Rebuilding Social Muscle

A parent made an interesting comment to me today. She said that she could tell her daughter was relaxing and settling into camp. Looking at the photo gallery, she could “see it on her face.” After these first couple of weeks at camp, her daughter’s smile was more natural, her body language more comfortable, and her closeness to the other girls more obvious.

silly lake squirt gun fun

That was great to hear! I’ve noticed it too. As we’ve moved along into the session, and spent more and more time together— living in the cabin, playing in activities, and singing at meals —the girls have gotten to know each other better and begun to absorb the camp spirit that guides our relationships here. They’re beginning to intuit what I described yesterday… that the Rockbrook community is uniquely kind and supportive, upbeat and inclusive. It’s a place where being your true self, perfectly imperfect, is celebrated. Your girls are beginning to feel like they belong at Rockbrook, staying happily busy and deepening their friendships. It’s so nice to see this important growth.

We were worried this common experience at camp would be tougher or slower this summer following the social isolation most kids experienced during the pandemic. Social skills are like a muscle that needs both training to be fully formed, and regular exercise to maintain its strength and ability. And like a muscle, social skills can atrophy if neglected. By squashing in-person peer interactions and forcing relationships online, the coronavirus pandemic robbed our kids of crucial social development, potentially weakening their ability to relate positively with one another. Being separated from other kids this last year, our children received very little social-emotional learning.

Fortunately, the power of camp life to bring us together has been proven stronger. The spirit of the Rockbrook community has inspired us all again, helped us understand ourselves and each other. It’s working. We’re rebuilding social muscle and providing it regular exercise. And the results are beautiful!

camp sliding rock fun

It was the full session Senior’s turn to visit Sliding Rock tonight. We loaded up six buses after dinner and made the trip to the Rock. Slide after slide, the girls had blast zipping down the rock and splashing into the pool below. The scream-inducing cold water makes things extra exciting even as it makes it hard for the girls to slide more than 3 or 4 times. After that, lips are blue, and there’s so much shivering we have to call an end to the runs. Eating cold ice cream from Dolly’s immediately after sliding may seem odd, but not if you’ve tasted it. One girl said she was excited because it’d been two years since she’d had a Dolly’s cone. Her wait was over!

We also held the closing campfire for our first July mini session campers. Like our traditional session Spirit Fire, the girls took turns talking about their experience of camp this session, singing a few traditional songs, and to finish the evening, lighting a small white candle. It’s always a nice way to finish up a camp session— friends right by your side, thoughtful words about camp, time to recall good times together, and a desire to keep the good feelings going into next year. It means saying goodbye in the morning, but it’s also a recognition that what we’ve shared will certainly last a very long time. Something this good just sinks in like that.

best teen friends at summer camp

Wholesale Happiness

If you spend a little time with the campers at Rockbrook, it doesn’t take long to realize they are abundantly happy. Even oddly so. You see girls doing things that seem pretty mundane. You even see girls enduring things that are ostensibly uncomfortable. And yet, at the same time they are truly happy, sometimes jittery with excitement and other times simply smiling with content, but clearly being especially joyful.

two summer horse girls

I saw it the other day when hiking with the Hi-Ups, the 16-year-old campers. We were strolling along enjoying all the diversity of plants in this part of North Carolina, and the girls were chatting and laughing about nothing in particular. Every so often, one would start singing a song, in this case a song from Moana the Disney movie, and soon most of girls were joining in to sing along. This inspired another Disney song, and then another, quickly becoming a medley. These teenage girls were gleefully hiking, sweating up the hills, ducking through briars, hopping over rocks to cross a stream, sliding down slippery slopes. They didn’t question or complain, but instead happily sang and talked about how much fun they were having. These were not surly teens glued to their phones; they were enthusiastic young people enjoying a unique experience with their good friends.

Maybe you got a sense of the wholesale happiness of camp life by watching yesterday’s video. You saw your camp girls happily working on craft projects, playing tetherball, zipping down the waterslide, climbing the alpine tower, shooting rifles and paddling canoes. At the same time, still happily (!), they were overcoming challenges, swishing away bugs, wiping away sweat, mustering their courage to take that first step down the waterslide and up the climbing tower. Sure, there have been disagreements and frustrations along the way, but at camp these speed bumps are easily overcome.

