Feeling the Joys of Nature

Sunday mornings begin at a more relaxed pace compared to the rest of the week. We all sleep in an extra few minutes and then arrive for breakfast in pajamas… no worries about being dressed with cabin chores done beforehand. Also on Sunday, it’s been a long standing treat to serve fresh donuts along with our breakfast, having a little taste of the outside world. Then there’s cabin time for changing into our uniforms (white with a red tie) before assembling on the hill for flag raising. The Hi-Ups do the honors of presenting and raising the flag. Immediately afterwards, everyone walks down the lower line of cabins to the wooded amphitheater where we hold our Chapel program.

nature camp program

Today the Middler campers and some of their counselors presented a program on “Nature.” Like all of our chapel programs, this gathering was not a religious ceremony, but instead an opportunity to identify and reflect upon a core value or experience we all share at camp. In the past, we’ve held chapel programs on friendship, kindness, gratitude, community, and compassion for example. This morning we took time to consider our relationship with the natural world.

We sang “Tell me Why,” a slightly modified lyric to “Country Roads,” (“Almost Heaven, Rockbrook Camp..”) and “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by Tunde on guitar and Isa playing ukulele. We heard short readings on Nature selected by campers Sidney, E.A., Amelia, and Elizabeth.

Camper K.P. read a short reflection she wrote about her feelings in Nature and its importance to all of us. She said,

Nature is all around us. It is a big part of Rockbrook and it has a role in almost everything we do here. Rafting the Nantahala, hiking to Castle Rock, even dinner on the hill: Nature is a way of life around Rockbrook and we all live it.

Sometimes it is calming to just sit on the Hillside Lodge porch and look down at the garden, watch campers play in the creek, and see the girls splashing around in the lake. The serene setting of Rockbrook on a North Carolina mountain surrounded by trees and species of plants is the nicest place I know.

girls in camp uniforms

Sarah echoed this sentiment by reading the illustrated children’s book, “You Are Never Alone” by Elin Kelsey. This is a wonderful reminder of how nature touches almost every aspect of our lives, that “this beautiful planet showers [us] with gifts” in so many ways. The book illustrates how nature supports and at times heals us, how it stimulates our emotions, sense of wonder and imagination. Quite literally, Nature helps us be human. Much like what we enjoy at Rockbrook, it is a “warm, supportive, community that is always there for [us].” Sarah added how lucky we are at camp to experience the plants and animals of the forest (yes, even the “sprickets”) so intimately, feeling the joys of Nature without a care in the world. This message really resonated with the girls, many of them nodding their heads in agreement as she read the book. Good stuff!

Lunch was another incredible meal prepared by Rick and his kitchen crew— roasted, dry-rubbed chicken breasts, fingerling potatoes, and honey-glazed, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, with fresh blackberries and whipped cream for dessert. Amazing! The food at Rockbrook always gets high marks, and with meals like this, you can easily see why!

Our all-camp afternoon activity was a wild carnival of events down at the landsports field. With fun music pumping, and different snacks to keep us going, the girls enjoyed group games and challenges related to the theme of “food.” For example, one event challenged the girls to eat a doughnut dangling from the end of a string without using their hands. Similarly, another challenge required the girls to peel a banana (first cut in half) using only their feet. We used actual pieces of corn on the cob to play games of corn hole. The girls took turns making “pies” of whipped cream to toss at their counselors. There was a “grit pit,” a literal pool of warm grits, to experience. There were cookies to decorate, and beaded composting “worms” to make. One game was particularly fun, a challenge to use only rubber bands to break open a watermelon. They girls worked together stretching two or three rubber bands at a time over each watermelon, gradually adding to the band’s total pressure. There was only a small crack forming to warn them before the melon exploded to bits leaving a ball of sticky rubber bands behind. It was very exciting, and the kind of big crazy fun, we love at camp.

Cheer-inducing Fun

summer camp cabin mates

It was a great delight today to welcome our August Mini session campers to Rockbrook. The bright, sunny weather matched the mood of the morning perfectly as the girls and their families arrived. The mob of enthusiastic counselors, all dressed in their red staff shirts, waited eagerly on the hill and literally jumped, arms waving, when a camper in their cabin was announced as arriving. The whole morning was festive and fun, and seemed to unfold without a hitch.

