Essential Nourishment

The community spirit of camp is something we really value at Rockbrook. It resides at the heart of our mission and is the aspiration of our philosophy. All of our core values— kindness, cooperation, compassion, care and generosity —serve to create, enhance and maintain our sense of community at camp. We know that these values lead us toward connecting with the people around us, toward the power of friendship. These values, once embraced and widely practiced together, form a collective spirit that’s immediately welcoming and supportive. Feeling truly accepted and valued for who you really are brings people closer together. Camp has this power to forge community, to connect and bolster everyone here.

The feeling of being part of a camp community, as well as other communities, is wonderful. It feels really good, I believe, because as human beings— and this is especially true for children —we yearn for this kind of connection. We all have a fundamental need to belong to something greater than just ourselves. Unfortunately, American life ordinarily provides this kind of experience only rarely. Aren’t we usually focused on individual achievement, advancement and accumulation? Isn’t life often a race for access to personalized and curated comforts? Aren’t we typically oblivious, dis-connected, to the majority of people around us?

I’ve speculated before that this is one reason why kids love camp; it serves as an antidote to modern life. It provides something our children need that’s difficult to get in their regular lives. Put simply, Rockbrook is “a place for girls to grow” because it provides them essential nourishment in the form of community. They will tell you camp is “fun,” and that they simply “love it,” but I think it’s this community spirit that’s really at work.

This afternoon we switched up our regular activities and instead offered an array of new options. The girls who were already signed up for horseback riding, zip lining, and pottery (three of the most popular options around here) kept those, but everyone else could choose something completely new. We called it “Choice Day Saturday.” Different counselors led the activities. There was an epic scavenger hunt that sent small groups of girls dashing about the camp. The was an activity where the girls painted positive messages on rocks and then positioned them around camp to be found. One group of girls found themselves turning a crank to make ice cream. Another found themselves dancing and sweating to a Jazzercise class. Some of the senior girls chose to attend a self care spa that included calming music, herbal tea and easy yoga. One counselor led a jam session where the girls could bring any instrument or play one of our ukuleles. Casey led a group playing pickleball. A few enjoyed doing water color paintings, while another made flower crowns. There was also a candle dipping activity and even a lively game of bingo on the dining hall porch. It was great fun to have all these options.

boy and girls at fun camp dance

Tonight marked the highly anticipated return of the Camp Carolina Dance. After a few years of missing this event for COVID reasons, this is bound to be a highlight of the session. Our younger campers, the Juniors and Middlers, remained at Rockbrook, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the CCB boys. Our CITs served as DJs. Led by the counselors, the kids enthusiastically danced and grooved to pop songs and classic line dances like the Cha Cha Slide. For those not interested in dancing, or if they just needed a break, there were games outside like gaga ball and tetherball. Cookies made a nice snack for everyone along the way.

Simultaneously, the Senior girls and Hi-Ups were able to show off their dance skills in the Camp Carolina gym. Some added glitter to their faces, while others came dressed in full costume. The girls brought an undeniable energy to the event and were thoroughly excited to let loose on the dance floor. They jumped and danced for two exhilarating hours, only pausing briefly for sips of water. It was an intense, sweat-inducing, and incredibly thrilling night.

Back at camp, everyone took a bit longer than usual to settle down for the night as they were still excited and engrossed in conversations about the dance. With fun like this, that’s to be expected!

girl at camp dress up eveing

Buzzing Creativity

The weather in this part of North Carolina is extraordinary, often impressive, even astonishing at times. We’re located in the western mountains and have enough elevation to help us stay cooler in the summer, but also far enough south to moderate our winters. We are surrounded by national and state forests (many hundreds of thousands of acres) and are far enough away from large cities that we enjoy remarkably clean air. By the way, we haven’t seen any impact from the Canadian wildfires affecting areas of the northeast. This morning when we woke up, everyone was surprised how chilly it was. Checking the Rockbrook weather station, the low temperature was 44 degrees! Brrrr! Time for another layer! Once the sun rose from behind the hill it warmed up fast. By noon it was 70 degrees, and later in the afternoon, the temperature hit 80. Perfect!