Camp girls don’t need the “comforts of home” or some other luxury to be happy. They don’t need a private room or a personalized menu for their meals. They don’t need electronic entertainment, or really good wi-fi. At camp, there are no flickering screens to pull their attention away from the real world and all that it offers. They don’t need everything to be “perfect” or to go exactly right. They don’t need to win some kind of competition proving their superior looks, smarts, wealth, or family pedigree. At camp, we’re all different and that’s a good thing, right from the start. Camp girls don’t even need specific activities to be happy while they’re here, either. We could drop almost anything we do (well, maybe not muffin break!), or change our activity offerings, and the girls here would still have what they need to be happy throughout their day.

camper girl shooting rifle

So what do they need to be this happy at camp? They need a few essential things like food and shelter, and the occasional bit of health care, and I’d say they need to be active and outdoors, but most importantly, they need each other. They need kindness from the people around them. They need to know deep down that they are included, respected, and loved for who they really are, “safe in their own skin,” “quirks and all.” They need to feel genuine support from their peers. You see, camp relationships are special like this. They are not colored by social posturing, which is all too common in other contexts. Interpersonal tensions at camp are ordinarily quickly resolved with heartfelt communication and appeals to being a “Rockbrook girl.” In this kind of community, built of relationships supported by a positive camp culture, girls naturally feel good about themselves, really good about themselves. They become stronger and more confident. And yes, deeply happy.

All of us at Rockbrook are so fortunate to be a part of this community, to be connected to the people here, and to be surrounded by all this happiness. It’s truly wonderful.

summer camp children

2nd Session Video Glimpse

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks is returning to Rockbrook this summer to film and present a series of highlights videos, each a unique glimpse into life at camp.

It’s Robbie’s 5th year making these occasional videos for us. Every time, he has a striking ability to convey the action, creativity and genuine closeness that make up our days.

Robbie filmed this past week and now we have his first video of the session. Take a look and enjoy!

You’ll want to watch it more than once!

Click here for the video. Or see below.

Action-Packed Celebration

When it’s the 4th of July at camp, we can’t have an ordinary day. There’s always a bit of celebration going on at camp since we’re gathering together and enjoying ourselves just by being here, but when there’s a clear holiday happening too, we’re all in!

4th of July horses in camp line
water cup over head relay
Camp Marble foot game

We started the day with horses riding up and down the cabin lines, a long July 4th tradition at Rockbrook. All eleven of our equestrian staff rode a horse, and while they rode, they woke up the campers by yelling, “The British are coming! Wake up! Wake up!” Unlike Paul Revere, our horses were highly decorated with red, white and blue ribbons, bows, paint, leg wraps, blankets, and even jaunty hat. You can imagine the surprise of the campers to hear hoofbeats outside their cabin along with the warnings to wake up.

The girls next came out on the hill for the Hi-Ups to raise the American flag along with our white Rockbrook flag underneath. We all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang “America the Beautiful,” as the sun began to clear off the morning fog.

The Middlers presented a chapel program on the theme of “Courage,” focusing on different examples during camp when a little bravery can make a big difference… helping remove a spider from a cabin by catching it in a cup, taking your first ride down the 50-ft water slide at the lake, even trying a new food like stuffed grape leaves or falafel. Sarah read a book by Bernard Waber entitled Courage. Like all the chapel programs at camp, this was a brief time to think about an idea that can guide us all as we face the challenges of being at camp, not religious per se, but still something that recognizes a fundamental quality of being human.

Grilled Chicken caesar salads, potato chips and fresh blackberries made our excellent lunch. During rest hour the girls prepared for our all-camp afternoon event by dressing up in their best red, white and blue— shirts and shorts with American flags, headbands, sunglasses, and hats. These girls were ready to go all out! A few counselors pulled out tempura paint to add colors to their arms, legs and faces too!

We divided the camp into 4 large groups, and created a rotation where each group would travel to a different part of camp to play a series of games. With music playing at several of the locations, we were at the lake, on the hill, the archery field, and by the creek.

balloon tossing game
cheese balls on the head game
greased watermelon in the lake

A lot of the games involved water. The girls tossed water balloons back and forth trying not to pop them. Toss, step back and toss again, farther and farther until someone got wet.

They used sponges soaked in water to fill an empty bucket, but they had to pass the dripping sponge hand-to-hand to every cabin mate. And the sponge had to be passed over their heads and through their legs.

A similar race involved filling a bucket with water from a leaking cup, also passed overhead from person to person.

