Little Paths at Twilight

My favorite part of everyday is Twilight– the time at camp between dinner and Evening Program. Our themed dinners, special trips, or crazy songs aside, dinnertime is pretty self-explanatory. At Evening Program, girls from different age groups retreat to their respective lodges to put on silly skits before ending the day with the traditional Goodnight Circle song and the Rockbrook Prayer.

view of NC mountains at sunset

While these other parts of the day are fun, I feel such a deep sense of love and appreciation for camp at Twilight. The day’s activities have brought the girls out of their shells: Juniors chase each other down the hill in front of their lodge; the tetherball pole hosts a crowd of audience members and competitors; and others enjoy quirky activities put on by counselors. Many times, Evening Program brings a special event that was announced during dinner and girls busily dress up accordingly during Twilight.

Camp girls lounging

Tonight’s Twilight was particularly wonderful. Everyone felt energized after our first full day of camp with the new group of mini-session campers, and the newly arrived campers clearly felt more settled in after an exciting day of trying new things and getting familiar with cabin mates and counselors.

One group of counselors brought biodegradable soap down to the creek for “Mermaid Baths.” Campers bounced down the hill in their bathing suits to soap up their hair, feet, and arms in the cold water. Note: We have made sure that campers know that these do not substitute actual bathing, no matter how much more fun the process!

outdoor yoga kids

Another group circled around one another to do yoga. I watched them take in the mountain view from the top of the hill as they practiced tree poses. They giggled as they tried to keep their balance, occasionally using each other to stay standing on one foot.

Two Junior cabins used Twilight to prepare for their Junior Overnight, which departed right as the bell rang for Evening Program. Most had finished packing early and sat enjoying the sunset for the second half of their free time. I spotted them at the ready, sitting among their sleeping bags, pillows, and stuffed animals.

Castle Rock at twlight

Everything stopped at a certain point during tonight’s Twilight, though. From the hill, we heard “Hello, Rockbrook!” and looked up to discover three or four little figures at the top Castle Rock, the rock face on camp that is a short hike away! Some Hi-Up campers have hiked to the top every single day this session with one of their counselors, and they provided us with a greeting to celebrate. We shouted back, “Hello, Castle Rock!” and girls on the hill waved their arms and delighted in being able to see them wave back.

If you ask me, the best place to enjoy Twilight’s cool golden glow and the merriment on the hill is from Hiker’s Rock. It’s this view of camp that I miss whenever I’m somewhere else, reciting a poem to myself in my head that we read at Spirit Fire.

“You may think my dear, when you grow quite old
you have left your camp days behind
but I know the scent of woodsmoke
will always call to mind
little paths at twilight
and trails you used to find.”
—Mary S. Edgars, To A Camper

Rock and Brook

Set here in the mountains of western North Carolina, the topography of Rockbrook is really something special. Within its 220 acres, the camp includes amazing natural features including prominent rock outcroppings, waterfalls, creeks and the French Broad River. If you haven’t seen it already, watch this video and then scroll through the posts in this archive about our area in North Carolina. You’ll be impressed by the natural beauty of the camp property and its surrounding area.

After learning more about the camp topography, you’ll quickly realize that when Henry P. Clarke, the father of the camp’s founder Nancy Barnum Clarke Carrier, named this property “Rockbrook,” it was a particularly apt name. Situated between (and below!) two rock landmarks (Dunn’s Rock and Castle Rock), with numerous boulders scattered all around the camp, and as three named creeks (Dunn’s Creek, Rockbrook Creek and Hanty Branch) and several smaller tributaries of the French Broad river carve rocky courses through the camp, the terrain here is very much both stone and water, rock and brook.

camp kid zip line ride

Our camp program benefits from these topographical features in a number of exciting ways. There are excellent hiking destinations for example: the magnificent mountain view from the top of Dunn’s Rock, the spray to be felt at the bottom of Stick Biscuit Falls, and the mysterious “Kilroy’s Cabin” found only by bushwhacking for more than a mile through the woods. We have 5 different climbing routes on Castle Rock to tackle, and down below, a nice sandy eddy we can use to launch or take out canoe trips on the French Broad River. A particularly cool example, though, is our camp zip line course since the zips are built between boulders and over creeks. It takes about an hour to do the whole course— 3 zips and 3 challenging adventure bridges —and it continues to be one of the more popular optional activities we offer. The last zip is the fastest and goes right past the office building at the top of the hill giving everyone on the porch a front row seat to see the aerial poses, wide-eyed grins, and hear the yelps of delight multiple times each day.

