Answering Questions

Today we all felt the thrill of opening a new session of camp. The Rockbrook cabin counselors, specialist activity instructors, and directors all assembled for the third time this summer to welcome a new bunch of enthusiastic girls to the “heart of a wooded mountain.” It was a gorgeous morning, cool and foggy, when we opened the gate for cars to make their way up the gravel driveway, and the check-in process to begin unfolding. Once again, there was more eagerness than uncertainty, more excitement than apprehension, on the girls’ faces when they arrived for their session. These girls weren’t hesitating though; they were ready to jump right into life at camp. As the sun warmed up the morning, and the last few parents made their way back to the parking area, we could finally get things started, our patient anticipation finally satisfied. Camp!

Girls dressed as twins at summer camp
laughing swimming girls

The rest of the day we started answering questions, all kinds of questions. Already, we learned where our cabin was located, who were the other girls in our cabin (a mix of old and new friends!), and who our counselors would be for the next few weeks. At the assembly on the hill, we met this session’s line heads, directors, Hi-Ups, and camp dog Felix. We learned, or had our memories clarified, about the camp song, what to do when we hear the camp bell or the lightning warning horn.

At lunch, we had our dining hall questions answered: Where does our cabin sit? What can we find on the salad bars? Where are the vegetarian and gluten-free options, the peanut butter and jelly station, the extra fruit, and supply of milk? What happens when the Hi-Ups ring their bell and begin singing a funny camp song? Who makes the announcements at the end of the meal, and what is that wheel on the wall? How do we clean our tables and take care of the dishes at the end of meals?

Our afternoon was filled with tours of the camp, a chance for everyone to take a dip in the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability, and an assembly in the gym for a series of counselor skits presenting the different activities available at camp this session. We found out how refreshingly cool the lake feels, where the activities meet around camp, and which staff members will be teaching the various activities. It was exciting to learn, for example, that the camp musical this session will be the Little Mermaid and that auditions for specific parts would begin on Monday.

Parents may have questions too— How do I send my daughter an email? Where can I see the daily photos of camp? What do I do if I receive a troubling letter about her feeling homesick at times? All of these questions (and more!) are answered in the parents section of our Web site, but you can always give our office a call to talk with someone too.

It’s been a great opening day, the girls already adjusting to the rhythms of camp. All of this energy ready to launch, we’re set for an excellent few weeks!

sunny day swimming at camp

A ‘Chill’ Opening Day

If you ask some of the older campers to describe the differences between the three sessions at Rockbrook, they usually answer something like this. “First session has the ‘sweet girls.’ Second is for the girls who are most ‘into’ camp. And third session is the most ‘chill.'” Of course, these are broad generalizations with plenty of variation to be found in each characterization, and it’s a little difficult to imagine how a camper would know much about sessions she does not attend, but today as we opened our third full session of the summer, there was some truth to label of “chill.”

summer camp opening day

Sure, there was loads of excitement— twitchy girls in the cars as they drove up, counselors leaping with enthusiasm as each camper arrived, and friendly directors ready to welcome everyone throughout the morning. These third session campers were all smiles and clearly ready for camp. After waiting weeks of summer for their session to start, how could they not be?  At the same time though, the morning felt easygoing, unfolding smoothly and cheerfully. Arriving at camp seemed like the most natural thing for the girls this morning. It’s true that most (a bit more than 80%) had been to Rockbrook before, so familiarity was guiding them, and the gorgeous, cool sunny weather probably helped as well. It really was a delightful, smooth, almost “chill,” opening day. So welcome to Rockbrook!

Once everyone had arrived, we all gathered under the walnut tree on the hill for a chance to sing a few songs, meet some of the directors and special staff members, and be reminded of a few camp protocols (about the Thorguard lightning warning system, for example). When Sarah introduced Felix, the new camp puppy, the girls were thrilled to see him do a few tricks like a “high five” and a leap over her extended led. Felix just turned one year old and he’s an Australian Labradoodle. He has a wonderful disposition and is always happy to interact with the campers. His coat is so soft, you can’t help but give him a quick rub when he passes by. You may spot him in the photo gallery. We’re looking forward to him being a member of the camp community for years to come.

