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

Moments of Community

On Sundays around here we put aside our regular schedule of activities in favor of larger group gatherings and events. It begins with a welcome opportunity to sleep in a bit because the wake up bell rings at 9am instead of 8. The girls come straight to breakfast wearing their pajamas and find a special treat of doughnuts along with their regular breakfast items like eggs, fresh fruit, yogurts, and cereal.

NC Camp in the mountains

Sunday morning is also a time when the girls wear their camp uniforms: the white polo shirt, white shorts, and red tie tied loosely with a “friendship knot.” The staff members wear their red uniform polo shirts and white shorts. Once dressed in these uniforms the whole camp lines up on the hill for a flag raising ceremony conducted by the Hi-Up campers. After the Hi-Ups raise the American flag, along with a white, Rockbrook 100-year Anniversary flag, everyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance and sings “America the Beautiful.” It’s a nice moment, shared by the entire camp community, singing that familiar song on the sunny, grassy hill with the blue ridge mountains in the distance.

Next is our Chapel gathering. Ordinarily the girls process silently to a special area of camp in the woods where the whole camp can squeeze onto low benches arranged in tiers. To provide better distancing this summer, we held the gathering on the Rockbrook House lawn, a prominent place in Rockbrook’s history. Our “Chapel” is not a religious ceremony. It’s a program that gets the campers themselves to reflect on a concept or idea central to life at camp. It incorporates songs, readings, campers’ speeches, and usually a children’s book read by Sarah. Past Chapel themes have been honesty, nature, friendship (of course!), respect, and trust. Today’s theme was “Community.” The girls talked about community (“being accepted for who you are” came up.), sang “We’re all in this Together” and Sarah read excerpts from the book You are Special. The Chapel only lasts a few minutes, but the girls seemed to appreciate the chance to slow down and think a little about what camp means to them.

After Chapel we had an assembly on the hill and recognized cabin groups and individuals for their contributions to the camp community. Each cabin of girls works together each day to keep their cabin clean. They rotate through a series of jobs to do so: sweeping, tidying common areas, taking out the trash, etc. They receive an inspection score and each week the cabin with the best overall score is awarded a decorated mop. Winning the “mop award” is exciting for the girls as they’re cheered by the rest of the camp. They also receive a small bead as a token. There’s an individual award, and bead, called a “Bend a Back” that’s also awarded. This recognizes a person being especially helpful, going beyond what’s expected to help another person. Here too, the whole camp cheers when a person’s name is called surprising them with a “Bend a Back” award.

Our afternoon event took a direct turn toward the silly. We pulled out costumes and dressed up for an all-girls dance party, actually three dance events, one for each age group. Our theme was “prom,” but very loosely defined. Sure there were a few fancy dresses that could have been worn to a formal prom at some point, but there were also crazy combinations of tutus, headbands, traffic vests, tiaras, leis, and tie-dyes. Each age group danced separately: the juniors in the dining hall, Middlers in the hillside lodge, and the Seniors in the gym. Each had it’s own sound system to play music, with the counselors choosing age-appropriate songs. Line dances were popular with all of the age groups. All that dancing and jumping around, the girls had a great time laughing and posing for photos. Knowing everyone would be feeling hot and sweaty afterwards, the lake was open for free swim, allowing everyone to cool off.

It was a regular day at camp with clear moments of community bonding, friends being silly and playing together. The girls all experienced enthusiasm and encouragement… Every dance move no matter how polished was applauded. They felt a collective sense of freedom to create… The zany spirit that leads to the goofiest of costumes was in the air. They sang and laughed, having a blast celebrating with each other.

camp costume kids

A Jovernight

Our youngest campers at Rockbrook are girls who have finished Kindergarten, and although someone this young is rare, they can be just 5 years old. Often those “itty-bitty” girls have older sisters who come to camp, or have some other family member who has been telling them about Rockbrook. For example, they’re often children of alumnae. Along with girls who are a few years older (up to 4th grade), these youngest girls are our “Juniors.”

