PUB Farm Trip

Just down the road from Rockbrook is a wonderful family farm called the Pucker Up Berry Farm, also known as the “PUB Farm.” It’s owned and cared for by our friends Wendy and Eric Manner. The farm specializes in high antioxidant fruits and berries like elderberries, blueberries and blackberries. It also grows all sorts of flowers and vegetables.

The Rockbrook Juniors take a trip to the PUB Farm during their session of camp. It’s a chance to learn about the plants and animals there and to enjoy the environment. Counselor Lauren Plowden went with a recent group and wrote this account.

“When my campers heard the announcement that we would be skipping rest hour and taking a trip off campus, screams filled the room. As a Junior Counselor at RBC, I have the privilege of taking my cabin to Pucker Up Berry Farm.

This farm is located at the bottom of Becky Mountain and is home to lots of chickens, bunnies, exotic wildflowers, and berry orchards. It’s essential that our campers have the opportunity to explore nature in ways they maybe wouldn’t be able to at home. At the farm, campers can choose to hold the animals such as bunnies or chickens, sample some growing blueberries and enjoy the wildlife the heart of the wooded mountain has to offer.

camp counselor and girls holding flowers

Every child has the chance to build their own bouquet of wildflowers which we then bring back to camp and use as centerpieces in our dining hall. Bouquet making is a wonderful part of the trip and allows me and the juniors to dive into creativity, colors, and gardening.

My favorite part of the trip was exploring nature with my awesome campers in Junior 5 and seeing them try new things. Of course this trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Dolly’s Dairy Bar. We filled our stomachs up with yummy ice cream and sang camp songs all the way home on our hot 80 degree July day. Days at camp are never the same and you never quite know what surprises are in store for our campers!”

camp kids at flower farm

Avoiding Parent Pitfalls

summer camp horseback riding girl

Over the years, as we’ve welcomed new families to Rockbrook, we’ve often found ourselves cautioning first-time parents to avoid particular pitfalls when they are preparing for camp, and later when their child is here. Just like their campers, parents too can experience a mix of nervousness and excitement when contemplating the adventure of camp. These feelings, despite their best intentions, can sometimes lead parents to say or do something that ultimately undermines their child’s success at camp. Knowing about these common pitfalls, and avoiding them, can really make a difference for first-timers— parents and campers alike.

Sarah Carter, Director of Rockbrook, recently published an article addressing these common pitfalls.

Tips for First-time Camp Parents: 10 Traps to Avoid

She presents ten essential tips parents need to know before sending their kids off to summer camp. The article cautions parents but also gives thoughtful advice about how to reassure campers more constructively.

Attending a sleepaway camp like Rockbrook for the first time is exciting! It’s a big step that empowers children, fosters their independence, and grows their confidence. With these tips in mind, parents will make a real difference in the success of their camper’s summer camp journey.

two good friends at summer camp

Celebrate the 4th!

horse in summer camp on 4th of july

Horses in the middle of camp? This was clearly no ordinary morning, nor an ordinary day. It was the 4th of July! On this day, it’s been a long tradition at Rockbrook— we’re not sure how it started— for the campers to be awakened by the sounds of hooves and shouts of “The British are coming! The British are coming!” With the horses groomed and decorated with flag-patterned ribbons, and all manner of red, white and blue, the riding staff rode up and down the cabin lines yelling for the girls to wake up. Despite rubbing their sleepy eyes, the girls made their way through the morning fog to gather around the flagpole on the hill. The Hi-Ups raised the flag, and everyone recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang “America the Beautiful.”

4th of July patriotic costumes

The British staff members we have at camp this summer found this a little amusing. One said, “uh, we’re already here!” To prove it, they all jumped in the lake holding a tea bag. Hmmm, perhaps as a show of solidarity in the face of all this American patriotism…?

This patriotic spirit extended beyond the horses; red, white, and blue decorations could be seen all around camp. The dining hall was adorned with table decorations reflecting the theme, and campers wore hats, headbands, beaded necklaces, t-shirts, and other items in patriotic colors. The girls joyfully sang their favorite patriotic songs during meals, such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” adding to the usual lively camp songs. There was no doubt that these girls were ready to celebrate the 4th!

