3rd Time’s the Charm

After a warm welcome from counselors on opening day, our campers were eager to dive into all the action of camp! Today everyone began their first rotation of activities. Twice a week, campers get to select what activities they would like to take for the following three day rotation. Over the course of a full session, a camper could try every single one of our 22 activities. While that makes it seem like camp is jam-packed and busy, our daily schedule actually has free time built in throughout the day. Free swims and twilights allow the campers to have extra time at the lake, time with their friends, or just a chance to shower! We want our campers to learn and experience new things at Rockbrook, dive deep into the camp community, but also have the time and space to explore on their own.

When campers take activities, they get to have time with campers and counselors from other cabins. All our cabin counselors teach along with a few specialists, who help with some more technical activities. For example, pottery, curosty (weaving), and folklore (mountain crafts) have specialists because these crafts require more skill, experience, and safety precautions. Campers are able to form relationships both in and out of the cabin because our counselors teach activities. Plus, the girls get to learn more specialized, unique crafts they may not learn at home thanks to our talented activity specialists.

upside down climbing girl
Hanging out at the alpine tower.

In addition to signing up for archery, jewelry making, and swimming, campers can audition for the play and take play practice as an activity. If you have been following the blog so far this summer, you already know the play this year is the Little Mermaid! The play is one of the most eagerly awaited events at camp, because the campers and play directors work all session towards their performance on the final day. Today, auditions began at 2nd free swim in the Hillside Lodge, and campers were lining up on the porch waiting for their chance to try out. At camp, anyone who tries out for the play gets a part—all you have to do is sing a song of your choice! The more the merrier is how we see it at camp; especially with the Little Mermaid, you can never have too many fish!

Our first full day of camp ended with excitement in the dining hall. After announcements, we played a round of Spin the Wheel! On the wall near the door to the kitchen in a white board wheel on which there are written various prizes. If a camper or counselor is lucky enough to be the last one standing after several elimination rounds (i.e. stay standing if you are wearing a friendship bracelet), then they may spin the wheel. Today, Senior 4 won Dress a Director, so tomorrow they will announce which director they want to dress up and when. Spin the Wheel is just one of the many fun surprises awaiting us this 3rd session. As they say, 3rd time’s the charm!

To conclude our blog, please enjoy this haiku from our Waterfront Director, Audrey:

First full day at camp 

Play auditions—sing a song!

Spin the wheel, spin the…

teen girl friends at camp
Enjoying free time with friends and flowers.

The Magic of Camp

Today campers began a new rotation of activities, and experienced a regular Monday at camp. While this may seem pretty unexciting, a typical day at camp is actually when that camp magic happens. Although adventure trips and special Rockbrook surprises are important and provide unique experiences for campers, there is something special and valuable about having a regular day of camp.

Tennis Playing camp girls

In activities, girls are able to connect with other campers and counselors of their age group, or line, who may not be in their cabin. They get to practice and learn new skills at the same time as building relationships. Campers don’t need to go on the zip line or a hike to be pushed out of their comfort zone. Swimming, curosty, or climbing at camp can challenge girls and allow them to grow, while being alongside their peers and counselors.

Free swims are also valuable because twice a day campers can choose their own adventure. For example, they might go to the lake to swim mermaid laps, join in with Rockbrook runners club to run on the trails, or simply sit on the hill and make friendship bracelets. The options are only limited by campers’ imaginations! It is important for girls to have this sense of independence and ability to make their own decisions as they are growing up. These free times throughout the regular camp day allow girls to have the social and physical space to be themselves as well as the space to let their imaginations run wild.

Tunnel at summer camp

A regular day at camp also leads campers to some special places around Rockbrook’s property. One path leads past the tennis courts, the Carrier House, and lower pottery to a tunnel that goes underneath Greenville Highway, so girls can safely get to the barn. It’s a fun experience to walk down the wooded path, through the darkened tunnel, and pop out on the other side to a scene of green pastures, the horses, and the winding French Broad River. Up in the main part of camp, girls absolutely love to play in the two creeks at the foot of the hill. One creek is diverted from Rockbrook Falls and feeds into the lake, providing us with fresh mountain water to swim in. The other creek comes from Stick Biscuit falls, and winds its way underneath the Dining Hall, past Goodwill, behind Curosty, and down the mountain. There is almost no need to ever leave camp for trips, as we are fully immersed in the beauty of nature right here at Rockbrook!