Junior 6 year old camp girls

The Juniors are mostly like all the other campers at Rockbrook. They sleep in cabins with other girls their same age. They eat their meals as a cabin group in the dining hall or on one of our alfresco dining porches. They also are able to take all of the in-camp activities. Like the “big girls,” they’ll shoot archery and riflery while they’re here. They’ll climb the Alpine Tower and fly through the trees (screaming their heads off with excitement!) on the zipline course. They’ll make a tie-dye t-shirt, a clay sculpture, or perhaps a woven hat of yarn. They’ll learn to ride a horse if they want to, do a cartwheel, and maybe paddle a canoe.

One difference, though, is that we don’t take Juniors on out-of-camp adventure trips like whitewater rafting, kayaking, or backpacking. In some cases our Forest Service permits include an age restriction, and in others we have found Juniors generally don’t have the strength or attention to detail that certain activities require. For the most part, Juniors stay on camp during their session, the main exception being a fun afternoon trip to Dolly’s. Dolly’s ice cream is so good, we make sure everyone goes at least once when they come to camp.

We do plan a special in-camp adventure for the Juniors each session— a sleep-out camping trip at our outpost campsite located a short distance from the center of camp. It’s an overnight for Juniors, or as many now call it, a “Jovernight.”

Junior Outpost Camping Platform

This outpost campsite includes two sleeping platforms covered with tin roofs. They are open on the sides allowing the girls to stay dry under the roofs but also feel close to the forest around them. There’s also a nice fire ring so the groups staying out there can build a campfire.

Two cabins of Juniors at a time go on a Jovernight together, one for each sleeping platform. They leave after dinner to make the short walk to the Outpost, each girl carrying her sleeping bag, pillow, water bottle, and crazy creek chair. Once out there, they lay out their sleeping bags and enjoy sitting around the campfire, singing songs, and roasting marshmallows for s’mores.

When it’s time to settle down for the night, it’s exciting to hear the sounds of the forest— crickets clicking, frogs chirping, and birds hooting. This is very different from their silent rooms at home, and can be a little unnerving for some. Lying side by side on the platforms, usually with the counselors on the outside edge, the girls can comfort each other and talk. There’s always some concern about the bugs.

As the girls share this new experience, gradually growing more comfortable, they eventually fall asleep. The counselors tell me that keeping flashlights off is the secret to getting the girls to settle down… fewer bugs in view that way! Sometimes, if the weather is threatening rain, we’ll have everyone sleep in the hillside lodge and build a nice roaring fire in the fireplace. It’s a similar experience, and a nice alternative on an extra rainy night.

Sleeping in the woods, like many of the small challenges girls experience at camp— encountering unfamiliar foods, new activities, and uncomfortable weather, for example —usually creates just a blip of concern for camp girls. They know that things aren’t always comfortable, but also that they can adapt, overcome apparent obstacles, and solve problems when they arise… and all without their parents swooping in to make it easier. With the encouragement and support of their friends in the camp community, and with the “can do” spirit of this all-girls environment, it’s just easier to feel empowered and have more grit. Slowly, as these many experiences build, camp girls gain more confidence overall. Instead of being overwhelmed, together they’re more open and excited for whatever comes along. It’s just an overnight, but at camp, it’s much, much more.

tennis camp for girls group

Spirit Fire Speeches

Tonight we closed our camp session with the traditional Rockbrook Spirit Fire. This program gathers everyone in camp around a blazing campfire to sing traditional songs, listen to campers and staff relate their camp experience, and simply ponder our favorite memories gathered over the last few weeks. It can be an emotional time, as the girls realize they’ve grown incredibly close to the friends around them, but they must go separate ways in the morning. It’s also a sweet moment where the girls sit arm-in-arm pulling their friends as close as possible. Under the huge oaks and surrounded by the chirping sounds of the nighttime forest, we’re reminded of how much camp means to us all, individually and as a community.

