So Many Fun Options

two summer camp girl friends

The recent streak of days with perfect summertime weather continued today as we woke to a foggy cool morning. As the camp begins to stir and the girls make their way to the dining hall for breakfast, it’s common to wear long pants and a sweatshirt or fleece. The temperature today was about 64 when we woke, so it felt great to cozy up like that. Then as the sun burned off the fog, we soon felt warm and comfortable under bright blue skies and clear sunshine. The temperature climbed to about 83, but with relatively low humidity it again felt really good to be outside. Since we essentially spend all of our time outside —even the cabins are open-air, screened buildings— this kind of weather is inspiring. It makes everything we’re doing pop with more vibrant colors, perhaps a little more pep, and an extraordinary freshness. Yes, it was ideal camp weather.

“Cinnamon Apple” was the surprise muffin flavor today. The bakers in the kitchen start about 7am to be ready for this mid-morning snack. Mixing, scooping, and baking 300 individual muffins takes some time. Having a freshly baked treat like this, though, is definitely a highlight of most everyone’s morning.  The muffins are so delicious, it’s challenging to have to limit yourself to just one!

cool tetherball fashion girl

Rockbrook girls know that wearing a costume adds to whatever we’re doing, making things funnier and more fun. That’s why we’ll occasionally declare a costume theme for the day, like today’s “Under the Sea” theme. It was fun to see how the girls and staff members interpreted that theme. They mixed things up with beach attire (Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, hats), shark and octopus hats, seaweed skirts, and colorful coral leggings. The Hi-Ups and several counselors decorated the dining hall with streamers and painted banners, and an “ocean-related” playlist of music was queued up for all three meals.

There have been a flurry of adventure trips going out this week too. We went rafting on Tuesday, but today Clyde took an excited bunch of girls out to Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah Forest for an all-day rock climbing adventure. They left early in the morning to reach the south side of the rock face in time to jump on a couple of popular climbs, one called “B52” and another called “Fly By.” Leland and Sarah took a few advanced kayakers to run the rapids of section nine on the French Broad River north of Asheville. Meanwhile, Jayne and Sam offered an overnight camping and canoeing trip on a different section of the French Broad.  All of these trips were offered to the girls as options they could choose, switching up their schedule as they like. So many options all on the same day!

shaving cream fighter

We presented another fun option to the girls during dinner when we announced that tonight’s twilight activity would be a shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide held down on the grassy sports field. This is an event of exuberant play. Girls of all ages, and counselors too, dress in their swimsuits, arm themselves with cans of white foam, and proceed to spray wildly being as mischievous as possible splattering unsuspecting friends. Soon, there are wild hairstyles, messages written on bellies, and even some girls completely covered in shaving cream. As you might expect, this makes the slip-n-slide an extra slick ride. Be sure to visit the photo gallery to see some of the wild messy fun of the evening.

It’s been another full camp day, one with plenty of adventure, creativity, and fun with friends. We couldn’t have asked for a better combination of cheerful campers, enthusiastic staff members, weather and camp activities. Life is very good here at Rockbrook!

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.

Just a Heavy Dew

If you’ve been paying attention to the weather in our area, perhaps checking the Rockbrook weather station, you know we’ve had plenty of rain over the last couple of days. The temperatures have hovered right around 70 degrees (a little cooler at night and a little warmer during the day), but it’s been cloudy and rainy lately— almost 2 inches of rain yesterday and almost 3 the day before that. A trough of low pressure is slowly moving out of the area, but at the moment we are all wearing our “dew coats.”  After all, around here rain is really just a “heavy dew.”

Flooding can be a problem in our area as it turns fields lining the French Broad River into expansive lakes, but for Rockbrook only a portion of our horse pasture land is at risk since most of camp is far up the hill from the river. This much rain does swell our creeks and creates much more dramatic waterfalls (like this video of “Stick Biscuit Falls” behind the office shows), but we have an elaborate system of underground culverts and spillways that carry rainwater strategically under, through and around the camp, keeping everything intact despite the rushing runoff.

camp girls paper crafts

With only a few exceptions (swimming, e.g.), our activities at camp have carried on nicely in spite of the rain. With so much covered space— our gym, dining hall, activity cabins, stone lodges, porches, barn and arena —we can easily stay out of the rain and still have fun together. All of the craft activities, for example, didn’t even skip a beat today. The potter’s wheels kept spinning, the looms clicked back and forth, and the brushes applied paint and inks to paper in the drawing classes. Yoga, Drama, and Dance all met in their usual buildings.

