What a Wednesday!

What a Wednesday! Today our regular activity schedule paused for the afternoon to allow cabin groups time for a special activity together. This mid-week “cabin day” is a great time for girls to bond with and get to know their cabin mates even further. The counselors put a lot of thought into cabin day, starting their planning and preparation at the beginning of each week. The other fun part: it’s a surprise for the girls! They never know if they might be hiking up to Castle Rock, playing group games at the gym, having a spa, making a yummy treat, being creative with a craft project, or leaving camp for an exciting adventure at Sliding Rock! Each week it’s something different and enjoyable for the girls.

Decorated Jar held by summer camp girl

Today, one of our Junior cabins created “compliment jars” for one another. This involved first decorating large mason jars with stickers, paint, tape and scraps of colorful paper. Once they had personalized their jars, the girls then wrote complements on small slips of paper dropping one into each person’s jar. Soon each girl had a jar full of complements to read. This is an exciting time for everyone, and such a fun way to make all of the girls feel loved, noticed, and celebrated by their peers and counselors alike. Compliment jars are often displayed in the girls cabins and even treasured at home throughout the school year!

Meanwhile, a Middler cabin could be found hanging out in the ‘nest’ near Castle Rock, the huge rock face right up the mountain on the camp property. The top of Castle Rock is a fantastic hiking destination, offering an amazing view of the Blue Ridge mountains, and out on the face, we have 5 different rock climbing routes the girls can tackle. This year, though, Rockbrook gained a new addition up there— The Nest! The nest is an alcove tucked under a wide, flat portion of Castle Rock where we found the perfect place to hang Eno hammocks. Using rock anchors, we can set up a nest of up to 15 hammocks, creating a fun hangout area with a beautiful view of the forest and the surrounding mountains.

girls wearing t-shirts painted at camp

A different Middler cabin was having a fun and messy paint fight on the hill! This involved white t-shirts, bright paints, and lots of laughs! The girls began with clean shirts, but by the end of this activity, their t-shirts were far from white. They took turns painting on one another’s shirts, and happily splattering each other. This was a special day for this cabin, because these girls love to get creative and messy, and how often do girls get to play with this kind of abandon? This cabin was laughing and smiling non-stop, and they finished up this paint-filled cabin day by jumping in our refreshing lake to clean up.

tea party set on porch

One of the more original and exciting cabin day ideas today was a tea party being held by one of our senior cabins. This cabin’s counselors transformed a table on the porch of the Hillside Lodge into a fancy tea party setting, where the girls were instructed to arrive wearing their “fanciest gowns,” which for us means “amazing silly costumes!” These girls drank tea out of mugs, ate tiny cakes, and practiced ballroom dancing around the lodge. It was refreshing to see our senior campers enjoying themselves so much at a tea party, which most of them said they had not done since they were much younger. This particular cabin day activity provided these girls an opportunity to play and pretend again, to use their imaginations, and to celebrate and laugh with one another. Once a again, opening up, being a kid at camp, felt really, really good.

girl camp kids dressed in costumes
group of summer camp teenage girls
camp kids holding picnic dinner

Joyfully Messy

ropes course climber

Watch out for those climbers! All morning at the high ropes climbing tower set in the woods behind the gym, girls were scurrying up different elements to reach the 50-foot-high platform perched high in the trees. Three girls can climb on the tower at the same time, each pulling up on a different rope, log, or handhold. This allows the ordinary group of nine girls to climb multiple times during their 1-hour activity period. During the class of older girls, the climbing staff was teaching belay techniques, giving those interested a chance to run the rope for a climber. With the staff member keeping two hands on the rope as a backup, the girls had fun helping each stay safe while climbing… not to mention, climbing themselves!

Since it’s Wednesday, we paused our regular activity schedule in the afternoon for a chance to do something special as cabin groups. Ordinarily the girls run off and follow an individually selected set of activities, so it’s nice to do something together once a week. The cabin group and their counselors decide what to do too!

