Meaning, Emotion and Beauty

It’s been a long standing practice here at Rockbrook to ask parents for feedback after their daughters attend a session of camp. It helps us understand what went well, areas where we can improve, and aspects of camp they particularly appreciate and value. We’ve learned a lot over the years and made improvements based on this feedback.

Camp dancers

A recent parent comment caught my eye because it was a little unusual. One mother said she believes Rockbrook’s size, it’s intimate feeling, was important to her child’s success at camp. When this mom was “camp shopping,” she explained she wanted the best small girls’ camp, a camp where her daughter would feel cared for, not just be taken care of “like by a babysitter.”  It’s true we have intentionally kept Rockbrook the same size for years, even when we could be adding cabins and accepting more girls. We know there is something special about joining a small community like this where you know most of the people you see, and have regular opportunities to deepen your relationships with them.  Too small would limit what we do and who we can meet, but too big would be worse, likewise limiting the quality of our relationships and reducing camp to mere supervision and entertainment (again like what a babysitter provides).

This mom put her finger on one of the things we value most at Rockbrook— getting to know each other and caring for everyone through kindness and generosity. She attributed it to our size, and while that’s important, we also strive to hire and train our staff accordingly, and to set that overall tone throughout each session of camp. Like an essential current flowing through the camp community, the deep relationships, the quality of the friendships, we have with everyone makes camp life meaningful, emotional, and beautiful. We’re so pleased it’s a powerful component of every Rockbrook experience.

Print Making kids

This afternoon, a van of girls had the chance to visit the working studio of Ann Dergara for a print making workshop. Ann is a professional sculptor, painter and print maker who lives here in Brevard, and today she was teaching the girls about “monoprints.” Using a clean plate of plexiglass, she demonstrated how to apply different layers of colorful ink, add subtle textures and then imprint the design to a sheet of paper using a large rolling press. After the demonstration, the girls eagerly jumped into making their own monoprint.  Since only one print can be made from each inked plate, the results are unique pieces of art. When each piece emerged from the press, the girls clapped and cheered to see their work come alive. We saw proud artists today!

Here’s one last thing I’d like to share. It’s a large poster of paper we saved from one of our weekly staff meetings. Ordinarily held on Sunday evenings, these meetings gather all the cabin counselors for discussions of how things are going, further training, and an opportunity to enjoy time together. You can see (click the image for a larger version), this sheet asked the counselors why they love their campers. Here are some of the responses:

Counselors Love Campers
  • They are silly, enthusiastic and super sweet.
  • They LOVE camp.
  • They’re nice to each other.
  • They are inclusive.
  • They have such amazing passion and inspire me everyday.
  • They are confident.
  • They are always looking out for each other.
  • They get along so well and are the coolest gals around.
  • They are learning.
  • They are so funny, kind, and thankful.
  • They make me laugh.
  • They are proactive sorting out their interpersonal problems.
  • They challenge me and help me grow.
  • They aren’t afraid to be goofy.

It’s so great hearing how much the counselors admire their campers, how the girls here give the staff’s experience more meaning, emotion and beauty. It’s amazing how proud the counselors are of the campers, how impressed they are by them, and how thankful they are to be their friends at camp. For the staff too, one of the richest rewards of camp is the quality of the relationships formed here.  So clear and so cool!

beautiful camp girl wearing Rockbrook bucket hat

Uniquely Memorable

It’s really one of the most popular things we do at Rockbrook, something we all enjoy multiple times a day, in fact. We can’t live without it, and fortunately we have an absolute expert guiding the activity for us. It’s the meals at camp, the delicious food served by Rick and his staff in the kitchen! Three times a day, he serves home-cooked main dishes and fresh side items, all while adding extra preparations to suit the vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free needs of the campers and staff. And you’ve heard about the full-time baker who thrills everyone each day with cookies, breads, and a surprise flavor (today was mint chocolate chip) of fresh-baked muffins. It’s simply marvelous!