tiny kid climbing

Yes, perfect weather for climbing. Our Alpine climbing tower, which is located in the woods a short distance from the gym, sees climbing all day long. It’s a 50-foot tall system of logs cabled and bolted together providing dozens of different routes to the top. It can accommodate up to 6 climbers simultaneously, each exploring different routes and overcoming unique climbing challenges on their way up. This makes it an excellent place for learning how to climb, even for our youngest campers. They start by learning essential climbing knots, understanding rock climbing equipment like an ATC, and practicing belay commands used by climbers worldwide.

The Alpine Tower provides such a variety of climbs it takes quite a while to conquer them all. Some are direct routes to the top, stepping on the small holds and gripping others one by one like a ladder. Others involve pulling up on ropes or rope cargo nets, and navigating swinging obstacles. A few are really challenging because they are vertical or even overhanging, or involve more arm strength to reach the next hold.

Some girls are even climbing the tower blindfolded just for the fun and added challenge. It’s incredible to witness how they can successfully climb without the ability to see the next hold.

After each climb, there’s an exciting thrill of swinging on the belay rope, sometimes even upside down, while being lowered down.

Another area buzzing with activity at camp are our fiber arts programs. In the activity Curosty, campers can weave headbands, bookmarks, placemats, among other projects on our vintage restored looms. The historic building the activity takes place in is even older than the camp itself! On the idyllic back porch, campers can work on their weaving or needlepoint while listening to the creek rushing by. Campers who especially fall in love with weaving spend multiple other free-swim periods perfecting their projects, adding extra color, beads, or other personal touches.

In the other historical building on camp, Goodwill, named after Nancy Carrier’s birthplace, another popular activity takes place: KIT. KIT, which stands for “Keeping In Touch”, focuses on paper crafts. Campers take advantage of our arsenal of craft supplies, using colorful paper, stickers, rhinestones, stencils, markers, and beads to perfect their masterpieces. Some favorite activities to make in KIT include stationary, greeting cards, journals, calendars and keepsake boxes. KIT has some of the best vibes on camp, with the cozy lighting of Goodwill combined with laughter of campers as they create their unique projects makes for a truly special scene.

One last word about the importance of sending Mail. After lunch, all the campers rush to check their mailboxes to see if they received a letter. It can truly put a smile on your campers face to see a letter in their box, even if it is a short note. So keep those letters and emails coming, your camper will truly thank you!

teenage tennis girls at camp

A Giant Dose of Freedom

Another somewhat typical comment we hear from parents touring Rockbrook while it’s in session— after they marvel at the abundant joyful energy of the place —is how often they see girls doing things on their own. By that they mean doing things without counselors or staff members assisting the campers, sitting right by their side or orchestrating their experience. From the littlest Juniors to the oldest Hi-Ups (10th graders), you can find girls, usually in pairs or threes, walking together somewhere, sitting together, or playing together in some way.

summer camp girls being independent

This shouldn’t be too surprising since camp is a place that encourages friendship and togetherness, and we do allow the girls to decide how to spend their free time. But without knowing any better, you might think Rockbrook is a “free range” camp where the girls can wander freely whenever and wherever they want, with no supervision or structure to guide them.

Well, that’s only part of the picture. We DO want to allow our campers to engage in activities without constant adult supervision. We do want them to make decisions for themselves— what activities to take, how to spend their free time, who to be friends with, what foods to try, how often to brush their hair, what to wear, and so forth. In fact, being away from home, away from the assistance and guidance of parents, camp is an exercise in independent decision making for kids.

This is great! It means your girls are being given daily opportunities for self-reliance and problem-solving. With the support and encouragement of this caring community, they are experiencing what it’s like to do all this for themselves. And when they succeed, perhaps surprising themselves (“I can do it..!”), they’re both building core life skills and gaining self-confidence.

Compared to life at home or at school, camp provides a giant dose of freedom.

