Oblivious to the Weather

Camp girl hits bullseye in archery
Girls dancing in camp dance studio

It seems like the weather is on everyone’s mind these days, everywhere except here at camp. While it’s been hitting triple digits for many cities in the southeast, Rockbrook has defied the forecasters and just today crept into the nineties. In fact, if you ask our Rockbrook girls about camp, they probably won’t mention needing air conditioning or feeling burdened by the humidity. That’s probably in part because it still very predictably cools off at night, reaching into the 60s, and making it comfortable sleeping conditions in the open-air cabins, but it’s also because, from the girls’ perspective, what we’re doing at camp -all of the adventure trips, in-camp activities, and special surprises- fills the day so completely. We haven’t slowed down one bit because of the weather. If anything, the girls are more fully engaged- shooting, riding, climbing, painting, hiking, tying, decorating, floating, and zipping all day long. It’s incredible to consider that all of it is happening simultaneously!

Another reason the girls seem oblivious to the weather is how well we all are eating thanks to Rick’s kitchen magic. Each meal brings out a surprise item, whether it’s the freshly baked chocolate chip scones for breakfast, the secret-recipe guacamole that accompanied our famous “taco lunch” yesterday, or the mountain of homemade smashed red potatoes he prepared with chicken tenders and green beans for dinner. He has also been serving an endless supply of fresh fruit at every meal- awesome strawberries, local sweet blackberries, watermelon, peaches, and of course bananas and apples available 24/7 out on the dining hall porch. Oh, I should mention the wild muffin flavor we had today: oatmeal, date, pistachio. Maybe a little on the healthy side, but I heard from several girls they liked them just fine.

Camp girl smiles while swimming

You may have noticed that Rockbrook is an accredited camp, that we have agreed to meet or exceed more than 300 industry standards as defined by the American Camp Association. Among summer camps in America, these define the best health and safety practices for all aspects of a camp’s operation, facilities, programing, and staff qualifications. This accreditation requires an on-site visit to demonstrate and/or document compliance, and today was Rockbrook’s ACA visit (“inspection,” though they don’t like to call it that!). You’ll be pleased to know that our two visitors were very impressed with Rockbrook. After touring the entire facility, examining most of the activities, and reviewing a 5-inch thick folder of documents describing our policies and procedures, we sailed right through everything. This isn’t too surprising since we’ve done this well for years now (We were one of the first camps in the area to become ACA accredited back in the 1980s.), but it’s nice to strut our stuff a little and receive this kind of praise.

Girls making a yard doll at camp

Wrapping up the day, local master storyteller Gary Greene visited camp for a campfire program of songs, stories and skits. As the sun set across the valley and the campfire crackled, the Middlers and Juniors joined Gary singing a few songs and acting out characters in a couple of his stories. Gary really knows how to focus a crowd, even when it’s about 100 little girls all under 12 years old! Meanwhile, the Senior girls were holding an “open mic” coffee house in their lodge. This was a chance for girls to sing or play an instrument, recite a poem, perform a dance or tell a brief story with their friends. Every performance, no matter how poised or polished, was wildly received with the whole line whooping and clapping at the end. To me that was another example of how supportive and encouraging the girls at Rockbrook are toward each other, how much they’ve grown closer and become good friends. For the typical teenager, that can be a big deal… To be accepted and included, in an important way, loved by her peers. Camp is a community with that power and that spirit.  Seeing it action is always a real treat.

Camp girl balancing on gymnastics high bar
Camp girls soaking their feet in the creek
Camp girl aiming her rifle

A Campfire of Songs and Stories

Camp girl throwing pot on ceramics wheel

Ceramics has always been a popular craft activity at Rockbrook, and this session is so far no exception. Poke your head in the “Upper Clay” studio, which is an open-air work space next to the dining hall, or the “Lower Clay” studio, which is a narrow stone building in the woods down along the path leading to the stables, and you’ll see lots of muddy hands. That’s because seated around the work tables, there are campers rolling clay into coils, pinching it into small cups, and flattening it into slabs. Joining these parts together, interesting sculptures are emerging. Perhaps most amazing is what the girls are doing on the electric pottery wheels. Katie and Will, our two lead ceramics teachers, have been teaching wheel-throwing techniques, giving the campers tips and individual instruction as they practice centering the clay and pulling it up into a bowl or cup, for example. Learning to throw a pot on the wheel is an advanced ceramics technique, but these girls are handling it easily. It will be great to see how their pieces turn out once they are glazed and fired.

Camp girl shooting a rifle

The rifle range is another place in camp that sees constant action, with campers signing up and filling every class period it’s offered. Perhaps it’s the thrill of shooting the gun, hearing that distinctive “pop!” when you pull the trigger, and smelling the gunpowder, but I think the girls also like riflery for the satisfaction it provides after scoring on the target (“hitting the black”). It’s also an activity so different from what’s available at home, and something in which the girls can experience real improvement and success- even scoring a bullseye now and then. Later in the session we will be challenging Camp Carolina for Boys and hold a riflery tournament to see who has the best team of marksmen (or -women!). Cliff DeMeritt, who has joined our staff after retiring from being a law enforcement sharpshooting instructor, has been working with the girls to improve their technique, so we’re hoping to see a great showing at the tournament.

Camp horse barn
Wrapping up an afternoon of summer horseback riding
Campfire Story Teller Gary Green

Tonight’s evening activity brought our friend Gary Greene back for a campfire and program of story telling, skits and songs for the Junior and Middler campers. With a crackling campfire set, Gary played his guitar and led the girls in several songs. One favorite was “Little Cabin in the Woods,” a funny song with hand motions that’s sung repeatedly (and fast) while words are dropped leaving just the song’s hand motions in the end. Gary had the girls singing, laughing and smiling in no time, yet also on the edge of their seats, wrapped into his telling of a Norwegian folktale. A few counselors also led a favorite camp song or two- “An Austrian Went Yodeling” with more hand motions -rounding out the evening. A classic camp night, and the girls enjoyed it thoroughly.

We Love Roasting Marshmallows

roasting marshmallows on a campfire

Getting excited for camp? We sure are! There are so many reasons, but seeing this picture really gets us looking forward to campfires and roasting marshmallows. It’s such a great classic summer camp experience… searching the forest for just the right roasting stick (the right length, thickness and stiffness, etc.), gathering around the fire, and carefully holding the marshmallow near the coals or over the flame to turn it that ideal shade of brown/black. Golden brown or charred to a crisp?

Did you know that marshmallows originally were made from extracting a substance from the root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, and were primarily used as a remedy for sore throats? Later, candy makers in France began whipping it with sugar and egg whites to make a yummy dessert, and then in the 1940s marshmallows were mass produced and distributed as we know them today.

Around here, it seems like a bag of marshmallows goes on every overnight backpacking trip. We’ll definitely be doing some roasting! Can’t wait!