A Centennial Celebration

This year is the 100-year anniversary of the founding of Rockbrook Camp, and so throughout the summer we are celebrating this milestone with special events, all culminating in a reunion for our alumnae in August. It’s been fun to think back over all those decades of girls coming to this haven in the wilderness and joining the very special community of camp. With this long history, there are now 4th generation campers coming from families whose mother, grandmother, and great grandmother also attended.

camp girls braid train
camper dipping candles
find the 100 ducky game
sarah carter giving rockbrook history tour

This afternoon the whole camp celebrated our centennial with games, activities, and special events. Dressed in their best Rockbrook gear, with as much red and white (our camp colors) as possible, the girls traveled together as cabin groups to different stations throughout the camp.

The first was called the “100 club.” It challenged the girls to complete several tasks 100 times: 100 bounces of a tennis ball on a racquet, 100 egg tosses between cabin members, 100 steps balancing a board on your head, 100 rotations of a hula hoop, and creating 100 braids collectively in the group. It turns out doing anything 100 times in a row without stopping can be tough. Let’s just say, we did break a few eggs in the process today, but with a couple of tries, every cabin hit the 100 mark on each challenge.

The second station was more creative. It asked each group to decorate a plaque to commemorate Rockbrook’s 100th year. Girls also wrote “thank you” letters to camp. Using paint, pens and markers, the campers wrote about their favorite things about Rockbrook. We will collect these and publish many of them in our annual “Carrier Pigeon” yearbook.

The third station had the girls making candles by hand, dipping lengths of wick into melted wax. While they took turns dipping, counselors offers small face painting designs… cardinals were a popular design. Also in that station, other groups made “bag ice cream.”

Meanwhile, down at the lake, the fourth station divided the groups for an exciting relay race using our floating “corcles.” These little round boats are big enough for one person. The girls used kick boards to paddle them across the lake and back, racing as fast as they could. Also at the lake, we tossed in 100 yellow rubber ducks and challenged the girls (a few from each cabin) to find a specific duck with the number “100” written on the bottom…. not a needle in a haystack, but close!

The last station rotated the groups down to the Carrier house where Sarah gave everyone a quick lesson on the history of Rockbrook. She showed them several artifacts that belonged to our founder Nancy Carrier (who grew up in that house), old scrap books, the original green uniforms girls wore while at camp, and several framed vintage photos. Sarah and other camp alumnae have just written a book about the history of Rockbrook, so she is currently our resident expert! There was also watermelon and yard games to play on the front lawn of the house.

For dinner Rick and his crew chose a traditional menu: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. The baker made delicious centennial cupcakes with a buttercream frosting for dessert. Those went fast!

The highlight of the day was the cool fireworks show we enjoyed after dark. Ordinarily we shoot fireworks once a summer on the 4th of July, but we thought we should celebrate Rockbrook’s birthday with just as much enthusiasm. We had fun pop music playing, and as the girls danced and sang along to the music, they cheered as each colorful explosion lit up the sky above the lake. It’d been a while since most of us had seen a fireworks show making it even more enjoyable. Happy Birthday Rockbrook!

camp teen friends

Even More Lively

It’s been great to see all the action at camp this week. It’s not too surprising since there’s always a lot of activity at Rockbrook— 28 different groups of kids all doing something different, simultaneously. Scattered all around the camp, there are sports for playing, experiences of adventure that await, and opportunities for creativity for the girls at camp. Our absolutely gorgeous, perfect weather of the last few days, though, has somehow made this buzz of happily busy girls seem even more lively than usual.

Down at the Rockbrook Riding Center, dozens of girls have been taking their mounted riding lessons. There are 32 horses in the barns this summer, some smaller, gentle ponies, and others larger and more schooled for our advanced riders hoping to improve their jumping skills. Our covered riding arena is large enough to be divided into two sections, comfortably allowing two separate lessons at the same time. Outdoors the round ring is the perfect place for beginners to simply walk their mounts, and down in the large lower ring, you’ll find the faster rides and jump courses being set up. This means there can be times during the day when four different lessons are happening, each with 4 or 5 horses and riders. The equestrian staff have a big job keeping all of this organized, the horses well cared for, and the eager campers involved.