Trips and special events are certainly beneficial to the overall camp experience, but it is important to remember how special a regular day at camp can be all on its own. The small moments, the in-betweens, the laughs and friends—these are what add up to create a camper’s Rockbrook experience. The magic of camp is already present in the people, places, and spaces at camp, so we hope the campers take every moment they have to experience that magic.

Sunny Days at the Lake

Our beautiful haven in the “Heart of the Wooded Mountain” has had a beautiful past couple of days. Blue skies and heat from the sun calls for a busy day at the lake. In addition to their regular activity time, there are two times a day when the girls have “free swim” periods available for them to take a dip: one before lunch and one before supper. They can also spend this hour in other ways. They may choose to play in the creek, visit the camp store, or finish up a craft in an activity area, for example.

swimming campers

On these sunny days we tend to see a trend here at camp. As soon as the bell rings at the end of second or fourth period, girls hike up the hill to their cabin, change into their swim suits, and soon you see them trickle down the hill to the lake with towels in hand. When the girls arrive to the lake, they form a line waiting excitedly to be the first ones in as soon as the lake opens. Lifeguards and lookouts take their places, the red flag is removed, the front chain is taken down, and finally the lake is open. In order to keep our lake as safe as possible, a counselor takes names at the front of the lake keeping count of everyone entering and exiting the lake. Once names are on the list, towels and shoes are left on an amazing, beautiful rock, swim tags are moved, and the girls have to decide how they want to enter the water.

The Rockbrook lake was built in two phases, the initial “pool” when the camp was founded in 1921, and then in 1925 expanded to its current size. It had to be dug by hand (!), with horses dragging pans of dirt out to form its shape between the giant rocks. We’re not sure how intentionally, but it was constructed into the shape of our mascot – a cardinal! Our lake is filled with refreshing stream water drawn right off the mountain. Because of the mountain water, the temperature of the lake can be a little chilly, or as we like to say “refreshing.”

jump from dock into lake

When the girls step up to the lake, they wonder how refreshing it will be that day. Some brave it by doing a cannonball off of the diving board, others take it slow and walk their way into the shallow end, and lastly you have a special few who decide to enter via our super fun waterslide. Many girls like jumping into the lake after spending time in the heat “because they like the refreshing water and when they get out they feel energized and happy.”

Once in the water, there are several activities for the girls. One popular attraction is the shallow end along the lap lane where girls swim their mermaid laps. For each session and line there are a certain number of laps needed to swim by the end of the session in order to become a mermaid. Once you become a mermaid, all of camp congratulates you by singing The Mermaid Song to you during a meal. Mermaids also get to go to Dolly’s Dairy Bar at the end of the session! Another popular attraction is our waterslide! One of our middlers said she loves the slide the most because “it’s so fast and when you go in the water it’s a way to quickly become refreshed.” She also likes the slide for other reasons – waiting in the water to encourage and watch her friends go down after her!

At Rockbrook, we love spending time at the lake. Our lifeguards work hard to make it a safe place for all of our campers. Each day you never know who will be at the lake, who will swim their last mermaid lap, or who will go down the slide the most amount of times. The lake is a place for campers and counselors from different lines to come together, have fun, and to leave feeling refreshed.

The Occasional Sashay

camp lake time for girls

Nothing beats hanging out at the lake. When the weather is warm and sunny, like it was today, the lake has a magnetic effect around camp, congregating campers, especially during the free swim period right before lunch. With girls swimming mermaid laps, doing tricks off the diving board, zipping down the water slide, paddling a corcl boat, floating in a tube, or just hanging out on the dock or sunbathing on one of huge rocks nearby, there’s a lot going on. The whole waterfront might have 60 or so people all enjoying the festive atmosphere during free swim. It’s a classic summer camp scene that the girls can count on being part of their day.

rockbrook camp curosty cabin
r b c letters knitted

Curosty, the historic log cabin that’s home to the fiber arts activities at Rockbrook, is responsible for a great deal of the decoration we find around camp. Campers of course love all the weaving going on— basketry, floor looms, lap looms and hoops —the knitting projects, the crochet hooking, and the cross stitching. Beautiful hats, belts, baskets, pot holders, book marks, and place mats are happily produced everyday in Curosty, as the girls develop their needlecraft and weaving skills. In addition, there are community projects to admire. Right on the door of Curosty is an example of a large woven tapestry that dozens of girls have worked on. Row-by-row, campers of all ages took turns adding different colorful strips of cloth, adding weft to a large warp on a frame. You can see another of these tapestries in the works to the right in the photo.  One of these weaving projects ended up being about 15 feet long, and now serves as a colorful cushion for the dining hall porch bench.  Many of the red rocking chairs around camp likewise have similar handmade seat cushions. Rockbrook is more comfortable and colorful thanks to Curosty.

