Cherishing Our Time Together

This is the moment at camp when the energy everywhere becomes absolutely electric. The campers are enjoying their last rotation of activities and everyone is clinging to these precious opportunities to make their beautiful crafts, reach new heights, hit bulls eyes, be with the horses, go on the zip line, or learn to roll a kayak. The ceramics have been glazed and are in the kilns being fired. The bird houses, tie-dyes, and weavings are being finished up, rinsed out, and tied off. Campers and counselors are squeezing in last rehearsals before their big performances on Wednesday. At just about every minute something is culminating in completed creations, hard-earned accomplishments, and mini-celebrations. Truck loads of campers went off to Dolly’s Ice Cream Bar today to celebrate swimming enough laps to become “Mermaids,” and for running enough miles to make “Rockbrook Runners.”

Camp Girl with ping pong paddle and ball
Ping pong is a fun indoor option for tennis when it’s too rainy to play on our clay courts!

In the dining hall at dinner, the excitement from the thrills of today gave way to crackling anticipation for tomorrow. Sharp shooting campers will be competing in Riflery, Archery, and Tennis Tournaments with the boys from Camp Carolina. Campers will finish up their last day of the activity rotation. And tomorrow night we will all get to experience the long-awaited CA Banquet! The fun and mystery of this favorite end-of-session celebration is already beginning as the CAs wrap the dining hall in sheets to conceal the hard work of their Banquet theme and decorations as they set up. The dining hall will remain cloaked from view until they are ready to welcome everyone into the dining hall for their big surprise dinner event tomorrow night.

The cheers and squeals of excitement continued to echo over the hill side past sundown as campers shared their last evening programs together with their individual Junior, Middler and Senior lines.

It’s so hard to imagine how much is packed into a session here at Rockbrook. And theses last few days of our camps, the air everywhere is utterly sparking with enthusiastic activity, friendships in full bloom and a collective commitment to cherish every split second of every last moment together.

Boundless Creativity

camp girls wearing white uniforms

Today at Rockbrook, campers and staff alike showed off their talents to the enjoyment of all. It is always a joy to see how girls take every opportunity they can to share their artistic and creative side with others. This Sunday these talents were musical, inspiring, thoughtful, physical, silly—the imagination of campers never ceases to amaze!

Every Sunday morning, campers come to the dining hall for breakfast in pajamas. Afterwards, everyone dons their “whities,” or red polos if they are staff members. Next comes flag raising on the hill, and then the whole camp community walks silently to Chapel for some singing, thoughtful remarks, and reflections. Today’s theme was “Gratitude,” which comes at a perfect time in the summer, allowing us to pause and reflect on all the wonderful things that have happened this Second Session. It was a special Chapel program because all of the Junior Line plus their counselors sang a song together, accompanied by camp mom, Marie, on the guitar. As the Junior Line was serenading, campers and staff were given pens and little papers to write down one thing that makes them feel grateful. The answers to this question ranged from concrete items like family, food, and pets, to more broad things like friendship, wildness, and peace. All these grateful notes were collected after chapel, and hung up on the dining hall porch as a visual reminder of the diverse, exceptional community at camp, and the multitude of things we can be grateful for in our lives.

Camp girls hand motion song

In the afternoon, campers had the chance to show off more than just their singing ability at our RBC’s Got Talent show! This is an event put on by our hard-working CITs, and it gives every cabin a chance to display a special talent.

camp jazzercise

A Senior cabin performed a Jazzercise routine using dance moves related to camp: move your trunk, going down the slide, running on the trails. We saw an angry grandma, a crazy babysitter, and a little mermaid who would rather be a bird than a human! One cabin made their own rendition of “Copacabana” in which every camper was featured, and another cabin showed off a talent of each camper—including reciting 100 digits of pi! The energy in the gym was contagious, and campers enjoyed watching and performing for their friends, knowing they were supported, encouraged, and applauded no matter what.

The ability to not only be yourself at camp—but the craziest, silliest, funnest version of yourself—is a special feature of Rockbrook that cannot often be replicated at home, school, or in extracurriculars. We love seeing the boundless creativity of campers, because it reminds us that they are both taking full advantage of the space to feel free at camp as well as the loving community that surrounds and supports them.

CIT counselors

The Magic of Camp

Today campers began a new rotation of activities, and experienced a regular Monday at camp. While this may seem pretty unexciting, a typical day at camp is actually when that camp magic happens. Although adventure trips and special Rockbrook surprises are important and provide unique experiences for campers, there is something special and valuable about having a regular day of camp.

Tennis Playing camp girls

In activities, girls are able to connect with other campers and counselors of their age group, or line, who may not be in their cabin. They get to practice and learn new skills at the same time as building relationships. Campers don’t need to go on the zip line or a hike to be pushed out of their comfort zone. Swimming, curosty, or climbing at camp can challenge girls and allow them to grow, while being alongside their peers and counselors.