Today there were some really fun cabin day activities going on. One group hung out at the lake, while another took a hike to Rockbrook Falls. The CA girls did a blind trust walk led by their counselors, eventually ending up to watch a movie. Another Senior cabin enjoyed a “color war” of sorts on the hill. They all put on new white t-shirts and, armed with cups of colorful paint, had a hilarious time splattering each other and being joyfully messy. A cabin of Juniors decided to have an afternoon, outdoor spa experience that involved giving each other an avocado face mask complete with a cucumber eye treatment. Very fancy! There was a little joyful mess here too as the girls relaxed on the grassy hill by the creek allowing their cleansing treatments to do their work.

Girls sliding rock peace sign

For all the Middler girls and their counselors, today was their chance to visit one of the most popular spots in the Pisgah National Forest— Sliding Rock. Like a little army of 100 people, we drove into the forest to have a picnic dinner and run around a bit. The kitchen packed us trays of hot pasta, salad and fruit, more than we could possibly eat. We arrived at Sliding Rock and found it deserted, perfect for our army to conquer! After a brief introduction, it took no time for our middlers to be zipping down the 60-foot water slide to the pool below where our lifeguards were waiting. We slid for more than an hour, until it was getting a little dark. Our final stop was Dolly’s Dairy bar, everyone’s favorite ice cream shop conveniently located at the entrance of the forest. You have to drive by it to go to Pisgah, so we can’t not stop on the way home. And the girls, of course, love it! Dolly’s has specialty flavors named after many of the local summer camps. “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” seems to always be popular with the girls. Very chocolatey, and delicious. A little chilled, but still excited and happy, the girls returned to camp ready to warm up and rest of the night. It was a great day.

Full-bodied Excitement

Tetherball game

Tetherball. It’s one of the simplest pastimes at Rockbrook, but also one of the most popular ways for the girls to spend a few spare minutes between activity periods, right before meals, or during one the three designated slots of “free time” each day. There are two tetherball courts at Rockbrook, one by the gym and the more prominent spot near the hillside lodge.  Made from a 10-foot tall locust tree pole, that tetherball court has a cool open feel to it, and since it’s centrally located, seems to always be in action.  Look over the hill and you’re bound to see a colorful ball swinging around the pole on a rope.

The game of tetherball is simple —hit the ball and wrap the rope around the pole as your opponent tries to hit the ball in the opposite direction… whoever wraps the ball completely is the winner.  When someone wins, that’s called a “tether.” The other day a few girls explained some of the other game terminology.  If a player grabs the rope instead of hitting the ball, that’s called a “ropey,” which is a foul of sorts, as is something called a “holdy,” which means grabbing the ball altogether.  When one player commits either of these fouls, the other player is allowed to employ the same foul. In addition to a regular single hit, there are two more hits that more advanced players use: the “double tap,” which simply means hitting the ball once before hitting it a second time, and “popcorn,” which means tapping the ball multiple times before hitting it around toward the other player. In a tetherball match, the winner of a game keeps playing until defeated by a challenger. The challenger always serves, which is a slight advantage. This may all sound like serious stuff, and to an extent it is for some of the girls, but playing tetherball is also a fun game of skill perfect for playing with friends at camp.

devils courthouse pisgah forest

Today the adventure staff announced a trip for the girls up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and a hike that included a stop at Devil’s Courthouse. This is a spectacular destination. At an elevation of more that 5700 feet, it has a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you can see 4 different states! This photo shows a girl crouching behind the marker that allows you to identify far off mountain peaks by sighting over the brass cones. It’s quite a steep hike to reach the summit, but this view is really incredible and definitely worth the trip when the weather is nice like it was today.

