The “Extra” in the Ordinary

Tetherball Camp GameAn ordinary morning at camp is always extraordinary in some surprising way. It’s ordinary because the structure is predictable: rising bell and cabin chores, breakfast, morning assembly in each Line’s (age group’s) Lodge, the first activity period, muffin break (yum!), a second activity, and then an hour of free time, all before lunch. This is the schedule that moves our girls from place to place throughout the camp, some stretching into a yoga pose while others flexing their arms learning to roll a whitewater kayak in the lake, for example. All about the camp, our schedule makes outdoor adventure, sports, horseback riding and crafts available for the campers. What’s extra-ordinary are the details of this outline and what each camper feels throughout the day. It’s the heart-pumping thrill of climbing Castle Rock, or the satisfaction of being one of the last players in a game of Gaga. It’s befriending a special horse, or seeing a complex weaving pattern emerge on the loom. It could be a day hike to a new waterfall, your best hit of the tetherball, or a ride on our 450-foot zipline. What’s most extraordinary though about our ordinary days at camp are our companions. It’s the great girls, the inspiring, friendly counselors and the caring relationships knitting us together. The camaraderie of camp, no matter what the activity, makes it special.

Hiking View up HighIf you go northwest about 12 miles from camp, and climb 3,700 feet in elevation, you reach one of the highest mountains east of the Mississippi River, Black Balsam Knob. Taking further advantage of the fantastic weather we’ve been enjoying, Clyde led a group of campers on a day hike this morning up and over this mountain. The drive up first takes you to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a wonderful scenic road that stretches for 469 miles through the southern Appalachian mountains between Virginia and North Carolina. The trail began by twisting through an old grove of balsam fir trees, but soon popped out into the open with grass and rock outcroppings covering the hillside. At the summit where there are no trees, the view was spectacular sloping off in all directions. This elevation, high above everything nearby (even many of the clouds in the sky), makes the distant mountains look like a green marbled carpet, and with very little wind today, the sun seemed especially warm and bright. This is an other-worldly place that’s both thrilling and memorable.

Block Party HorseInstead of regular activity periods this afternoon, since it was Wednesday, we held “Cabin Day,” in this case all-age-group, special events. The Middler Line turned “country” and threw a “Southern Block Party” complete with painted decorations (e.g., a poster that simply read “More Butter!” and another, “Run Forest Run”), silly snacks like Cheetos and iced tea to drink, and games like the corn hole and bobbing for apples. Counselors and campers dressed up in overalls, straw hats, and boots. Two special guests, Cool Beans and Cloud Nine, two of our white ponies, also attended, happily ready to have the girls paint them with colorful hand prints (using easily washable paint). They had country music playing and several line dances soon sprung up, keeping it all pretty silly, but also great fun for the afternoon.

Swim Girls in NC Sliding Rock NC Girls

Ice Cream Teens at CampMeanwhile all the Senior Line girls and their counselors took a trip to Sliding Rock. We started with a picnic in the Pisgah Forest and afterwards played a huge game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” (a name game that sends everyone dashing across a circle of people). This was a fun way to digest our food a bit before hitting the icy water of Looking Glass Creek that flows over the Rock. Enthusiasm for this plunge down a natural water slide seems to never wane. Even tonight with slightly cooler than normal weather, these Senior girls loved it. For over an hour, slide after slide made for splashing, screams, shivering and a few blue lips, but also the kind of enthusiastic smiles that are hard to beat.

To “warm up” on the way home, we stopped at Dolly’s Dairy Bar for a cone of what many campers describe as “the best ice cream in the world!” Some girls ordered “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” or some other “camp flavor,” while others stuck to traditional favors like strawberry or soft-serve vanilla. Everyone found something sweet to enjoy. Energized, and at least a little warmed up, we had fun singing “Peel the Banana” and other songs, posing for a few group photos, and simply having grand evening together.