Preparing authentic corn Tamales

Today’s lunch was a great example of the lengths Rick will go to make the food at Rockbrook special, uniquely memorable, and outstanding. It was authentic, completely made from scratch, tamales, served with black beans, fresh guacamole, sour cream, chips and salad. Preparations began several days ago, as the crew first made all the salsas: a bright red Guajillo chili sauce and a green variety combining serrano peppers, tomatillos, garlic and onions. They also roasted chicken in advance, pulling it off the bone in shreds, along with frying a blend of onions, green and red bell peppers. Each tamale has to be made individually and by hand, and when you need 1200 tamales to feed the camp, it’s quite a project. One by one, a layer of tamale filling (a paste of fine cornmeal, lime, oil and stock) is spread on a corn husk, and chicken or cheese along with one of the salsas and peppers added before folding the husk into a pocket and carefully being layered into several large pots to be cooked by steaming. The result is many delicious, hot savory treats. Part of the fun of eating tamales is unwrapping them, revealing the yummy middle of the husk pocket— undoubtedly a new experience for some the campers and staff. I would bet, this will be remembered as a favorite meal of the session.

Meanwhile, this morning girls were offered several adventure outings: a kayaking trip to the lower Green River, a canoeing trip to the French Broad, a hiking trip to Moore Cove in the Pisgah National Forest, rock climbing at Castle Rock, and a zip line tour through the course on the Rockbrook property. Such amazing opportunities to dive deep into the unique beauty of this part of western North Carolina!

This afternoon, cabin groups and their counselors planned special activities for their “cabin day.” One group had a relaxing float at the lake, while another chose an exhilarating ride on the zipline course. Two different groups took a hike to the top of Castle Rock to enjoy a view of the French Broad River valley. Two groups chose craft projects: one making tie-dye t-shirts, and another decorating compliment jars. One senior cabin planned an entire game show! —the wolves vs. the vampires in a competition to “Earn Lotso Respect.” All of the junior cabins loaded up the buses for a short trip over to Dolly’s Dairy bar, and for many their first taste of Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion or one of Dolly’s other camp flavors.

Sliding Rock Camp Buddies

It was an exciting evening for the full session Middlers and Seniors. Along with their counselors, all 101 of us rode up into the Forest for a dinner picnic, visit to Sliding Rock, and final stop at Dolly’s. We love this trip because it combines time together eating and playing games, top-of-your-lungs excitement on the natural water slide, and what one camper called “the best ice cream in the world.” For many girls, this uniquely North Carolina experience is a highlight of their session.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to our mini session campers, recalling fondly the fun we had together, and looking forward to our chance to be together again next summer. Thank you girls!

Daily Acts of Leadership

Leadership is a trait seen in numerous forms every day at camp. From the directors to the campers, everyone has the opportunity to be a leader in some way. Successful leadership characteristics start with the counselors, who role model patience, dedication, kindness, and teamwork. Counselors both live in cabins with campers and teach activities, so they have countless chances every day to demonstrate leadership to their peers and to their campers. In activities, counselors provide girls with opportunities to learn new things as well as facilitate appropriate challenges to help them build on skills they have learned throughout the session. In the cabin, counselors work together with their co-counselor(s) to create a warm, welcoming, and inclusive environment for their campers.

After witnessing their counselor role models, campers are inspired to take initiative in various forms. Recently, several Junior campers have created clubs (Skit Club, Game Night, and Nature Fairy Club to name a few), and even made their own announcements to the whole dining hall at meals. This sense of ownership and belonging along with the courage to try something new is fundamental to the Rockbrook experience. Campers hone their leadership skills when they take initiative and give their creativity free rein, and camp provides a supportive, encouraging environment to allow this to happen.

