Eagerly in Rhythm

It’s been a day filled with activity time all over camp— on every path something fun, creative, adventurous, challenging or just plain silly to do. After this many days at camp, the girls seem at ease with the daily rhythm yet equally eager to stay busy in all these ways. Here are a few highlights.

Two girls and counselor weaving baskets by the creek
camp girl aiming rifle
girl paddling coracle corcl
camp yoga kid pose

It’s definitely fun to weave a basket while at camp, but one of the additional joys of basket weaving at Rockbrook is the beautiful setting. When the weather is nice, as it’s been lately, the girls weave next to the creek near Curosty. The cool water feels great on your feet as it also keeps the reeds wet and flexible. When it’s better to stay indoors, the log cabin setting of Curosty is home to the weaving— interesting, colorful fabrics on the floor looms and baskets too.

The yoga activity has been meeting in the hillside lodge, one of the stone meeting lodges at Rockbrook. With their colorful yoga mats neatly arranged on the hardwood floor, the girls today practiced their poses, some silly and others relaxing.

The rifle range is setting records as campers are filling the roster each period and shooting as much as possible. From a prone position, they shoot .22 caliber, bolt-action, single-shot rifles at paper targets 25 meters down the range. While not everyone is tallying high scores just yet, we’ve had a couple of girls join the “Bullseye Club.”

A fun addition to our waterfront area this summer has been three brightly colored “Corcls.” These are round plastic boats designed for one person to paddle. They are inspired by the traditional boats used in Wales called coracles. Our girls have a great time paddling them while sitting, climbing on them, floating in them just chilling in the sun, and even trying to stand up in them.

An overnight camping and canoeing trip returned today from their journey down a section of the French Broad River. A few Middler and Senior girls joined adventure leaders Clyde and Jayne on the trip. They paddled for about an hour on Thursday before finding their campsite and pitching their tents on the river’s edge. It took some practice for a few of the boats to steer correctly and avoid bushes on the side of the river, but they all improved along the way. With their campsite set up and safely under a tarp, the crew ate their dinner of tamales while a rain storm passed, and once in their tents for the evening, everyone enjoyed talking well into the night. One girl summed up the trip like this, “We all had so much fun and we built some close friendships.”

The twilight activity tonight after dinner gave the girls an opportunity to learn salsa dancing. Counselor Sarah Dolce selected music, and with help from several other counselors taught a group of enthusiastic campers basic hand holds, positions and dance moves that make up salsa dances.

Finally, evening program turned to skits in each Line’s lodge. The Junior cabins took turns presenting crazy musicals, while the Middler and Senior cabin groups planned and then enjoyed acting out what they imagined different celebrities would be like at camp. Silly stuff, but hilarious fun to watch.

Camp muffin girls

A Huge 4th

Campers awoken by horses near their cabins

Today, the 4th of July, was an absolutely HUGE day at camp. First of all, I can’t help but mention the weather because it was beautiful— clear blue skies, low humidity, and a high temperature of 79 degrees. It was downright chilly in the morning (about 62 degrees) when we had a very special wake up call. The seven riding staff members, dressed in their best red, white and blue, rode horses up into camp and, on cue, down each of the lines yelling “The British are coming! Wake up! Wake up!” (a reference to Paul Revere’s ride in April of 1775). Awoken by the sounds of hoof beats and these warnings, and dressed in fleeces or wrapped in blankets to stay warm, the whole camp assembled on the hill around the flagpole where the Hi-Ups raised the flag and led us in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and singing “America the Beautiful.”

On a day like this, you know what to wear… anything and everything red, white and blue. Last night a group of counselors stayed up late and decorated the dining hall with streamers, balloons, table decorations and flags. Also a surprise for the campers, we had red, white and blue hats, headbands, temporary tattoos and bead necklaces on the tables for everyone to embellish their own costumes, and boost their patriotic spirit.