The Breadth and Depth of Camp

Camp girls exploring a waterfallIn yesterday’s post I was struck by the abundance of activity at camp, the simple fact that a sleepaway summer camp like this has so many things occurring simultaneously. We saw that there is zipping and stretching, riding and shooting, jumping and flipping, knot tying and plenty of decorating. And of course these are just some of the clear examples that stand out from the more day-to-day routines of camp life. Think of all the conversations, the songs being sung, the meals prepared and enjoyed… all the materials and supplies. Throughout the day, we are all trucking up and down the hills of Rockbrook, negotiating the rocks and roots that define each path through the woods. There are trips to the cabin to change for Free Swim, down to the gym for a game of Ga-Ga, and up from the lower pottery studio. We have the rush of falling water all around us, the cheers of excited groups of girls, and the regular tone of our 100-year-old bell marking the change of activity periods. Also most days, girls are leaving camp on trips for kayaking one of the local rivers, for hiking in the Pisgah National Forest or the nearby Dupont State Forest (like High Falls in the photo above). From the earliest moment of the day to the last giggle at night before drifting off to sleep, there is a true breadth of experience at camp. It’s an incredibly rich life we lead at Rockbrook.

Girls having fresh muffinsBut anchoring that breadth is a more fundamental dimension of experience, a depth that makes all the daily action of camp more meaningful.

The depth of camp experience rests firmly on the positive relationships we enjoy among all the members of this tight-knit community. There is a collective spirit here that inspires everyone to be kind, generous and compassionate, to respect and care for each other. It’s an ethos defining our culture and community, a basic attitude— Sarah calls it a “sweetness” —that leads naturally to encouragement and support for those around us. That’s the depth of camp. That’s the “Spirit of Rockbrook” that makes everything we do better.

I saw a wonderful example of this spirit at work tonight when we took our Mini Session Middlers and Seniors on a trip to Sliding Rock. We first hauled everyone up into the Forest for a picnic of hotdogs, Rick’s homemade cole slaw, chips and peaches. Then after each cabin group and their counselors finished eating, we held a massive game of elbow tag in a grassy field. As they raced from pair to pair, the “cat” chasing the “mouse,” the girls were so supportive, cheering and clapping for each other. It was a game completely free of criticism and competition, played simply for the fun of it. Some runners were faster and others slower. There was plenty of silly confusion, but what mattered was how much fun everyone was having together.

Girls grinning on sliding rockThen at Sliding Rock, the girls did it again. Filled with excitement, they took turns stepping into the chilly mountain water and sliding in pairs or threes down the rock. Almost instinctively they held hands to support each other during the wild, squeal-inducing ride. Each trip evoked laughter and encouragement from the other girls watching, making the whole experience really great, and proving once again how much they enjoy doing things together.  You can’t help but be proud of these girls! Be sure to check out the photo gallery of this event. There are several really great shots.

Girls Grimacing on Sliding Rock

We topped off the whole evening with a stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar so everyone could enjoy a cup or cone of their wonderful ice cream. Cold rushing water and a frozen sweet treat on summer night; that’s pretty good stuff. But together with all these wonderful friends, it’s the best.

Camp Kids eating Ice Cream at Dolly's Dairy Bar

It’s Jug Band!

Kids make tie-dye t-shirts at summer campWhen girls select the craft activity we call “Hodge Podge,” they learn what could be described as a camp tradition: how to make a tie-dye t-shirt. Made popular in the 1960s, but before that practiced in West Africa for centuries, tie-dying found its way to summer camps. And judging by all the stripes, swirls and ribbons of color seen on t-shirts around camp, that tradition of using dye to decorate clothing is clearly still strong at Rockbrook. The process starts by soaking your cloth (usually a t-shirt, but anything cotton will do… Socks, bandannas, or pillow cases, for example) in a solution of urea which helps keep the cloth damp when the dye is applied. Next the cloth is twisted, folded or tied with rubber bands into repeating patterns like spirals, v-shapes, or bullseyes. Then, using plastic squirt bottles, you carefully drip different water-based colored dyes onto the cloth. After a day of letting the dye “set,” is very exciting to untie the cloth and discover how the dyes have blended and been absorbed differently where the rubber bands were tight. As you can see from this photo, the result are eye-popping!