Out of the 75 campers arriving (now a full house!), 25 are new with this being their first session at Rockbrook. It took no time for the current full session girls to show their welcoming spirit as groups began forming to rotate through a few choice activities and explore different areas of the camp property.

That upbeat mood carried right into the all-camp assembly on the hill we held before lunch. Sarah and the other directors led several camp songs, introduced key members of the staff, and reminded everyone about a few safety protocols (what to do when our Thorguard lightning prediction system sounds its alarm, for example). The girls particularly enjoyed meeting Felix the camp dog, our 1-year old Australian Labradoodle. You might call him an instant celebrity.

Lunch was tray after tray of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, paired with an amazing fresh kale and carrot salad, and grapes. Hot and cheesy, it was delicious comfort food for an opening day.

water balloon toss catch
dunk bucket splash
super stacked snow cone

The afternoon event of the day brought us all together for a Polynesian Luau, lake party of games, snacks, crafts, music and dancing.

The Hi-Ups (our 10th graders) along with many of the full session senior girls helped staff the dozen or so different stations where the younger campers could enjoy an activity. This added responsibility boosted their interest and made it easy for the different age groups to interact during the event. More fun for everyone.

Naturally, it’s not a Rockbrook party without costumes and dressing up. Everyone got that message because you’ve never seen so many Hawaiian shirts, lei necklaces and grass skirts. Combined with the face painting and the girls’ swimsuits, this was an extraordinarily colorful event.

There were games to try: a balloon toss, a version of bowling that used real coconuts to knock over empty cans, a softball tossing game like skee-ball, corn hole, and a “fishing game” for the youngest girls that won fun RBC prizes like sunglasses, stickers, patches and jump ropes.

Beach balls, hula hoops, and a giant limbo line kept everyone moving, and with fun beach music pumping, several spontaneous dance parties popped up now and then.

The event that seemed most popular was the “bucket dunk” set up at the edge of the lake. This odd contraption has one purpose— to dump the contents of a bucket (in this case, water scooped from the lake) onto the head of someone sitting below when a string is pulled. The girls thought it was hilarious to soak their friends, and there were plenty of volunteers, campers and staff members alike, to both pull the string or to be “dunked.” Simple, super-campy, cheer-inducing fun.

Meanwhile the more crafty girls could make “grass” skirts from colorful ribbons and streamers, or learn to tie tissue paper into flowers to decorate headbands and bracelets. To stay hydrated and fueled up, there was fresh watermelon for snacking and plenty of snow cones (including some crazy ones!) to go around.

Be sure to login to your parent account for an entire photo gallery of the event. I think you’ll enjoy seeing how much fun we had. What a great way to kick off the session! These girls are ready for camp.

summer camp luau girls

Active Right Away

Assembly Fun kids

Welcome friends! Welcome to the group of campers who arrived this morning to begin their session at Rockbrook. We’re all very happy to have you arrive, and are just as excited as you are to get started. Finally, the agonizing wait… all summer! …is over and you can meet all the great people here and begin exploring the many different things available to do at camp. The beautiful weather this morning added to the enthusiastic mood, and I suspect made the arrival and check-in process run even more smoothly. All 84 of the girls arriving were quickly settled in the cabins and happily touring the camp with their bunkmates before noon— checking out the different activity areas, trying things out a little (making a simple friendship bracelet, for example), and having their questions answered by staff members. Part of this tour involved a scavenger hunt where the new girls collected different colored bracelets hidden at different landmarks around the camp, like the gym, the flagpole, and the infirmary. It was a fun way to get to know each other, learn more about Rockbrook, and be active right away after arriving.

Let me mention the Chapel gathering that also happened this morning for the full session girls. At Rockbrook, these Sunday morning events are intended to provide an opportunity to slow down and reflect on some of the principles and values that help shape our camp community. Camp is mostly about big fun, but it’s also about so many other important things, it’s good to pause and discuss what we’re learning along the way. These Chapel gatherings are not religious services, though, and they do not refer explicitly to any religious texts or doctrines. Instead, the events focus on broader themes that can be understood and appreciated by any religious tradition. The campers themselves plan and present the songs and poems they think illustrate the theme, and Sarah always reads a short children’s book she thinks is relevant.

