Reliving the Magic

Over 25 years ago I was a counselor, and this summer it feels as though I’ve come home to relive the magic of camp.

Morning view from Castle Rock NC

Long ago mornings at camp began with Rockbrook runners and I’m happy to say that opportunity has grown to have many campers running and walking a beautiful (and hilly) loop around camp. During free time campers and counselors may run or walk or a combination of both along the knobby hills and alongside the creek.

Nowadays my mornings have varied: taking a hike to Castle Rock that can unveil a new perspective, enjoying peaceful moments to write and reflect, or having time to take a much needed shower. A recent morning I happily used the early quiet before the rising bell to read and type up journal entries from one hundred years ago. The women adventurers who led the inaugural summer of 1921 have the same spirit felt at Rockbrook today. The journal entries feel more exciting than finishing my book right now. I’m not sure what is more amazing and beautiful, the way they wrote so eloquently and efficiently or the open spirit of adventure and ‘can do’ attitude that were so clearly a part of Rockbrook days. Not the drizzling rain nor torrential pours would stop them from an outdoor adventure!

Rockbrook Sunset Hill

There was and still is a rushing around at camp that might start with the constant sounds of the water flowing in the creek or nearby waterfall, then it’s eager campers running to their next activity or maybe to a muffin break. This feeling of haste is a welcome one; a retreat from life outside of camp and brings me to those summers a quarter of a century ago. There are of course the moments that also slow down time, when I see campers focused and chatting while working on a project or hopping along the creek searching for crawfish and salamanders and playing along the lake edge scooping up tadpoles. Campers might also be relaxing reading, knitting, or sketching in a crazy creek. There are the familiar smiles and songs along with silly and savvy announcements and twilight dance parties or sunset on the hill.

Cat Sobieszczyk

Rockbrook’s pace, living outdoors, surrounded by new friends has been the anxiety reducing treatment I didn’t anticipate, but see in the smiles of campers each day. I have learned my camp mom role is to be present, and ready to help, but the counselors do all the real work of a camper’s ‘mom’. I remember the life of a counselor is the world of their campers. Setting the tone of friendship and fun. Not only do I hear words of wisdom from counselors (and campers too), shared during unexpected moments, but also the caring and thoughtful voices that are most often just the right thing to say.

I’m so grateful that the counselors along with HUPS, and CAs know the campers and carry forward the traditions of Rockbrook. I also appreciate that my daughters and I get to experience the spirit and be part of the history during this one hundredth year of summertime at Rockbrook Camp for Girls.

—Ramblings from Cat, first time camp mom

Teen camper girls

Shaving Cream Fight!

Take a look at these photos. Obviously, they are of the shaving cream fights we had on Sunday afternoon. We had three, one for each age group neighborhood— the Juniors, the Middlers, and the Seniors. On a sunny summer afternoon, romping around in your swimsuit with friends, sprinklers and water hoses going, is always a lot of fun. Add in cans of plain shaving cream, and you have a hilarious good time.

Camp friends shaving cream
girls smeared in shaving cream

Calling this a “fight” isn’t exactly accurate. There’s no aggressive behavior, no goal of conquest. There are no teams or score kept to be announced in the end. For that matter, there’s no defined way for a shaving cream fight to end.

So what is it? Well, it requires only a few things: a grassy field, cans of shaving cream, and a group of fun-loving friends who are comfortable with each other and are willing to get messy. High tempo dance music is optional, but recommended.

It doesn’t take long for a shaving cream fight to begin. Without any prompting in fact, the girls know exactly what to do; squirt the white slippery foam on someone. Splatter the stuff on anyone nearby. Squirt some in your hand and plop it right on her head. Get as much shaving cream on everyone else as possible, even if they try to run away. Chase after them, and spray! Rub it all over their backs. Launch globs into their hair and help them create the most fabulous hairdo they’ve ever experienced.