Kids Summer Camp Canoeing TripThis morning Andy and Emily led a group of campers on a canoe trip down a short section of the French Broad River. This river has its headwaters near the town of Rosman (still in Transylvania County, where Brevard is the county seat) not far from camp, and as it slowly grows in size, it passes by the Rockbrook Camp property adjoining several of our horseback riding pastures. This is very convenient because it allows us to begin a canoe trip upstream, and, as was the case today, paddle to a point on camp property to take out. There are several public places to put on the river so we can run a shorter or longer trip depending on the skills of the paddlers and the amount of time we have available. Today the girls had excellent sunny weather and spent a good hour and a half out on the water. The French Broad ultimately forms the Tennessee River, and from there leads to the Ohio, and finally the Mississippi River. So I suppose if we had enough time (i.e., probably a few months), Rockbrook girls could start at camp and paddle all the way to New Orleans!

Young kids happy at summer campAnother event at Rockbrook that has become a tradition is a visit to the local ice cream stand known as “Dolly’s Dairy Bar” or just “Dolly’s” for short. I would guess every child in the area, certainly all the children at Rockbrook, believes Dolly’s has “the best ice cream in the world,” as one camper assured me. So it’s a big deal to stop and sample one of the unique flavors offered, flavors named after the 20 or so nearby summer camps. For example, there is “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” “Falling Creek Fantasy,” “Green River Plunge,” and so forth. Each of these camp flavors is a different combination of ice cream and toppings already mixed in, and they are wonderful. Today after lunch we took two cabins of Junior campers to Dolly’s and had a grand time sitting outside licking our cones and posing for photos (often with freshly signed— by Dolly herself —stickers). Ultimately, the idea of making an “ice cream mustache” caught on and got a little messy, but that’s the kind of fun that’s easily cleaned up with a few napkins in the end.

Campfire mountain music songsOur evening program tonight was something we call “Jug Band,” an all-camp campfire that included live music and costumes in the spirit of traditional, though in a “Hee-Haw” inspired way, Appalachian culture. The counselors and campers dressed in their best overalls, straw hats, and flannel, braided their hair in pigtails, and painted freckles on their cheeks to complete the look. With three guitars, a banjo, ukelele and plenty of makeshift instruments like shakers and other “jugs” to play, we enjoyed a program of sing-a-long songs punctuated by jokes and short skits. “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountian,” “Mountain Dew,” and “Wagon Wheel” were the clear favorites, even inspiring some dancing as well as singing. With the crickets chirping along and the occasional bullfrog from the lake contributing a note now and then, the whole camp sounded great. Great camp fun, and an excellent way to end the day.

Costumes and Silliness at costume campfire

It’s Good Like That

Muffin Camp KidsThis photograph was taken this morning during “Muffin Break,” that time between our first and second activity periods when just about everyone in the camp treks to the dining hall porch to grab a freshly baked muffin. And yes, it truly is everyone in camp— campers, counselors, activity instructors, and directors alike. The muffins are just that yummy. Muffin Break happens at 10:45am, just about the time when a little snack feels particularly good. The flavor, of course, is a surprise. One day it might be something traditional like Lemon Poppyseed, and the next, a strange flavor like Chocolate Chocolate Chip. It’s perfectly normal late in the morning to ask someone, “Hey what’s the muffin flavor?” even if you might guess from the delicious smell drifting out of the kitchen. Today, our excellent baker Katie, wowed us all with her banana muffins. It’s a pretty good bet your girls will be talking about muffins after camp!

Have you written a letter to your Rockbrook girl yet? Please remember that everyone here loves receiving mail, and handwritten, “old-fashioned,” paper letters are the best. Sure you can pound out a quick email, but nothing beats a thoughtfully written letter from home. Here is the info you need to stay in touch.

