Rockbrook took over the Nantahala River again today as the final group of Middlers and Seniors went rafting. We offer the trip to everyone, but since it means missing their regularly scheduled activities, it can sometimes be a tough choice to make— rafting vs. working on that weaving project, hiking to play in the water below Rockbrook Falls, or learning to canter over cross rails in the horseback riding arena, for example. With so many things going on at camp, it’s impossible to do everything, but that’s OK because the girls revel in the choices and really enjoy following whatever whim they and their friends decide. For example, about 23 campers chose to combine their rafting adventure with an overnight camping experience as well. We drove over to the river the night before, having plenty of time for dinner, singing songs, eating s’mores, resting and meeting the RBC rafting guides the next morning.
It was a little misty when the first group hit the water around 10am, not cold, but not sunny either. Right from the start, the girls’ overall excited mood, however, prevailed, helping even more as the sun began to pop out occasionally. After our picnic lunch with both the morning and afternoon groups (about 80 people total!), the weather turned rainy just as the second trip began. Here too, you might think these girls would shrink under such imperfect conditions, their enthusiasm literally dampened, their spirits wilting in what at times became a solid rainstorm. But you’d be wrong! Since this rain didn’t include thunder and lightning, the guides kept the trip going and the girls happily kept having a whoop-it-up great time. Paddling hard provided some warmth, just as their camaraderie provided mutual encouragement and cheerfulness, despite the added challenge. It was an impressive display of grit and determination. Today the river provided just as many whitewater rafting thrills, plus a few extra chills along the way.
One of the raft guides put it this way. He said, “There’s something special going on here. These girls seem so happy and together on things. It’s obvious that they love camp.” What’s cool is that he noticed this when the girls were uncomfortable, some even shivering. I too heard a senior girl yell “I love camp!” right when her boat was blasting through the final rapid. It’s incredible that it doesn’t take smooth sailing to have a great time at camp. It doesn’t take luxury —our cabins, after all, are not air conditioned, have only a couple of light bulbs, no electrical outlets, and probably a spider or two. It doesn’t take gorgeous weather, a diet of favorite foods, or constant assistance when things are difficult. There’s a magic to life at camp that makes us immune to imperfection, and a power easily stronger than these sorts of discomfort that could otherwise taint an experience. And your kids embody that power because they love camp.
Why girls love camp, is another topic dear to our hearts and a discussion for another day. But for now it’s simply worth noting that your Rockbrook girls are gaining a valuable skill while here— the ability to see past what’s less than ideal, to enjoy an activity even if it includes a degree of discomfort or disappointment, to navigate around what might be frustrating or seen as an obstacle to fun.
It’s also neat, perhaps even astonishing, that your girls are maintaining these positive attitudes, enjoying life at camp despite the occasional challenges and discomforts, without your help… on their own. They have not needed (nor wanted, I’d bet) anyone to remove every imperfection, smooth every bump in the road, or plow the path for them. Away from parents who might be quick to plow, camp provides this valuable experience of girls having a chance to feel proudly independent, capable and confident. It’s such a great life skill!
My hope is that our Rockbrook girls can carry this skill back home to their lives at school, that they can recreate some of the conditions of camp life that provide that special cheerful power we see here. How they might do that is yet another topic, but for now, we can’t help but be amazed.