Of course, as you chase, you’re being chased. As you spray shaving cream, it’s being sprayed on you too. Soon everyone is covered, slippery, and looking pretty silly. Most importantly, everyone is also laughing hysterically. The feeling of being covering in shaving cream, seeing your friends’ reactions, and watching the chaos of it all, are uniquely funny. Outside of camp, you’ll never see girls having this kind of deep, affirming fun, the kind of laughter that makes you pause to take a breath. A shaving cream fight like this taps into the the most genuine of celebratory joy.

girls camp slip and slide fun

With all these slippery kids, what’s more natural than sliding down a wet sheet of plastic? At camp, that’s completely natural! The gentle slope nearby our grassy landsports field makes a great place to spread out the slide. Soon the girls were taking turns sliding two at time. Run, launch, and slide on your belly. It’s a fun challenge to stay upright, but flipping and flopping as you slide is a fine way to go.

An afternoon shaving cream fight like this proves once again that these camp girls know how to have a good time with each other. The shaving cream, water hoses, and sheet of plastic didn’t make it great. Those bits served as a catalyst of sorts for the girls themselves to create the fun. Their positive relationship with each other, the trust and goodwill already proven through days of common experience, made that fun a possibility. You can imagine a group of random people who didn’t know each other would have a hard time having fun in a shaving cream fight. Especially adults! There’s no way that could happen. A camp shaving cream fight is inherently more genuine than what could happen among any other group of people.

Perhaps that’s true about a lot of things at Rockbrook— the authenticity of our relationships, each of us living and showing our real selves, makes us enjoy ourselves more. Knowing each other this well, relaxing into who we really are because we sense this community is here to support and encourage us, opens up a quality of experience that’s just out of reach ordinarily. I do think that’s part of what makes camp life so special and enjoyable for your girls, and truly for everyone here at Rockbrook. Blame it on the culture of camp, but there are real effects… even in something as simple as a shaving cream fight.

girls with shaving cream in their hair

Celebrating with Fireworks

Let’s start with the food. It’s really been fabulous this summer, and today’s meals stand out.

homemade dessert rockbrookie

Lunch was a chance to get creative as Rick and his crew provided an array of ingredients for everyone to make their own “breakfast sandwich.” Breakfast for Lunch! He had english muffins, with eggs and cheese, breakfast meats, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and an array of condiments. He served fresh local blackberries on the side. But for dinner, as part of our “centennial celebration,” Rick pulled out all the stops! He made fried chicken, mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh green beans, and homemade biscuits… 770 homemade, cut-by-hand, biscuits! What a meal! Then to top it off, let me introduce you to the dessert known around here as a “Rockbrookie.” Sydney, one of our bakers, invented these triple-layer bars: chocolate chip cookie on the bottom, a layer of Oreo cookie in the middle, and brownie on the top. One of a kind delicious!

Just about all day, and almost everyday, the looms in Curosty are in motion. Girls of all ages take turns sitting and working the warp and weft, using colorful yarns to weave swatches. Often, the girls keep these handmade pieces of cloth to use them as placemats or simple decorative pieces, but they can also be sewn into small pillows or bags.

camp counselors hiding in bushes

After dinner tonight, we held a counselor hunt. This is a very popular all-camp activity where the staff members do their best to hide somewhere in camp and the girls travel around in the their cabin groups searching. Being so wooded, Rockbrook has loads of great hiding spots. Many counselors dress all in black, and often cover themselves with a trash bag. One actually hid inside a trash bag, inside a trashcan! Others hid inside canoes, or covered themselves with leaves. The girls have a great time racing around the camp searching for these hidden staff members. Some were found right away, and others not at all. When we rang the bell to signal the “all clear,” all but a handful were found. Each counselor hiding had a key that they gave to the cabin group who found them. Then out of all the keys, only one opened a “treasure box” that contained a few small gifts for the cabin. The cabin groups took turns trying their keys to see if theirs was the one. The box also revealed that later tonight we would have a fireworks show!

When we show fireworks at camp, it’s a great time for the girls. They gather on the hill in their crazy creek chairs and look toward the sky above the lake. We launch from the lake, so when the colors burst in the sky, they are easily seen by the girls on the hill above. We play fun dance music, hand out glow sticks for everyone, and serve popsicles right before getting started. There’s nothing quite like fireworks to celebrate, and since it’s Rockbrook’s 100th birthday this year, this was perfect.

I’ll leave you with a short video clip of the show. You can just make out the singing and cheering over the sound of the explosions.

