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 yellow, and pops of orange and brown replace the blanket 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 beautiful.

You should come see it!

camp open house girls

This fall Rockbrook will be hosting an open house, giving everyone an opportunity to come for a visit, and enjoy a bit of camp in the fall.

We think this will be great occasion 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. This open house will also be a chance for current campers and alumnae 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 our summer camp open house!

Open House Date

October 9, 2021

Drop in anytime between 10am and 4pm.

(scroll down to register)

Questions

What is the Fall Open House Day?

The Fall Open House Day at Rockbrook is an opportunity for existing campers, alumnae, 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 this open house day?

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 few fall activities, and warm homemade fall snacks.


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

Yes. Please give us a call to RSVP.


What does this open house day cost to attend?

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


Can I attend the 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. We plan to spend all of our time outside and maintain proper social distancing during these events. Our staff will be wearing masks when near guests and we ask that all our guests wear them as well. Also, please do not attend the 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 this open house event, but we encourage you to consider staying in the area. Here is a list of nearby places to stay.


Why should I attend the 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.

A Smashing Success!

At the end of August this year, Rockbrook continued to celebrate its 100th year by holding a weekend alumnae reunion. Women from all over the country who had attended camp as children, and some who had worked as staff members, made plans to return to Rockbrook, reuniting with camp friends and reviving their camp spirit.

alumna zip lining smile

The reunion was a smashing success! Altogether 340 alumnae attended, bringing together women who were campers in the 1950s up to the 2000s. Most stayed overnight in Rockbrook’s historic cabins. Several mother-daughter pairs, both of whom attended camp, enjoyed their time together. Perfect late-summer, mountain weather added to everyone’s joy of spending time back at camp.

The weekend was full of laughter, conversation and reminiscing, but also filled with fun. The alumnae went on hikes around the camp property, swam in the lake, shot archery and riflery, climbed the alpine tower, flew through the trees on the zipline course, made pottery, tie-dye t-shirts, and friendship bracelets for each other. They enjoyed delicious meals, including fresh-baked muffins (of course!), a costumed dance party in the gym and a Spirit Fire.

Other highlights included tributes to former directors Teed Poe and Jerry Stone, and long-serving caretakers, Gladys and J.D. Owen. There was an afternoon wine reception at the Clarke-Carrier Rockbrook house where alumnae could view historic artifacts, photographs, and documents from the camp’s 100-year history.

Here we’ve got a short video of highlights from the reunion. Filmed on Saturday, it’s a wonderful tribute to the power of Rockbrook to make a difference in the lives of so many women.

Take a look and let us know what you think!

camp history book cover

Also during the reunion, Sarah Carter unveiled, In the Heart of a Wooded Mountain: Rockbrook Camp for Girls 1921-2021, the hardcover book recounting the history of Rockbrook. All of the alumnae attending received a copy of the book and were thrilled to page through its detailed accounts and rare photographs. Copies are still available for sale in the Rockbrook online shop.

As memories of camp bubbled back to the surface— inspired by sleeping in the same cabins, walking along the same trails, taking a dip in the same lake —the women attending the reunion relaxed outside and enjoyed each other’s company. They were so grateful to feel again the comfort of this special place, and the true friendship that it fosters. Following the struggles and isolation inflamed by the pandemic, the whole weekend was a rejuvenating testament to the power of camp and how much it means to everyone. Like for our campers this summer, being together at Rockbrook felt just right, proving once again that, now for 100 years, camp is indelibly fulfilling.

That Great Feeling

With the summer now behind us, and our attention focused on the new school year, I wanted to think back about camp and thank everyone who helped make this one of the best Rockbrook summers ever.

camp teen girl friends

Back in May, we weren’t 100% certain how it would go when we opened camp. There were still plenty of unanswered questions looming about how the pandemic would affect camp life.  But working with guidance from the American Camp Association, we rethought everything in terms of the coronavirus. We took great pains to consider how we might keep infections out of camp and how we could minimize its spread if it did, despite those efforts, sneak in. We changed how we organized our in-camp activities, doubled our health care team, spread out our food service onto new outdoor dining areas, and created a plan for pre-camp testing, quarantining, and a reasonable system of mask wearing for campers and staff members.

