Fully Excited to Dance

water slide plunge
girl holding camp pottery glazed

Saturday is a great day to dig deeper into the activities at camp. It’s the final day of the current 3-day rotation of activities, and at this point in the session, the girls are showing not only a greater interest in what’s happening in each activity area, but also more competence. For example, in the two ceramics studios, it’s been a glazing party. The girls are taking their pottery pieces and carefully painting on different colored glazed, the sculptures, hand-built and wheel-thrown vessels all receiving a coat of glaze. The pottery instructors will fire the kilns tonight, turning the dull glazes into shiny, brightly colored works of art. It will be exciting to open up the kilns tomorrow afternoon and see how all the pieces have turned out.

In the fiber arts cabin, Curosty, many projects were likewise finishing up today. The instructors were helping girls tie off their loom weaving, sew borders on needlepoint pieces, and gather the ends of knitting projects. The large wall weaving on the outside of the cabin is almost filled to the top, and later this week many hands will help embroider details on it.

During the first free swim period today before lunch, the water slide was open to blast girls down into the lake at the bottom. Swimmers were clocking laps, some girls basking in the sun while floating in a tube, while others took turns doing tricks off the diving board. The bright, sunny, warm afternoon made the lake feel really good.

After a passing thunderstorm in the mid-afternoon, which by the way brought out a different beauty of camp, we all enjoyed a picnic dinner on the hill.  The kitchen had the grill going all afternoon smoking and cooking hot dogs for everyone.  Along with homemade coleslaw, freshly cut watermelon and “blondies” for dessert, we had an amazing meal watching the sun recede toward the mountains.

summer camp dance

One of the most anticipated events of the session also happened today: the Camp Carolina Dance. Our Juniors and Middlers stayed here at Rockbrook to welcome the younger boys to our gym where our friend DJ Marcus was ready with his sound and light system to entertain everyone. With the counselors leading the way, the kids jumped and bopped to familiar pop songs as well as the well-known line dances like Cotton Eyed Joe. When things got too hot dancing, folks could take a break outside, and play gaga ball or tetherball instead. Part way through the dance we served everyone a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. They were delicious!

Meanwhile across town, our Senior girls and the Hi-Ups were showing off their moves in the Camp Carolina dining hall. With glitter on their faces, and some dressed in Hawaiian shirts, the girls brought an amazing power to the dance, I think surprising the boys a little.  This may have been because the girls outnumbered the boys, but I think these Rockbrook girls were just fully excited to dance. Jumping for two hours, stopping only briefly for a drink of water now and then, it was a sweaty and equally thrilling night.  On the ride home several girls remarked that it was “so hot in there, but also really fun,” and “way better than last year!”

Back at camp, it took everyone a little longer than usual to settle down for night, chatting about the dance, cooling off from all the activity, laughing and telling stories about the day. With days like this, that’s to be expected!

dock at camp lake

3rd Session Video Note – Part Two

We’ve got one last highlights video to share!

It’s the latest from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Earlier this week, Robbie spent a day filming at camp, and with his skilled editing, has provided another fascinating glimpse into camp life.

Spend two minutes watching, and you’ll be amazed.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

2nd Session Video Note – Part Three

We’ve got another highlights video!

It’s the latest from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Late last week, Robbie spent a day filming at camp, and with his careful editing, has again produced a fascinating glimpse into camp life. You’ve seen the photos in our daily online gallery; now see (and hear) camp in action.

At less than 2 minutes, I think you’ll really enjoy watching.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

That Peculiar Sense of Adventure

Two of the most popular activities at camp are the shooting sports, archery and riflery. Most of the girls at camp are eager to try these traditional sports at least once during their session. Each has pretty cool equipment— real guns and real arrows! Each is novel and challenging but also achievable, with an inherent satisfaction (hitting the target). Also, both archery and riflery are skills the girls learn quite quickly, seeing real progress in their abilities after only a few days. They are so excited when their scores improve with practice, and when they shoot a bullseye, it’s a huge thrill! There’s a bullseye club for each sport too, and whenever a girl shoots one, the staff announces her name to the whole camp during a meal. And finally, there’s a long tradition at Rockbrook of the girls challenging the boys of Camp Carolina to an archery, riflery and tennis tournament at the end of the session. The top shooters join the RBC archery or riflery teams for the friendly competition. There’s a lot to like about the shooting sports at Rockbrook.