For some girls, they might make the leap from being a camper to being a counselor at some point in their Rockbrook career. This transition is called the Leadership Ladder, and it begins with CAs, who are the 15 year old campers. The CAs still take activities like the other campers, but their main responsibility is to plan and put on a big themed dinner and dance party called Banquet at the end of their session. CAs practice teamwork, decision making, and organization as they plan their Banquet, while at the same time still enjoying the fun opportunities for campers.

Balloons soaking in water

The second step in the Leadership Ladder is Hi-Ups. These are the 16 year old girls, who are technically still campers, but they have more responsibilities that allow camp to function. For instance, they set and clean up the dining hall for meals, as well as begin to help in activities rather than take them. Yesterday, the Hi-Ups put on a special Twilight event: Wockbrook Water World! They planned, set up, ran, and cleaned up the whole event for the Mini session campers who are leaving on Thursday. Everybody loved the slip n slide, water guns, sno-cones, and water balloon fight! The Hi-Ups impressed us all with their initiative, enthusiasm, and work ethic, exemplifying true Rockbrook girls.

Girls in arts and crafts cabin

After Hi-Ups come CITs, or Counselors-In-Training. The CITs are no longer campers as they are fully on the staff side of camp life. They live in cabins with 2 co-counselors and their campers, they help in activities, and they wash dishes after every meal. Besides learning how life is like as a counselor, CITs receive extra training with the directors to help ease the transition from camper to counselor. One activity the CITs did early in the session was about determining your natural leadership style, and what this means for working both individually and on a team. This allowed CITs time to reflect on their in- and out-of-camp experiences as leaders, and how they want to grow this session while working at Rockbrook.

Campers, CITs, counselors, and directors alike all have chances to foster their leadership skills every day. Even though there are structured times and places for teamwork, patience, and critical thinking to grow at camp, it is the unexpected, self-led moments where leadership truly flourishes.

Feeling the Joys of Nature

Sunday mornings begin at a more relaxed pace compared to the rest of the week. We all sleep in an extra few minutes and then arrive for breakfast in pajamas… no worries about being dressed with cabin chores done beforehand. Also on Sunday, it’s been a long standing treat to serve fresh donuts along with our breakfast, having a little taste of the outside world. Then there’s cabin time for changing into our uniforms (white with a red tie) before assembling on the hill for flag raising. The Hi-Ups do the honors of presenting and raising the flag. Immediately afterwards, everyone walks down the lower line of cabins to the wooded amphitheater where we hold our Chapel program.

nature camp program

Today the Middler campers and some of their counselors presented a program on “Nature.” Like all of our chapel programs, this gathering was not a religious ceremony, but instead an opportunity to identify and reflect upon a core value or experience we all share at camp. In the past, we’ve held chapel programs on friendship, kindness, gratitude, community, and compassion for example. This morning we took time to consider our relationship with the natural world.

We sang “Tell me Why,” a slightly modified lyric to “Country Roads,” (“Almost Heaven, Rockbrook Camp..”) and “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by Tunde on guitar and Isa playing ukulele. We heard short readings on Nature selected by campers Sidney, E.A., Amelia, and Elizabeth.

Camper K.P. read a short reflection she wrote about her feelings in Nature and its importance to all of us. She said,

Nature is all around us. It is a big part of Rockbrook and it has a role in almost everything we do here. Rafting the Nantahala, hiking to Castle Rock, even dinner on the hill: Nature is a way of life around Rockbrook and we all live it.

Sometimes it is calming to just sit on the Hillside Lodge porch and look down at the garden, watch campers play in the creek, and see the girls splashing around in the lake. The serene setting of Rockbrook on a North Carolina mountain surrounded by trees and species of plants is the nicest place I know.

girls in camp uniforms

Sarah echoed this sentiment by reading the illustrated children’s book, “You Are Never Alone” by Elin Kelsey. This is a wonderful reminder of how nature touches almost every aspect of our lives, that “this beautiful planet showers [us] with gifts” in so many ways. The book illustrates how nature supports and at times heals us, how it stimulates our emotions, sense of wonder and imagination. Quite literally, Nature helps us be human. Much like what we enjoy at Rockbrook, it is a “warm, supportive, community that is always there for [us].” Sarah added how lucky we are at camp to experience the plants and animals of the forest (yes, even the “sprickets”) so intimately, feeling the joys of Nature without a care in the world. This message really resonated with the girls, many of them nodding their heads in agreement as she read the book. Good stuff!

