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!

The Heart of Rockbrook

The 2011 Carrier Pigeon, our annual summer yearbook, is at the printer right now in preparation for sending out over the holiday.  It is filled with so many wonderful stories and memories of the past summer. There are so many highlights, we thought we would share a few with you!  The fun, friends and feeling of Rockbrook never changes, whether it is 1921 or 2011!

Splashing and laughing
in the rocky creek,
with our tangled hair
and our soaking wet feet;
In the dining hall
we all loudly sing,
then at rest hour flop down
and don’t say a thing.

Cabinmates are like sisters,
and friends ever better,
everyone’s hoping
to receive a letter.
Walking along
a quiet forest trail
or running a brush
through a horse’s soft tail.
In hilarious evening skits
every girl has a part,
In this beautiful wooded mountain,
you can tell why we’re called the heart.
       —Miriam E.

Old Camp Photo

Green Salamanders at Rockbrook

There is a secret about the western part of North Carolina, something few people know. It is home to more that 50 distinct species of salamanders (Order Caudata), with North Carolina as a whole having the highest salamander diversity in the world! The so-called “Lungless Salamanders” (Family Plethodontidae) are the most numerous and include one species listed as Rare and Endangered by the State: the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus). This is the only salamander in North America with green markings, hence its name. These little guys have very specific habitat requirements and are rarely seen.

nesting endangered green salamander in North Carolina
Rare and endangered green salamander

It just so happens, though, Rockbrook’s Castle Rock and Dunn’s Rock provide a perfect habitat for the Green Salamander. There are plenty of moist, shaded rock crevices for the salamanders to hide in, and for the females, to lay their eggs. Green Salamanders spend most of the year in cool rock crevices, but hide in trees during the summer. They ordinarily live to become 10-15 years old.

Today, Alan Cameron, a 7-year volunteer with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, came out to Rockbrook for a Green Salamander field expedition. Another naturalist had observed Green Salamanders at the base of Dunn’s Rock, so Alan wanted to verify his hunch that they would be on Castle Rock too. Within 4 minutes of arriving at the rock, he found a Green! Alan believes that the environment on the camp property is ideal for this salamander and that there is likely a very healthy population of them here.

It’s neat to know (now definitely) that Rockbrook is home to this rare and endangered species of salamander. This is important because Rockbrook will always preserve its unique habitat and thereby help insure this special amphibian survives.

Trail Rides at Rockbrook Camp

Horseback Riding at summer camp
Campers gather near the old barn for a trail ride, 1920’s

In the early days of Rockbrook, trail riding was a popular activity.  Rockbrook’s location 3 miles from Brevard was far enough from the hustle and bustle of town to allow the girls to ride to the river or down the road towards Caesar’s Head.  They also had daily instruction in the ring on what is now our sports field.  In the 1920’s, Mrs. Carrier along with the barn staff would even ride the horses over Caesar’s Head and down to Greenville to return them to their winter home. What an adventure!

Eventually, the riding program outgrew the sports field location and moved across the road to it’s current home.  This location features 3 riding rings and a jump course as well as several pastures and an inviting trail that follows the French Broad River.  We no longer ride over Caesar’s Head on horseback, but there are plenty of exciting adventures that happen down at the barn!

Rockbrook Campers at Triple Falls

Campers enjoy an out of camp trip to a local waterfall
Rockbrook Campers, 1923, Triple Falls

While doing some research on camp history at the Transylvania County Library, we came across this photograph of some Rockbrook Campers from 1923.  The label on the back of the photograph indicates it was taken at a local waterfall, (believed to be Triple Falls ) which is located in today’s Dupont State Forest.    Dupont State Forest was founded between 1995-2000 and is a 10,300 acre state forest featuring over 9 spectacular waterfalls.  In the early days of Rockbrook campers got to visit these waterfalls.  At some point the property fell into private ownership and was not reopened for visitors until 1995.    We now offer our campers trips to Dupont, just like we did in 1923!

Let us know if you remember any waterfall trips from when you were a camper.  In our next blog post we will feature more about our local waterfalls.

Polar Bear Swim at Camp- Brrr!

Swimming at Summer Camp
Swimming at Rockbrook, 1925

One of the most common memories shared with us from our former campers is their recollections of  Polar bear swim in the chilly lake at camp.  Campers would get up at the rising bell, and with their counselors would run down to the lake for a quick dip.  What a refreshing way to start the day!!

We found a great write up about Polar Bear in our Rockbrook Memories Book.  Jerkey, a much beloved Rockbrook director would lead the girls in their morning plunge.

“Much of the fun at camp that summer stemmed from Jerkey’s leadership.  I can see her now as she led us during those wee hours of the early morning in a series of setting up exercises before we jumped into that icy cold pool.  Somehow, even in my shivering state, she made it seem glorious thing to do.”

You will be glad to know that the Polar Bear tradition continues today and that the camp lake is as chilly as ever!!  As the camp song states: “Polar, polar, polar bear, you can be a part of it all, if you dare!”