We kept our regular Tuesday activity schedule, but with the addition of patriotic colors. American flags fluttered in the wind as girls participated in various activities— zipping through the woods on the zipline course, and sporting stars and stripes as archers, potters, weavers, tennis players, and climbers. The campers even brought the patriotic colors with them on a hike to Rockbrook Falls and to the barns for their riding lessons. Likewise for the group of girls who took a climbing trip to Looking Glass Rock.

summer camp waterslide splashdown

During the dinner hour we had a rainstorm come through so we moved inside the dining hall for our 4th of July burgers, fries, and all the fixin’s like lettuce, cheese, tomato, etc. There was also plenty of watermelon to go around, and homemade coleslaw. For dessert, the baker made red, white a blue, swirl cheesecake bars, which we very popular.

The rain stopped just in time for everyone to gather on the hill for an event of silly games. All of the age groups and the counselors gave each game a try. One involved blowing up a balloon and using the air to try and blow three paper cones off the table. Another challenged the contestants to move pingpong balls from one bowl to another using a spoon, but not their hands. There was also a game that involved tossing a pingpong ball and bouncing it off a clipboard and into a bucket. The final challenge was to break open a watermelon using only rubber bands. It takes a lot of rubber bands before the melon explodes! The games involved everyone in a way, as the girls cheered for their friends participating.

As darkness fell, the highlight of the day was our very own Rockbrook fireworks show. We gave out glow sticks to all the girls, and cranked up some dance music to make it even more of a celebration. For the next 25 minutes or so, everyone enjoyed a sing-along dance party, with the girls twirling their glow sticks and cheering with each sparkling blast in the sky. It was an exhilarating way to end a great 4th of July at camp.

A Hilarious Blast

The Sunday schedule at Rockbrook begins with a welcome chance to sleep in. Everyone arrives at the dining hall around 9am, where we enjoy a special treat of donuts along with our breakfast. Later in the morning, everyone changes into their camp uniforms for a flag raising ceremony that includes reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing “America the Beautiful.” We all line up around the flagpole on the hill where the Hi-Ups present the flag and raise it. Then, the whole camp silently walks down the lower line to a special area of the camp with rows of benches for everyone to sit. This area we call “Chapel.”

summer camp chapel gathering

The chapel gathering is not a religious service, despite the name implying that. Instead it’s a celebration of our camp values, camp goals, and more general themes we can all embrace. It provides a chance for us all to slow down and reflect a bit on what’s important about our camp experience. Each week a different age group of campers presents the Chapel program, selecting a theme. Past themes have included, community, adventure, kindness, respect, happiness, and nature, for example. Today’s Chapel theme was “Individuality.” The Middler campers sang songs related to the theme; “This is Me,” by Demi Lovato, was one today. They also take turns speaking about the theme and its importance. One camper today said it was good to celebrate each individual, but “that doesn’t mean any one person is better than another.”

Each Chapel gathering is also a chance for Sarah to talk about the theme. She ordinarily does that by reading a children’s book that is somehow related. Today she read, Weslandia, by Paul Fleischman. This is a story about a boy named Wesley who creates his own civilization in his backyard using a mysterious plant. It’s really a story about the power of imagination and the importance of being true to oneself even if it means being different. The story illustrates how it can sometimes be difficult for kids to be proud of their individuality, but community and cooperation help make it easier. All great themes for Rockbrook!

A little rain during rest hour helped cool things off before the main event of the day: an afternoon color scavenger hunt followed by a color blast shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide! That’s right, three events in one! The first had cabin groups dashing about camp looking for counselors hiding. The groups had to collect “colors.” Each counselor hiding was wearing a specific color, and once found the girls collected that color.

girls being silly with shaving cream
playing with shaving cream

The shaving cream fight that came next was a hilarious blast. Wearing swimsuits, everyone met down at the grassy landsports field. With cans of shaving cream ready, and counselors stationed with colored powder, the girls arrived and immediately knew what to do. Spray those cans and smear liberally on anyone nearby! This quickly turns into a mad, chaotic scrum of splattering shaving cream, squirting foam, and slippery white coatings slowing growing on everyone. Specks of green, pink and blue color added to the scene.

