Camp Open House

As the season begins to turn toward fall, this part of North Carolina offers something truly spectacular. The mountains that are home to Rockbrook transform. Shades of reds and orange, and pops of yellow and brown replace the carpet of greens that we know during the summer. Off in the distance and all around camp, the colors and textures of the forest become even more magnificent.

You should come see it!

camp open house girls

This fall, on two different Saturdays in October, Rockbrook will be hosting an open house: two different opportunities to come for a visit, and enjoy camp in the fall.

We think these will be wonderful occasions for families to learn more about Rockbrook, meet the directors and senior staff members, explore the beautiful grounds, and enjoy a few surprise fall activities. These open houses will also be a chance for current campers to see Rockbrook in a different season, and perhaps introduce their family and friends to the “heart of a wooded mountain.”

Consider yourself invited to one of our camp open house events!

Open House Dates

October 10, 2020

October 17, 2020

Drop in anytime between 10am and 4pm.

(scroll down to register)


What are the Fall Open House Days?

The Fall Open House Days at Rockbrook are opportunities for existing campers, families and friends, as well as prospective campers and their families, to spend a little time at camp during this beautiful season of the year.

What will we do at these open house days?

Our camp directors and other staff members will be on hand to greet everyone, lead guided tours of Rockbrook, and answer all your questions about camp life. There will be fall foliage hikes, a great campfire for making s’mores, a few fall activities, and warm homemade fall snacks.

Do I need to register to attend a Fall Open House Day?

Yes. Please give us a call to RSVP.

What do these open house days cost to attend?

There is no fee for anyone to attend, but we do ask that everyone RSVP.

Can I attend an Open House day if I am a current camper or alum?

Yes! We’d love to see you! In fact, we hope you will attend and we encourage you to bring a friend or family member who may be interested in coming to camp with you next summer! This is the perfect opportunity for you to show your BFF around camp and to let her in on all of the fun we have at Rockbrook!

What about social distancing and mask wearing due to CoVid-19?

North Carolina still requires face masks be worn when six feet of distancing between people is not possible. Our staff will be wearing masks and we ask that all our guests wear them as well. Also, please do not attend an open house if you or anyone in your party is experiencing any CoVid-19 related symptoms, or you have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for CoVid-19 in the past 14 days.

Can we spend the night at camp?

Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer any overnight accommodation for these open house events, but we encourage you to consider staying in the area. Here is a list of nearby places to stay.

But I also have boys!

Both Camp Carolina for Boys and Camp High Rocks for Boys are holding open house events on the same October Saturdays! Come visit Brevard, and spend the day visiting two camps: one for girls and one for boys.

Why should I attend an open house day?

We all need a fall weekend in the mountains, and we think you’ll really enjoy visiting Rockbrook! Come say hello and sample that Rockbrook spirit.

camp open house invitation

This Incredible View

rockbrook camp mountain view

Have you seen that view? Everywhere we went today it was breathtaking. As a cold front pushed aside the last lingering moisture of the last few days, the skies developed a rare blend of complex and varied clouds mixed with very clear air. Rockbrook is situated on a west facing slope with a view of the Blue Ridge mountains. We’re at about 2100 feet in elevation. In fact, when the camp was first built, each of the three stone lodges (one for each age group) was designed to have a long distance view of those NC mountains. The girls could sit on almost any porch in camp and soak in an inspiring cascade of ridge lines. Now, almost 100 years later, with so many large trees living at camp, we have to be more strategic about which porch we choose, but there are still plenty of rocking chairs perfectly situated to offer that same amazing view. It’s neat to think that girls throughout the long history of Rockbrook have sat on those same porches and enjoyed counting those same distant mountains.

girls on top of Black Balsam mountain

With this kind of amazing weather, the adventure staff decided to take a group of camp girls hiking up to Black Balsam mountain, a favorite destination in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s one to highest peaks east of the Mississippi River at 6214 feet. The hike to the summit has a magical quality to it. The trail begins by winding through a thicket of Balsam Fir trees, and then suddenly breaking out to a grassy ridge line with short blueberry bushes along sections. As you continue to wind upward, occasionally scrambling over exposed rock, there’s a crescendo at the summit when you suddenly have a panoramic view stretching for miles. You can’t help but think, “Oh wow!” This part of western North Carolina offers so many examples of this kind of natural beauty it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s even real. The girls this morning enjoyed eating a snack, freshly-baked muffins from camp, while soaking in this incredible view.

