What Leads to Friendship

It happened again today. A counselor told me she was surprised how easy it was to make friends at Rockbrook. She said it took “one day” for her to feel real friendship from people she never knew before. This was astounding to her, and a little puzzling as to how it was possible, because ordinarily, making good friends was more difficult and definitely took a lot longer. I’ve heard it many times before; camp is where we make our best “forever” friends, and for some reason it’s easier to make friends at camp than anywhere else.

knitting class for girls at summer camp

Talking about it further, and thinking about what is different about camp, we hit upon an idea. We thought, “True friendship requires authenticity. When we are most authentically our true selves, we are most capable of making friends.” This works at Rockbrook because our camp culture, with all its practiced ideals, makes it easier for girls to trust themselves and forget the worries that accompany ordinary personal interactions. This place is free of social judgment, and beautifully empowering for girls to strip away the assumptions they may have about themselves and to reveal who they really are. At camp, they discover a freedom to be “the real me,” and realize that the people in this community still value and care about them. They realize that it’s OK to be quirky (we all are in some way or another!), and OK to not be perfect.

I think camp friendships are so strong because each is formed between people being genuine like this. With no superficial posing, nervous performing, or strategic posturing, we can really get to know each other. With no competition or social jockeying, we can be more caring and truly interested in each other. That combination leads quickly to friendship… not superficial friends formed between socially constructed identities we think will be attractive, but a mutual affection born from a deep understanding of each other. Please pardon me for repeating myself, but it’s this special camp community that makes all of this possible. The lesson to be learned, we concluded, was that being a “friendly person” means being brave enough to be your true self and to be kind and caring toward others. We practice this lesson everyday at camp, inspiring us to become more and more friendly.

proud camp girl with archery bullseye

Shooting a bullseye in archery, and especially in riflery, is not easy. Just aiming, shooting, and getting lucky isn’t enough to hit the center of a target 50 feet away. It takes careful, patient techniques, a certain amount of strength to remain still as you aim, and a great deal of practice to become more accurate and precise. Even hitting the target within the scoring rings is an accomplishment, and a good first step. So when a girl hits the center of her target, it is exciting. It’s achieving a long sought-after goal. At Rockbrook, we celebrate this success in a couple of ways. If a camper hits a single bullseye in riflery or three bullseyes in archery, they join what’s called the “bullseye club,” which earns her name being announced in the dining hall during a meal. Everyone cheers when the names are read. Hitting ten bullseyes in archery earns the “golden arrow” award, and achieving one hundred bullseyes is recognized with the “golden bow” award. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but a handful of girls in the past have reached the golden bow award level by the end of their session. That’s dedication, and great skill!

camp girl reading outdoors

There seems to be a lot of readers at camp this session. During points of free time throughout the day, there are several spots around camp where you can find girls tucked in with a book. Being left to decide for themselves how they’d like to spend their free time, these girls are choosing to read. But they’re also selecting some really cool outdoor spots to kick back in their crazy creek chairs. Reading on the hill under the huge walnut tree is a popular spot because it has one of the best long range mountain views in camp. It’s common as well to see girls relaxing and reading in the many red rocking chairs situated on the lodge and dining hall porches. There’s always reading happening near the lake too. Like being on vacation, there’s something nice about reading near a body of water, especially with a friend or two sitting right nearby.

It’s been really fun to see the girls enjoy our new outdoor dining areas at camp. As places to eat, they’re a big hit. Knowing that we needed to keep our cabin group cohorts separated at meals, and that having better air flow was preferable to reduce the chance of spreading anything between cabin groups, we decided to add on to the dining hall porch and the hillside lodge porch this spring. Both porches are elevated off the ground and, like most of the buildings at Rockbrook, are surrounded by trees. This creates a gorgeous forest view from the porches. The hillside lodge porch has gained the nickname “Treetops” as a result. The porches are cool and breezy, perfect places for a pleasant al fresco dining experience, like tonight when we ate Rick’s homemade lasagna, salad, bread and fresh watermelon. Lemon bars topped with powdered sugar were for dessert. People say they love the food at camp. Perhaps eating in these new outdoor spaces is part of the reason. It certainly doesn’t hurt!

three camp teen girls

A Jovernight

Our youngest campers at Rockbrook are girls who have finished Kindergarten, and although someone this young is rare, they can be just 5 years old. Often those “itty-bitty” girls have older sisters who come to camp, or have some other family member who has been telling them about Rockbrook. For example, they’re often children of alumnae. Along with girls who are a few years older (up to 4th grade), these youngest girls are our “Juniors.”