More Mindful

One of my favorite things to do during camp is to wander into an activity area and hang out with the girls. As they busily shape their clay, twist and tie white t-shirts prepping them for dyes, or struggle to find the next climbing hold on the tower, they are funny and chatty with each other. Laughter punctuates their conversations. Support and encouragement flow between them. Their instincts are so positive, so cheerful, their friendships so relaxed and natural. It’s a special experience just to witness it. Even better, I’ve found it rejuvenating to join in, if not to do the activity, then to join the conversation.

teen equestrian girl and horse

For example, today I hung out with a couple of 8th graders while they worked on their embroidery projects. It was right before dinner during the 2nd block of “free swim” free time. While I didn’t grab a needle and thread myself, we had a great conversation about how camp was going. I asked them what they thought made camp so special. For them, what do they like about life at Rockbrook (one of my favorite things to think about and ask campers about)? These two girls have been coming to camp for about 5 years each, and were here for the main 4-week session, so they would have a solid perspective to offer. I was expecting them to say how they loved the variety of activities (they did), and enjoyed the food (they did, enthusiastically!), and appreciated their counselors (“easily the best counselors I’ve ever had. I love them so much,” they told me). These clearly are important components of what makes camp life great. But after thinking about it a bit more, one of them said something extraordinarily insightful.

two cute camp girls

She said, “Being at camp makes me more mindful of things.” By “more,” she meant compared to being at home interacting with her school friends. “When I’m here I pay attention to more things, and appreciate more things,” she explained. When I asked her why that was the case, what it was about life at camp that made her more mindful, she said, “It probably has to do with not having my phone, but I think it’s also that there’s more time to slow down and notice things.”

Wow! That is so true! I think this insightful young person put her finger on one of the most important aspects of camp life— that it provides an environment that encourages us, campers and staff alike, to be more mindful. It inspires us to pay attention to the world around us, to the people, to nature, and to who we really are. So many of the important benefits of camp, I suspect, can be traced to this.

The core experience of making friends at camp, of forging a strong mutual relationship with someone who really knows you and really cares about you, grows from being mindful of each other. The success girls feel when making decisions independently, dozens of decisions each day, builds from paying attention to the details of the environment. Developing social skills depends on an awareness of others, their feelings, expectations, and needs. Tapping into the wonders and beauty of nature requires our mindful attention. To have fun, in some ways, means being attentive to the activity itself, unaware of how your skills compare, or the final score of the game.

blond child hold up wrist with bracelets

I think she is right, also, that the slower pace of camp, along with it being “screen-free,” are important conditions that make us more mindful at camp. Instead of charging full speed ahead, striving to “get ahead,” in the outside world, camp provides free time to “notice and appreciate” more of what’s right next to us. Moving too fast always means skimming over things, as being hectic is the enemy of being mindful. Life at camp is a welcome relief from all that. With less urgency in the mix, camp provides this kind of special permission to notice.

And yes, having instant, easy access to a smartphone is obviously a distraction. The lure of passive entertainment and the thrill of social media trends dull our sensitivity to the nuances around us. That’s surely a recipe for diminished relationships of all kinds. When campers can’t default to their devices whenever things slow down, or become “awkward” for some reason, they are more inclined to pay attention to, and engage with, what’s around them. Ditching their smartphones makes their lives more rich.

girl eating ice cream cone

Could this be the reason everything seems better at camp— the friendships deeper, the food more delicious, our sense of self more confident, our feelings of gratitude and love more genuine and widespread? Maybe so. Maybe taking a break from the frantic pace of ordinarily life, with all its demands and distractions, is what makes camp life feel so good. Camp is a haven from all that, a safe place to pay attention, enrich your experience, and make connections that might not otherwise form. I think that’s what this needle crafting young person meant. Girls love Rockbrook for all sorts of reasons, but I think its ability to inspire mindfulness is an important part of that positive feeling.

Isn’t that amazing?! Thank goodness for camp! It’s giving your girls firsthand experience of this approach to life. It’s showing them that paying attention is both important and rewarding. It’s demonstrating how to enrich their relationships with just about everything, people and activities alike. Camp is allowing them live these insights and perhaps later at home, to be a little more mindful.

camp girls playing gaga ball

2nd Session Video Glimpse — 3

Our amazing videographer Robbie Francis came to camp this week to film.

