When Rockbrook was awarded one of the few permits to raft the Nantahala River back in the early 1980s (still the only girls camp recognized for this), we had no idea that it would become such an important part of our adventure program. Every year since, we’ve guided our Middlers and Seniors down the river, with I’d say about 90% choosing to go. For many girls, rafting is one of the highlights of their session, and their main adventure activity, with the possible exception being day hiking trips or zip lining.
Having this permit for guiding rafting trips on the Nantahala means keeping our own fleet of boats (cool Avon and NRS whitewater rafts), and having paddles, helmets, and PFDs for everyone. We hire and train our own guides (they are on our adventure staff back at camp) and are inspected by the US Forest Service annually. All of this allows us to run trips as we like, and have the confidence that we have great folks in the boats with our campers for the trips to go smoothly.
Today was another of those great rafting days. We took two trips down the river with two different groups of girls: the first rafting before lunch and the second after our picnic of sandwiches, fruit and chips. The girls had a blast bouncing over the rapids, splashing around, singing during the more calm sections, “riding the bull” (which means sitting on the front of the boat like a hood ornament), and occasionally falling in. The Nantahala water is shockingly, steal-your-breath, cold, so when someone falls in, the whole boat screams and springs into action. The goal is to get the swimmer back in the boat ASAP, so once in reach, the other campers help pull the wide-eyed swimmer back in by her PFD. It’s a coordinated effort that inevitably ends with several girls sprawled in the bottom of the raft laughing hysterically. It really was a fun day on the river, as the weather cooperated (we luckily dodged most of the rain in the area) and we easily made it back to camp in time for dinner.
Somehow, despite the desire to keep it a secret, only half of the girls seemed surprised when it was announced that we would be having a dance tonight with Camp Carolina. We often schedule a dance at some point during each session, but we try to surprise the girls with when it will happen because it minimizes the time spent getting ready. The line for the shower can only be so long! Over the years, what it means to “get ready” for a dance has evolved away from a “nice outfit” and become more about a crazy costume. Dances are less about brushed hair and more about braids, less about make up and more about glitter. Hawaiian shirts have replaced blouses, and pajama pants and shorts are preferred over skirts.
This is practical too when you consider the dancing, which is mostly a simple move of jumping up and down with one hand raised high. Clustered together, the crowd jumps in unison perfectly matching the straight beat of the music. The playlist tonight was a series of familiar, danceable pop songs from recent years— “Party in the USA,” “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” and “Wobble,” for example. A few classics also made it: “Africa” by Toto, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, and “Mamma Mia” by ABBA, to name a few of the sing-a-long examples.
For about an hour and half, both dances (the younger children at Rockbrook and the older at Camp Carolina) were bouncing, laughing and singing along to the music. A little sweaty and surprised by how fast the time flew by, it took a good half an hour for the excitement of the evening to fade after the girls returned to camp and began getting ready for bed. A fun, full camp day to remember.