A World Cup Party

Mountain Top Camp Hikers

If you compare the highest mountains east of the Mississippi River, twelve of the top twenty are located in North Carolina, and one, Chestnut Bald (elev. 6040 ft.) is right here in Transylvania County. Many of these peaks are accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, a wonderful scenic drive that winds along the ridge lines of the southern Appalachian mountains in NC and VA through tunnels, over bridges, and by scenic overlooks for 469 miles. Today, Clyde loaded up a bus of Juniors and Middlers to reach the Parkway and hike a bit exploring one of the highest peaks nearby, Black Balsam Knob (elev. 6214 ft). As you can see from this photo, the weather for this trip was spectacular, sunny and mostly clear, making the long range views incredible. Stopping on one of the weathered-grey outcroppings of rock to point out a distant feature (like Shining Rock, for example), means being so high up, you literally look down on just about everything. With puffy clouds almost close enough to touch, it’s a little disorienting, but also the kind of thrill that makes for a memorable day out.

Girls playing gaga dodgeball
Indoor Girls Soccer

One of the activity options girls can select at Rockbrook is called “Sports and Games.” It includes field sports like soccer, softball, and kickball, and field games like tag, frisbee, and badminton. It can also be gym sports like basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and hockey. Today the sports instructors Reesa and Adina organized an indoor soccer game in the gym, a fast-paced game where the ball can bounce off the side walls. Similarly, another game being played a lot lately (partly because we introduced it this summer) is Gaga or “Ga-Ga Ball.” It also is a ballgame played by strategically hitting a ball off the court’s (or pit’s) walls, only using your hands instead of your feet. In fact, just the opposite of soccer, in Gaga, if the ball hits your foot or leg, you are out. The goal is to hit the bouncy ball around the octagonal pit without letting it hit you. Hit the other players with the ball while avoiding being hit yourself. It’s really fun, and the girls are very much into it. Play continues until only one person who has avoided being hit is left.

Girl Buddies Ready for Swimming
Girls working on loom weaving

The awesome weather held at camp too, making the lake a very popular place during the first Free Swim period before lunch. Free swim allows girls who aren’t signed up for swimming during their regular activity slots to come down and enjoy the lake, perhaps by showing off goofy jumps from the diving board, setting a record for the most trips down the water slide, or just floating on an inflated tube in the sun. At noon, which is when this free time happens, the sun is directly overhead making the whole waterfront warm and attractive (buffering nicely the chilly water of the lake!).

This block of free time before lunch also gives the campers a chance to spend time finishing a craft project they began during one of their classes. For example in Curosty, the fiber arts cabin, the looms seem to never rest. It takes time to weave a good piece of fabric, so campers are often slipping back in to complete what they started. Some very impressive work is coming off those looms.

Cake for World Cup
Kids dressed up for the World Cup

To celebrate the World Cup soccer tournament currently taking place in Brazil, we turned dinner tonight into a “World Cup Party.” Replica flags from different countries decorated the dining hall, and the girls came dressed “as their favorite county,” “futbol fan,” or really anything with an international flair. Instead of sitting in their regular cabin groups, the girls sat according to a table they selected at random when they arrived in the dining hall. Chase had a music playlist pumping out upbeat world music (e.g., “Waka Waka,” and “Wavin’ Flag”), and Rick served us an all-American meal of hamburgers with all the trimmings and watermelon on the side. But the highlight of the meal was the dozen or so cakes Katie baked for us, each decorated colorfully like a different country’s flag (e.g. Spain, Great Britain, and Italy, for example) using candy and icing. The girls had a grand time singing along with the music, dancing at times and sharing all of the cakes for dessert.

North Carolina Beauty

Girls hiking to Tennent Mountain NC
Black Balsam Mountain NC

This part of North Carolina is home to the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River. These are the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southern Appalachian range and include the Great Smoky mountains. While Rockbrook is located along the eastern slope bordering the French Broad River Valley at an elevation of 2,600 feet, the highest peak in North Carolina is Mount Mitchell which stands at 6,686 feet. New Hampshire and Maine also claim tall peaks— Mount Washington (6,288 ft) and Mount Katahdin (6,268 ft) — but NC claims the number one spot. Among the highest peaks in North Carolina are two that are a short drive from Rockbrook: Black Balsam Knob (6,201 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6,056 ft).  And for a group of Rockbrook girls, these peaks were a hiking destination today.  At this elevation, the experience is one of looking out, and down at the hills and valleys below.  At the same time, the sky feels very close because clouds are all around, above, below and right beside you. It’s a strangely stark, other worldly, almost numinous experience.  Being there is literally so awe-some, the girls were (almost) left speechless! You can see that today the weather was rather unsettled with bands of clouds and even rain in the valleys blowing by, making the whole hike even more dynamic and dramatic. Very cool!