Also today, several outdoor trips went out for a (little more wet than usual) adventure. The kayakers got out on the Tuckasegee. A big group of Middlers and Seniors took a backpacking trip to an area near John Rock in the Pisgah Forest. And we still ran girls through our zipline course despite the consistent drizzle and periods of rain. Did we get wet? Sure did. Did it ruin any of the trips? Nope. In fact, zipping through the trees in the rain made the ride feel, if anything, a little edgier and more exciting.

gym sports parachute game

The gym became a particularly fun place to be. The Alpine Tower climbers moved inside to the climbing wall to give some of its short, but challenging routes a go. Meanwhile, the gymnastics staff worked on cartwheels with the girls on the other end of the gym, and on the main gym floor, a massive, fun game of dodgeball whipped up. At another point, the counselors pulled out the parachute to play a game where campers would run under it when it was lifted in the air.  Another gym game involved pool noodles used as hockey sticks, easily inspiring the girls to race around the gym after a ball.

The girls were particularly happy that their time horseback riding wasn’t cancelled because of the rain. With our new covered riding arena, everyone’s riding lessons could go on as planned. The arena is positioned right next to the new barn, so it’s possible to tack up your horse and walk him directly out of the barn and into the arena without ever getting wet. And no mud too! That’s really nice.

All of this is to say, we are having plenty of fun here at camp, “even in the rainy weather,” as the Rockbrook song says. The girls are extraordinarily resilient in the face of being a little wet, a little muddy, and a little cool most of the day. They happily want to carry on with what we’re here to do— to play together as great friends, to create, to feel a part of a caring, kind community, and to learn and grow by enjoying this beautiful place.  Rain or shine, that’s what’s going to happen!

camp buddies gymnastics

Spirited Shenanigans

Whitewater Rafting Rapid

Being a camp community that spends most of its time outside, you can imagine that we pay a great deal of attention to the weather. But I should clarify that; the directors and other adults think about the weather, plan for it, make adjustments because of it, celebrating or bemoaning what mother nature sends our little nook in the mountains. We are focused on the weather (even to the point of installing our own weather station!), but the kids, the girls at Rockbrook generally are not. Today, for example, we had “perfect” warm and sunny weather for our whitewater rafting trips, and all of our other in-camp activities, but I don’t think the girls noticed it much. Instead, they paid attention to each other and to the activity, laughing and splashing, bumping and paddling down the Nantahala. It’s amazing how “in the moment” these girls are, oblivious to everything beyond what they’re doing and the friends they’re doing it with.  On other days, I’ve seen campers completely ignore the rain, happily wearing a hat instead of a raincoat, playing in the creek as if it was any other day. There’s no air conditioning in the cabins, but that simply doesn’t matter to the girls when there are so many more immediate things to discuss with bunkmates. When it’s hot and humid late in the day, that’s just another reason to head to the lake. The weather demands attention now and then, but most of the time it’s just the context for our daily camp experience. We all know, for example, to stay safely inside when there’s a threat of lighting, or the opposite, we may stop what we’re doing in amazement of a brief hail storm. This kind of complete engagement, energized immersion into the daily activities that structure our day— which makes “time fly” and fuels the intensity of the fun, by the way —makes everything external largely insignificant. The weather? “Oh yeah, I guess it rained.”

We took about 60 people whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River today. We offer this trip every year to all of the Middlers and Seniors, and for many it has become their favorite outdoor adventure experience of their session. One bus of girls chose to spend the night at our outpost near the river, enjoying a little camping complete with maybe one too many s’mores before bed. The river trip itself delivered plenty of frigid water and thrilling drops through the class II and III rapids, but as you can see the girls added a good dose of silliness to the trip as well, posing for photos, making “high-fives” with their paddles, and riding “the bull” until falling back into the boat or forward into the river. Using our own equipment and guides the girls already know helps this extra silly fun take over. Songs and spirited shenanigans all the way down!