Kayaker Camp KidYesterday, I wrote about how whitewater rafting is popular at camp, but it’s also true that whitewater kayaking is gaining steam. This can largely be attributed to the fine instruction provided by Leland Davis and Andria Baldovin Davis. Leland and Andria have worked with Rockbrook for the past four summers both as raft guides and expert kayaking instructors. They are both veteran whitewater boaters having paddled all over the world and literally “written the book” on whitewater kayaking in America. They are also great with the girls… kind and encouraging, patient and enthusiastic, consistently successful inspiring even the youngest girls to love kayaking. It’s neat to see so many girls at camp digging into this more technical adventure activity.

Sliding Rock Kids CampThe big trip of the day gathered all of the Senior Line girls (the 7th, 8th and 9th graders) and combined three events in one, a triple treat for an evening of food, games, an exhilarating mountain pastime, and a sweet dessert. The first stop for our convoy of five buses was a picnic dinner of hotdogs and all the trimmings up in the Pisgah Forest. We ate and then spent some time playing “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” in a grassy field. Akin to musical chairs where one chair is missing, this game gets everyone dashing about when they have something in common. It’s a fun way to digest a bit before the next stop— sliding rock. Here again, the “refreshing” mountain water common to these parts makes this natural water slide (It’s about 60 feet long with a deep pool at the bottom.) all the more exciting. Most of the girls took several rides down the rock, and as it began to get dark, and rain a little, we all packed up to drive down the hill to Dolly’s Dairy Bar located at the entrance to the Forest.

Sure, we were cold. Sure, we were wet. But that’s not enough to keep us from enjoying our favorite flavor of ice cream from Dolly’s. It’s too delicious, and we were having too much fun to miss this perfect way to end the evening. I do remember turning up the bus’s heat on the drive back to camp. Life at camp in the mountains. It’s good like that.

Ice Cream Kids Camp

Top 10 Reasons Every Rockbrook Girl Misses Camp

Every Rockbrook girl knows the bittersweet feeling that comes along with leaving camp at the end of the session.  We’ve had such an awesome time meeting new friends and trying new things, and leaving it all behind seems impossible.  The friends and memories made keep camp on our minds all year long.  We all know the truth behind the words, “The summers fly by, but the winters drag on.”  So, in an attempt to lessen the pain of being “campsick”, this is an ode to every Rockbrook girl who misses her days in the heart of the wooded mountain.

The Top 10 Reasons Every Rockbrook Girl Misses Camp

simple creek

1. Simple Days

I know what you must be thinking- camp isn’t SIMPLE!  No way!  We do fun things all day and wear crazy costumes to lunch and paint our faces and dance in the dining hall!!  Allow me to clarify: camp is really the only place where having fun is our main job.  We don’t have to worry about finishing our homework, making it to basketball practice on time or keeping up with our Facebook page.  It’s nice to escape the pressures of home and just enjoy ourselves.  At Rockbrook, time slows down, life is easy, we find fulfillment in the simple things — wearing crazy costumes, painting our faces, and dancing our hearts out.
 

muffins

2. Muffins by Katie

Our awesome baker, Katie, is the best of the best, the cream of the crop, at the top of the totem pole when it comes to making muffins.  Whether it’s a fancy mint chocolate chip recipe or a more simple funfetti or blueberry muffin, we can’t get enough!  Katie’s muffins are just what we need after first period, and muffin withdrawals are no joke after we leave camp.  Check out this video that shows just how important muffin break is at Rockbrook.