The other part of the picture is that this freedom has some limits. Campers can explore, but they are not allowed to wander past certain points or near certain areas that are risky (e.g., the waterfront when it is closed and unsupervised by the lifeguards). Naturally, our staff is always present at camp, nearby and usually within eyeshot of the campers, available to help as they can, and ready if there’s an emergency of some sort. There is a structure to our day where everyone must attend all the meals, set activity periods, rest hour, and certain “lights out” times that vary by age group. In the interest of safety, and considering the age and maturity of the campers, there are certainly rules to follow.

There’s a balance to be found between encouraging independence and adult supervision, between the freedoms and the conventions at camp. With years of experience, and guided by our overall philosophy, we’ve landed on this balance.

Our hope is that we’ve balanced it to empower our campers, and help them be more confident in their independence. We hope that life at camp provides both challenges and moments of successfully overcoming those challenges. We hope each day Rockbrook campers discover something surprising and wonderful in the world, and that they feel more at ease in it. The Rockbrook community is here to help, to provide kind reassurance, genuine cheerful support, and more joyful enthusiasm than you can measure. It’s something that matters and is truly a great feeling for kids.

summer camp garden welcome sign

Spontaneous Spirit

Take a casual stroll around camp at any time, and you’ll get a good sense of how this is the good life. You’ll see happy girls everywhere. You’ll meet caring and engaged counselors, and find genuine enthusiasm spilling out from every activity area. It’s remarkable how quickly this spontaneous spirit has appeared. At archery you’ll see it when the girls cheer for each other after a shot hits the target. You’ll discover it at the Alpine Tower when a camper makes it to the top platform. Among the weavers in Curosty, it’ll be clear from the conversations bubbling up while the girls work the looms. The poses at Yoga, the canoe strokes at the lake, the backhands on the tennis courts, the careful protocols and aim at the riflery range—together, there seems to be a natural rhythm to camp now. It’s fascinating to see all this supportive energy and the connections it’s forming.

two summer camp kids in hammocks attached to rocks

Here’s a photo of two girls on a trip to the “Nest.” What’s the nest? It’s a special spot up in the forest above camp where a group of girls can hang up hammocks. You get there by hiking up the hill along the trail to Castle Rock. Partway up, you will find a unique cave-like feature where the rock overhangs and creates a large, dry area. We have drilled multiple rock hangers into the rock there, providing enough space for up to 14 hammocks to be strung in different directions. Along with a book, journal or friendship bracelet making supplies, and a water bottle, each girl carries a hammock and set of straps to this spot. The hammocks are a fun challenge to set up, and the cave-like feature makes this a great spot to relax and enjoy the forest, comfortably in the shade and fully sheltered from the rain. This is another of the trip options available for the girls, and something unique to the Rockbrook Camp property.

Down in the woodworking shop the girls are working on cutting boards. It’s a multi-step process that begins by measuring a plank of wood and cutting it into a rough shape using a hand saw. For these small cutting boards, the next step is to use a rasp to round its edges. In this photo you can see what will become the finished board clamped in a bench vice. Sanding and finishing will come later. It’s wonderful to see these kids explore these skills and enjoy the process of working with wood.

summer camp girls sliding down mountain creek

Tonight we took our first trip of the summer to Sliding Rock, and it was a great one. It involved all of our vans and buses to transport 90 of us up and into the Pisgah Forest. With our own lifeguards on duty, we slid two-by-two down the 60-foot natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek. The campers loved it! They screamed, cheered, and smiled as they slid down the rock. The water at Sliding Rock averages about 55 degrees, so you can imagine the eye-popping feeling of that last plunge into the pool at the bottom. It’s a classic mountain experience that we love at Rockbrook. Most girls were able to slide three or four times before our daylight faded and it was time for us to gather all our things and head to Dolly’s Dairy Bar for the last stop of the evening.