Camper dressed for 4th July
Camp Girl in Red White Blue
USA Flag in Hair of Girl Camper

In the dining hall, for both breakfast and lunch, the girls couldn’t help but further express their enthusiasm for the holiday by singing songs like “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Firework,” and Yankee Doodle Dandy.” At one point a whole cabin stopped eating to yell “Happy Birthday America!” followed by cheers from everyone else. These girls do have spirit!

Camp girl making a USA basket
Camp holding USA flag on zipline

A tour of the camp activities this morning proved this spirit was high everywhere, with patriotic  decorations being more normal than not. For example, at the creek by the Curosty cabin, Melanie and the girls were weaving red, white and blue baskets. Feet soaking in the creek with the reeds and plenty of sunshine brightening the scene, the girls produced some really cool baskets. At the zipline, Rita brought along small flags for the girls to wave as they flew down the cable. Zip after zip, the blur of red, white and blue was spectacular to see. Over in Hodge Podge, the girls were likewise leaning pretty heavily on 4th of July colors for their tie dye t-shirt designs.

Following Rest Hour, we continued this theme with everyone joining in for an afternoon of group relays down on our grassy sports field. We first divided all the campers and counselors, mixing the Lines, into three groups. Each took a color— yes, again red, white or blue —and using tempera body paint and the how they dressed, built a unified team, complete with a rallying chant or cheer.  Split like this, the camp made up three teams of approximately 95 people.

Camper running sponge race
Campers running 3-legged race
Camper carrying egg on spoon racing

Once assembled on the field, again with simply superb weather, Chase and Grace organized at least a dozen different relay races matching representatives from each team. While 10 or so girls from each team competed in a relay, the others cheered them on. It was exciting to watch classic relays like the 3-legged race, the egg (on a spoon) carry, and the crab walk. We also had teams square off for an egg toss, a water balloon toss, and a cracker eating race. Other groups raced across the field carrying an orange under their chins, and others carrying a water-soaked sponge trying to fill up a bucket.  Interestingly, even though these were races, and it was very exciting for your team to win a particular relay, nobody paid much attention to the overall score. In the end, who “won” seemed irrelevant to the girls. I think they were having too much fun to worry about that sort of thing. Finally, all that racing around warmed us up enough to make the final surprise feel really great. Richie borrowed a fire truck from his Volunteer Fire Department and using the water cannon, created the largest sprinkler you’ve ever seen. He shot a spray of water about 40 feet in the air so the girls could run around and shower off a bit under it.

Cookout food at camp 4th picnic
Eating cookout picnic on Hill at summer camp

Dinner tonight, taking great advantage of our huge charcoal grill, started with hamburgers, hotdogs and grilled chicken, plus homemade coleslaw, corn on the cob and freshly sliced watermelon loading down our plates. Then, tapping into another camp tradition, the girls also enjoyed a cold soda that was chilled in the stream. The hill in the center of camp makes the perfect place for an evening picnic as it slopes to present a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Topping off the meal, Katie (with some help from the Hi-Ups) made us all patriotic cupcakes— red, white and blue, each with a tiny American Flag stuck in the top. It was such a nice evening together… great food, perfect weather, fun music playing, and so many of our very best friends.

A huge fireworks show at Rockbrook Camp
Camp girl with statue of Liberty

Leah surprised everyone after dinner by dressing up like the Statue of Liberty, complete with a crown, matching green-copper-colored dress and torch. This then led to girls wanting to have their picture taken with our Lady Liberty. It was a spontaneous photo shoot with the Statue of Liberty. And she was so nice! 🙂

As night fell, anticipation grew for our fireworks show, the finale of the day. All the girls and their counselors pulled out crazy creek chairs on the hill so they could have a view of the sky above the lake where we launch everything. Armed with flashlights and glow sticks, and bopping along to the upbeat music Stephanie and Chase had selected, the girls cheered after every colorful blast.

This has been one of the best 4th of July celebrations at camp in recent memory. So great in fact, it’s hard to think of a way that it could have been any better.

