Rockbrook Girls are Out of This World!

Way down in Brevard, we are lucky enough to be located in the mountains and away from bright city lights, allowing us to have a wonderful view of the stars on clear nights. Today, however, the campers had a chance to see and be stars during the daytime on Out of this World day! This full Saturday was jam-packed with special events, crafts, food, and costumes all related to the Out of this World theme.

inflated planetarium planetarium entrance

campers inside planetariumThe first special part of our weekend was an all-day visit from the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute’s (PARI) Portable Planetarium. A former NASA research facility, PARI now hosts a Learning Center to inspire and educate people about science and technology. Today the Portable Planetarium came to Rockbrook for 6 viewings of their All About Space show, which included learning about the Greek mythology behind the names of planets and their moons, watching a meteor shower, and looking at all the Zodiac constellations. Entering the Portable Planetarium was like falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland–campers and staff crawled through a dark tunnel into the planetarium dome that was then filled with the beautiful Milky Way.

zodiac camp birthday partyOur space-tacular Saturday continued at dinner with Zodiac birthday night. Campers with summer birthdays always get a special celebration at camp, but we also have a birthday night in order to celebrate everyone! Tonight, campers and staff sat with their fellow Sagittarians, Leos, and Capricorns in order to revel in their special identity and eat birthday cake. Not only does birthday night allow campers to celebrate themselves, it also allows them to sit at a meal with people of different ages they might not normally share a meal with. After dinner, the fun continued with an optional constellation kaleidoscope craft, and finally an all-camp favorite–a girls dance, replete with glow sticks!

While costumes, dancing, and learning happen every day at camp, Out of this World day allowed all the elements of Rockbrook to come together in such a way that campers were able to unlock their imaginations and explore new paths they might not otherwise take if it was just a “regular” day. With a theme, normal camp activities have a unique twist, a regular dinner becomes a huge birthday celebration, and a typical free swim becomes a time to lay with your friends in a planetarium and watch the stars. We can’t wait for the next special camp theme to take us to infinity and beyond!

girl camp dance

Camp Teaches Kindness

Rockbrook is accredited by the American Camp Association, an organization dedicated to defining and promoting professionalism and program quality among America’s summer camps. Through its many educational efforts and accreditation program, the ACA’s goal is to foster “greater public understanding of and support for the value of the camp experience” while “increasing [the] number of children, youth, and adults of all social, cultural, and economic groups [who] will have a camp experience.”

horse and small kidToday, the ACA has deemed July 24th “camp kindness day,” a day simply to celebrate kindness as a core characteristic of many camp communities.Tom Rosenberg, the current President and CEO of the ACA, and good friend of Rockbrook, put it this way: “At camp, everyone belongs and learns to contribute altruistically in a nurturing, physically and emotionally safe environment where they learn to build caring, trusting, and respectful relationships with individuals who are different from themselves.”

We’ve said it many times before; camp teaches girls to be kind. There’s a kinship, an intensity and closeness, to camp life where sharing this much (meals, chores, songs and laughs, for example) charges up our sympathy and compassion for each other. The camp community, defined by heartfelt relationships rooted in caring and generosity, simply inspires kindness toward others. At Rockbrook, it’s easy to see too. Girls are helping each other in every activity. They’re quick to comfort, support and encourage each other. There’s warmth and affection in every greeting and cheer. Living in this kind of positive community feels really good also. It opens us all up to be more trusting, and paves the way toward greater resilience and self-confidence. Of course, friendships blossom along the way, making everything more fun. Kindness is definitely key at camp. Hooray for #CampKindessDay !

camp rafting kidsAbout half the camp went whitewater rafting today on the Nantahala river. One group drove over on Monday to spend the night at our outpost campsite before rafting the next morning. This group had a great time roasting marshmallows over a campfire, listening to the whippoorwills out at night, and battling at least one wolf spider hiding in the rafters of the tent platforms. The second group arrived in time for lunch before their trip down the river.  For each trip, six girls, each outfitted with a PFD, paddle and helmet, piled into one of our rafts and with one of the RBC guides steering in the back, bumped and splashed down the 9 mile section of river. The predicted afternoon thundershowers held off until we were on our way back to camp, adding to everyone’s enjoyment of their time on the water.