Jewelry Making Porch Activity

Meanwhile back at camp, where it was surprisingly wetter with a slight drizzle falling, all of the regular craft activities were bustling. All those colorful projects! Tying and dying. Twisting and pulling. Painting and marking. Gluing and sewing. Weaving and hooking. Here is a photo of the girls making Jewelry on the Hillside Lodge porch. This is a wonderful setting with red rocking chairs and a big broad table to spread out on. The girls have now progressed to even more complex friendship bracelet patterns— double chevron, arrowhead, heart, basket weave, and diamond, for example.  With so many friends at camp, and family members at home who will enjoy a camp-made gift, there’s always a good reason to make another friendship bracelet.  Take a look at the image on the our camp videos page to see how they can stack up!

Flowers of Rockbrook

The last few days at camp seem to have exploded with color for both the camp flower beds and the forest itself are blooming beautifully. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve been having regular light showers and periods of sun for the last couple of days.  In the forest, there are exquisite clusters of tall and broad ferns, tall pink Ladyslippers, and Painted Trilliums surprising us along the trails in camp with spots of color and pattern. The flower beds at camp— along the dining hall, in front of the Junior Lodge, the canoe planter by the lake—and all the planters around camp are even more full. This photo is just a sample of the amazing work Pam our gardener has done, and continues to do, to keep Rockbrook’s setting so lovely and blooming. I hope you have time to wander around when you arrive to pick up your daughter in a few days.

Confident Sense of Adventure

Camp counselor with girl camper
During one of the many tours of Rockbrook we’ve been giving lately, a parent asked an excellent question. “What do you look for when hiring counselors?” It’s really an important thing to ask, and it’s something we think about a lot, all year round, in fact. We know that our counselors are certainly role models for the campers, but also friends, teammates, sisters and moms to the girls as well. The first thing we look for in a counselor is simply an enthusiastic, energetic, friendly young (high school graduate or older) woman who loves children. The best counselors are naturally “kid people.” They have an innate ability to connect with children, to listen to them, and communicate with them authentically.  This allows them to become really good friends and to forge great trusting relationships with the campers.  Of course, this makes camp fun and rewarding for everyone, camper and counselor alike. Even more specifically, another trait we look for in counselors, among many others, is a confident sense of adventure. This describes someone who isn’t scared to branch out and try new things, who is generally up beat and positive even when faced with the unknown or when something isn’t going exactly right (Raining? “No big deal! Let’s sing some rain songs…!”) Having a confident sense of adventure means being resilient, flexible, creative and improvisational. See how those are great qualities, and something that makes a wonderful role model for girls? There really is a lot of that going around at RBC.

Tying the knots for a bracelet bracelet being tied to camper's toe pottery thrown on the wheel

This year we are having the jewelry making activity meet on the porch of the hillside stone lodge. This porch, which is made of rough-sawed, oak planks, overlooks the lake and at the right spot, has a view of the mountains in the distance. There are a few rocking chairs out there and a big table with benches for the girls to use as they tie friendship bracelets, twist wire, string beads and weave necklaces. It’s a beautiful setting to spend time learning new friendship bracelet techniques (like that toe-tie!), and naturally just talking and laughing about nothing in particular. 🙂

If you’ve ever tried to throw a pot on the wheel, you know that it’s not easy. It takes great patience to learn because there are so many ways a spinning ball of clay can crumple, wobble or even fly off the wheel. Everything can be going great, perfectly centered, and then suddenly your nice bowl collapses and it’s back to square one. All of this makes it such a victory, a moment of pride, when a camper successfully throws something on the wheel, especially the first time.

Posing on the Blue Ridge ParkwayThe Hi-Ups took an exciting trip into the Pisgah Forest this afternoon, stopping first at Looking Glass Falls. This is one of the most well-known waterfalls in this area, partly because it’s about 60-feet tall, but also because it’s easily seen from the main road. We came ready to swim, so after walking down to base, all of us swam through the pool and the spray just past where the water was crashing down. A few of the girls ventured closer to let some of the water smack them on the back, but it looked a little intense, if not painful, so there weren’t many takers. The cold mountain water and the roar of the falls was enough for most of us. Back in the buses, it was then just a short trip further to reach the Pounding Mill overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our favorite stopping spots up there. It’s 4700 feet up (Rockbrook’s elevation is about 2350 ft) and provides a grand view of Looking Glass Rock below, a popular rock climbing destination.  By the time we arrived it was getting near dinner time and there was a stop at Dolly’s in the plan as well, so today we came just for the view and a quick group picture.  It’s always nice to get a little altitude!