A Complete Blast

camp craft cabin interior
Camp fiber arts craft projects
Camp girls weaving on floor loom

One of the most historic buildings at Rockbrook is the log cabin named Curosty. Mrs. Carrier, Rockbrook’s founder, moved it to camp, along with another cabin named “Goodwill,” from the plantation where she was born in South Carolina. Both cabins easily predate her birth in 1889. They are authentic log buildings constructed from 12-inch thick logs set on a low stone foundation and equipped with a stone fireplace and chimney on one end. The Curosty cabin has a wooden porch jutting off the back, and the Goodwill cabin has a stone porch running along its front. Curosty briefly served as an office for the camp, but it soon became the home of one of the original craft activities: weaving. As you can see from these photos, this is still true today. A visitor can peek into Curosty at anytime, and there will be table-top and floor looms clicking away. Nowadays, the girls are doing other kinds of weaving, as this project board shows: Latch Hook, lanyard, and basket weaving for example.  Their projects include making belts, purses, bookmarks, potholders, sock dolls, dream catchers, pillows, yarn dolls, and “ojos de dios” (eyes of god)… All from many strands of colorful yarns twisted and tied, carefully intertwined and looped over and under each other. There are some very beautiful things being made.

Camp color run girl

In a community of all-girls, it can be fun sometimes to get a little messy. Tonight’s evening program gave us exactly that opportunity when we set up a “Color Run” to the gym. This was a crazy event where the campers ran (jogged actually) through a gauntlet-like row of counselors throwing different colors of non-toxic, washable, powdered paint. A few counselors squirted the campers with water guns to start off, so the paint stuck in very cool tie-dye-like patterns on the their shirts, shorts, arms and legs. The girls added colorful face paint to decorate themselves even more outrageously. For those campers not interested in getting this messy, there was also a “dry run” path down to gym.

There, our friend and local DJ Marcus had his light show and sound system set up for a fantastic color dance party. We had glow sticks and more glow paint to make the whole event even more brilliant. For the next 2 hours, we all had a great time dancing and jumping around, posing for silly photos, laughing and singing along to the pumping pop music, Only the occasional pause for a drink of water slowed us down.

And these girls know how to dance!  Maybe with no boys around and feeling more at ease generally, we had campers and counselors really working up a sweat. Here again, we have all these girls enjoying the freedom to be themselves, and experiencing first-hand, that doing so is a complete blast!

Camp color light dancing

Easy Living

Namaste Yoga

I am constantly amazed by the intellect, creativity, and sheer drive to achieve shown by Rockbrook girls. They all love to talk to us about their after-school activities—the sports they play, the clubs they join, the books they read, and the milestones they accomplish. We have champion runners, volleyball players, and speech-and-debaters; members of volunteer organizations, bands, and church youth groups; aspiring fashion designers, architects, and actresses.

This astounding variety of talents in our campers is part of what makes our camp such a fascinating place to be. In any given conversation, you never know what viewpoints and past experiences you will be faced with. It offers all of us here the chance to learn from everyone else around us.

Peace and Quiet creek

Despite the pride with which campers display their talents and discuss their achievements, though, I get the sense that one of the primary joys of camp is that this is a place where they get to throw away their after-school schedule for a few weeks. Though we offer runners the chance to run (in the Marathon Club), swimmers the chance to swim (in the Mermaid Club), and artists the chance to create in a multitude of classes, we make it our goal to strip away the competition and the pressure to achieve that can so often be found in schools and sports teams.

Parents often express surprise when their camper, who is perhaps constantly taking part in theater at home, opts not to do the play, or when a track star chooses to join up with Rockbrook Readers during free swim rather than Rockbrook Runners.

Chillin' in the Lake

When I ask such girls why they put aside their hobbies at camp, their answers are remarkably similar. They maintain that they still love their extracurriculars, and look forward to restarting their practices after camp—but they also seem to relish the peace and quiet of camp. They enjoy the chance to craft their own schedules, then wipe the slate clean after three days, and make a new one. They delight in making a bowl in pottery, simply for the sake of making a bowl, not so that they can add another skill to their college resumes.