For EB

3. Counselors like this

We all know what it feels like to have that counselor.  You know the one I’m talking about — she makes you feel special because she truly cares about you.  She’s interested in you and is there to make your camp experience the best she can.  She’s cool because she understands that camp is cool.  She’s like a fun older sister, like the most awesome baby sitter you’ve ever had.  Most importantly, she’s a role model and a friend.

girls-friendship-bracelets

4. Friendship bracelets
Chevron.  Twist.  Totem pole.  Diamond.  Ladder.  No matter how old we are, making friendship bracelets is a hobby enjoyed by Rockbrook girls far and wide.  We spend countless hours at camp making bracelets for our friends.  The only thing better than receiving a friendship bracelet is giving one.  Free swims and twilights spent on the hill making friendship bracelets are when we make some of our best memories- memories that stay with us long after our bracelets fall off.

sophie dolly's

5. Dolly’s Ice Cream

I’d be lying if it weren’t included on the list.  I’ve heard Rockbrook girls describe Dolly’s as the “best ice cream place in the world” on more than one occasion.  Whether you choose to order our very own flavor, Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion, or to go a different route, chances are you won’t be disappointed.  There’s no doubt that Rockbrook girls are missing Dolly’s this time of year.

little jrs

6. Friends like these

Camp friends are the best friends.  Ask any Rockbrook girl, and she will tell you that this is true.  It is because at camp we get to know one another for who we really are.  The relationships that we form are based on real feelings, not on superficial things.  At camp, it doesn’t matter what brand our new shoes are, or if we have the coolest new cell phone.  It doesn’t matter if we are big or small, tall or short.  What matters is how we treat people, how we make them feel.  Camp friendships are built to last a lifetime.

laughing

7. The songs

“Are you a camel, a good looking camel, and say, have you got a hump?”

“The rosy mist of the morning, veil it anew at dawn, like a fairyland of beauty…”

“I wish I was a honosorarius a ratamatatamy, a ha-ha-ha.”

“(Insert all lyrics to Oh I Was Born here)”

Yes, the Rockbrook songs are filled with silly lyrics like these.  We all know that we’ve randomly started singing these songs at home or at school on more than one occasion.  There’s nothing like singing along to a good Rockbrook song in the dining hall or around the campfire.

grace and elley

8. Moments like this

Camp is silly.  Camp is carefree.  Camp is FUN.  Ask any Rockbrook girl where her happy place is, and I bet she thinks back to a moment like this.  A moment in which nothing matters but the present and time stands still.

harlem shake

9. The Rockbrook (Harlem) Shake

Things like this happen at Rockbrook.  A lot.  They are wild and magical and unheard of everywhere else.  We miss having the opportunity to dress up in crazy costumes and dance with all of our friends.  This video of the Rockbrook Shake reminds us just how wonderful camp is.

spirit fire

10. The Spirit of Rockbrook is real and we know it

There is a feeling that we get as Rockbrook girls — one that we can’t really describe.  A feeling of belonging, a feeling of certainty, a feeling of self-worth.  It’s this feeling that causes us to miss each other throughout the year, that causes us to yearn for the days of summer.  We know it’s real, because we’ve never felt a love like this.  It’s this feeling that assures us that no other camp is like our own, that no other place can do for us what this one has.  It’s the Spirit of Rockbrook, and it’s with us always.

Inspirational Fun

Summer Camp ShowersThe other day, I overheard a couple of campers claiming the strangest thing. “I used Wonder Woman! and I used Beyoncé,” they said. Apparently there are girls also using Michelle Obama, Joan of Arc, Pocahontas, and the Queen of England.  “How?” you ask? Well, these are the names of our showers this year.  On all three lines, the counselors have chosen to name each shower for a strong, powerful woman. You can see the Middler line showers in this photo. Mostly this is just for fun, but also I suspect, as is true for a lot of the fun at camp, there’s inspiration and imagination to be found as well. Playful ideas like this make even something ordinary— like a shower stall —so much better.