But all of this wouldn’t have been enough if our campers and their parents hadn’t been so supportive of these new safety protocols.  Thank you parents!  Thank you for placing your confidence in Rockbrook and for believing in the benefits of a camp experience for your girls, even if that experience would be different in some ways from years past. Thank you campers for your enthusiasm and love of camp. Thank you for sticking with us through 2020 when we had to close camp. And thank you for your trust in 2021!

fun kayaking camp instruction

The success of the summer wouldn’t have been possible without the extra hard work of our leadership team, incredible staff of cabin counselors, adventure guides, activity specialists, housekeeping, maintenance and kitchen teams.  While some camps struggled to fill positions, Rockbroook was fortunate to have every role filled with excellent folks who showed real dedication and commitment to doing their best work, even under more challenging conditions. To everyone who worked at Rockbrook this summer (all 172 of you!), thank you! Each of you contributed something special to this camp community.

Thanks to this good planning, to families doing their part, and to an incredibly hard-working camp staff— plus a dose of good luck —this past summer was COVID-free. We had no positive cases of the coronavirus at Rockbrook. Despite the ongoing pandemic, Rockbrook had a fantastic camp season— refreshing everyone at camp, rebuilding our connections to what really matters, and reviving that camp spirit we’ve all yearned for. We are all grateful beyond words.

We’re already looking forward to next summer when we can welcome everyone back to Rockbrook and recreate that great feeling of camp— the relief that comes from being surrounded by a supportive community, the joy of being utterly silly just for fun, and the pride that blossoms after accomplishing new things.  We’re looking forward to seeing again all of the great people that make up the uniquely caring culture of Rockbrook.

Let’s stay in touch, and we’ll see you real soon!

small camp girls building fairy houses

Precious Time

The last full day of our third session was today. After the upbeat excitement of the banquet last night, there was a different tone today. Instead celebrating with singing and dancing, we were more thoughtful. We slowed down and tried to savor the simple moments of camp. While packing we chatted with cabin mates. We admired each other’s finished pottery pieces. Some of us rode horses for the last time at the barn party. We watched the play performance. Mostly though, we simply wanted to spend time with our friends, to hang out with them, not really doing anything in particular. Each minute of the day seemed to include that feeling of it being precious time. We knew our days together were waning.

camp girl holding ceremonial candle

It’s a fact about camp life; we don’t want it to end. Especially during the 3rd session when school is right around the corner for most, we can’t help but lament the ending of what we love about camp: the relaxed pace, the freedom to decide things on our own, the constant support and encouragement from the community, the feeling of belonging and love that follows from being our true selves, all the action, and the refreshment from being outdoors so much… and yes, even the break from social media and screen-based entertainment. We love all this and more about camp— it provides so much joy —so on the last day, it’s a little sad to think about it coming to a close.

This tone carried into the final campfire of the session, our “Spirit Fire.” The tradition of this ceremonial campfire started 100 years ago when Rockbrook was founded. With the whole camp gathered, it is a chance for everyone in the session to reflect a little about their time at camp. We sing traditional songs, and listen as campers and staff members take turns giving short speeches about what Rockbrook means to them. Tonight they talked about making quick friends, feeling at ease and at “home” after arriving here at Rockbrook, and also feeling incredibly grateful for all that camp has provided them over the last few weeks. There was a real awareness of how special this experience is, and how much they’ll miss it back home.

As the girls circled the lake holding their candles and singing softly, it was clear again that camp was just right. It provided the deep human connection we all needed, helping everyone feel happy and normal again. Such comfort and satisfaction to end our day, and our time together, it was a touching, sweet moment I think we’ll all remember fondly.

rockbrook candle ceremony at camp lake

Two Extraordinary Surprises

We love surprises at Rockbrook. Today the campers had two extraordinary surprises, one that they were eagerly awaiting and another that was totally unexpected. In both cases, I suspect these surprises included completely new experiences for the girls.

camp girls and lama

The first happened late in the morning. Without explaining, we interrupted the girls and told them to gather down at the landsports field. When they arrived, they were greeted by nine furry new friends, nine llamas. Yes, a herd of llamas had come to Rockbrook, just for a visit. We thought the girls would enjoy interacting with these fascinating animals, and we were right! They took the llamas for a walk and had loads of time to hug and pet them. Of course, they made great companions for photographs, but the highlight was racing the llamas. Lined up on one side of the field, a few of the girls took off running to the other side, llamas easily keeping up with their sprint. So fun! Came to camp; hugged a llama. Check.