tiny kid with big horse and barn

Down at the Rockbrook Riding Center there were other views today, this time of the pastures, barns, paddocks, riding rings, arena, and of course, girls and their horses. Almost all 30 horses were busy in lessons throughout the day, some being assigned to groups of beginners first learning to ride, and more advanced mounts exercising over jumps and other obstacles in the covered arena. For girls who love horses, the riding center is a fascinating place to be. With horses and ponies, feeding, washing, tack and other equipment, regular visits from the farrier, barn chores, and the manure composting system, there’s always lots to see, do and learn.

Our Senior Line campers and their counselors spent the evening out of camp for a dinner picnic, trip to Sliding Rock, and a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar. This is a wildly fun outing that we do every year because it’s so popular. It gets us out of camp for food and frolicking in the forest, really gets our blood pumping with the intensity of sliding down a 60-foot natural water slide, and ends with a yummy, one-of-a-kind ice cream treat. What could be better? Tonight that cold front made the water at sliding rock feel even colder, but that didn’t really slow down these teenagers. They whooped and slid, and sure, shivered a little more than usual, but it was once again a great time together enjoying yet another natural wonder of the mountains.

screaming girls on sliding rock

Sliding Rock NC!

Camp Girls at Sliding Rock
Kids on Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock North Carolina Girls
Best Sliding Rock Trip
Sliding Rock Scream
Sliding Rock Swim

Sliding Rock is a natural water slide located along Looking Glass Creek in the Pisgah National Forest, south of the Blue Ridge Parkway along US Highway 276 (which joins US highway 64 further down in Brevard). Not far from camp, taking a trip there has over the years become a Rockbrook tradition of sorts. On cabin day, which is a day when we suspend the individual activity schedule for everyone so we can spend time together as cabin groups, we often take an entire age group to Sliding Rock.

Tonight it was the Middlers’ chance to take a ride down the rock. After a fun cookout of hotdogs, homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit, we arrived at Sliding Rock past when it had officially closed to the public. This is our routine, and our preference. (And the Forest Service approves!) We can provide our own lifeguards, counselors to help the campers settle into the water at the top of the rock, and set a good “Rockbrook Vibe” when we have the place to ourselves.

The Sliding Rock Recreation Area is about 60-feet of smooth granite that slopes gently downward. As the creek water washes over it, small pockets of whitewater form around bumps and indentations in the rock. At the bottom there is a pool of water about 6 or 8 feet deep, plenty deep enough to go under water, but not so large that it’s difficult for the girls to swim through.

Take a look at these photos (you can click them to bring up a larger version). Wearing their water shoes, the girls first cross the water below the pool and head up the right side of the rock to the top. This is their first exposure to the temperature of the water, which can be politely described as “refreshing” like all the mountain streams in this part of North Carolina.  It’s chilly, but compared to the heat of the day, it feels fantastic.

The real shock happens when the girls sit down in the water at the top of the rock and they feel it splashing on their backs. That’s when eyes widen and mouths open to let out wild screams. The water pushes, and soon they are accelerating down the rock heading to the splash landing below. We encourage the girls to slide in pairs, adding to the fun. There’s no ideal size for a person to slide. As the girls twist, spin and sometimes topple down the rock for several seconds they scream even more, squint, and hold their noses at the last second. It’s so thrilling, and so much fun, they are quick to zip around and slide again. The awesome RBC lifeguards are ready to help the girls exit the pool below, keeping everyone safe. After a rain when there is high water, the sliding is faster, but also trickier at the start.

Meanwhile, the girls who are watching the action, either waiting for their next turn to slide or from one of the two observation platforms, are cheering on their friends, singing camp songs and laughing at the craziness of the sliding.

It’s amazing to see how something this simple can be this much fun. Sliding Rock is one of those timeless mountain camp experiences in North Carolina that just can’t be recreated anywhere else. It’s really ideal, and the girls absolutely love it.