One game had girls racing to find marbles in a pool of water, only using their feet! Picking up a marble with your toes is surprisingly difficult!

At the lake, the girls swam with greased watermelons trying to be the first cabin to move the melon across a distance a few times. They did tricks off the diving board and gathered pingpong balls from another section of the lake.

One of the funniest challenges combined shaving cream and cheese balls (?)! One team member squirted shaving cream on her head (shower cap optional) and the other stood at a distance tossing cheese balls hoping to stick them in the shaving cream. The team with the most balls stuck “won.” I think the record was 13. Silly but loads of fun.

Dinner was a classic Independence Day picnic: barbecue sliders (with a tempeh option), corn on the cob, homemade vinegar coleslaw, tater tots and watermelon, with cans of Cheerwine chilling in the creek. For dessert, the bakers impressed us all again by serving a brownie cheesecake bar with red, white and blue icing. Like all the desserts at camp, this homemade treat was a huge hit.

After dinner, a few brave counselors entertained everyone by demonstrating their ability to eat a pie (“pie eating demos”?). Without using their hands, and as fast as possible, each person bent over a full-size pie, digging in face-first. The entire camp cheered them on, the loudest being the girls from those counselors’ cabins. In the end, Cary noshed here apple pie most completely and “won” the contest.

The highlight of the evening was the fireworks show we launched from the lake. With fun dance music pumping across the hill, and the girls dancing about with flashlights and glow sticks, colorful explosions filled the night sky. It was quite an elaborate show lasting about 30 minutes, turning the hill into an amazing nighttime dance party of “oohs” and “ahhs.”

What an action-packed celebration! A community of friends playing, swimming and singing… cheese balls and pingpong balls… leaking cups and dripping sponges… pies and pyrotechnics. Good food and good feelings. All part of a great day at camp.

Girl Camp Friends

The Deepest Root

Don’t be surprised if your household acquires a piece of handwoven fabric once camp is over. The girls here at camp are busily using different techniques to weave all sorts of cord and thread into complex, colorful patterns.

campers macrame project

You may be thinking of weaving on a loom, and there is a lot of that happening in the Curosty activity cabin. That’s one of the historic log cabins at Rockbrook that predate the founding of the camp. The wide, peddle-operated floor looms, and the smaller tabletop versions, are in constant motion, the shuttle gliding back and forth between the warp threads. A great example of hand weaving is also catching on this summer: macramé. This is another ancient technique for making a textile by tying knots. Using different cords and string, square knots and hitches combine to make complex decorative patterns. Macramé was a popular hobby in the 1970s, and now here at camp girls are bringing it back, making wall hangings and smaller keychains. Similar to making a friendship bracelet, these macramé projects are fun for the girls as each knot they add reveals a unique growing pattern.

The Alpine Tower is our challenge climbing structure located in the woods behind the gym. It’s a system of logs, cables and ropes that allows multiple girls to climb at the same time. It’s triangular shape offer three sides of different climbing elements: swinging logs, a cargo net, an overhanging wall, for example. Climbing holds are bolted to the poles and girls use the ropes, cables and holds to climb 50 feet up to the platform at the top.

Climbing the tower takes not only strength, flexibility and a sense of balance; it takes nerve. With each step up, standing on small holds or narrow poles, the feeling of being high in air increases, and so does your worry about possibly slipping and falling. Even though you know there is a really strong rope that will hold you up, it’s still pretty scary to be that high up in the air. It takes determination and some confidence to push through the fear, and focus on the challenge of finding the next hold higher up. The girls today did great, most making it all the way to the top, and everyone feeling good about overcoming the challenges of the activity.

summer camp dance for girls

Our evening program tonight got everyone dressed up and dancing because it was an all-girls dance party with a “prom” theme. Actually it was three dance parties, since each line (age group) held its own version in a different location. The costumes ranged from simple dresses to tie-dye t-shirts, and included a few hats, necklaces of beads, and tutus. The juniors were excited to try out a few line dances in the dining hall, while the middlers took over the hillside lodge. Since the seniors are the largest group they jumped and danced in the gym. No boys in sight, these girls know how to have a good time being silly, singing and twirling with each other. Of course, they were more than happy to pause for a quick “prom photo.” Be sure to check the photo gallery to see how everyone was dressed.

