An Animal Afternoon

Our Sunday afternoons at camp always involve a surprise special event for the whole camp, and today was a great one. You might be able to guess the general theme of the event if you remember the list of costumes for this session. One was called “petting zoo.” It clearly has something to do with animals, but in what way?

Well first of all, it’s a great theme for costumes because it can be anything related to animals. The girls could customize and get creative in all sorts of ways. Add ears! Add a tail! They could be a banana or a monkey. One camper dressed like a “pregnant chicken,” and another like a cow. The most popular animal costume was probably a cat, complete with ear headband, and whiskers. One of the funniest was a girl who described herself as a “zombie cow.” There was a shark too, and even a couple of horses.

To add to everyone’s costumes, 6 counselors set up face painting stations on the dining hall porch. Using foam brushes for large patches of color and thin bristle brushes for details, they painted incredibly detailed animals faces for the campers. Pigs, bears, and animals with whiskers soon began appearing. At times, the counselors painted abstract, animal-related, patterns and prints. Even the tiniest design added to the spirit of the event.

All over the camp there were animal related activities to enjoy. There was a wild hobby horse obstacle course relay. There was a cool spray limbo game that challenged everyone to “go low.” There was a silly ring toss game that involved girls tossing rings onto an inflatable flamingo hat. One set of counselors led several country line dances in the gym. There were familiar pop songs too, keeping the whole scene festive.

The different age groups took turns visiting the Lakeview lodge to hear a presentation on snakes. With several amazing examples brought out and displayed, the girls learned where the snakes came from and about their behavior. For example, most snakes run away from predators, but others will “play dead.” The stars of the show were the 4-ft long boa constrictor from Columbia, and the 5-ft long grey banded rat snake. The campers were able to touch these two snakes and get right up close to them to “pet them.” Some of the girls were a little frightened, but others were intrigued to discover the snakes were cool, dry, and not slimy at all.

porch string music

One final treat was the live bluegrass, old-time acoustic band that played during the event. Featuring our friend Ray Adams (who is also the camp bookkeeper!) and Madeline Dierauf (who is a member of our adventure staff this summer), the band also brought together a local banjo and upright bass player. The band played for 2 solid hours highlighting traditional mountain tunes. All of these musicians have played for large audiences, and they came together just for us this afternoon. It sounded fantastic! The girls probably didn’t realize it, but it was a real treat to have this caliber of music live at Rockbrook.

Live animals and live music. What a fun Sunday afternoon!

A Camper Perspective

As it’s only my 2nd year, I still don’t really know the complete “ropes” to the camp. I first arrived during my CA year (banquet year!), as COVID-19 delayed my final “regular” senior year of high school. In my opinion, it was a great year to begin my Rockbrook experience.

summer camp horse riders

COVID restrictions changed my first year of camp. Apparently, I didn’t really experience all of camp, but I never would have guessed. Even with missing out on a few in-camp events, there were so many opportunities to go out of camp on adventures. For example, I went rafting, hiking, and whitewater kayaking. Those trips allowed me to gain skills, knowledge and memories that I’ll never forget.

That’s the spirit of Rockbrook, in my opinion. It’s not just about friends, the food, or the lake. It’s not all about the activities (even though they’re all very fun!) or who’s doing what. In my opinion, it’s all about the new skills, new emotions, and new memories that will last a lifetime.

Another thing about camp that I love is the inclusivity of camp. Everyone here is so open and welcoming of everyone else. For example, as a Hi-Up, we can go to any evening program. So I go to the Senior skits dressed in a full banana decor and no one bats an eye.

The camp spirit is unique too. It carries on even when a girl goes home. I’ve seen it from many people, including myself! Girls bring home the embracing nature of camp. They also bring back positivity and happiness along with new skills such as resolving simple conflicts with compromises, how to help reduce their fears, and how to help others with their confidence.

Camp is truly a magical place for me. When I arrived at camp, I jumped out of the car, smiled, and said, “I’m home!” Whether girls have been at Rockbrook for 5 years or 5 days. I can speak for the RBC community when I tell you that Rockbrook is our happy place. One of our favorite places on earth, but most importantly, our home away from home.