Top of Sliding Rock NC

An Inviting Waterfall

North Carolina Sliding Rock

Here in the “Land of Waterfalls,” as this part of western North Carolina is sometimes called, there are almost 250 named waterfalls to be found. It’s the area’s steep mountains and rocky geology, combined (ordinarily!) with plenty of rain, that create these falls from the broad network of streams and creeks that drain into the French Broad River. Rockbrook itself is an example of this, as Dunns Creek flows down through the property forming several cascading waterfalls, including “Rockbrook Falls,” a popular hiking destination for the campers.

Beyond the beauty of these waterfalls, many of them are spectacular places to play. Even the largest of them, like High Falls in the Dupont State Forest for example, have bubbling pools of water at their base, perfect spots for a daring swim. Stepping into the water below a waterfall is intense. It’s loud and you feel a definite spray thrown out as the water crashes down. Plus, our mountain streams are always chilly, as everyone at Rockbrook knows after swimming in our lake.

Sliding Rock North Carolina Campers
Pair of Sliding Rock girls

Probably the best example of an inviting waterfall is Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest. This is an area where Looking Glass Creek glides over a steep, sloping rock for about 60 feet, ending with a short drop into a pool at the bottom. It’s a unique mountain water slide. Over the years, as the area has become well known, the Forest Service has organized it, charging a fee, providing parking, lifeguards and first aid services during the busy summer months. It’s a very popular place among visitors to western North Carolina.

We love it too, even to the point, in fact, of bringing all of the Middlers and Seniors to Sliding Rock each and every session. Tonight it was time for the entire Middler line, plus all their counselors to take a trip to the rock. That meant marshaling 70 campers, 21 counselors, 3 lifeguards, 3 vans, 3 buses, an SUV, 2 camp directors, and 2 additional bus drivers. We had quite an army of RBC enthusiasm, when we arrived around 7pm, which by the way is after it is officially closed. This is the best time to bring a group this large because we can avoid the typical daytime crowds, have our own lifeguards, and spend more time sliding.

Sliding Rock Girls
Sliding Rock Celebration

The experience of sliding down the rock is exhilarating. The ride itself thrills everyone— feeling the shock of the cold water on your back as you sit down at the top, the disorienting bump and spin as you accelerate toward to splash awaiting at the bottom, plunging deep into the pool for a moment before popping up to see the smiling lifeguards nearby ready to help you swim to the edge and climb out of the water. Each slide takes a few seconds, giving the girls plenty of time to scream, wide-eyed, clutching each other even tighter before hitting the pool below. I heard a couple of girls take a breath mid-scream, mid-slide, and scream a second time before holding their nose and squinting their eyes tight before their splash landing. All around there are friends cheering each other on, clapping and singing camp songs while they wait their turn to slide. The entire evening was filled with laughter, shrieks of delight, and voices of encouragement. There was time for the girls to slide multiple times, but as it grew darker and lips turned bluer, we knew it was time to dry off and roll down the hill to our final stop of the evening.

Dolly’s Dairy Bar! You might think that swimming in 58 degree water, ending up chilled and wet, would discourage girls from enjoying ice cream, but that would be wrong. These girls were psyched to order their favorite of Dolly’s unique “camp flavors” of ice cream: “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” “Soar Super Storm” or “Wayfarer Overload,” for example. I think they have almost 60 different flavors in all, and they are delicious! Now mostly warmed up, we had a great time signing songs while enjoying our cones. By the way, Dolly’s will be open on our Closing Day next week… yes, even that early in the morning. You might want to plan on stopping. 😀

Dolly's Ice Cream Stand

A Magic in the Distance

One of our most prized artifacts from the Rockbrook Camp archives is a copy of the camp catalog produced in 1938. Described as “A Book of Announcements” for Rockbrook Camp “Mr. And Mrs. Henry N. Carrier, Directors,” the catalog is 32 pages of photos and written descriptions of Rockbrook’s history, philosophy, activities, staff and facilities. For example, the “Statement Concerning Rockbrook” includes:

The camp’s program possesses true educational value, enlivening health and happiness. Everything is conducive to the growth and enriched conceptions of sportsmanship, camaraderie and friendship. Of these things it is impossible to write; they must be experienced. Inspired by Rockbrook’s standards, girls develop those inner resources upon which character is built.

This wonderful photo of the mountain view seen from the Hillside Lodge Porch comes from the catalog. Even though the trees have grown higher today, there is still “a magic in the distance where the sky line meets the sky.”