Junior 6 year old camp girls

The Juniors are mostly like all the other campers at Rockbrook. They sleep in cabins with other girls their same age. They eat their meals as a cabin group in the dining hall or on one of our alfresco dining porches. They also are able to take all of the in-camp activities. Like the “big girls,” they’ll shoot archery and riflery while they’re here. They’ll climb the Alpine Tower and fly through the trees (screaming their heads off with excitement!) on the zipline course. They’ll make a tie-dye t-shirt, a clay sculpture, or perhaps a woven hat of yarn. They’ll learn to ride a horse if they want to, do a cartwheel, and maybe paddle a canoe.

One difference, though, is that we don’t take Juniors on out-of-camp adventure trips like whitewater rafting, kayaking, or backpacking. In some cases our Forest Service permits include an age restriction, and in others we have found Juniors generally don’t have the strength or attention to detail that certain activities require. For the most part, Juniors stay on camp during their session, the main exception being a fun afternoon trip to Dolly’s. Dolly’s ice cream is so good, we make sure everyone goes at least once when they come to camp.

We do plan a special in-camp adventure for the Juniors each session— a sleep-out camping trip at our outpost campsite located a short distance from the center of camp. It’s an overnight for Juniors, or as many now call it, a “Jovernight.”

Junior Outpost Camping Platform

This outpost campsite includes two sleeping platforms covered with tin roofs. They are open on the sides allowing the girls to stay dry under the roofs but also feel close to the forest around them. There’s also a nice fire ring so the groups staying out there can build a campfire.

Two cabins of Juniors at a time go on a Jovernight together, one for each sleeping platform. They leave after dinner to make the short walk to the Outpost, each girl carrying her sleeping bag, pillow, water bottle, and crazy creek chair. Once out there, they lay out their sleeping bags and enjoy sitting around the campfire, singing songs, and roasting marshmallows for s’mores.

When it’s time to settle down for the night, it’s exciting to hear the sounds of the forest— crickets clicking, frogs chirping, and birds hooting. This is very different from their silent rooms at home, and can be a little unnerving for some. Lying side by side on the platforms, usually with the counselors on the outside edge, the girls can comfort each other and talk. There’s always some concern about the bugs.

As the girls share this new experience, gradually growing more comfortable, they eventually fall asleep. The counselors tell me that keeping flashlights off is the secret to getting the girls to settle down… fewer bugs in view that way! Sometimes, if the weather is threatening rain, we’ll have everyone sleep in the hillside lodge and build a nice roaring fire in the fireplace. It’s a similar experience, and a nice alternative on an extra rainy night.

Sleeping in the woods, like many of the small challenges girls experience at camp— encountering unfamiliar foods, new activities, and uncomfortable weather, for example —usually creates just a blip of concern for camp girls. They know that things aren’t always comfortable, but also that they can adapt, overcome apparent obstacles, and solve problems when they arise… and all without their parents swooping in to make it easier. With the encouragement and support of their friends in the camp community, and with the “can do” spirit of this all-girls environment, it’s just easier to feel empowered and have more grit. Slowly, as these many experiences build, camp girls gain more confidence overall. Instead of being overwhelmed, together they’re more open and excited for whatever comes along. It’s just an overnight, but at camp, it’s much, much more.

tennis camp for girls group

Delightfully Sensorial

Let me tell you about the “Cove.” That’s our name for a lovely little swimming hole located on the Rockbrook property, hidden deep in the woods about half a mile from the center of camp. It’s formed by Dunn’s Creek as it cascades down from the mountain above. This is a very rocky part of the forest which makes the stream form a long string of waterfalls and pools. One of these pools is the Cove. Hiking there first follows the spillway that carries water toward the Rockbrook lake as it winds gently through thick Rhododendron and past an amazing variety of trees. As you approach the Cove, you first hear the crashing of the waterfalls and begin to notice varieties of moss covering almost every exposed rock.