Claire Herrnstein

camp pasture hore ride

A Parent Perspective

I am the proud mother of a Rockbrook camper. This is my daughter’s second year at Rockbrook. For her first year, we decided to sign her up for the mini-session to see if summer camp was something she was going to enjoy. When we picked her up last summer, she let us know without hesitation that she was ready to go back for the full session, which is almost 3 weeks long. As I write this and reflect on what summer camp means to me as a parent, she is back at Rockbrook enjoying all that camp has to offer.

girl ready for summer camp

The moments leading up to camp drop-off are always emotional. This year, as we waited in the car line, I watched my daughter go back and forth between happiness and excitement (after all, she had been waiting for this all year!) to being nervous and anxious. She recognized the lake she had so much fun in last summer but then realized this meant we were getting closer to the drop-off point. After we unloaded her trunk and she realized it was time for us to say goodbye, she started to cry, just as she did the previous year. This year, however, she was not the only one; I also had some tears as we drove away from camp. 

Sending your child off to sleepaway camp is not easy. Aside from the obvious fact of how much I would miss her, there were lots of other things I worried about. Would she do a thorough job of brushing her teeth? Would she remember to put on sunscreen? Would she eat any vegetables over the next couple of weeks? More importantly, would she be able to fall asleep without the goodnight hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad that she was used to? Would she miss the nightly ritual of being tucked into her own bed? What would happen if she got homesick or felt left out? 

In the end, I know she will be fine. At Rockbrook, she is surrounded by an incredible staff trained to handle all types of situations and wonderful, caring counselors (many who were Rockbrook campers themselves!) who have secret tricks up their sleeves to help homesick campers. Not to mention, she is in a cabin full of friends who are also probably feeling a little sad about missing home. And, as she settles into camp life and I start to see photos of her smiling with her friends, I know I will be okay too. 

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that camp has so many benefits for children: the opportunity to try new activities, developing confidence and self-esteem, learning social skills, and building lifelong friendships. What you may not know is that camp can also benefit the parents. By sending my child to camp, I’ve learned that being a parent is more than handling the day-to-day stuff. Sometimes, it means stepping back and letting your child find their own way. At Rockbrook, my daughter gets to decide what activities she wants to sign up for, what food to put on her plate, and how to spend her free time. That is a great thing. If she gets homesick or has a bad day, she has to figure out how to deal with those feelings without me. And while the time apart is difficult, I know that when we are reunited, I will have so much respect and appreciation for my daughter for the amazing, brave, resilient, independent person she is. (I will also appreciate the steady stream of camp songs that usually follow in the days after camp!)

Earlier today, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. Coincidentally, this episode was all about summer camp. The host of the podcast, Ira Glass, talks about how there is a divide between “camp people” and “non-camp people.” Those that never went to summer camp can never fully understand the camp experience. He interviews a former camper-turned-counselor who says that all of the best moments of his life have either been at camp or with camp people. What a bold statement. He continues on to say that he would not be who he is if it wasn’t for camp. As a non-camp person, I may never understand what this means. But my daughter (and your daughters) will, and hopefully the experiences they have at Rockbrook will also become some of the “best moments” of their lives.

Jean Lee

happy summer camp girls

Permission to Relax

Let’s take a quick look at camp “free time.” If you’ve seen the Rockbrook daily schedule, you’ll notice there are three main blocks when the girls are not scheduled to be at a certain activity, meal, or age group gathering— “First Free Swim” right before lunch, “Second Free Swim” right before dinner, and “Twilight” right after dinner. The idea behind all this free time is to avoid over scheduling the campers’ days (something that’s pretty common the rest of the year) and to provide them with even more opportunities to decide for themselves how to fill their days. We think it adds significantly to that great feeling of freedom the girls love about camp.

summer camp running club

How the campers spend their free time is fascinating. It varies widely. They have the whole camp at their disposal, and while certain activities that require skilled instruction or special supervision for safety reasons are closed, many areas are open. So we provide lots of options, but don’t require any particular thing. For example, the girls can finish craft projects in one the many craft areas if they like. They can visit the tennis courts to practice serving or the gym to shoot some hoops, and of course the lake is staffed for those who might want to swim or cool off with a ride down the waterslide.

There are a couple of organized clubs that meet during the First Free Swim. One is the “Rockbrook Runners” running club. Anyone interested can meet at Hiker’s Rock near the dining hall and join the group as they head out on a 2-mile loop through the woods of camp. Some folks run, and others walk. It’s a gathering of all age groups and abilities. For those dedicated runners, logging 26 miles (13 for mini session campers) earns them a spot in the “Marathon Club.”