Of course, we all look forward to this treat. The ice cream really is top notch, and after tasting it, most everyone agrees with what one camper exclaimed, “This is the best ice cream in the world!” Whether it’s Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion or another camp flavor, a frozen sweet treat after riding down a waterfall is the perfect way to end the night. It was a little late by the time we got back to camp, but as the girls headed up the hill to their cabins, I could tell they were happy and content. Where else can they feel the chill of a mountain stream and the warmth of true friendship at the same time? That’s right— at camp.

Even Better at Camp

Visitors to Rockbrook are sometimes surprised by the variety of activities they see happening. It’s true; during each of the four activity periods per day, there will be campers and counselors engaged in sports, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts and of course horseback riding— more than 22 different options here in camp (not including the additional out-of-camp trips offered the older girls). What’s amazing is that these activities all happen simultaneously. In our little haven, you’ll find girls building and practicing skills, being physically challenged beyond their “comfort zone,” exercising their creativity, and exploring nature. They’ll be trying things they’ve never tried before, and all among friends who are quick to encourage and accompany them along the way.

summer camp garden art

The activity we call “Garden Art,” which the campers sometimes shorten to “Gart,” is a great example. As you might expect, this is an activity that takes place in our flower garden, and involves making art using the colorful plants growing there, plus various found objects like rocks and twigs. Using cloth, paint, and different types of string and cord as well, the instructor Bailey has many projects for the girls to try. For example, today the girls were painting stones and combining leaves and leaf-patterns to their designs. Other projects Bailey has offered in the past include pressing flowers onto cloth, macrame using plant stems and colorful cords, dyeing fabrics with indigo and other natural plant dyes, and flower arranging. Bailey is always coming up with new and exciting projects, so girls never know what they’re going to do next. Gart is a wonderful summertime activity that helps girls of all ages build their appreciation for these garden plants and inspires them to create in new ways.

summer camp tetherball game

In addition to the four activity periods, we also have three blocks of “free time” each day when the campers themselves decide what they would like to do. Hot and sweaty after an active morning? Head down to the lake to jump off the diving board, fly down the water slide, or splash around floating on a tube. Both before lunch and again before dinner the lake is open for “free swim.” Feel like playing a game? Wander down to the gaga ball pit, or one of the tetherball courts, the gym for basketball or the tennis courts. Are you curious about what creatures are living in the creek by the Goodwill cabin? Take off your shoes and wade right in! The shady breeze at the top of the hill overlooking the mountains might be the perfect place to dive deeper into that book you brought to camp. One of the red porch rocking chairs looks like a nice place to just sit and relax, working on a friendship bracelet tied to your water bottle. After dinner, during the “twilight” free time, the mountain view looks amazing in the golden evening light. Come out to the hill where there will always be folks soaking it in. Maybe a nice hot shower will feel right. It’s the camper’s choice.

girls summer camp rafting

Today was our first rafting trip on the Nantahala River. We gathered up all the Senior girls interested in going and split them into a morning group and an afternoon group, making it possible to raft everyone on the same day. Since the early 1980s, Rockbrook girls have been taking this trip. It’s that popular, popular for several reasons. It’s got a real sense of adventure: cool safety gear that allows you to get up close to a force of nature. It includes a hefty dose of fun socializing in the rafts, which easily turns into hilarity as the raft bumps into a hidden rock unexpectedly or someone falls backwards into (or out of!) the raft. It’s playful and silly as each crew plots different ways to pose for the camera. The water of the Nantahala is very cold, and that too adds to the excitement. Today’s gorgeous weather made that even more so. The final rapid of the day, the “Nantahala Falls,” is a screaming fun double drop rapid that thrills everyone. It’s a fantastic way to end the trip and is always everyone’s favorite.

Just for fun, we turned dinner into a costumed event: a night on the red carpet. With a wide runway of red paper on the floor as they entered the dining hall, campers and counselors arrived in their best “dress.” Sure there were a few dresses, evening gowns, and long skirts, but there were also feather boas, silly wigs, sunglasses and hats. It was fun to show off our outfits, laugh a little, and act like a movie star as we ate. Dressing up for dinner… even better when at camp!

summer camp girls dressed up for red carpet event

Unique to Us

It’s hard to say what makes an ideal camp day, but today must be pretty close. It was a day absolutely jam packed with action, classic camp activities, perfect weather, and the kind of enthusiasm we love around here.

rockbrook camp buddies

That means waking up to a cool foggy morning after hearing our 120-year-old bell ring across the camp.  Grab an extra layer on the way to the dining hall. Eggs, sausage and Rick’s warm breakfast potatoes really hit the spot, if you didn’t prefer yogurt and cereal. By 9, the fog had lifted and everyone suddenly had a mission, someplace in camp to be to begin their first camp activity. 

