Balancing on the Rock

Kid Rock Climbing Summer Camp

You’ve probably heard that “balance” is one of the most important skills to have for rock climbing. It’s true; a lot of the technique involves balancing on your feet, and usually one foot, as you move up the rock.

But it’s not only that simple. It’s also important to learn how to hold yourself still, to use your muscles to shift your weight from one foot to the other slowly and smoothly. Generally, as you climb, you’ll keep your torso stationary and move a hand or foot up to the next hold. This is sometimes called the rule of “3-point contact” and refers to the practice of only moving one foot or hand at a time while your other limbs stay on the rock.

For example, you might keep both feet on the rock, hold on with one hand, and shift your weight to the left or right to reach a new handhold.  Likewise, you might hold on with both hands, keep one foot set, and lift your other foot up to a new hold. The trick is to stay smooth, keep your body still, and shift your center of gravity from left to right and up. It’s this deliberate and precise moving that we meaning by “balancing.”

Are you rock climbing this summer?

RBC Alumnae Gather in Atlanta

Rockbrook Alumnae Reunion Atlanta
L to R: Carter Page Schondelmayer, Melissa Thurmond, Betsy Smith Appleby, Betsy Rothschild, Sarah Reed Carter, Rachel Paine Fuller, Lucile Page Martin, Ansley Ledyard Callaway

Back on the 29th of January, a few RBC girls got together for a mini-reunion at Lucile Martin’s house in Atlanta, GA. Fifteen or so people were able to make it. Not pictured above: Jennie Lewis, Charlotte Page, Jenny Howard, Maggie Allgood, Mandy Horton, Jill Woodruff King, Haley and Bayless Fleming.

It’s always so great to get together and remember all the happy times we’ve shared at Rockbrook. Sometimes you can’t help but laughing at some of those old photos.

Stay tuned! We’ll let you know when the next Rockbrook Mini Reunion is planned.

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.

Getting the ‘Old Guard’ Together

Camp Old Guard Ladies

Here’s a nice photo of the “Old Guard” taken at Rockbrook’s recent Alumnae Reunion back in August. From left to right, there’s: Lucy Gibson, Brenda Byrne, Elsa Claverie, Madge Kempton, Mary Ellis Carrere Hasseltine, Jo Littleton, Phyllis Shaw and Elizabeth Acree. Years and years of camp experience right there!

They Need Summer Camp

If you could reform the common education of teenagers, change something about how teenagers today learn, or what they learn, what would you do? Looking around, what do you think teenagers need to understand? How do they need to change if they are to become happy, well-grounded, satisfied adults? Is there a skill, a personal value, some rule of thumb that you wish all teenagers today would adopt? Is there one crucial thing that today’s teens are missing, and as a result has placed them on a path toward trouble later in life?

You get the picture; the assumption here is that our young people are already having trouble, and aren’t measuring up to the ideal outcomes our education system, culture, and families define. It might be declining test scores, weak academic competencies (compared with children in other countries), unhealthy eating and exercise habits, poor social skills (e.g., difficulty making friends, disrespecting others), decreased creativity, or a general failure to overcome unexpected challenges. Any of these, or several, might be identified as the core problem facing our teenagers these days.

Summer Camp Teenagers

So what can we do to help? If your teen is slipping in any of these ways, how can you improve the situation, make a difference in some way? One proposal suggested, and increasingly so it seems, is to lengthen the school year. It’s claimed that organized classroom education provides the best chance to “reach” the youth and “make a difference in their lives.” As we’ve mentioned before, this is a weak, incomplete solution at best, one that fails to understand the complexities of youth development and the many dimensions it demands. It might be easy to understand and simple to measure, but extending the school calendar is not going to help our teenagers navigate their lives better. If your teen can’t make choices for herself, extra math homework isn’t going to help.

Again, what is there to do? How can we complement our current education system, augment what we already do in the classroom with learning that addresses the complete human being? What experiential gaps should we fill, opportunities should we create, models should we provide? What setting would best support these ordinarily neglected aspects of growing up?

One answer, we, and so many other youth development professionals, advocate is the benefits provided by summer camps. Camps are organized settings that encourage young people to reach beyond what they know, interact with others positively, take responsibility for their own decisions, physically engage the natural world, build self-esteem, and experience meaningful success. Summer camps are incredibly effective educational institutions, that camp parents will tell you, make a huge difference in the health and well-being of their children. Summer camps are just very good at helping children grow in these very important ways.