So today’s chapel theme was, “We’re all in this together,” a recognition of community and the importance of including each other. Sarah read the book Odd Velvet by Mary E. Whitcomb to show how someone (or something) who first appears strange, can turn out to be wonderful, interesting and make all our experience more rewarding and fun. Whether considering new foods, activities, or even new campers arriving today, our community impulse to be accepting and curious is something we value here at Rockbrook. As we begin with kindness, compassion, and generosity, we foster the sort of positive relationships that cement our camp community. Including those different from ourselves is a simple extension of those values.

Camp Swimming test

We took time after lunch to orient all of the newly arrived campers to the waterfront, and to allow the lifeguards to evaluate everyone’s swimming ability. The cold mountain water of our lake, its different depths and diversions— the water slide and diving board for example —can be challenging for certain swimmers, so we ask all the girls to show us they can swim and tread water comfortably before letting them take full advantage of the waterfront.  The girls earn one of three colored “swim necklaces” to indicate their swimming ability and corresponding lake activity. The weakest swimmers can still come down and cool off in the lake, but we require them to remain in the shallow area where they can stand up, and to wear a life jacket while in the water. With everyone’s buddy tags labeled with their name and proudly hung on the tag board, it was next time for the big all-camp afternoon event.

Jedi Training Academy! Tapping into all things Star Wars related, we held a carnival combining costumes (of course!), music, dancing, surprising challenge games with prizes, and an unlimited supply of snow cones grinding out of our snow cone machine. We also arranged for two huge inflatables: an obstacle course called “Leaps and Bounds” that reminded everyone of “American Ninja Warrior,” and a 25-foot tall water slide that let two girls slide at the same time racing.

The senior campers, with some help from their counselors, helped run the event, teaching and explaining the 10 different stations like “Pin the saber on Yoda,” “Death Star Destruction,” “Defeat Darth” with an arrow dipped in paint, a “Mars Matching” game, face painting (“The Face is with You”), a light saber duel that involved balancing on a slippery beam, and a way to make a light saber using a rod of foam and different colored tape. With snow cone in hand, the girls had a great time zipping between activity stations, cooling off on the water slide, and dancing and posing for photos in their costumes. Of course, Princess Leia (actually several of them) made an appearance, along with Darth Vader, Rey, Chewbacca, and a couple of storm troopers. Many girls wore a Star Wars t-shirt too. Two hours seemed to fly by, every minute filled by smiling energized girls. An active Sunday afternoon, just how we like it.

Rockbrook Summer Camp Girls

Symphony of Fun

Happy new Campers

Welcome new mini session campers! We’re very excited to have you join us at Rockbrook. For all of us on the staff and for the First Session campers already twirling through their session, this was a big day where new girls would be joining the camp community. More girls naturally means more fun, more voices singing in the dining hall, and lots more action throughout the camp. After a nice smooth arrival process— cars parking and unloading, luggage being carted to cabins, checking in with the office folks, nurses, and head screeners —cabin groups of new girls where exploring the cabin together. Serving as both a tour of camp and an introduction to the various activity offerings, these groups followed a scavenger hunt where they collected bracelets hidden at different areas of the camp: at the tennis courts, gym, health hut, and upper pottery studio, for example. It’s good to start with a little orientation, and this is a fun, active way to learn your way around camp.

We’ve been getting wonderful feedback about the new covered arena and stable we added to Rockbrook this past year. We wrote about the construction of the arena earlier, but today we had several parents take a tour of the facility and remark how much they were impressed. “It’s gorgeous!” was the most common comment. One mom said she thought this was the nicest covered horse arena in western North Carolina. I’m not sure about that, but its size and its quality footing (fiber additives blended with silica sand) do make it stand apart. Later we’ll post more information about this great addition to the horseback riding program at Rockbrook, but it was nice to hear a few “horse people” say they were impressed with our design and finished project.

We took some time after lunch for the newly arrived campers to demonstrate their swimming ability to our lifeguards, and when successful to earn a colored swim necklace. For some girls, the mountain stream water feeding our lake can be shockingly cold and thereby make it more difficult to swim and tread water as our “swim demos” require. So a girl who swims well in a warm pool may appear less confident in the Rockbrook lake, but we’ve found that with some practice and assistance from the waterfront staff, she can get used to the water and improve. On a warm summer day, the lake feels great, altogether refreshing. And when the water slide is open during free swim periods, and the lake is filled with girls diving, floating, playing games and swimming laps, the lake is absolutely delightful.

