“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”

Greetings from Rockbrook Camp. This is Chrissy, the Waterfront Supervisor, writing to tell you about our first full day of activities! It’s funny how quickly camp girls will trade in state-of-the-art technology for snail mail and century-old crafts once they arrive at Rockbrook. It only takes a deep breath of the fresh mountain air to reconnect to the essentials of camp life–beautiful mountains, strong friendships, and independence

slideMonday morning the rising bell rang at 8:00am, beckoning the girls to wake up and take advantage of a perfect first day of activities at Rockbrook. After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, the girls were ready to seize the day. I even saw some girls wearing their swimsuits to breakfast, eager to jump in the lake! After the first two morning activities, First Free Swim saw what we call a perfect lake day–warm, gleaming sunshine and blue skies “smilin’ at me, nothing but blue skies at RBC.” The lake was quite popular this morning as the girls sought out a refreshing respite from the July sun.

After an exciting morning of trying new things, the girls were very appreciative of cheese quesadillas and homemade guacamole for lunch. Right on cue it seems, a refreshing bit of rain passed over us during lunch. It was enough to cool us down without dampening our spirits, and after a refreshing rest hour the girls were quick to jump to their afternoon activities. Luckily the sunshine held out for the rest of the afternoon, and the girls were comfortable being outside for the remainder of the day.

paddling

At dinner we celebrated an American tradition of hamburgers, chips, and watermelon followed by a scrumptious bread pudding for dessert that did not last long! Rockbrook encourages healthy eating choices and independence through each girl creating her own meal, so our salad bar, vegan/vegetarian options, and peanut butter & jelly station supply additional dietary choices for the girls. Yet another way that we foster independence is through free times, such as Free Swims and Twilight. I saw many girls on the hill during Twilight this evening after dinner, playing tetherball, exploring the creeks, and chasing fairies through the gardens. Last, but certainly not least, the girls finished their days with Evening Programs in each line’s lodge. After receiving the intriguing theme of “National Enquirer” (exciting headlines to act out), they were off to their cabins coming up with creative skits, costumes included. Finally it was off to bed, after milk and cookies and the soothing Rockbrook prayer. Sweet dreams to our adventurous Rockbrook girls, and may they continue to seek out and overcome new challenges.

creek

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” –Henry David Thoreau

A Summertime Treat

Costumes for Mardi Gras DinnerMost meals at Rockbrook are served “Family Style” in our dining hall, with each cabin of girls sitting together at a table with their counselors and sharing platters of food. Throughout the day, everyone scatters across the camp to attend their individually chosen activities, so meals are a chance to reunite and talk about the events of the day. Tonight, however, we shifted gears entirely and rearranged the 26 individual tables in the dining hall to make 12 large tables, one for each month of the year, because tonight was “Birthday Night.” This is a special surprise dinner party where we celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same night by having all the counselors and campers sit according to the month of their birth. Tonight we made it a Mardi Gras themed dinner, so we decorated the dining hall with streamers, balloons, and posters, handed out shiny beads and masks, and encouraged everyone to dress in their best purple, gold and green.  There were so many great costumes! Some girls wore crazy wigs, or hats, lots of sunglasses, multi-colored tights, even fuzzy leg warmers. Rick prepared New Orleans style food for us too: Po’ Boy sandwiches (with lettuce, tomato and his homemade Remoulade sauce), grits with Andouille sausage, mixed berries, and Miss Vickie’s potato chips. But of course, the highlight of the night was the cakes, the 12 different birthday cakes Katie baked, each decorated by the Hi-Up campers to match a particular month. Depending on your birth month, your piece of cake was larger or smaller because the cake was divided by the number of people in that month (June had the highest number, and September the smallest number of people, by the way).  With Mardi Gras music playing, the girls had a grand time yelling “Happy Birthday” to each other (and to other celebrities), taking short dance breaks, and of course singing along to the music.

Girl concentrating on climbing towerIf you spotted our Alpine Climbing Tower in the woods driving up our north driveway (riding the shuttle bus on opening day), you know it’s an impressive structure. It’s almost 60 feet tall, is triangular shaped because of its pyramid design, and offers dozens of climbing challenges. Even more impressive is the climbing ability the girls have been showing on the tower lately. They are swarming all over the thing, hanging upside down, conquering every element (like the “Swinging Logs,” the “Missing Link” cargo net, and “Corporate Ladder,” for example), and even climbing up sections blindfolded! Karen, our lead photographer, took this photo (and others) today by climbing the tower herself and shooting from above. It’s hard to tell from this shot, but this camper is about 45 feet off the ground! I love the look of concentration in her eye. It shows a level of focused confidence that all excellent rock climbers rely upon. Awesome stuff.

