Jeff Carter is the Director of Rockbrook Camp for Girls in Brevard, North Carolina. He attended Davidson College, earned a master's from Harvard University, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in the History of Religions. He has taught at Vanderbilt University, Davidson College, and the University of South Carolina. He received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Nigeria, is an All-American college athlete, and a published author. Beginning in 1988, he worked for eight years as a camp hiking and rock climbing guide before becoming, with his wife Sarah, the owners and directors of Rockbrook.
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!
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?
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.
It’s been a summer like no other. That’s for sure!
Five months ago, as we began to grapple with the serious implications of the CoVid-19 health crisis, we found ourselves going back and forth about holding our regular summer camp sessions. We devised different models for balancing the need to prevent spreading an infectious disease, and the need to fashion the kind of fun, carefree community we all so love about camp. Could we keep our campers and staff members safe, and at the same time recreate that feeling of togetherness that makes Rockbrook special?
Ultimately, as you know, we made the difficult decision to suspend our regular sessions because we did not feel comfortable compromising. The people of Rockbrook are too important, the friendships too central, the feeling of camp life too essential, for us to put any of it at risk either by drastically altering our camp program or accepting even a remote possibility of an outbreak. It was a heartbreaking realization felt by hundreds of Rockbrook Families and their girls.
But we couldn’t just sit by and do nothing! Rockbrook was ready to go! We had a beautiful camp, enthusiastic staff members, and loads of exciting plans all eagerly awaiting the return of happy girls. We needed something different where we could share Rockbrook, stay safe even as the pandemic was accelerating, and allow Rockbrook families to still get a little taste of camp life this summer. Soon, the idea of “Family Play Days” was born.
If you weren’t able to attend one of the Play Days we offered, they were fantastic! On four consecutive Saturdays in July, Rockbrook families and friends arrived at camp to spend the day exploring the forests and trails of Rockbrook, enjoying all sorts of creative, sports and adventure activities, playing at the Rockbrook lake and savoring a delicious picnic lunch. We had 30 staff members on hand to keep everything running smoothly for the 100 or so people who visited each sold-out play day.
We had girls climbing the Alpine Tower, moms shooting archery, and dads flying down the water slide. I think everyone made a tie-dye t-shirt, sampled several freshly baked muffins, and took the scenic hike to Rockbrook Falls. Ziplining was especially popular, with a non-stop series of groups navigating the course throughout the day. Live mountain music from Ray and Elizabeth entertained us during lunch. There was stunning weather for tetherball and tennis, baskets and bracelets, leisure and laughter.
Perhaps the best part of our play days was the real sense of relief they provided. After enduring months of social isolation, tolerating all sorts of loss, and being thrown into the most profound uncertainty any of us have ever experienced, it was wonderful to actually do something real. There was such gratitude from everyone attending, thanking us for providing these opportunities to get outside immersed in the natural beauty of Rockbrook. It felt great to splash around in the chilly lake, to lounge on the hill while eating lunch, and for many, simply to breathe in a bit of that familiar camp smell. For all of us, for the families attending and the camp staff alike, these play days were in many ways therapeutic, just what we needed to recharge our camp spirit.
Now, as we look forward to the summer of 2021 and Rockbrook’s 100th anniversary, we’ll recall this past summer with some fondness for what we were able to accomplish safely. Thank you everyone for your understanding and enthusiastic support. It’s wonderful to know the love for camp is stronger than ever!
Sarah and Jeff announce their decision about the 2020 camp sessions amid the CoVid-19 pandemic.
Dear Rockbrook Families,
Thank you for all the encouragement, support and patience you’ve shown us as we have been grappling with the complexities of how camp might operate during the unfolding of the CoVid-19 pandemic.
After weeks of consideration, gathering expert advice and guidance from various state and national authorities, it is still unclear how to bring campers and staff members together for camp, while at the same time keeping everyone healthy.
The recent set of rules given by our state health department define so many restrictions, that taken together, really make it impossible for us to gather as a community, and to recreate what we know and love about Rockbrook.
We are very sorry to say it, but we have made the difficult decision to suspend all of the Rockbrook sessions this summer.
It is very hard for us to give you this news because we know how much everyone has been looking forward to returning to camp, seeing friends, and just being at Rockbrook. We have been looking forward to it too! We all need to get outside, and breathe in the mountain air. We need to dress up and sing, laugh and dance with our friends arm-in-arm. We need to ditch our screens and return to what’s real… our real friends, our real selves, and the real love we feel at camp.