I saw a news story reporting that more than “70 million Americans are expected to endure temperatures above 95 degrees in next 7 days.” Yikes! Rockbrook, thankfully, has been spared that kind of heat thanks to our elevation and northwestern-facing location. If you take a look at our weather station, you can see that we are enjoying a normal summer of upper 60s at night and mid 80s during the day. Camp in the mountains of North Carolina is great!

girls holding up tie-dye t-shirts they made

We’ve seen the unveiling of incredible craft projects lately. These tie-dyed t-shirts, for example, are one of the best I’ve ever seen… swirls of deep color, each with a unique pattern. The same is true for pottery as the first kiln firings are being completed. Here too, it’s exciting to see how the process of finishing the pots combines with varying techniques of glazing to reveal a surprise work of art. The fiber arts cabin is producing especially amazing pieces. The girls are using all the the looms, from the wide floor looms to the lap looms, and showing real skill and creativity as they work on their weavings.

friends going down sliding rock

Just looking at Sliding Rock is intriguing. After all, it’s a natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it flows over 60 feet of a dome-shaped rock and into a pool at the bottom. From a distance it’s even inviting. It looks fun for people to slide down. But standing at the top of the slide, the “refreshing” water splashing on the back of your legs, and looking down, it can be a little frightening too. Tonight when we brought all of the mini session Middlers and Seniors, you could see it in their eyes, that peculiar sense of adventure that combines uncertainty, physical challenge, and excitement, all in a beautiful natural setting. The water level tonight was a little higher than normal, so this made the sliding even more of an acceleration toward the plunge at the bottom. The girls had a complete blast sliding several times (some went down six times!) until it was time to drive out of the forest for our final stop of the evening, Dolly’s Dairy Bar. If you don’t know about Dolly’s you will when you hear from your daughter. We take everyone at Rockbrook to this local ice cream stand at least once during their session. It’s that good. Most of our girls will be happy to tell you it’s the “best ice cream on earth.” Perhaps a quick stop at Dolly’s would be a good idea when you pick up your girls from camp. I guarantee that will be a welcome suggestion! 🙂

two girls waving before sliding rock

A Sense of Place

horse riding camper girl

These past few days, between the two July mini sessions, have allowed the full-session campers to dig deeper into various activities and spend a little more time honing their skills and knowledge of techniques. For example, down closer to the French Broad river where Rockbrook’s Riding Center is located, our young equestrians have been riding and working up to more advanced skills. The covered arena with its engineered footing (2 types of polyester fibers blended with a fine silica sand, and kept moist with regular watering) has been an ideal place for setting up cross rails and other vertical jumps for the girls. Some of the more popular horses, like Smoke, Snoopy and Rodin, have been working on the jumps with the girls. These are horses that train throughout the year at St. Andrew’s University, and are very good at trotting and cantering over poles, as well as experienced jumpers. They know exactly what to do when their rider approaches a jump, eager to clear it. It’s wonderful to see the smile on the girls’ faces as they zoom over the jumps.

counselor and camper working on weaving

The same is true for adventure activities. Climbers ventured off-camp to Looking Glass Rock for a day working on the climb called B-52, while kayakers tackled the more advanced section of the Green River. Even in the craft activities, the weavers finished edges, t-shirts were dyed with a new pattern, and the pottery folks learned more about throwing on the wheel. The friendship bracelet patterns are becoming more complex and the needlecraft projects more intricate.

On the other hand, these few days also seemed to take on a slightly more relaxed pace of life. With added familiarity came greater comfort, making moments of free time feel great. We seem to be hanging out more naturally and simply enjoying each other’s company. Instead of a race, we’ve discovered a sense of place. Instead of a goal, we’re taking a leisurely stroll.

jug band campfire

Tonight’s evening program was an all-camp campfire, but one with a silly theme— Jug Band. Inspired by aspects of Appalachian culture, but along the lines of the old TV show “Hee Haw,” the campers and counselors dressed in their mountain attire (flannels, overalls, bandannas), tied their hair in pigtails, and in some cases painted freckles on their cheeks. Even Sarah arrived dressed as “Sayrry,” a mountain granny wearing a long dress, carrying a walking stick, and a pet (rubber) rattlesnake. The program included group songs, skits, and folks taking turns telling jokes. We sang “Rocky Top,” “Sippin’ Cider,” “Mountain Dew,” “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” and others. There was a skit performed to the “Rooster Song.” All along, the girls played improvised “musical” instruments like shakers, cans, and other things to tap or bang. For jokes, we heard that you call a pig that knows karate “Pork Chop” and when a horse is being negative it’s a real neigh-sayer. With a nice campfire glowing with orange flames and the whole camp gathered around, it was a fun and amusing evening.