Lunch was another incredible meal prepared by Rick and his kitchen crew— roasted, dry-rubbed chicken breasts, fingerling potatoes, and honey-glazed, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, with fresh blackberries and whipped cream for dessert. Amazing! The food at Rockbrook always gets high marks, and with meals like this, you can easily see why!

Our all-camp afternoon activity was a wild carnival of events down at the landsports field. With fun music pumping, and different snacks to keep us going, the girls enjoyed group games and challenges related to the theme of “food.” For example, one event challenged the girls to eat a doughnut dangling from the end of a string without using their hands. Similarly, another challenge required the girls to peel a banana (first cut in half) using only their feet. We used actual pieces of corn on the cob to play games of corn hole. The girls took turns making “pies” of whipped cream to toss at their counselors. There was a “grit pit,” a literal pool of warm grits, to experience. There were cookies to decorate, and beaded composting “worms” to make. One game was particularly fun, a challenge to use only rubber bands to break open a watermelon. They girls worked together stretching two or three rubber bands at a time over each watermelon, gradually adding to the band’s total pressure. There was only a small crack forming to warn them before the melon exploded to bits leaving a ball of sticky rubber bands behind. It was very exciting, and the kind of big crazy fun, we love at camp.

2nd Session Video Note

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks (and Rockbrook dad!) has returned this summer to film and present a series of his excellent highlights videos for us.

This is the fourth year Robbie has been making these occasional videos at Rockbrook, much to everyone’s delight. It’s amazing how he can convey the sweet interactions and overall feeling of camp life in just under two minutes.

Robbie filmed earlier this week and now we have his first video for the second session. Take a look and enjoy. It’s great fun to watch.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

 

A Sparkling Blast

horse camp wake up

As you can see, this was no ordinary morning, in fact no ordinary day, because it was the 4th of July! Instead of our regular bell, some of the riding staff rode horses up into camp to wake up the campers. With the staff dressed in red, white and blue, and with the horses also decorated in American flag patterned ribbons and paint, the campers woke to the sounds of hoof beats and shouts of “The British are coming! The British are coming!” up and down the cabin lines. Somewhat sleepy-eyed, the girls made their way through the morning fog to the hill to assemble around the flagpole for the Hi-Ups to raise the flag, and everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful.”

Camp Kids on 4th of july

Of course, horses were not the only thing decorated in red, white and blue today. You could see it everywhere around camp! In the dining hall on table decorations, on hats, headbands, beaded necklaces, t-shirts and other things people were wearing, some of the food we ate today (Oh, those brownie cakes!), and the body paint that seemed to become more prevalent as the day progressed. Similarly, the girls sang their favorite patriotic songs at meals— “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” for example —adding to the normal lively Rockbrook songs. There was no doubt these girls were ready to celebrate!

It also being Thursday, we decided to keep our regular activity schedule throughout the day. The difference, again, was the addition of those patriotic colors. There were American flags flapping in the wind as girls zipped through the woods, stars and stripes on the backs of archers, proudly worn by potters, weavers, tennis players and climbers alike. Campers carried the colors on a hike to Rockbrook Falls, to the top of Castle Rock while climbing on belay, and down to the barns for their riding lessons.

A group of girls enjoyed a relaxing morning in the “nest,” our hammock campsite located just below Castle Rock. Part of the fun is figuring out how and where to hang their hammocks among the rock anchors, but it is also a nice way to spend time with friends. Later, two other groups hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls to make actual stick biscuits. This waterfall, which is located in the woods up behind the office, has a dry area behind where the water cascades down from the rock above, creating a natural umbrella of sorts. The staff built a fire in this area making it possible for the girls to roast their biscuits (dough wrapped tightly on the end of stick) while the water crashed right nearby.