Alumna Guest Blogger – Lizzie Rizzo

NC Camp Waters

Today we have a guest post from Rockbrook alum, Lizzie Rizzo.  Lizzie grew up in New Iberia, LA and attended Rockbrook for many summers. She and her husband Jordan currently live in Austin, TX.  Here’s Lizzie:

Columbus Day is not a holiday I typically make many plans for (do you?) But looking at my calendar a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had this day off from work (I work for a Boston-based company and the holiday is a bigger deal up there). So I started thinking about what to do with this extra day away – what a gift! Around the same time, out of the blue, Jerry texted me a photo of the harvest moon over Brevard. The last straw was when I was talking to a colleague who told me to look out for her call from an 828 area code number (odd since she is based in San Francisco, but was visiting family in Highlands). All that could only add up to one thing, it was time for me to get back to Brevard!

I spent 13 summers at Rockbrook as a camper and counselor and not a summer goes by that I don’t think about camp – and yes, there’s often a little tinge of jealously! I could tell you about how Rockbrook helped to shape me into who I am and was a place that I met lifelong friends, but y’all already understand that and no doubt have many of your own memories. So instead, I’ll just say that this weekend has been full of many of the same elements present when I was here in years past – good friends, fresh mountain air and even a hike up at Sam Knob.

I recommend coming up to here when you can – whether it’s for Patriot’s Day, Canadian Thanksgiving 🙂 or just a quick weekend visit – make some plans, call your old friends and come back to your summer home.

Sliding Rock North Carolina Fun

Sliding Rock Natural Water Slide in North Carolina

This part of North Carolina, in the western part of the state, is well known for its lush mountains and waterfalls. In the Brevard area alone there are more than 250 named waterfalls (Do you know the two that are on the Rockbrook Property?). Some of these waterfalls are quite remote and hidden, but others are popular places for swimming.

The most famous example of these waterfalls is Sliding Rock. This is a place in the Pisgah National Forest where Looking Glass Creek cascades about 60ft over a smooth sloping rock and drops into a deep pool at the bottom. The Forest Service has developed it into an organized recreation area so it can provide parking, lifeguards and first aid services during the busy summer months. In the last few years, Sliding Rock has become so popular the Forest Service has begun charging a small fee to use the area.

The Rockbrook Middlers and Seniors take a trip to Sliding Rock most sessions. We go at special times when the area is less crowded and we always bring our own additional lifeguards. It’s a great mountain experience for the girls, and when you top it off with a trip to Dolly’s Ice Cream stand, it really can’t be beat.

You’ll have so much fun, you might raise your foot in excitement!

Rockbrook and the NC Cherokee

Cherokee Lost Settlement near Rockbrook Camp

If you’ve been to Rockbrook you know how it’s located in an amazing place— tucked between two prominent rock faces, surrounded by forest on three sides and bordering the valley formed by the French Broad river on the fourth. Add to that the two freshwater creeks, two waterfalls, and the two caves, you begin to understand how unique it really is.

But did you know that Rockbrook was also the site of a Cherokee settlement? That’s right; a Native American town called Kana’sta was located right near camp. This photo is a marker telling a bit about it.  The plaque says:

Site of CONESTEE, Legendary Lost Settlement of the Ancient Cherokee Nation. Visited by British Troops in 1725. Disappeared 1777. Erected by Cherokee Historical Ass’n, Transylvania Historical Ass’n, Unaka Chapter, Daughters of American Colonists.

There is also a Cherokee story telling of the Kana’sta settlement leaving its town to go and live with another Cherokee group.  Two visitors arrive one day and offer to let the Kana’sta people come and live in their town “where we are always happy.”  It is a story of why the Kana’sta “disappeared.”

It’s so interesting to think about the rich history of this part of North Carolina.  Long before European settlers arrived, a group of Cherokee recognized its special character and made it their home. Today, hundreds of years later, it is home to all of us at Rockbrook.  Pretty cool.

Brevard North Carolina Ranks

Outdoor Kids in Brevard

Back in August, Backpacker Magazine published a list of “The best cities to raise an outdoor kid.” And guess what! Our very own Brevard, North Carolina ranked number 20 in the list. These are the best places in America to “beat Nature Deficit Disorder.” That’s not too surprising when you think about all the incredible outdoor opportunities available nearby: all the Pisgah forest trails, great rock, and nearby whitewater rivers. It’s also one explanation for why this area is so fantastic for a summer camp.

Rockbrook is fortunate to be located here in the mountains of western North Carolina, and you can bet we take full advantage of the many wonderful outdoor destinations nearby.  Trips to Sliding Rock, sea kayaking on Lake Jocassee, whitewater rafting on the Nantahala, rock climbing on Cedar Rock, swimming at the bottom of High Falls in the Dupont State Forest… And so many more.  These are just a few of the truly special experiences made possible by the forests near camp.

If you can’t live hear and raise your kids here, then come to camp here! It’s amazing.