This is less of a fight than a collective event. The girls “helped” each other empty their cans of shaving cream, helped each other with their new foaming hairstyles, and helped each other cover even more of themselves with the spray. Cooperation to make the whole event more fun!

There was fun pop dance music blasting, but you could barely hear it over the shrieks of laughter and chattering go on. This is messy camp fun, the kind of deep affirming silliness that feels great to embrace.

With water hoses spraying, it only made sense to slide down a big sheet of plastic. Everyone was already slippery, so even better! Take a look at the photo gallery to get a sense of just how much crazy fun we all had.

Once again, the secret to all of this, the “special sauce” that makes this so much fun, is the friendship that permeates this community. It’s a widespread kind of feeling too, something that goes beyond your “best friend.” Everyone’s friendly at camp, so everyone’s receiving the positivity of being among friends. You could see it today, as there was no holding back who you sprayed. When you can laugh with anyone, anyone can get sprayed with shaving cream. All so good, and so much better here at camp.

kids having fun with shaving cream

Learning to Figure it Out

When I think back on my time at Rockbrook as an eight-year-old camper, there’s one moment that has remained clear across the many decades. I was hiking up the hill from horseback riding, and I stopped for a minute. Standing on that hill, I realized that I had no adults telling me where to go or what to do. No one was urging me to hurry up or change clothes. The feeling of freedom at camp was intoxicating. At the age of eight, for the first time I felt totally in charge of myself. And I really liked it!

relaxed summer camp girls

One of the things that makes Rockbrook Camp unique is that campers of all ages are responsible for getting themselves to their own activities, just as I did years ago. That may seem like a minor detail, but it’s much more than that. It puts the camper in charge of their self throughout the day, which is a significant and sometimes new thing for them. Counselors and staff are always around to help give directions and escort a wayward camper, but for the most part, moving between activities and showing up on time is their responsibility.  

Personal responsibility extends to life in the cabin as well. As a counselor, I remember constantly picking up the wet towels and bathing suits of my campers (grumbling in aggravation), until my wise co-counselor pointed out the error of my ways. After a few days of unhappy shimmying into cold and clammy bathing suits, my campers had figured out how to hang up their own wet items. Amazing how that worked! Sometimes it’s a new experience for campers to choose their own outfits each day and keep track of their own belongings. Sometimes that means there’s a lot of stuff on the “lost and found” table. But they always figure it out in the end (and hopefully wrote their name in their clothes!) 

confident camp girls

Campers are also given several hours each day of free time, with plenty of options as to how they can spend them. From my vantage point on the hill, it’s so much fun to watch kids wander around camp, perfectly happy alone or in small clumps. Some will race to the tether ball and start a heated competition. Others sit by the stream, quietly knotting friendship bracelets or reading their books. From a distance, I can hear the splashing and laughing at the lake of cheerful swimmers. 

Just like me as an 8-year-old, campers at Rockbrook Camp regularly have the autonomy to dwell on what they feel like doing in that moment and just go do it! They love the personal freedom and will have deep consultations with each other about the best ways to spend their free time each day. From my perch, I hear things like “Should we go swimming?” “No, I don’t feel like changing into my bathing suit, let’s go sit on the rock and talk.” “I’m going to go finish my art project.”  All these little snippets of conversation add up to kids realizing their own independence and exercising it.  

Watchful counselors and staff members are always making sure campers show up for activities, behave in a safe manner, and take full advantage of all the fun things available at camp. But as much as possible, they stay hands-off when it comes to campers making their own decisions and exercising responsibility. After all, that’s the whole point of going away to camp! Sometimes that means a yucky wet bathing suit or missing the first half of riding because you had to go back for your boots, but you learn and grow each time.  