Girl with buddy tag after completing camp swim test

After lunch, which was a meal of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, fruit and salad, we launched into cabin meetings and a visit to the lake for our swimming demonstrations. Each line (age group) took turns meeting Lyndsay, the head of the waterfront, learning about the tag system and the opportunities to swim each day at camp. Then each girl took turns jumping off the dock, swimming and treading water to demonstrate how comfortable she is in the water. With only a couple of exceptions, all the girls did great and received a blue tag for the board. We had hot chocolate ready for everyone when they finished up, since the chilly lake can feel extra cold on a cool day like this.  Despite the scattered thunderstorms that were threatening in the area, we were lucky to complete all the “swim demos” with no rain.

The counselors presented their activity skits in the late afternoon.  These are entertaining presentations with costumes, songs, and dances all designed to advertise each activity to the campers.  Seeing who is teaching each activity and hearing something about what each activity entails is helpful when the girls select their first schedule later this evening.

Charcoal-grilled hamburgers and crisp watermelon filled our dinner plates (or veggie burgers for those with that preference).  The evening program included more name games and skits, prepping everyone to jump into camp activities tomorrow.

A quick word about sending mail… Do it!  The girls check their mailboxes after lunch each day, and having something to grab before heading off to rest hour is always appreciated.  Here’s the info you need about staying in touch.

We’re off to a great start.  Perhaps it’s been a little “chill” so far, but you’re about to see a lot more!

camp swim girl friends

Like We Never Left Off

Maybe it’s a sign of anticipation, or something related to being busy with preparations, or perhaps simply our craving for camp life, but as we opened Rockbrook today for the 2018 season, we all couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement and enthusiasm. There have been plenty of camp-related projects occupying our time over the past year— facility improvements (new bathhouse for the lower line, for example), program development, new camp puppy training, and hard work assembling a fantastic camp staff for the summer. But there’s nothing like having camp filled with people again. It felt absolutely great to finally have campers and their families join us creating the community of camp.

So welcome everyone to Rockbrook! And such a wonderful opening day it was. The cars arrived at a steady pace throughout the morning to the cheers of the eager counselors on the hill. The lush gardens and colorful containers glistened in the sun from the recent rains. The check-in sequence in the dining hall seemed smooth and relaxed, everyone happy and at ease all morning long. Returning campers reunited with camp friends as new girls slipped right into cabin groups. Soon there were groups for girls just walking about, immersing themselves in camp, visiting the lodges, marveling at the rushing creeks, and likewise beaming with excitement.

first summer camp assembly

By about noon, all but a few campers had arrived and we were ready for our first assembly on the hill under the walnut tree that looks out across the mountains. The weather was still beautiful and sunny with a light occasional breeze, making the camp songs we sung seem even more lively. Sarah introduced the directors, line heads and other special staff members, and the Hi-Up campers said hello by teaching everyone a new song. A fun highlight was when Felix made his appearance. Felix is our 10-month old Australian Labradoodle who has the enviable job of being the camp dog. We’ve been training him since he was 8 weeks old, and while he’s still getting used to camp, he’s already enjoying all the attention he’s getting from the girls. I’m sure you’ll see photos of him throughout the summer.

Everyday, in fact, you’ll find newly posted photos in our online photo gallery. You have to login to your parent account to view them, but you can send a login invitation to friends and family members once logged in. You should check the gallery often because I think you’ll really enjoy seeing what we’re up to at camp.

It’s become a popular Rockbrook tradition to serve Rick’s homemade Mac-n-Cheese for the first lunch. Today we continued that tradition with hot trays of bubbling cheeses with a crunchy breadcrumb topping, peas and watermelon plus our super-stocked salad bars that included other fruits and vegetables. The gluten-free and vegan version seemed popular too. Delicious comfort food for everyone.

The lake became our focus after lunch as we invited all the campers to demonstrate their swimming ability and receive a swim bracelet and buddy tag that qualifies them to sign up of paddling trips (whitewater rafting!) 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. We paused the demonstrations for a passing thunderstorm between the Middler and Senior groups, but easily finished up everyone, and now the tag board if full of colorful plastic discs.

Activity skits in the gym introduced everyone to the activity instructors we have this summer, and announced several of the new craft projects available. 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.

It’s been a marvelous opening day, full of songs, laughter and girls already relaxing into the spirit of camp. It’s like we never left off from last summer. The fun and friendship has started right back up. Amazing!

camp swim buddies

This Extraordinary Effect

Happy Camp Kids

This morning we opened a new session of camp and welcomed 134 girls and their parents to Rockbrook. For both the girls returning to camp after one or more previous summers, and the girls attending Rockbrook for the very first time, the day began with an unusual feeling of both excitement and nervousness. Like waiting in line for the most thrilling roller coaster imaginable, there was both eager anticipation of what is sure to be fun, but also some anxiety about how it will turn out. Even the counselors felt this to an extent today, this odd combination of enthusiasm and trepidation, because like the girls, this is when they meet their campers for the first time and imagine the cabin life ahead. Let’s add the parents too; they also are delighted for the many opportunities camp will surely provide their daughters, and at the same time, perhaps a little hesitant to step back and allow the experience to unfold without their oversight or orchestration.