Even though most of the older campers had guessed it, the announcement that we would be having a dance with Camp Carolina tonight raised the roof with screams of excitement. Clearly, everyone was looking forward to this traditional all-camp event. Specially chosen outfits and costumes were ready to pulled out, hair washed, braided and brushed out. Again, we organized two dances, keeping the youngest girls here at Rockbrook to welcome the smallest boys from Camp Carolina, and transporting our Seniors and Hi-Ups over there to dance with the older boys. You can see from the photos below that the mood at both dances was exuberant, effervescent with high spirits.  For the entire hour and half, there was more singing and screams of excitement than not, as conga lines and group dances formed, and favorite pop songs followed one after the other.  A short break for a homemade Rockbrook cookie didn’t slow things down one bit, either.

Tonight proved once again that these dances don’t have much to do with the boys. There’s perhaps the occasional sashay, especially, as you might expect, from the older girls, but mostly the fun comes from being silly with your friends, dressing up, and jumping around (“dancing”) to familiar songs. It seems to me, it’s the girls, not the boys, that make these dances fun.  That’s not too surprising when you consider the impressive power (energy for fun) this group of girls can generate. Very impressive, indeed!

kids at summer camp dance
teen camp dance girls

Turning Into a Mermaid

By Lindsay Futch (The Lake Lady)

swimming friends at camp

So, you’d rather be a Mermaid, right?
Well good news! Rockbrook Camp allows you to do just that.

From the first day you arrive at camp, you have the opportunity to dive right into the Redbird-shaped Lake, and demonstrate your swimming style.

But if you want to be a Mermaid, clearly one dip in the lake is not enough. It takes time in the water.

Here’s the Rockbrook guide to turning into a Mermaid!

Step One: Sign up for swimming as much as you can! In swimming, we like to give time to the campers to swim their Mermaid laps.  You will swim back and forth a lot, while the awesome lifeguards cheer you on with each passing lap.

mermaid girls swimming laps

Step Two: Set a goal to swim a certain number of laps each day. Depending on your age, becoming a mermaid requires different lap totals. Juniors in full sessions swim 125 laps, while juniors in mini sessions swim 65 laps. These numbers increase as you get older!

Step Three: If you didn’t make that goal amount in swimming, continue them during first and second free swim times. Sometimes, it’s difficult to meet the lap goal that you set for swimming activities. But that’s okay!  It’s fine to take a break and enjoy playing with your friends. If that happens, just know that you can always swim during the first and second free swim periods to complete your laps.

kids goofing around at the camp lake

Step Four: Just keep swimming! Like Dory says in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming!” The laps might seem too long, but setting a goal and being determined to finish that goal is very rewarding in the end. Especially when Dolly’s is the reward!

Step Five: See your scales start to glint in the sun. You’re almost done! Just a little more perseverance.

Step Six: Feel your tail start to sprout.

Step Seven: Bask in the camp celebration of your transformation. When you’ve finally reached Mermaid status, the whole camp sings a special song just for you.

“Way down at Rockbrook in the chilly lake.
There were some girls a swimming who started to shiver and shake.
We saw some scales a glinting and TAILS they did sprout.
Lo and behold a Mermaid, the whole camp to shout. Oh Mermaid, Mermaid, what’s your name?
(Name, Name)
You’re a Mermaid!”