— Miranda Barrett
Camp Mom, Former Counselor and Camper

happy summer camp friends

Hello from Woodworking

In the woodworking shop at Rockbrook Camp, at the woodworking activity, our goal is to get tools into the hands of campers and empower them to transform a block of wood into something beautiful and useful. At times we come up with a project for them to complete and at others they give us the ideas. One junior camper came up with an idea for a secret box that we ended up using as one of our project ideas. We had sections of branches from a tree that were cut in about 5 inch sections. I had no idea what I was going to use them for. A toothbrush holder, a pencil holder? These ideas will not take three hours to complete. So, I asked a junior camper. Immediately she says we need to cut off the top to make a lid and to hollow it out to make a secret box to put little things in. Perfect. I’m terrible at coming up with ideas, but decent on improving on existing ones. I thought if we attach the lid with a dowel so it swivels to the side to expose the hollowed out section that would prevent the lid from being lost. She approved and now we have Mallie’s Box! Campers learned to use both manual egg beater drills as well as electric drills and improved their sanding skills.

Cutting boards are a big favorite. I believe this was one of the first projects when woodworking began at Rockbrook Camp and the expectation has been set. “What are we doing?! Cutting boards?!” Most of the time we get to say yes. For this project students select either a piece of maple or cherry for their board. They get a pencil and are instructed to draw the shape they’d like their cutting board to take. We encourage them to be creative and to look at the wood to give them ideas. Does it have a knot in it that could be made into a focal point? Is the grain making an interesting pattern? We try to encourage campers to use what the wood gives them instead of imposing their will on the wood. It’s an organic material and every piece is unique. If you try to fight the wood, it almost always wins. The campers have truly embraced this. One board had a knot in a corner that one woodworker turned into an eye. Knots are surrounded by circular swirls of grain that created in the mind of this camper the body of a fish. She shaped her board in the shape of a fish around those swirls and the eye gave the board what is certainly the image of a fish. Beautiful. Students cut out their boards using an assortment of tools including hand planes, rasps, files and the bandsaw. The finishing touch is sanding before we apply a coat of oil that helps protect the board from cracking but also brings out the colors in the wood. A phenomenon began where campers would take their boards in between sessions with them so they could sand them wherever they are. I’ve been told they find it relaxing. I do not find sanding relaxing, but to each their own. Campers were spotted playing tetherball while sanding, waiting for the shower sanding. I even spotted one camper in line waiting for food while sanding away at her board.

These projects provide us with the opportunity to understand how to shape wood using different tools. They help us understand that wood, at times, has a mind of its own and sometimes you just have to go with what it gives you. Patience, creativity and understanding go a long way in the wood shop! We’ve been using a variety of hand tools to achieve our designs including Ryoba, coping and flush cut saws, hand planes and spokeshaves as well as rasps and files. Students also have the opportunity to use egg beater-style hand drills along with electric drills. The shop is equipped with a bandsaw and drill press that some older campers get the chance to try, as well. Campers’ skills have come a long way and they’ve made beautiful things. We hope they’re inspired and continue to explore the wonderful world of craft!

—Laura Shay, Woodworking Instructor

summer camp wood shop

Skits and Skills at Camp

A strawberry, two clouds, a concerned citizen and a newscaster are all racing around in the Mountainside Lodge at Rockbrook. They stop twirling long enough to host a pretend newscast about the weather, which seems to involve strawberries falling from the sky and a cloud-dance. And a LOT of giggles. After five minutes of zipping back and forth, blurting out lines, and more giggling, they dash back to their seats, basking in the applause of their audience. 

true summer camp friends

An uninformed observer would be completely baffled as to what just happened. But here at Rockbrook Camp, cabin skits are a staple of camp life. They’re an opportunity for campers to try out life skills, be completely silly, and make memories with their new friends. 

Evening programs begin as the sun sets behind the mountains and the crickets warm up for the night. Each age group of campers gathers in its respective lodge around camp. This brings campers together to meet new friends and touch base about the day they just had and talk about the new day ahead. Cabin skits also play a big role in the evening activities. The “themes” for skits may vary, but they generally involve each cabin getting their “assignment,” racing off to their respective cabins to self-organize, and then coming back to deliver their big performance to the group.