We hope that you will work to re-create some of that camp magic wherever you are this summer – reach out to others you don’t know well, try out a new skill without expecting perfection, and let the silly, carefree side of you out.
We know this is a hard thing. It’s hard for us. It’s hard for everyone. But we also know that you are strong, resilient Rockbrook girls.
Most importantly, we want to stay in touch with all of you this summer as we all work through this crazy time. Next summer will be Rockbrook’s 100th Birthday, and we very much hope to see all of you here. We will be in touch more about that in the coming months. We would love to connect with each of you soon to discuss your individual situation.
We can’t wait to see every one of you again. You’ll always have place here in the “heart of the wooded mountain,” just as Rockbrook will always have a place in your heart.
Sending Rockbrook love,
Sarah and Jeff
These are a few of the questions many of you are asking right now. We hope you find the answers helpful.
Rockbrook is foremost a close-knit community, a place where we do everything together. Our camp spirit is literally fueled by the close relationships between the friends we make here. This summer, given the real health concerns of CoVid-19 infection, we would have to follow so many distancing requirements, group size limitations, and other program changes, we simply would not be able to revive that camp spirit we all expect. There are many factors that led to this decision— too many to mention here —but for Rockbrook, it’s currently impossible to offer a healthy, positive camp experience during this unfolding pandemic.
What happens next?
This is very difficult for all of us, but especially for your children. We hope first that you will take time to reassure them, and empathize with their feelings of loss. For many, Rockbrook is a true home, something deeply meaningful and essential that can’t be replaced. Listen a lot. Answer your child’s questions about CoVid-19. Without trying to “fix” the situation, offer whatever comfort you can. Reassure them that Rockbrook will still be here next year.
What about the tuition paid for this summer?
We hope you will look forward to next summer and apply your camp fees to a 2021 session. This will be a huge help to Rockbrook as we consider the reality of surviving for two years on one summer of income. If you do roll your paid tuition forward, you will still be eligible for a full refund before February 1, 2021. We are likewise committed to giving you the option of a full refund, if you choose.
Why do you prefer families roll their tuition forward to 2021?
Since September last year, Rockbrook has been relying on tuition deposits to maintain and improve its facilities, support its full-time leadership team, and prepare for this summer. Refunding 2020 tuition would be a significant financial burden for Rockbrook, while choosing to roll your paid tuition forward to 2021 will allow us to manage our cash and expenses as we look toward next summer. We certainly recognize this may not be feasible for all families, and we respect everyone’s individual choice to chose a refund instead.
How will I indicate my preference with respect to tuition paid?
We ask that you submit an online form to indicate your preference. Login to your CampMinder account using your email and password, then select the “Forms and Documents” Icon. You will find several options listed, along with an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. You can also indicate which 2021 session you prefer. Please note that you must complete this form for each child. If you would like to discuss the options listed, or if you need assistance completing the form, please contact us. Even if you have already communicated with us about your preference, we ask that everyone complete this form before July 1.
What are the dates for next summer?
First Session: Sunday, June 6 – Thursday, June 24 June Mini Session: Sunday, June 13 – Thursday, June 24 Second Session: Sunday, June 27 – Thursday, July 22 July Mini Session I: Sunday, June 27 – Thursday, July 8 July Mini Session II: Sunday, July 11 – Thursday, July 22 Third Session: Sunday, July 25 – Thursday, August 12 August Mini Session: Sunday, August 1 – Thursday, August 12 July Kayak Camp: Friday: July 23 — Saturday, July 31 July Horse Camp: Sunday: July 25 — Saturday, July 31
What about CA and Hi-Up campers?
We know how disappointed our senior campers are to miss out on these special Rockbrook experiences this summer. While we can’t recreate this year for them, we are already working to expand our opportunities for Rockbrook girls as they move through our leadership program. For now, we hope all our 2020 CAs will apply to be Hi-Ups next summer and all our 2020 Hi-Ups will apply to be CITs. There will be more details about that process in the coming months.
What if my camper was on a waitlist?
We will reach out later in the summer to provide you an opportunity to register before we open to new 2021 camper applications.
Can I make a donation to help Rockbrook?
Yes! Many parents have already asked if they can donate the fees they have paid, either as a tax deductible contribution to our scholarship fund, the “Redbird Endowment,” or as a direct contribution to the Rockbrook operating budget. Both will help Rockbrook during this challenging time. The online preference form mentioned above will allow you to indicate if you wish to donate all or a portion of your tuition to either fund.
Will you be offering some kind of “virtual” camp this summer?
