During another tour this week, I was struck how the setting at Rockbook is in many ways extreme. It’s so drastically different from the straight lines, smooth surfaces and pure tones of the outside, “civilized” world. Around here, the complex forces of nature, the curls and swirls of natural beauty, shape us and provide so many wonderful— wonder-filled —experiences… slabs of grey granite jutting from the ground at odd angles, clear streams sparkling in the sunshine, ancient trees too large to hug, tiny insects busy scavenging the ground, shaded by fractal-shaped ferns. Rockbrook has this organic feeling, and it’s something we cherish and foster. Rather than level every stepping stone, trim back each encroaching rhododendron branch, or eradicate all of the spiders that might wander into the showers, we want life at Rockbrook to include the natural world (at least a healthy, regular dose). It’s a priority that informs a great deal of what we do.
Camp is simply outdoor living. It’s a life immersed in, rather than shielded completely from, the weather. It’s a daily encounter with unfamiliar (and happy, given all the rain we’ve been having this summer!) plants. Tiny critters cross our path all the time. It’s a life that weaves mysterious forest sounds with the constant rush of water coming down the mountain. Camp means having a flashlight ready when it starts to get dark, belting a wide-eyed scream after jumping in our very unheated lake, and ultimately getting a little grubby most days… Perhaps I should say “extremely grubby,” in many cases. After all, these are enthusiastic children playing outside, and they’re not holding back. If you can imagine your girls living outside for this many days, probably not caring too much about how wet and grimy their clothes become, you might be extra cautious when you open their trunks back home! Fighting “Nature Deficit Disorder” like this, is just bound to be messy.
The equestrian staff has been celebrating the recent stretch of dry weather we’ve all been enjoying. It’s been an extraordinarily wet summer this year, and that has been frustrating our riding program because when our fields are wet and muddy, they become too slippery to ride safely. Now, we are finally teaching mounted lessons all day long, helping girls learn the basics of horsemanship, and progressing to more advanced skills when they are ready. I think everyone —staff members, campers and horses alike— are happy to be busy riding.
Christina, one of our fantastic Adventure Trip Leaders, led a group of girls backpacking and camping at a spot known by some as the “Enchanted Forest.” This truly is a magical place to camp. Tucked a couple of miles into the Pisgah National Forest, a large stand of White Pine trees lines both side of the trail as it follows a small stream. Decades worth of brown pine needles cover the ground with ferns and other clubmosses providing green accents. After packing in their tents, food and water, the girls spent a wonderful night in the forest— roasting marshmallows around their campfire, goofing around and chatting late into the night, and feeling a morning chill the next day.
All of the mini session Middlers and Seniors who wanted to go whitewater rafting took their trip today. With a few remaining full sessions girls joining them, this turned out to be 55 campers. About half of those elected to spend the night beforehand at our Nantahala outpost property in Swain County. This is another chance to be outside and enjoy a campfire, complete with s’mores of course, before bed. The girls had a grand time singing songs, taking turns telling jokes, all while staring hypnotically at the flickering fire. Around 9am we met our veteran rafting guides and all of the RBC gear at the river’s put-in, and after suiting up and hearing the guides’ safety instructions, the rafting hit the water under glorious, bright sunshine. For the next two hours, it was a wild ride filled with laughing and squeals of delight with every crashing wave of the rapids. This last photo was taken at the final big rapid called the “Nantahala Falls” and as you can see, it’s a great one. After a good sized hole at the top, all of the river channels in a Class III drop producing this kind of splash. It never fails to get everyone’s heart pumping, and once safely at the bottom, a smile on their faces.