A little like dropping a handful of marbles that bounce in all directions and filling a space with energy, the campers and our staff scattered throughout the camp ready for action. Fire building in one direction and climbing the alpine tower in the other, with zip lining through the trees above the camp, and horseback riding down below. All the colors you can imagine began to appear in craft projects: paintings, friendship bracelets and pot holder weavings for example.  Dodgeball and tennis, tetherball and Gaga ball, kayaking and of course lots of swimming sprouted up with excitement.

Knowing that parents at home are always interested in catching a glimpse of their kids at camp, we have several photographers roaming about. Each day we take what they shoot and upload hundreds of new photos of the girls enjoying camp. We can’t catch everyone each day (though we sure do try!) or record something from everything going on, but you can definitely get a sense of our days by logging in to see the daily gallery. Login with the same credentials you used when completing the camp forms. Once logged in, there’s a way to mark your favorites, and to email photos to friends for free. There’s also a way to purchase downloads and prints if you like.

After dinner tonight we held an evening program for the whole camp that included live music, a campfire, skits, costumes and special guests. It was a “Jug Band!” Like other jug bands, we encouraged the girls to bring improvised instruments (e.g., spoons, pots and pans, etc.), and to dress up. Sarah was the star of the show when she appeared as “Sayree,” with her long dressing gown, walking stick and fiddle. We all sang a few songs, and laughed at the skits. We also enjoyed Sayree and two of her friends who also play the fiddle perform several classic old-time tunes. That was definitely a highlight of the event.

It was a cool evening, and as the sun set and the wood smoke from the campfire drifted through, I couldn’t help but think how unique this experience was. Just a few days ago many of us were in cities, or at least inside at 9:30pm. Instead of the whir of an air conditioner, we were sitting under the stars and marveling at the spring peepers. And instead watching something on a screen, we were listening to young voices singing, joining and creating something unique to us. Camp returns us to these more genuine and natural experiences, refreshing and inspiring us. No wonder it feels so good!

campfire summer camp friends

Smile after Smile

“We welcome you to Rockbrook Camp; we’re mighty glad you’re here…” As the camp greeting song goes, today we all enjoyed that sentiment— the feeling of being welcomed to a special place. Some have been waiting an entire year to return to their “haven in the mountains,” while others have been wondering and dreaming for months about what camp will really be like. For everyone though, both campers and staff members alike, today was a blend of excitement and joyful relief, of nervous enthusiasm, and of eager anticipation. And smile after smile, after smile.

So welcome everyone to Rockbrook! What a wonderful opening day today and start to the 2023 summer season! The cars arrived at a steady pace throughout the morning, easily making their way through our “drive-thru” check-in process. (Thank you for arriving according to your designated arrival times, and for having your camp forms and medication processing completed.) The lush forest of Rockbrook and the colorful containers glistened in the sun from the slight rain we had the night before. The mob of cabin counselors clapped, and cheered, and literally jumped with excitement as campers arrived all morning.

joyful first day of summer camp

Returning campers reunited with camp friends as new girls slipped right into cabin groups. Soon there were groups of girls just walking about, immersing themselves step by step into camp, visiting the lodges, marveling at the rushing creeks, and likewise beaming with excitement.

By about noon, everyone had arrived and we were ready for our first gathering on the hill under the walnut tree that looks out across the mountains. This was a chance for singing a few songs, and for Sarah to introduce the directors, line heads and other special staff members. We learned the line songs, and the Hi-Ups, who are our 10th-grade campers, said hello by teaching everyone the “Coconut song.” Funny and silly right from the start!