He’s again edited a short video that beautifully captures the feel of our days at Rockbrook. It’s less than two minutes long, so I hope you’ll watch it more than once. Seeing and hearing camp in motion is a real treat. Enjoy!

Take a look, and let us know what you think. We love your comments!

Click here for the video Or see below.

P.S. You may also enjoy last week’s video.

A Kayaking Trip

Today, we have a special post written by Sonya Korabelnikova, one of our whitewater instructors. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what out-of-camp adventure trips are like, and what the girls learn in addition to having fun and improving their kayaking skills. Enjoy!

Kid Kayaking trip

I knew we had a very big day ahead of us when I showed up at camp around 7:45am. Today we would be running section IX of the French Broad River, a whitewater kayaking trip that is a step more advanced. We always try to run the river and be back in time for dinner, and this trip is a long one, especially if we were hoping to squeeze in a stop at Dolly’s on the way back.

To my surprise the campers arrived ready, with all their gear, clothes, sunscreen, etc. It turns out Lula went to talk to everyone the night before to make sure they would be ready to go early. KK jumped on the trailer right away helping to tie the boats. She has perfected her truckers hitch, so while I still checked her knots, I really didn’t have to. She ties them very well. Everyone else helped too, loading the gear and boats into the van without me saying a word. By now they all know what to do and everyone finds the spot where they are the most helpful. We were able to leave camp by 9:06am, much earlier than I have expected. This was a pleasant surprise because last week it took more than twice that time.

camp girl kayaking

Arriving at the river, everyone was ready and excited to go. Riley, the youngest camper (she is only 11 and this would be only her 4th time on a whitewater river) needed some extra help carrying her boat and putting her skirt on. Before I got a chance to help, Kate and Willa were already helping her. Again, with everyone pitching in, we were able to get on the river in no time.

We arrived at a large eddy and decided to practice t-rescues and rolls. As we were working, one of the girls said she was afraid. When I asked her about that, she explained she was “afraid to fail.” I’ve noticed this as a recurring conversation this year— worrying about failing. So, instead of working on rolls, we took a moment and talked about how important it was to try, even when there is a chance of failure. We talked about how not trying is often worse than not succeeding, and how failing is often a part of learning because no one ever succeeds in everything all the time, especially when first starting out. Back at our roll practice, some of them failed but tried again. Some succeeded, but everyone looked happy to keep trying.

girls scouting whitewater rapid

Next up was Pillow Rock, the most difficult and largest rapid on the river. We got out of our boats and climbed up the rock to scout. Lula, KK and Willa were ready to move forward, seeing their line and having no fear. I smiled and told them to go. They climbed down the rock, got into their boats and charged one after another. Of course, they hit the perfect line.

Grape and Kate were nervous. They asked me if I thought they were ready for this rapid. I told them that I thought they were ready, but it was really up to them if they wanted to run it or not. They looked at each other, having a silent conversation. A few minutes later, there were cheers from everyone because they successfully ran the rapid!

Riley was the last one. She said to me, “I’m scared, but I really want to do it. Can I follow you?” “Sure,” I said, “we can go together.” We climbed down, she got in her boat and charged after me. After she took one confident stroke after another, I knew she would be fine. She made it to the bottom of the rapid and other girls offered her high fives and cheers.

french broad river kayaking

At the Swimmers Rapid, we had the girls ferry over to practice their skills. When one of them flipped and swam, half of the other girls charged over to help get her to shore. Soon these other campers were reassuring the camper, retrieving her gear, and getting her back in her boat. I felt that I didn’t need to add anything, since these girls knew how to properly handle this situation, both the rescue part and emotional part as well.

We got to the take out and had a few minutes for more roll practice and swimming. As some of them practiced, others gave their friends tips. I was surprised again. They seemed to remember everything we taught them and some of them were really good at explaining it to their friends.

Back in the bus, the girls were fiddling with their bracelets. They get a knotted cord bracelet for going kayaking, and a different bead for every achievement like paddling a specific river, or accomplishing a maneuver. The bracelets are made by tying a fishermen knot. Kate, who perfected the knot, was teaching everyone how to do it. We discovered that Riley was missing the bracelet and she was leaving the next day. But with no time to make her one, Grape took her bracelet off and said, “Here, you can have mine. I want you to have a bracelet before you leave.”

