Skits and Skills at Camp

A strawberry, two clouds, a concerned citizen and a newscaster are all racing around in the Mountainside Lodge at Rockbrook. They stop twirling long enough to host a pretend newscast about the weather, which seems to involve strawberries falling from the sky and a cloud-dance. And a LOT of giggles. After five minutes of zipping back and forth, blurting out lines, and more giggling, they dash back to their seats, basking in the applause of their audience. 

true summer camp friends

An uninformed observer would be completely baffled as to what just happened. But here at Rockbrook Camp, cabin skits are a staple of camp life. They’re an opportunity for campers to try out life skills, be completely silly, and make memories with their new friends. 

Evening programs begin as the sun sets behind the mountains and the crickets warm up for the night. Each age group of campers gathers in its respective lodge around camp. This brings campers together to meet new friends and touch base about the day they just had and talk about the new day ahead. Cabin skits also play a big role in the evening activities. The “themes” for skits may vary, but they generally involve each cabin getting their “assignment,” racing off to their respective cabins to self-organize, and then coming back to deliver their big performance to the group.

There are dozens of different types of cabin skits, and new ones are always being created by enterprising counselors. Things like creating silly advertisements, hosting a pretend TV program, building a plot based around a random cabin item are performed regularly. After campers dash off, costumes come out of trunks, items in the cabin are put to creative use, and imaginations run wild. “Scripts” are jotted down on scraps of stationary, and “rehearsals” involve heated discussions and occasional flashes of emotion as campers decide on a plot, roles, and props for the big show.

summer camp dance class

Being at camp is an opportunity for campers to learn and hone all kinds of life skills. Cabin skits are one such opportunity, and counselors deliberately stay hands-off during the planning. Each group is assigned a “director,” a role that rotates over the course of the camp session so everyone can have a turn. Beyond that structure, it’s up to them to self-organize, plan, and create. This can sometimes be difficult or frustrating, especially for younger age groups and different personality types. Listening to the ideas of others and compromising, especially when you believe YOUR idea is “best” can be a tough skill, even for adults! There’s also a fixed amount of time to plan, and as the clock ticks down the voices from cabins grow more intense.  

As they say in show business, the curtain doesn’t go up because you’re ready; it goes up because it’s time! Counselors summon cabin groups back to the lodge, with excitement and anticipation crackling in the air and an assortment of wacky props hidden behind backs. To nervous giggles and shuffling, the first group takes the stage in costume, and the skits begin. 

summer camp gaga ball game

While minor details like “plot” and “dialogue” are not always clear, what is clear is how much fun the campers are having, and how they’ve come together as a group for each performance. Together, they face the experience of public speaking, acting, singing, and producing. They learn how to work together, listen to each other, and respect different opinions. The final result is always magnificent, even if the casual observer leaves confused why the strawberry ran off stage and the clouds jumped up and yelled “tah-dah!” and the newscaster put a cowboy hat on and started singing a Taylor Swift song. The only thing that matters is that campers are learning and growing and creating. They know it, and their cheering audience knows it too. 

Each cabin takes their turn, with each performance growing more exuberant and costumes more outrageous. Meanwhile, unnoticed, the sun quietly slips behind the mountains and the volume of the crickets begins to compete with the actors. The air temperature drops a bit, and evening softly descends on camp.

Our actors take a final bow, to the cheers of the fellow campers. After a round of the goodnight circle and milk and cookies, it’s time for teeth-brushing, pajamas, and a good night’s rest. After all, tomorrow is another day full of new skills, new friends, and more wild imagination. And definitely more wacky costumes.        