10th grade summer camp girls

That’s something you realize pretty quickly when you arrive at Rockbrook. There’s a sense of relaxed freedom here that creates a feeling of celebration for no particular reason. You’re surrounded by friendly and welcoming people. You’re immediately a part of something special, and you can tell a lot of exciting things are happening. All the spontaneous singing, clapping and dancing around here— in the dining hall, on the buses, almost whenever we get together —is simply an inevitable expression of this celebration. It’s contagious, joyful, and honestly a little shocking how different it is from regular life. I’m sure that has a lot to do with why everyone here so eagerly soaks it in. Today was no exception. With the arrival of the campers, that incredible joy was energized and we all began to feel recharged, truly ready for camp.

Rick’s homemade Mac-n-Cheese, along with sweet, juicy red watermelon, and a green salad made our first lunch together. That’s a meal that’s become a tradition of sorts for our opening days. The warm yummy cheeses and crunchy breadcrumb topping make for just the right dose of comfort on the first day. The gluten-free and vegan version was popular popular today as well, since it had a little spice to it. Meals at Rockbrook are served “family style” with each cabin group sitting at its own table. Each cabin then has family-sized dishes of each menu item that then gets passed around. If something runs out, then a camper will get up and take the dish back to the kitchen for seconds (or thirds!).

girls holding swimming tag

After lunch, it was time to head to the lake for what we call “swim demos.” This is simply a chance for everyone to demonstrate their swimming ability and receive a swim bracelet and buddy tag that qualifies them to sign up of paddling trips (whitewater rafting! —for girls 5th grade and older) and enjoy free swim times each day. It’s a simple test that assures the lifeguards that girls can be comfortable in the water and can tread water for a minute without struggling. Each age group arrives to take a turn jumping off the dock. Our “refreshing” mountain stream-fed lake can be a little shocking at first, but today the girls seemed to have no trouble. I did hear a few screams after girls felt the water, but I’m sure the bright warm sunshine made a difference too.

Meanwhile, the cabin groups set off on short tours of the camp, visiting important activity areas. They learned, for example, how to find the tunnel that leads to the riding center, where to meet for the climbing activity, and where the health hut is located if they take medications or need something from the nurses. One stop was the camp store where we began to distribute all the camp gear campers pre-ordered. Soon you’ll start to see girls wearing their new swag. By the way, it is possible for them to purchase other items at the store if needed. We’ll keep track of purchases and let you know the total spent on closing day.

Later in the afternoon, the counselors and activity instructors presented skits to introduce all the activities we’ll be offering at camp this session. Set to pretty silly songs, and at times with dance moves and plenty of costumes, we all enjoyed a fun variety show for about an hour. Later the girls will be signing up for their first set of activities, now with a better understanding of what each involves.

It’s been a marvelous opening day, full of already-surprisingly-loud songs, smiles and laughter. All around, there are excited girls ready to jump into the spirit of camp. Amazing!

girls start the summer fun

A Magical Banquet

Everyone looks forward to it. It’s a wonderful surprise. It’s a celebration. Some call it a “blow out.” It’s guaranteed to be unique, fantastic, incredible. It takes weeks of planning and hard work preparing. It’s loud and colorful, entertaining and enticing. It’s campy and creative. It makes everyone smile, laugh and dance. Here at camp, it’s a gathering of your very best friends. This is the banquet.

hogwarts camp girls

The theme for our third session 2022 banquet was focused on the characters and styling of the Harry Potter book and movie series. The CA girls (9th graders) and their counselors worked their incredible magic to transform the dining hall into the great hall of Hogwarts with its long tables and floating candles.

They painted more than 100 panels depicting scenes from the books— portraits of Sirius Black, Harry Potter, Dumbledore, Dobby, and Nearly Headless Nick.

There were paintings of broom sticks, owls dropping letters, the flying car, Hagrid’s motor bike, wands, chocolate frogs, and Bertie Botts Beans. There was also the Mirror of Erised, Fluffy the 3-headed dog, Fawkes the phoenix, and Hedwig the owl.