This feeling is most intense the last few minutes in the car before arriving. It can last into the check in process (which thankfully was nice and quick this morning) and even bubble up as the girls are saying goodbye to their parents. It didn’t take long, however, for the jitters to fade. In fact, by the time we assembled on the hill before lunch to sing a few songs, I saw more cheering and enthusiasm than anything else. The collective energy of camp had already carried the mood, and the girls were relaxing and chatting with each other like easy friends. Simply getting together in this beautiful setting, in this case on the hill overlooking the mountains, has this extraordinary effect of calming everyone’s initial nervousness while ramping up their excitement. The assembly already proved this is going to be a great session.

Cheering Camp Kids

Rick’s famous homemade mac-n-cheese recharged everyone for lunch. There was a gluten free version and a separate vegan version for those campers and staff who preferred them. Of course, our super stocked salad bars and bowls of mixed fruit balanced out the plates. Around here, the dining hall is more than just a place to eat and chat; it’s also a place to sing! And even during this first meal, the girls didn’t hold back. They were belting out the songs as if they’d been waiting all this time to experience the roar of “An Austrian Went Yodeling” and the “Coconut Song.” In this session, 85% of the campers are returners, so most everyone in the dining hall knew the words to sing along. Incredible! Eating together, signing together, laughing and talking together helped further pave the way for the girls to settle into camp.

Camp Counselor Skit

After lunch, each cabin group was off and running— walking tours of the camp and all the activity areas, cabin meetings on the lines, and a stop at the lake for an introduction to the waterfront, the swim tag system, and a swimming demonstration. Ordinarily, our mountain stream-fed lake feels surprisingly chilly. That may have been true today too, but the hot afternoon sun made it more refreshing. After demonstrating their swimming ability, every camper earned a “swim necklace,” color coded based on her ability.  The different necklaces alert our lifeguards where in our lake (the shallow vs. the deep end, for example) campers can safely swim.  Spending time at the lake is very popular, so it’s important for everyone at camp to have a chance to cool off there.

The last bit of orientation came in a series of hilarious skits performed by the different activity instructors. Using the stage at the gym, each group of counselors assigned to an activity presented something to describe what they do and to entice the campers to select that activity later tonight when everyone’s first rotation is chosen. For example, the three drama teachers performed a silly improvised song, the climbers demonstrated their belaying, and the weavers presented example projects that the girls can make in Curosty (the fiber arts cabin). There are always more activities and trip options available each day than there is time to do them all, so the girls have to makes choices about what they’d like to do at camp, and these skits help them decide.

Kayak Camp Girls French Broad Section Nine

Kayak Camp update! This weekend we also began our second specialty session devoted entirely to whitewater kayaking, the “Rockbrook Rapids.” We added these intensive trip sessions in response to a growing interest in Kayaking at Rockbrook. Over the years our lead kayaking instructor, Leland Davis, and his staff have really inspired the girls at camp, and now we have some amazing paddlers eager for more action on the river. The girls arrived on Friday, and after a short roll clinic in the lake and getting their gear organized, they were off to run their first river, the Tuckasegee. The next day, they paddled the Nantahala, and then today, section IX of the French Broad all the way down to Frank Bell’s Rapid, a famous class IV drop. Three rivers in three days! Leland reports that, “the level of paddling going on out there is off the charts with these girls!” We’re posting plenty of photos in the online gallery, so you can follow along.

Happy camp, everyone!  We’re nothing but excited now!

Smiling Camp Kids

Explosive Results

girl camp rockbook

Today we opened our second camp session of the summer welcoming a little more than 200 girls to Rockbrook with what can easily be described as explosive results. Starting with the very first camper arriving, you could feel a special energy that rapidly expanded all morning, reaching its height around 10am. In what seemed like no time, we had more than a hundred girls through the check-in process and happily filling the camp with their enthusiasm and excitement. Each arriving camper added to the emotion of the day— anticipation realized, joyful reunion, simple affability, immersive natural beauty, immediate belonging —amplifying everyone’s experience and making even the first few minutes at camp fun. Most of the girls were wearing their new RBC t-shirt, so as the morning unfolded, we saw more and more red and blue on the grassy hill. An opening day like today is always a wonderful mix of meeting new campers who are attending Rockbrook for the first time, and seeing former campers returning to camp. With this much power, these girls are going to have a great session.