Miranda Barrett
Camp Mom, former camper and counselor 

summer camp kids costumes

Waffle Hunting

We began today with another chilly misty morning as campers and staff made their way to the dining hall for breakfast. Excitement soon filled the air as we saw what was for breakfast….waffles!! Some also noticed a banner on the wall, a few tables and chairs missing, and even a kayaking paddle where the missing table should have been. It seems the Hi-Ups had pranked the CAs. Here at Rockbrook we have a few rules about pranking. The first, along with everything else at Rockbrook, is that it must be kind. Second, the prank must be something that can be undone (e.g. nothing broken or ruined). And third, the group who pulls the prank must be willing to help undo it. In this case, the Hi-Ups moved the CA’s dining hall tables and chairs to the lake! When the CAs arrived, they were surprised to see their breakfast was being served waterside! Lots of waffle hunting and laughter ensued.

three girls holding their finished tie dye t-shirts
summer camp flower children

Morning activities kicked right into high gear as campers and staff walked to their first period activities ready to finish out the three-day rotation. Later this evening they’ll be signing up for their next set of activities. A couple of lucky cabins took a tour on our zipline and high ropes courses. They all had a wonderful time going across all three ziplines while shrieking with happiness! Today’s muffin flavor was blueberry chocolate chip. While most enjoyed the combo, a few picked out their blueberries to have a classic chocolate chip muffin.

At lunch, we announced several special trips: Sliding Rock, Dolly’s Dairy Bar, and Pucker Up Berry Farm. Cabins roared with cheers as they heard their cabins being called for some of these fun adventures. Lunch ended with mailboxes being emptied, cabin photos being taken, and the start of a relaxing Rest Hour.

Cabin Day is usually an activity done together as a cabin and is planned out by the counselors. Today, the Senior Line (our 7th-9th graders) did something a little different; they had a line-wide cabin day! The counselors worked hard prepping a unique game that mixed the campers, dividing them into 12 different groups that would compete in the game.

The game was a battle of sorts where each group had “tools” they could use to score points against others. These “tools” were sections of pantyhose filled with flour! Tied into small balls, there were black pantyhose balls and white ones too, each worth different points. A team would score points whenever they hit someone on an opposing team with one of the balls. Needless to say, the girls enjoyed firing these balls at each other on the hill. And since they were all dressed in dark colors, the white flour left a mark when hitting someone. The prize awarded the group with the most points was an ice cream treat.

In addition to trying to cover one another in flour, teams walked around camp to find counselors who had special tasks for them to complete in order to earn other candy treats. Some of the tasks included answering trivia questions, building a human pyramid, and various hula hooping challenges. The Seniors roamed all over camp making new friends from other cabins and having a grand afternoon.

Meanwhile, we had cabins watercoloring at Rockbrook Falls, down at the archery range playing games, climbing the alpine tower, and tie dying some t-shirts. By the end of cabin day, everyone looked happy to have spent time with their cabin mates. After dinner, another large group of campers and staff headed off for a chilly evening sliding down the rock— at Sliding Rock, that is! Dressed in swimsuits and ready to slide, the girls sat down in the stream at the top and slid the 60 feet into the pool at the bottom. It’s a classic summertime mountain thrill, and these Rockbrook girls loved it! And of course, Dolly’s was the final stop of the evening. Another action-packed, happy fun day at camp!

—Casey Blair

North Carolina Sliding Rock kids

Doing the Monster Mash

Today began with a group of girls getting up early because they were heading to the Nantahala River for a day of whitewater rafting. With their towels, water bottles and change of clothes packed, we had a simple breakfast of cereal, yogurt and fruit before loading the three buses and vans and taking the 2-hour drive to the river. Midway, we stopped for a bathroom break and a quick muffins snack.

girls camp rafting trip

It was another fabulous day of weather for rafting— sunny, low humidity, and warming temps throughout the day. Each of our rafts holds between five and 8 people plus one guide who sits in the back navigating past the different river obstacles. The rapids in the Nantahala all have names and unique characteristics that make them a fun challenge. There’s Patton’s Run, Delbar’s Rock, The Bump, and the finale, the Nantahala Falls. The fun of rafting comes from combining special adventure safety gear like the helmet and PFD, the power and intensity of fast moving whitewater, the surprising jolt that comes from bumping into rocks along the way, and the invigorating shock of the cold water splashing. But perhaps the biggest reason rafting is so much fun comes from doing it with your friends. It’s the social aspects of rafting, the hilarity of being splashed together, and screaming with delight when the boat hits a wave. This all adds up to the kind of fun that’s uniquely thrilling and memorable.