This afternoon, we paused our regular activities for “cabin day,” a time when each cabin sticks together and enjoys a special activity as a group.  Ordinarily the girls sign up for individual activity schedules, so this is a nice time to bond with bunk mates and do something special.  One group decorated t-shirts with markers, while another used paints to design colorful glass jars.  There was food involved for some— decorating cupcakes for the kitchen, using a scoop to make a huge bowl of watermelon balls, or shaping cookie dough for baking the evening’s cookies. Another group played games like an egg toss, and another took a hike to Rockbrook Falls for a wet-n-wild creek hike.

sliding rock north carolina

All of the Senior girls stuck together for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest followed by a trip to Sliding Rock. This trip has become a tradition of sorts at camp because it’s so popular. The girls love loading the buses and riding high up into the forest to eat dinner and play a few games before screaming their heads off while sliding down the chilly natural water slide. One glance at the photo gallery and you can tell by the looks on the girls’ faces— an extraordinary combination of wide-eyed trepidation and full-bodied excitement —that sliding rock is a true thrill. It was impressive how many girls slid down the rock multiple times, each time getting just a little colder and even more excited for the ride.  The end of night brought all of us (almost 100 people in all) to Dolly’s Dairy Bar, the one and only ice cream stand.  This too is a loved tradition, a must-do part and the perfect cap to this thrilling night out.

rock climbing girl campers

Cabin Day Smiles

This afternoon we happily cast aside our regular schedule for activities to give each cabin group a chance to do something together. Ordinarily, campers select their daily activities individually, scattering all the members of a cabin according to their personal preferences. It’s possible to do things with cabin mates, go swimming or zip lining for example, but it’s also common to have a totally different activity schedule from the other girls in your cabin.  Our “Cabin Day,” which happens on Wednesday afternoons, reverses that.  Each cabin group sticks together, and with assistance from its counselors, plans a whole-cabin activity of some sort.

Spa face mask funny kids

Our two cabins of Juniors banded together to enjoy a unique “Spa” experience at the Carrier House, the childhood home of Rockbrook’s founder, Nancy Carrier, and now the house where Jeff and Sarah Carter live with their family. With Sarah, the Junior counselors, and the camp moms all helping, the campers rotated through four different stations. One made “slime” using white school glue, borax and food coloring. I think the idea was that the slime was “good for your skin.” Another station involved a huge array of nail polish. Multicolored manicures and pedicures for all! The third station involved facials of a sticky “mud mask.” Sarah gave tours of the house for the fourth station, explaining some of the interesting history of Rockbrook along the way. All four stations took place simultaneously giving the girls plenty to do, giggle and smile about.

dyed hands from girls tie dyeing t-shirts

The Middler cabins branched in all sorts of directions for their cabin day. One made pottery and then took on the challenge of making ice cream using ziplock bags, salt and ice to freeze the cream. Another cabin went down to the garden to pick flowers and make individual bouquets. One cabin got particularly messy making tie-dye t-shirts. An adventurous cabin packed a few snacks and headed off to Rockbrook Falls hiking and when they returned switched gears and decorated tote bags. Probably the most impressive project hatched from a cabin who wanted to thank some of the non-cabin staff members at camp, like the kitchen folks, office workers, nurses and maintenance staff. They designed a “Compliment Board,” a bulletin board where campers could post compliments for these staff members. It was a sweet thoughtful gesture!

teen girls dressed for bowling

Finally, the Seniors switched things up completely. The entire Senior Line dressed up in wacky costumes (of course!) and went bowling! They had a great time inventing silly bowling techniques, singing along to the jukebox, and posing for photographs. Cheers erupted with every strike, and dance moves with every gutter ball. To cap off the evening, we made a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar so everyone could sample their favorite flavor of ice cream. It’s always an exciting event to visit Dolly’s. After finishing their cones, the girls tonight sang all of the senior songs flamboyantly entertaining the other Dolly’s customers. It’s quite a sight, our group of zany, costumed, ice-cream-sugar-charged girls singing together. You can’t help but smile seeing so many people having such a great time.

