“Rockbrook Request: new campers!” That’s what the counselors cheered this morning as we prepared to welcome our August Mini Session campers. It’s always exciting for new friends to arrive at camp, but that’s especially true for this last session of the summer. These are the campers who have been waiting the longest for camp, and for that reason have been banking their camp enthusiasm for months. Now, finally, as they drove into camp and everything was suddenly real— actual counselors, a bunk bed to choose in the cabin, and so many people to meet! —all their stored up energy was ready to come out. That kind of anticipation can at times also bring with it a few butterflies, but that’s something that ordinarily fades quite quickly once we channel that energy into the daily action of camp life. From the smiling faces I saw on the hill, that’s already begun.
Right before lunch, the whole camp assembled on the grassy hill just below the Junior Lodge. Off in the distance, you could see the blue ridge mountains and easily make out the shining face of Cedar Rock, thanks to the clear sunny weather. For the newly arrived campers and the full session girls alike, it was great fun to sing the Line Songs together, find out which cabins won the “Mop Award” (best inspection record) this week, and, for some, to try out their new Crazy Creek chairs. The Hi-Ups led everyone in singing the camp song, and before heading to lunch, we all posed to capture an all-camp photo. Here is that photo. It’s a little hard to make out everyone in a group this large, but if you click and download the high resolution version (which make take a few seconds), you’ll have a better view.
Lunch made everyone happy because Rick prepared a grand breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, homemade fried red potatoes, mounds of bacon, bowls of steaming yellow grits, and a mixed fruit salad of melon, strawberries and black berries. There were a few girls who preferred cereal, granola and yogurt, but everyone was happily stuffed by 1:30!
Taking advantage of the sunny warm afternoon, the mini session girls toured the camp ending up at the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability to the lifeguards and receive their swim tag. This simple test requires them to swim out about 50 feet, back the same distance, and then tread water for one minute. We don’t insist everyone take the text— a few girls always opt out it seems —but we do require girls be good swimmers if they are to participate in the water related activities (e.g., kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and sliding rock trips) or swim at the lake without the aid of a life jacket. Girls can always change their mind and take the “swim demo” later if they prefer. As I mentioned yesterday, the lake is a lot of fun (Take a ride down “Big Samantha,” our water slide!), and that can be a strong motivator!
To really kick things off, we held a pirate-themed carnival this afternoon down on our grassy sports field. For both the campers and counselors, this was first of all an opportunity to invent and show off a pirate costume, so with red bandanas wrapped around their heads, a few plastic swords, painted mustaches, hats and hoop earrings, including a few full buccaneer costumes, we had an impressive pirate crew. But like all great parties, we had games to play (with prizes to win), different snacks to eat (cotton candy, snow cones, and soft pretzels), and plenty of dancing and music pumping the whole time. The girls had a blast teaming up with buddies and running from game to game snacking along the way. They were tossing rings onto coke bottles, softballs in buckets, and beanbags into corn holes. They were bobbing for apples and making giant bubbles with hula hoops. They had their faces painted and their fortunes told by “Gypsies.” They raced to blow a bubble from the piece of bubblegum found hidden in a pie pan of flour. They tossed green “slime” (a thick solution of food coloring, jello powder, flour, and water) at three volunteer Hi-Ups… just for the hilarious fun of it. In addition, on one end of the field we set up two inflatable challenge games to play: an obstacle course race and a pillar jousting competition.
Beyond all these activities, costumes and snacks, what really made this event “the best party ever!” as one Junior camper put it, was the easy, joyful enthusiasm arising from everyone. So much laughing and smiling, spontaneous dancing, and genuine friendship making everything better! It was remarkable to see all these girls have such great fun and open up to the feeling of camp. I can already tell, these girls are going make this session marvelous.