The Cove itself is beautiful. You first notice the 20-foot rock cliff on one side and the small waterfall dropping into an inviting pool of water beneath. The pool is only about 4 feet deep at its deepest point and has a nice barefoot-friendly sandy bottom. It feels like an opening to something special, a secret part of the forest preserved for those lucky enough to stumble upon it. There’s something about it that’s immediately attractive. You can’t help but think, “Wow, this is really cool.” Today, as the weather warmed up, a small group of Seniors spent their rest hour enjoying a dip in the Cove. They played in the waterfall, and soaked in the natural pool of cool, refreshing water. They loved it!

NC Sliding Rock children

Visiting the Cove, like so many of the experiences at Rockbrook, is delightfully sensorial. It quite literally bathes these girls in sensations, rich experiences that stimulate all their senses. The examples at camp are endless— the firm muscle of the horse they’re riding, the soft feathers of the chickens down at the garden, the refreshing chill of the mountain water around here. At camp you hear amazing things too: nighttime forest animals, the 100-year-old camp bell, and the occasional intense thunderstorm, for example. And taste! —the fresh organic corn we ate on the hill for dinner tonight, a different muffin flavor everyday, and the explosion of cool watermelon in your mouth when you take that first bite. At camp we get to smell the earthiness of the forest all around us, encounter the sharp smoke from a campfire, and breathe in full lungs of the freshest air. And of course, what we see everyday is the beauty of Rockbrook, this historic camp nestled in the “heart of a wooded mountain.”

You have to love this for your kids! When so much of their ordinary lives is spent staring at screens, passively receiving a filtered, curated version of the world— and even more so during the recent pandemic restrictions —they really need all their senses exercised. I suspect their longterm cognitive and emotional health depend on it! They need rich real world experiences like taking the plunge down Sliding Rock or a bite out of a freshly roasted s’more. Camp teaches them that feeling these things is normal and good, that the diversity of sensations offered by the world can be experienced by simply reaching out. I think children naturally do this. They’re curious and eager to explore. They instinctively revel in the sensorial character of camp life (no A/C needed!). I hope you can see the tragedy of those childhood instincts being hindered by the all too common allure of technological entertainment.

Thankfully, life at Rockbrook is a relief from all that. We know how to break the spell of those screens and return to more genuine experiences, more rewarding inter-actions, to a more colorful world. Your girls love it because I think they need it. And at camp, they enjoy it everyday.

small child eating s'more

Fun and Funny

What’s an activity where your feet are numb and there’s sweat under your helmet? What activity alternates between moments of calm scenic beauty and wide-eyed, scream-inducing thrills? When does a team of girls work together and rescue someone on the team when needed? What’s delightful and a little bit scary at the same time? When can you sing and dance with your friends while accomplishing important goals? When can you do a high five simultaneously with six other people? What activity brings you face to face with a powerful force of nature but ends up being hilariously fun? When is “riding the bull” the best seat in the house, and falling “in” often a highlight of the experience? When is there talk of “all forward” and “all back,” bracing and balance, surprise bumps and spins. There’s really nothing else quite like it.

If you guessed whitewater rafting, you are correct because all of these things are true for the Rockbrook girls who took a rafting trip on the Nantahala today. We took about a third of the entire camp over there in Macon county for two different trips down the river. More will go next week as well, giving every Middler and Senior a chance to go. We’ve been taking these Nantahala rafting trips at Rockbrook since the early 1980s, and since we have a US Forest service permit to do so, we can use our own guides and equipment to raft a lot, thereby allowing every girl old enough to go if they like.

Looking at these photos, and from the description above, you can tell that the girls absolutely love these trips. I’d say when the weather is good, like today’s hot and sunny conditions, whitewater rafting is easily their favorite outdoor adventure experience offered at camp. Being in the boat with your friends for the two-hour trip is both a fun social experience, and a uniquely funny one. Almost like slapstick comedy, rafting tosses the girls about, sometimes sending them into the bottom of the boat, arms and legs hilariously sprawling, and other times out into the cold river water— exciting and hilarious at the same time.

This is another example of Rockbrook girls taking something that’s already a good time and making it fantastic. They have this remarkable ability to turn up the fun. When people see our boats floating by on the river, they’re surprised and impressed by the singing, the laughing and the camaraderie. It’s not just rafting for these Rockbrook kids; it’s playful, silly, and enthusiastic rafting. It’s a group of positive friendly girls, already primed to enjoy each others company, diving deep into this experience. It’s part of that camp magic we all appreciate around here— a kind of collective exuberance for whatever we’re doing. With everyone’s bright attitude (and honestly plenty of snacks too!), at camp there’s fun to be found in everything.