Pottery Glazing Girls

The Magic of Moments

Amazing 10th grade campers

Many of our campers return to Rockbrook year after year, as if this special place in the heart of the wooded mountain calls them back. Some campers even go on to be counselors, and help create the magic that they experienced as campers for a new generation of Rockbrook girls. Before they become counselors, however, a few campers get the chance to experience parts of being a counselor while still being a camper. These are our Hi-Up campers, who have just finished tenth grade. Hi-Ups have lots of special responsibilities at camp. They help set up for each meal in the dining hall and clean up afterwards, teach Rockbrook songs, and ring bells, just to name a few. They also get a chance to develop their leadership skills through Girls With Ideas sessions. Hi-Ups stay busy, but they also get to have a lot of fun! Hi-Up cabin day is always on Thursday mornings, where they get to take a break from their responsibilities at camp and enjoy being together.

Ancient tree group hug

Today, I was lucky enough to be able to drive them up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and join in as they hiked and climbed along a two-mile loop at Graveyard Fields. It was amazing to see the strong relationships these girls have formed over their years together as campers. We stopped for a snack break at one of the oldest trees in that part of the forest and all were in awe at the beauty of the moment. Rockbrook brought these girls together years ago, and it is the simple magic of the place that keeps them coming back year after year. Soon, these girls will be counselors, but for now, they have the chance to simply enjoy the time they have together. Standing there beside a tree at least as old as the camp we all share, a Hi-Up named Jackie put it perfectly when she said, “I miss this moment! I haven’t left it yet, but I miss it!” Camp is incredible in that way— every moment can be special, just because of who you share it with.

Summertime Delight

Horse Arena Rider
Horseback Riding Camper

The new covered horseback riding arena and stables at Rockbrook are creating quite a buzz, so let me mention that first. After more than a year of planning and design work, we began building the facility last August and working throughout the winter and spring to finish in time for camp this summer. The arena is 180 feet long and 90 feet wide with a 26-foot vaulted ceiling, a 5-foot rail all the way around, and a high-bay LED lighting system. Most importantly, the arena footing is a special blend of white silica sand (trucked in from SC), nylon and polyester fibers that give just the right amount of grip and stability, but also cushion and rebound. Designed by an arena footing expert, this surface is amazing. On a regular basis we use a sprinkler system to keep the sand a little moist, which makes it virtually dust free, and also use a complex drag to level and groom the surface. We’ve been told that this arena, both because of its size and quality footing, is the best covered arena in western North Carolina, but that’s not why we built it.  We simply know how much nicer it’s making our campers’ riding experience— cooler in the shade, fewer annoying bugs, and of course an all-weather space that nicely handles the ordinarily wet climate of this county. With its gleaming white sand footing, and treated wood framing, it’s a beautiful building and a delightful place to ride.

Along with the arena, we built a new adjoining 10-stall teaching barn. We made the stalls huge (12×12 feet) to accommodate our larger horses, added sliding stall doors, rubber mat stall floors, and rear dutch doors that open to the outside. There’s a heated feed room and separate tack room, an extra-wide 14-foot aisle, and a giant 3,000 square-foot hay loft. With this barn, it’s now possible to tack up your horse and walk down the aisle right into the arena, all under roof.

Nearby outside, we also constructed a new 90-foot round ring to complement the existing 100×300 jump course ring in the lower pasture. If we divide these large riding areas, we can hold five mounted lessons at the same time, which really helps when we have almost 80 girls at camp who are currently riding. We’ve been taking full advantage of these great facilities keeping all our young riders as busy as possible.