Another club meets at the lake for a different form of exercise— swimming laps. Here too, the goal is for anyone interested to swim a certain number of laps and be inducted into the “Mermaid Club.” There are different amounts of laps that each age group needs to swim to be deemed a “mermaid,” but when they complete the number, the lifeguards announce their name in the dining hall. This is true for all of the various club achievements; we recognize members during the announcements that follow a meal.

It’s also common for campers to use these free swim periods to meet up with friends from different cabins or even different age groups. They’ll meet at one of the tetherball courts, the gagaball pit, or the new nine square in the air court. The youngest girls have fun during free time playing in the creek by Curosty. They’ll take their shoes off and wade in the water, rearranging rocks to make waterfalls and currents. Others will grab their crazy creek chairs and sit on the hill reading. It’s the same for the many red rocking chairs on all the porches at camp; they’re great places to relax and read a book.

During the after-dinner “twilight” time, we always schedule some kind of optional activity. It varies from playing a huge game of dodgeball in the gym to a hula hooping contest on the hill. Last night, a couple of counselors led a session of joke telling, essentially a group stand up comedy show. The counselors take turns leading these twilight activities, so you never know what will be announced at dinner.

Perhaps the best thing, however, to do with this free time is to take advantage of the freedom and simply do nothing. Yep, it’s nice for these campers to give themselves permission to just relax with no expectations of productivity or progress. Some of the older girls love this. They take showers, hang out and talk, and just soak in the vibe of camp… completely at their leisure. Like that resort vacation where you spend all day at the pool ignoring other amenities and activities, these girls enjoy just being at camp with their friends. That’s the core experience for them, and it’s made even better somehow during their free time. For them, it might be “free,” but that makes even more valuable.

small camp girls in costume

A Parade of Smiles

Arriving at camp, as our 2nd July mini session campers did today, is always exciting. For this particular session, it was exciting for the campers arriving, after all they’ve been waiting a long time for this day, but it’s also exciting for all of us already at camp because we’ll be seeing old friends returning to camp as well as plenty of new people to meet.

carrying trunk on camp move in day
two camp counselors

The evidence for this was written on so many faces this morning. It was literally a parade of smiles… smiling parents as they saw the enthusiasm of the Rockbrook staff, smiling campers as they began to pick up the friendly vibe of camp, and smiling counselors eager to meet their newly arrived campers. The counselors really look forward to meeting their campers. After only seeing their profile photos, it’s so much better to finally meet the girls and begin to understand their personalities.

Of course, the arriving campers are looking forward to everything. They are eager to meet their cabin mates, even if that can also be a little nerve wracking for some. Entering any new social setting carries a little uncertainty, but it doesn’t take long for girls to realize that people at camp are nice. They’re kind, and want to be your friend, so that calms any nervousness that might be bubbling up.

Our drive thru check-in process worked smoothly, with most families only waiting short while to make their way through all the stations. Thank you for your patience!

By noon, everyone had arrived and the girls were busy setting up their cabins and getting to know each other. Meanwhile, the full session campers had gone to chapel, where the Senior girls led everyone in a program on the theme of “Nature.” Being at camp means immersing yourself in nature, getting to feel its forces, and personally experiencing its nuances. Camp is a place where nature is a daily participant, rather than something we shield ourselves from. How that affects us, and what that might mean, are interesting questions to think about. And what better place to do that than camp?

As we sat to eat Rick’s famous comfort food lunch— homemade mac-n-cheese, sautéed veggies, and fresh blueberries and blackberries —the weather turned a little rainy, and it looked like the forecast was intermittent rain for the rest of the day.

camp girls swimming towels

This delayed our swimming demonstrations a bit, but we were still able to fit most of them in between rainy spells. These “swim demos” are a way for campers to show our waterfront staff how comfortable they are in the water, swimming and treading water without difficulty. Doing that earns everyone a colored tag for the tag board, which is a system we use to keep a tally of swimmers when the lake is open. It was still a little misty throughout the “demos,” so the chilly lake water was even more surprising for the girls. But the crowd was just as encouraging and the lifeguards just as supportive of everyone taking their mountain dip. I’m sure those dry towels felt really good afterwards!