One of the best ways to kick off a new camp session is to launch right into an all-camp event, something that brings everyone together for music, dancing and costumes with surprising creative activities, challenges, and games with prizes. Just add a theme, and this combination becomes a carnival, a multi-station, free-flowing symphony of fun. That’s exactly what we did by throwing a Star Wars themed carnival or “Jedi Knight Training Academy.” The Senior campers and counselors built and operated 10 different stations like the “Matching on Mars” game, “Death Start Destruction” shooting game (using Nerf pistols), “Pin the Saber on Yoda” game, and “Shoot the Sith” game, for example. There were two huge inflatable games: something called “Leaps and Bounds” that seemed really difficult, and a bungee cord race. We had our snow cone machine grinding out pounds of ice for everyone, and a couple of sprinklers set up to keep things cooler in the bright sun. For costumes, the were many Jedi Knights, a team of Darth Vader characters, and probably a dozen girls dressed as Princess Leia. One counselor dressed as Yoda and another as Darth Maul, but my favorite was the baby Wookie being carried around. As the campers arrived at the landsports field, they could make their own lightsaber from a foam pool noodle and different types of tape. They could have their fortune told, their face painted (“The Face is with You”), or challenge a Jedi master to a lightsaber duel. There were plenty of things to do for everyone, easily filling two hours with activity. A perfect camp Sunday afternoon!

Star Wars Girls

Positively Euphoric

summer girls camp

Arriving at camp late in summer, as did our August Mini Session campers today, is a unique blend of excitement and relief. You could see it on their faces as they drove up the driveway this morning, and as they first met their counselor— bright, wide grins despite a twinge of nerves, and almost a feeling of liberation from the agony of waiting for camp all summer. So much waiting! Finally, these girls have arrived and we can get started with camp, all the friends, different activities, and fun surprises of life at Rockbrook.

Once the arriving girls got settled in their cabins, they joined the full session campers rotating through a sampling of camp activities. Tying friendship bracelets, playing tennis or gaga ball, hiking to Rockbrook Falls, picking flowers in the RBC garden, and making a wind chime or headband— there were plenty of ways to get busy right away… meeting people while learning about camp.

Burgers (beef and vegetarian) and fries, plus fresh cut cantaloupe and salad for lunch settled us down just as it filled us up. Rest hour then gave the new girls a chance for a quick camp tour, a stop at the lake for a swimming demonstration, and time for a cabin meeting before the main event of the afternoon.

Pie Throwing Girl
Inflatable Water Slide

And it was fantastic! With counselors and help from the Hi-Ups (our 10th grade campers), we threw an all-camp carnival right in the center of camp complete with different snacks, group games, fun dance music, silly challenges, and small prizes for everyone. With camp completely full of girls now, we created lots of options to give everyone plenty to do. Blue skies and a few light clouds floated by above while the girls spent to next two hours wandering from game to game, stopping to snack, dance and play as they liked.

Water balloon sling shot
Snow cone girls

Setting the tone right away was our favorite DJ Dawg back again to pump great dance music across the hill. For snacks (probably the second most important element at a party!), we had coolers of lemonade, a popcorn popper popping nonstop, and a very popular snow cone station. It was a hot afternoon, so we made several water events available too: a 35-foot tall inflatable water slide, a “dunk booth” beanbag challenge, loads of water guns, and a sprinkler to run through if the girls got too hot. Another game had the girls launch water balloons using a slingshot contraption. A second inflatable was an obstacle course that pitted two girls against each other as they crawled, climbed and scrambled through… while laughing hysterically.  There was an area where the girls played Pin the Tail on the Donkey, another where they “fished” for rubber ducks from a pool, and another that challenged them to eat a doughnut or apple tied to a string. We had yard checkers, a giant game of Jenga, a ball toss game, and a corn hole game. There was a giant bubble station, three staff member offering face painting, balloon animals being tied, and two brave Hi-Ups running a “pie” (whipped cream on a pie tin) throwing station.  Apparently, you smell like cheese after being splattered thoroughly with whipped cream. Another messy game that the girls loved was Twister, only made more difficult with the help of shaving cream and a little body paint on each spot. Messy and fun.