Dinner tonight took advantage of our well-loved charcoal grill, as we pulled out an all-American cookout of hot dogs (beef and veggie), homemade coleslaw, potato chips, freshly sliced watermelon (more than we could eat!) and a can of Cheerwine soda chilled in the stream for everyone. A playlist of America-themed music helped set the mood, and as the girls enjoyed their dinner together, they played and danced with their friends on the hill.

Camp Sponge Relay

Dividing up into three multi-age teams —yep, a red, a white, and a blue team —we all stayed on the hill for a few fun relays. Girls raced to fill buckets with water squeezed from a sponge. They carefully tossed water balloons stepping gradually further apart after each toss. They competed for the longest hula-hooping session. They struggled to thaw a frozen t-shirt as quickly as possible, and took turns bending their backs in an exciting limbo line. Naturally, as some girls participated in these games, their teammates cheered them on, sang and danced to the music.

As darkness fell, the spectacular finish for our day was our own Rockbrook fireworks show. We pulled out glow sticks for all the girls and were ready with more pop music to blast during the show. For the next 40 minutes or so, we all enjoyed another sing-along dance party, the girls twirling their glow sticks and cheering with every sparkling blast in the air. It was an exciting, special finish to a full camp day.

What a Wednesday!

What a Wednesday! Today our regular activity schedule paused for the afternoon to allow cabin groups time for a special activity together. This mid-week “cabin day” is a great time for girls to bond with and get to know their cabin mates even further. The counselors put a lot of thought into cabin day, starting their planning and preparation at the beginning of each week. The other fun part: it’s a surprise for the girls! They never know if they might be hiking up to Castle Rock, playing group games at the gym, having a spa, making a yummy treat, being creative with a craft project, or leaving camp for an exciting adventure at Sliding Rock! Each week it’s something different and enjoyable for the girls.

Decorated Jar held by summer camp girl

Today, one of our Junior cabins created “compliment jars” for one another. This involved first decorating large mason jars with stickers, paint, tape and scraps of colorful paper. Once they had personalized their jars, the girls then wrote complements on small slips of paper dropping one into each person’s jar. Soon each girl had a jar full of complements to read. This is an exciting time for everyone, and such a fun way to make all of the girls feel loved, noticed, and celebrated by their peers and counselors alike. Compliment jars are often displayed in the girls cabins and even treasured at home throughout the school year!

Meanwhile, a Middler cabin could be found hanging out in the ‘nest’ near Castle Rock, the huge rock face right up the mountain on the camp property. The top of Castle Rock is a fantastic hiking destination, offering an amazing view of the Blue Ridge mountains, and out on the face, we have 5 different rock climbing routes the girls can tackle. This year, though, Rockbrook gained a new addition up there— The Nest! The nest is an alcove tucked under a wide, flat portion of Castle Rock where we found the perfect place to hang Eno hammocks. Using rock anchors, we can set up a nest of up to 15 hammocks, creating a fun hangout area with a beautiful view of the forest and the surrounding mountains.

girls wearing t-shirts painted at camp

A different Middler cabin was having a fun and messy paint fight on the hill! This involved white t-shirts, bright paints, and lots of laughs! The girls began with clean shirts, but by the end of this activity, their t-shirts were far from white. They took turns painting on one another’s shirts, and happily splattering each other. This was a special day for this cabin, because these girls love to get creative and messy, and how often do girls get to play with this kind of abandon? This cabin was laughing and smiling non-stop, and they finished up this paint-filled cabin day by jumping in our refreshing lake to clean up.