A Pioneer Sunday

The Sunday schedule at Rockbrook takes on a more relaxed pace. We sleep in a little extra, come to breakfast still in our pajamas (often with an extra layer given our cool mornings), and enjoy a special treat of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. We assemble on the hill to raise our flag, walk silently out into the woods for a chapel ceremony (today focused on the theme of “friendship”), and then enjoy a big Sunday meal. Today Rick had baked chicken, roasted potatoes, and a broccoli casserole, with blackberries and fresh whipped cream for dessert. It was delicious and kept the girls coming back for more chicken and potatoes.

camp sack relay race
butter making teens at camp
crooked pine band playing outdoors
Girl camps with sheep

Sundays are a chance for an all-camp surprise special event as well, and during rest hour many plans begin to unfold. And today was no exception because we had “Pioneer Day,” a multi-station event of exhibitions, costumes, games, crafts, rides, activities, food and music.

First the girls took this event as a chance to dress up, to don their bonnets, their simple dresses, boots, flannel shirts, overalls and bandanas.

Dressed and ready, groups of girls bopped along the tennis courts for sack race relays. They tested their skill tossing horseshoes, and had a grand time wrapping dozens of colorful ribbons to make a maypole.

One of the activities was making butter. Using real heavy cream and salt, the girls churned the cream in mason jars by shaking them for several minutes (about 10, I’d guess). When the butter started to clump and separate from the liquid (the buttermilk), the girls could`remove the butter, squeeze out any excess liquid and then eat the butter on a small homemade biscuit that the kitchen had baked for us earlier.

Another exciting and unusual activity was interacting with several live sheep and learning about wool sheering, carding and spinning. The campers loved petting the sheep and feeding them, laughing at their bleating.

There was a hay ride too! With our red tractor pulling, the girls could ride on a trailer loaded with bales of hay. The staff members had decorated the trailer and fashioned a few seats for the riders. Each round trip lasted about 10 minutes.

In the hillside lodge, two counselors used hot wax to show the girls how to dip candles. They had enough red and blue wax for everyone to make their own thin candle… many dips slowly building up. In the Goodwill cabin, two other counselors provided quill feathers and special tips so the campers could try writing with ink on paper.

Over the whole afternoon, the old time traditional music of the Crooked Pine Band kept everyone entertained. The band’s hometown is Brevard, so they are well known and popular around here, playing contra dances and concerts throughout the year. The girls had a great time dancing to the fiddle, guitar, banjo and upright bass, and later taking turns playing along on the washboard.

With fresh apple cobbler as a snack and lemonade to quench our thirst, we kept the event charged up all afternoon… true mountain fun in the mountains.

pioneer day special event

A Real Camaraderie

small camp girl kayaking in rapid

Our kayaking camp girls, the “Rockbrook Rapids,” just completed their week-long kayaking trip camp today with a run on the Upper Green River. Altogether this week they paddled the Tuckasegee, the Nantahala, the Broad, the Chattooga, and the Green. The group spent the night out a couple of times camping, and returned to camp the other nights. The water levels were high everywhere, but not too crazy, and with no rain all week— nothing but sunshine! —the trips enjoyed excellent boating conditions. It was fun hearing the excitement in the stories the girls told after arriving back at camp, accounts of specific rapids, odd things seen in the river (for example a picnic table and a swing set!), and the personal quirks that become funny when a group of girls spends this much time together. It was obvious that they were enjoying a real camaraderie as well as the thrill of all that whitewater. It was a great week of adventure.

We’re about a week into this first session, and to the experienced eye, it would be possible to guess that by measuring the number of finished craft projects appearing around camp.

There seem to be examples everywhere, and if it’s something that can be worn, then those colorful handmade crafts are now part of the landscape. Of course, almost every wrist has a friendship bracelet or lanyard adorning it, for example. I’ve also seen delicate and elaborate beaded necklaces coming from the jewelry making activity. Pottery is being glazed, and tie-dye t-shirts rinsed and dried for wearing. Woven placemats and potholders, cross-stitch designs, sequined headbands, leather bracelets, and knitted hats are now proud possessions (perhaps later gifts). The girls have also been painting small smooth stones, using acrylic paint to blend colors. They’ve been making post cards, ready now to be mailed home. You too will be impressed when you seen these crafts.