Back at camp in time for dinner, the girls were excite to find out that it was “Birthday Night,” a fun special event where the dining hall is rearranged to allow everyone to sit at a table according to their birth month.

birthday campers birthday goofy girls

This is always a popular event because it means sitting with different people, staff and campers alike. It’s one big birthday party for everyone at camp, and since there are 12 months, we had 12 cakes, each decorated by the Hi-Ups with colorful frosting and candy designs. Never missing an opportunity to dress up, we also made this party even more fun by giving it a “sports” theme with decorations and costumes based on different sports teams and uniforms. It was a colorful party of good silly fun for the whole camp.

Nantahala falls rafting splash

Simply Glorious Camp Days

horse caring camp girls

Horseback riding has always been extraordinarily popular at Rockbrook, with at times close to half the girls taking mounted riding lessons at least once (though as many as five times) a week. We have an amazing herd of 30 horses again this summer, all of whom are schooled horses throughout the rest of the year either as competitive show horses or therapeutic riding ponies. This range of horses allows our equestrian staff to find horses that matches each rider’s skill level, and to offer a range of mounts. The girls love being able to interact with the horses both on the ground and while on their backs riding. There’s always grooming to do, often time for a wash, and all those manes, tails and forelocks happily love being braided. With our current beautiful weather, time at the barn and the riding lessons have been simply glorious.

whitewater rafting smiles

It was time for some outdoor adventure today too because we took our first whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala river. Three buses left camp early this morning to allow a big group of seniors to spend the morning bumping and splashing down the river over in Swain County. Our team of Rockbrook guides met us at the put in spot and was ready with our fleet of seven RBC rafts, and piles of paddles, life jackets and helmets. Despite the recent heavy rains, the river was only slightly higher than normal, making the trip a little faster, and little more fun too. The warm sunny, cloudless day made it even better, and with very few other people on the water this early in the season, this trip really could not have been better! Check out the photo gallery for a few shots of the day.

birthday party campers

How would you decorate 12 different cakes? That’s exactly what our Hi-Ups did this afternoon, helping the kitchen prepare for our special all-camp birthday party at dinner. With two giant tubs of vanilla and chocolate frosting they began with a generous layer on the sheet pan sized cakes (about 18×24 inches), and then worked to decorate a unique design for each month of the year. They used jelly beans, M&Ms, chocolate chips, colorful sprinkles, and even breakfast cereal to spell out the names of months (mostly abbreviated). But why stop there? Soon the cakes were popping with decoration, each Hi-Up having a chance to build a delicious work of art. When the cakes were brought out, the whole dining hall sang “Happy Birthday” and cheered wildly. This “Birthday Night” also had a sports theme where there were decorations and costumes focused on different sports teams and uniforms.  It’s was a colorful, fun party for the whole camp.

Tonight was the first of our camping trips scheduled for the Juniors. About a quarter of a mile down the path toward Rockbrook Falls (still on the camp property), there’s a special area where generations of Rockbrook girls have set up a campsite. Among huge boulders and under beautiful old trees, there are two camping platforms with tin roofs, and a fire ring surrounded by log seating. Two groups of girls hiked out to the campsite after dinner with their sleeping bags, pillows and flashlights, maybe some bug spray and a few stuffed animals too. The staff built a nice campfire and led everyone singing songs, telling riddles, and making s’mores over the fire. For many of the girls, this will be their first time camping, sleeping in the woods without lights or the comfort of a bed. With the sounds of crickets nearby and the waterfall in the distance, it’s a very peaceful place to spend the night.