Muffin Break! That’s the time between the first and second activity periods when everyone at camp enjoys a delicious, often warm, muffin freshly delivered from Katie’s oven in the kitchen. It’s always a surprise to find out the morning’s flavor because Katie is a master at creating one-of-a-kind combination flavors. Today she wowed us with “Banana Pudding,” a muffin reminiscent of banana bread but, like a bowl of pudding might be served, with a vanilla wafer poking out the top. So Yummy! Thinking about tomorrow’s flavor, I wonder what that case of Nutella I saw being delivered will be for…

Learning to throw clay on a potter's wheelAfter making plenty of clay pinch pots, rolling coil after coil, and carefully slipping together slabs of clay to make sculptural vessels, girls taking pottery are next excited to learn how to throw on the wheel. The first step is to dress in a white apron (spinning cray and water can throw off a spray) and sit down on a bench behind the electric wheel with your foot on the pedal control. That pedal allows you to adjust how fast the wheel spins. With a ball of clay ready, the next challenge is centering it on the wheel. This can take some practice to get just right. Once you open up the center of the spinning clay and slowly pull up the walls— steady hands here — you feel a great sense of accomplishment because you’re really using the wheel. Trimming the base of the piece is the last step, releasing it from the wheel and placing it proudly on the shelf to begin drying. Both of our pottery studios have girls making these strides, quickly becoming more adept at these advanced ceramics skills.  Cool stuff!

Tonight all of the Middler campers took a trip out of camp to one of our favorite picnic areas in the Pisgah Forest, to Sliding Rock, and to Dolly’s Dairy Bar to top it off.  This is a big exciting event that brings together 61 campers, 22 counselors, 4 lifeguards, 3 vans, 3 buses, 2 camp directors, and 3 extra bus drivers, not to mention the picnic food and other necessities. The girls, dressed in their swim suits and water shoes, with towels flung over their shoulders, and loaded the vehicles for the quick ride into the forest. We arrived and had time before dinner for a huge game of “Ride That Pony” (a funny group song with dance moves). But the main event was our next stop, the always-thrilling Sliding Rock. This is a classic mountain experience that combines icy-cold water rushing down about 60 feet of smooth rock, and the perfect pool at the bottom for a soft (and extra chilly!) splash landing. For many of these Middler girls, this was their first visit to Sliding Rock, and from their screams of delight I think they loved it.

Girls at Sliding Rock Pair of girls going down sliding rock

Our final stop of the evening, Dolly’s Dairy Bar, never fails to get the whole bus screaming. I just have to put on the turn signal of the bus and the roar from the girls is powerful. Our entire crew made a line last night stretching from the window where you place your order, down and off the porch far along the edge of the parking area. Rockbrook always brings a crowd! It’s fun to see how many girls choose “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” or one of the other “camp flavors” for their cup or cone. When the ice cream is this delicious, it can be dark and you might have just been swimming in 58 degree water, but you will love it nonetheless. By the way, Dolly’s will be open on our Closing Day next week, yes, even early in the morning. You might want to plan on stopping. 😀

Camp girls happy to eat Dolly's ice cream

Terrific Trips

Let’s begin with breakfast, as we did this morning at 8:30am. Our Kitchen Manager and Head Chef, Rick, draws upon his 5 years of experience planning meals and cooking for Rockbrook (plus 9 years at other organizations) to surprise and delight us everyday with yummy meals. His goal is to provide healthy foods, made mostly from whole and natural ingredients (not pre-processed), that strike a balance between being “kid friendly” and “unfamiliar.” For example, this morning Rick started simply with hot scrambled eggs with yellow corn grits and fried country ham. But to mix it up a bit, Katie, our baker, brought out trays of homemade, freshly baked biscuits to go with the slightly sweet and spicy red-eye gravy Rick brewed (yes, it did have a little coffee in it!) as well. With orange juice, and a small bowl of fruit and yogurt from the breakfast bar, this was a complete— beyond complete —breakfast. And it was delicious! By the way, have you seen Rick in our video about the food at camp?

Camp kid eating a fresh muffin

You may have heard about the special snack we serve between the first and second activity periods each morning around 11am: freshly baked muffins. Katie tries to surprise us every day by alternating between traditional flavors like Lemon Poppy Seed or Pumpkin Chocolate Chip and more creative, one-of-a-kind recipes like Peach/Mango and Carrot/White Chocolate. It’s a big event to swing by the dining hall porch when the bell rings for “Muffin Break” and sample the day’s surprise flavor. Being able to catch up briefly with a friend before heading to a different activity, and to enjoy a soft, sweet muffin each day, is a wonderful Rockbrook moment we all love. When your girls return home in a couple of weeks, be sure to ask them what flavor of muffin was their favorite.