Naturally, we didn’t idle while everyone was arriving. Once parents said goodbye, groups of campers formed for friendship bracelet making, a hike out to Rockbrook falls (the largest of the waterfalls on the camp property), a game of tetherball or gagaball, or just playing in the creek that feeds the lake. Other groups took tours of the camp, exploring the different activity areas, even heading down through the tunnel to go see our new covered horseback riding arena.

Teen girl camp assembly

Around noon or so the whole camp gathered under the walnut tree on the hill for a quick program of introductions and songs. Led by Sarah, this was a chance for the girls to show their camp spirit by singing their line songs and for everyone to meet the line heads, Hi-Ups and a few special activity instructors. Sitting together like this, standing to cheer now and then —all with a gorgeous mountain view in the background— it seemed like the magic of camp was already at work. The girls were relaxing and opening up, lounging together, and chattering easily. It seemed to me camp had already (this fast!) become a haven for the girls, a special place of welcome relief ready to provide— daily experience with close friends away from technology and the pressures of school, kindness offered in a caring community, and time to explore the wonders of nature and engage new activities. Even though we haven’t yet experienced all of these, there’s already a feeling this is special.

Later in the afternoon, the campers received an orientation to the lake and demonstrated for the lifeguards their swimming ability. We ask every camper and counselor to do this “swim demo,” and based on the results, to wear a color-coded, elastic necklace whenever they wish to swim in the lake or participate in any of the water-related trips offered. With fun music playing and hot chocolate and lemonade waiting for after the swim, the girls enjoyed trying out the lake and knowing they are set for more “refreshing” during free swims each day.

camp climbing skit
tennis camp skit

Right before dinner, the counselors and activity instructors presented a series of skits to highlight what to expect in the different activities offered this session. From tennis, to archery, to rock climbing, the skits kept us laughing. For example, the Climbing instructors formed a “rock” that one climbed using a harness, rope and helmet. The Tennis instructors dressed like tennis balls and told a few jokes while being hit in an imaginary tennis match. The Paddling staff used a kayak and all the basic paddling gear (helmets, skirts, PFDs, etc.) to simulate kayaking through a whitewater rapid.  The skits provided an introduction to each activity while showcasing the creativity and personality of the staff. After dinner, the girls will sign up for their first rotation of activity selections, so these introductions will help them decide what to take.

It’s been a wonderful first day for both the campers and staff members. We’re now more oriented to the camp and to the activities offered. We’ve gotten to know each other better, and now we’re even more ready to dive into the action in the morning.

New Camp Friends

Open the Gate!

Rockbrook Camp Buddies

Open the gate! It’s time for camp to begin! Yes, as we welcomed our first session campers this morning, we officially launched Rockbrook’s 2017 summer season. The cabin counselors had just finished their week-long orientation and training, and were eager to finally meet their campers. The maintenance crew had just finished up a few improvement projects (more about that later), along with the regular grass cutting and sweeping (so many porches!). The kitchen staff had fired every oven, stocked the pantry and walk-in cooler, and was set to reveal its daily scrumptious surprises. The nurses had stocked the first aid kits (more than 30 of those!), prepped the infirmary ward, and reviewed the health histories of everyone attending this session. Keeping an eye on all of it, the directors checked off a few things on “their list” and answered questions as everyone made their last-minute preparations. We were ready.

With all this preparation, it’s easy to understand how we are all so excited for opening day. You probably got a good sense of that when you drove in this morning and saw the smiling faces, cheering counselors, and bubbling, buzzing activity on the hill. As campers arrived and raced from their cars, the atmosphere built all morning. Once again, about 80% of the campers this session are returning girls who attended Rockbrook in the past, so these families recognized the quick check-in procedure and happily spread throughout the camp helping get the cabins settled. By 10:30am we already had 100 campers in place, and already making a friendship bracelet, taking a hike to Rockbrook Falls, and pairing up with old and new friends to explore the camp a bit. The whole morning seemed relaxed and natural as the camp came alive with all these excited people.