A new activity this summer (one that was planned for last summer, but as you know did not happen) is woodworking. Using hand tools, the girls are learning basic woodworking skills like measuring, cutting and joining. They are making picture frames, candlestick holders, and tic-tac-toe boards. In addition to staining the final projects, they are using wood burning tools to decorate. The newly renovated wood shop area is turning out to be a nice place to work on these projects.

After a minor delay resurfacing our clay tennis courts at the start of this session, we are back to hitting and playing this classic racquet sport. The girls love playing on these courts. They are shaded much of the day, and the clay surface helps keep them cool. The tennis instructors plan drills and fun tennis exercises, always trying to keep things lighthearted. While the girls are learning important tennis skills— racquet grips, strokes, serving —our first goal is to have fun. We’re not competing; we’re playing. It’s not a tennis match; it’s a tennis game.

Ziplining is something that almost every camper does at some point during her session. All the age groups can do it. Zipping is certainly optional, but when you see how much fun the girls are having as they fly by high above the office, it’s hard to resist. The whole course takes about an hour to complete. It includes a zip that crosses in front of a waterfall, another that lands on a gentle slope in the forest, and a third, the fastest, that flies 450 feet down from a rock cliff. The course also has three bridges: a burma bridge, a suspension plank bridge, and a fun “missing plank” bridge.

It’s worth repeating that our days at camp are filled with action. Unlike much of our time during the school year, we’re not inside, sitting down, staring at a screen trying to focus. We’re not bored at camp, even without electronic entertainment. We’re not lonely, even without updates from our social media “friends” or “followers.” At camp, there’s always plenty do, and plenty of great people to do it with. It can be as simple as soaking your feet in the creek or as exciting as paddling through a whitewater rapid in a kayak, but the life we lead at camp is lively and real.

Just another reason why, “we love camp!”

colorful tie-dyed-summer camp kids

Something Marvelous

Welcome to camp! “We welcome you to Rockbrook Camp, we’re mighty glad you’re here!” …as the camp song goes. Today the girls attending our June Mini session arrived to begin their long awaited time at camp. Driving through our new check-in procedure, we saw plenty of excited girls eager to hop out of their cars and get started. There may have been an occasional dose of nervous butterflies, both for some campers and their parents— which is completely normal even for seasoned campers —but all the smiling faces and enthusiastic people to meet helped smooth things along nicely. Thanks to everyone for helping make this opening so smooth. Arriving on time, having your forms completed, and organizing medications and other medical needs, benefitted everyone.

inside camp cabin

When they arrived, every camper received a personalized name tag made from a slice of mountain laurel strung on a length of lanyard. We’ve made tags like these at Rockbrook for generations. The girls decorate them further over the course of their session, and over the years build quite a collection. I’ve even seen alumnae return to camp years later wearing the name tag they personalized as a child.

While our maintenance crew moved luggage to the cabins, the counselors played get-to-know you games with the girls who had already arrived. The name tags help with that! The rest of the morning was spent setting up the cabins, each group of girls and their counselors making beds, arranging trunks, and hanging decorations. Our cabins, most of which are original to the camp, are simple and rustic— all wood, screened windows, and a couple of lights. No air conditioning! No electrical outlets! But they are cozy! Once the girls settle in, comforters go on beds, books on shelves, and towels hung in the “dog trot” area, the cabins are quite comfortable. Something tells me that despite starting out clean and organized, they won’t stay that way for long!

camp opening day

With getting to know their cabin mates underway, we also spent some time getting to know the camp environment. Groups toured about learning the major landmarks like the dining hall, activity locations, and the office. While the entire camp property covers 220 acres, most of that is forest with the core part of camp being tucked into a valley easily navigated by foot. When the camp bell is rung to change activity periods or to call everyone to a meal, it can be heard everywhere.