The mountain view from the hillside lodge porch

Camp Cabin View

Since it’s Thursday, here’s a photo to throw us back to an earlier time at camp. We think the photo was taken in the 1930s. It shows an authentic North Carolina log cabin, but from a viewpoint impossible to reproduce today given how much the surrounding trees have grown.  And we’re sure the sunset view from that porch was fantastic. Take a look and see if you can tell which Rockbrook building this shows. Do you know?

An authentic log cabin at summer camp for girls

Beauty at Camp

Camp Wabi Sabi

This is the time of year when we often have families visiting Rockbrook for a tour of camp. Being in the area for a vacation or because they are (smartly) planning ahead for their daughter’s camp experience, many of these families have heard of Rockbrook from a friend or almuna of the camp, or have simply noticed in their research that Rockbrook is one of the leading camps in the southeast. Lately, many of these families touring the camp have made a similar observation; they were struck by how “beautiful” Rockbrook is. It’s true that we have great old trees, grassy hills and fields, a dining hall, activity areas, and sleeping cabins— all things that other camps have as well, but as one Dad put it, “This place is different.” Rockbrook has a unique aesthetic that makes it unusually beautiful. The place itself has a special feeling that doesn’t take long to appreciate, striking enough even during a short tour.

There is a traditional Japanese sense of beauty called “Wabi-sabi” that I think can help explain this feeling about Rockbrook. Essentially Wabi-sabi is a concept that finds beauty in imperfection and incompleteness. Wikipedia puts it like this, “Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.”

Summer Camp Lodge
Camp Lodge Yoga Girl

There is a beauty, in other words, in all these qualities, especially as they are found in the natural world. Rockbrook, for more than 90 years now, has aimed to preserve the organic character of the camp, being careful not to polish or pave every surface, or straighten every path. In fact, just the opposite is true. We’ve allowed the forest to grow up around us, pruning it as gently as possible. We’ve preserved the rustic, old-fashioned character of our buildings, for example the 19th-century log cabins, Curosty and Goodwill. Even when we build something new, or renovate an existing cabin, we’re careful, when we can, to use rough cut lumber (often harvested from trees here on the property), stone we find here at camp, and native plants to fill out our flower beds. We love the rough boulders jutting from the ground and the crooked branches all around us. The imperfections of these natural materials, these “perfect imperfections” (as the popular John Legend song goes!), add to the beauty of camp. Simply being imperfections makes them part of what’s completely unique, and beautiful, about Rockbrook.

Tie Dye Craft Camp Girl
Camp kid shooting archery

More importantly than our camp facilities, the Wabi-sabi aesthetic goes further and frames the Rockbrook culture too. For example, like the asymmetry of every stone here, we celebrate the “imperfection and incompleteness” in how we perform in the arts and sports activities. There might be a twist in our friendship bracelet, or a bulge in our pottery mug, or splotch in our tie dye t-shirt, but we know that, more than “OK,” these qualities are what make our creations uniquely cool and beautiful. We might climb the Alpine Tower blindfolded (and slowly!), or shoot all our arrows too high, but we are still improving our skills, learning more and having fun nonetheless. When, as it is at Rockbrook, the fun of an activity is simply doing it (with our friends, naturally) rather than insuring the end result is “perfect” or the “best,” when the leap is more important than the landing, then the Wabi-sabi aesthetic is at work.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as we celebrate the Wabi-sabi of our natural environment and how we spend our day in camp, we likewise cherish the unique qualities, the “imperfections” and “incompleteness” of personality and appearance in the people around us. In those differences, in those ways that we are “weird,” as Grace put it, each of us enriches our community with our eccentric beauty. That quirky sense of fashion, that bold singing voice, or that quiet fascination with bugs— all cool. At Rockbrook, we learn that, in so many ways, who we really are isn’t ever really perfect, but it’s that very fact that makes us each a beautiful person.

We could try to iron out all these imperfections around us (in the world, in what we do, and in who we are), paint over the elements of Wabi-sabi at camp, but think of what would remain… something pretty plain, pale and predictable. No, camp should be a place to explore the irregular edges of nature, our incomplete knowledge and skills, and who we are as individuals. If the goal of camp is to grow, it simply should be such a place. And when it is, that’s beautiful.