The second surprise was tonight’s banquet, the big all-camp party to celebrate the session that the CA (9th grade) campers have been working on since the second day of camp when they devised the party’s secret theme. The theme guides their selection of decorations for the dining hall, their costumes, the food, music and dance performances. So what was their theme?

club olympus sign
banquet costumes

They brought together the idea of a dinner casino club and various Greek gods and goddesses, and called it “Dining with the Divine.” Using painted panels for the many gods and goddesses, strings of lights and elaborate table decorations, the dining hall became “Club Olympus.”

All of the CA campers dressed (and acted) like different gods and goddesses, with Athena, Hera, Ares, Zeus, Hermes, Hestia, Achilles, Demeter, Aphrodite, Persephone, Poseidon, Dionysus, Apollo and Hades all making an appearance. Their counselors also dressed up, each as a different Muse, like Thalia, Ourania, Terpsichore and Erato.

The menu included pasta and red sauce, chicken nuggets, bread, grapes, and very decadent dessert cupcakes “from the underworld.” Of course, there was some candy involved as well!

The program alternated between dance performances by the gods and goddesses and other dance songs where the whole camp could get up and dance together. Everyone especially loved the choreographed dance of the muses.

The banquet ended with the CA campers singing a song to their counselors, and then their counselors singing one to the campers in return. The Hi-Ups followed with songs to their counselors as well.

The evening ended with the entire camp gathering into their cabin groups and singing “Rockbrook Camp Forever,” one of everyone’s most loved songs. It can be a little emotional as the girls and their counselors stand arm in arm singing the song multiple times. It’s a collective hug, a heartfelt musical embrace that brings everyone together. Came to camp; hugged each other. Check!

camp friends hug

Love Like No Other

craft dye summer camp child
summer camp art child

Why be a junior counselor? This is a question I have heard many times, especially from counselors on other lines who are accustomed to living with Rockbrook’s older campers. I’ve considered the question many times through the summer.

Recently, one of my former campers from earlier in the summer wrote me a letter, updating me on her post-camp life and asking how the rest of my summer had gone. “Dear Ellie,” she wrote on the envelope, continuing the rest of her sweet notes inside. She wrote about how much she missed me, and asked me to say hello to some of the other counselors she had bonded with throughout her session. The love that this camper expressed for her counselors (many of which were not even in her cabin) is a true testament to how the Junior Line really becomes a family. 

The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind often on the Junior Line where cabins up on the top of the hill go on exciting adventures together, support each other, and share in each other’s triumphs and joy. We clean cabins together, swim together, and laugh together. 

Living with our youngest campers is truly, in my opinion, the most rewarding experience one can have at camp. Many of our Juniors are coming to camp for the first time ever. They’re embarking on a huge journey, and being part of that first step is an incredible privilege. Although I’m not a parent myself, I like to imagine that there’s a lot in common; I’m introducing my girls to my favorite place in the world and helping them turn Rockbrook into their home away from home. 

Junior counselors experience Rockbrook like no other counselors. I’m constantly looking at Rockbrook through fresh eyes, sharing my campers’ new experiences and sharing their unbridled joy. I dance when we get to go to Dolly’s, scream with laughter when someone drops a meatball on the ground, and shed a happy, heartwarming tear when I watch my girls reunite with their parents at the end of the session. 

So why be a junior counselor? Because the juniors love like no other campers do. They love their new cabin mates, their new adventures, and their counselors who help make it all happen. They especially love Felix, the camp dog. Being a junior counselor is full of ice cream, hair braiding, and watching groups of girls become sisters — I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

—Ellie Culin, Junior Line Head

summer camp natural childhood

Camp Hilarity

Sunday morning again took on a more relaxed pace. After our active weeks at camp, we love a little extra sleep and a casual breakfast in our pajamas. It actually felt a cooler, almost fall-like, in the morning, so most of the girls showed up with an extra long-sleeve layer. A fun treat of doughnuts complimented the regular breakfast fare. With the only the full session girls here at camp— the August mini girl finished their session last week —we now can eat all together in the dining hall and still space out the tables appropriately. This has been a nice coming together of sorts after being spread out previously on the two eating porches.