The conversation on the bus began to get louder. This is the first time on the trip that I heard Riley join in talking. At first, she may have felt like an outsider being the youngest camper on the trip. But now, she is clearly part of the team. All of them are.

Also on the bus ride home, I asked them to list their achievements of the day. They answered, “I punched the hole. I rolled. I caught the small eddy. I ran a big rapid.” Funny enough, none of them mentioned what I think are their biggest achievements: I helped and supported a friend. I made sure everyone was included. I was brave. I was strong. I took initiative when no one asked. I was a team member. With all this, it’s easy to understand why I am so proud of them.

As we sat outside of the Dolly’s eating our ice cream, the girls talked about how much they enjoyed the day and how much they want to come back to go kayaking again. I hope they will. I hope they will have more opportunities to enjoy this sport that will challenge them, force them to be a team member, take them out into nature, and will help them grow into the strong independent women we all want them to be.

kayaking camp girls

No Such Deficit

One inescapable fact about life at Rockbrook is its immersive outdoor quality. Around here the complex forces of nature, the rich textures and tones of natural beauty, are our daily companion. In every direction, there is something wonderful, something that can fill you with wonder, waiting to be noticed. Sparkling streams, angular rocks covered with moss, tiny insects scurrying across the ground, ancient trees towering above— we’re surrounded by the mysteries of the natural world.

kids exploring nature

The weather, too! We’re submerged in the morning fog, never far from the rain, feeling the sun and the wind as they appear. Sometimes we’re hot, other times cold and damp. We’re watching clouds blend with sunsets, marveling when a thunderstorm rolls through. This afternoon, for example, when the sun was out in one direction and a drizzle fell in the other, a cabin of girls stood in the rain happily getting wet as they cheered the sudden rainbow overhead.

We cherish this outdoor living at Rockbrook, fostering this organic feeling whenever we can. Instead of shielding ourselves from nature, we want our days to include it, hoping to celebrate every rich opportunity it might provide. That’s why at Rockbrook we don’t level every stepping stone, smooth every surface, or eradicate every insect we see. That’s why the compassionate “catch and release” of a stray spricket in the cabin is a skill admired around here. We carefully trim encroaching rhododendron bushes and build using stone and rough cut lumber when we can. We love to eat outside, sit on the ground in our crazy creek chairs, and wade through the creeks in camp. We love the “refreshing” cool water of the Rockbrook lake. How different this is from life in the “civilized” world where it’s more common for kids to suffer from a degree of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” as Richard Louv has put it. At Rockbrook, there’s no such deficit.

teen girl riding horse at summer camp

Riding a horse complements this close experience with nature by introducing a relationship with a living creature. Throughout each day, girls at camp are meeting horses, touching them, talking to them, caring for them, and yes, riding them. They’re using subtle, and some not so subtle, movements to communicate how the horse should behave. With the proper coaching, this allows the riders to change the horse’s gait, more faster and over obstacles like cross rails and jumps. It’s a real thrill for the girls to build their confidence with these large animals, trusting them, and cooperating with them to enjoy moving around the riding ring together. We’re seeing a strong interest in riding this session, with many first-time equestriennes giving it a try. Our 32 horses are happily getting plenty of attention!

Today all of the Middlers and Seniors who have not already gone took a trip over to the Nantahala River for whitewater rafting. It’s now a strong tradition for Rockbrook girls to raft this popular river, one that started back in the 1980s. With our own guides operating our own equipment, Rockbrook is fortunate to have a permit allowing it to run trips without outside help.

Rafting the Nantahala is always a blast, even for those who have done it is the past. Wearing the gear, riding in the boat with your friends, the “freezing” cold water, bumping and bouncing over the rapids, and goofing around for the camera— all add to the excitement and fun. We were lucky to have great weather all day today, making the trips altogether excellent. Heart pumping outdoor excitement with friends!

two girls with tub of bracelet beads

Tours of Camp

Ordinarily during this part of the summer we are giving lots of tours. It’s quite common for families who have somehow heard of Rockbrook to stop by when they are in the area and get a first-hand glimpse into life at camp. For someone who hasn’t seen Rockbrook girls in their element, a tour is marvelous. This summer, however, as we think about precautions against the coronavirus, we are not offering tours. We are trying to minimize our contact with people outside of camp, and unfortunately, this means camp tours have been restricted.

zipline kids camp

OK, no tours this summer, but what are they usually like?