Our afternoon activity was an all-camp event we held in the gym (again, to avoid the rain of the day)— a reptile show. This was a fascinating close encounter with several different snakes, a tortoise (a 50-year-old red footed tortoise named Rex), and a detailed presentation of “ophiology,” the study of snakes.

surprised camp girl touching a snake

What did we learn? Mostly, that snakes are really cool! The campers learned the difference between a poisonous snake (don’t eat it or touch it) and a venomous snake (don’t let it bite you). They learned that snakes are often misunderstood. They’re not “slimy,” and they won’t attack human beings unless threatened or provoked. We heard that some snakes will play dead if near a predator, and others will run away. The girls were able to see, and touch! if they were so brave, a 4-ft long boa constrictor from Columbia, a 5-ft long grey banded rat snake, an eastern hog nosed snake, and a yellow rat snake named Josie that looked like an over-ripe banana. Girls had questions too. “Is it true that you can tell the age of a rattlesnake by its rattle?” No. “Have you ever been bit by a snake?” Yes, but it wasn’t venomous so it wasn’t bad. “Can I touch?” Yes, please do!

Our hope is that the girls are now a little more informed about snakes, more curious about them, and possibly less frightened by them. At camp, we caution the girls to stay away from any snake they might see, and to alert a counselor. If the snake is venomous, we have a special tool one of the directors can use to catch it, and remove it from camp. We won’t kill a snake, just release it somewhere farther away from the people at camp. After today’s presentation, I think the girls do have a new respect and admiration for snakes, but also an understanding about being cautious around them.

Sunday Bandanas and Boots

Everybody knows that Sundays are different. They’re probably different for you, and they’re different at camp too. Instead of our regular activities, we have several all-camp events. This provides a nice reset, a chance to celebrate our community values all together, dress up, and of course have some silly fun.

It starts by sleeping in! Yes, on Sundays everyone gets an extra hour of sleep, waking up at 9am instead of 8. This feels great, and usually is very welcome after the past week of solid adventure and activity. It takes kids a day or two after arriving to settle down, but for the most part, people sleep really well here at camp… “Best sleep of my life!” one teenage camper told me. Maybe it’s the fresh air or perhaps our days filled with things that exercise all our senses, but when it’s time for rest, Rockbrook girls know how to rest!

summer camp chapel gathering
summer camp girls ceremony

Right after waking up, everyone skips their cabin chores and comes to the dining hall in their PJs (and wearing a cozy sweatshirt to block the morning chill). We enjoyed a regular breakfast of eggs and sausage, cereal, fruit and yogurt, but had a special treat of glazed doughnuts as well.

For the last few days, we’ve experienced a typical summer weather pattern for this area. Waking up, it’s cool and foggy, with everything outside feeling a little damp. Then by the time muffin break rolls around mid-morning, the fog has burned off to reveal crisp, bright, warm sunshine and our gorgeous distant mountain view. About rest hour time, the skies darken and we often hear thunder in the distance. And like today, we have a storm roll through that soaks us for about 20 minutes before moving on. Once past, we’re back in action.

By the way, you can always check our Rockbrook weather station if you are curious about what’s happening at camp.

After breakfast, once everyone had changed into their camp uniforms, the Hi-Ups led everyone in a flag raising ceremony on the hill. Everyone looked sharp in the bright morning sun, and in their red and white.

The chapel theme today was “Friendship.” “Chapel” is not a religious service at Rockbrook. Instead, it’s a time for the girls to settle down a bit, and think about one of the core aspects of camp life, our camp values, and our time together as a camp community. Past themes include: honesty, kindness, trust, generosity, nature, and community. The girls take turns contributing to the program, reading poems or other quotes, singing songs, and sometimes simply saying what the theme means to them. Sarah usually reads a children’s book. Today she read, “The Invisible Boy,” a story about a boy who gets left out at school, but when a new child arrives at school finds a way to be friends. She asked, “Do you know anyone at camp who might be feeling invisible? What can you do to help people make friends?”

summer camp scavenger hunt

Sunday afternoons means a surprise special event. Today we had a camp-wide scavenger hunt followed by a square dance in the gym. This was a “Gold Rush,” where cabin groups roamed about camp trying to find hidden gold coins. The girls were looking all over, under and around everything in camp, doing their best to collect as many coins as possible. But there were bandits too, people who could approach a cabin and demand all of the gold the group had collected! If the cabin group could answer a trivia question correctly, they could keep their gold. There were prizes to be won for the group with the most gold, and a special prize for finding the “Golden Nugget.”