Sliding Rock Girls
Sliding Rock Cheer

Since today was cabin day, the day when we change up the afternoon schedule to allow cabin groups to enjoy an activity together, we gathered all of the Middler campers for a grand trip into the forest. A trifecta trip of sorts, we charged up the group with a fun picnic dinner, visit to Sliding Rock, and a final stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Middlers have such a great time on this trip, eager to play games in the grass after their meal, excited to plunge into the chilly pool below Sliding Rock, and thrilled to select a unique “camp flavor” of ice cream at the last stop. We had a total of 115 people on this trip when you include all of the campers and staff members, creating quite a mob. At Sliding Rock, we completely filled the place! Going in the evening (after regular hours) allows us to do that, have our own lifeguards and give the whole event a Rockbrook feel. The photo gallery will show you what I mean, but girls really enjoyed the excitement, the adventure of it all, the classic mountain summertime delight that we’ve loved for years at Rockbrook.

Back at camp, mostly dry in a warm sweatshirt or fleece, the girls had no trouble making a quick path to bed. Today we have played, laughed, and played some more… just how summer should be.

Dollys Ice Cream

Dancing and Dashing

It’s cabin day! That’s the time, Wednesday afternoons specifically, when instead of going to individual activities, the girls do something as a cabin group. For regular daily activities everyone signs up for their own set of four, so this is a nice time when all the girls living in a cabin can enjoy a special activity together.

sliding rock shock
girls creek slide
Zip Creek Girls

All of the Middler (5th and 6th grade girls) cabin groups had their cabin day together taking a trip into the Pisgah Forest for a dinner picnic, field games, wild rides down a sloping waterfall, and an ice cream treat. We loaded all of our vehicles for the short ride up into the forest to our favorite picnic area that has a shelter and a large grassy field. Hot dogs with all the fixings, chips and watermelon (so much watermelon for 94 people!) fueled us up for the after dinner games. We played “Everybody up,” the “Human knot” challenge, and a huge game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl,” a clear favorite whenever we’re out away from camp. There was a slight sprinkle for about 30 minutes during our games, but it was only a minor nuisance, and if anything more, an added thrill for the girls dancing and dashing about in the grass.

NC waterfall swimming kids
Ice Cream Face Children
Camp Girls Pose
Camp Girls Waterfall

Back in the vans and buses, we next were all at Sliding Rock for a good hour and half of classic mountain forest fun. For many of these Middlers this was their first trip to Sliding Rock, and as they sat in the chilly, fast moving water at the top of the 60 foot-long slide, and plunged into the pool below, they very quickly understood why this trip is so popular with the older campers. It’s amazing fun! The ride down is loud from the roaring waterfall and the cheering friends watching. It’s cold, even “freezing,” from the whitewater splashing all about, and from the swim at the end. It’s exhilarating as you accelerate down the rock toward the splash awaiting at the end. As it began to get dark, we finished up our sliding, said goodbye to the rock, and next found ourselves at Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Conveniently located at the entrance to the Forest, we now have a tradition of stopping for a sweet, also “freezing,” treat before heading back to camp. The folks at Dolly’s are experts at moving a huge group of campers along as they select their favorite flavor. It might be one of the special camp flavors they’ve concocted (Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion, for example), or something more common like peppermint. Licking our cones, then spontaneously singing camp songs, happily chatting along in the red and white glow of Dolly’s outdoor lights, it wasn’t long before it was time to head back to camp for some warm clothes and a cozy camp cabin.

Meanwhile, other cabin groups had different plans. A couple of groups went camping at the outpost site under Dunn’s Rock. This is a beautiful campsite on the Rockbrook property that includes an arrangement of huge boulders, massive old trees, the nearby creek, and a simple fire ring of stones arrange many years ago by former campers. A group of Junior campers hiked up to Stick Biscuit Falls, the waterfall up the mountain a bit behind the dining hall. It’s the smallest of the waterfalls on the camp property, but is a fun place to explore and feel the spray of water created by the falls hitting the rocks below. The Hi-Ups had a blast zooming through the trees on the Rockbrook Zip Line course. With 3 zip lines and 3 suspension bridges, it took them about an hour to run through the whole course. A group of Junior campers took a quick trip into Dupont State Forest for a swim at Hooker Falls, which has a bright sunny pool to enjoy. Another Junior group headed down to the garden to pick flowers and then make fairy houses back in camp under a hemlock tree. A cabin of Seniors decided to make “Spa face treatments” using avocado, yogurt and coffee grounds… a little silly certainly, with perhaps dubious benefits.