tea party set on porch

One of the more original and exciting cabin day ideas today was a tea party being held by one of our senior cabins. This cabin’s counselors transformed a table on the porch of the Hillside Lodge into a fancy tea party setting, where the girls were instructed to arrive wearing their “fanciest gowns,” which for us means “amazing silly costumes!” These girls drank tea out of mugs, ate tiny cakes, and practiced ballroom dancing around the lodge. It was refreshing to see our senior campers enjoying themselves so much at a tea party, which most of them said they had not done since they were much younger. This particular cabin day activity provided these girls an opportunity to play and pretend again, to use their imaginations, and to celebrate and laugh with one another. Once a again, opening up, being a kid at camp, felt really, really good.

girl camp kids dressed in costumes
group of summer camp teenage girls
camp kids holding picnic dinner

Absolutely Grand

When it gets hot outside, Rockbrook girls go to the water. It’s rare around here that the high temperatures reach above 90 degrees. It helps that being in the mountains keeps things cooler at night, and Rockbrook is tucked into a forested, west-facing slope giving it plenty of shade most of the morning, but there are always a few summer days, like today, when temperatures can climb. Fortunately at camp, we have plenty of ways to stay cool by taking a dip, splashing around, and otherwise getting wet.

Girls Laughing in whitewater raft
Girl Power Rafting
happy girl camp rafting

For example, the different creeks flowing through camp become water-park playgrounds for the girls during their free time periods. Above Curosty, the fiber arts cabin, you’ll find campers standing in the water— even sitting sometimes! —arranging small stones, floating their flip-flop shoes, and just enjoying the moving water headed to the lake. In front of Goodwill, the paper crafts cabin, the stream has more moss, larger stones to turn over and reveal small insects and other creatures —salamanders! crayfish! Armed with a small paper cup, girls are happily exploring, on the hunt for something of wonder.

Of course, the lake is the best place to cool off at camp. The diving board, 50-foot water slide, and variety of floating toys make it a fun and inviting place. Plus it’s always highly social, with groups swimming laps, playing “categories,” or lounging together in the water. As you might expect, the swimming and boating activities, plus the two free swim periods, have been extra popular with this sort of weather.

About 70 campers chose to experience the ultimate cooling adventure today over in Swain county, a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River. Two buses of girls spent the night beforehand at our outpost camp that adjoins the National Forest. After a quick dinner, the girls sang songs around the campfire and topped off their evening by roasting marshmallows for s-mores. The next day, all the other girls met our Rockbrook adventure guides to take the two-hour trip down the Nantahala River. This is such a fun time for the girls. Take a look at the photo gallery (or click these rafting photos) to see their hilarious laughter, wide-eyed moments of foreboding, and cheerful screams through the rapids. In the bright sunshine, the layer of cool air hovering over the cold, cold river water, felt really good today. It was an ideal day of rafting.

Finally, there was a fun surprise for the girls announced during dinner. The whole camp would have a “counselor hunt!” This is a giant, whole-camp version of hide and seek where all the counselors disappear into hiding places all over the camp, and each cabin group together searches. Each counselor was worth a secret number of points (some positive and some negative!) so that after the 45 minutes of searching, the tally would also be a surprise. The camp bell signaled the start and finish of the hunt, and the winning cabin received a sweet treat from the kitchen.

It’s only been a few days, and already this session of camp is absolutely grand. So many friendly girls and enthusiastic counselors, with all the great activities happening, are blending to fill our excellent days.

Girls Camp Friends

Hustle and Bustle

Bright sunny weather is such a nice backdrop for opening a session of camp, as it was today when we welcomed slightly more than 200 girls to begin Rockbrook’s second main session. It added to the enthusiasm of the day, to the cheers from the counselors as cars drove up into camp, to smiles from everyone as the check in process unfolded smoothly.