To round out the afternoon, there was a square (!) dance held in the gym. With Hi-Ups and counselors calling out patterns and demonstrating different moves, we played fun country dance music like the Virginia Slide and the Boot Scootin’ Boogie, as well as some traditional bluegrass. The girls came dressed in their favorite western wear, flannel bandanas and boots. It think there were at least a dozen pink cowboy hats. It was a little wild when “swing your partner” became swing anyone, but it was active and fun. We clapped along to the music, laughed and smiled, and enjoyed ourselves letting loose a bit. All good healthy camp fun.

Camp girl square dance

Camp Free Time is Rich

The girls at Rockbrook select their regular daily activities after they arrive at camp. Twice a week they are presented with options that rotate through the different age groups, sharing the arts, adventure, and sports activities. From these options they select 4 activities to try for the 3 days, before selecting a new set. Of course there are more options than there is time to try them all, so selecting can sometimes be tough. Choosing any four means not selecting all those others.

summer camp zipline girl

There are two exceptions to this: horseback riding and ziplining. Girls sign up for horseback riding by discussing their interest and experience with our Riding Directors Kelsi and Brittany on opening day. And once assigned to a regular lesson, a girl can keep that lesson time all session long. So for example, she might ride during first period 5 days a week, or just a couple of days a week, depending on interest. For some girls, riding is so central to their daily schedule, they get a lot of exercise walking up and down and through the tunnel to the riding center.

Ziplining is different too because we know that almost every girl wants to take a ride through the course. For this reason we schedule every cabin a time slot during their session. It’s not required that girls zipline, but this way we can make sure everyone gets a chance.

kids tetherball game
kids gagaball game

Between these activity periods are blocks of free time, three in particular: right before lunch (1st “free swim”), before dinner (2nd “free swim”) and immediately after dinner (“twilight”). Heading to the lake during the free swim times is a great way to cool off in the middle of the day, especially if you’ve been doing something active in the morning like climbing, horseback riding, or tennis. It’s when the waterslide is open as well, making free swim times even more inviting.

The two different tetherball courts at camp are almost always in motion. It only takes a couple of minutes to play a quick game, or to just hit a bit, and just two people are needed to play. When there’s more than two, the girls take turns challenging the winner of each match.

Gagaball is more fun with a larger group of kids. It’s a version of dodgeball where everyone is inside an octagonal court. A single ball bounces around, being hit, not caught, by the players. The goal is to avoid letting the ball hit you. If it does, you’re out and the remaining players continue to play. The last person still in wins.

A new ball game available for the girls during their free time is called “9 square in the air.” This is a game that also takes a large group of kids. The game happens under a structure making a grid of 9 squares (about 3×3) above your head. Each person stands under a square. Like volleyball, you play by hitting a large ball out of your square and into another’s square. If a person misses, hits twice, or doesn’t hit the ball into another square they are out and a new person rotates in. It’s a fun group game.

camp ceramics art child

Campers can also spend their free time down in the gym playing basketball. Another option is meeting a friend at the tennis courts to hit for a while.

The after dinner “twilight” period is a wonderful golden hour time when many campers like to hang out and play on the hill. Some bring out their crazy creek chairs to sit and read, work on friendship bracelets tied to their water bottles, or just talk while watching the sun slowly set in the distant mountains. Playing in the creek by Curosty is a popular option too. That might mean building a dam of sorts from small rocks and mud, or racing flip flops down the length of the creek.

During these free time periods, you’ll always find girls sitting in the many red rocking chairs found on all the porches around camp as well. Clustered in groups of two or three, they are comfortable place to hang out and chat with friends.

And finally, these blocks of free time are the perfect opportunity to grab a quick shower. You can count on the tankless water heaters getting a work out before each meal and after dinner at camp.

Having this amount of free time built into our daily camp schedule is intentional. We know kids are often highly scheduled at home, zipping from school to sports, music lessons and the like, and so making sure there’s time at camp to do what they want, even if it’s just hanging out, is a very good thing. It’s another way we give girls a chance to make decisions for themselves. They get to decide, not someone else, how to spend their free time.