Here are a couple of Spirit Fire speeches delivered by campers and a staff member. They provide interesting insights into what’s important about camp to these young people. They prove that camp is not a small thing in their lives, and that the sense of well-being found at Rockbrook is real and valuable.

authentic camp friends

Hi guys. My name is Elizabeth. I’m a HUP and this is my 5th year at Rockbrook. I still remember my first year as if it was yesterday. I remember how nervous I was and also how excited I was for all the things Rockbrook has to offer. As soon as I arrived I instantly felt at home. All of the counselors and returning campers made me feel as though I’d been here 10 years. I especially remember the HUPs. As I arrived at camp for the very first time I was greeted with excitement and enthusiasm by all the Hi-Ups. Every year since the Hi-Ups before me have had a huge influence on me. They got me excited for things and served as a big sister to me. My whole camp experience the Hi-Ups seemed so old and mature, and now as a Hi-Up, I can tell you that is not how I feel. It doesn’t seem right that I’m old enough to be a Hi-Up but this has been one of the best summers of my life. The bond I have with each and every one of you is something I will never forget. So, thank you all for making my Hi-Up year live up to my expectations. Finally, I particularly remember Spirit Fire from 3 years ago. Sarah Carter said something about finding your chocolate chip cookie friend. I turned to the girl next to me and said “that’s you.” So now to be reading this speech in my final year as a camper with my chocolate chip cookie friend beside me feels surreal. My hope for all of you is that you find your chocolate chip cookie friend. Rockbrook is filled with so many amazing people, and I can truly say that I have met my best friends here. So thank you to all the Hi-Ups, all the counselors over the past 5 years, and everyone else. I love you all.

— Elizabeth
light candle camp girl

Hi my name is Sarah and this is my third year at camp. I can remember coming to drop off my friend Lauren just to see what camp was and instantly wanting to come back as a camper. The whole way home I was talking Cindi’s ear off with questions and comments. The next year I was nervous but so excited at the same time. I was so shy but slowly started to come out of my shell. That summer ended up being better than I could have ever imagined. At my first Spirit Fire, I remember Sarah Carter talking about Rockbrook being home for so many and in that moment it became home for me too. Something else that stuck with me was Sarah talking about having a chocolate chip cookie friend, someone who makes you feel warm inside and who makes you feel safe to be your truest self. I’m happy to say at my first Spirit Fire I found mine and I hope you find yours too. I can say that having my chocolate chip cookie friend stand next to me at my last Spirit Fire as a camper means so much. Rockbrook has taught me to be myself and given me a home away from home. To my Hi-Ups, through ups and downs, the bonds we’ve made will stay with me forever and I love you all. As a Hi-Up I know this is my last year as a camper but looking around I hope it won’t be my last year at home.

— Sarah
camper friends hug

Hi everyone, my name is Courtney, and this is my first year as a counselor at Rockbrook. A year ago, I didn’t even know Rockbrook existed; I was most likely sitting at home, alone, because as you know, there was (and still is) a global pandemic. Now, fortunately, I’m standing here speaking to so many new, happy and familiar faces all at once as we share this same space. It’s funny how life continually surprises you. 

Each of you has already taught me so many things. I’ve expanded my vocabulary, learning new words like spricket or “bee bop.” The other day, a junior named Maya taught me about a zeptosecond: how long it takes an atom to pass through a photon. I’ve learned how to create differently too, making friendship bracelets out of old string and transferring the color from flowers to dye fabric. But, what I think I cherish most is what you all have shown me everyday. You have shown me how powerful the daily gift of being present can be, the energy that can be found when you pay attention to the overflowing bits of gratitude found in the moment you look up at the sky, notice the ground beneath your toes, or really listen to a friend.

It’s a wonderful thing to witness a community where people are supported throughout the arduous process of not only being but becoming themselves. I think it says even more about that same community when it extends those same arms of love and encouragement to new people. I think that Rockbrook is that community, and that is a very special thing to find. 

I hope that we will hold onto this haven and this promise we have made to love and accept people as they are now and in the future. Let us protect and cherish it and not let change make us afraid of breaking it. I know that I will carry these experiences of genuine kindness from others with me, these moments when I’ve been affirmed the greatest truths in life are the simplest. 

I hope that we will all take up this partnership with growth and continue it after our days at Rockbrook have come to pass in a literal sense. This project to carry seeds of kindness with us and pass them on to anyone we can. To remember to nurture your listening ear and continually plant the same values of acceptance and love that we sing about in our songs, that spark into existence when our hands touch as we pass bowls at the breakfast table, and when we bend our backs for a stranger and a friend.

— Courtney

Girls often talk about the “Spirit of Rockbrook” and how a “Rockbrook Girl” embodies that spirit and the personal qualities it brings about. The Spirit Fire is named to represent that spirit, to call our attention to it, and to strengthen it as we gather together. Tonight everyone felt that strengthening.