Camp horseback riding girl

Be sure to take a look at the online photo gallery. Today’s shots are particularly good. We have two full-time photographers who roam around camp trying to capture the action. At times only one is working, and at others, both are busy trying to snap a photo of every girl (at least one!) while also showcasing the different activities all happening at once. It’s difficult to be everywhere at the same time, but especially when both photographers are working, they do an amazing job keeping the gallery interesting. Spend a few minutes scrolling through the photos and you will discover the incredible variety of things your girls are doing— riding, shooting, jumping, zipping, weaving, tie dying, playing, swimming, balancing, paddling, acting, painting… —but also I hope you’ll get a sense of how they’re learning along the way. Every activity involves specific skills, techniques, terminology, equipment or materials. Some require careful athletic coordination, imagination or creativity.  Personal qualities are being exercised too: perseverance, bravery, patience, humility, and stamina come to mind. Rockbrook’s organized camp activities bring all of this together, and when led by such amazing, caring instructors, and when the forces of “positive peer pressure” (“Let’s sign up for kayaking!”) soften feelings of hesitation, girls grow in astounding ways. They experience not just something novel and fun; they discover new success and confidence too.

Tower course climbing kid
girl learning to belay

Climbing is a great example of this learning, of the broad educational (in the best sense of the word) benefits of camp activities. Of course, beginners learn about the special equipment needed to climb safely: the kernmantle rope, helmet, locking carabiners, belay device, and harness with its array of straps and buckles. They learn about different climbing techniques: various holds, body positions, and balancing stances. The older girls can learn how to belay. There are mental skills also: concentration (“Don’t look down!”), determination, and problem solving each step of the way, for example.  Emotions like fear and frustration often play a role too, not to mention the elation of achieving the goal of reaching the top of a climb. Climbing means overcoming your fear of heights (which we all have to some extent) by learning to trust, to trust the safety equipment and ultimately to trust your own ability to climb effectively. Whether it’s on our high ropes climbing tower, wall in the gym, the routes on Castle Rock, or on Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah Forest, the Rockbrook girls who climb are learning so much more than simply “how to climb.” So much more!

camp water slide girl

Make New Mistakes

“So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”
—Neil Gaiman

We awoke this morning to the rising bell as usual, and groggily got out of bed. (I’m sure somewhere on camp, girls get up with pep and energy, but on the senior line, we place a high value on sleep.) Once we woke up a bit, though, by sharing bits of news for the day at breakfast and playing a stimulating game of Ships and Sailors at morning assembly, we were ready to greet the day.

Today was the first day of a new rotation of activities. On the first day of activities, it’s as though the whole camp is refreshed and reenergized—girls are trying new things, or at least taking activities with new people. It gives campers a sense of variety, and asks them to choose whether they want to continue developing one particular skill or to try something completely new.

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While walking around camp, I got to see the benefits of both of these approaches to activities. I first walked in to a dance class full of senior girls, practicing for the upcoming dance show. Some of them had danced before for plays and musicals, while others were laughing about how it would take them quite awhile to learn a chasse. The mood in dance, though, does not distinguish the girls who have danced from those who never have. A counselor teaches in a calm tone, laughing right along with the girls as they try to get the moves at once. They show me the beginning of their dance, and they are all equally excited about the success of their ripple. The girls are equally excited about coming together to do the ripple. As I walked away from the dance class, it hit me how welcoming and inclusive the dance class had been. Dancing, particularly in front of other people, is a vulnerable and intimidating action. Yet here were ten teenagers, making progress together, but mostly feeling totally comfortable and happy trying something new.

I think this exemplifies the philosophy of activities at Rockbrook. We are focused on the process rather than the outcome. In this way, mistakes are not just okay—they are celebrated. When campers make mistakes, it means they have tried something new and challenged what they thought possible. The noncompetitive environment of Rockbrook helps campers feel safe and supported even when they do make a mistake. They feel intrinsically motivated to try new things without outside pressures.
Initially when I came to Rockbrook, I remember being hesitant about this philosophy. Coming from a competitive academic environment and skills-focused surroundings, I wanted my activity to focus on outcome. If a girl could not tie a figure eight knot at the end of climbing, then what was she really learning? Eventually, though, I realized that I missed the point. I think this is typical outside of camp—school and sports are so focused on an objective that we rarely consider the virtues of the process itself. For climbing, even when girls do not reach the top, they are learning to push themselves beyond what they thought their limits were, but also learning that sometimes it is okay to stop. Rockbrook’s philosophy has become so central to my perspective outside of life. Although objectives are still important, I have learned to slow down and consider all that I am learning along the way.