There are dozens of different types of cabin skits, and new ones are always being created by enterprising counselors. Things like creating silly advertisements, hosting a pretend TV program, building a plot based around a random cabin item are performed regularly. After campers dash off, costumes come out of trunks, items in the cabin are put to creative use, and imaginations run wild. “Scripts” are jotted down on scraps of stationary, and “rehearsals” involve heated discussions and occasional flashes of emotion as campers decide on a plot, roles, and props for the big show.

summer camp dance class

Being at camp is an opportunity for campers to learn and hone all kinds of life skills. Cabin skits are one such opportunity, and counselors deliberately stay hands-off during the planning. Each group is assigned a “director,” a role that rotates over the course of the camp session so everyone can have a turn. Beyond that structure, it’s up to them to self-organize, plan, and create. This can sometimes be difficult or frustrating, especially for younger age groups and different personality types. Listening to the ideas of others and compromising, especially when you believe YOUR idea is “best” can be a tough skill, even for adults! There’s also a fixed amount of time to plan, and as the clock ticks down the voices from cabins grow more intense.  

As they say in show business, the curtain doesn’t go up because you’re ready; it goes up because it’s time! Counselors summon cabin groups back to the lodge, with excitement and anticipation crackling in the air and an assortment of wacky props hidden behind backs. To nervous giggles and shuffling, the first group takes the stage in costume, and the skits begin. 

summer camp gaga ball game

While minor details like “plot” and “dialogue” are not always clear, what is clear is how much fun the campers are having, and how they’ve come together as a group for each performance. Together, they face the experience of public speaking, acting, singing, and producing. They learn how to work together, listen to each other, and respect different opinions. The final result is always magnificent, even if the casual observer leaves confused why the strawberry ran off stage and the clouds jumped up and yelled “tah-dah!” and the newscaster put a cowboy hat on and started singing a Taylor Swift song. The only thing that matters is that campers are learning and growing and creating. They know it, and their cheering audience knows it too. 

Each cabin takes their turn, with each performance growing more exuberant and costumes more outrageous. Meanwhile, unnoticed, the sun quietly slips behind the mountains and the volume of the crickets begins to compete with the actors. The air temperature drops a bit, and evening softly descends on camp.

Our actors take a final bow, to the cheers of the fellow campers. After a round of the goodnight circle and milk and cookies, it’s time for teeth-brushing, pajamas, and a good night’s rest. After all, tomorrow is another day full of new skills, new friends, and more wild imagination. And definitely more wacky costumes.        

Miranda Barrett
Camp Mom, former camper and counselor 

summer camp kids costumes

Buzzing Creativity

The weather in this part of North Carolina is extraordinary, often impressive, even astonishing at times. We’re located in the western mountains and have enough elevation to help us stay cooler in the summer, but also far enough south to moderate our winters. We are surrounded by national and state forests (many hundreds of thousands of acres) and are far enough away from large cities that we enjoy remarkably clean air. By the way, we haven’t seen any impact from the Canadian wildfires affecting areas of the northeast. This morning when we woke up, everyone was surprised how chilly it was. Checking the Rockbrook weather station, the low temperature was 44 degrees! Brrrr! Time for another layer! Once the sun rose from behind the hill it warmed up fast. By noon it was 70 degrees, and later in the afternoon, the temperature hit 80. Perfect!

tiny kid climbing

Yes, perfect weather for climbing. Our Alpine climbing tower, which is located in the woods a short distance from the gym, sees climbing all day long. It’s a 50-foot tall system of logs cabled and bolted together providing dozens of different routes to the top. It can accommodate up to 6 climbers simultaneously, each exploring different routes and overcoming unique climbing challenges on their way up. This makes it an excellent place for learning how to climb, even for our youngest campers. They start by learning essential climbing knots, understanding rock climbing equipment like an ATC, and practicing belay commands used by climbers worldwide.

The Alpine Tower provides such a variety of climbs it takes quite a while to conquer them all. Some are direct routes to the top, stepping on the small holds and gripping others one by one like a ladder. Others involve pulling up on ropes or rope cargo nets, and navigating swinging obstacles. A few are really challenging because they are vertical or even overhanging, or involve more arm strength to reach the next hold.

Some girls are even climbing the tower blindfolded just for the fun and added challenge. It’s incredible to witness how they can successfully climb without the ability to see the next hold.

After each climb, there’s an exciting thrill of swinging on the belay rope, sometimes even upside down, while being lowered down.