Free swims are also valuable because twice a day campers can choose their own adventure. For example, they might go to the lake to swim mermaid laps, join in with Rockbrook runners club to run on the trails, or simply sit on the hill and make friendship bracelets. The options are only limited by campers’ imaginations! It is important for girls to have this sense of independence and ability to make their own decisions as they are growing up. These free times throughout the regular camp day allow girls to have the social and physical space to be themselves as well as the space to let their imaginations run wild.

Tunnel at summer camp

A regular day at camp also leads campers to some special places around Rockbrook’s property. One path leads past the tennis courts, the Carrier House, and lower pottery to a tunnel that goes underneath Greenville Highway, so girls can safely get to the barn. It’s a fun experience to walk down the wooded path, through the darkened tunnel, and pop out on the other side to a scene of green pastures, the horses, and the winding French Broad River. Up in the main part of camp, girls absolutely love to play in the two creeks at the foot of the hill. One creek is diverted from Rockbrook Falls and feeds into the lake, providing us with fresh mountain water to swim in. The other creek comes from Stick Biscuit falls, and winds its way underneath the Dining Hall, past Goodwill, behind Curosty, and down the mountain. There is almost no need to ever leave camp for trips, as we are fully immersed in the beauty of nature right here at Rockbrook!

Trips and special events are certainly beneficial to the overall camp experience, but it is important to remember how special a regular day at camp can be all on its own. The small moments, the in-betweens, the laughs and friends—these are what add up to create a camper’s Rockbrook experience. The magic of camp of a great summer camp is already present in the people, places, and spaces at camp, so we hope the campers take every moment they have to experience that magic.

Birthday Celebrations at Rockbrook

Each summer we have campers who get to spend their special day at the best place on Earth – Rockbrook Camp! Having a birthday at camp is something unique and only applies to a handful of girls. At Rockbrook, we try to make each birthday special! First, counselors spend time creating a banner to be hung in the dining hall right next to the birthday girl. The birthday girl will walk in, see her special birthday banner, and her face will immediately light up with excitement. The banner also lets all of camp know it’s a special day! Along with the banner, cabin mates usually create a birthday card and sometimes even craft gifts from various activities to give to the birthday girl.

camp counselor floating in lake
Hi-Up counselors Mia (at left) and Grace enjoying the lake for Mia’s birthday!

The next step of the birthday celebration is for the kitchen to bake the birthday girl a cake! Counselors then take the time to put icing and candy on their camper’s cake. At either lunch or dinner, the Hi-Ups will ring their song bell as the counselors walk out with the birthday cake in hand. The dining hall then breaks into a beautiful chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Once the counselors reach the birthday girl she can blow out her candles and make a wish as the dining hall chants “stand up, stand up, stand up!” As the birthday girl stands, the campers chant “tell us when to stop” and then they begin counting. When the campers count up to the birthday girl’s age she will wave her hands signaling them to stop! We then all cheer and the birthday girl and her cabin mates get to enjoy the delicious homemade birthday cake!

Felix the Camp Dog
Camp dog Felix celebrated his 2nd birthday with an agility demonstration and a dog birthday cake!

Today is July 8th, and we happened to have two special birthday celebrations! First was to celebrate one of our fabulous Hi-Up counselors! Mia turned 22 today and was celebrated with a three layered cake covered in candy, along with a dance break at lunch where we all got to dance to Taylor Swift’s song “22.” This evening we celebrated the second birthday of our beloved camp dog Felix! During twilight, Felix showed us all of his wonderful tricks he learned at doggy school. He rolled over, gave high fives, and even jumped over a hurdle and through a hula hoop! The crowed cheered and continued the camp tradition of singing “Happy Birthday.” Felix then got a dog-friendly cake of his own – he really enjoyed licking the icing! We ended Felix’s birthday celebration by eating dog-shaped cookies the kitchen staff so kindly made for dessert!

We are so lucky to live in such a joyful and supportive community here at Rockbrook, where we can celebrate occasions large and small. Whether you hit a certain number of bullseyes, swam a specific number of mermaid laps, or you are having a birthday at camp, there are always fun and exciting celebrations in store.

The Start of Something New

buckskin horse and girl wearing helmet and blue shirt

Now that Second Session has officially begun, campers have eagerly jumped on all the opportunities for fun and adventure at camp. Every day except Sundays, campers take activities that they can choose themselves. Mondays at camp are always full of new experiences because they are the first day of activity rotations. Today was especially delightful because it is the first day of the fist activity rotation, and it is the second day of the whole session.

Every Sunday and Wednesday night after dinner, campers choose their next round of four activities that they will take for three days. Some campers enjoy taking the same activities every time because they want to continue building their skills, they particularly enjoy being with those activity instructors, or they are just big fans of that activity. On the other hand, some campers choose new activities every rotation in order to try the most they can while at camp, since many of our activities are things that are often not available at home. Either way, campers practice decision-making and independence when they pick activities and challenge themselves to try new things.

teaching weaving by the creek

For instance, today in Curosty, our weaving activity, campers sat by the creek and learned how to make baskets that they will be able to take home and use. 

Meanwhile in Yoga, campers not only practiced different poses and breathing techniques, they also learned about yoga philosophy and history in order to ground their yoga experience and relate it to their lives.