camp rafting girls

Loud and Lively

Teenager girls choresFresh baked muffinsThe “Hi-Ups” are our 16-year-old, 10th graders at camp. They live together in a special two-story cabin “high above” (hence their name) the camp in the woods behind the dining hall. This cabin, in addition to having a bright front porch with a clear view of the final zip line in our Zip Course, is rumored to have secret amenities these oldest campers enjoy. For example, according to some junior campers, the Hi-Ups have a flat screen TV and a Jacuzzi in their cabin… Wink, wink 😉 The Hi-Ups are essentially in charge of the dining hall. They arrive before each meal to set all the tables. They serve the large bowls and platters of food, fill drink pitchers, distributing what each table (cabin of girls) needs for every meal. Then, when everyone is done eating and the announcements have wrapped up, the real work begins— cleaning the dining hall. That means racking up the dishes for the CIT dishwashers, wiping down tables, sweeping the floor, and emptying all the trash cans. You can imagine, with almost 280 people eating, this is quite a chore. It helps to have many Hi-Ups, like the group of 15 this session, but in any case there is work to be done. And this group is doing that work superbly. With a little Taylor Swift playing in the background, they are cheerfully tackling these chores 3 times a day. You’d be proud if you saw them.

Another Hi-Up responsibility is distributing the muffins during our morning “muffin break.” The kitchen crew bakes up a surprise flavor of muffin each morning in time to give everyone a warm, soft, usually quite sweet, treat between the 1st and 2nd activity periods (around 10:45). The Hi-Ups grab the trays of muffins, and hand them out to the other campers trough a screened window slid open on the end of the dining hall porch. Today we enjoyed pumpkin muffins, and the day before that classic chocolate chip. When you write your girls at camp (sent an email lately?), ask them what their favorite muffin flavor is so far. I bet the word “chocolate” will be in their answer!

Girl Loading a GunCamp Quilting ProjectThe second day of activities moved everyone about the camp today being creative, active and adventurous along the way. In pottery, a few girls were trying their hand on the potter’s wheel while others were pressing lace into slabs of clay to make decorative tiles. The jewelry making activity was introducing beads and multi-strand friendship bracelets, while in Curosty, tabletop and floor looms clicked away. A group of juniors sat in the sun by the creek weaving baskets just as other girls worked on watercolors with the counselors teaching painting in Hobby Nook. We heard the pop of .22 caliber rifles from below at the riflery range and the “thunk” of arrows finding their targets at the archery activity area. Girls were learning back flips in Gymnastics, and cross-court volleys in tennis, playing ga-ga ball and later a huge game of kickball on the landsports field. Climbers were “on belay” climbing the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock high above camp, while 2 groups of girls made their way through the RBC Zip Line course (which has 3 zips through the woods and 3 different bridges connecting start and end points). The kayakers and canoers were busy learning strokes on the lake, as other girls practiced their cannonballs off the diving board.

Rafting crazy RapidSuper Costume at Summer CampMeanwhile, 64 campers took rafting trips today down the Nantahala River in Swain County. We offer these trips to all the Middler and Senior campers (Junior campers are too small according to our Forest Service permit) and generally about 95% of them sign up. The trip is that fun! The first group of 5 rafts spent the night camping at our nearby RBC outpost, waking up and arriving at the river to meet our veteran guides at the river’s put-in. The weather was a little misty starting out, so we suited up all the girls in blue spray jackets for extra warmth. After smashing through the rapids “Patton’s Run,” “Pyramid Rock,” and “Delbar’s Rock,” the sun poked out and it felt great. The Nantahala is a nice beginner’s whitewater river providing a balance between easy, calm sections and rapids that build as you go. In this way, the whole trip alternates between singing camp songs while floating along and screaming your head off through the bumps and spray of the larger rapids. The sun stayed out for the afternoon trip, and we were all back at camp in time for dinner.

For a special dinner too, because tonight was Birthday Night! And even better, it was Super Hero Birthday Night! So out came the costumes… Batman, superman, spiderman (their female versions of course). We saw Captain America, Wonder Woman, Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and many, many spontaneous, highly imaginative, super girls. All over the dining hall, as everyone sat according to their birth month, there were exclamations of “Pow!” “Bam!” and “Whamo!” Mixing the cabins and age groups like this was a fun way to both celebrate everyone’s birthday and enjoy 12 different homemade birthday cakes that the Hi-Ups decorated earlier today. We must have sung “Happy Birthday” or shouted it out 30 or more times! Still, it was a silly, loud and lively, meal made even more fun by all the great girls being together and enjoying it.