Lap loom weaving girl

More than anything, though, they enjoy the hours of free time we give them each day—the hours when they can simply lie in the sunshine on the hill, float in an inner tube in the lake, or chat with their friends. They need these few weeks of moving slowly, these days of quiet, these moments of easy living, to recharge for the pace and constant excitement of the outside world. They need to escape the pressures of their commitments, just for a little while, so that, when they return, they can face their lives with a fresh vigor, and return to us next year with a new slate of accomplishments under their belts.

Rockbrook Readers enjoy

A Forest Camp

Nature Camp Cabin
Leaf Pressing at summer camp

One of the ways we often describe Rockbrook is to call it a “forest camp,” a summer camp in the woods, immersed in nature. It has an organic, rustic feeling with lots of big rocks, ancient trees, rushing water, and a healthy population of small plants and animals ripe for discovery by the girls who live here. Instead of crisp landscaped lines, we are happy to allow tree roots to grow across our path, or moss to cover rocks near the lake. We want our experience at camp to include, not be too sheltered from, the textures and patterns of the natural world. Part of our mission is to bring our campers closer to nature, to learn about its complexity, and experience its beauty and wonder. This is a photo of our “Nature Nook,” a small outdoor forest classroom located just down the path to Rockbrook Falls, the largest of the waterfalls on the property.  It is home to the activity we simply call “Nature.” For campers who choose it as one their activity periods, counselors lead them on explorations of different trees, leaf collections, creek walks, insect identification, salamander hunts and bird watching.  There’s so much to explore too! The 214 acres of Rockbrook are home to incredible natural features, like the cliffs of Castle Rock and Dunn’s Rock for example, but also a few very rare species, like the endangered green salamander.

Another example of an unusual creature found here at camp is the “Blue Ghost” firefly (Phausis reticulata). It’s a small brown beetle, that like other fireflies emits a bioluminescent glow, but unlike the blinking of other species, this firefly lives in the forest and emits a steady greenish light. A few campers have noticed these magical dots of light in the dark woods around camp. They are like shy fairies who glow when undisturbed, but stop quickly when approached. All around us, the natural setting of Rockbrook proves how our “heart of a wooded mountain” is also a magical “fairyland of beauty.”

Camp Basket Weaving in a Creek

Today the weavers of Curosty turned their attention to reed, and gathered at the creek to weave baskets. Soaking the reeds in water is an important first step to soften them enough so they can be gently bent and woven. In addition to the standard “under and over” pattern made by the “spokes” (upright strands) and “weavers” (horizontal strands), there are patterns with twists, double strands, and alternating weaves to make more unusual designs. Like many of the other craft activities at camp, weaving baskets is a social event as well as a creative endeavor. It’s a chance to sit with friends and talk while working on a project. In this case, basketry is also an opportunity to soak your feet in a cool mountain stream.

Drama Camp Rehearsal

Just before lunch today, the drama instructors held their first rehearsal for this session’s musical, the play the campers perform at the end of the session. The cast is still evolving, and will certainly grow when our mini session campers arrive on Sunday, but we already have plenty of enthusiastic singers, dancers and actors ready to become African animals because the play is “The Jungle Book.” Throughout the session the cast will be learning the songs, practicing the choreography, and memorizing their lines for the show which will be presented on Wednesday afternoon before the closing day of the session. Parents are welcome to attend the show, and we will contact you if your daughter will be performing.

Finally, I wanted to mention the amazing dinner Rick and his team prepared for our “International Day” dinner tonight. He made a Jamaican meal of Jerk Chicken/Tempeh, Samosas (remember that a cabin of juniors helped assemble these!), rice, tomato chutney, pineapple and fried plantains. For dessert he had coconut lime bread with a key lime glaze. Wow! So good!