Giving kids control over how they spend their time, in a place where electronic entertainment is absent, helps teach them that the world is marvelous on its own. There are interesting people to play with and talk too. There are wonderful things to see and activities to try. There’s always something new to experience if you just pay attention and engage. Most likely different from home, camp free time is rich.

happy camp teenagers

It’s the People

Seeing all the action at camp, all the happy busy kids here, it’s easy to forget that there are almost 100 people on the Rockbrook staff at any one time. There are many people working to make camp possible. There are the cabin counselors, the young women who live in the cabins with the campers, eat their meals with the campers, spend most of their day relating to them. These are the folks who most directly help set the tone at camp. They’re kind, silly, and enthusiastic. Most have been campers themselves when they were younger, and now have returned to Rockbrook to get their “camp fix” and benefit from the experience. Some have come from abroad to spend their summer at camp. And others are friends of people somehow related to Rockbrook and its history.

camp counselor helping
girl kayak instruction

Cabin counselors are also activity instructors during the day. They are assigned to one or more activities where they guide, lead and instruct the campers as they do something. You can imagine this means the cabin counselors have a wide range of skills and talents. One might be certified to teach archery, and another to be a lifeguard. Some know their sports— tennis, volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics for example. Others have real talent painting and drawing, directing musical theater, or tying complex friendship bracelet patterns. Someone teaches the yoga classes while another belays girls as they climb Castle Rock. Every activity at camp has counselors directly involved at every turn.

Another area of staffing is our “activity specialists.” These are folks who do not live in a cabin with campers, but have special knowledge or skills pertaining to an activity, and therefore can be in charge. This summer we have specialists for ceramics, weaving, gymnastics, and candle/soap making. This also includes our adventure staff. These are certified instructors in whitewater kayaking and rafting, canoeing, rock climbing, backpacking, and ziplining. The best example of this is our riding staff. All 10 of these folks work to care for and train our 32 horses and also teach the mounted riding lessons all week.

The other areas of staffing are equally critical for camp to operate. These are the maintenance staff, bus drivers, photographers and videographers, the kitchen staff, and housekeeping staff. We should also recognize the fantastic team of nurses that staff our Health Hut, and perhaps most importantly, the kitchen crew that keeps us well fed with meals and homemade snacks (muffins!).

Together, along with the directors, all of these people help keep camp going. They help us stay healthy, active, and engaged with everything camp life presents. It’s a great group of dedicated people who love camp, enjoy being with kids and seeing them have fun. We’ve said it before; it’s the people that make Rockbrook.

sliding rock screaming girls

After dinner tonight we loaded all of our buses, gathered 6 lifeguards and their gear, and took a trip to Sliding Rock. We took all of the mini session Middlers and Seniors and a few full session girls to fill the trip— 90 people in all. It’s quite a sight to see our 6 white buses and vans in a convoy driving into the Pisgah National Forest.

Looking at this photo you might think the experience of sliding down 60-feet of sloping rock and splashing into the pool at the bottom is painful. Or perhaps these girls are screaming because they’re terrified. Actually, their reaction is typical at Sliding Rock; it’s an uncontrollable scream of delight that erupts after feeling the cold water, accelerating down the rock, and anticipating the imminent plunge. Even over the roar for the falling water, these screams are plenty loud enough to be heard. Slide after slide the girls screamed and laughed, shivered a little bit from the cold water and evening air, but had a complete blast.

No Sliding Rock trip is complete without a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar located at the entrance to the Forest. It’s become a camp tradition for everyone to take at least one trip there during their camp session. Tonight was these girls’ night. Everyone chose their favorite flavor and enjoyed a sweet treat as it was growing dark.

Back at camp, it was time for bed after this big fun evening out. So much singing in the bus, screaming and shivering at Sliding Rock, and goofing around at Dolly’s will wear a girl out! But that’s a good thing!

10th grade rockbrook campers

WHOA Warrior Celebration

Sundays at camp start off lazy with the morning bell ringing at 9am, campers getting straight out of bed and heading right to the dining hall, PJs and all. We feasted on glazed doughnuts while taking breaks to sing some classic morning songs… “and this is what we hear our counselors yell. Get out of bed! You sleepy head! And do your chores on the run…”

Rockbrook Camp had many celebrations on Sunday. The first being Juneteenth! A few members of our staff helped educate and celebrate this national holiday by teaching a popular family reunion dance and working with the kitchen for a delicious soul food dinner.