Mixing things up on Cabin day.  Oh so good!

Teen Girls Face Mask

Magical Moments


As girls start getting settled into camp and third session has started going full swing, most of them have found that they feel right at home in their cabins. I love looking at how different cabins look and feel. Some are decorated with fairy lights, a camp “bucket list” of all the things the cabin wants to accomplish throughout the session, plus many photographs of camp from years past and friends and family from home. Everything is starting to feel cozy, the noises of the night no longer so scary, the bunk beds and friends ever more inviting.

In addition to the physical space in which we are residing, everyone is starting to get more comfortable with one another. We are moving past basic questions and getting in to the ease that comes with being around good friends. This was particularly appreciated today because we got to hang out as cabins all afternoon—it was Cabin Day! For Cabin Day, we cancel the two afternoon activities and counselors plan fun activities for their individual cabins. Everyone looks forward to cabin day— it usually means an extra special activity, some good snacks, and, of course, lots of time spent bonding together!

Middle School Girls Camp

The counselors put a lot of work planning activities they think their individual cabins will enjoy, and it definitely showed today! One group of junior counselors knew their girls loved playing with hair, so they spray painted hair (it’s temporary!) and braided the girls’ hair. This made every girl have the opportunity to be wacky, but also to feel special as they all had fun helping each other to do some fun hair dos.

Another junior cabin loves fairies (which is something I hear more about at Rockbrook than anywhere else—there is something that is just magical about it). Their counselors planned a great adventure for them, and I loved hearing all about it from the girls! They hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls (the nearest waterfall from camp—you can actually see the waterfall from the new office building) and searched for fairies. Then, after romping around in the woods and finding an adventurous trail back down the mountain, the girls made their own fairy wings! In addition, they came up with their own fairy identities— I heard of a football fairy, a flower fairy, and a nature fairy! The girls told me that their cabin had made a pact to wear their fairy wings at every meal (while they made sure to point out that other fairy accessories were encouraged, but they were not required). This seems like a small detail of a camper’s time at Rockbrook, but these are the magical parts of camp, the things that give cabins a certain identity that they will remember for years to come.

Pokemon Camp Game

The middlers decided to do something as a line for cabin day, and I saw so much excitement as the girls raced up and down the lines. In light of the Pokémon Go craze, the middler counselors decided to bring Pokémon Go to Rockbrook! Each counselor dressed up as a Pokémon and some hid while others went around with the girls. Much like a scavenger hunt, the girls went from station to station and acquired different treats (that were in Easter Eggs) as though they were collecting Pokemon. Then, they got to decorate cookies that looked like the different characters. Finally, to cap off a great cabin day, they all had a “battle” in the gym by playing dodge ball. Everyone had an amazing time and all the middlers were grateful for all the thought their counselors had put into the activity.

For their cabin day, the seniors had a picnic for dinner and then went to Sliding Rock and Dolly’s. The picnic was perfect—the girls ate quiche, warm lasagna, fresh peaches (possibly the best peaches I’ve ever had), and banana pudding. We then played a large group game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl and You’re a Rockbrook Girl too,” which is a tradition at these picnics and an opportunity for all of us to learn new things about others. Then, girls went down Sliding Rock— they loved the opportunity to slide as many times as they wanted. Though cold afterward, everyone was excited for Dolly’s, the local ice cream shop that names its flavors for the local camps.

No matter which adventure they were a part of, every camper enjoyed Cabin Day. It makes us all to feel more connected with our cabin and lets counselors be creative, choosing things their particular campers will enjoy. Above all, though, growing closer as cabins allows us to feel even more comfortable with each other, and therefore even happier and more at home at camp.

Girls Slide Rock