One last example… Back at camp, during the block of free time we call “Twilight,” I saw a group of Juniors playing on the hill. Head counselor Ellie pulled out a pile of hula hoops and yelled, “Who wants to do some hooping?” Soon there were hoops spinning in all directions. Some spun around girls’ waists as they found the right speed to wiggle back and forth. Others spun hoops around their arms. Some rolled them along the ground and down the grassy hill. The counselors were helping and encouraging this creativity. One hoop swung like a jump rope. They had music playing from a small speaker, as well, inspiring what we might call “interpretive dance” with the hoops.

Here too, we soon had girls laughing and cheering, jumping and twirling, releasing a mysterious power to have fun. It was so simple and genuine. Just hula hoops and a little music, plus just the right amount of encouragement from some great staff members, made it possible for these young girls to exercise that power and be extraordinarily happy. It’s phenomenal to see that Rockbrook just works like that— girls getting together, relaxing into their most authentic child spirit, and creating unique experiences for each other. It’s so refreshing and very fun to see!

summer time camp girls

Unbridled Joy

This morning I was reminded of a really think soup— maybe pea —because the fog that settled above camp overnight was so thick, I felt like we could swim through it. I could barely make out a distant hill through the grey. We’ve been having extraordinary humid weather the last couple days. That means dense fog in the mornings as the temperature drops with the dew point, sunny mornings, and rainy afternoons with thunderstorms passing through. Today we saw that exact pattern. By the way, you can always check the Rockbrook weather station if you are curious about what’s going on at camp weather wise. Today I see our temperatures were between 66 and 81, the humidity close to 100% most of the day, and 1.5 inches of rain fell between 3 and 6pm. Should we call it cool tropics?

girls tennis summer camper

All of the regular camp activities fired into action today giving the girls their first taste of 4 different new things to try. Our counselors and instructors fanned out across the camp ready with supplies and equipment to teach the girls about ropes, racquets and reins. While some girls slid down the water slide, others climbed up the alpine tower. Arrows hit targets and cartwheels spun across the blue gymnastics mats. Girls twisted and tied t-shirts prepping them for colorful dyes. They rolled and pinched clay, cut and glued paper, and wove reeds after soaking them in the creek. Groups of girls soared high through the trees on our zipline course, and others slapped a ball around the gaga ball court. There was time to swim and time to dance. There were snacks to eat: chocolate chip muffins complete with a dollop of edible cookie dough on top (famously decadent around here) in the morning, and goldfish crackers in the afternoon.

girls basket weaving near creek

This year, as you may recall from our pre-camp announcements, we are scheduling these activities so each cabin group sticks together. Ordinarily at Rockbrook, the girls select their activity schedule individually, deciding for themselves if they want to focus, for example, on more craft oriented activities instead of adventure-based options. This year, to help maintain distance between cohorts (our cabin groups) we are selecting a range of activities for each cabin, giving them a taste of sports (like archery and riflery), adventure (for example, ziplining and hiking), and crafts (needlecraft and pottery, for example). There are still optional off-camp trips where girls can sign up individually to go, and there are still three blocks of free time where campers can decide on their own what they’d like to do. Horseback riding is still individually scheduled.

If an important part of camp is trying new things, this new system is great. I’ve heard from several campers that they were surprised how much they like it. One told me, “I would have never signed up for climbing, but I’m actually pretty good at it!” Sometimes if left to their own preferences girls will default to what’s safe and comfortable rather than attempting something that looks difficult. Being pulled along as part of an encouraging, supportive group, girls can surprise themselves and discover they can do things that would otherwise seem unpleasant or impossible. Camp life is full of moments like that when what’s initially challenging is overcome in the end.

summer camp dance children

This last photo deserves a quick comment. Can’t you just sense the unbridled joy, the silly enthusiasm of this dance class? Dance happens down in the Lakeview Lodge, the stone activity lodge used by the lower line for evening programs. It has mirrors all along one wall and with its smooth hardwood floor, it’s an active dance studio throughout the day. You can tell, these young girls are having a grand time zooming around, trying out different dance moves, and posing to see themselves in the mirrors. There’s exuberant fun simply in the freedom of it all, knowing a few things and then trying whatever feels right. I think that’s why you see so many different dance positions in this scene. These girls are doing their own thing, and loving it! Together and silly, laughing and smiling, they had a great time.