Meanwhile back at camp, campers were enjoying the whole range of activities, from zip lining to weaving, from shooting archery to playing tennis. In the WHOA activity, which stands for Wilderness Hiking Outdoor Adventure, the girls were learning about fire building and then roasting marshmallows over the fire. In pottery, campers were shaping their coils and slabs of clay, while some worked on centering on the potters wheel. Here too, the beautiful weather inspired everyone to enjoy walking around camp, for example to the dining hall for muffin break.

After dinner it was time for some dancing! We held an all-Rockbrook camp dance in our gym, a special event that brought all the campers from every line together—Juniors, Middlers and Seniors. It’s always super high energy and the campers get really into belting out their favorite songs. Music and dance is universal, and I feel that these dances really unify our Rockbrook community.

camp costumes in blue

Tonight’s particular dance was aptly titled “Monster Mash,” going along with the theme of the day, “Not So Scary Halloween.” At Rockbrook we love any opportunity to dress up in a costume, so for the entire day campers were able to dress as they would on Halloween – a “Summerween”, if you will. There were a variety of costumes, the ones that caught my eye being: a banana, a friendly ghost, and Uncle Fester, the bald, kooky uncle with the pale skin and dark eyes from the Addams Family.

The dance was a magical scene: faeries dancing with witches dancing with princesses; red, green, and white lights sparkling across the gym floor, Brevard’s own DJ Dogg playing a mix of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”, Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, and many songs by the ever popular Taylor Swift.

One thing I love about Rockbrook dances is witnessing younger campers dancing with their older peers. Several times throughout the evening campers of all ages formed into a dance circle, campers taking turns to rush to the center to show off their best dance moves, the onlookers clapping and cheering words of encouragement to their brave counterparts. The Rockbrook spirit of support never wanes! I personally enjoyed getting to dance with various campers and counselors, in particular with my friend Emma who was dressed just like me as Wednesday Addams, another character from the Addams Family who is known for wearing all long black braids and black clothing, and an ever present dour expression.

camp conga line dance

It’s not a Rockbrook dance without a conga line! I watched from the sidelines as it formed, growing longer with every second as one by one campers joined in. It was hard to resist myself and I quickly latched my hands on to the shoulders of a counselor. Those hesitant to jump into the sprightly formation were given the opportunity to join, the dance line pausing for a moment as campers were happily let in. There were other moments of campers participating in group dances, for example to hits like the “Cupid Shuffle” and “Soulja Boy.” At one point DJ Dogg stepped out from behind his DJ deck to lead the camp in a dance and song that recently went viral called “The Git Up.” Some of the moves included two stepping, sliding to the left and right, dropping down low, spinning, and shoulder shimmying. Towards the end DJ Dogg returned to his turntables and handed it off to the campers to take the lead. I was very impressed by how quickly they were able to do it! My personal favorite group dance is the “Cha Cha Slide”, which I have done at many dances. It also includes sliding to the left and the right, as well as stomping your feet, clapping your hands, and hopping.

There was just as much fun happening outside the gym as there was inside. There were campers enjoying a friendly game of tetherball, some peacefully reading on the steps of the gym, and quite a lot gathered around the gaga pit to witness a fierce round of the dodgeball like game where players aim to strike each other out with the gaga ball in hopes to be the last one standing. I also witnessed a few junior campers chasing a camper fully covered in a green and white sheet, her costume being a bush. Rockbrook campers are very creative!

—Naomi Penner

girls camp dance

First Session Video Snapshot

Most people have a hunch about what it’s like to be a kid at summer camp, but when anyone tries to describe life at camp to those who have not experienced it, the picture is dim at best. Even when you ask girls who attend Rockbrook to describe it, they often struggle to convey why they love it. There’s just so much more to it than any verbal account can provide. Likewise, photos don’t fully do it justice. Photos are better perhaps, but what about the emotion? The action, the laughter, and chatter of a vibrant group of kids?

