This morning we opened a new session of camp and welcomed 134 girls and their parents to Rockbrook. For both the girls returning to camp after one or more previous summers, and the girls attending Rockbrook for the very first time, the day began with an unusual feeling of both excitement and nervousness. Like waiting in line for the most thrilling roller coaster imaginable, there was both eager anticipation of what is sure to be fun, but also some anxiety about how it will turn out. Even the counselors felt this to an extent today, this odd combination of enthusiasm and trepidation, because like the girls, this is when they meet their campers for the first time and imagine the cabin life ahead. Let’s add the parents too; they also are delighted for the many opportunities camp will surely provide their daughters, and at the same time, perhaps a little hesitant to step back and allow the experience to unfold without their oversight or orchestration.
This feeling is most intense the last few minutes in the car before arriving. It can last into the check in process (which thankfully was nice and quick this morning) and even bubble up as the girls are saying goodbye to their parents. It didn’t take long, however, for the jitters to fade. In fact, by the time we assembled on the hill before lunch to sing a few songs, I saw more cheering and enthusiasm than anything else. The collective energy of camp had already carried the mood, and the girls were relaxing and chatting with each other like easy friends. Simply getting together in this beautiful setting, in this case on the hill overlooking the mountains, has this extraordinary effect of calming everyone’s initial nervousness while ramping up their excitement. The assembly already proved this is going to be a great session.
Rick’s famous homemade mac-n-cheese recharged everyone for lunch. There was a gluten free version and a separate vegan version for those campers and staff who preferred them. Of course, our super stocked salad bars and bowls of mixed fruit balanced out the plates. Around here, the dining hall is more than just a place to eat and chat; it’s also a place to sing! And even during this first meal, the girls didn’t hold back. They were belting out the songs as if they’d been waiting all this time to experience the roar of “An Austrian Went Yodeling” and the “Coconut Song.” In this session, 85% of the campers are returners, so most everyone in the dining hall knew the words to sing along. Incredible! Eating together, signing together, laughing and talking together helped further pave the way for the girls to settle into camp.
After lunch, each cabin group was off and running— walking tours of the camp and all the activity areas, cabin meetings on the lines, and a stop at the lake for an introduction to the waterfront, the swim tag system, and a swimming demonstration. Ordinarily, our mountain stream-fed lake feels surprisingly chilly. That may have been true today too, but the hot afternoon sun made it more refreshing. After demonstrating their swimming ability, every camper earned a “swim necklace,” color coded based on her ability. The different necklaces alert our lifeguards where in our lake (the shallow vs. the deep end, for example) campers can safely swim. Spending time at the lake is very popular, so it’s important for everyone at camp to have a chance to cool off there.
The last bit of orientation came in a series of hilarious skits performed by the different activity instructors. Using the stage at the gym, each group of counselors assigned to an activity presented something to describe what they do and to entice the campers to select that activity later tonight when everyone’s first rotation is chosen. For example, the three drama teachers performed a silly improvised song, the climbers demonstrated their belaying, and the weavers presented example projects that the girls can make in Curosty (the fiber arts cabin). There are always more activities and trip options available each day than there is time to do them all, so the girls have to makes choices about what they’d like to do at camp, and these skits help them decide.
Kayak Camp update! This weekend we also began our second specialty session devoted entirely to whitewater kayaking, the “Rockbrook Rapids.” We added these intensive trip sessions in response to a growing interest in Kayaking at Rockbrook. Over the years our lead kayaking instructor, Leland Davis, and his staff have really inspired the girls at camp, and now we have some amazing paddlers eager for more action on the river. The girls arrived on Friday, and after a short roll clinic in the lake and getting their gear organized, they were off to run their first river, the Tuckasegee. The next day, they paddled the Nantahala, and then today, section IX of the French Broad all the way down to Frank Bell’s Rapid, a famous class IV drop. Three rivers in three days! Leland reports that, “the level of paddling going on out there is off the charts with these girls!” We’re posting plenty of photos in the online gallery, so you can follow along.
Happy camp, everyone! We’re nothing but excited now!