After lunch, these new campers were introduced to the lake area too. Each cabin group took turns coming down to learn the lake protocols and to take the “swim test,” which we soften a bit by calling it the “swim demonstration” or “swim demo.” Showing the lifeguards that you can be comfortable in the water, swim confidently, and tread water without struggling is the goal. But no matter what a girl’s swimming ability, if she wants to enjoy the lake, we have a way for her to do it safely, perhaps by avoiding the deep sections of the lake or by wearing a PFD while in the water. As temperatures heat up during the day, the free swim times at the lake become very popular with the girls. Most days right before lunch, the lake is the place to be!

new camp buddies

Walking around, seeing campers happily engaged with each other, laughing and smiling at the simplest things, I can already tell this is going to be a great session. There’s such a sense of freedom. And what a relief that is after the COVID restrictions of last year, not to mention the regular academic and social pressures of ordinary school life. It’s a joy for all of us at Rockbrook to have kids being kids here at camp, singing and playing, challenging themselves with new activities, and connecting with loads of good friendly people. There are stories to be shared, natural wonders to discover, and so many avenues of growth to explore. There’ll be a surprise everyday, perhaps an entirely unplanned encounter, but there’ll be something marvelous that will make your girl smile.

Life at camp will bring all this and more. Stay tuned!

girls after camp swim test

DIY Halloween Costumes Ideas

Are you still looking for Halloween costume ideas? Well, camp is one of the best sources of costume inspiration because as you know, we love dressing up at Rockbrook! Costumes make all of our theme special events come alive, but they are also something that makes every day, certainly every meal, and almost every moment just that extra bit special.

At camp, we foster a deep love for silliness and self-expression. You can see that in tutus, sparkly fairy hair, colorful face paint, and glitter (so much glitter!). This spirit of creativity and free flowing whimsy leads to some really great spur of the moment costumes at camp!

pac man costumes

Our camp banquets are a chance for 9th grade campers to really stretch their creative muscles! If you have some cardboard and paint laying around the house then you could make these amazing Pac-Mac and ghost costumes. This would be a simple and easy DIY costume for just one person or for a whole group of friends. Another amazing banquet inspiration is from “That 70’s Banquet.” I’m sure every camper has at least one tie-dye shirt in her closet. Grab that, some jeans (the more flare at the bottom the better) and make yourself a flower crown. You’ve got an instant 1970’s colorful classic.

Up for just a little shopping? Take a cue from some of our camp themes this summer! A great scientist (mad or otherwise) is simply a white coat, plastic gloves, and a pair of goggles away! Add a beaker and white wig for extra detail.

silly camp costume

Camp is a place where you can express yourself and know that the community will support you and celebrate you for exactly who you are. Sometimes that’s a peacock on the hill, or a mermaid at archery or just lots of smiles and shine and silly faces and glitter (oh, so much glitter!).

However that creative spark manifests in our campers, we want to encourage it. Silliness is brave. Rockbrook is full of brave, bold, silly and special girls!

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”
—Amy Poehler

mad science costume
teen camp costumes

What is the Spirit of Rockbrook?

We closed our third session of camp by gathering around the “Spirit Fire,” our traditional campfire that we have held every summer since the founding of Rockbrook in 1921. Many Rockbrook alumnae talk about the spirit of Rockbrook, but what is that exactly? What is this spirit that camp girls refer to, that we write songs about, and that we feel so intently while here.

If we think of spirit as the defining element of a group, then perhaps Rockbrook spirit is a healthy combination of acceptance and adventure.

Rockbrook girls often stand up at the Spirit Fire and declare that they can be their true selves at camp, that they don’t need to hide behind a facade that is like all of their friends.

At this session’s Spirit Fire, one girl declared that Rockbrook is a place where calling someone “weird” is a compliment. Campers love the fact that they can wear a costume if they choose to and nobody seems to blink an eye. In our most recent chapel program on “individuality,” the campers enjoyed the story of “The Big Orange Splot,” in which a neighborhood all decides to make the most of a mistaken spilled can of paint on a house by transforming each house into the home of their dreams.

rockbrook camper girl

This celebration of being creative and accepted is just one feature of the spirit of Rockbrook, but it also seems the other is a sense of daring and adventure. Campers are exposed to so many options of new things to try at camp, and, with their friends by their side to laugh with them, girls are encouraged to try these new things, to go beyond what’s merely comfortable and familiar to them.