Messy twister game
Giant Jenga game outside

In every direction on the hill there where happy girls entertained by the games, enjoying dancing, cooling off, getting a little messy, and having an excellent time at camp. It was pretty hard to take it all in! Looking around, it was clear at least that this was a great way to open up the session. It got everyone involved, the full session girls meeting and playing with the mini session campers, and helped set the tone (positively euphoric) for the coming week.

There was about an hour of free time before dinner that allowed the girls to take a shower and clean up. Later, everyone signed up for their first set of activities so in the morning we can launch right into action.  We’re just getting started and looking forward to the coming week!

photo props girls at camp

Exciting for Everyone

Girls Summer Camp Campers
Girl swimming with goggles

Arriving at camp, as our 2nd July mini session campers did today, is exciting for everyone. For the full session girls already here and half way through their long session, the arrival of new friends, many of whom we already know, is invigorating because it means camp will again kick up a notch with new conversations and new people to play with. For the girls arriving, the anticipation of camp starting —all that pent up enthusiasm and energy— can finally be released. For everyone, today was a chance to reunite with old camp friends… and we saw plenty of full-on hugs to prove that! …or to meet new people that surely will become friends before long. The whole morning was a festival of smiles as the arriving mini session campers smoothly checked in, met their counselors and got settled in the cabins.

Right away, the arriving girls got busy with hikes to Rockbrook Falls, which is one of the larger waterfalls on the camp property. They gathered on the tennis courts to hit a few balls and play a “speed game.”  Some, as another option, chose to stop by the gym to play gaga ball or basketball, while others made their first lanyard or friendship bracelet on the hillside lodge porch. I could tell the girls appreciated getting started with a camp activity in the first few minutes they arrived.

Rick’s homemade pizza, along with more salad than we could eat, made our first meal delicious and familiar at the same time. Tours of camp during rest hour, and trips to the lake for swimming demonstrations, plus cabin meetings (a chance to get to know each other, rearrange trunks and other personal items, and learn important camp rules) came next. It being a hot sunny afternoon, roaming around the camp and finally stopping at the lake for a quick swim felt really good.

Apple on a String Game
Inflatable water Slide girl
Messy Twister Game

What better way to open the camp session, though, than with an afternoon carnival? When the bell rang about 3pm, Chase our program director, with the help of almost 20 other staff members, pulled out all the stops for this amazing all-camp event on the grassy hill in the center of camp. Like all great parties, this event combined fun dance music, several options for snacks, group games, challenge games, and in this case, about 200 excited girls to enjoy everything with.

There were two huge inflatables to try: a 35-foot water slide called the “Wild Rapid,” and an obstacle course that allowed two girls at a time to climb, crawl and scramble through. There was a cake walk organized for girls to earn small cupcakes. One area had girls playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and choosing rubber ducks from a pond, while another allowed girls to “fish” (using a stick with a string and magnet attached) for prizes. Two Hi-Ups enjoyed running a pie throwing station, two more, a beanbag “dunk booth,” and two others a challenge that involved eating an apple or doughnut hung by a string.  We had face painting, yard checkers, a ring toss game, a giant bubble station, and a game of “Messy Twister” (messy from shaving cream and a little body paint) also going on. Pumping across the hill was music by DJ Dawg, who was also teaching dance moves to groups of girls. Snow cones and popcorn kept us snacking too. Plus we had fun busting open several piñatas and scrambling for the pieces of candy that came spilling out.

With so many options available, you could stand on the hill and see happy groups of girls in all directions, each smiling and laughing as they got a little wet, maybe a little messy, and had a blast zipping from area to area. One small Junior camper ran by me, snow cone in hand, shouting, “This is the best day ever!”

Later in the afternoon, some girls chose to take a dip in the lake, while others took a shower before dinner, capping off a fantastic opening day. We’ll start right in with camp activities in the mornings, and soon the first whitewater rafting trip will be going out.

We’ve only just gotten started, and there’s so much to look forward to!

Teen Girls Summer Camp

A Marvelous Beginning

Camp Counselor with small girl camper

“Rockbrook Request: new campers!” That’s what the counselors cheered this morning as we prepared to welcome our August Mini Session campers. It’s always exciting for new friends to arrive at camp, but that’s especially true for this last session of the summer. These are the campers who have been waiting the longest for camp, and for that reason have been banking their camp enthusiasm for months. Now, finally, as they drove into camp and everything was suddenly real— actual counselors, a bunk bed to choose in the cabin, and so many people to meet! —all their stored up energy was ready to come out. That kind of anticipation can at times also bring with it a few butterflies, but that’s something that ordinarily fades quite quickly once we channel that energy into the daily action of camp life. From the smiling faces I saw on the hill, that’s already begun.