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I witnessed this today in climbing, actually. I arrived at climbing toward the end of the period, so Clyde Carter, the head of our outdoors program, was teaching the girls knots as the class was winding down. I saw girls trying to tie the knots, some ropes looking like a scrambled tangle, others coming close but it falling apart as they tried to tighten it. Clyde remarked in his gently humorous way, “They’re doing everything right, except tying the knot.” This was a perfect description of the feeling of following instructions step by step, but still struggling with an objective. There was no pressure to learn the knot, and some campers decided to put the rope away and get out of their harnesses. A couple of them were determined. One stood in front of Clyde and said assertively, “I will get this knot!” He then proceeded to explain it to her again and again until she could tie it.

In addition to creating a safe place to make new mistakes, the noncompetitive environment also encourages campers to be intrinsically motivated, rather than extrinsically motivated. They choose where they want their energy to go, whether it’s tying a knot, finishing mermaid laps, or going on a whitewater-kayaking trip. This gives them the power to set and achieve their own goals, not because they are a part of a team or because they need a good grade, but for the satisfaction of completing a task they choose to care about.

It is easier to make mistakes and to try new things in an environment that is noncompetitive, but it becomes even easier when that environment also does not take itself too seriously. We all had a great evening program that is best described as silly. The evening program was called Jug Band, and we all paid homage to the mountain heritage of Rockbrook. We dressed up in flannels and overalls, fashioned our own instruments out of hairbrushes and water bottles, and headed down to Vesper Rock for an old-fashioned campfire. We sang songs like ‘Mountain Dew,’ ‘Rocky Top,’ and ‘I Love Little Willy,’ while campers told their favorite jokes and counselors performed goofy skits. Everyone laughed and played along to the mountain tunes before the moon lit up the mountains and signaled that it was time for bed.

Unlike any other place I know, Rockbrook gives us subtle freedom and the realization that we should be making mistakes. We should never demand perfection from ourselves because it is only within trying new things, not taking ourselves too seriously, and being gentle with ourselves can we begin to take authentic ownership of our lives. These first session girls have one week of camp left, and we will continue learning these lessons every day that we spend at camp. When we leave, I hope we will continue to make new mistakes. I hope we continue to be brave enough to try new things and have the humility to laugh at ourselves when things do not go as planned. I hope we are able to write a paper on Romeo and Juliet or solve a hard math problem and take time to appreciate the process, not just the grade. I hope we are able to motivate ourselves to practice violin or practice our serves in tennis because we innately want to improve, not just because someone told us to. Ultimately, I hope our lives away from camp flourish because of our lives in camp.

Camp Jug Band

Perfect Day

Making tie dyes with Sarah

It’s hard not to describe today as perfect. First we’re having amazing weather— crystal clear blue skies shining all day after a few pockets of fog lifted in the morning, extraordinarily low humidity making the high temperature (around 80) feel just warm and inviting, and the occasional breezes turning the leaves on the trees into rustling waves of green. Glancing up at the shining granite of Castle Rock, hearing the splattering of Stick Biscuit Falls, and breathing in the cool fresh air combined so delightfully. Spending the entire day outside— making tie dye t-shirts with Sarah, riding horses, climbing the Alpine Tower, or just reading a book on the hill —it was spectacular, pleasant in every way.

One of the highlights, and perhaps my favorite time of the day, was after dinner as the sun began to slip down toward the distant mountains. This “Twilight” time after dinner but before the start of each line’s evening programs lasts about an hour, and it’s a relaxed, friendly time for everyone at camp to play on the hill (tetherball, hula hoop, guitar, etc.), watch the sunset, or just hang out to talk with friends. It’s really special, and in the glow of the evening light, beautiful as well.