Camp girl using lap loom with feet in creekCan you tell what’s happening in this photo? Blue yarn and white string, feet in some water, and a fork? It’s not a musical instrument (though I suppose it could be!). It’s a lap loom with a weaving project taking shape as the weaver sits with her feet in a creek. The fork is used to weave and tighten the weft as it traces back and forth taking shape along the warp. The creek beside the Curosty cabin, where weaving is taught at Rockbrook, carries water to fill our lake, and is generally a sunny spot in camp. That makes it very enticing as a perfect place to weave, chat with friends, and enjoy the cool water rushing by across your feet. Something this simple and wholesome, it’s relaxing, social and creative at the same time. Such a summertime treat.

Girls sitting at top of John RockHere we have the view from the top of John Rock looking east toward Looking Glass Rock. It’s one of our favorite spots to experience the amazing green-carpeted mountains of the Pisgah National Forest. A group of girls, led by Emily and Christina, backpacked and camped in the forest Monday night (tents, backpacks, water bottles, camping stoves to cook dinner and breakfast, etc.), and on the way back hiked to John Rock for this view. Their hike brought them through Cat Gap, which touches the Art Loeb trail, and looped back to the Pisgah Fish Hatchery… for a total of about 6 miles. I heard they had an overnight rain shower, but as you can see it was sunny and fair in the morning for the hike out, capping off an excellent trip.

Alice Banquet

Alice Banquet Title and ProgramThe end-of-session Banquet is a huge deal at Rockbrook, something that everyone, from the youngest first-time camper to the most senior staff member, looks forward to. The element of surprise drives this to some extent, since the Banquet’s theme is kept secret, but it’s also a marvelous experience to attend, one filled with colorful wall panels, table decorations, choreographed dancing by live characters, special food, and dance music.

The planning for each session’s banquet begins long before the girls arrive at Rockbrook. In fact, for girls who attend camp every summer, it can be a topic of discussion years before they even become “CA” campers, 9th graders, the age-group given the task of presenting this end-of-session party. Many of these girls have grown up attending RBC Banquets, seeing what the CAs before them have done, so when it’s their turn, they are full of ideas.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee CharactersMad Hatter Character in Alice BanquetThe CAs this session decided to make their banquet an Alice in Wonderland theme, titling it “Down the Rabbit’s Hole” and featuring decorations and characters based on the well-known novel by Lewis Carroll, and the Disney animated film adaptation of the book. The decorations were phenomenal! Every wall of the dining hall was covered with a unique poster painted with a scene of character from the story. There were over-sized and regular playing cards hung among strands of lights, curtains, and fabric. On each table, there were paper mushrooms, plenty of candy, more playing cards, top hats, small bottles of bubble solution, and souvenir red cups. Here’s a short video to get a sense of the detail of these decorations and the amount of time and energy it took these girls to paint and set up the entire dining hall.

The costumes were amazing as well. Several of the counselors dressed as main characters: Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the Dodo Bird, while the campers became Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Caterpillar, the King and Queen of hearts, the Door Mouse, and the March Hare. The combined effect of these characters greeting the campers as they came through the red curtain into the now unrecognizable dining hall was magical. The girls, especially the youngest Juniors, had such looks of astonishment when they first realized the theme and took everything in.

Cheshire Cat costume at Alice in Wonderland BanquetAlice and Caterpillar costumes for banquetThe program included a series of skits and dances enacting scenes from Alice’s adventures alternating with courses of food. They served chocolate chip scones after Alice descended the Rabbit’s Hole and met Tweedledee and Tweedledum, cheesy bread sticks after the Cheshire Cat appeared, and fancy small sandwiches when Alice saw flowers dancing in the garden. Cupcakes decorated like mushrooms topped off the meal, followed by cards dancing with the Queen of Hearts. In between program events, the campers, all dressed in this year’s RBC t-shirt, were invited to get up and dance to some of there favorite pop songs from the summer.

“You always remember your first Banquet,” a couple of Seniors told me today. And everyone agreed after tonight’s; this was one of the best banquets that everyone here won’t soon forget. It was awesome. Thank you CAs for all your hard work!