Right before lunch, the whole camp assembled on the grassy hill just below the Junior Lodge. Off in the distance, you could see the blue ridge mountains and easily make out the shining face of Cedar Rock, thanks to the clear sunny weather. For the newly arrived campers and the full session girls alike, it was great fun to sing the Line Songs together, find out which cabins won the “Mop Award” (best inspection record) this week, and, for some, to try out their new Crazy Creek chairs. The Hi-Ups led everyone in singing the camp song, and before heading to lunch, we all posed to capture an all-camp photo. Here is that photo. It’s a little hard to make out everyone in a group this large, but if you click and download the high resolution version (which make take a few seconds), you’ll have a better view.

All Camp 3rd Session

Lunch made everyone happy because Rick prepared a grand breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, homemade fried red potatoes, mounds of bacon, bowls of steaming yellow grits, and a mixed fruit salad of melon, strawberries and black berries. There were a few girls who preferred cereal, granola and yogurt, but everyone was happily stuffed by 1:30!

Camp Swimming Friends

Taking advantage of the sunny warm afternoon, the mini session girls toured the camp ending up at the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability to the lifeguards and receive their swim tag. This simple test requires them to swim out about 50 feet, back the same distance, and then tread water for one minute. We don’t insist everyone take the text— a few girls always opt out it seems —but we do require girls be good swimmers if they are to participate in the water related activities (e.g., kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and sliding rock trips) or swim at the lake without the aid of a life jacket. Girls can always change their mind and take the “swim demo” later if they prefer. As I mentioned yesterday, the lake is a lot of fun (Take a ride down “Big Samantha,” our water slide!), and that can be a strong motivator!

To really kick things off, we held a pirate-themed carnival this afternoon down on our grassy sports field. For both the campers and counselors, this was first of all an opportunity to invent and show off a pirate costume, so with red bandanas wrapped around their heads, a few plastic swords, painted mustaches, hats and hoop earrings, including a few full buccaneer costumes, we had an impressive pirate crew. But like all great parties, we had games to play (with prizes to win), different snacks to eat (cotton candy, snow cones, and soft pretzels), and plenty of dancing and music pumping the whole time. The girls had a blast teaming up with buddies and running from game to game snacking along the way. They were tossing rings onto coke bottles, softballs in buckets, and beanbags into corn holes. They were bobbing for apples and making giant bubbles with hula hoops. They had their faces painted and their fortunes told by “Gypsies.” They raced to blow a bubble from the piece of bubblegum found hidden in a pie pan of flour. They tossed green “slime” (a thick solution of food coloring, jello powder, flour, and water) at three volunteer Hi-Ups… just for the hilarious fun of it. In addition, on one end of the field we set up two inflatable challenge games to play: an obstacle course race and a pillar jousting competition.

Ball Toss Carnival Game
Carnival Camp Kid with snacks
Camp Carnival Challenge

Beyond all these activities, costumes and snacks, what really made this event “the best party ever!” as one Junior camper put it, was the easy, joyful enthusiasm arising from everyone. So much laughing and smiling, spontaneous dancing, and genuine friendship making everything better! It was remarkable to see all these girls have such great fun and open up to the feeling of camp.  I can already tell, these girls are going make this session marvelous.

Camp Pirate Friends
Pirate Camp Friends

An Awesome Afternoon

Welcome to camp! This morning we were extremely excited to open our second July Mini Session and welcome 96 girls to Rockbrook. About 60 of these are girls returning to camp from a previous year, and for them this was an especially exciting day because they would be finally seeing their old camp friends. There may have been some butterflies mixed with the excitement, but that’s completely normal. For the new girls seeing Rockbrook for the first time, their wait was finally over. Dressed in their blue RBC t-shirts, most of them, they knew this was the start of something good. The cheering and enthusiasm of the counselors set the tone right away.

Camp Chapel Program
Summer Chapel Camper

Meanwhile, since it was Sunday, the Full Session campers held their “Chapel” program, this time on the theme of “Friendship.” What a perfect camp theme! After all, making friends, being a good friend, and gaining the self-confidence to do this well is a major part of camp life. We do so many things together and share so much experience, it’s almost inevitable that you will find girls both older and younger than you to be friends with.  The Chapel program allowed some of the girls to talk about what it meant to be friends with someone, and many of the comments suggested things like being “nice,” a “good listener,” and “being supportive.”  All great ideas!

