“Welcome back to camp!” and “Welcome to Rockbrook!” were the phrases of the day as we opened our main session of camp today and a record setting 227 campers arrived (a bit above capacity because our 16-year-olds make a huge group this session). Beyond the phrase, the feeling of the day was jittery excitement as campers arrived and were greeted by Sarah, the other directors and their cabin counselors. Everyone was fired up and ready to get started. All this positive energy buoyed most everyone’s spirits as the line to check in moved entirely too slowly. Interestingly, also today, we had only about 8 girls flying into the airport, as opposed to what’s ordinarily 30 or so. I suppose air travel is becoming more burdensome for everyone! The whole morning had staff members hustling to help campers settle into their bunks while campers took short hikes, made bracelets, decorated name tags, and played their first game of ga-ga. We had a picnic lunch on the hill, and cabin meetings all before beginning the many tours of camp and the activity areas. With this much excitement bubbling up around here, the whole morning was a lot of fun.
Before we allow anyone to use the Rockbrook lake (or participate in any of the “water trips” like whitewater rafting or kayaking), we want to make sure, for obvious safety reasons and as part of our American Camp Association accreditation, they can swim well and be comfortable in the water. For this reason, we asked everyone to demonstrate their swimming ability this afternoon by jumping in the lake, swimming out 50 feet, back another 50 feet using a back stroke, and treading water for 1 full minute. Our lake is fed directly by a mountain stream, so it is notoriously “refreshing,” or “shockingly cold,” as one camper put it. Fortunately, it was hot and sunny during the demonstrations today, and the waterfront staff saw very few girls struggle to complete the test. Everyone who passes receives both a swim tag labeled with their name and a bright green bracelet that serves as a way for the lifeguards to identify who is eligible to swim in the deep area of the lake. Girls who need to retake the swim test receive a different colored swim tag and can still enjoy the lake, but we require that they wear a life vest and stay in the shallow area. When the lifeguards call for a “Tag Check,” the girls in the deep area (who should have bracelets) hold up their arms, and it quickly becomes clear how many swimmers are in each area of the lake and that the total number matches the arrangement of tags on the tag board. It’s an elaborate system, but it is an essential and effective safety check for our waterfront.
Before the girls sign up for activities, which as you know is something done twice per week here at Rockbrook rather than in advance at home, it’s helpful for them to learn more about what each option entails. Likewise, it’s fun to see which counselors and staff members will be the instructors for each of the 28 different offerings. With these two goals in mind, we spent time late this afternoon assembled in the gym as the activity instructors performed short skits to introduce what they have planned for this session. Like all good Rockbrook skits, these were a little silly, involved costumes, props, a little dancing, but also singing. Some of the skits, for example those by the climbing and paddling staff, included plenty of cool looking equipment… Ropes, paddles, helmets, and so forth. Many of the crafts areas presented finished examples of their upcoming projects… weaving, jewelry, and a “bunny pillow,” for example. The five ceramics instructors, dressed simply as different “pots” sang a song set to the tune “Be Our Guest” from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. “We can coil, we can pinch, after all miss this is camp! Make a handle, take a spot, and you’ll surely make a pot. Make a pot, make a pot, make a pot.” After each skit, it was all cheers for the animated enthusiasm demonstrated by the staff, and plenty of chatter among the girls about which activities they would be trying first.
We’re off to a great start, with all the girls settling down… jitters subsiding… getting to know one and other, and now even more excited for tomorrow’s first day of regular activities. Seeing that energy, I can already tell we’ve got all the ingredients for a great camp session. Stay tuned!