Finally, let me make my appeal for mail. Send it! Send a lot of it! Even just a quick note, having something in your mailbox is a big deal at camp. Your girls would love to hear how proud you are of them at camp.

summer camp forever

A Heap of Anticipation

Arriving at summer camp is always a moment of mixed emotions. Whether you are a camper returning after a previous summer, or a new camper stepping into the world of camp for the first time, or even a parent of an arriving camper, it’s an emotional time. There’s plenty of excitement, for sure, and a heap of anticipation for all the fun each day will bring, but there are ordinarily jitters as well.

girl bunkmates

There’s simply a degree of the unknown to this experience, questions from both campers and their parents that must remain unanswered until it begins to unfold. “Will I like the other girls in my cabin, and will they like me?” “Will she eat enough and sleep enough?” “Will I be strong enough to climb the tower or shoot a bow and arrow?” “Has she packed everything she’ll need?” So many questions! Uncertainty is baked into the whole experience of camp by virtue of it being so different from what’s familiar at home.

While it may be a little scary, arriving at camp is also the beginning of a great adventure, one filled with rich opportunities and new experiences. It’s guaranteed to include meeting amazing people, encountering unique natural beauty, and trying all sorts of new activities. Each day will bring exciting freedoms, and new responsibilities.

All of this means arriving at camp, and afterwards being at camp, takes some courage… again on the part of both parents and campers. It takes a willingness to lean into the experience and overpower those jitters. It takes some confidence and patience to work through things that are unfamiliar and uncertain. It takes an openness to explore and trust that there are answers to all these questions and things will be OK.

sleepaway camp group

The good news is that Rockbrook is exactly the sort of place to inspire this courage. There’s a special power at camp that bolsters and energizes your girls’ best qualities making them more adventurous, more confident and capable. In this camp environment, they can be their “best selves,” as many tend to put it. They can be more courageous because they are immersed in a positive community built upon values of kindness, caring and generosity. At Rockbrook, camp begins with the people and the relationships we form between each other. Right from the start, you feel included, respected, and supported when you arrive a camp. There’s encouragement and shared success around every corner, and reasons to laugh and cheer woven into most things. It’s this special character of the camp community that makes all of this possible.

You’ll see; those jitters will fade. As we get busy at camp, you’ll see it in the campers’ faces as they tackle new challenges and find themselves surrounded by friends. As we cooperate and communicate, striving to understand each others’ personal cares and concerns, we’ll discover new strengths more powerful than those initial uncertainties.

So welcome to camp! We’ve got lots in store, and a host of great folks to do it with. Tomorrow we’ll jump right in, feet first. The water might be chilly, but your girls have totally got this!

sleepaway camper girls

Spirit Fire Speeches

Tonight we closed our camp session with the traditional Rockbrook Spirit Fire. This program gathers everyone in camp around a blazing campfire to sing traditional songs, listen to campers and staff relate their camp experience, and simply ponder our favorite memories gathered over the last few weeks. It can be an emotional time, as the girls realize they’ve grown incredibly close to the friends around them, but they must go separate ways in the morning. It’s also a sweet moment where the girls sit arm-in-arm pulling their friends as close as possible. Under the huge oaks and surrounded by the chirping sounds of the nighttime forest, we’re reminded of how much camp means to us all, individually and as a community.

Here are a couple of Spirit Fire speeches delivered by campers and a staff member. They provide interesting insights into what’s important about camp to these young people. They prove that camp is not a small thing in their lives, and that the sense of well-being found at Rockbrook is real and valuable.