These dances proved once again that it doesn’t take much for your girls to enjoy themselves at camp. Music, costumes, a few decorations and some snacks are the outward ingredients, but I think the most important component is the complete feeling of ease the girls feel toward each other. They’re not afraid to cast off their “social armor” because kindness is the deepest root of their friendships at camp. They’re not holding back, worried about what someone might think or say that might hurt their feelings. They know that being awkward is totally OK, even cool around here. It doesn’t matter how well you can sing or dance, because at camp being fully into the moment is clearly most important. There it is again— that magical power of camp to make things more fun by building upon the great relationships we have with everyone in the community. More fun, more rewarding, more meaningful, more lasting and important… but don’t get me started!

kid training in archery

Extraordinary Moments

Have you ever wondered why girls love camp… tried to explain their smiling contentment, bright-eyed enthusiasm, and deep connection to their experience at Rockbrook? I certainly have tried. It’s just so odd… how great it is at camp, how meaningful, how truly extraordinary it is for kids. And yet, how most everywhere else, that seems less so.

Girls playing a gaga ball game

My best theories to explain this revolve around identifying how life at camp differs so dramatically from the rest of the year, and how those differences make a difference to the girls. For example, we can identify certain pressures girls experience in the outside world that are for the most part absent here at camp. Think, for example, of social media messaging and the distorted values it can wield (no instagram here!), academic expectations of excellence (no grades here!), and all manner of competition where ones self worth seems on the line (nobody cares who’s “best” at camp). Camp can reduce these pressures on your girls, and hence allow them to feel really good. “What a relief!” Similarly, though from the opposite point of view, there are positive things that camp provides that are difficult for schools to accomplish, things like experiences of high adventure, full-time immersion in Nature, or the freedom/responsibility of making daily decisions without ones parents shaping the outcome. “I needed that!” Whether we’re adding something lacking— responding to a deficit in their lives —or removing a negative force impacting them, camp is different and therefore satisfying in important ways.

sunet at rockbrook camp

An example of this came to mind as I wandered about after dinner today, during that time we call “twilight.” This is free time for the girls where they can do what they like. There are no scheduled activities, but we do always offer an optional game or event. That might be a tetherball “queen of the court” tournament, letter writing on the hill, gaga ball down at the gym, an 80s-themed “jazzercise” class on the archery field, a trip to the garden, or even a shaving cream fight for an entire age group. Most girls, though, use this time to hang out, to read their book sitting in their crazy creek chair, to soak their feet in the creek, to work on a friendship bracelet, or just to take a shower. Tonight there were at least a dozen small groups out on the hill, groups of friends enjoying a relaxed conversation, watching the light change on the distant mountains. Given the non-stop action of our day, as is usually the case, it was nice to see everyone enjoying a different pace.

That’s a difference worth noting. My hunch is that life at home has a more hectic pace as girls juggle time commitments at school, for sports and other after-school activities. There’s a tendency these days for our kids to be over-scheduled, even hyper-scheduled with very little time left over for more self-directed or relaxed activities. It’s rare for them to have blocks of truly free time where they— not parents, teachers or coaches —can decide what they’d like to do. There are probably small moments like that, but my hunch is that those get consumed by scrolling passively through some “feed,” or are criticized as “boring.” But not here! Instead, we have regular blocks of time dedicated to slowing down, allowing us to connect more deeply with people, and to soak in more thoroughly the beauty around us. At camp there’s time for girls to play freely, to lounge on the grass staring at the sunset, or simply to sit with friends letting their minds wander as they may.

It’s not the only reason, but I think girls love camp because it regularly provides these opportunities for free time. Oddly, there’s still plenty to do, but nothing that has to be done. And at camp, there are always friends to do it with, no matter what you end up doing. You may not have expected your girls to be just “hanging out” at camp, but trust me, when they do (amid their otherwise action-packed day), it’s pretty special.

Teenager hiking camp group

Our 16-year old “Hi-Ups” had their “cabin day” today. These are the girls who manage the tables at our meals. They set the tables before each meal (plates, cups, napkins, flatware, and serving utensils), deliver serving bowls of food to the tables, and afterwords clear all the dirty dishes, prepping them for the dishwashing in the kitchen. This summer, since we have spread out our dining areas to the “Tree Tops” hillside lodge porch, and the dining hall porch, the Hi-Ups are having to work even harder to get each meal set and cleaned up. Fortunately, we have a large group of these girls this session, and they have been great dividing up the chores and tackling them cheerfully.