Camp horse named Hula Hoop

Here is one of the stars of the Rockbrook horseback riding program this summer. He’s Hula Hoop, an 18 year old Belgium Warmblood who comes to us from St. Andrews University and their Therapeutic Riding Program “Ride Like a Knight.” When he was younger, Hula was a top-ranked show horse competing in everything from Grand Prix to 3’6″ hunter shows. He’s won many top prizes, but for our girls, he’s a gentle, steady mount. Overall, we have 29 horses and ponies comprising the Rockbrook herd this summer. The girls are getting to know them in the stable club, grooming them and learning about other aspects of horse care, and then when it’s time to ride, friends with names like Hula, Lacy, Tony, Onyx, Gordon, or maybe Cool Beans are happy to oblige. Despite the rainy weather we’ve been having lately, Riding is still a popular activity at camp.

If you’ve looked at the map of Rockbrook, you’ve probably noticed that the French Broad River creates the western boundary of the camp. The French Broad begins in Rosman, NC when four creeks come together. From there, it travels more than 200 miles northeast and then west to Knoxville where it joins the Holston River to form the Tennessee River, which eventually flows into the Ohio River and the Mississippi. So, yes, you can launch a boat at Rockbrook and (after several miles of paddling!) come out in New Orleans.

Camp Girls Canoeing trip

This morning a group of Rockbrook girls set out in Rosman and paddled canoes 3 miles of that long journey. After pairing up and deciding who would paddle the bow and stern of the canoes, Emily reviewed for the group paddling strokes, cautioned everyone about avoiding trees along the edge of the river, and instructed them what to do if they tip over and end up in the water. Once underway, she also demonstrated how to cross from one side of the river to the other (“ferrying”) and how to stop in a calm area of water behind an obstacle (“catching an eddy”). As you can see from this photo, the weather was gorgeous and the girls spent the whole morning enjoying themselves on the water. Several of the girls commented that canoeing was their new favorite activity. It was that kind of perfect trip.

2 camp girls taking a ride down sliding rock

The entire Senior line, all 84 campers, took a different trip this evening. They loaded into buses and vans for a picnic in the Pisgah National Forest, a ride down Sliding Rock, and a cup or cone of their favorite flavor of Dolly’s ice cream. One highlight during the picnic was getting everyone to skip and play together in the grassy field. We must have played “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” for almost a half hour! At Sliding Rock, we found the water to be a little higher than usual (another indication of the wet weather these last weeks), but also a little colder too. That’s a big part of the fun though… the bone-chilling shock of icy water splashing up your back when you first sit down to slide. Plunging into the pool at the bottom and going under the water feels almost electric. It instantly evokes an urgent need to “get out of this water, NOW!” For some girls, this is fantastic fun, shivering, blue lips and all, while for others one trip down the rock is plenty. For everyone, this is the kind of mountain experience they look forward to at camp… likewise, for our stop at Dolly’s. This lovely ice cream stand, located at the entrance to the Pisgah Forest, serves more than 20 unique flavors of ice cream, combinations of ingredients really, named after each of the local summer camps. The Rockbrook flavor, for example, is called “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” and is chocolate ice cream, fudge, brownie bits, with peanut butter cups. Every camp flavor is different, so it can take a while just to read the menu! You might think that after freezing ourselves in the water at Sliding Rock we wouldn’t be interested in ice cream, but this is, as one camper put it, “the best ice cream on earth!” With ice cream to top it off, this was another terrific trip.