Fortunately, we have some video as well. We’re happy to say Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks is again working with us this summer to produce short videos each session.  He came to camp recently and now has his first edited short of 2023 ready for you to see.

Take a look! We love how it captures the feeling of camp this session.

P.S. Be sure to have the volume turned up. Hearing camp is amazing!

A Candy Land Carnival

Today the June mini campers arrived. Wide-eyed with anticipation and excitement literally bursting through the sunroofs of some cars, it was clear these girls were eager to start their summer at camp. Our drive-thru check in process unfolded smoothly with each stop only taking a couple of minutes. Driving around the lake and finally reaching the top of the hill, the counselors jumped and cheered, adding to the festive atmosphere of the day. The full-session girls carried on with their Sunday morning schedule of flag raising and Chapel gathering, but they too were excited to see more camp friends arriving. By noon, a brief spot of rain came through, so instead of out on the hill, we gathered in the gym for a quick assembly. This was a chance to welcome everyone, have a few introductions, and sing a couple of songs.

I asked a few of the arriving campers how they felt, and while most said they were excited, several also said they were nervous. I tried to reassure them that being a little nervous on opening day was very common, even for seasoned, returning campers. Like the start of anything, there’s uncertainty involved, and if you care how something will go, it’s just natural to feel some nerves. Being nervous is just that, so once we get going and begin to dissipate the uncertainty that came before, everyone begins to feel better. At camp, feelings of nervousness fade fast as soon as we begin— finding our penpal, meeting our counselors, setting up your bunk, getting a sense of how kind everyone is at camp, seeing that there are all kinds of girls here and that it’ll be easy to fit in, hearing the enthusiasm in the camp songs, even tasting something yummy and familiar, like the mac-n-cheese we had for lunch.

homemade camp donuts

The main event of the day happened after rest hour, just as the rain stopped. It was a Candy Land Carnival down on our grassy landsports field featuring two large inflatables, games, music and special food.

First the food. It was an excellent treat of freshly made mini donuts for each camper. Our local donut-making food truck, Jenny’s Mini Donuts, had come and was busy pumping out the treats. The campers took turns by cabin groups coming up the pink truck and deciding if they preferred cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar on their donuts. As you might imagine it took quite a while to make donuts for 200 campers and 60 staff members! But they were delicious, and definitely worth the wait.

Meanwhile, the carnival games and inflatables entertained everyone. Both of the inflatables involved a pool of water. The girls had come dressed in their swimsuits, and since the sun had come out, the afternoon heat made the final splashes feel great. One inflatable was a steep slide into a pool about a foot deep, and the other was a side-by-side obstacle course where two people raced through the course to the pool at the end. This was a little challenging, but doing it with another person made it more fun, and more entertaining to watch.

For both inflatables, crowds of girls gathered around to cheer for each person as they splashed into the pools at the bottom. Campers raced campers; counselors raced other counselors. Everyone got in on the fun. I’m certain lots of girls jumped back in line multiple times! A little messy and a little wet, they raced and raced.

One of the candy-related games was a life-sized Candy Land game spread across the grass. Teams of girls would “roll” a giant inflated die and move along a colorful trail of rubber mats. Like the board game, certain squares had effects whenever a team landed on them. For example, if you landed on Gramma Nutt’s square, you would have go back 5 squares. But if you landed on Missy Lolly’s square, everyone won a lollypop. The first team to reach the end of the squares also won a small candy treat.

Another of the games challenged the girls to toss inflated donuts onto a cone, which ended up being much more difficult than it sounds. Luckily, the girls could try as many times as they liked until they succeed to land a toss. Similarly, one game involved tossing beanbags at a target trying to get a toss through a small hole. That one too took some practice to conquer.

Throughout the event, the girls sang and danced along to some fun pop music with a few candy-related songs mixed in. “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow, and “Lollipop” by the Chordettes made a appearance, for example.