authentic camp friends

Hi guys. My name is Elizabeth. I’m a HUP and this is my 5th year at Rockbrook. I still remember my first year as if it was yesterday. I remember how nervous I was and also how excited I was for all the things Rockbrook has to offer. As soon as I arrived I instantly felt at home. All of the counselors and returning campers made me feel as though I’d been here 10 years. I especially remember the HUPs. As I arrived at camp for the very first time I was greeted with excitement and enthusiasm by all the Hi-Ups. Every year since the Hi-Ups before me have had a huge influence on me. They got me excited for things and served as a big sister to me. My whole camp experience the Hi-Ups seemed so old and mature, and now as a Hi-Up, I can tell you that is not how I feel. It doesn’t seem right that I’m old enough to be a Hi-Up but this has been one of the best summers of my life. The bond I have with each and every one of you is something I will never forget. So, thank you all for making my Hi-Up year live up to my expectations. Finally, I particularly remember Spirit Fire from 3 years ago. Sarah Carter said something about finding your chocolate chip cookie friend. I turned to the girl next to me and said “that’s you.” So now to be reading this speech in my final year as a camper with my chocolate chip cookie friend beside me feels surreal. My hope for all of you is that you find your chocolate chip cookie friend. Rockbrook is filled with so many amazing people, and I can truly say that I have met my best friends here. So thank you to all the Hi-Ups, all the counselors over the past 5 years, and everyone else. I love you all.

— Elizabeth
light candle camp girl

Hi my name is Sarah and this is my third year at camp. I can remember coming to drop off my friend Lauren just to see what camp was and instantly wanting to come back as a camper. The whole way home I was talking Cindi’s ear off with questions and comments. The next year I was nervous but so excited at the same time. I was so shy but slowly started to come out of my shell. That summer ended up being better than I could have ever imagined. At my first Spirit Fire, I remember Sarah Carter talking about Rockbrook being home for so many and in that moment it became home for me too. Something else that stuck with me was Sarah talking about having a chocolate chip cookie friend, someone who makes you feel warm inside and who makes you feel safe to be your truest self. I’m happy to say at my first Spirit Fire I found mine and I hope you find yours too. I can say that having my chocolate chip cookie friend stand next to me at my last Spirit Fire as a camper means so much. Rockbrook has taught me to be myself and given me a home away from home. To my Hi-Ups, through ups and downs, the bonds we’ve made will stay with me forever and I love you all. As a Hi-Up I know this is my last year as a camper but looking around I hope it won’t be my last year at home.

— Sarah
camper friends hug

Hi everyone, my name is Courtney, and this is my first year as a counselor at Rockbrook. A year ago, I didn’t even know Rockbrook existed; I was most likely sitting at home, alone, because as you know, there was (and still is) a global pandemic. Now, fortunately, I’m standing here speaking to so many new, happy and familiar faces all at once as we share this same space. It’s funny how life continually surprises you. 

Each of you has already taught me so many things. I’ve expanded my vocabulary, learning new words like spricket or “bee bop.” The other day, a junior named Maya taught me about a zeptosecond: how long it takes an atom to pass through a photon. I’ve learned how to create differently too, making friendship bracelets out of old string and transferring the color from flowers to dye fabric. But, what I think I cherish most is what you all have shown me everyday. You have shown me how powerful the daily gift of being present can be, the energy that can be found when you pay attention to the overflowing bits of gratitude found in the moment you look up at the sky, notice the ground beneath your toes, or really listen to a friend.

It’s a wonderful thing to witness a community where people are supported throughout the arduous process of not only being but becoming themselves. I think it says even more about that same community when it extends those same arms of love and encouragement to new people. I think that Rockbrook is that community, and that is a very special thing to find. 

I hope that we will hold onto this haven and this promise we have made to love and accept people as they are now and in the future. Let us protect and cherish it and not let change make us afraid of breaking it. I know that I will carry these experiences of genuine kindness from others with me, these moments when I’ve been affirmed the greatest truths in life are the simplest. 

I hope that we will all take up this partnership with growth and continue it after our days at Rockbrook have come to pass in a literal sense. This project to carry seeds of kindness with us and pass them on to anyone we can. To remember to nurture your listening ear and continually plant the same values of acceptance and love that we sing about in our songs, that spark into existence when our hands touch as we pass bowls at the breakfast table, and when we bend our backs for a stranger and a friend.

— Courtney

Girls often talk about the “Spirit of Rockbrook” and how a “Rockbrook Girl” embodies that spirit and the personal qualities it brings about. The Spirit Fire is named to represent that spirit, to call our attention to it, and to strengthen it as we gather together. Tonight everyone felt that strengthening.

It’s been a wonderful session at Rockbrook. Much like a rebirth, campers and staff members returned to camp this summer to find the same positive community, the same beautiful setting, and the same feelings of fun and friendship they love about being here. Worries about Covid-19 were quickly and easily managed, allowing us to focus on the people around us, the activities and special events, and simply living the carefree, healthy lifestyle Rockbrook provides. Thank you everyone for helping to make this possible, and for being a part of Rockbrook!