Tennis Camp Girls

All This Action

What an absolutely perfect camp day! Completely sunny weather, a beautiful forest setting— the massive rocks, old-growth trees, flowering mountain laurels, cool creeks and waterfalls, ferns, and so many wonderful birds, and so on! —cheerful, encouraging counselors, and the energy of all these great campers, combined to set the day. Then, with dozens of different activities all happening simultaneously, the camp was alive everywhere with happy smiling girls.

Horseback Riding GirlLake Jump KidMost of our 28 horses met their newest fans while they walked, trotted and cantered around the horseback riding rings. The pottery wheels spun, the looms clicked, while rifles and arrows shot. Sequences of knots became friendship bracelets, and yoga mats lay flat for stretching and relaxing poses. Dots of paint, strips of tape, vibrant dyes and patterns of string decorated paper and cloth. Belay ropes led climbers up the Alpine Tower, and kayak skirts stretched tightly over our colorful whitewater boats. With bright blue skies above, the diving board, waterside, and lake toys kept girls happily splashing and delightfully cool. So much action!

Archery Camp GirlBe sure to get a sense of all this action by spending some time browsing through the photo galleries posted for today. Have you seen them? You access the galleries by logging into your parent account. If you haven’t logged in yet, I think you’ll love the new way the system displays our photos. Each day there are several albums to view, enjoy and share by email or on Facebook. If you see particular photos of your daughter, or others that you like, go ahead and add those to your “Favorites” so you can see them all together at the end of the session. Also, I would suggest checking back often because we are uploading photos multiple times every day!

Rafting Camp FunOver at the Nantahala River today, there was even more outdoor adventure action because almost 60 campers took a trip down in rafts. Led by our team of experienced rafting guides (Clyde, who has more than 30 years of experience, along with Andria and Leland Davis, Nicole, Jamie and Thea), two groups of campers enjoyed bouncing and splashing through the rapids, like Patton’s Run, Delbar’s Rock, the Quarry Rapid, and the exciting Nantahala Falls (also known as “Lesser Wesser”) at the end. Rafting with Rockbrook girls is a little like a floating party, often pretty loud with singing and powerful screams, sometimes involving dancing and acrobatics (like falling into the river!), but always a complete blast because you’re laughing with your friends at every bump of the river.

Dinner tonight brought out the costumes —the first of many opportunities to dress up this session— with the campers and counselors dressing as superheroes. Sure we had Batman, Superman and Captain America to name a few, but we also saw Captain Underpants, Caped Vowels, and several versions of Wonder Woman. The dining hall was filled with strong, powerful, extraordinary woman, all super in different ways. More than that, we also made dinner tonight a celebration of everyone’s birthday by rearranging the tables so we could sit grouped according to our birth month. This mixed cabins to make tables with both younger and older new friends to meet, and, perhaps most importantly, with whom to share a homemade, highly decorated, birthday cake. With songs and shout-outs to different celebrities’ birth months (for example, “Happy Birthday Taylor Swift!”), we kept the whole meal lively, and definitely a little silly. It really was a blast.