Under the sun, with friends, great food and music, games to play and treats to win, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and an even better way to launch our June Mini session.

summer camp carnival kids

Essential Nourishment

The community spirit of camp is something we really value at Rockbrook. It resides at the heart of our mission and is the aspiration of our philosophy. All of our core values— kindness, cooperation, compassion, care and generosity —serve to create, enhance and maintain our sense of community at camp. We know that these values lead us toward connecting with the people around us, toward the power of friendship. These values, once embraced and widely practiced together, form a collective spirit that’s immediately welcoming and supportive. Feeling truly accepted and valued for who you really are brings people closer together. Camp has this power to forge community, to connect and bolster everyone here.

The feeling of being part of a camp community, as well as other communities, is wonderful. It feels really good, I believe, because as human beings— and this is especially true for children —we yearn for this kind of connection. We all have a fundamental need to belong to something greater than just ourselves. Unfortunately, American life ordinarily provides this kind of experience only rarely. Aren’t we usually focused on individual achievement, advancement and accumulation? Isn’t life often a race for access to personalized and curated comforts? Aren’t we typically oblivious, dis-connected, to the majority of people around us?

I’ve speculated before that this is one reason why kids love camp; it serves as an antidote to modern life. It provides something our children need that’s difficult to get in their regular lives. Put simply, Rockbrook is “a place for girls to grow” because it provides them essential nourishment in the form of community. They will tell you camp is “fun,” and that they simply “love it,” but I think it’s this community spirit that’s really at work.

This afternoon we switched up our regular activities and instead offered an array of new options. The girls who were already signed up for horseback riding, zip lining, and pottery (three of the most popular options around here) kept those, but everyone else could choose something completely new. We called it “Choice Day Saturday.” Different counselors led the activities. There was an epic scavenger hunt that sent small groups of girls dashing about the camp. The was an activity where the girls painted positive messages on rocks and then positioned them around camp to be found. One group of girls found themselves turning a crank to make ice cream. Another found themselves dancing and sweating to a Jazzercise class. Some of the senior girls chose to attend a self care spa that included calming music, herbal tea and easy yoga. One counselor led a jam session where the girls could bring any instrument or play one of our ukuleles. Casey led a group playing pickleball. A few enjoyed doing water color paintings, while another made flower crowns. There was also a candle dipping activity and even a lively game of bingo on the dining hall porch. It was great fun to have all these options.

boy and girls at fun camp dance

Tonight marked the highly anticipated return of the Camp Carolina Dance. After a few years of missing this event for COVID reasons, this is bound to be a highlight of the session. Our younger campers, the Juniors and Middlers, remained at Rockbrook, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the CCB boys. Our CITs served as DJs. Led by the counselors, the kids enthusiastically danced and grooved to pop songs and classic line dances like the Cha Cha Slide. For those not interested in dancing, or if they just needed a break, there were games outside like gaga ball and tetherball. Cookies made a nice snack for everyone along the way.

Simultaneously, the Senior girls and Hi-Ups were able to show off their dance skills in the Camp Carolina gym. Some added glitter to their faces, while others came dressed in full costume. The girls brought an undeniable energy to the event and were thoroughly excited to let loose on the dance floor. They jumped and danced for two exhilarating hours, only pausing briefly for sips of water. It was an intense, sweat-inducing, and incredibly thrilling night.

Back at camp, everyone took a bit longer than usual to settle down for the night as they were still excited and engrossed in conversations about the dance. With fun like this, that’s to be expected!

girl at camp dress up eveing

Buzzing Creativity

The weather in this part of North Carolina is extraordinary, often impressive, even astonishing at times. We’re located in the western mountains and have enough elevation to help us stay cooler in the summer, but also far enough south to moderate our winters. We are surrounded by national and state forests (many hundreds of thousands of acres) and are far enough away from large cities that we enjoy remarkably clean air. By the way, we haven’t seen any impact from the Canadian wildfires affecting areas of the northeast. This morning when we woke up, everyone was surprised how chilly it was. Checking the Rockbrook weather station, the low temperature was 44 degrees! Brrrr! Time for another layer! Once the sun rose from behind the hill it warmed up fast. By noon it was 70 degrees, and later in the afternoon, the temperature hit 80. Perfect!