They displayed detailed drawings of all four of the Hogwarts House crests: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

On the tables, each camper found a pair of Harry Potter glasses, a magical wand, and a Hogwarts Express train ticket. Spider ring and lightning bolt temporary tattoos were there too. Everyone also enjoyed a souvenir cup and of course fun candy treats to help amplify the mood between each course of the meal.

The CA costumes represented an amazing range of Harry Potter characters. The cast list included students from each house, but also some of the Hogwarts professors like Mad Eye Moody, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, even Professor Dolores Umbridge. One student dressed up as Dobby the house elf. There were two french Beauxbaton girls. There was also Rita Sceeter, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Hagrid roaming about the banquet.

These characters worked together to perform choreographed group dances to “Magic” by One Direction, “Black Magic” by Little Mix, and “Enchanted” by Taylor Swift. Between those performances, we all got up and danced to other pop songs. This was a dance party filled with a celebratory energy.

The food was magical too! The menu included: “Magic Wands and Potion Chips,” “Mrs. Weasley’s Chicken Tenders,” and “Troll Tater Tots.” The dessert was particularly creative— “Golden Snitches” made of cookie dough balls rolled in gold colored sugar. Each camper had a small can of soda to drink as well.

Whether the campers were familiar with the world of Harry Potter or not, there was a magical, other worldly quality to the whole event. The CA girls transformed the dining hall turning it into a unique, immersive experience like we’ve never encountered before. For some campers, this was their first banquet, and for others this was another great one to remember.

Like one of the main themes in the Harry Potter novels, this banquet was proof of the power of friendship. It was more than it could have been and was elevated above the ordinary because it happened at camp, a place where the girls already know each other, care for each other and feel accepted and encouraged. Smiling, singing and dancing, this banquet had great energy. A magical time together at camp.

harry potter party cast

Carrier Pigeon Writing

These last few days of camp are so relaxed and sweet.  The campers who are here now are ones who have really settled into the rhythm of camp life, feeling more and more at home everyday.  Homesickness has mostly been resolved, and friendships are deepening with each shared activity, surprise, and silly skit.  The campers know that their days here in the heart of a wooded mountain are coming to a close soon and they are clearly savoring these last moments. They are looking forward to seeing family again soon, but many are sad to say goodbye to each other.

Last night, the campers got a chance to participate in one of Rockbrook’s oldest traditions: writing for the Carrier Pigeon.  This is the name for the yearbook that is compiled and mailed to campers in the winter, and which serves as a warm reminder of carefree summer camp days.  It is named for the founder of Rockbrook, Nancy Carrier, and it was started when Rockbrook was just one week old.  In doing research for the book that several alumnae and I wrote last year about the history of Rockbrook, I was able to locate nearly all of the Carrier Pigeons from camp’s 101 year history.  These Carrier Pigeons are a treasure trove of stories, poems, jokes, drawings, and photographs that are in turn touching tributes, impressive feats of adventure, and hilarious tales of Rockbrook life throughout the years.

After dinner last night, we invited the campers to add their contributions to this summer’s Carrier Pigeon.  We thought you would enjoy a few samples of their work to get a sense of the fun and friendship that the campers are experiencing on a daily basis:

I love rockbrook drawing

“This year at Rockbrook was my first year. I’ve had a great time and made so many friends and so many memories. But I think I will write about my rafting experience. My cabin, like all, was offered the opportunity to go whitewater rafting. Most of us went and had a great time. If you’ve been whitewater rafting before, you might know that you can sit on the front of the boat and “ride the bull.” I went to ride the bull but it was super slippery so I fell into the ice-cold water. My friends pulled me up by my life jacket. Determined ride the bull, I tried again. I also slipped again and fell into the water again. Our instructor pulled me out of the water with one hand and dropped me into the raft. I was completely numb but laughing. I didn’t try to do it again.”