Yes, we should extend the education of our teenagers and children, not by lengthening the school year, but by providing greater experiential opportunities like those found at summer camps. Send your teenager to camp. That’s what you can do.

climbing teenagers

Time in Nature Makes Children More Caring

Time with Nature

New research from psychologists Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester suggests that when exposed to nature people are more inclined to be caring.  They are more willing to share and do good in the world.  The mechanism behind this effect is not entirely clear, but there’s simply something special to being outside, to having personal experiences of natural beauty and wonder.  When you think about it, we all are drawn toward nature and it does improve our mood, calm us down, and generally restore us as human beings.  Study after study supports this.

Here again, we’re finding that every child benefits from time outdoors and in contact with the natural world, and of course, camp is probably the best way to get a good solid dose of it.  So for us, we’d say time at camp helps children be more caring as well.

Learn more by watching this video interview of Richard Ryan discussing the research.

The Best Girls Summer Camp

best-girls-camp

What makes the best girls summer camp? It’s funny, but you see that claim now and then. “We’re the best girls camp ever!” or “Welcome to the best girls camp in North Carolina.” Most of this can be considered akin to team spirit, the folks from a camp expressing how much they love their particular camp, how proud they are of it, and how they know their camp really is excellent.

Of course, in reality, you can’t say objectively which girls camp is the best. Here in western North Carolina, there are so many great girls camps, each with dedicated and experienced directors, outstanding counselors, beautiful facilities and diverse fun activities. These camps also have very strong supporters, families who have found the camp perfect for their children. You will certainly find happy enthusiastic campers at all of these camps.

So is there really a best girls camp? Only to the extent that a camp is right for you. The subtle differences between camps, their particular strengths or emphases, will probably make you feel more at home at one girls camp or another. To put it differently, there are of course differences between camps but they do not distinguish which camp is “best.” That is something that follows from how much you love your camp, and that’s what makes it best.

So yes, for many reasons, generations of girls believe Rockbrook is the best girls summer camp. They believe it because they’ve experienced it and love it as their own.

Camp Lets You Really Rock!

Girl Rock Camp

For many of the girls at Rockbrook, especially the older “seniors” (teens thirteen to fifteen years old), rock climbing is one of their favorite adventure activities. For these girls, RBC can be a girls rock camp. That’s because there are so many opportunities to climb. Not even counting the climbing wall in the gym (which has 6 different very cool routes on it: four face routes, a sweet corner for stemming, and a hand crack route) and the Alpine Tower (which easily has more than 100 different rock climbing challenges), the girls have plenty of rock right on the camp property.

Castle Rock is the huge granite rock towering above camp where girls have six different rock climbing routes to work on.  It’s so nice to just hike up the hill behind the dining hall to our very own private rock climbing spot (no driving!).  And the rock is excellent! There are nice deep hand cracks, a finger crack, delicate face routes with some serious exposure, and of course plenty of chances to work on your friction climbing. The rock provides a variety of climbing challenges that beginners and more experienced girls will find just right.

With all of this climbing right at Rockbrook, and then with the great rock nearby in the Pisgah National Forest, camp has the kind of adventure where girls can really rock!

Kids Grow Better Outside

Kids Grow Better Outside

Spotted this bumper sticker the other day in Asheville, NC. Isn’t it awesome!? It’s put out by the Buncombe county partnership of the Smart Start Program, an “early childhood initiative designed to ensure that young children enter school healthy and ready to succeed.” The sticker shows that, like we have claimed many times before, playing outside is really good for kids.  Here are some of the benefits Buncombe County recognizes.

  • Kids are better able to play with other kids and work problems out with them.
  • Kids benefit from physical activity by experiencing healthier weights.
  • Kids have fewer problems with hyperactivity and are better able to pay attention.
  • Kids experience less stress than other kids their age.
  • Kids score higher on standardized tests.

It’s not too hard to see how “children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out of doors?”  And it’s a simple step to realize how important summer vacation from school, and summer camps like Rockbrook, are for kids.  All children really benefit from time outside, away from school, and certainly at camp.

Are your kids getting outside?

“Old Counselors Never Die…”

Several attendees at our Alumnae Reunion this summer requested to go on a hike with the legendary counselor, Phyllis S. She worked at camp from ’59 to ’67.

Campers (that could keep up with her) still remember her spunkiness, funny stories – including one about the “rattlecat” – and her zest for the woods.

She’s an example of how much of an impact counselors can have on their campers. Counselors get to be that person who show campers new worlds and horizons – and if you’re lucky, the campers just might remember your name!

Today, Phyllis is a retired English professor. She loves William Wordsworth’s work, her cat and exploring every peak to be had.

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p.s. The title of this blog comes from the song sung when it’s a counselor’s birthday:

“Old counselors never die, never die,
Old counselors never die, they just look that way!”