Camp Girls eating ice cream at Dolly's Dairy bar

One Silly Camp

Camp Girls being silly goofy

How silly can we be? Around here we enjoy answering that question on a daily basis. It’s another special aspect of camp; it encourages children to celebrate their goofy side, to forget briefly the personal decorum they so carefully guard, and which parents and teachers so urgently strive to form. Camp provides a license to relive the freedom of childhood experimentation, to twist things around, to feel good about letting your inner creative energy express itself however it may.  And significantly, being goofy at camp is something we do just for the fun of it, not to achieve some goal or to be recognized as “the best.” Around here, we— and yes, all of us campers, staff members and directors alike! —are quick to make a silly face for photos, to throw on a crazy costume, to take on a bizarre character in a skit, to sing a nonsense song during lunch, or perhaps bust into a wild dance move waiting for the dinner bell. All of this feels really good too.  It’s remarkable when there are this many fun-loving people together, all within a broad camp culture that inspires creative silliness. Sure we have our serious sides too, but I hope you can see why Rockbrook has has been called a goofy camp, and why we think that’s a very good thing!

Camp friends eating a fresh muffin

Did you know that everyday between the first and second activity periods, the entire camp converges on the dining hall porch for “Muffin Break?” It’s true, Katie, the Rockbrook Baker, begins each morning by baking a surprise flavor of muffin for everyone.  That means powering up her giant mixer, then scooping and baking 300 yummy treats. Her flavors are fun and creative (maybe a little silly?). For example, today she made “White Chocolate Chip and Apricot,” and other days she’s baked us “Confetti,” “Up-Side-Down S’mores,” “Key Lime Pie,” and a big favorite, “Pumpkin Chocolate Chip.” This is a wonderful treat, easily a favorite part of everyone’s day.

Girl proud of her weaving

One of the old (circa 1888) log cabins at Rockbrook is called “Curosty” and it is the home of our fiber arts activities. It’s wonderful to wander in during the day and see girls weaving, working away on several floor looms, tabletop looms, and lap looms, creating complex patterned material using yarns and strips of cloth. Kimberly, Carol and the other instructors are helping the girls this summer make headbands, bookmarks, straps, and large table mats. Weaving is such an ancient art, and in this historic cabin, it’s neat that these quite modern Rockbrook girls really take to it, ask great questions, are learning all the basic skills, and making some very cool projects. Weaving has always been an activity at Rockbrook, so it’s also neat to see it so popular even today.

Camp Girls canoeing down a river

Emily and Christina, two of the women on our adventure staff this summer, took a group of girls canoeing down the French Broad River this morning. With snacks packed (some of the morning’s muffins!) and all the necessary equipment loaded on a trailer, they put onto the river upstream from camp in Rosman, NC. This section of the river is just right for a leisurely paddle with its wide course, gentle curves and manageable current. There is also the occasional (class I) rapid to keep things exciting. Large trees line most of the river making it the perfect habitat for water birds like the Belted King Fisher, for example. The weather for today’s trip was ideal too. Cool air and warm sun made it an magnificent day on the water.

happy Sliding Rock girls
Sliding Girls

Since this afternoon was cabin day, a day when we switch gears from our regularly scheduled activities and instead do things together as cabin groups, we gathered all of the Senior cabins and took a gigantic trip to Sliding Rock. It was gigantic because when we added everyone up, this trip included 111 people! Like a train of white vans and buses, including a couple of cars for extra staff members, we drove our group into the Pisgah Forest for a picnic dinner and a few field games before arriving at the Rock. Zipping down a natural water slide formed by an icy mountain creek… Maybe freezing cold creek, would be more accurate … and plunging into a deep pool at the bottom might sound unbearable, but for the Senior girls tonight it was all thrills. Screams, splashing, chattering teeth, a few blue lips, but also wide, enthusiastic smiles were true to form all night.

The last stop for the evening was to “warm up” with a cone of Dolly’s ice cream, proclaimed by many campers as “the best ice cream ever!” This is a chance to try one the flavors named after the many camps in the area, like “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” or “Carolina Iceberg Blast.” Warmed and energized by this blast of sugary cream, we enjoyed singing the Senior Song, posing for a few photos, and having a grand time together.

Camp girls at Dolly's Dairy Bar