This Incredible View

rockbrook camp mountain view

Have you seen that view? Everywhere we went today it was breathtaking. As a cold front pushed aside the last lingering moisture of the last few days, the skies developed a rare blend of complex and varied clouds mixed with very clear air. Rockbrook is situated on a west facing slope with a view of the Blue Ridge mountains. We’re at about 2100 feet in elevation. In fact, when the camp was first built, each of the three stone lodges (one for each age group) was designed to have a long distance view of those NC mountains. The girls could sit on almost any porch in camp and soak in an inspiring cascade of ridge lines. Now, almost 100 years later, with so many large trees living at camp, we have to be more strategic about which porch we choose, but there are still plenty of rocking chairs perfectly situated to offer that same amazing view. It’s neat to think that girls throughout the long history of Rockbrook have sat on those same porches and enjoyed counting those same distant mountains.

girls on top of Black Balsam mountain

With this kind of amazing weather, the adventure staff decided to take a group of girls up to Black Balsam mountain, a favorite destination in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s one to highest peaks east of the Mississippi River at 6214 feet. The hike to the summit has a magical quality to it. The trail begins by winding through a thicket of Balsam Fir trees, and then suddenly breaking out to a grassy ridge line with short blueberry bushes along sections. As you continue to wind upward, occasionally scrambling over exposed rock, there’s a crescendo at the summit when you suddenly have a panoramic view stretching for miles. You can’t help but think, “Oh wow!” This part of western North Carolina offers so many examples of this kind of natural beauty it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s even real. The girls this morning enjoyed eating a snack, freshly-baked muffins from camp, while soaking in this incredible view.

tiny kid with big horse and barn

Down at the Rockbrook Riding Center there were other views today, this time of the pastures, barns, paddocks, riding rings, arena, and of course, girls and their horses. Almost all 30 horses were busy in lessons throughout the day, some being assigned to groups of beginners first learning to ride, and more advanced mounts exercising over jumps and other obstacles in the covered arena. For girls who love horses, the riding center is a fascinating place to be. With horses and ponies, feeding, washing, tack and other equipment, regular visits from the farrier, barn chores, and the manure composting system, there’s always lots to see, do and learn.

Our Senior Line campers and their counselors spent the evening out of camp for a dinner picnic, trip to Sliding Rock, and a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar. This is a wildly fun outing that we do every year because it’s so popular. It gets us out of camp for food and frolicking in the forest, really gets our blood pumping with the intensity of sliding down a 60-foot natural water slide, and ends with a yummy, one-of-a-kind ice cream treat. What could be better? Tonight that cold front made the water at sliding rock feel even colder, but that didn’t really slow down these teenagers. They whooped and slid, and sure, shivered a little more than usual, but it was once again a great time together enjoying yet another natural wonder of the mountains.

screaming girls on sliding rock

We’re Gaga!

If you take a stroll down behind the Rockbrook tennis courts, past the lower pottery studio, and through the tunnel under the highway, you’ll pop out by the French Broad River, nearby where all our horseback riding happens at camp. There we have our fenced pastures, horse barns, riding rings, and equestrian office— all on the west side of US276, while the majority of the camp, connected by the tunnel, is up the hills on the east side.

Horseback Riding Camper

This summer we have 30 horses at Rockbrook, all being superbly cared for by Kelsi, our Equestrian Director, and her staff of riding instructors. The personalities of the horses, their strengths and sensitivities, identify them as suitable for riders with specific skills and confidence riding. This photo, for example, shows Olivia riding Rocket, a 10-year-old thoroughbred/half linger cross who came to us from Mary Thomson at St. Andrews University. Isn’t it a great shot? Rocket can ride hunter jumpers and dressage, and has been used for several years in lessons for young children. He responds well to definite riders, and can be a little quick when jumping. It looks like he and Olivia— even their manes— are right in sync in their canter! If your daughter decides to take riding while she’s here at camp, you’ll no doubt hear about the favorite horse she rode, perhaps Otto, Watson, Annie, Quinn, or even Rocket. If you write her, you might ask about which horses she’s had a chance to ride. 😉

Gaga Ball Players

Ordinary dodgeball played in our gym is often part of the “Sports and Games” activity, but just outside is an octagonal court, about 20 feet wide with 30-inch high walls, that is for a special kind of dodgeball called GaGa (or Ga-ga Ball). The game is thought to have come from Israel and its name from the Hebrew word “ga” which means to touch or hit. “Israeli Dodgeball” is another name for it. Played mostly during free times at camp, like before lunch and after dinner, girls of any age and athletic ability can enjoy a game of Gaga. Any number can play too, making it easy to start a game and include everyone. The object is to hit a small, soft ball with your hands (not throw it) to hit other players in the leg, eliminating them from the game. As the girls knock the ball around inside the court, they jump wildly out of the way trying to avoid being hit. The court is just the right size to keep the game moving quickly, and soon when the last person is left (the winner) another game starts right up. Later in the week, there will certainly be an impromptu Gaga tournament for those girls gaga about gaga!

camp-girls

During the cabin skits tonight that were part of the Senior Line’s evening program, I was impressed by how much fun the girls were having being silly and performing for each other, but also by how close they had already become after only this first week of camp. It’s another of the amazing benefits of camp— by spending so much time together, unplugged from screens, sharing, communicating, and cooperating, your Rockbrook girls are also building emotional bonds with each other, growing more and more comfortable each day. It’s clear that camp life is fundamentally social, but perhaps different from the relationships formed at school, kindness and encouragement define the way Rockbrook girls treat each other. They are simply quick to be nice, and that really fuels the friendships being formed here. Over time, it’s this closeness that makes camp life so rich, and that’s so rewarding to experience.