No matter the activity, campers are able to take something away with them when they leave camp. Whether it is a freshly honed skill in knot tying, an experience on horseback they’ve never had before, or a new friend they made in needlecraft, each camper heads home with more than they arrived with. The combination of immersion in nature, working with activity specialists, and daily opportunities to build both skills and relationships make activities at Rockbrook a unique learning experience.

End of the Session Tournament

Throughout the session, girls have signed up for three different activities in the hopes of traveling to Camp Carolina for the end of session tournament. The first activity with the opportunity to go to the tournament is tennis! Each activity period, girls walk down to the clay courts with tennis shoes on and racket in hand. At the courts they practice their groundstrokes and volleys by playing a variety of tennis games. This year, we also added three new pickle ball courts to our tennis area for a new game for the girls to learn and enjoy.

girl aiming rifle at target

The second activity is riflery. In riflery, girls venture down the front driveway and wait for permission to enter the range. Once there, they have the opportunity to pick their favorite rifle to shoot at the target. Each of our rifles have their own special “sweet spot” and over the session the goal is to figure out the sweet spot in order to hit a bullseye.

The third activity is archery. With hair back, close-toed shoes, safety glasses, and arm guards attached, girls step up to the platform to try and shoot the golden circle in the middle of the target. It’s a huge accomplishment to get a bullseye. In fact, many girls go back to the range in attempt to hit ten bullseyes in order to receive a golden arrow. If a girl hits fifty bullseyes they get a cake and one hundred bullseyes earns a golden bow.

It’s getting close to the end of our camps and the tennis, archery, and riflery instructors are in line to make an announcement at dinner. Most of the girls in the dining hall knows this means the participants of the tournament are about to be revealed! Those who continuously take these activities usually get their chance to travel to Camp Carolina to participate in the tournament.

girls archery tournament

While at the tournament girls have the opportunity to partake in some friendly competition! Often times the girls arrive wearing matching t-shirts, eye black, or bucket hats to show their cohesion. When we first arrived the girls were excited but a little nervous. As soon as they stepped onto the courts and the range they felt excited, confident, and comfortable. Girls cheered on and encouraged one another as they waited for their time to shine.

At the end of the tournament the girls are always concerned with who won but overall the tournament is about the girls stepping outside of their comfort zone and having fun! They love the opportunity to see another camp, cheer on their friends, and to show off the talents they worked so hard at practicing.

tennis camp girls group

An Attitude of Gratitude

Sundays at Rockbrook provide us with a moment to catch our breath. After a very full week of riding horses, weaving on Inkle looms, taking the polar plunge, zipping across camp, and hitting tetherballs, it is welcome (and necessary!) to take a little break. 

girls singing song camp

On Sundays we sleep in a little later and enjoy breakfast in our pajamas.  Afterwards we take some time to clean our cabins, put on our uniforms, and get ready for flag-raising and chapel.  For many girls, these ceremonies are so special because they are a different time at camp, a little quieter, a little more serious.  The silent walk to chapel provides a chance for girls to hear the sounds at camp that are often overwhelmed by happy chatter, shrieks, and singing.  Girls start to notice the birdsong, feel the sun’s rays, maybe even get a sprinkle of rain on them.  After arriving at the rustic clearing in the woods that was selected by campers nearly 100 years ago, girls learn the theme for chapel that week.  Our chapel services are not religious services, but rather quiet, thought-provoking times at camp.  The girls participate by choice, and they may lead songs, read poems, and share thoughts that have to do with the weekly theme.

Gratitude program at camp

This week, our theme was “Gratitude.” Girls quickly caught on to the theme by expressing how lucky they felt to have the opportunity to spend time in this beautiful setting, living closely with so many fun and interesting people.  Many girls recognized that coming to camp has been a gift for them from another person. We read the book “The Secret of Saying Thanks” by Douglas Wood together.  The book helped draw attention to the many simple gifts around us all of the time at camp – from the beauty of flowers, the shade of trees, the silence of mountains, the life of waters.  In closing, the book teaches that a grateful heart is a happy one.  The campers really embraced the teachings of this book.  After chapel one of our campers wrote her thoughts about Rockbrook:

I stumbled upon it by chance; this place that my great-aunt, grandmother, and aunt all loved before me.

And now, there is no sound that I love more than the bell’s peal mingling with laughter,

No sight I love more than a girl tying the friendship knot on a first-year camper’s tie,

No taste I love more than fresh donuts on Sunday morning, broken and shared between friends,

No smell I love more than the last wisps of smoke from a spirit fire candle,

And no feeling I love more than the warmth of a hug that I know means farewell,

But not goodbye.

We still have a few more days before our farewells, and we are grateful for all of these fun and happy moments together.

Reading in chapel program

1st Session Video Note – Part Two

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks spent another day this week filming at Rockbrook, quietly roaming the camp with his camera capturing some of the action. And now we have this fascinating 2-minute slice of life at camp to enjoy.

Take a look! There are moments of pride, heartfelt affection, joy, determination, and of course sheer exuberance. It’s hard not to smile while watching it.

Click here for the video. Or see below.