp. Ready to swim, each age group took turns jumping off the dock, swimming out to give a high five to one of the guards, and then back to the deep part of the lake to tread water for a minute. There are a few different “swimming levels” that align with any difficulties doing any of that, but everyone can take advantage of the lake at camp in some way (maybe while wearing a life vest, for example), no matter what their swimming ability.

This summer we have brought back individual activity choice for the girls, so we also spent some time later introducing them to all of the choices. While the campers watched, the counselors and activity instructors took turns making short presentations, performing skits, and singing songs about their activities. These silly presentations are great ways for the girls to meet the counselors and pick up on the joy they have for what they teach. It demonstrates that there’s big fun to be had by singing, dancing, putting on a costume, and laughing at each other’s antics. It proves how the spirit of Rockbrook can begin with genuine kindness, and lead to a confidence that opens you up for silly, silly fun. Experiencing that. That’s how we start.

joyful camp kids in towels