Alice Banquet Dancers Banquet Dance of the Cards

Cast of Allice in Wonderland Banquet

A Recipe for Community

Creativity DancersOne feature of camp life at Rockbrook that makes it so special, so meaningful for the girls and indeed for everyone here (counselors, adventure guides, kitchen and maintenance staff alike), is the strong sense of community we all enjoy. It’s a really cool thing to experience. As we all share so much together- eating, playing, making, singing, the outdoor environment, even the weather -we grow closer everyday. Combine that full-time shared experience with non-stop fun activities and events led by caring, admirable role models, and mix in time for heartfelt conversations with people who are relaxed and being their “true selves,” and our recipe for community takes shape. It’s this sense of community- inclusive, noncompetitive, caring, compassionate and kind- that forms the core of Rockbrook’s philosophy. And there is real, significant power in this kind of community; experiencing it teaches us how to be positive and brings out our best. So when your daughter returns home after camp talking about her friends and how much fun she had, you’ll also know why she’s feeling so good about herself, is a better communicator, and is more positive and responsible. Rockbrook has become her community, her camp.

Horseback Summer Camp GirlCamp Girl Aiming a RifleHave you heard about the freshly baked muffins that Katie, our awesome baker, makes for us each day? Between the first and second activity periods each morning, Katie surprises the camp with a different flavor of muffins, and she’s not shy about trying unique, almost off-the-wall varieties. Today for example, she presented Blackberry Mint with Chocolate sprinkles. Earlier in the week, she made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, and Banana Streusel flavors to balance more traditional muffins like Blueberry and Lemon. It’s no wonder that “Muffin Break” is a favorite time of the day.

Down at the rifle range, the girls have been blasting the black through stacks of paper targets. With coaching from Leah, Deanna and Cliff, and now with two new, perfectly sighted Marlin rifles, there are very excited young marksmen down there shooting. Some of the girls have been scoring in the 40s (a bullseye is 10 points and 5 bullets are shot per target), proud of their developing riflery skills.

At the Rockbrook equestrian center, there are girls learning to walk, trot, canter and jump their horses, sharpening their horseback riding skills everyday. For both the complete beginners and the more advanced riders, there are just the right lessons, horses and instructors ready to go. The recent sunny, dry weather has made it ideal for the horseback riding team to keep everyone involved riding, and caring for the horses during the “Stable Club” meetings.

Girls Camp Dance Costume Summer Camp Girls dancing at costume party All Girl Summer Camp Party

One way to make a dance party fun is to encourage dressing up, but perhaps surprisingly, it can be even more fun if it’s a girls only affair. That’s exactly what we did tonight when our friend “DJ Dawg” Marcus came over to mix music for us in the gym for a costume dance party. With no boys around, with nobody to scrutinize or be scrutinized by, the girls can dress a little sillier, truly cut loose on the dance floor, and scream as loud as they want when their favorite song starts. All girls means all smiles and no nerves. It means dancing simply for the pure joy of it. This kind of dance is a great way to learn dance moves too- how to whip your hair, “Cha Cha Slide,” and shake it all over, hands in the air. By the end of the night, we were all a little hot and sweaty, but felt good having had this much fun together.

All Girl Dance at Summer Camp

Back to School

Camp Lake Swimming

This time of year, as we head back to school and the memories of our time at camp can seem far away, it’s a good idea to reflect upon some of the important habits and skills we learned during our stay at Rockbrook, and to realize how important they can be throughout the rest of the year.  But what are some of those values? What are some of the surprising things camp taught us that can still serve us well at school?

At Rockbrook this summer we learned:

—things are more fun when we include everyone
—you can be creative with just about anything
—making friends is easy when we respect and care for each other
—everything is better in a costume 🙂

Of course there are a lot of other ways camp helps kids grow too.

Peg Smith, the CEO of the American Camp Association, also wants kids to remember what they learned at camp, in particular the “Three Cs” — Confidence, Curiosity, and Character. Pack all these great things in your school backpack. You know camp is awesome; now make that true for school too!

Safari Banquet

Welcome to the Safari Banquet! After weeks of planning and plenty of hard work preparing, tonight the senior line CA campers and their counselors presented the second session banquet. On the very first day of camp they debated and selected a surprise theme for the banquet, and finally it was time reveal it to the whole camp. They chose to make the entire experience a safari, a rich jungle of animals, exotic birds, wild plants, trees and vines. Using paint, paper and a few props, the whole dining hall was transformed so that in every direction you’d see safari animals— lions, zebras, baboons, giraffes —and scenery. The green tables and chairs of the Rockbrook dining hall fit right in. Just guessing, there were probably sixty or so different painted panels lining the walls. The centerpiece was a wrecked jeep, complete with real tires and working headlights (flashlights). No wonder it takes all session to prepare for this night!