Another area buzzing with activity at camp are our fiber arts programs. In the activity Curosty, campers can weave headbands, bookmarks, placemats, among other projects on our vintage restored looms. The historic building the activity takes place in is even older than the camp itself! On the idyllic back porch, campers can work on their weaving or needlepoint while listening to the creek rushing by. Campers who especially fall in love with weaving spend multiple other free-swim periods perfecting their projects, adding extra color, beads, or other personal touches.

In the other historical building on camp, Goodwill, named after Nancy Carrier’s birthplace, another popular activity takes place: KIT. KIT, which stands for “Keeping In Touch”, focuses on paper crafts. Campers take advantage of our arsenal of craft supplies, using colorful paper, stickers, rhinestones, stencils, markers, and beads to perfect their masterpieces. Some favorite activities to make in KIT include stationary, greeting cards, journals, calendars and keepsake boxes. KIT has some of the best vibes on camp, with the cozy lighting of Goodwill combined with laughter of campers as they create their unique projects makes for a truly special scene.

One last word about the importance of sending Mail. After lunch, all the campers rush to check their mailboxes to see if they received a letter. It can truly put a smile on your campers face to see a letter in their box, even if it is a short note. So keep those letters and emails coming, your camper will truly thank you!

teenage tennis girls at camp

Many Lessons Remain

Looking back on twelve years at Rockbrook Camp, I am lucky enough to have experienced Rockbrook as a camper, counselor, and now assistant director. I’m filled with a sweet sense of pride and joy when I see junior campers excitedly finding minnows in the creek, middlers walking (with purpose) to muffin break, and senior campers strategizing how to get tortellini refills as quickly as possible. I love watching counselors sing with their campers, lead dance breaks during meals, and teach new skills during activities. Nothing brings me more joy than watching counselors welcome campers into the Rockbrook community.

summer camp group hiking on forest

As I watch campers and counselors navigate their summer at Rockbrook, I am constantly reminded of what I have gained because of camp.

Speaking to an excited Hi-Up counselor looking forward to cabin day, I was reminded today of how appreciative I am that Rockbrook is a community that fosters independence, confidence, and growth. From the youngest campers to our CAs, these skills and qualities are ingrained into life at Rockbrook. Campers are encouraged to choose their own activities, and every activity is open to every age group. Even though some activities have unfamiliar names— Hodge Podge, Curosty, and Folklore, to name a few —campers quickly learn that stepping out of their comfort zones is an experience that is celebrated at Rockbrook.

It’s not an unfamiliar sight to see a camper’s activity card filled with a variety of activities like horseback-riding, tie-dying, jewelry-making, and rock-climbing. More often than not, campers try to take all these activities in the same day! Of course, there are also plenty of opportunities outside of activities in which campers can experience something they’ve never done before. The junior overnight is a great first camping experience for our youngest campers, in which the junior cabins spend the night camping at the Rockbrook Junior Outpost. The Junior Outpost is a pair of roofed platforms tucked away on the Rockbrook property, in which juniors make s’mores, learn new songs, and fall asleep under a blanket of stars. The Middlers and Seniors are offered incredibly exciting opportunities to whitewater raft, kayak, hike, and climb on real rock.

One of my favorite trips as a camper was when I got to climb at Castle Rock, the beautiful rock face that overlooks camp. You can climb to the top, shout out your success, and hear campers cheering for you on the hill far below! While all these amazing opportunities are being offered, the motto for encouraging campers is “challenge by choice.” These activities are brand-new to many campers, and the Rockbrook community encourages campers to take on new experiences with gusto.

summer camp girl climbing tower

As a former Rockbrook camper, I have benefitted time and time again from these opportunities for growth. I am constantly rewarded for my curiosity and independence, which encourages me to “choose more challenges”- and at Rockbrook, I always come out the other side stronger for it. Life is full of moments outside of my comfort zone, and I’m thankful for the experiences at Rockbrook that taught me the value of resilience, dedication, and hard work.

After over a decade at camp, I attribute a lot of my self-confidence and positive self-image to the unbelievably encouraging and supportive community at Rockbrook. No day at Rockbrook goes by without celebrating campers who are gaining new and wonderful experiences at camp. Whether it’s soaring to new heights on the zip line, the first slide down the waterslide, or trying a different cereal for breakfast, each and every person taking a step out of their comfort zone is met with cheers, applause, and even spontaneous song.