It’s been a wonderful session at Rockbrook. Much like a rebirth, campers and staff members returned to camp this summer to find the same positive community, the same beautiful setting, and the same feelings of fun and friendship they love about being here. Worries about Covid-19 were quickly and easily managed, allowing us to focus on the people around us, the activities and special events, and simply living the carefree, healthy lifestyle Rockbrook provides. Thank you everyone for helping to make this possible, and for being a part of Rockbrook!

Camp girls hugging at campfire

Once Upon a Banquet

Tonight the CA campers, our 9th grade girls, presented their surprise themed banquet, the whole-camp party celebrating our time together at camp. After weeks of planning, which began on their very first day at camp, these girls had an elaborate evening of costumes, decorations, skits, games, dances, food and snacks ready to entertain and amaze the rest of the campers and staff.

unicron horse

The evening began with the arrival of news delivered by a fairy riding a unicorn. This white horse-like animal with a colorful crown of flowers circling his single horn proudly trotted into camp as a line colorful fairies, princesses, mermaids, and pirates cheered. The youngest campers were wide-eyed with astonishment as the unicorn rode past. It was then that we learned tonight’s banquet would be in three locations, with each age group rotating though the locations every 40 minutes or so.

This would be a “progressive” banquet transporting the campers from under the sea, to a land of pirates and princesses, to an enchanted forest populated by glowing, sparkly fairies.

camp banquet party fun

The hillside lodge was decorated with an ocean theme. Mermaids helped the campers play games like “pin the trident on the merman,” and “throw the pearl in the clam,” a version of corn hole. They decorated a banner with everyone’s names on it to preserve the banquet and the names in history.

At the gym, the campers found princesses and pirates locked in a heated struggle, but also castles and dragons. Dance numbers turned the gym into a dance party. A highlight was a painted portrait of Jeff and Sarah as a King and Queen.

The last location was the dining hall which was decorated with a forest theme and many tea candle lights. Glowing princesses danced and delivered food to the campers: “shipwreck salad,” “Fresh Fairy Fruit,” “Treasure Trove Tortellini,” “Royal Rosemary” chicken breasts, and “Ballroom Brownies.” Of course the tables included a variety of candies and souvenir red cups as well.

camp group hug

After all three lines visited all three locations, everyone in camp assembled on the hill to hear the CA and Hi-Up songs. This is another long tradition at Rockbrook where these groups of campers show their appreciation for their counselors by writing a song for them and singing it in front of all the other girls. They take a familiar tune and rewrite the lyrics making references to their time together, recalling funny moments, and using silly nicknames or phrases. Counselors of each group do the same for the campers too. So we heard 4 songs altogether.

Lastly, it’s a tradition for the whole camp to sing “Rockbrook Camp Forever,” one of the oldest traditional songs that everyone knows. Dressed in their red RBC t-shirts, each cabin group gathered arm-in-arm in a big group hug, counselors and campers together. They sang and swayed singing the song multiple times. It’s a sweet moment representing the friendships formed in each cabin group.

The banquet was a beautiful success, easily one of the best in recent memory. The girls loved all three locations and appreciated all the hard work the CA girls did to make it happen. What a wonderful way to celebrate the session!

Costume teenage campers

Reliving the Magic

Over 25 years ago I was a counselor, and this summer it feels as though I’ve come home to relive the magic of camp.

Morning view from Castle Rock NC

Long ago mornings at camp began with Rockbrook runners and I’m happy to say that opportunity has grown to have many campers running and walking a beautiful (and hilly) loop around camp. During free time campers and counselors may run or walk or a combination of both along the knobby hills and alongside the creek.

Nowadays my mornings have varied: taking a hike to Castle Rock that can unveil a new perspective, enjoying peaceful moments to write and reflect, or having time to take a much needed shower. A recent morning I happily used the early quiet before the rising bell to read and type up journal entries from one hundred years ago. The women adventurers who led the inaugural summer of 1921 have the same spirit felt at Rockbrook today. The journal entries feel more exciting than finishing my book right now. I’m not sure what is more amazing and beautiful, the way they wrote so eloquently and efficiently or the open spirit of adventure and ‘can do’ attitude that were so clearly a part of Rockbrook days. Not the drizzling rain nor torrential pours would stop them from an outdoor adventure!