A tour of Rockbrook will certainly showcase the facilities— our renovated bathrooms and showers with unlimited hot water, our covered horseback riding arena that’s the biggest of any camp in NC, our 2 19th-century log cabins used for craft activities, our stone meeting lodges, the waterfalls and rock faces on the property, climbing tower, unique lake, dining hall and rustic sleeping cabins. Visitors to Rockbrook are often struck by the organic beauty of the place. With its large trees, creeks and thick forest setting, and really not much “lawn,” it’s immediately apparent that this 100-year old camp has a special depth. Different from the overly landscaped environments common elsewhere, you can feel the close relationship Rockbrook has with nature. That’s all good stuff but being enamored with a camp’s facilities, while interesting, is only part of the story.

camp girl weaving on floor loom

Touring during the summer is also a great way to see many of the camp activities in motion, see actual campers clicking their looms, firing their guns, and rolling their kayaks, for example. Being here in the morning, means witnessing the joyful rush toward the dining hall for muffin break. You’ll probably catch a glimpse of a girl flying past the office on the final zipline of the course. You’re bound to see many examples of artistic creativity as girls work with clay, colorful bottles of dye, yarns, paints, wood and wax. You’ll probably spend a little time at the Rockbrook Riding Center watching girls walk, trot, canter and jump, and at the Rockbrook lake marveling at the range of water activity, from screaming down the waterslide to relaxing in a floating tube. Girls are having a lot of fun at camp, clearly, but realizing that is still not the best reason to take a tour of Rockbrook.

teen girl pulling arrow on bow

The best part of taking a camp tour is meeting the people of Rockbrook, both the campers and the staff members. There are just really great folks here, friendly caring people, all enthusiastic about camp. You can spot these qualities when you see how the girls treat each other so nicely. They’re paying attention to each other, smiling at each other, showing that they care. Meeting girls at Rockbrook is marvelous because they’re so refreshingly silly, genuinely comfortable and happy. Immersed in the Rockbrook camp culture, you can tell that they love camp. Most will tell you that there’s no other place they’d rather be. It feels that good to be at camp. Once again, it’s the people that make the camp, and hence are the most delightful part of every tour.

If you already send your daughter to Rockbrook, you probably know all this. You’ve seen hints of it in the photo gallery, maybe even read something about it in a letter home. You don’t need a tour to appreciate the beauty, the fun, and the people of Rockbrook. For others, we hope our Web site —its photography, videos, and written descriptions— can help, at least until that time when we can offer tours again. Meanwhile, you can also enjoy a virtual tour of camp.

gymnastics camp kids

The Best Kind of Busy

Today we welcomed another group of excited, eager girls to Rockbrook as we opened our second July Mini session. It started around 8:30am as cars began pulling into the riding center driveway, making their way through our new drive-through check-in procedure. After quick stops to meet folks from the office, Brittany the riding director, camp director Sarah Carter, and our team of nurses, it was time to drive up into camp and meet even more people. A mob of smiling, cheering counselors waited at the top of the hill also eager to get started with camp. The energy of camp— friendly, supportive, accepting and silly —was bubbling up right away. These campers, and some of the counselors too, have been waiting for two years to experience this energetic fun. Finally, we can get started!

best summer camp friends

Getting started means setting up the bunks, making beds, and of course getting to know the others in your cabin. It means, right away, tackling challenges with the support of your peers rather than your parents. Starting the first day of camp means feeling a little nervous but also relieved to find so many nice people in your cabin group. The first day of camp includes learning that the hill is steep when walking from the gym to the Junior line. It means discovering that the food at camp is delicious and plentiful, as giant platters of homemade mac-n-cheese made their way to the tables for lunch. Since we often like to spend time swimming at camp, the first day also means demonstrating your swimming ability in our mountain stream-fed, highly “refreshing” lake, and receiving your own tag for the tag board. Most importantly, this first day of camp marks the beginning of a great adventure, one filled with nature, relationships with caring people, meaningful conversations, and daily new experiences.