Camp girls hugging at campfire

Once Upon a Banquet

Tonight the CA campers, our 9th grade girls, presented their surprise themed banquet, the whole-camp party celebrating our time together at camp. After weeks of planning, which began on their very first day at camp, these girls had an elaborate evening of costumes, decorations, skits, games, dances, food and snacks ready to entertain and amaze the rest of the campers and staff.

unicron horse

The evening began with the arrival of news delivered by a fairy riding a unicorn. This white horse-like animal with a colorful crown of flowers circling his single horn proudly trotted into camp as a line colorful fairies, princesses, mermaids, and pirates cheered. The youngest campers were wide-eyed with astonishment as the unicorn rode past. It was then that we learned tonight’s banquet would be in three locations, with each age group rotating though the locations every 40 minutes or so.

This would be a “progressive” banquet transporting the campers from under the sea, to a land of pirates and princesses, to an enchanted forest populated by glowing, sparkly fairies.

camp banquet party fun

The hillside lodge was decorated with an ocean theme. Mermaids helped the campers play games like “pin the trident on the merman,” and “throw the pearl in the clam,” a version of corn hole. They decorated a banner with everyone’s names on it to preserve the banquet and the names in history.

At the gym, the campers found princesses and pirates locked in a heated struggle, but also castles and dragons. Dance numbers turned the gym into a dance party. A highlight was a painted portrait of Jeff and Sarah as a King and Queen.

The last location was the dining hall which was decorated with a forest theme and many tea candle lights. Glowing princesses danced and delivered food to the campers: “shipwreck salad,” “Fresh Fairy Fruit,” “Treasure Trove Tortellini,” “Royal Rosemary” chicken breasts, and “Ballroom Brownies.” Of course the tables included a variety of candies and souvenir red cups as well.

camp group hug

After all three lines visited all three locations, everyone in camp assembled on the hill to hear the CA and Hi-Up songs. This is another long tradition at Rockbrook where these groups of campers show their appreciation for their counselors by writing a song for them and singing it in front of all the other girls. They take a familiar tune and rewrite the lyrics making references to their time together, recalling funny moments, and using silly nicknames or phrases. Counselors of each group do the same for the campers too. So we heard 4 songs altogether.

Lastly, it’s a tradition for the whole camp to sing “Rockbrook Camp Forever,” one of the oldest traditional songs that everyone knows. Dressed in their red RBC t-shirts, each cabin group gathered arm-in-arm in a big group hug, counselors and campers together. They sang and swayed singing the song multiple times. It’s a sweet moment representing the friendships formed in each cabin group.

The banquet was a beautiful success, easily one of the best in recent memory. The girls loved all three locations and appreciated all the hard work the CA girls did to make it happen. What a wonderful way to celebrate the session!

Costume teenage campers

Shaving Cream Fight!

Take a look at these photos. Obviously, they are of the shaving cream fights we had on Sunday afternoon. We had three, one for each age group neighborhood— the Juniors, the Middlers, and the Seniors. On a sunny summer afternoon, romping around in your swimsuit with friends, sprinklers and water hoses going, is always a lot of fun. Add in cans of plain shaving cream, and you have a hilarious good time.

Camp friends shaving cream
girls smeared in shaving cream

Calling this a “fight” isn’t exactly accurate. There’s no aggressive behavior, no goal of conquest. There are no teams or score kept to be announced in the end. For that matter, there’s no defined way for a shaving cream fight to end.

So what is it? Well, it requires only a few things: a grassy field, cans of shaving cream, and a group of fun-loving friends who are comfortable with each other and are willing to get messy. High tempo dance music is optional, but recommended.

It doesn’t take long for a shaving cream fight to begin. Without any prompting in fact, the girls know exactly what to do; squirt the white slippery foam on someone. Splatter the stuff on anyone nearby. Squirt some in your hand and plop it right on her head. Get as much shaving cream on everyone else as possible, even if they try to run away. Chase after them, and spray! Rub it all over their backs. Launch globs into their hair and help them create the most fabulous hairdo they’ve ever experienced.