Camp Costume Girls

A Summertime Treat

Costumes for Mardi Gras DinnerMost meals at Rockbrook are served “Family Style” in our dining hall, with each cabin of girls sitting together at a table with their counselors and sharing platters of food. Throughout the day, everyone scatters across the camp to attend their individually chosen activities, so meals are a chance to reunite and talk about the events of the day. Tonight, however, we shifted gears entirely and rearranged the 26 individual tables in the dining hall to make 12 large tables, one for each month of the year, because tonight was “Birthday Night.” This is a special surprise dinner party where we celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same night by having all the counselors and campers sit according to the month of their birth. Tonight we made it a Mardi Gras themed dinner, so we decorated the dining hall with streamers, balloons, and posters, handed out shiny beads and masks, and encouraged everyone to dress in their best purple, gold and green.  There were so many great costumes! Some girls wore crazy wigs, or hats, lots of sunglasses, multi-colored tights, even fuzzy leg warmers. Rick prepared New Orleans style food for us too: Po’ Boy sandwiches (with lettuce, tomato and his homemade Remoulade sauce), grits with Andouille sausage, mixed berries, and Miss Vickie’s potato chips. But of course, the highlight of the night was the cakes, the 12 different birthday cakes Katie baked, each decorated by the Hi-Up campers to match a particular month. Depending on your birth month, your piece of cake was larger or smaller because the cake was divided by the number of people in that month (June had the highest number, and September the smallest number of people, by the way).  With Mardi Gras music playing, the girls had a grand time yelling “Happy Birthday” to each other (and to other celebrities), taking short dance breaks, and of course singing along to the music.

Girl concentrating on climbing towerIf you spotted our Alpine Climbing Tower in the woods driving up our north driveway (riding the shuttle bus on opening day), you know it’s an impressive structure. It’s almost 60 feet tall, is triangular shaped because of its pyramid design, and offers dozens of climbing challenges. Even more impressive is the climbing ability the girls have been showing on the tower lately. They are swarming all over the thing, hanging upside down, conquering every element (like the “Swinging Logs,” the “Missing Link” cargo net, and “Corporate Ladder,” for example), and even climbing up sections blindfolded! Karen, our lead photographer, took this photo (and others) today by climbing the tower herself and shooting from above. It’s hard to tell from this shot, but this camper is about 45 feet off the ground! I love the look of concentration in her eye. It shows a level of focused confidence that all excellent rock climbers rely upon. Awesome stuff.

Camp girl using lap loom with feet in creekCan you tell what’s happening in this photo? Blue yarn and white string, feet in some water, and a fork? It’s not a musical instrument (though I suppose it could be!). It’s a lap loom with a weaving project taking shape as the weaver sits with her feet in a creek. The fork is used to weave and tighten the weft as it traces back and forth taking shape along the warp. The creek beside the Curosty cabin, where weaving is taught at Rockbrook, carries water to fill our lake, and is generally a sunny spot in camp. That makes it very enticing as a perfect place to weave, chat with friends, and enjoy the cool water rushing by across your feet. Something this simple and wholesome, it’s relaxing, social and creative at the same time. Such a summertime treat.

Girls sitting at top of John RockHere we have the view from the top of John Rock looking east toward Looking Glass Rock. It’s one of our favorite spots to experience the amazing green-carpeted mountains of the Pisgah National Forest. A group of girls, led by Emily and Christina, backpacked and camped in the forest Monday night (tents, backpacks, water bottles, camping stoves to cook dinner and breakfast, etc.), and on the way back hiked to John Rock for this view. Their hike brought them through Cat Gap, which touches the Art Loeb trail, and looped back to the Pisgah Fish Hatchery… for a total of about 6 miles. I heard they had an overnight rain shower, but as you can see it was sunny and fair in the morning for the hike out, capping off an excellent trip.

Zip Line Fever !

Rockbrook's bridge to start the zip lineGirl camper riding the Rockbrook Camp zip lineThroughout the spring and even into the last few days, we’ve been busily working on a secret project, and today we announced it to everyone at breakfast. Rockbrook now has a zip line! Not a simple, backyard sort of thing, it’s a 450-foot long, professionally designed and built, zip line, making it one of the longest in this part of North Carolina! The idea came to us over the winter when we noticed several huge boulders in the woods behind the camp. One was high and looked like a perfect launching spot for a zip line, but getting to it meant crossing a deep chasm over a creek. What to do? Build a bridge!  But here too, we decided to make something fun, a bridge that would swing a little and because it was high in the air, would make your feet tingle and your heart race as you crossed it. The bridge ended up being about 100 feet long and about 60 feet in the air as it crosses from one boulder to the other. The girls wear a climbing harness and helmet, and are tethered by strong rope as they cross to hook into the special dual-wheel zip line pulley. The ride down the cable only takes about 15 seconds, so you can imagine how fast these girls are zipping. On the far end, across the camp over near the Junior cabins, there’s a gently sloping wooden platform that provides a soft landing. The person zipping just puts their feet down, and with the help of a staff member, walks up the platform to finish and unclip. It works great. Now our challenge is to let everyone in camp give it a try (if they want to) before the end of the session. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more photos of happy zipping children over the next few days!