It is also fascinating for our current Rockbrook girls to learn more about their predecessors, the campers who came before them. Being our 98th summer, we have been starting to look back and learn more about the women who are the foundation on which our camp began. It is so interesting to learn that those early campers were possibly even more adventurous than our current girls, starting each day with a dip in the lake and setting up exercises before breakfast. They also went on many trips, including the famous three-day canoe trip to Asheville in the old wooden canoes that now decorate our dining hall.

At this session’s Spirit Fire, Sarah read a first-hand account from a camper who attended in the 1930s. It was clear even that many years ago that this Spirit of Rockbrook, of acceptance and adventure, was already a deep part of who the camp was and continues to be. As we look around the campfire at the girls of 2019 who share this same spirit, it is exciting to imagine what they will do with those qualities.

Candle lake procession

A Wild West Banquet

People say you never forget your first banquet at Rockbrook. It’s simply like no other party experience, and for a girl who’s spent time at camp, it’s an incredible cap to the fun of the session. Many girls will tell you it’s their favorite event at camp, something they look forward to, and during the days leading up to it, they can hardly contain their excitement.

Understanding why the banquet is such a memorable and important experience for Rockbrook girls is not too difficult. It’s first of all a sensory overload. The CA campers (9th graders) work hard all session long to accomplish this. They select their secret theme on the first day of their session, and then transform the interior of the dining hall into a new environment using painted banners, lights, balloons, streamers, table decorations, and props. A real opportunity for creativity! These girls then dress in costumes taking on different personalities or roles. They create a playlist of music to complement the theme, and ask the kitchen to cook special foods and snacks to serve.

All of this creates the scene of the party, but what makes it fun is having all your camp friends attending, all the people of camp excited to celebrate their session together, with music, dancing, great food, entertainment, and sweet treats. When friends this close get together, it’s an especially fun event.

It’s so exciting when it’s time to enter the dining hall (which has been hidden all day by sheets hung over the windows while the CAs decorate and prepare). All the campers and staff members, dressed in their camp t-shirts, crawl through the porch to emerge into a line of the dressed CAs and the wildly transformed dining hall. It’s such a great feeling to be surprised like that!

cowgirl costume camp girls

Tonight’s banquet had the title, “Welcome to the Wild West.” It featured girls dressed in black with bandanas hiding their faces— definitely “robbers.” There were two girls dressed as sheriffs on the hunt for those robbers. Cowboys dressed in boots and hats, and square dancers dressed in frilly skirts, performed skits, pausing at times for choreographed dance numbers also.  The CA counselors dressed as green desert cacti and performed a dance number as well.

The music was “wild west” related too: “Cotton Eyed Joe,” “These Boot are Made for Walkin’,” and of course, “Old Town Road” were all included, along with a great mix of popular dance hits.  Likewise for the food: “tumble tots” (Tater Tots), “sugar cubes” (apple cubes), “cacti” (green beans), “hay bales” (cornbread), really delicious barbecue chicken, and blackberry cobbler for dessert.

We ended the banquet like we have for decades at camp: singing the song “Rockbrook Camp Forever.” The girls stood, arm-in-arm, singing as loudly as they could, “friends true and faithful.”  Filled with emotion, the girls ended up singing the song multiple times (with no claps at the end)! Thank you CA girls for a wonderful banquet. The whole camp had a fabulous time.

Publishing Traditions

This session, an old Rockbrook tradition has resurfaced at camp. Campers from all age groups get the chance to express their creative selves and sharpen their reporting skills when they write for The Toilet Paper, Rockbrook’s self-published newspaper.

camp newspaper with drawings
The first edition of the Toilet Paper, 3rd session 2019

“So, what’s with the name?” I’m sure you’re wondering. As a camper, I remember The Toilet Paper getting taped up to the back of each bathroom stall door. Another Rockbrook gal who went to camp in the 80s told me she remembers the same thing being called “The Wall Stall.” So, even if the name has changed over the years, the concept remains!

The paper is largely a result of the resurgence of “PhoJo” (Photography/Journalism) as a club at camp. Coming to PhoJo is a fantastic way to spend a free swim. The favorite activity is a pass along story, where campers all sit in a circle and each write a story for one minute. Then they pass their paper around the circle, and everyone adds to each other’s tales until your original paper is returned to you–though now with some twists and turns you probably didn’t anticipate.

tiny green frog on leaf
Don’t let these cute little frogs scare you!

