As we loaded the first three buses and vans early this morning, we had a hunch it was going to be a challenging day. The weather forecast called for patchy rain, but we had 70 people signed up to go rafting. The real question was how much rain would fall over at the Nantahala river, and could we avoid the heaviest periods of rainfall. Despite that uncertainty, the guides left at 6:15am to stage all the equipment in advance of the first group of campers arriving. And despite it being early in the morning, that first group woke up early for a quick breakfast before leaving around 7. Dressed in their swimsuits, with towels, water shoes, and a backpack of warm dry clothes for after the trip, and a little bleary-eyed, we were off!
Sure enough, as we drove toward the river, the skies darkened and a light drizzle began falling. And by the time we reached the put in to the river, we’d passed through periods of real rain alternating with a cool mist.
The Nantahala is already known for its chilly water temperature (because it’s fed partially by a hydroelectric project that pulls water from a deep lake), so to add a cool rain and cloudy skies meant making an even chillier experience. Fortunately, we were prepared for that, and gave all of the campers blue spray jackets to wear. These repel the rain and help retain some body heat when paddling.
It was a rainy rafting day. Was it miserable or disappointing? No! Just the opposite— it was uncomfortable for sure, but also exciting, adventurous, and still very fun. The girls laughed and splashed their way down the river, taking turns “riding the bull” on the front of the raft. They had a great time posing for photographs and chatting in the boat. In each rapid, when there is an even greater chance someone might fall out of the boat, the splashing was extra thrilling.
Rafting is always a challenging experience to some degree. It’s something that’s a little scary ordinarily, but when it’s rainy like today, it’s even more so. What surprises the girls though is that even with their nervousness, their nagging worry perhaps, they find themselves leaning into the situation and doing just fine. What seems like something they would usually avoid, if given the choice, they in fact enjoy quite a lot.
Rafting helps them learn that approaching new experiences together, having friends around you in uncertain situations, makes a big difference. Rafting proves that when you’re nervous, it’s comforting to have your pals right there with you. That support helps you be more confident to give things a try, to be brave even when you’re not sure how things will turn out. Camp is full of these experiences. And, a rainy rafting day is a particularly good example. Today the girls showed real resilience and grit to stick together, endure some challenging conditions, but still have a blast on the water.
Meanwhile back at camp, we suddenly found that many of the campers and counselors had mysteriously aged dramatically. Instead of blond and brown hair, we saw many people with grey and white hair. Instead of girls running up and down the Rockbrook hills, folks were moving more slowly, almost limping along with one hand pressing their backs as if slightly in pain. The yoga class went from doing downward dog poses to easier moves that allowed these folks to sit in a chair. At the lake, instead of diving board tricks and waterslide splashes, there were people taking a gentle water aerobics class.
What was going on?
Curlers in their hair? Walking canes? And so many nightgowns! Well, it was a day of costumes at camp, of grannies and grandpas. It was a chance to take on a character and dress up. It was a chance to drop a “dad joke” and maybe speak with a higher pitched, scratchy voice.
After dinner, there was a brief fashion show on the hill. Anyone interested could take turns showing their best geriatric style. With music and an announcer narrating the scene, everyone clapped and cheered for each presentation… all just for the fun of it.
Capping things off, tonight’s evening program was a raucous game of bingo in the dining hall. The grannies and grandpas selected their bingo cards, and as the pingpong ball numbers tumbled out of the cage one by one, they placed pieces of cereal on the matching numbers. Round after round, lucky (seemingly) elderly people would raise their arms and shout “BINGO!” excited to win a prize. Like so many things at Rockbrook, the whole day was funny and fun… silly, joyful fun.