After the flag raising ceremony led by the Hi-Ups, the girls turned their attention to the notion of “joy” in their chapel gathering. The Senior line girls decided on the theme, and led the program. It included a rendition of the song “Joy to the World,” and a reading of “Ferdinand,” the story of the bull who would rather smell flowers than fight like other bulls. Joy can be found in the most unexpected places.

We had a quick assembly on the hill were we announced the mop awards, recognizing the cleanest cabins. We likewise announced campers who were especially helpful around camp this week (the “bend-a-back” honor) and others that showed remarkable camp spirit at some point.

The main event of the day was an afternoon carnival of games and inflatables down on the grassy landsports field. The girls wore their swimsuits because one of the inflatables was a giant, dual water slide where two campers could slide at once. The other was a crazy obstacle course race, also for two campers at a time.

The games included a ball toss challenge, a surprisingly difficult pingpong ball toss into jars, and another that involved water guns fired at pingpong balls. There was a hula hooping club, a face painting station and a caricature drawing table staffed by two counselors. The silliest game was a team event that had one girl tossing cheeseballs onto another girl’s head as she wore a plastic shower cap with a blob of shaving cream on it. The goal was to “catch” the flying cheeseballs in the shaving cream. We found yet another form of camp hilarity involving shaving cream!

Throughout the event we played up-tempo music turning it into a fun outdoor dance party as well. With this kind of camp enthusiasm and ideal sunny weather, it was an afternoon of positive energy, smiling faces and laughter— girls feeling totally relaxed and confident. It was one of those classic camp experiences that can’t really be recreated anywhere else. It takes these people, and this place, and this spirit. That’s a rare combination, but thankfully you can count on it at Rockbrook.

cabin group award winner

An Excellent Saturday

What an excellent Saturday we’ve had today! It’s been a wonderful mix of summertime camp action and time to relax with these great friends in a beautiful environment. All over Rockbrook girls were busy making things. They were weaving on the looms in Curosty, and baskets outside with their feet in the creek. It was glazing day in pottery, so girls were selecting colorful glazes and carefully painting them on their clay creations. We’ll fire everything in the kilns later in the week.

The needlecraft activity was showing off their knitted water bottle holders, and Hodgepodge was sewing tote bags from tie-dye t-shirts. The archery girls were firing arrow after arrow, just like the riflery campers shooting round after round at their targets. And down on the tennis courts, there were games to help practice their strokes.

There were adventurous girls at camp today too. Climbing the alpine tower has become an obsession for some, with their goal being to climb all three sides. Every camper is having a chance to ride their Rockbrook zipline course with its three exciting zips and 3 challenging suspension bridge elements. A small group of girls went rock climbing on Castle Rock this morning, trying their best on three different routes up there. Horses were ridden all four activity periods, keeping the barn staff busy providing mounted lessons.

With our recent sunny and warm weather, the lake has been packed with girls cooling off. While some swam their “mermaid laps” others did tricks off the diving board. A few girls found a friend and floated around in a couple of tubes, feet dangling the water while they chatted. During both the morning and afternoon free swim periods, the giant water slide saw non-stop action. The girls made their way around to the far side of the lake, climbed the tall tower, and screamed to a splash landing 60th below.

group of shaving cream fight girls

In the late afternoon, and after dinner, the three lines (age groups) each had a shaving cream fight down on the grassy landsports field. Dressed in their swimsuits and full of energy, the girls took their cans of shaving cream and proceeded to empty them all over themselves and all over their friends. They ran as they sprayed. They splattered the white foam as they slapped hands. They created a very slippery hair salon for each other. They marked a “six-pack” on their stomachs. In a couple of cases, they covered every square inch of their skin with the white foam. They laughed hysterically as if this was the funniest thing they have ever experienced. Then with some help from a water hose, they launched themselves down a sloping sheet of plastic making a giant slip-n-slide. The photo gallery has proof of all this, proof that this classic camp event was very big fun.