Reporting on camp events is also a great way to meet new people.In meetings, we go over the best ways to conduct an interview and some sample questions to ask. Rockbrook reporters can write about all camp events, such as an update on a specific activity or special theme day, or share a funny experience from their cabin with the whole camp. In the last edition, some Juniors reported on a frog that appeared in their cabin and startled their counselor! Campers gain confidence among their peers as their stories get read and discussed by the all the girls at camp, including the directors!

We can’t wait to see what shows up in the next edition, coming soon to a deducky near you!

-Alyssa Calloway

best friends quote drawing
“Best friends are like stars-you might not see them, but you know they’re always there!”

A Place of Their Own

teen camp girls singing

Sunday morning got off to a peaceful start with the sun shining, campers smiling, and donuts at breakfast. After flag raising, our chapel theme today was Individuality, and was led by our Senior line. Speakers were asked “what does individuality mean to you?,” and several cabins led songs along the same theme. It was apt to have the teenage seniors lead this chapel since they have had the most experience learning to be themselves at camp.

One speaker explained that, to her, you need to be comfortable enough first before expressing yourself. This idea of comfort stuck with me, because it illustrates the feeling that is needed in order for you to share who you are. You can be comfortable in your own skin, but perhaps not comfortable in your surrounding environment. Both levels of comfort are essential in order to express your individuality, and at camp we strive to cultivate an accepting, loving environment in which girls can freely be themselves.

three teen girls in camp uniforms

Outside of camp, we are all faced with pressures to act, dress, speak, or be a certain way. Expectations from school, peers, family, or society as a whole can weaken our desire to truly express ourselves. Whether this pressure comes from an internal or external source, it influences our actions and thoughts all the same. At Rockbrook, we try to minimize these pressures. Part of our mission “is to provide a haven for girls, a place of their own.” We aim to provide a place where girls can practice being their own person—a space to be your most genuine self.

This afternoon, campers had a chance to practice just this at our Miss RBC talent show! Each cabin gets an opportunity to get on the stage in the gym and share a special talent. Some cabins create songs, dances, or even a non-talent talent show skit! Every act is unique, silly, and creative, showcasing the diversity of imaginations amongst the campers. The variety of costumes (avocados and tutus), goofy answers to questions (“dirt” as a new Dolly’s ice cream flavor), and the laughs from the audience (good-natured and frequent) were proof that Rockbrook is a place for girls to be their most unabashed, genuine selves.

scarecrow dressed child

Fully Excited to Dance

water slide plunge
girl holding camp pottery glazed

Saturday is a great day to dig deeper into the activities at camp. It’s the final day of the current 3-day rotation of activities, and at this point in the session, the girls are showing not only a greater interest in what’s happening in each activity area, but also more competence. For example, in the two ceramics studios, it’s been a glazing party. The girls are taking their pottery pieces and carefully painting on different colored glazed, the sculptures, hand-built and wheel-thrown vessels all receiving a coat of glaze. The pottery instructors will fire the kilns tonight, turning the dull glazes into shiny, brightly colored works of art. It will be exciting to open up the kilns tomorrow afternoon and see how all the pieces have turned out.

In the fiber arts cabin, Curosty, many projects were likewise finishing up today. The instructors were helping girls tie off their loom weaving, sew borders on needlepoint pieces, and gather the ends of knitting projects. The large wall weaving on the outside of the cabin is almost filled to the top, and later this week many hands will help embroider details on it.

During the first free swim period today before lunch, the water slide was open to blast girls down into the lake at the bottom. Swimmers were clocking laps, some girls basking in the sun while floating in a tube, while others took turns doing tricks off the diving board. The bright, sunny, warm afternoon made the lake feel really good.

After a passing thunderstorm in the mid-afternoon, which by the way brought out a different beauty of camp, we all enjoyed a picnic dinner on the hill.  The kitchen had the grill going all afternoon smoking and cooking hot dogs for everyone.  Along with homemade coleslaw, freshly cut watermelon and “blondies” for dessert, we had an amazing meal watching the sun recede toward the mountains.

summer camp dance

One of the most anticipated events of the session also happened today: the Camp Carolina Dance. Our Juniors and Middlers stayed here at Rockbrook to welcome the younger boys to our gym where our friend DJ Marcus was ready with his sound and light system to entertain everyone. With the counselors leading the way, the kids jumped and bopped to familiar pop songs as well as the well-known line dances like Cotton Eyed Joe. When things got too hot dancing, folks could take a break outside, and play gaga ball or tetherball instead. Part way through the dance we served everyone a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. They were delicious!