Camp Cabin Mates Arrive

Rick our long-time kitchen manager and head chef wowed us all with his homemade mac-n-cheese for lunch. A few girls chose the gluten-free, vegan version he also made, but everyone seemed more than pleased with their warm, heaping slices of this comfort food… even more so when the temperature dropped and it began to rain while we were eating. That was perfect timing for a little rain to arrived because we could finish our meal and the girls could return to their cabins for their first cabin-meeting while the rain passed. That’s the typical rain event around here; a storm moves through and fairly soon afterwards passes by and we’re back to brighter weather. By the way, if you are ever curious about the weather at camp, we have a fun new way for you to check it. We installed a weather station in the heart of camp that measures temperature, humidity, rain and wind and then reports that real-time data to several online weather sites, the most popular being Weather Underground. Go to this link for Rockbrook Camp Weather information and forecasts on the web. Along with current conditions, there are historical graphs and radar maps there too. If you have an iPad, there is an app that shows all of this data with a slick graphical interface (You’ll need our station ID: KNCBREVA27).

With the rain cleared, the rest of the afternoon and evening unfolded smoothly. Cabin groups toured the camp, enjoyed get-to-know-you games, and learned, or re-learned, several camp songs. An Austrian Went Yodeling! Meanwhile, whole age groups arrived at the lake for their aquatics orientation. There the lifeguards introduced our tag system and explained how our “swim demonstration” works. This year, all of the campers receive color-coded “swim necklaces” that correspond to one of three swimming abilities: Blue, which indicates a swimmer with no restrictions, Green, which requires a life jacket if swimming in the deeper section of the lake, and yellow for those girls uncomfortable in the water and who should stay in the shallow area of the lake with a life jacket on. Our swimming staff is quick to encourage girls to work on their swimming skills and perhaps advance levels, but for everyone the lake is a refreshing, fun experience.

The other important task for the day, again focused on orienting the campers to the camp, our activities, and to each other (!), was to learn about this summer’s activity offerings and instructors. The campers will be selecting their activities this evening, so they must first learn about the options. This brought us all to the gym where the activity instructors presented skits and songs describing the offerings. We all sat in our Crazy Creek chairs on the floor and laughed and clapped for the staff performances.

Camp is ready; the staff is excited and ready, and now the campers are more than ready for the action to begin. Let’s get to it!

Ready for Swimming

The Excitement Was Everywhere

camp girl group cabin
camp girls signing

“Good Morning, all you Rockbrook Girls” and welcome (welcome back) to camp! Today, as we opened our third session of the 2016 season, we were so excited to greet the girls and their families arriving at camp. The excitement was everywhere as the girls smiled and waved from inside their parents’ cars, jumped out to hug an old camp friend, or just marveled at the wave of enthusiasm coming from the waiting counselors. It was a morning of meeting friendly people, learning names (made much easier by the wood chip name tags everyone was wearing), and settling into the cabins. As the girls arrived, pockets of activity sprung up on the hill. Some bunk mates, quick friends, decided to take a hike together to Rockbrook Falls, and others to Castle Rock. Some played tennis, and others tetherball. Just wandering around in the sunshine, being part of the welcoming, was fun for most everyone. The whole morning felt wonderful, in many ways pleasantly familiar, yet also poised with anticipation for what we all know will be a great time together. It may have been a record, but by about 11:30am all the campers had arrived and the parents had departed leaving us to get started.

An assembly under the huge walnut tree on the hill is the perfect way to do that. With crazy creek chairs unfolded, Sarah and the Hi-Ups (10th grade campers) led everyone in several camp songs and the line songs. She introduced the directors and the head counselors who assist each age group. More than a first introduction to the people and organization of camp, it was a brief, official welcome to the mountains.

Lunch was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser: Rick’s secret-recipe macaroni and cheese, steamed peas, and fresh fruit salad. Of course, there were the two super-stocked salad bars and peanut butter and jelly stations to round things off as well, but bowl after bowl of the mac-n-cheese seemed to roll out of the kitchen as the girls went back for seconds, and even a third helping.

Girl writing her name inside camp cabin

Cabin meetings after lunch, during what’s normally our “rest hour,” gave the girls a chance to learn about the daily chores in the cabin like sweeping and emptying the trash, and to discuss a few of the all-cabin rules like respecting each others belongings, for example. This was also a chance for everyone to “sign” the inside of their cabin by writing their name somewhere on the rafters or bunk beds. That’s a Rockbrook tradition that reaches back into the 1950’s. Originally, I think the girls used shoe polish to sign their name and date. Now it’s usually a small name written in pen, but we’ve also seen “John Hancock” style signatures in multiple colors of paint. Later in August, we are hosting almost 200 Alumnae at Rockbrook for a reunion celebrating our 95th year, and I suspect many of the women attending will spend some time searching for their name that they wrote as a girl at camp.