This outing was a chance to take break from that, explore a bit, and enjoy each other’s company outdoors in this part of North Carolina. We decided to go hiking through some of the high country near the Shining Rock Wilderness area. Our route was an amazing loop that included scrambling over rocks, crossing a creek, hiking up a steep slope and down a slick trail to the bottom of a waterfall. A highlight was coming upon an ancient tree with long snaking roots exposed. It rained a bit on us, and it was sunny part of the time. We felt chilly, and later sweaty. When we made it back to the buses, we had a few scratches and smears of mud on our legs, and we were all a little wet, but it felt good and satisfying to be out there together. We knew this was an experience we would never repeat, certainly not with these same great friends. I guess that’s what camp is everyday… extraordinary moments of satisfaction with friends. Yes. I like it!

swimming camper girls

Who are the COWs ?

Today in the Dining Hall there was lots of moo-ing sounds during announcements. Campers and counselors alike joined in on the noise-making in eager anticipation of the reveal of this week’s Counselors of the Week, or COWs for short. Each week we recognize two counselors from each age group who have contributed in big ways to the camp community.

camp girl learning potters wheel

All of our staff are incredibly invested when it comes to creating camp magic, and it is a lot of fun to celebrate some specific victories amongst our staff once a week. Especially if that celebration sounds like moo-ing.

Campers have a chance to nominate their counselor for a COW award throughout their time at camp. The nomination form asks campers to tell us why their counselor deserves to be a COW, and we tend to get some very thoughtful responses:

“She has a solution to every problem and is always super kind. She never fails to make us laugh.”

“She is attentive to our needs and she knows when to joke around and when to be serious. My counselor helps us resolve conflicts in the cabin.”

“My counselor’s upbeat personality and awesome dance moves keep us going. She makes camp a truly wonderful experience. She has the amazing ability to both hype us up and calm us down as needed.”

“My counselor is so patient and nice!”

“She is funny and cool and always helps you when you need it.”

“My counselor holds us to a high standard because she wants us to be the best versions of ourselves. She recognizes our uniqueness and never talks down to us. She reads to us every night and she takes good care of us when we need help. We love her so much!”

Camp adventure staff woman helping child

Being a counselor at Rockbrook is a big job. Between teaching activities, planning special events, and serving up enthusiasm all day every day, our staff also make space for important one-on-one conversations with campers and reading a chapter to their cabin at lights out each night. Our counselors teach campers how to tie a friendship for their uniform tie, and they also teach campers how to bounce back after hurt feelings or a scraped knee. Rockbrook counselors cheer campers on as they make their own beds, climb to the top of the alpine tower, try a new food in the dining hall, sing a solo in the camp play, make a new friend, speak up for themselves in a cabin discussion, and try an activity they didn’t think they’d like.

Summer Camp counselor women

The most important part of the counselor job is serving as an example of what it means to have Rockbrook Spirit. We want our staff to exude kindness and enthusiasm, grit and determination, friendliness and inclusion, because we hope our campers will embody those characteristics, too. Our counselors model the ways they want to see our community thrive, and campers are right there watching and learning along the way. We know those campers are watching because they tell us on their COW nominations just how much they are learning from their counselors every day. But more than that, we see the strong bonds that form between counselors and their campers, a true reflection of the investment our staff members are excited to make in the Rockbrook experience overall.

So moo with me, won’t you? We’ve got lots to celebrate when it comes to these fantastic Rockbrook counselors!

group of young campers at the garden with their teachers

The Littlest Things

Walking around camp today, here are a few things I noticed. Girls were giving friends piggyback rides. Two girls lay down at the top of the hill, and like a log, rolled down, hair flying and screaming the whole way. Three 2nd-graders were building a small dam in the creek “to catch fish,” they told me. 16-year old Hi-Ups were hauling a bag of trash so big it took two to carry it. I saw girls cheering others as they successfully climbed to the top of the Alpine Tower. There were girls wearing simple costumes, gleefully being silly. Funny faces on the tennis courts and wide-eyed grins zooming down the water slide. Girls lounging completely relaxed on yoga mats, and others intensely concentrating while pulling an arrow across a bow. Friends being completely at ease with each other while doing a goofy dance.

porch needlecraft fun

It might sound strange, but this is the good stuff of camp. These simple examples of camp life, and many others, show a deep truth about your girls. They prove that in reality, your girls are bold, strong, curious and joyful. Your camp girls easily connect with each other, and understand each other. They’re being so incredibly happy and grounded.