Safari Camp Banquet Campers enjoy camp banquet Banquet camper dressed in monkey costume
 Camp Banquet Girls Lion costume girl at camp banquet Dancing at camp safari banquet

The CAs really designed some amazing, creative costumes as well. Their goal was to create a magical experience for the other campers, making elaborate costumes and characters a big deal. There were monkeys, a couple of lions, birds, a zebra, elephant, a lemur, hippo and gazelle. During the meal, the CAs also presented a series of skits, a multi-act play really, that included music and dances. It told the story of a family on a safari, and how after being split up, the animals and a native group help them reunite. This was a very large group of CAs, so there were plenty of parts of play.

For the menu, they served “Slippery Snake Mozzarella Sticks,” Serengeti Salad,” “Lion’s Mane Spaghetti,” and “Jungle Dirt Bucket.” Of course, there was more than enough candy scattered around on the tables, and in each camper’s souvenir cup too. It was probably hard to eat the spaghetti while chewing a tootsie roll or sucking on a lollipop, but I’m sure no one was hungry by the end!

The evening begins with the CAs in the dining hall, dressed in costume and surrounded by the fruits of their incredible hard work, and all the rest of the campers outside, dressed in their Rockbrook T-shirts. When it was time to let the first cabin of girls enter, the CAs literally erupted with excitement. It had been building for so long, finally they could cheer and jump up and down with each other. Then, with music blasting, the campers crawled through a “starry night” tunnel to emerge into the jungle (dining hall) with all its colorful animals. Here too, it was one big cheer with smiles and surprised amazement from everyone.

Toward the end of the banquet, the oldest cabin groups (the CAs and Hi-Ups) presented songs and toasts to their counselors, and vice versa, the counselors to their campers. This became quite emotional as the songs expressed the friendship and feelings the girls now share after this great session.  It’s tradition for the whole camp to sing a few camp songs (e.g., “Rockbrook Camp Forever”) at the close of the banquet as well.

This was simply a terrific night, one I’m sure you’ll hear more about from your daughter.

Oh Yea It’s Fun!

Fun Activities for Camp CounselorsBeing a camp counselor at Rockbrook is a lot of things. It’s a job that requires you to be a well-rounded mentor, someone who is part friend, part older sister, part parent, and part teacher. It means wearing lots of hats, cheerfully accepting a wide range of responsibilities. It definitely requires hard work, creativity, patience and stamina. The pace of camp life is full speed!

But perhaps surprisingly, for the counselors at Rockbrook, working at camp is also unbelievably fun. This is because our staff members simply love being around kids. They enjoy helping the campers with their activities, participating along the way. They get a huge kick from dressing up, singing songs, playing games, and generally being pretty silly— just like the campers. Cannonball off the diving board? You bet. Trip down the slip ‘n slide? Oh yes. Wear a Super Hero costume to dinner. Definitely. Rockbrook counselors are the kind of people who wouldn’t think of passing up a chance to join the girls in whatever they’re doing.

That’s why it’s such a blast to work at camp. It’s nonstop action. It’s being right smack in the middle of a hugely fun time for everyone.

"My Favorite Memories" Jill Purcell

The fabulous CA's waiting to greet surprised campers
The fabulous CA’s waiting to greet surprised campers

“Camp is a place to make countless unforgettable memories. You will often find, both Rockbrook campers and staff start stories with the phrase, ‘this one time, at camp’.

While I’ve made several wonderful memories this summer, one memory in particular that will stay with me always was the 24 hour period in which my campers, co-counselor and I set up and carried out 3rd session’s banquet.

Every wall of the dining hall was covered in theme posters like this one

Banquet is a HUGE deal to not only the CA’s ( the older campers who come up with the theme, plan and run the banquet) but to the entire camp. Personally, I wanted to do anything I could to help my campers put on the best banquet in Rockbrook history! The night before Banquet, my campers and I worked through our exhaustion by rockin’ out to Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga, etc., as well as maintaining a sugar rush from cookie dough and candy. The look on the girls’ faces after they had finished setting up was priceless – they were amazed with all that they had accomplished, as was I. Banquet itself was a great success and I was extremely proud of my fabulous CA’s. Every memory I’ve shared with them was unforgettable but Banquet was an especially great memory.”

ceiling decoration
The ceilings were decorated, too.