tiny kid climbing

Yes, perfect weather for climbing. Our Alpine climbing tower, which is located in the woods a short distance from the gym, sees climbing all day long. It’s a 50-foot tall system of logs cabled and bolted together providing dozens of different routes to the top. It can accommodate up to 6 climbers simultaneously, each exploring different routes and overcoming unique climbing challenges on their way up. This makes it an excellent place for learning how to climb, even for our youngest campers. They start by learning essential climbing knots, understanding rock climbing equipment like an ATC, and practicing belay commands used by climbers worldwide.

The Alpine Tower provides such a variety of climbs it takes quite a while to conquer them all. Some are direct routes to the top, stepping on the small holds and gripping others one by one like a ladder. Others involve pulling up on ropes or rope cargo nets, and navigating swinging obstacles. A few are really challenging because they are vertical or even overhanging, or involve more arm strength to reach the next hold.

Some girls are even climbing the tower blindfolded just for the fun and added challenge. It’s incredible to witness how they can successfully climb without the ability to see the next hold.

After each climb, there’s an exciting thrill of swinging on the belay rope, sometimes even upside down, while being lowered down.

Another area buzzing with activity at camp are our fiber arts programs. In the activity Curosty, campers can weave headbands, bookmarks, placemats, among other projects on our vintage restored looms. The historic building the activity takes place in is even older than the camp itself! On the idyllic back porch, campers can work on their weaving or needlepoint while listening to the creek rushing by. Campers who especially fall in love with weaving spend multiple other free-swim periods perfecting their projects, adding extra color, beads, or other personal touches.

In the other historical building on camp, Goodwill, named after Nancy Carrier’s birthplace, another popular activity takes place: KIT. KIT, which stands for “Keeping In Touch”, focuses on paper crafts. Campers take advantage of our arsenal of craft supplies, using colorful paper, stickers, rhinestones, stencils, markers, and beads to perfect their masterpieces. Some favorite activities to make in KIT include stationary, greeting cards, journals, calendars and keepsake boxes. KIT has some of the best vibes on camp, with the cozy lighting of Goodwill combined with laughter of campers as they create their unique projects makes for a truly special scene.

One last word about the importance of sending Mail. After lunch, all the campers rush to check their mailboxes to see if they received a letter. It can truly put a smile on your campers face to see a letter in their box, even if it is a short note. So keep those letters and emails coming, your camper will truly thank you!

teenage tennis girls at camp

A Giant Dose of Freedom

Another somewhat typical comment we hear from parents touring Rockbrook while it’s in session— after they marvel at the abundant joyful energy of the place —is how often they see girls doing things on their own. By that they mean doing things without counselors or staff members assisting the campers, sitting right by their side or orchestrating their experience. From the littlest Juniors to the oldest Hi-Ups (10th graders), you can find girls, usually in pairs or threes, walking together somewhere, sitting together, or playing together in some way.

summer camp girls being independent

This shouldn’t be too surprising since camp is a place that encourages friendship and togetherness, and we do allow the girls to decide how to spend their free time. But without knowing any better, you might think Rockbrook is a “free range” camp where the girls can wander freely whenever and wherever they want, with no supervision or structure to guide them.

Well, that’s only part of the picture. We DO want to allow our campers to engage in activities without constant adult supervision. We do want them to make decisions for themselves— what activities to take, how to spend their free time, who to be friends with, what foods to try, how often to brush their hair, what to wear, and so forth. In fact, being away from home, away from the assistance and guidance of parents, camp is an exercise in independent decision making for kids.

This is great! It means your girls are being given daily opportunities for self-reliance and problem-solving. With the support and encouragement of this caring community, they are experiencing what it’s like to do all this for themselves. And when they succeed, perhaps surprising themselves (“I can do it..!”), they’re both building core life skills and gaining self-confidence.

Compared to life at home or at school, camp provides a giant dose of freedom.