Camp Trunk Moving

With this many people involved— the campers, their parents, and almost 100 staff members —the whole morning was quite a show of hustle and bustle. While some carried trunks, others set up their bunk. Some girls played tetherball, while others were introduced to the art of making a friendship bracelet. The morning included relaxed conversation too, as parents and campers reconnected with friends from last summer. The weather also just makes everything at camp look more inviting, more beautiful. Several parents commented that camp was looking “really good.” The flowers tucked in here and there, the massive boulders, old-growth trees, stone lodges, grassy hill, gurgling creeks —everything seemed to really pop in the bright sunshine.

We received a similar comment last week from two important visitors to Rockbrook. They too marveled at the woodsy feel of camp, the gently cared-for natural beauty of our setting, and the happy community of girls they met. These visitors were conducting an inspection of sorts, an on-site check that Rockbrook is meeting almost 300 health, safety, and program quality standards for summer camps as defined by the American Camp Association. As you may know, Rockbrook is accredited by the ACA, and has been for 30 years now. These periodic “visits” are part of the process to retain that accreditation, which by the way only about 17% of the camps in America have achieved. I’m happy to report that the inspection/visit this summer went extremely well, and after reviewing all of our policies and procedures, and examining every area of camp from the kitchen to the climbing tower, Rockbrook earned the highest marks.

Girl Camp Assembly

Once everyone arrived today, we launched right into a few orientation activities. The whole camp assembled on the hill under the walnut tree to hear Sarah welcome everyone to camp, meet the leadership staff, and sing a few camp songs. Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, and fresh fruit (plus the super-stocked salad bars) made a tasty, comfortable lunch before the girls went back to their cabins for rest hour. But instead of resting, today they played name games, talked about cabin and camp safety rules, and learned more about the rhythms of camp life. During the swimming demonstrations where we check everyone’s swimming ability at the lake, the warm sunshine was a nice addition to the chilly water. We had fun music playing at the lake, all the directors helping, and a mob of lifeguards encouraging each girl as they jumped in. Later in the gym, we introduced all the girls to the different activities at camp, all the crafts, sports, and adventure things to do while they are here. The counselors teaching each activity took turns performing a skit or song about what they do, and with costumes and a dose of silliness, it was an entertaining hour. There was time to tour camp before dinner, which was another camp classic: grilled burgers, burger fixings, homemade french fries, and blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Tomorrow we will all scatter throughout the camp and get started making, climbing, shooting zipping, riding and playing in so many ways. Stay tuned. It’s gonna be great!

Camp Girl Swimmers

How Lucky We Are

It’s been the most phenomenal session. The campers, both the seasoned, multi-year returning girls and the first-timers, took everything that makes up camp and elevated it to become one of the most joyful, supportive, friendly groups I’ve ever seen. How they sang songs in the dining hall, how they strolled together between activities, how they laughed and smiled watching each cabin’s skits during evening program —this was clear in these, and so many other ways.

summer camp campfire

Tonight during the closing campfire ceremony, what we refer to as the “Spirit Fire,” we saw the special character of community these girls and the staff have formed while at camp. As the girls gathered around the campfire, dressed in their white uniforms, they huddled close to each other, many with arms around, or their head resting on, the nearby shoulder. When they stood to speak about their time at camp this session, we heard girls express gratitude for the people they’ve come to know and love at Rockbrook. One marveled at how fulfilled she feels at camp, just by “being here.” A staff member said she felt lucky to have found Rockbrook, a place of such “authentic caring.”

Alternating between these reflections on the session and singing traditional camp songs, the program became increasingly emotional. Several girls sniffled, but when others had trouble stifling their crying, the melancholy mood was contagious and soon it was difficult to hear over the sobs and gentle weeping. I was reminded of the saying often attributed to A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” When something is this good, it’s just sad when is has to come to an end.

Cherishing the memories, saving the craft projects, and collecting the photographs from the session can help a little, as can staying in touch with their camp friends, but the feeling of camp will have to wait until next summer. Thank you everyone for being a part of Rockbrook. You are what makes it special, all of you, all of us, together. How lucky we are!