It was time to cool off with some swimming after that. As the age groups took tours around the camp learning the different activity areas and the names of the many buildings (“Where’s Hobby Nook?), they changed into swimsuits and rotated coming down to the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability for our team of lifeguards. This “swim demo” requires the girls to swim out into the deep part of the lake about 50 feet, return using a back stroke, and then tread water for a full minute. Considering the temperature of our stream-fed lake (chilly!), this can sometimes be a challenge, but almost everyone was able to complete the demo and receive a pink swim bracelet and white swim tag identifying our strong swimmers. The whole scene was more festive and fun than you might expect since we were also serving lemonade and playing Reggae music. Pretty soon, we were laughing and enjoying ourselves, nodding our heads to the music, having a grand summer time.

swimming lifegaurds camp skit

It’s another long tradition at Rockbrook that the girls select their activities after they arrive at camp. We believe they thrive when given this kind of choice and enjoy the flexibility that comes with switching the schedule halfway through the week to try a set of new options. To orient everyone to those options, we spent some time this afternoon watching the counselors present songs and skits (usually a bit of both) about the amazing activities they have planned. The number of opportunities can be a little confusing, so the skits help the campers know what’s new, learn where each activity meets, and see which counselors will be the instructors. The climbers showed off the climbing wall. The lifeguards performed a skit about the toys and games available at the lake everyday. The fiber arts staff showed a few of the cool weaving and sewing projects the campers can learn, and there was an impassioned song devoted to tennis, volleyball and gagaball. After dinner, the campers will sign up for their first set of in-camp activities. Knowing the options and where everything happens, they are now ready to make better choices for this rotation. We’ll also announce the first out-of-camp trips tonight, making it even more difficult to decide! But deciding: that’s part of the fun.

We’re all excited to get started. The counselors and special activity instructors are ready and eager to get these girls busy creating, riding, climbing and so much more. Looking around, it’s pretty clear that the girls are ready too. Let’s begin!

Swim Girl Campers

Keen to Get Started

Rockbrook Kids Arrive

Welcome (back) to Rockbrook! As we opened the second session and first July mini session today, it was clear again that arriving at camp is a pivotal moment for everyone— the campers, staff members, and yes the parents too. It’s certainly a day charged with eagerness and excitement… to the point of squealing in some cases, and quite understandably some jitters here and there, but it also marks the start of something we know is going to be great. It was wonderful to see the girls quickly settle in, meeting their pen pals for the first time, or reconnecting with their camp friends from last summer with huge hugs. A few parents mentioned that they were a little surprised, but also proud, to see how easily their daughter said goodbye and ran off with friends, literally leaving them in the dust! Friendly people everywhere, hikes, games and the first of many conversations already underway, it was a delightful opening day.

One of the magical parts of life at Rockbrook is the opportunity to explore. There are simply countless wonders to discover— old crooked trees, massive boulders and tiny flowering plants clinging to the side of a creek. There are log cabins, activity buildings hidden in the woods, a tunnel, a cave, several waterfalls, and a rock face promising a view of the distant mountains. In addition to the lake, there’s a creek to play in, a gaga ball pit, lodge porches with red rocking chairs, and forest paths that lead off in several different directions. And our daily schedule at camp provides several blocks of time for the girls to do this exploring. This is why we began immediately with tours of camp. Each cabin group and their counselors took a brief walk around camp identifying landmarks (Where’s “Hiker’s Rock?”) and explaining where the activities take place. Oriented to the physical layout of camp, let the exploration begin!

lifeguard Swim Test

Right after lunch, as the heat of the day set in, we opened the lake to have all the campers demonstrate their swimming ability and cool off at the same time. We have a swim tag system that helps our team of lifeguards know which girls are strong swimmers and which should be restricted to the shallow area of our lake or be required to wear a PFD when in the water. To receive their tag, all the girls first perform a “swim demo” for the guards, a swim out about 50 feet in the deep part of the lake, back another 50 feet using some kind of backstroke, and finally treading water for a full minute.