gaga ball game

Equally popular this session, though for different reasons, has been Ga-ga Ball. Played down near our gym in a special octagonal court of 30-inch high wooden walls, GaGa is a form of dodgeball that’s nicely fast-paced, and well-suited for multi-age groups of girls. Three people or thirty people can play, so it’s a great “pick up game” for the girls during their periods of free time each day (before lunch and dinner, and during Twilight in particular). The object of Gaga is to avoid being hit in the legs by a soft ball as it bounces around inside the court after being hit (not thrown) by the players. It takes quick reflexes to jump out of the way as the ball bounces wildly off the walls of the court and the other players alike. Once hit, a player hops out of the court dwindling the number of girls still playing. As the game progresses and one person is left (the winner), the game is over, and everyone can hop back into the court to start a new game. Perpetual play!

camp girl dancing

Tonight’s Evening Program allowed us to dress up, be silly, and go a little wild on the dance floor. We held an all-girl “glow dance” down in the gym. Without much encouragement, the girls dressed in tie dye t-shirts and other colorful costumes. We pulled out neon face paint to add dots, swirls and stripes of color to their looks, and when we handed out a few hundred glow sticks, dimmed the lights in the gym, and began pumping out upbeat, popular music, we had a fun dance party.  No boys, no pressure, no judgment: there was just unbridled excitement and glee as song after song got the girls dancing.  And these girls know how to have fun in the groove! —lots of jumping to the beat, well-rehearsed dance moves now and then, and plenty of hands-in-the-air, singing-along choruses.  It was another great camp event celebrating the fun of being together, feeling happily relaxed and pulled into an activity so thoroughly that you forgot most everything else and time flew by… so good, and just how we all like.

All girl glow stick dance

Rockbrook Hosts Hike for Land Conservancy Group

CMLC-Logo2 for hike

This Sunday, February 16th, 2014, Rockbrook will host members of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy for a hiking excursion to both Rockbrook Falls and Castle Rock on the Rockbrook Camp property. Jeff Carter will join historian Keith Parker to lead the hike and provide information about the local area and the camp.

The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (now called, Conserving Carolina”) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “creating a regional network of permanently protected farm, forest, and natural land. [It] protects forested wilderness, working farms, clean drinking water, verdant trout streams, wildlife habitat and sweeping views,” according to its Web site.

Working together with Rockbrook in 2010, CMLC successfully placed 115 acres of the camp property into a protected easement insuring the natural beauty and unique habitat of Dunn’s Creek, Dunn’s Rock, Castle Rock and surrounding forest.

Rockbrook Camp is located 4 miles south of Brevard, North Carolina and is home to dramatic rock cliffs, waterfalls, and record trees. The camp was founded in 1921.

For more information about this hike, or to make a reservation to attend, please visit the CMLC Web site.

Favorite Place in Nature

Place in Nature Child Essay

When 8-year-old camper Sarah was asked recently to write about her “Favorite Place in Nature” for her Science and Social studies class, she chose Rockbrook. She wrote about and illustrated what she loved about camp this past summer. Sarah’s mom passed it along to us, so we’re glad to share it with you.

“Have you ever wanted to go to the mountains? Have you ever wanted to smell a fresh summer breeze? Have you ever just wanted to let go and have fun? If so, I have the place for you! There are a lot of different activities like archery, horse-back riding, and mountain climbing. There are two mountains called Castle Rock, and Mt. Rockbrook. If you like to just relax, than the creek is the place to go. There you can have shoe races or just hang out. I went to the top of Castle Rock. There were these exotic plants that I never saw before, and I am a total plant lover. I stayed for sunset and it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I saw the cutest bunny in the world! The sun was beautiful. When my Dad picked me up, I didn’t want to go home! Rockbrook is a memory that I will never forget.”

Favorite Place in Nature

What’s your favorite place in Nature?