These are the days we love at camp. They stand out because they feel so natural, almost expected at this point in the session. Friendships are stronger and confidence more established. We know the routines of camp life and enjoy the comfort they provide. This is genuine, healthy stuff, and exactly what these girls have needed all year. Their time at Rockbrook is a welcome relief, a return to the joys of being a kid with plenty of time to play outdoors with friends. So good!

group of teen girls jumping shaving cream fight

To Feel a Full Joy

The father of a camper recently sent me a nice note thanking me for his daughter’s camp experience. He was the dad of a first-time camper, so he wasn’t sure if his daughter would like camp. He was very pleased, and described the experience for her as “pure joy.” He explained, “I kept thinking ‘pure joy’ every time I saw a photo of her at camp.”

camp girl kayaking

This wasn’t too surprising to hear. Girls are generally really happy at Rockbrook, and parents can tell by scrolling through the photo gallery. But describing that feeling as “pure joy” stood out to me. I think a lot of parents can relate to this too because they also have a sense that camp is a deeply joyful experience for their daughters.

In earlier posts, I’ve tried to explain why girls are so happy at camp, why they love camp and feel so good being here. And I’m sure there are plenty of reasons. This notion of “pure joy,” however, got me thinking in a different direction.

The poet David Whyte stirred this thinking with his writing on joy. “Joy” is one of the words he considers in his book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. He uses beautifully luminous language to reveal deeper meanings, unexpected connections, and nuanced intuition into several core aspects of who we are as human beings— courage, honesty, longing, and rest, for example. Poets like Whyte think deeply about words, and this book is filled with many wise insights.

When contemplating the word “joy” he writes:

To feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become fully generous; to allow ourselves to be joyful is to have walked through the doorway of fear, the dropping away of the anxious worried self felt like a thankful death itself, a disappearance, a giving away, overheard in the laughter of friendship, the vulnerability of happiness and the magnified vulnerability of its imminent loss, felt suddenly as a strength, a solace and a source, the claiming of our place in the living conversation, the sheer privilege of being in the presence of the ocean, the sky or a daughter’s face framed by the mountains – I was here and you were here and together we made a world.

David Whyte — Consolations

There is so much to this, but I think it reveals something about the joy your girls feel at camp.

Camp life, strengthened and sustained by the positive relationships of this community, provides a haven where our “anxious worried self” can fade away revealing “who we really are.” The genuine support and true enthusiasm shown all around us inspires degrees of courage to drop social pretensions, to shed our most polished masks. This wonderful community of caring and kind people empowers girls to step “through the doorway of fear” and find that they are accepted, valued and loved, despite whatever they think of as an imperfection. It gives them confidence to claim their “place in the living conversation” as energized participants in life. David Whyte is reminding us that just like “laughter and friendship,” joy arises from these conditions, from this authenticity of self.

There’s also a point about generosity, that becoming “fully generous” is aligned with feeling a “full and untrammeled” joy. There is a link between being generous and joyful. Thinking then about generosity, I believe Whyte is pointing out that joy requires a recognition of another person (group, organization, etc.), a relationship, a connection beyond merely the self. Joy resides beyond what’s self-absorbed.

Here too, I’d say the camp community has a real power to inspire generosity. Every day at camp gifts are made and given. Food is shared. Help is offered. …all beyond our own needs. Generosity is just a natural expression of paying attention to others, to the crucial role they play in your life, and at camp this is our daily nourishment. Perhaps then as camp inspires this attention to others and this generosity, it likewise inspires joy.

Again, we’re not talking about kayaking, backpacking, pottery or archery, though we had groups of girls en-joying all those today. We’re not talking about the delicious strawberry and white chocolate muffins we ate around 11am. We’re not talking about shooting a bullseye or winning a tennis point. We’re talking about who we are and our relationships with others. The joy experienced at camp is rooted in that.

Quite often, I use the word “joy” to describe the feeling of camp. Now I think I know why.

summer camp girls

3rd Session Video Glimpse — 2

We’ve got one last short video for you from our amazing videographer Robbie Francis.

It’s again filled with fascinating moments that beautifully convey the feel of life at Rockbrook. Each time you watch it, you’re bound to notice something new— mostly busy kids having fun outdoors, but also joyful expressions of friendship. It’s absolutely lovely!

Take a look, and let us know what you think.

Click here for the video Or see below.