The other part of the picture is that this freedom has some limits. Campers can explore, but they are not allowed to wander past certain points or near certain areas that are risky (e.g., the waterfront when it is closed and unsupervised by the lifeguards). Naturally, our staff is always present at camp, nearby and usually within eyeshot of the campers, available to help as they can, and ready if there’s an emergency of some sort. There is a structure to our day where everyone must attend all the meals, set activity periods, rest hour, and certain “lights out” times that vary by age group. In the interest of safety, and considering the age and maturity of the campers, there are certainly rules to follow.

There’s a balance to be found between encouraging independence and adult supervision, between the freedoms and the conventions at camp. With years of experience, and guided by our overall philosophy, we’ve landed on this balance.

Our hope is that we’ve balanced it to empower our campers, and help them be more confident in their independence. We hope that life at camp provides both challenges and moments of successfully overcoming those challenges. We hope each day Rockbrook campers discover something surprising and wonderful in the world, and that they feel more at ease in it. The Rockbrook community is here to help, to provide kind reassurance, genuine cheerful support, and more joyful enthusiasm than you can measure. It’s something that matters and is truly a great feeling for kids.

summer camp garden welcome sign

Spontaneous Spirit

Take a casual stroll around camp at any time, and you’ll get a good sense of how this is the good life. You’ll see happy girls everywhere. You’ll meet caring and engaged counselors, and find genuine enthusiasm spilling out from every activity area. It’s remarkable how quickly this spontaneous spirit has appeared. At archery you’ll see it when the girls cheer for each other after a shot hits the target. You’ll discover it at the Alpine Tower when a camper makes it to the top platform. Among the weavers in Curosty, it’ll be clear from the conversations bubbling up while the girls work the looms. The poses at Yoga, the canoe strokes at the lake, the backhands on the tennis courts, the careful protocols and aim at the riflery range—together, there seems to be a natural rhythm to camp now. It’s fascinating to see all this supportive energy and the connections it’s forming.

two summer camp kids in hammocks attached to rocks

Here’s a photo of two girls on a trip to the “Nest.” What’s the nest? It’s a special spot up in the forest above camp where a group of girls can hang up hammocks. You get there by hiking up the hill along the trail to Castle Rock. Partway up, you will find a unique cave-like feature where the rock overhangs and creates a large, dry area. We have drilled multiple rock hangers into the rock there, providing enough space for up to 14 hammocks to be strung in different directions. Along with a book, journal or friendship bracelet making supplies, and a water bottle, each girl carries a hammock and set of straps to this spot. The hammocks are a fun challenge to set up, and the cave-like feature makes this a great spot to relax and enjoy the forest, comfortably in the shade and fully sheltered from the rain. This is another of the trip options available for the girls, and something unique to the Rockbrook Camp property.

Down in the woodworking shop the girls are working on cutting boards. It’s a multi-step process that begins by measuring a plank of wood and cutting it into a rough shape using a hand saw. For these small cutting boards, the next step is to use a rasp to round its edges. In this photo you can see what will become the finished board clamped in a bench vice. Sanding and finishing will come later. It’s wonderful to see these kids explore these skills and enjoy the process of working with wood.

summer camp girls sliding down mountain creek

Tonight we took our first trip of the summer to Sliding Rock, and it was a great one. It involved all of our vans and buses to transport 90 of us up and into the Pisgah Forest. With our own lifeguards on duty, we slid two-by-two down the 60-foot natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek. The campers loved it! They screamed, cheered, and smiled as they slid down the rock. The water at Sliding Rock averages about 55 degrees, so you can imagine the eye-popping feeling of that last plunge into the pool at the bottom. It’s a classic mountain experience that we love at Rockbrook. Most girls were able to slide three or four times before our daylight faded and it was time for us to gather all our things and head to Dolly’s Dairy Bar for the last stop of the evening.