Blindfolded Girl Rock Climbing
Climbing Instructor and Camper

It was also a perfect day for climbing, which almost two dozen campers enjoyed today on our 50-foot Alpine Climbing Tower. The Tower can accommodate up to 6 climbers at the same time, each exploring a different route and overcoming different climbing challenges on the way to the top. All these options make it a wonderful place to learn how to climb. Even our youngest campers will start here, learning a couple of important climbing knots, understanding the equipment for rock climbing (What’s an ATC?), and practicing the belay commands used by climbers around the world. Some of the girls opt of an even greater challenge climbing the tower by blindfolding themselves. Not being able to see where foot- and hand-holds are located slows things down, but it also makes climbing more about concentration and balance (that’s a good thing!) than about reaching the next hold in sight. What a great feeling for a girl to have tried something that sounds really difficult, and with encouragement and perseverance, being able to do it!

Camp Girl Riding Horse
Love Rockbrook Calendar

The Rockbrook horses are also enjoying this perfect summer weather as they keep our many young equestriennes busy in the riding rings. From the beautiful thoroughbred mare Ava to the veteran Connemara pony Annie, most of the 30 horses here this summer were providing mounted lessons today. So far there’s no shortage of enthusiasm for riding at Rockbrook this session, keeping both our horses and riding staff happily busy.

Powerful crafting forces are at work now too! Armed with gallons of paint and glue, paper, fibers, cloth and clay, among so many other options, these girls are extraordinarily and creatively productive. There are so many examples. Our master instructors Maggie Kelsey, Alex Baker and Nancy McDonald have amazing projects planned for the girls. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the colorful results that make their way home at the end of camp. Isn’t this calendar fantastic? Click the photo to see a larger version and you’ll find out what appears to be the most important days… so far! 🙂

You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day of whitewater rafting either. We took four buses and vans of campers over to the Nantahala river today to bump, bounce, splash, and scream their way down the rapids for a few hours. We practically had the river to ourselves, gorgeous weather, and with our top-notch Rockbrook guides and equipment, flawless trips all day long. It really feels special to paddle the Nantahala like this… a boat full of excited girls, warm sun, cold water, moments of intense, wide-eyed adventure, followed by full-bodied laughter. You might just call that “fun.” Yep, it was that too.

Rockbrook Whitewater Rafting
Girls Swimming Lake

Views from Looking Glass Rock

Sometimes here at Rockbrook, there is so much going on, it can be hard to choose between all the offerings. I often hear campers deliberating whether to sign up for trips, or to stay at camp to enjoy all the activities here.

Groupshot climbers

This morning, while a daring group of young ladies was heading down to the lake to take a special early morning “Polar Bear Plunge” into Rockbrook’s chilly waters, girls were packing out for an overnight rafting trip, kayakers were preparing to try their paddles on the white waters of the Green River, and a van was driving off camp for a climbing trip to Looking Glass Rock. Rockbrook girls were having to choose between all these fabulous opportunities before the girls had even eaten breakfast! The best part about camp is that no matter which experience a girl chooses each day, whether wet or dry, on camp or off, scheduled or spontaneous, it is sure to offer her a fun chance to challenge herself, to make new friends, and provide her with a new story to share about her adventure.

Today’s group of devoted young climbers rose before the rising bell, ate a quick breakfast, packed lunch and climbing gear into back packs, and drove off to Looking Glass Rock. This group of six campers—all of whom already had a chance to climb Rockbrook’s own Alpine Tower, climbing wall, and live rock-face, Castle Rock—traveled into the Pisgah National Forest with three climbing staff to test their growing skills on another natural rock.

Looking Glass Rock view

Looking Glass Rock, is a local monolith just shy of 4000 ft in elevation that hosts a wonderful variety of climbs, accessible to many skill levels. Well earning its name, Looking Glass is a massive granite rock jutting out of the valley floor whose many reflective faces offer climbers dozens of multi-pitch, free bouldering, and top-roping routes. After a brisk hike up the mountain from the parking area, we arrived to the rock face to find it was an exceptionally quiet morning for Looking Glass. We had the pick of the mountain.