“Do you remember zipping through the camp, or racing to the lake? Who wouldn’t, when the memories made at RBC will last forever. Do you remember your first day and it already feeling like you have been here for weeks? Do you remember tying your friendship knots or braiding you cabin mate’s hair? Do you remember feeling welcome the second you drove up the hill? Do you remember passing notes during rest hour or making flashlight languages? I bet you remember all these things forever, because at Rockbrook, some of the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.”

Today, a special group of campers, the CAs (the rising 10th graders) are currently hard at work on setting up the Banquet for the rest of camp.  They have draped sheets all around the dining hall and the rest of camp is eating today’s breakfast and lunch picnic-style, on the hill.  As you probably know, the theme of Banquet is a well-kept secret, and these CA girls have been spending all of their free time working on elaborately-painted decorations, practicing creative skits, creating a clever menu, and generally giving of their own time to create a magical evening for the younger girls.  While we cannot yet share the theme for this session’s banquet, it is one that is sure to be a fun and memorable one!

Also, a few parents have asked us about the photo gallery and wondering about yesterday.  We had a photographer that had a scheduling conflict, but we have lots of photos of today on the way!  Thanks for your patience and keep an eye on the gallery to figure out tonight’s Banquet theme!

Comfortable camp girls

Individual Choice

Being able to choose your own activity schedule is one of the core experiences for campers at Rockbrook. For some, it is something they really appreciate and love about camp. Instead of being assigned a series of activities, or having your parents be involved in what you end up doing at camp, Rockbrook takes extra efforts to make sure the girls themselves select their activities.

summer camp archery aiming girl

This can be challenging to schedule and has a degree of uncertainty built into it, but we want the girls to have a say in how they spend their time at camp. We want them to make those decisions and feel empowered by that agency and self-direction. Sometimes it can be very interesting for a parent to find out what their child has chosen to do. You might not know a few things about her preferences. Maybe she doesn’t love tennis, or maybe does have an interest in knitting, for example. Plus, part of the fun of camp is being drawn into activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do. A girl might sign up for climbing the Alpine Tower, for example, simply because her camp friend wants to try it. She might ordinarily be a little intimidated by that kind of adventure, but with an encouraging comrade, she might feel extra support and try it. Bingo! New experience, greater self confidence, and sense of accomplishment. Picking activities at home before arriving would undermine that benefit for the girls.

Last year when we were grappling more with COVID and were concerned about a possible infection spreading through our residential community, we created a system of cohorts that assigned activities separate from other cohorts. Each cabin group did activities together, effectively eliminating individual choice. Some camps do this routinely— rotating activities by cabin group. While this made our camp logistics easier, it made the girls miss tailoring their activity schedule to their own interests. They missed switching gears mid week, and they missed being able to do things directly with girls from other cabins. This was yet another reason why we were happy to return to our system of individual choice this summer.

The same is true for our off-camp trips. They are selected individually. A camper signs up for a trip only if she wants to try out a canoeing and camping trip, a backpacking trip, whitewater rafting, kayaking trip, day hike, or ride through the zipline course, for example. Here too, some girls sign up for these adventure trips every chance they get, while others are satisfied with just the zipline or rafting (the 2 most popular options), or neither. Going on trips means having to miss your scheduled activities, so that can sometimes dissuade a camper from signing up. Choosing one thing, necessarily means neglecting all the others. And if you’re excited about riflery, for example, you might be inclined to turn down a trip opportunity if it means you skipping that activity you’ve been looking forward to trying. It’s another decision to make, and another great example of how the girls at camp are allowed to shape their own experience… and grow in the process.

It’s often astounding to see these girls take charge of their days at camp. They’re selecting their own activities, but also deciding how to spend their free time. They’re initiating conversations, creating their own entertainment with others, and navigating the strange environment of camp— all without the guiding hand/opinion of their parents. As a result, they learn they can handle things. They can do things. They can lean into new situations and be OK. Yes, even the tiniest kids can do this. It might be a little messy at times (like when they decide to wear the same shirt too many days in a row…!), but it’s worth it to see them empowered, truly themselves, and absolutely jubilant too. Totally worth it.

camp rafting splash