Of course, we all look forward to this treat. The ice cream really is top notch, and after tasting it, most everyone agrees with what one camper exclaimed, “This is the best ice cream in the world!” Whether it’s Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion or another camp flavor, a frozen sweet treat after riding down a waterfall is the perfect way to end the night. It was a little late by the time we got back to camp, but as the girls headed up the hill to their cabins, I could tell they were happy and content. Where else can they feel the chill of a mountain stream and the warmth of true friendship at the same time? That’s right— at camp.

Even Better at Camp

Visitors to Rockbrook are sometimes surprised by the variety of activities they see happening. It’s true; during each of the four activity periods per day, there will be campers and counselors engaged in sports, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts and of course horseback riding— more than 22 different options here in camp (not including the additional out-of-camp trips offered the older girls). What’s amazing is that these activities all happen simultaneously. In our little haven, you’ll find girls building and practicing skills, being physically challenged beyond their “comfort zone,” exercising their creativity, and exploring nature. They’ll be trying things they’ve never tried before, and all among friends who are quick to encourage and accompany them along the way.

summer camp garden art

The activity we call “Garden Art,” which the campers sometimes shorten to “Gart,” is a great example. As you might expect, this is an activity that takes place in our flower garden, and involves making art using the colorful plants growing there, plus various found objects like rocks and twigs. Using cloth, paint, and different types of string and cord as well, the instructor Bailey has many projects for the girls to try. For example, today the girls were painting stones and combining leaves and leaf-patterns to their designs. Other projects Bailey has offered in the past include pressing flowers onto cloth, macrame using plant stems and colorful cords, dyeing fabrics with indigo and other natural plant dyes, and flower arranging. Bailey is always coming up with new and exciting projects, so girls never know what they’re going to do next. Gart is a wonderful summertime activity that helps girls of all ages build their appreciation for these garden plants and inspires them to create in new ways.

summer camp tetherball game

In addition to the four activity periods, we also have three blocks of “free time” each day when the campers themselves decide what they would like to do. Hot and sweaty after an active morning? Head down to the lake to jump off the diving board, fly down the water slide, or splash around floating on a tube. Both before lunch and again before dinner the lake is open for “free swim.” Feel like playing a game? Wander down to the gaga ball pit, or one of the tetherball courts, the gym for basketball or the tennis courts. Are you curious about what creatures are living in the creek by the Goodwill cabin? Take off your shoes and wade right in! The shady breeze at the top of the hill overlooking the mountains might be the perfect place to dive deeper into that book you brought to camp. One of the red porch rocking chairs looks like a nice place to just sit and relax, working on a friendship bracelet tied to your water bottle. After dinner, during the “twilight” free time, the mountain view looks amazing in the golden evening light. Come out to the hill where there will always be folks soaking it in. Maybe a nice hot shower will feel right. It’s the camper’s choice.

girls summer camp rafting

Today was our first rafting trip on the Nantahala River. We gathered up all the Senior girls interested in going and split them into a morning group and an afternoon group, making it possible to raft everyone on the same day. Since the early 1980s, Rockbrook girls have been taking this trip. It’s that popular, popular for several reasons. It’s got a real sense of adventure: cool safety gear that allows you to get up close to a force of nature. It includes a hefty dose of fun socializing in the rafts, which easily turns into hilarity as the raft bumps into a hidden rock unexpectedly or someone falls backwards into (or out of!) the raft. It’s playful and silly as each crew plots different ways to pose for the camera. The water of the Nantahala is very cold, and that too adds to the excitement. Today’s gorgeous weather made that even more so. The final rapid of the day, the “Nantahala Falls,” is a screaming fun double drop rapid that thrills everyone. It’s a fantastic way to end the trip and is always everyone’s favorite.

Just for fun, we turned dinner into a costumed event: a night on the red carpet. With a wide runway of red paper on the floor as they entered the dining hall, campers and counselors arrived in their best “dress.” Sure there were a few dresses, evening gowns, and long skirts, but there were also feather boas, silly wigs, sunglasses and hats. It was fun to show off our outfits, laugh a little, and act like a movie star as we ate. Dressing up for dinner… even better when at camp!

summer camp girls dressed up for red carpet event