During the assembly on the hill today, we took this great photo of every camper and counselor in camp. A few staff members were absent because it was their scheduled day off, but this photo gives you a sense of how many people are here at Rockbrook. If you click the photo a larger version is available.

Whole camp second session 2014

After Rest Hour, our grassy sports field was the scene of an fun all-camp special event that, like so many others at Rockbrook, involved costumes, special snacks, music dancing, games and prizes, all based on a theme, in this case, a Pirate theme. Dressed in their best Pirate attire, the girls found a variety of games to play like a ring toss, corn hole with bean bags, bobbing for apples, a water pistol squirting a ping pong ball, and finding a piece of gun in a bowl of flour. One station was painting faces with colorful designs or just a skull and cross bones. At another a pair of “Gypsies” were reading palms and telling fortunes. The girls could decorate eye patches, or try to make a giant bubble with a hula hoop. One activity allowed girls to toss a cup of “slime” (a green, thick solution of jello powder, flour, water and food coloring) at someone, or vice versa, to be “slimed” by someone else. The snacks included cotton candy, snow cones (which were great in the hot, sunny weather), and soft pretzels. We also had two inflatable challenges to try: an obstacle course and a jousting competition. There was plenty to keep everyone busy and entertained as the girls tried each of the options. It was an awesome afternoon and a great way to kick off the session.

Carnival Obstacle Course
Camp Carinival Ball Game
Camp Water Pistol Game
Pirate Eye Patch Girls

A Perfect Pirate Carnival

Camp girl gets swim tag after test

Today we opened our June mini session and welcomed 85 campers to Rockbrook to begin their 2-week session. It was an exciting morning for everyone, certainly for the girls arriving because they were finally starting their time at camp, but also for the current full session campers and staff already here because they now had a new group of friends to meet and play with while at camp. About half of the girls arriving today were brand new to camp, so for them this morning, and later during their camp tours, as they discovered each activity area or feature of Rockbrook— the huge rock face for climbing above the camp (Castle Rock), the water slide at the lake (“Big Samantha”), the zipline, horseback riding rings (and the tunnel under the road that leads to the riding area), all the tabletop and floor weaving looms in Curosty, and the crazy intensity of the dininghall, for example —ratcheted up their eagerness to get started. A quick assembly of the whole camp on the grassy hill got everyone singing a few camp songs, and gave each Director, Line Head, and the Hi-Ups a chance to introduce themselves.

For Lunch, Rick and his fantastic kitchen crew prepared a camp classic: tacos. With bowls of homemade guacamole, salsa, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, refried black beans, and ground beef, as well as stacks of crunchy taco shells on each cabin’s table, the girls broke records making their own tacos.  One small Junior camper bragged that she ate 5 tacos in all!

The mini session Seniors and Middlers spent their rest hour at lake hearing about how our “Tag System” works and demonstrating their swimming ability for the waterfront staff. Every girl who chooses to do water-related activities at camp (swim at lake, a rafting, kayaking, or canoeing trip, for example) must feel confident in the water, be able to swim comfortably for about 150 feet and tread water, unassisted, for one minute. We ask each camper to demonstrate this ability, and if successful, will receive a round plastic tag, identified with her name, to be placed on the tag board. The tags help the lifeguards know who is swimming when they are moved to different sections of the tag board. It’s a great system that’s been well established at Rockbrook for years.

Pirate Dance Camp Event

The main event of the day, which began around 3:30, we held down at our grassy sports field. And like all great Rockbrook events, it combined costumes, special snacks and food, games, prizes, music, and dancing, all revolving around a theme. It this case, it was a “Pirate Carnival.” Chase, our Program Director, planned and organized the event with about 30 other staff members helping with each game. With beautiful sunny, warm weather, the girls arrived to find a variety of games—tossing a ball through a hoop, finding a piece of gum in a bowl of flour, a ring toss, bobbing for apples, a water gun and ping-pong ball challenge… all with fun pirate prizes like a gold earring or tattoo. Also, they could go and have a facepaint design, toss a cup of “slime” (think green, oozy water made from jello powder, flour, water and food coloring) at someone, have their fortune told, or decorate an eye patch. We also had two inflatable games, an obstacle course that seemed entirely too bouncy, and an elastic, running game where a strong bungee cord pulls you back when you run a short track. Two stations making cotton candy and another passing out snow cones kept everyone energized throughout the afternoon.