Wabi Sabi Camper Climbers

North Carolina Beauty

Girls hiking to Tennent Mountain NC
Black Balsam Mountain NC

This part of North Carolina is home to the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River. These are the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southern Appalachian range and include the Great Smoky mountains. While Rockbrook is located along the eastern slope bordering the French Broad River Valley at an elevation of 2,600 feet, the highest peak in North Carolina is Mount Mitchell which stands at 6,686 feet. New Hampshire and Maine also claim tall peaks— Mount Washington (6,288 ft) and Mount Katahdin (6,268 ft) — but NC claims the number one spot. Among the highest peaks in North Carolina are two that are a short drive from Rockbrook: Black Balsam Knob (6,201 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6,056 ft).  And for a group of Rockbrook girls, these peaks were a hiking destination today.  At this elevation, the experience is one of looking out, and down at the hills and valleys below.  At the same time, the sky feels very close because clouds are all around, above, below and right beside you. It’s a strangely stark, other worldly, almost numinous experience.  Being in this part of North Carolina is literally so awe-some, the girls were (almost) left speechless! You can see that today the weather was rather unsettled with bands of clouds and even rain in the valleys blowing by, making the whole hike even more dynamic and dramatic. Very cool!

Jewelry Making Porch Activity

Meanwhile back at camp, where it was surprisingly wetter with a slight drizzle falling, all of the regular craft activities were bustling. All those colorful projects! Tying and dying. Twisting and pulling. Painting and marking. Gluing and sewing. Weaving and hooking. Here is a photo of the girls making Jewelry on the Hillside Lodge porch. This is a wonderful setting with red rocking chairs and a big broad table to spread out on. The girls have now progressed to even more complex friendship bracelet patterns— double chevron, arrowhead, heart, basket weave, and diamond, for example.  With so many friends at camp, and family members at home who will enjoy a camp-made gift, there’s always a good reason to make another friendship bracelet.  Take a look at the image on the our camp videos page to see how they can stack up!

Flowers of Rockbrook

The last few days at camp seem to have exploded with color for both the camp flower beds and the forest itself are blooming beautifully. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve been having regular light showers and periods of sun for the last couple of days.  In the forest, there are exquisite clusters of tall and broad ferns, tall pink Ladyslippers, and Painted Trilliums surprising us along the trails in camp with spots of color and pattern. The flower beds at camp— along the dining hall, in front of the Junior Lodge, the canoe planter by the lake—and all the planters around camp are even more full. This photo is just a sample of the amazing work Pam our gardener has done, and continues to do, to keep Rockbrook’s setting so lovely and blooming. I hope you have time to wander around when you arrive to pick up your daughter in a few days.

The Heart of a Wooded Mountain

Camp lake 1932 from hill
Rockbrook Camp, 1932

Check out this great old photograph we found in a camp scrapbook that was recently donated to Rockbrook.  The Lakeview Lodge and Vesper Rock are the stars of the show!  They are central to camp life and seem to always show up in photographs of the girls doing evening program.

If you have not been to camp recently you will be relieved to know that it still looks very much the same as in this wonderful old photograph.  The trees are a bit taller but the feel of camp is just like this picture!  If you look really hard you may even see Mrs. Carrier in the front left of the image, walking down the road wearing white.

We love the unique perspective of this photo of our North Carolina home as it was taken from the hill where the gym currently stands. Be sure to click on the photo  to see a larger version of the image.

Rockbrook’s Trout Lilies

Yellow Trout Lily
Yellow Trout Lily (Dogtooth Violet)

Do you recognize this wildflower? Do you remember seeing those very distinctive spotted leaves at Rockbrook? It’s an American Trout Lily (Erythronium Americanum). This is the time of year it begins to bloom, and sure enough it’s everywhere at Rockbrook! Being a perennial, this wildflower returns every year, blooming about now, signaling the Spring season. Its name comes from the elliptic, green and deep maroon spotted leaves that resemble the coloring of brook trout, a native Appalachian species. This flower is also called a “Dogtooth Violet,” (even though its flower isn’t violet at all!) because its underground bulb is shaped like a tooth. Unfortunately, they also contain a dangerous plant toxin called Colchicine, so you (or your pet dog!) should never eat them. We love seeing these beautiful flowers at camp. They are gorgeous reminders of summer being right around the corner!