A Lot in our Neighborhood

Girls Camp Swimming
Rock CLimbing Girl

High above Rockbrook, but still on the camp property, is Castle Rock, a bright grey rock outcropping so large it’s visible all over the nearby river valley. You may have seen it if you looked up and east standing on the porch of the Hillside Lodge at camp. Once you hike to the top, up a beautiful wooded (also steep!) trail, there’s a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition though, Castle Rock offers us some really great rock climbing. There are several routes to choose from- a zig-zagging hand crack called “Shazam,” and delicate finger crack called “Dragon’s Tail,” and a long, high exposed route called “Bam,” to name a few. When we combine all of these routes with trips we can take into the National Forest, there’s a lot of rock to climb in our neighborhood! And climb we do!

Down at the Rockbrook lake, especially during the two free swim periods, girls are busy in several ways. Some are addicted to the water slide (affectionately known as “Big Samantha” …for no reason other than it being a name that’s mostly stuck!), shooting down and heading right back to the top along the boardwalk. Others are happily perfecting their dives and cannonballs off of the diving board. Some are swimming laps to be awarded membership in the “Mermaid Club,” which earns them a special treat at the end of the session. Today a group of girls was trying to climb up on a floating tube, while others were placidly floating by. In every case, the girls are enjoying the cool mountain spring water of the lake.

Journalism Camp Activity Girls

Meeting in the log cabin we call “Goodwill,” which is named after the plantation in South Carolina where Nancy Carrier, Rockbrook’s founder was born, there is a regular activity called “Journalism.” This is one of the more peaceful options for the girls at camp because it focuses on writing. It could mean creative writing- poetry, short stories, even movie themes -taking surveys or recording interviews around camp. What makes this activity particularly popular with the campers are the writing games they often play. One of these is called “M.A.S.H.” (which stands for “Mansion, Apartment, Shack, Hut”) and it involves the girls writing a list of words fitting into categories like where you’ll live, who’ll be your spouse, what your job will be, and then, using random selections from each category, fashioning a coherent story they can present to the group.  These can be pretty hilarious and fun for the girls, and even more so since they are supposed to predict the future life of the writer.  Once per session, the Journalism activity also publishes a camp-wide newspaper comprised of the favorite writings from the class.

A group of Juniors today were surprised with a trip out to Dolly’s Ice Cream stand for a sweet treat. If you haven’t heard of Dolly’s yet, you will from your girls. It’s a great, classic ice cream stand located near the entrance to the Pisgah Forest, a perfect spot for passersby to stop. Quite ingeniously, Dolly created special ice cream flavors, combinations of flavors and toppings really, and named them after all of the local summer camps. You’d be correct to guess that lots of juniors ended up ordering a cone of “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion.” Very yummy stuff.

Summer Camp Counselor and Camper
Summer Camp Counselor and Camper eating ice cream

Green Salamanders at Rockbrook

There is a secret about the western part of North Carolina, something few people know. It is home to more that 50 distinct species of salamanders (Order Caudata), with North Carolina as a whole having the highest salamander diversity in the world! The so-called “Lungless Salamanders” (Family Plethodontidae) are the most numerous and include one species listed as Rare and Endangered by the State: the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus). This is the only salamander in North America with green markings, hence its name. These little guys have very specific habitat requirements and are rarely seen.

nesting endangered green salamander in North Carolina
Rare and endangered green salamander

It just so happens, though, Rockbrook’s Castle Rock and Dunn’s Rock provide a perfect habitat for the Green Salamander. There are plenty of moist, shaded rock crevices for the salamanders to hide in, and for the females, to lay their eggs. Green Salamanders spend most of the year in cool rock crevices, but hide in trees during the summer. They ordinarily live to become 10-15 years old.

Today, Alan Cameron, a 7-year volunteer with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, came out to Rockbrook for a Green Salamander field expedition. Another naturalist had observed Green Salamanders at the base of Dunn’s Rock, so Alan wanted to verify his hunch that they would be on Castle Rock too. Within 4 minutes of arriving at the rock, he found a Green! Alan believes that the environment on the camp property is ideal for this salamander and that there is likely a very healthy population of them here.

It’s neat to know (now definitely) that Rockbrook is home to this rare and endangered species of salamander. This is important because Rockbrook will always preserve its unique habitat and thereby help insure this special amphibian survives.