Hiking has always been a part of Rockbrook’s culture. It’s been one of the main activities girls have enjoyed here for now more than 100 years. Our founder, Nancy Carrier, grew up in this part of western North Carolina exploring its forests, visiting its waterfalls, and climbing the nearby mountains. Being at camp, therefore, meant for her that everyone here would get to know this area, and personally experience all the beauty and wonder it offers. This meant hiking. Today still, this means getting out into the forest and walking among the large trees and immersing ourselves in its rich ecosystem.
Everyday at camp there are opportunities for girls to do a bit of hiking. One of our regular activities, WHOA, which stand for “Wilderness Hiking Outdoor Adventure,” always includes hiking, usually as short trips here on the camp property. There are two popular destinations for these hikes. The first is Rockbrook Falls. This is a multi-tiered waterfall formed by Dunn’s Creek as it tumbles down on the western part if the property. The girls follow a trail that parallels the aqueduct that carries water from Dunn’s Creek to the Rockbrook lake, eventually making it to an old bridge that’s the perfect place to view the falls.
The other popular hiking destination on the camp property is even more dramatic: Castle Rock. It’s the large outcropping of granite high above the camp, the top of which provides an awesome 180-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can imagine, the trail leading to the top is steep and winding as it climbs about 600 feet in elevation. But it’s worth it! Generations of Rockbrook girls have hiked that steep trail to enjoy the spectacular view.
Yesterday, I took a big group of CAs (9th graders) hiking to another, more remote, part of the camp property. We hiked to find the elusive “Kilroy’s cabin,” an old, now dilapidated wooden structure, where a camp legend says a hermit lived, but tragically also died after accidentally murdering his true love, a beautiful, red-haired nurse. Intriguing, I know! It’s particularly challenging to find this cabin because now there is no trail leading to it. Instead, reaching it requires bushwhacking— crawling through bushes, ducking around trees, avoiding briars, sliding down slopes, and navigating by topography. This makes for slow going, especially with a large group, but it also means interacting more with all the rich nature around you, touching more, smelling more, and noticing so much, much more. Inevitably, this is a hike where we all get wet and muddy, sweaty and sometimes scraped up a bit. It’s both challenging and hilarious for the girls.
In addition to these hikes on the camp property, we often take campers hiking in the nearby Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Forest. Miles of trails and scenic destinations are available in these forests, and here too, Rockbrook girls have been exploring them for years.
Today, I took the Hi-Ups (10th graders) hiking in Dupont to visit High Falls. This 150-ft tall waterfall is formed by the Little River, and is one of the largest waterfalls in the area. It’s a particularly fun destination because you can swim in the pool of water at the bottom. So we came prepared (swimsuits, water shoes and towels), and had a great time swimming up into the whitewater and even sliding down a gently sloping section of the rock. This too is an intense adventure experience, maneuvering over slick rocks, swimming through cold water, and feeling the crashing waterfall on their backs. It was also relaxing at times, just hanging out on the rocks soaking in the power of this huge waterfall.
We are fortunate to have so many wonderful hiking opportunities at Rockbrook. With so much to explore, from some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River to the hundreds of waterfalls nearby, it’s easy to be amazed when hiking in this area. It’s easy for Rockbrook girls to love hiking.