As you can see from these three examples (click the photos to see a larger version), costumes were also a big part of the fun. I’d say the majority of the girls chose to sport some kind of pirate gear like a bandana, eye patch, face-painted mustache, or golden earring. If not, then a bathing suit felt just right. This really was a perfect event, with every camper running from game to game, maybe stopping to toss the corn hole bean bags, or swivel a hula hoop for a minute. We sang along to the music, danced together, and laughed a lot having a blast for, gosh almost 2 hours! It was the kind of big camp fun we love around here, and we’re just getting started!

Camp Girls dressed as pirates

Honest-to-Goodness Camp Fun

Two camper girls moving luggage

The light grey fog common to our mountain mornings was just beginning to clear today when we opened the front gate to welcome this summer’s August Mini Session campers. About half of the girls arriving are new to Rockbrook, so as they drove up the hill, rounded the lake with its view of the stone hillside lodge and water slide, and met Sarah in the center of camp, it was a strange moment of excited anticipation, vague familiarity (from watching the RBC video… repeatedly!), sprinkled with maybe a few butterflies. The group today took no time to get started— being welcomed by the full session campers who are already here, getting to know new cabin mates, unpacking and making beds, and even heading off on a short hike or friendship bracelet making activity.  Rockbrook is a friendly and down to earth place, so it’s not surprising how quickly and easily new campers settle down and begin to have fun.

During the check-in process for the arriving mini session campers, the full session girls followed our regular Sunday schedule which included dressing in their white uniform with red ties (their “whities”), a quick flag raising ceremony, and attending the Chapel gathering set in the woods on the north side of the camp. Today’s Chapel theme was “Individuality” and was presented by the Senior campers.

Before lunch the whole camp, now all the campers and counselors (210 + 58), gathered on the hill in the shade of the big walnut tree and with the gorgeous mountain view in the background, for an assembly.

Campers win mop award for a clean cabin

Sarah, Sofie, Frampton and Charlotte, with help from the Hi-Ups and Line Heads, led a few camp songs. Several Activity Leaders presented skits and awarded a few campers achievement/attitude certificates, like the “Always Ready to Jump in the Lake” award and the super-hero-themed “Mop Awards” that went to the cleanest cabins on each line. We finished up the assembly with everyone hopping up to take a state photo. While some states had only one or two representatives (OR, MO, CO, for example) this session, others like North Carolina and Florida formed quite a crowd.

After lunch, all the new campers changed into their swimsuits and set off on a tour of the camp, stopping to identify all of the activity areas, including the waterfront where they could meet the lifeguards and perform their “swim demonstrations.” This is a simple exercise that involves swimming out about 50 feet, back another 50 feet using a backstroke, and treading water for 60 seconds. Doing this confidently qualifies a girl to receive a green swim bracelet and a special colored buddy tag. If someone struggles to complete the demonstration, she’ll be limited to swimming in the shallow end of the lake and be required to wear a life jacket until she retakes the swim demo as does well. The lifeguards are always happy to help a girl work on her swimming ability, if she is so inclined.

Next, for our hot and sunny summer afternoon, we cranked things up with a Wet and Wild Carnival down on our grassy sports field. We had an inflatable, 25-foot water slide and climbing obstacle race course in place, sprinklers spraying wildly, and enough water pistols to arm everyone. When the girls arrived at the field dressed in their swimsuits, the music was pumping and there were stations all over with different fun Carnival activities to try. The Rockbrook corn hole beanbag games, ping-pong ball toss, hula hoop and frisbee games, and water dunking challenge offered small prizes for the girls. There was a face painting tent that seemed extremely popular— faces, arms and even stomachs soon painted —and of course a snack tent to keep us going, which included an endless snow cone machine as well. Groups of girls ran from one game to another, squirting people, stopping to pose for a photo, nibbling snow cones, screaming and laughing with delight when suddenly hit with a water balloon. With this much going on, this much honest-to-goodness camp fun, we all had a blast.

Camp girls eating snow cones in the sun
Camp girls in sun at carnival