The simple stuff at camp reveals a special humanity of being a kid, something inherent and amazing, but also, I would bet, something that’s more muted in their ordinary non-camp lives. We hear it all the time: girls saying “at camp I can be my true self. I can be me.” Of course, this implies that when not at camp, they’re not their “true self.” Hmmm… Coming to summer camp somehow provides a certain relief for kids, and that relief helps them be amazing.

If I had to explain it, I’d say it’s the culture of Rockbrook that has this power to enliven the deep humanity of being a child. The positive camp environment, percolating with enthusiasm and support, is perfectly suited to coax out these “trampled instincts” of children, as Emerson might have put it. That’s really what’s going on at camp. Yes there are activities— we’re making pottery, paddling boats, shooting targets, and so forth —but we’re also creating an intentional community where girls can develop their better instincts, free from the pressures of home and school. We’re outside a lot. We’re not competing. We’re not filtering reality through what appears on the internet. We’re immersed in a community where we feel we belong, feel valued and loved. Camp has that unique combination of encouragement and opportunity, contagious kindness and freedom to explore.

tiny camp girl shooting rifle

We hope that these amazing instincts hold, and your girls can exercise their “authentic self” after they leave Rockbrook. It’s certainly more difficult without the community support and context camp provides, but camp girls know first hand that they have these amazing powers and that they can be confident of their deep truth. Everyday at camp, they experience that truth, even in the littlest things.

All the Middlers (5th and 6th graders) came to dinner dressed in their swimsuits and water shoes, and with their towels draped over their chair, ate faster than usual. This is because they knew that tonight they were heading to Sliding Rock. By 7pm, 6 buses of very excited girls were making their way along the curvy road through the Pisgah National Forest to that famous part of Looking Glass Creek where it flows over 60 feet of gently sloping rock into a pool at the bottom. Generations of Rockbrook girls have made this trip and had this experience.

It’s a scream-inducing thrill! Sitting down into the rushing 55-degree water, scooting to the edge of the slope, and suddenly accelerating toward the dunking splash at the end— it’s uniquely fun. Our evening trip adds to the excitement because it’s a little shady and dark when we slide. We love going “after hours” because we can bring our own lifeguards and usually we have the place to ourselves. We completed the outing by stopping at everyone’s favorite ice cream place— some say “favorite on earth!” — Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Each of the girls selected a cup or cone of their favorite flavor, and enjoyed the chilly treat, chatting (which turned into singing soon enough) outside under the glow of Dolly’s colorful neon lighting. Chilly and still a little damp when we arrived back at camp, the girls headed straight to their cabins to get ready for bed.

camp kids outdoors

A Pleasant Pattering

Only rarely does it rain in the morning at camp. It’s often wet feeling in the morning because the humidity combines with lower temperatures to cover things in dew and immerse us all in fog, and of course we often have thunderstorms roll through in the afternoon, but by mid-morning the sun ordinarily clears things out. Today though, we had light rain falling off and on throughout the morning until about 4pm. If you are ever curious about the weather at camp, you can check the Rockbrook Camp weather station. It’s mounted on our office, and it continuously monitors and reports current weather conditions to the Weather Underground network. Checking the stats, it looks like we received 1.13 inches of rain for the day.

climbing wall girl
girls whitewater rafting splash

Many of our activities carry on normally when it’s raining: all the crafts for example. Most of these happen outdoors on a covered porch, like painting and drawing, jewelry making, and needlecraft, while other have their own dedicated open-air spaces, like pottery and hodge podge tie-dyeing. There are more raincoats (sometimes called “dewcoats” at RBC… “my dewcoat is up in my cabin” as the song exclaims) cast about, and there’s a pleasant patter in the air, but all this craftiness hardly slows down when there’s a “heavy dew.”

The climbers headed to the gym to hop on the climbing wall. Gagaball became dodgeball in the gym, and the tennis players worked on their strokes in the dining hall playing pingpong. The horse girls could still ride thanks to the covered arena, but we will reschedule zipline rides for a few cabins, and those who couldn’t shoot archery today will get a chance another day in the session.