Sunday was also a big day focused on teamwork and fun with a WHOA Warrior celebration! What makes a WHOA Warrior at Rockbrook Camp? First, we need a color to show some spirit for our lines! Our Junior line showed spirit in their best red. Middlers sported their bluest blues. Our seniors were decked out in oldschool Rockbrook green!

Next, we need sunscreen! Counselors, this is a reminder to make sure your campers are wearing sunscreen. Campers, this is a reminder to make sure your counselors are wearing sunscreen!

Water bottles. Clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Teamwork. And enthusiasm!

Our lines split up and spent some time at three different locations around camp for a variety of WHOA Warrior events – think NBCs “Survivor” but less focused on competition and more focused on teamwork and fun! At landsports there was an inflatable obstacle course and slide. Campers of all ages loved racing on the inflatables and going down the huge water slide. We also passed out some refreshing snow cones on this hot and sunny day – another major crowd pleaser.

The second location was the Carrier House lawn. At this station, campers finished creative relays and challenges requiring lots of teamwork. Campers worked together on a “Coconut Relay” involving teams racing to get a coconut from point A to point B as quickly as possible. There was also a Tic-Tac-Toe relay and a Hot Coal Walking Challenge which tested communication and listening skills as one camper directed a blindfolded partner around an obstacle course to collect ping pong balls scattered throughout.

Location three required teamwork and creativity. Cabins worked together to create their own “Redbird Idol,” a beaded necklace, to represent their cabin. After creating their idol, cabins went out to different locations of camp to hide their idol. After dinner, the camp came back together for a camp wide “Redbird Idol” hunt. After 30 minutes of searching, there was a three way tie for the cabin who found the most idols! Middler One ended up winning the prize of “Floats on Floats” – Rootbeer and Cheerwine floats while relaxing on floats in the lake at resthour!

The teamwork and enthusiasm for WHOA Warrior is really what makes the event special. Whether it’s going around in a circle taking turns adding beads to a “Redbird Idol” or cheering on a teammate as they’re hopping with a coconut in between their knees, our campers were working with each other rather than against each other.

Camp Rafting Day

Let’s take a quick look at whitewater rafting, because today was a rafting day for a big group of campers and counselors. Rafting at Rockbrook is a big deal. It’s easily the most popular outdoor adventure activity we offer. The Forest Service restricts us to girls who are 5th grade and older (our Middlers and Seniors), but almost everyone eligible chooses to go. Fortunately, Rockbrook has a permit to raft the Nantahala river (the only girls camp to have one!), so we can send everyone who wants to go, use our own guides and equipment, and schedule the trips at our convenience. We’ve been running whitewater rafting trips since the 1980s.

You can tell from these photos of todays trips that the girls have a complete blast rafting. They’re screaming and laughing with delight. They’re doing silly poses for the camera, making “high fives” with their paddles, for example. They’re sweating a bit from paddling, but also chilled by the splashing and spraying of the whitewater. They’re playful, silly and enthusiastic, especially when the weather is hot and sunny like it was today.

The best part of these trips, I’d say, is the real camaraderie that happens in each boat. For the entire 2-hour trip on the water, the girls are working together, chatting and sometimes singing together, and laughing hysterically whenever someone falls in (or out!) of the boat. As the boats get bounced around in the rapids, the passengers do too. One minute things are calm and scenic, and the next, someone is sprawled in the bottom of the boat with legs flailing, or is bobbing in the 53-degree river water clambering to get back into the raft. With these bright and upbeat attitudes, it’s hilarious and exciting at the same time.

The finale of the trip is the last rapid on the river, the Nantahala Falls. This is a fast, class-III, double-drop rapid that is powerful enough to toss people out of their boats, and is always an exciting thrill. You can see that in these photos (click one to see a larger version). Making it through the falls tends to bring out cheers and celebration from each boat. “Yeah! We made it!” Like all great adventures, there’s a risk that something might go wrong (being tossed, in this case), so when it doesn’t, it’s a true feeling of success.

Rafting is another great example of how the girls at Rockbrook make whatever they are doing better because they genuinely enjoy each others company. Being positive and friendly from the start, being supportive and mutually encouraging, they’re just primed to have a fantastic time. Give them plenty of snacks, and it’s almost automatic! These Rockbrook girls are good friends having an extraordinarily great time. Pretty cool.

whitewater rafting pair