We will be working on ways to connect with camp and with camp friends over the summer. We hope to sustain our camp community for both our campers and staff. You can also see us on Instagram (@rockbrookcamp) and Facebook (Rockbrook Camp).
If this mess clears up during the summer, will you reconsider this decision?
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely. While we can’t predict how the CoVid-19 pandemic will unfold, gathering the resources and staff to operate camp later will be too difficult.
Can I come visit this summer?
Yes! We are always happy to offer tours of camp. An appointment will be required for tours, but we can accommodate just about any day or time.
How else can I help Rockbrook?
Keep being awesome Rockbrook families! We’re so grateful for all the caring messages of trust and support you’ve been sending, the encouragement during this difficult decision-making process, and the confidence you’ve shown about camp being a place for your children in the future. Thank you! Next summer will be Rockbrook’s 100th anniversary and we’re planning lots of special surprises. Help us spread the word!
Say hello to Casey Blair, Rockbrook’s new Program Director!
Everyone at Rockbrook is thrilled to announce that Casey Blair will begin serving as the full-time Program Director at camp. If you’ve attended camp recently, you already know Casey because over five years she has been a cabin counselor, Line Head, lifeguard, and most recently the Staff Coordinator. In addition to joining the team of directors, she now will be planning and organizing camp activities and summer events, managing the equipment and supplies for activities, and assisting special program staff members.
Casey was born and raised in Louisville Kentucky. She attended Centre College in Danville, KY, where she received a Bachelors of Art, majoring in studio art with an emphasis on ceramics. After that, she did an internship at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, working with school groups. From there, she went to University of Louisville, where she received a Master’s in the Art of Teaching (MAT) degree, becoming certified to teach elementary school grades K-5. She did her student teaching at Farmer Elementary and worked with 1st and 4th graders.
Casey is very excited to work at camp year round. She is eager to start planning for next summer, and “getting to talk about camp everyday.” She explained, “the campers keep me coming back— getting to know them, seeing what they have learned at camp and watching how much they have grown throughout the school year is always fun.”
When asked what she loves about camp, she said, “It’s the people. I really love the kind of community that we cultivate here. It is open, welcoming, and encouraging. And of course, I love the North Carolina mountains.”
There’s probably no need to discuss the concept of “helicopter parenting” with camp families. Odds are good they already know how some parents can be “overprotective” or have an “excessive interest” in what their children are doing. Like a helicopter constantly hovering above, parenting can become excessive if children aren’t allowed to branch out on their own to try things without mom or dad always quick to swoop in to the rescue. It can be difficult for parents to “let go” like this. Camp parents, though, are presumably different. After all, they are choosing to “let go,” to send their children away into an environment where they will make many decisions for themselves, confront regular challenges on their own, probably struggle, and perhaps even fail at times. The independence gained, along with the feelings of confidence on competence that come with it, are valuable assets as a child grows up. I’d recommend reading How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims to better understand this modern phenomenon. I can also recommend her 14-minute TED talk if you are really interested.
This is not to say camp parents are completely immune to helicoptering influences. We can’t really help but wonder how our girls are doing when they’re away at camp. Are they eating right? Are they remembering to take a shower? Brush their hair? Wear a clean shirt everyday? Are they having a good time? That’s the big one, right? Camps like Rockbrook understand this impulse and realize that all parents, to one degree or another, need some kind of reassurance that their kids are OK when they are away. That’s why, for example, we have our cabin counselors write letters to parents updating them. It’s also why we maintain a daily photo gallery, and post the occasional videos during each camp session.
At the same time, checking the photo gallery can become an obsession for some parents, multiple times a day, combing through every photo for even a glimpse of their child. From afar, this form of helicoptering interest seems harmless enough as long as the child at camp is unaware of it, and the parent can resist the instinct to reach out and help in some way. We don’t want the photo gallery to energize the parental snowplow, so to speak.
One form of this helicoptering goes too far, however, and when parents fall into this trap, their child’s experience at camp often suffers. So let me warn you so you can, I hope, resist the urge to over-parent your child’s camp experience like this. The trap is to establish some hand gesture, like a “thumbs up,” that you tell your child to flash when their photo is being taken as a coded signal home about how camp is going. Akin to a “pick up deal” where a parent promises to “come get you if you’re homesick,” this kind of messaging might seem innocuous, but can be a real burden for the camper. It effectively is removing her from the moment, distracting her from the people and activity around her with thoughts of evaluation rather than true participation. When sending your daughter to camp, it’s simply best not to tether her to home in this way, and instead to send her off by reassuring her that you are confident in her ability to handle life at camp independently.