One quick reminder about mail… It’s a BIG deal to receive mail at camp. Everyday after lunch the girls check their mailboxes on the porch, ending up excited that they have something waiting for them, or a little disappointed that “maybe next time” they’ll have a card or letter to read during rest hour. You know the address, so keep that mail coming!

Camp is feeling really good. The girls are happy and engaged, excited and active. They are growing closer as friends, to each other and their caring counselors. There’s a daily enthusiasm for the simplest things, from muffin break to free swim. Friendly greetings punctuate every walk we take. A genuine community is taking shape with everyone involved. It’s beautiful to witness and a joy to share.

Camper Friendship

Fighting that Familiar Flicker

Backwards Day Campers

It’s Backwards Day! After dinner last night, during the regular time of announcements in the dining hall, Chase our program director surprised the girls by describing the creative challenge of being “backwards” the next day. Right away at breakfast this morning we saw the silly confusion of girls dressing backwards— t-shirts, shorts and hats worn in reverse… hairstyles too —braids running down foreheads, pony tails covering girls’ faces. The kitchen meals were reversed with burritos for the morning meal and breakfast foods (hash browns, bacon, eggs and fruit) for dinner. All around the camp, campers would suddenly walk backwards. Down at the rifle range, the instructor commanded, “Line the on ready,” and so forth. Back strokes at free swim, left-handed tetherball, and down-climbing at the Alpine Tower— there were small, inventive examples of being backwards all day long.

Meanwhile, the Hodge Podge craft activity was focusing on making tie-dye t-shirts in its classes. With squeeze bottles of brightly colored dye ready, the girls first folded and tied a white t-shirt into a chevron, bullseye, spiral or other pattern using rubber bands. Red, blue and yellow dyes, making shades of purple, orange and green, came next, the girls making decisions about how (which colors, where and how much) to apply them. In a few days, after the dye has time to set, it will be fun to unfurl the shirts, rinse them, and admire the colorful patterns created.

Archery pull girl

At the archery range, the girls were concerned with accuracy and precision rather than creativity. Like the target shooting at Riflery, the goal here is to remove variation and shoot the center of the target with each arrow. Practice, repetition, steady technique, and adherence to recognized protocols help focus the outcome (bullseye!). The most skilled archers are not creative when shooting; they are consistent.

Naomi, the head of our fiber arts program, tells me she has observed this contrast between creativity and consistency in the way campers approach craft projects. Some children want clearly defined steps, a recipe of sorts, to guide them through a project, while others want more open access to the materials and techniques, eager to play with options, make unexpected combinations, and literally venture outside the lines. She seemed to observe some campers being more immediately creative, while others more concerned with “getting it right.” At the same time, we both thought that everyone inherently has the ability to create. But like some muscles, some us are stronger at first and have developed that ability more effectively. There’s the notion that creativity is a force within all of us that we need only set free. And it’s a personal skill worth developing because it can serve us well when faced with new problems or other obstacles in the future.

There’s lots to say about the benefits of developing one’s creativity, and likewise how we might encourage our children to exercise their “creativity muscle,” but it’s worth noting that camp is the perfect place to do that. Everyday there are opportunities to create at camp. “What would you like to do?” is the question. All manner of practical and aesthetic decisions are made throughout the day. There’s time for exploring, and friends to accompany every new journey. Crucially, at Rockbrook there’s constant support and encouragement for trying new things, dressing up, and bold expressions, always without judgment or embarrassment. From acting in the play to evening cabin skits, and for so many more examples, there’s a freedom here to create, to give it a go “just for the fun of it.”

Also though, and this might be the most important factor, at camp there’s no electronic, passive entertainment. We put aside our screens, and thereby open up time to create. Without the seduction of that familiar flicker, camp provides kids the time, space and culture to encourage their creativity to burst out. In this screen-free environment, they can face a blank canvas and dive right in with paint, choose their own colors, and go boldly forward. They can feel more confident to explore what’s unfamiliar, and learn from the process no matter what the outcome.

Celebrating creativity… It’s a pretty fun habit! And good for us too!

Yoga pose kids