“We welcome you to Rockbrook Camp; we’re mighty glad you’re here…” As the camp greeting song goes, today we all enjoyed that sentiment— the feeling of being welcomed to a special place. Some have been waiting an entire year to return to their “haven in the mountains,” while others have been wondering and dreaming for months about what camp will really be like. For everyone though, both campers and staff members alike, today was a blend of excitement and joyful relief, of nervous enthusiasm, and of eager anticipation. And smile after smile, after smile.
So welcome everyone to Rockbrook! What a wonderful opening day today and start to the 2023 summer season! The cars arrived at a steady pace throughout the morning, easily making their way through our “drive-thru” check-in process. (Thank you for arriving according to your designated arrival times, and for having your camp forms and medication processing completed.) The lush forest of Rockbrook and the colorful containers glistened in the sun from the slight rain we had the night before. The mob of cabin counselors clapped, and cheered, and literally jumped with excitement as campers arrived all morning.
Returning campers reunited with camp friends as new girls slipped right into cabin groups. Soon there were groups of girls just walking about, immersing themselves step by step into camp, visiting the lodges, marveling at the rushing creeks, and likewise beaming with excitement.
By about noon, everyone had arrived and we were ready for our first gathering on the hill under the walnut tree that looks out across the mountains. This was a chance for singing a few songs, and for Sarah to introduce the directors, line heads and other special staff members. We learned the line songs, and the Hi-Ups, who are our 10th-grade campers, said hello by teaching everyone the “Coconut song.” Funny and silly right from the start!
That’s something you realize pretty quickly when you arrive at Rockbrook. There’s a sense of relaxed freedom here that creates a feeling of celebration for no particular reason. You’re surrounded by friendly and welcoming people. You’re immediately a part of something special, and you can tell a lot of exciting things are happening. All the spontaneous singing, clapping and dancing around here— in the dining hall, on the buses, almost whenever we get together —is simply an inevitable expression of this celebration. It’s contagious, joyful, and honestly a little shocking how different it is from regular life. I’m sure that has a lot to do with why everyone here so eagerly soaks it in. Today was no exception. With the arrival of the campers, that incredible joy was energized and we all began to feel recharged, truly ready for camp.
Rick’s homemade Mac-n-Cheese, along with sweet, juicy red watermelon, and a green salad made our first lunch together. That’s a meal that’s become a tradition of sorts for our opening days. The warm yummy cheeses and crunchy breadcrumb topping make for just the right dose of comfort on the first day. The gluten-free and vegan version was popular popular today as well, since it had a little spice to it. Meals at Rockbrook are served “family style” with each cabin group sitting at its own table. Each cabin then has family-sized dishes of each menu item that then gets passed around. If something runs out, then a camper will get up and take the dish back to the kitchen for seconds (or thirds!).
After lunch, it was time to head to the lake for what we call “swim demos.” This is simply a chance for everyone to demonstrate their swimming ability and receive a swim bracelet and buddy tag that qualifies them to sign up of paddling trips (whitewater rafting! —for girls 5th grade and older) and enjoy free swim times each day. It’s a simple test that assures the lifeguards that girls can be comfortable in the water and can tread water for a minute without struggling. Each age group arrives to take a turn jumping off the dock. Our “refreshing” mountain stream-fed lake can be a little shocking at first, but today the girls seemed to have no trouble. I did hear a few screams after girls felt the water, but I’m sure the bright warm sunshine made a difference too.
Meanwhile, the cabin groups set off on short tours of the camp, visiting important activity areas. They learned, for example, how to find the tunnel that leads to the riding center, where to meet for the climbing activity, and where the health hut is located if they take medications or need something from the nurses. One stop was the camp store where we began to distribute all the camp gear campers pre-ordered. Soon you’ll start to see girls wearing their new swag. By the way, it is possible for them to purchase other items at the store if needed. We’ll keep track of purchases and let you know the total spent on closing day.
Later in the afternoon, the counselors and activity instructors presented skits to introduce all the activities we’ll be offering at camp this session. Set to pretty silly songs, and at times with dance moves and plenty of costumes, we all enjoyed a fun variety show for about an hour. Later the girls will be signing up for their first set of activities, now with a better understanding of what each involves.
It’s been a marvelous opening day, full of already-surprisingly-loud songs, smiles and laughter. All around, there are excited girls ready to jump into the spirit of camp. Amazing!