Meanwhile across town, our Senior girls and the Hi-Ups were showing off their moves in the Camp Carolina dining hall. With glitter on their faces, and some dressed in Hawaiian shirts, the girls brought an amazing power to the dance, I think surprising the boys a little.  This may have been because the girls outnumbered the boys, but I think these Rockbrook girls were just fully excited to dance. Jumping for two hours, stopping only briefly for a drink of water now and then, it was a sweaty and equally thrilling night.  On the ride home several girls remarked that it was “so hot in there, but also really fun,” and “way better than last year!”

Back at camp, it took everyone a little longer than usual to settle down for night, chatting about the dance, cooling off from all the activity, laughing and telling stories about the day. With days like this, that’s to be expected!

dock at camp lake

So Many Fun Options

two summer camp girl friends

The recent streak of days with perfect summertime weather continued today as we woke to a foggy cool morning. As the camp begins to stir and the girls make their way to the dining hall for breakfast, it’s common to wear long pants and a sweatshirt or fleece. The temperature today was about 64 when we woke, so it felt great to cozy up like that. Then as the sun burned off the fog, we soon felt warm and comfortable under bright blue skies and clear sunshine. The temperature climbed to about 83, but with relatively low humidity it again felt really good to be outside. Since we essentially spend all of our time outside —even the cabins are open-air, screened buildings— this kind of weather is inspiring. It makes everything we’re doing pop with more vibrant colors, perhaps a little more pep, and an extraordinary freshness. Yes, it was ideal camp weather.

“Cinnamon Apple” was the surprise muffin flavor today. The bakers in the kitchen start about 7am to be ready for this mid-morning snack. Mixing, scooping, and baking 300 individual muffins takes some time. Having a freshly baked treat like this, though, is definitely a highlight of most everyone’s morning.  The muffins are so delicious, it’s challenging to have to limit yourself to just one!

cool tetherball fashion girl

Rockbrook girls know that wearing a costume adds to whatever we’re doing, making things funnier and more fun. That’s why we’ll occasionally declare a costume theme for the day, like today’s “Under the Sea” theme. It was fun to see how the girls and staff members interpreted that theme. They mixed things up with beach attire (Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, hats), shark and octopus hats, seaweed skirts, and colorful coral leggings. The Hi-Ups and several counselors decorated the dining hall with streamers and painted banners, and an “ocean-related” playlist of music was queued up for all three meals.

There have been a flurry of adventure trips going out this week too. We went rafting on Tuesday, but today Clyde took an excited bunch of girls out to Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah Forest for an all-day rock climbing adventure. They left early in the morning to reach the south side of the rock face in time to jump on a couple of popular climbs, one called “B52” and another called “Fly By.” Leland and Sarah took a few advanced kayakers to run the rapids of section nine on the French Broad River north of Asheville. Meanwhile, Jayne and Sam offered an overnight camping and canoeing trip on a different section of the French Broad.  All of these trips were offered to the girls as options they could choose, switching up their schedule as they like. So many options all on the same day!

shaving cream fighter

We presented another fun option to the girls during dinner when we announced that tonight’s twilight activity would be a shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide held down on the grassy sports field. This is an event of exuberant play. Girls of all ages, and counselors too, dress in their swimsuits, arm themselves with cans of white foam, and proceed to spray wildly being as mischievous as possible splattering unsuspecting friends. Soon, there are wild hairstyles, messages written on bellies, and even some girls completely covered in shaving cream. As you might expect, this makes the slip-n-slide an extra slick ride. Be sure to visit the photo gallery to see some of the wild messy fun of the evening.

It’s been another full camp day, one with plenty of adventure, creativity, and fun with friends. We couldn’t have asked for a better combination of cheerful campers, enthusiastic staff members, weather and camp activities. Life is very good here at Rockbrook!