Six buses of campers (about 80 middlers and seniors) spent the day whitewater rafting today on the Nantahala river. We drove over to find similar weather— clouds and some drizzle, but also moments of sunshine. Rafting, as you can guess, is inherently a wet and splashy experience, so a little rain doesn’t change much. The girls had a complete blast bumping down the river, yes occasionally falling into the water (an “out of boat experience”), and exercising their talent for screaming through the rapids. Between rapids they sang, took turns “riding the bull” (sitting on the front of the boat like a hood ornament), and happily posed and waved for photos. So much fun!

Nancy Barnum Carrier at Rockbrook

We’re not sure what tipped them off, but Our State magazine, the monthly print magazine that celebrates the culture and history of North Carolina, just published a short article about Rockbrook. The article, entitled “Back in the Day: When the Circus Came to Camp,” talks about our founder Nancy Clarke Carrier, and her family relationship to P.T. Barnum, the well-known circus showman. Nancy’s mother was Barnum’s granddaughter. Being from a circus family, Nancy’s home was decorated with circus artifacts, including a famous small chair, one made especially for Charles Stratton, better known as Tom Thumb. Girls attending Rockbrook in those early years were excited to see “Tom Thumb’s chair,” and even more so to sit in it. As we celebrate Rockbrook’s 100-year birthday, it’s fun to recall this unique circus connection to the history of the camp, and throughout our sessions play with circus ideas during special events.

The community of camp is deepening with each passing day. We’re seeing the girls relax more and begin to feel more comfortable at camp, despite all the differences in their experience compared to home— no parents, no air-conditioning, and no electronic entertainment, for example. Rain or shine, we’re sharing so much, spending all of our time together, and strengthening our connections to each other and to Rockbrook along the way.

summer camp rafting

Camp Beauty

Today was one of those beautiful days at camp. I don’t mean just the weather, though it was nicely sunny and warm, a true dose of summer. The beauty came from the people here and all the diversity of their interests, activity, and conversations. There’s something inherently beautiful about a group of children being curious, soaking up new experiences, and finding regular flashes of joy from simply being together. As we all scattered ourselves around camp today, the feeling of camp was revived. It’s a relaxed, joyful busyness. It’s learning things, but for the fun of it. It’s sharing experience with friends, laughing together and growing closer bit by bit. It’s delightful surprises, natural wonders, and the authenticity of being silly. A quick look in any direction, at just about any time of the day, is to be struck by amazing points of this camp beauty. I wish you could see it firsthand!

small child weaving on loom

Every activity was fully engaged today. The photo gallery again reflects that, all the adventure, creativity, sports, riding, and freedom to enjoy the lake. Together with their cabin groups, the girls rotated through 4 different activities, and three blocks of free time between our three meals and two snack breaks. By the way, I’d say our mid-morning “muffin break” is a highlight for many of us at camp. Today’s freshly baked surprise flavor was banana-coconut. Lunch brought us homemade tomato soup and “cheesy bread,” another camp favorite. Burgers and hand-cut fries, with lemon bars for dessert made our picnic on the hill extra delicious.

I should say a little something about mask wearing at camp this session because it might be confusing about our policy when you see photos with girls sometimes wearing masks and other times not. Whenever the girls are with just members of their own sleeping cabin (their “cohort”), they can remove their masks. They may choose to wear them, but whenever the cabins are not mixing— like during the scheduled activities, meals, and when inside their cabin —wearing a mask is not required. When within six feet of someone from another cabin, however, we are asking everyone to mask up. These encounters tend to be when larger groups are gathered for events like LIne evening programs, or during blocks of free time when the girls can visit friends from other cabins. Today I saw two girls chatting in the red rocking chairs on the dining hall porch, two girls from different cabins, and they were wearing their masks. This policy is fairly intuitive, and most of the campers seem to have no trouble remembering when to apply it.

big camp water slide

Let’s also mention something about mail at camp. Send it! Lots of it! …though no packages please…The USMail can be a little slow around here, but nothing beats a real letter in your mailbox. I know it’s hard to find the time, and emails are a lot easier (you can send those too), but your girls will really appreciate something more meaningful from you. The girls check their mailboxes right before rest hour, so what you send can inspire a letter in return. Parents love mail from camp too!

The girls are starting to settle in at camp. As you can see we’re all staying happily busy, and well-fed. Already, we’re making the most out of each day, finding that life in this camp community feels really good. There will bound to be a few bumps along the way, challenges that we will work on together, but there’s good to be found there too. We’re all here to help each other, encourage each other, and appreciate each other as we dig into all the fun. Stay tuned!

Horse Camp Kids riding