Arriving at camp, as our 2nd July mini session campers did today, is always exciting. For this particular session, it was exciting for the campers arriving, after all they’ve been waiting a long time for this day, but it’s also exciting for all of us already at camp because we’ll be seeing old friends returning to camp as well as plenty of new people to meet.
The evidence for this was written on so many faces this morning. It was literally a parade of smiles… smiling parents as they saw the enthusiasm of the Rockbrook staff, smiling campers as they began to pick up the friendly vibe of camp, and smiling counselors eager to meet their newly arrived campers. The counselors really look forward to meeting their campers. After only seeing their profile photos, it’s so much better to finally meet the girls and begin to understand their personalities.
Of course, the arriving campers are looking forward to everything. They are eager to meet their cabin mates, even if that can also be a little nerve wracking for some. Entering any new social setting carries a little uncertainty, but it doesn’t take long for girls to realize that people at camp are nice. They’re kind, and want to be your friend, so that calms any nervousness that might be bubbling up.
Our drive thru check-in process worked smoothly, with most families only waiting short while to make their way through all the stations. Thank you for your patience!
By noon, everyone had arrived and the girls were busy setting up their cabins and getting to know each other. Meanwhile, the full session campers had gone to chapel, where the Senior girls led everyone in a program on the theme of “Nature.” Being at camp means immersing yourself in nature, getting to feel its forces, and personally experiencing its nuances. Camp is a place where nature is a daily participant, rather than something we shield ourselves from. How that affects us, and what that might mean, are interesting questions to think about. And what better place to do that than camp?
As we sat to eat Rick’s famous comfort food lunch— homemade mac-n-cheese, sautéed veggies, and fresh blueberries and blackberries —the weather turned a little rainy, and it looked like the forecast was intermittent rain for the rest of the day.
This delayed our swimming demonstrations a bit, but we were still able to fit most of them in between rainy spells. These “swim demos” are a way for campers to show our waterfront staff how comfortable they are in the water, swimming and treading water without difficulty. Doing that earns everyone a colored tag for the tag board, which is a system we use to keep a tally of swimmers when the lake is open. It was still a little misty throughout the “demos,” so the chilly lake water was even more surprising for the girls. But the crowd was just as encouraging and the lifeguards just as supportive of everyone taking their mountain dip. I’m sure those dry towels felt really good afterwards!
Our afternoon activity was an all-camp event we held in the gym (again, to avoid the rain of the day)— a reptile show. This was a fascinating close encounter with several different snakes, a tortoise (a 50-year-old red footed tortoise named Rex), and a detailed presentation of “ophiology,” the study of snakes.
What did we learn? Mostly, that snakes are really cool! The campers learned the difference between a poisonous snake (don’t eat it or touch it) and a venomous snake (don’t let it bite you). They learned that snakes are often misunderstood. They’re not “slimy,” and they won’t attack human beings unless threatened or provoked. We heard that some snakes will play dead if near a predator, and others will run away. The girls were able to see, and touch! if they were so brave, a 4-ft long boa constrictor from Columbia, a 5-ft long grey banded rat snake, an eastern hog nosed snake, and a yellow rat snake named Josie that looked like an over-ripe banana. Girls had questions too. “Is it true that you can tell the age of a rattlesnake by its rattle?” No. “Have you ever been bit by a snake?” Yes, but it wasn’t venomous so it wasn’t bad. “Can I touch?” Yes, please do!
Our hope is that the girls are now a little more informed about snakes, more curious about them, and possibly less frightened by them. At camp, we caution the girls to stay away from any snake they might see, and to alert a counselor. If the snake is venomous, we have a special tool one of the directors can use to catch it, and remove it from camp. We won’t kill a snake, just release it somewhere farther away from the people at camp. After today’s presentation, I think the girls do have a new respect and admiration for snakes, but also an understanding about being cautious around them.