summer camp buddy tag board

Swimming in the Rockbrook lake is one of the unique treats at camp. 100 years ago when the camp was founded, the lake was smaller, perhaps one quarter its current size. Like all of the lakes in this area, it’s manmade, and relies on an earthen dam for it to exist. It was expanded in 1925 by digging a deeper section and building a larger dam. Men dug by hand and used horses to drag the dirt out. The lake has six very large boulders and many large trees around its perimeter giving it the feeling of an ancient swimming hole hidden in the forest. It’s rumored that when viewed from above, the outline of the lake is the shape of our mascot – a cardinal! There’s a fun 50-ft waterslide on one end, a dock and diving board on the other. One portion is more shallow, perfect for swimming laps or just playing in the water while standing up. It’s approximately 14 feet deep in the center. Throughout the day during activity periods, plus during the two “free swim” periods before lunch and dinner, girls are splashing and playing in the water. The lake is a very popular place to be at camp!

We’re very happy to have these new friends join the full session girls already at camp. With a full house again, we’ll have every activity in motion tomorrow, all of us happily getting busy. Since it’s camp, that’s the best kind of busy.

camp girls dressed in traditional uniform

Delightfully Familiar

It’s been a very special time at camp the last couple of days, that time between our July Mini sessions when just the full Second session girls are here at camp. After the first July mini session finishes, we go from about 210 campers to 130, turning Rockbrook into a smaller camp filled with well-adjusted camp girls. These are girls who are fully settled into the routines of camp, now comfortable with each other, and able to feel more at home rather than just “on vacation.”

water slide peace sign kid

That’s one of the benefits of coming to camp for a longer session. Camp life begins to mean more and matter more. With extra days at camp, these girls have more time to deepen their friendships, strengthen their relationships with the camp staff, develop more advanced activity skills, and begin to absorb some of the more nuanced qualities of the Rockbrook culture. Better habits can begin to form too— for example, being quicker and more cheerfully willing to help with chores, smiling and saying “hello” to everyone, even getting better sleep after our full, active, screen-free days. Some of the things about camp that are different from home, and maybe strange at first— like living this close to the weather, using a flashlight every night, walking up and down the hills, and the temperature of the lake —now become delightfully familiar.

I noticed an example of this familiarity today talking with a couple of 5th graders after lunch. They had hung back to get a drink of water before rest hour, and I bumped into them outside. I said hello, and soon we were having a 10-minute conversation about lunch (They loved the taquitos and guacamole.), their activities (They had swimming next. “That’s good,” they reassured me), and their favorite muffin flavor (Funfetti). I learned that one has a brother who goes to High Rocks, and the other is an only child. For both of them, this was their first summer at camp. They were here for 4 weeks, and they were doing great.

child pulling back archery bow

I was struck by how easy going this conversation was, how happily chatty these girls were with me, how relaxed they were talking with an adult. Outside of camp, I find these encounters more rare. On many occasions, I’ve met kids who are instantly uncomfortable talking with adults, who don’t ask questions or offer their perspective into things. Even when prompted with “what do you think?” they can barely squeak out “I don’t know.” I always find that so strange compared to the girls I know at Rockbrook.

At camp, friendly conversation is the currency of our day. It’s a powerful force always humming in the background if it’s not the focus of our attention. It’s the most natural thing in the world for camp girls… a genuine interest in those around them, and a desire to connect with them, and when at camp, to play with them. Camp girls know that everything is better when it’s done with others. With the right attitude, you can have fun with anyone. So, it’s almost an instinct to seek out new friends. This desire and ability to connect with other people is sort of a camp girl super power, and it’s one that I think will serve them very well later in life.

girls racing through carnival course

We held a special circus-themed carnival this evening on our landsports field. Scattered about the field there were activities and games for the girls: two large inflatables (One was a waterslide.), giant ring toss, pingpong ball tossing into a jars, water gun shooting pingpong balls, bean bag tossing (plenty of tossing!), face painting, hula hooping, and juggling. Two counselors drew caricatures of the campers. Throughout the event we ate snow cones, and played familiar pop songs, making the event a fun outdoor dance party as the girls zoomed from one activity to the other, pausing briefly to pose for photos. It was a lighthearted and silly evening for everyone. There’s an album of photos in the online gallery where you can see much more.

two teen girls wearing clown noses