You might think this sort of “swim demo” (AKA “test”) is scary or at least a little nerve-racking, and for some girls it is, especially when you consider the chilly temperature of our stream-fed lake. There are a few things that happen, though, that make this time at the lake more fun and festive than worrisome or distressing. First, it’s an incredibly supportive setting with all the lifeguards cheering the girls on, all the Directors likewise being encouraging. There’s camaraderie in the fact that everyone comes down together to “jump in the lake.” Add to that the congratulations afterwards no matter what color tag is earned. With everyone at the lake, colorful towels strewn about, it’s a lively atmosphere. We even pump out some laid back Reggae music to inspire the girls to take it easy and relax. Even for those girls who opted to not do their “swim demo” (and thereby chose not to participate in any of the water-related activities at camp), the afternoon was lighthearted and fun.

Camp lifeguard Skit

To explain the activity options available this session, to orient the girls to what happens during their 4 scheduled activity periods, we held an assembly and watched the counselors present skits and songs about what they have planned. The adventure staff (rock climbers, kayakers, zip line leaders, and hiking guides) presented some of their cool, colorful gear and explained how to sign up for these special trips. The lifeguards sang a song about the “Mermaid Club,” the fun lake toys, water slide, and free swim games available. All of the craft instructors showed off the amazing weaving, jewelry, sewing, ceramics, painting and paper projects that the girls can make. Later tonight, after dinner, all the campers will select their first set of activities, and now knowing the options, they can decide more enthusiastically.

We’ve got an excellent group of counselors and skilled staff members ready to unfold elaborate, multifaceted plans for creativity, adventure, and loads of silly fun. And we’ve got a completely packed camp of girls keen to get started. So let’s do it!

Camp Assembly kids

Eager Energy

When you gather together this many friends, all packed and ready for an extended “sleepover,” it’s exciting… like this morning when we welcomed our third session campers to Rockbrook, and we were jumping up and down, cheering, and screaming with delight as each camp friend arrived. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect— sunny skies and the cool morning temperatures we’re accustomed to here in the mountains —but what made the morning fun, was how eager everyone was to see each other and get camp started. That eager energy, which I suspect is fueled by months of anticipation, sped everyone through the “check in” process (meeting office folks, browsing the latest RBC gear, and consulting with the medical team) and added muscle to delivering the trunks to the cabins. As girls arrived throughout the morning, there were Welsh ponies to meet (“Cool Beans” and “Cloud Nine”), short hikes to the biggest waterfall on the camp property (“Rockbrook Falls”), Gaga Ball and Tetherball to play, and friendship bracelets to make. For girls starting their very first session at Rockbrook, and for those returning to the place they already know, this was a great day.

camp friends at summer camp
Swim test girl jumps in lake

It was easy to carry this energy forward into lunch as we enjoyed another of Rick’s yummy “comfort food” meals— his homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, and fresh fruit salad, plus a gluten-free pasta dish, and the regular super-stocked salad bars, and peanut butter and jelly station. While eating, the girls had no trouble launching into favorite camp songs, their hands clapping and waving to “An Austrian Went Yodeling,” for example. There’s no shyness here, as everyone was swept into the exuberance. It’s always remarkable how quickly the good feeling of camp springs up.

After a shortened rest hour for cabin meetings, the different age groups came down to the lake for a quick dip to demonstrate each person’s swimming ability. For clear safety reasons and as part of our American Camp Association accreditation, we want to make sure everyone is comfortable in the water before jumping off the diving board into the deep end, zipping down the water slide, or going out of camp for a whitewater rafting or kayaking trip. All of the lifeguards and all of the directors are involved in these “swim demos,” some in the water, some handing out the swim tags and swim bracelets, while others answering campers’ questions, or just helping them through the process. The mountain stream that feeds our lake is notoriously “invigorating” (or “feezing,” depending on your point of view), so it can take a little coaxing and encouragement to build up each swimmer’s nerve before jumping in off the dock. Today was no different; the girls screaming just before they hit the water, but also having a ball with all their cabin mates ready to take their turn.