I’m sure you know that camp is the ideal place to practice this independent self-efficacy, and this is one of its main benefits. Oddly if we’re not careful, our parental instincts can undermine the opportunity for our girls to grow while away at camp. Some camps are so concerned by this signal phenomenon, they have banned campers from making signalling gestures and instructed their photographers to delete photos that appear to have them. My hope is that Rockbrook parents will see the problems associated with all of this, park their helicopter for a few weeks, and trust that their children and our staff at camp can work through any problems that may arise, and together ultimately create a rich, rewarding, and enjoyable camp experience.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy camp! Your girls and their friends will splash and scream with delight rafting the Nantahala River. They’ll climb the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock. They’ll swim and float in the Rockbrook lake, tie increasingly elaborate friendship bracelets, shoot more arrows, and sing even louder songs. They’ll be surprised by hidden talents and creativity. They’ll find kindness and caring permeating their days, a refreshing tech-free, authenticity to what they’re doing and with whom they’re doing it. Surrounded by the beauty of these wooded mountains, they’ll explore and be amazed by what they find in the natural world. They’ll laugh harder than they have ever laughed before. They’ll learn a lot about themselves, and be proud of who they are and what they can do. They’ll make more fond memories and best friends than you can count. They’ll be at camp.
Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks (and Rockbrook dad!) has returned this summer to film and edit more of his occasional highlights videos. Each video provides a fascinating 2-minute glimpse into life at camp, the buzz of activity, and the sweet friendships blossoming all around us.
Here is Robbie’s first video for the third session. Take a couple of minutes to watch. We think you’ll really enjoy it.
Today I had an interesting conversation with one of our staff Education Interns about the different ways she saw life at camp supporting the social and emotional needs of the girls here. New to Rockbrook this summer (She is not a former camper or counselor.), she has been struck by how most everyone at camp has such an easy going attitude, happily engaging the different camp activities, but also content to just be at Rockbrook, no matter what the day would bring. The girls sign up for their own set of activities, but they don’t seem too obsessed with doing any particular thing. Sure there are accomplishments to strive toward— bullseyes in archery and riflery, reaching the top of the Alpine Tower while blind folded, throwing a pot on the potters wheel, making a powerful overhand serve in tennis, weaving a particular shaped basket, for example —and there are favorite trips to join (like rafting), but it almost seems like the girls could be doing anything and still tell you “I love camp.” She said, “It just feels good to be here,” no matter what we’re doing.
Being someone interested in Social Emotional Learning (SEL), she explained this feeling in those terms. She said Rockbrook’s “friendly community helps girls improve their relationship skills and be more self aware.” It’s true; “how we define our community is key to how it feels to be here,” I added. We agreed that being a part of a “relationship-based community” like Rockbrook, one dedicated to the core values of kindness, caring and generosity, is what “feels good.” The community provides an important context, one that fulfills our social and emotional needs, and hence is magically gratifying (what the girls will call “fun”) no matter what we’re doing.
This is exactly the point of this internship. We believe children at camp can learn to “respond to emotional triggers, engage with diversity, manage conflict, and make responsible decisions” when they join a community like Rockbrook. Our daily experience provides opportunities to practice “self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and relationship skills.” Life at camp is ripe with moments where these skills are exercised.
We also talked about why girls are so “loyal to Rockbrook,” why they so often want to return to camp summer after summer. Here too, we pointed to the easy feeling of being at camp, the authentic relationships of friendship we have here, and ultimately to the special community where we know we belong. Again, it’s not so much what they get to do, the crafts or adventure for example, that makes the girls yearn to return. It’s the social and emotional context that encourages the deep relationships with the other people at camp. We could change many of Rockbrook’s activity offerings and I suspect most girls would still love camp and still say it’s “fun.”
Lastly, we talked about how we might integrate aspects of camp life in the outside world, say in an elementary school classroom, so as to enhance SEL. Integrating SEL into educational settings is a thriving area of study, but from our experience at camp, we thought it crucial to begin with a culture of kindness, to build a collaborative community that encourages empathy, decision making, and belonging. Taking time to establish this kind of community, we thought, could be crucial for learning, just as it’s the foundation of what makes camp a place girls love.
Once again we were reminded of the power of camp. In these ways, it is educational in the best sense of the word, more so even than most traditional school settings. I find it remarkable too that kids love this kind of learning. They yearn for it. They need it. And fortunately for your Rockbrook girls, they have it.