Rockbrook has taught me many wonderful lessons that have remained with me into my adult life, and I’m lucky to have learned the confidence to keep choosing challenges and work to succeed at something new.

—Ellie Culin

camp cool dance girls

Favorite Bell

It might be everyone’s favorite bell at camp. It’s “THE bell,” the bell mounted high in a tree at the dining hall that we ring to announce times at camp. This old bell— It’s from 1895! —is 24 inches in diameter, and has an amazing clear tone that when rung can be heard all over the camp. A sturdy rope is attached to the bell so that when the rope is pulled, the bell rocks back and forth on its stand ringing loudly. I love the idea that every single Rockbrook camper over it’s 100-year history has heard this same bell ring. It’s called girls to meals, and woken them up in the morning for decades!

girls muffin break

Of all the times the bell rings at camp, the ringing to announce muffin break has to be the campers’ favorite. Muffin break is simply wonderful. It’s a time between the first and second activity periods when we all gather for a homemade snack. Everyone converges on the dining hall to find out what the day’s surprise muffin flavor is, and then when enjoying the muffin, to meet friends and talk about the day so far for a little while. Friends taking different activities can trade stories about what they’re making (“a new tie-dye!”), what they’re doing (“riding a new horse!”), and what they just accomplished (“getting a bullseye in archery!”).

The muffin flavors are delicious too! The surprise makes it fun. It could be “mint chocolate chip,” or the classic “pumpkin chocolate chip,” or the colorful “funfetti,” or the more traditional “lemon poppyseed.” There’s a huge variety that our bakers have introduced over the years. Today’s flavor was “white chocolate apricot.” Fresh from the oven this morning, it was a huge hit. Yum! It’s easy to understand why that mid-morning bell gets the girls excited.

It was a little rainy this morning at camp. That’s unusual for a morning, but also something that barely slows us down around here. A light rain becomes simply part of the wonderful outdoor experience of our day. We simply grab our raincoat and carry on. So many of the activities can operate indoors (with a few exceptions), we can still find plenty to do. The girls are still climbing (in the gym), riding horses (under the covered arena), and playing tennis (now the tabletop kind in the dining hall). Of course, all the ordinary indoor craft activities still happen— weaving, pottery, woodworking, painting & drawings, tie-dying, needlecraft and folklore.

Even our zip line crews were able to operate in the light rain today. Sure everything gets a little wet, but the equipment and the participants can all be dried! The whole zip line course takes about an hour to complete, and consists of three different zips and 3 different challenge bridges. It weaves its way between the huge boulders and among the large trees of the forest up the hill toward Castle Rock. One zip passes right in front of a waterfall, “Stick Biscuit Falls.” One of the bridges is 40 feel in the air. The final zip is the highlight of the course. It’s a 450-foot screaming ride back into camp that’s both scary, because it’s really fast, and exhilarating, for the same reason. For the smallest Junior and the seasoned Senior camper, the zipline course is a blast. The most common reaction? “That was awesome!”

It might be surprising to see everyone carrying on despite the rain, despite being a little uncomfortable or despite conditions being less the “perfect.” But to me it’s another example of the inherent resilience of the girls at Rockbrook. I’ve said it before; Rockbrook teaches resilience. All camps do by virtue of the experience being separate from a child’s usual sources of comfort— most importantly their parents, but also the core familiarities in their lives like food, unencumbered privacy (the ability to “check out” whenever), easy electronic entertainment, and so forth. (By the way, I would say that your child’s smartphone has become one of her major sources of comfort, perhaps without you recognizing it…. Hmmm.) At camp, girls learn to live without those regular sources of support, and to still land on their feet when things don’t go according to their expectations, or they find themselves dealing with something unpleasant. This is an incredibly important life skill, being able to bounce back and reapply yourself, and being able to find comfort internally, in your own abilities. The culture and community of camp helps girls do that because everyone is doing it. It’s just what we do; we keep on moving. It’s ordinary camp life, but truly impressive too.

line of summer camp pals