Rockbrook Sunset Hill

There was and still is a rushing around at camp that might start with the constant sounds of the water flowing in the creek or nearby waterfall, then it’s eager campers running to their next activity or maybe to a muffin break. This feeling of haste is a welcome one; a retreat from life outside of camp and brings me to those summers a quarter of a century ago. There are of course the moments that also slow down time, when I see campers focused and chatting while working on a project or hopping along the creek searching for crawfish and salamanders and playing along the lake edge scooping up tadpoles. Campers might also be relaxing reading, knitting, or sketching in a crazy creek. There are the familiar smiles and songs along with silly and savvy announcements and twilight dance parties or sunset on the hill.

Cat Sobieszczyk

Rockbrook’s pace, living outdoors, surrounded by new friends has been the anxiety reducing treatment I didn’t anticipate, but see in the smiles of campers each day. I have learned my camp mom role is to be present, and ready to help, but the counselors do all the real work of a camper’s ‘mom’. I remember the life of a counselor is the world of their campers. Setting the tone of friendship and fun. Not only do I hear words of wisdom from counselors (and campers too), shared during unexpected moments, but also the caring and thoughtful voices that are most often just the right thing to say.

I’m so grateful that the counselors along with HUPS, and CAs know the campers and carry forward the traditions of Rockbrook. I also appreciate that my daughters and I get to experience the spirit and be part of the history during this one hundredth year of summertime at Rockbrook Camp for Girls.

—Ramblings from Cat, first time camp mom

Teen camper girls

Celebrating with Fireworks

Let’s start with the food. It’s really been fabulous this summer, and today’s meals stand out.

homemade dessert rockbrookie

Lunch was a chance to get creative as Rick and his crew provided an array of ingredients for everyone to make their own “breakfast sandwich.” Breakfast for Lunch! He had english muffins, with eggs and cheese, breakfast meats, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and an array of condiments. He served fresh local blackberries on the side. But for dinner, as part of our “centennial celebration,” Rick pulled out all the stops! He made fried chicken, mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh green beans, and homemade biscuits… 770 homemade, cut-by-hand, biscuits! What a meal! Then to top it off, let me introduce you to the dessert known around here as a “Rockbrookie.” Sydney, one of our bakers, invented these triple-layer bars: chocolate chip cookie on the bottom, a layer of Oreo cookie in the middle, and brownie on the top. One of a kind delicious!

Just about all day, and almost everyday, the looms in Curosty are in motion. Girls of all ages take turns sitting and working the warp and weft, using colorful yarns to weave swatches. Often, the girls keep these handmade pieces of cloth to use them as placemats or simple decorative pieces, but they can also be sewn into small pillows or bags.

camp counselors hiding in bushes

After dinner tonight, we held a counselor hunt. This is a very popular all-camp activity where the staff members do their best to hide somewhere in camp and the girls travel around in the their cabin groups searching. Being so wooded, Rockbrook has loads of great hiding spots. Many counselors dress all in black, and often cover themselves with a trash bag. One actually hid inside a trash bag, inside a trashcan! Others hid inside canoes, or covered themselves with leaves. The girls have a great time racing around the camp searching for these hidden staff members. Some were found right away, and others not at all. When we rang the bell to signal the “all clear,” all but a handful were found. Each counselor hiding had a key that they gave to the cabin group who found them. Then out of all the keys, only one opened a “treasure box” that contained a few small gifts for the cabin. The cabin groups took turns trying their keys to see if theirs was the one. The box also revealed that later tonight we would have a fireworks show!

When we show fireworks at camp, it’s a great time for the girls. They gather on the hill in their crazy creek chairs and look toward the sky above the lake. We launch from the lake, so when the colors burst in the sky, they are easily seen by the girls on the hill above. We play fun dance music, hand out glow sticks for everyone, and serve popsicles right before getting started. There’s nothing quite like fireworks to celebrate, and since it’s Rockbrook’s 100th birthday this year, this was perfect.

I’ll leave you with a short video clip of the show. You can just make out the singing and cheering over the sound of the explosions.