For years now at Rockbrook, we ask our campers to select their own activity schedule twice each week, having multiple chances to try different things while they’re here. We’ve found that giving the girls themselves (rather than their parents beforehand) this responsibility, this independence, helps bolster their confidence. It helps them realize they can make a good informed decision themselves and enjoy the outcome.

camp assembled girls smiling

Late this afternoon, after a quick assembly on the hill with songs, introductions and skits, we organized a fun camp tour for the girls to orient them to the different activity areas. The tour brought them everywhere in camp, stopping along the way to meet the instructors, see demonstrations, hear songs and enjoy skits about what each activity offers. They met the climbing staff at the Alpine Tower, the kayaking instructors at the lake, and the ceramics counselors in the upper studio. They tromped out into the woods to visit the Nature Nook, down the path the the riflery range, and back up to Hiker’s Rock to meet the WHOA (“Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure”) leaders. The whole event was a great way to learn both where everything happens at camp but what each activity has planned for the session. Some of those weaving projects look pretty cool! Now understanding all of this, the girls were ready to choose their first set of activities tonight before bed. In the morning, we’ll launch right into everything. We’re set!

Today was the day when we reacquainted ourselves with camp, or for some, when we first began to know “the Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” I can tell this will be a great session. We’re going to laugh, play and sing (a lot!), share meals, reconnect with nature, and get to know each other really well. Stay tuned; we’re excited!

good camp girl friends

Instant Enthusiasm

Let’s get started! The day that so many of us have been waiting for has finally arrived. For the directors, all of us who work year round, today begins the unfolding of many plans and the thrill of seeing everything come together— the people, the equipment and supplies, the activity ideas, special events, new camp buildings, and surprises for the campers. For the staff, today is the culmination of their week-long pre-camp training where they learned about the Rockbrook Camp philosophy, protocols, teaching methods, and ways to focus on their campers’ needs in the cabin. And of course, for the campers, today is when their time at camp finally begins, when the fun and excitement of the next few weeks can get started.

Moving into summer camp

Most importantly though, today is the day when we can all come together in “the Heart of a Wooded Mountain” and form the caring, and proudly a bit zany, community that is camp. We can all now begin to do things together— share our meals, dress up in costumes, sing (!!), be creative as we make things, reconnect with nature, truly feel the weather, laugh, and play all day long. It’s this sense of community, energized by all the wonderful people here, that makes the fun of camp life so powerful, and ultimately meaningful.

Swimming Tag board

These blog posts, we hope, will dip here and there into life at camp. They will report items of news, announce special events, outdoor adventure trips, or just what we had for lunch. Please don’t be shy about giving us feedback or asking questions in the comments. We’ll be happy to respond!

Once all of the campers had arrived today, and we finished up a delicious lunch of Rick’s homemade Mac-n-Cheese with fresh fruit and salad, all of the girls joined their counselors for a trip to the lake. It’s been a long tradition to begin each camp session by orienting everyone to Rockbrook’s lake, explaining the various safety rules, and assessing everyone’s swimming ability. With everyone dressed in their swimsuits and with towels at the ready, each girl takes turns demonstrating that she can swim out about 50 feet, back another 50 feet using a back stroke, and then tread water for one minute. It can be a little shocking to first feel the temperature of our mountain stream-fed lake, but it also makes most girls swim that much stronger/faster. Successfully performing the “swim demo” earns each girl a green bracelet and a buddy tag with her name on it for the tag board. If a girl has difficulty with the swim demo, she can still use the shallow area of the lake while wearing a life jacket. With the sun shining, and lots of cheering and congratulations going around from all the counselors, special staff and directors, it was wonderful to see the girls enjoy the lake for the first time this summer.

Camp Activity Tour

After changing back into dry clothes, all the girls gathered on the hill in the center of camp for a quick assembly to meet all of the special staff members, sing a few camp songs, and learn a few more guidelines about camp. For example, we demonstrated the lightning prediction and detection system we recently installed at Rockbrook. Called the “Thor-Guardian,” this system is a sophisticated sensor that measures electrostatic energy in the atmosphere near camp, and sends out a loud warning when there is a danger of lightning. It continues to monitor the atmosphere and sends a different warning sound when it is all clear. Everyone at camp will take shelter in a building whenever there is a warning, and stay there until the system indicates it is safe to go back outside.

The other highlight of the day was the activity tour, where the counselors introduced the campers to all of the activity options here at Rockbrook. Split into several groups, the girls toured camp stopping at each activity area to hear a brief presentation from the activity instructors. They saw kayak rolling at the lake, bows and arrows at archery, looms at Curosty, and flips at gymnastics. Many of the counselors made up songs and skits to illustrate what their activity involved, as well. It was a fun and informative afternoon giving the campers what they needed to sign up for their activity schedule later after dinner.

For the first day of camp, this one ranks right up near the top. It seemed like there was instant enthusiasm, loud excitement for everything we were doing and about to do. This session is off to a fantastic start!

Young girls camp friends