Today Clyde took a group of Middlers and Seniors kayaking on the Tuckaseegee River, meeting up with Andria and Leland our main whitewater guides. The “Tuck” is a great intermediate level river for kayaking because it has plenty of rapids to challenge the girls, but also nice big eddies (calm areas behind obstacles in the river) and flat stretches for playing and instruction from the guides. Also today, Emily had a different group of girls backpacking in the Pisgah Forest nearby John Rock. With their tents, food and water, and other camping gear, they hiked in about 3 miles, spent the night and will return in the morning.

February decorated birthday cake at campTonight was also everyone’s birthday at dinner with the return of “Birthday Night,” a fun Rockbrook tradition where we rearrange the dining hall to allow the campers and staff to sit according to their birth month. This time the counselors in charge decided to create an “Under the Sea” theme, so many of the cakes, one for each month, were decorated with water-related features. The dining hall also decorated with colorful banners and several staff members dressed in costumes added to the effect. Boy we sang “Happy Birthday” a bunch of times, ate a lot of cake, and had a grand time.

Rockbrook camp girls sitting on a porch rocking chair Rockbrook girls heading to swim at the lake

Testing the Birthday Paradox

With all of the adventure, crafts and sports going on in camp, it’s easy to forget that through the tunnel and across the road at the Rockbrook fields, there are campers riding horses everyday. They are girls being introduced to English horseback riding, with its emphasis on balance, posture and seat position, and others improving their riding skills in mounted lessons. They are getting to know the Rockbrook equestrian staff, led by Cara and Audrey, and the 29 horses at camp this summer. It can get pretty busy down there at the stables with horses being prepared and led back and forth from the barns, campers dressing in their boots and helmets eager to learn who they’ll ride that day, and lessons being taught in all three riding rings. If you add to that taking care of all those horses, for example when the ferrier makes his weekly visit, you have quite a hive of activity. During any of the activity periods, and even in between, you can see examples of this engaged enthusiasm and hard work. It’s impressive!

smiling camp girl horseback riding two small white ponies 2 point hunt jump horse seat

The middle picture here is of Cool Beans and his little sidekick Cloud Nine, two of our celebrity ponies at camp this summer. You may have met them on the opening day of camp. They have been well-loved this session, especially by the juniors.

Birthday cake and excited camp girlsHave you heard of the Birthday Paradox, the surprisingly high probability that two people in a group will share the same birthday? The magic number is twenty three; if you take a group of 23 randomly selected people the odds there will be two with the same birthday are about 50% (1 in 2). So what happens when you take an entire summer camp of 223 campers and 60 staff members? The probability is greater than 99.9999999999999999999999998%!

We tested this paradox tonight during our special all-camp birthday night dinner. We rearranged the dining hall so everyone with the same birth month could sit together at one giant table for each month. Everybody born in April sat together, May together, and so forth. This meant some of the tables, like September, were huge and others had only 10 or so. Throughout the meal everyone compared birthdays, and sure enough we had about 4 different pairs sharing the same day. Each table also thought of other famous people to whom they could shout out a birthday greeting… “Happy Birthday Justine Bieber!” Or, “Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!” It’s not clear how many of these were true, but that wasn’t particularly important. What mattered was coming up with funny examples for everyone to hear. The biggest bubble of excitement, however, erupted when the cakes came out, one elaborately decorated, in a “Candyland” theme, birthday cake for each month/table. As you can see in this photo of the April cake, Alison baked up simply gorgeous cakes, again, all from scratch. These were big cakes, and believe it or not, there were several tables that couldn’t finish theirs! An example of being good, but maybe a little too good!