girls climbing

Adventure Director, Clyde Carter, and climbing counselor Rita Keil, deftly scrambled up to set up an anchor on a pair of climbs well suited for today’s group. They set two routes that exposed the girls to different qualities of rock, challenged their skill level, and offered opportunities for success. After everyone had the chance to climb both routes, we moved anchor to try another part of the rock. These climbs were a little more challenging, inviting the girls to explore the limits of their skill and stamina. One of the important things about trying new things at Rockbrook is that we provide a great place for girls to safely push themselves. We create the environment to give them the confidence to try new things, and cultivate the knowledge that even if they are not able to reach the top today, they have reached new heights. At the end of the day, everyone feels good about their own experience, is inspired and supported by those around around them, and is granted the gift of a stunning and well earned view. If you stand on the hill at Rockbrook, you can look across the valley and see Looking Glass glinting in the sunlight. What fun for this group of veteran climbers to now come back to camp, look across the valley and get to say, “I climbed that!“

smiling rock climbers

A Haven of Encouragement

Camp dancing girls in mirror


I was talking with a CIT (17-year-old “counselor in training”) recently, and she told me something interesting. She said, “Rockbrook taught me how to dance.” She had been a camper for many years before this summer training to join the Rockbrook staff, so I wasn’t too surprised, thinking that she had probably taken our dance activity and learned different moves there. But she went on explaining that before camp she was too shy to dance at all, “so embarrassed,” she remembered “hiding at middle school dances.” And then she said something really profound. “Rockbrook proved that I’m stronger than I think.”

What a wonderful affirmation of our mission at Rockbrook! Driving everything we do— from the program activities, special events, adventure trips, to the silly songs we sing at meals, for example, there is a camp culture that emphasizes kindness and generosity, attention and care for all those around us. For the counselors and campers alike, camp is a haven of encouragement, perfectly suited to foster self confidence, resilience and ultimately self esteem. Our goal for everyone here at Rockbrook is for them to realize that their authentic self, who they really are, is strong and beautiful. We hope camp provides real experiences proving that deep strength and beauty. You might think, you can’t dance, because maybe someone once gave you a funny look, but let’s try it and you’ll see you can! Figuring that out, and applying that confidence to other things, is such a fantastic lesson for young girls to learn, and camp makes it possible.

girls horseback rider in two-point position

A trip down to the horseback riding facilities of Rockbrook, down past the Carrier House, through the tunnel, and left at the French Broad river, never fails to impress. Members of the equestrian staff (all nine of them) will be hustling with barn chores, working with horses and campers preparing for the riding lessons that happen throughout the day. With 30 horses in the RBC herd this summer, and at last count, 88 girls taking horseback riding lessons this session, there’s a lot going on! Many of the girls are brand new to riding, but have by now learned how to tack up, mount, and feel comfortable on a horse. Most have quickly progressed, confidently walking and steering their mounts, over poles and in the two-point position. This photo shows instructor Gabby leading Coby, a 20-year-old, chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, as he helps a camper experience her first trot. It’s a great example of how the Rockbrook riding instructors are excellent and genuinely love introducing girls to riding, teaching them new skills, and helping advanced riders grow stronger and more confident. With this kind of quality instruction, these Rockbrook girls are really getting good!

camp water slide splashing

On the far side of the lake where the waterfall splashes in, there’s a dock and bridge leading to a set of stairs up a 30-foot tower. The top of that tower is the launching point for our water slide, affectionately known as “Big Samantha” (for no other reason than a few years back a Junior camper named it that, and it stuck). Made of soft vinyl that’s nice and slippery when we run a little water down it, the slide provides a 50-foot screaming, cool ride into the lake. One by one, the girls climb the tower, hurl themselves down the blue vinyl tarp, with spray splashing up, and finish by shooting out into the lake below. A short swim back to the exit ladders awaits, and then it’s back around for another slide!

indoor climbing wall camp girl

When it turned drizzly late this afternoon, the climbing instructors moved from the Alpine Climbing tower into the gym so they could set up the climbs on our indoor climbing wall. The wall takes up one corner of the gym stretching about 25 feet from the floor to the rafters. Being in the corner, one route up uses both walls, teaching the girls a climbing move called “stemming” often used in a dihedral (inside corner). The wall has colored tape marking six different routes which vary by the size, shape and placement of the holds. The most difficult portion in slightly overhanging, which requires significantly more finger strength just to stay on the wall! Today each girl who signed up for climbing picked 2 different routes to attempt. The instructors coached them along the way encouraging the girls to focus on technique rather than simply getting to the top— balancing, shifting weight, and making each move slowly and smoothly. It was great to see the girls understand this coaching and climb beautifully.

Girls Camp Campers