Of course, as you chase, you’re being chased. As you spray shaving cream, it’s being sprayed on you too. Soon everyone is covered, slippery, and looking pretty silly. Most importantly, everyone is also laughing hysterically. The feeling of being covering in shaving cream, seeing your friends’ reactions, and watching the chaos of it all, are uniquely funny. Outside of camp, you’ll never see girls having this kind of deep, affirming fun, the kind of laughter that makes you pause to take a breath. A shaving cream fight like this taps into the the most genuine of celebratory joy.

girls camp slip and slide fun

With all these slippery kids, what’s more natural than sliding down a wet sheet of plastic? At camp, that’s completely natural! The gentle slope nearby our grassy landsports field makes a great place to spread out the slide. Soon the girls were taking turns sliding two at time. Run, launch, and slide on your belly. It’s a fun challenge to stay upright, but flipping and flopping as you slide is a fine way to go.

An afternoon shaving cream fight like this proves once again that these camp girls know how to have a good time with each other. The shaving cream, water hoses, and sheet of plastic didn’t make it great. Those bits served as a catalyst of sorts for the girls themselves to create the fun. Their positive relationship with each other, the trust and goodwill already proven through days of common experience, made that fun a possibility. You can imagine a group of random people who didn’t know each other would have a hard time having fun in a shaving cream fight. Especially adults! There’s no way that could happen. A camp shaving cream fight is inherently more genuine than what could happen among any other group of people.

Perhaps that’s true about a lot of things at Rockbrook— the authenticity of our relationships, each of us living and showing our real selves, makes us enjoy ourselves more. Knowing each other this well, relaxing into who we really are because we sense this community is here to support and encourage us, opens up a quality of experience that’s just out of reach ordinarily. I do think that’s part of what makes camp life so special and enjoyable for your girls, and truly for everyone here at Rockbrook. Blame on the culture of camp, but there are real effects… even in something as simple as a shaving cream fight.

girls with shaving cream in their hair

Celebrating with Fireworks

Let’s start with the food. It’s really been fabulous this summer, and today’s meals stand out.

homemade dessert rockbrookie

Lunch was a chance to get creative as Rick and his crew provided an array of ingredients for everyone to make their own “breakfast sandwich.” Breakfast for Lunch! He had english muffins, with eggs and cheese, breakfast meats, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and an array of condiments. He served fresh local blackberries on the side. But for dinner, as part of our “centennial celebration,” Rick pulled out all the stops! He made fried chicken, mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh green beans, and homemade biscuits… 770 homemade, cut-by-hand, biscuits! What a meal! Then to top it off, let me introduce you to the dessert known around here as a “Rockbrookie.” Sydney, one of our bakers, invented these triple-layer bars: chocolate chip cookie on the bottom, a layer of Oreo cookie in the middle, and brownie on the top. One of a kind delicious!

Just about all day, and almost everyday, the looms in Curosty are in motion. Girls of all ages take turns sitting and working the warp and weft, using colorful yarns to weave swatches. Often, the girls keep these handmade pieces of cloth to use them as placemats or simple decorative pieces, but they can also be sewn into small pillows or bags.

camp counselors hiding in bushes

After dinner tonight, we held a counselor hunt. This is a very popular all-camp activity where the staff members do their best to hide somewhere in camp and the girls travel around in the their cabin groups searching. Being so wooded, Rockbrook has loads of great hiding spots. Many counselors dress all in black, and often cover themselves with a trash bag. One actually hid inside a trash bag, inside a trashcan! Others hid inside canoes, or covered themselves with leaves. The girls have a great time racing around the camp searching for these hidden staff members. Some were found right away, and others not at all. When we rang the bell to signal the “all clear,” all but a handful were found. Each counselor hiding had a key that they gave to the cabin group who found them. Then out of all the keys, only one opened a “treasure box” that contained a few small gifts for the cabin. The cabin groups took turns trying their keys to see if theirs was the one. The box also revealed that later tonight we would have a fireworks show!

When we show fireworks at camp, it’s a great time for the girls. They gather on the hill in their crazy creek chairs and look toward the sky above the lake. We launch from the lake, so when the colors burst in the sky, they are easily seen by the girls on the hill above. We play fun dance music, hand out glow sticks for everyone, and serve popsicles right before getting started. There’s nothing quite like fireworks to celebrate, and since it’s Rockbrook’s 100th birthday this year, this was perfect.

I’ll leave you with a short video clip of the show. You can just make out the singing and cheering over the sound of the explosions.