Step Eight: Enjoy a refreshing scoop of ice cream from Dolly’s Dairy Bar!! You’ve earned it! You’re a Mermaid!

rockbrook camp lake fun

Join the Club

Rockbrook is, almost by definition, an inclusive place. When campers arrive, for example, counselors personally greet every camper, welcoming them to the community. It’s non-competitive, so each person’s contributions are equally celebrated. Within this inclusive environment, then, the clubs that have emerged this session have a unique Rockbrook spin on them.

camp free time at creek

To start with, every session, there are a couple of clubs that encourage campers to meet goals. Rockbrook Runners is one of these clubs. They meet every day at Hiker’s Rock at first free swim and go for a run around camp along Charlotte’s Loop, which is about two miles long. Full session campers are trying to log 26 miles, and mini session campers are trying to log 13 in order to enter the Marathon Club. Those in the Marathon club go to Dolly’s at the end of the session. Not everyone runs, of course—there are groups of people running, jogging (known as “yogging”) and walking, so everyone can find a group going at their pace. Rockbrook Runners is a great chance for girls from different lines to get to know each other, and also to behold the beauty of camp in parts they may not usually see.

camp free swim time

If land isn’t your forte, you can also choose to splash into the water. If you’re down by the lake during any activity period or any free swim, you will see girls swimming laps in an effort to enter the Mermaid Club. There are different amounts of laps that each age group is supposed to swim, and then they are members of the Mermaid Club. When they complete the laps, their name is announced in front of the dining hall, and the entire camp sings the Mermaid Song:

Way down at Rockbrook in the chilly lake,
There were some girls a swimmin’ who started to shiver and shake
We saw some scales a glinting and tails they did sprout
Lo and behold a mermaid, the whole camp to shout:
Oh mermaid, mermaid, what’s your name?
[Name! Name!] You’re a Mermaid!

Some girls prefer the more leisurely Rockbrook Readers, who meet on the hillside lodge porch during second free swim with books and sometimes much-needed peace and quiet. The hillside lodge overlooks the mountains, so this informal club enjoys a beautiful view and rocking chairs that create an idyllic setting for reading.

camp friends girls

Campers can depend on these clubs every session of every year. They’re part of the fabric of free swims. Rockbrook is camper-driven, though. Especially in the last few days, as girls are feeling more comfortable and confident, clubs created by campers have been popping up every day. Yesterday, a group of girls created the Fruit Club. This club’s mission is “to learn fun facts about fruit, and to dissect fruit” in order to learn more about it. In a similar vein, the Milk Club was also created. Fellow campers signed up for the Milk Club under their favorite type of milk—2%, Skim, or Lactaid, to be sure to be inclusive of girls who are lactose intolerant. The Glitter Club was also introduced, which is primarily a club of glitter appreciation. Everyone who enjoys glitter is welcome, and they are planning to do things like make friendship bracelets with the word “glitter” on them in order to celebrate their appreciation of glitter.

horse kids camp

Creating Their Own Fun

What's That?

Schedules are useful. Schedules let you know the shape of your day before it even starts. They tell you that that appointment you’ve been dreading will be over by ten, and that restaurant that you love will be seating you at seven. Here at Rockbrook, we know and appreciate the benefits a schedule, and stick to one (with a few daily adjustments) nearly every day of the week. Rising bell at 8 AM. Lunch at 1. Dinner at 6:15. Four activity periods, two snack breaks, and two Free Swims a Day. The schedule allows both campers and staff to slide into a rhythm, and know what to expect out of their days.

Now Reach!

But our campers are used to schedules. In some ways, they are too used to schedules. Their days throughout the year are filled top to bottom with school, tutoring, music lessons, sports practices, and homework.

This overabundance of stimulation in their everyday lives is one of the reasons that I think the absolute most important part of our daily schedule are the times that we schedule… nothing. No activities, no events, nothing at all but the space around the campers, the people they are with, and their ability to use their imaginations to create their own entertainment.

Easily Entertained

Free Swims and Twilight are largely left up to the campers. They might find themselves at the beginning of a Free Swim taking on the risk of boredom that has become all too rare in modern life. There are no phones or tablets to captivate them with mindless games and social media; no TV or Netflix to keep them entertained and sedentary. There is only forty-five minutes to an hour of staring at a wall, unless they and their friends can come up with something to do.

And, boy, to our Rockbrook girls rise to the challenge. Just in today’s Second Free Swim, I saw girls racing stray flip flops down the stream, circles of hair-braiding-chains on the Hill, and signs up on bulletin boards advertising auditions (“open to all ages”) for a band that some campers are putting together.

Fierce!

With ample free time, and the risk of boredom, comes startling creativity, openness, and boldness. Girls who might shriek at the sight of a live crawfish in the winter find themselves poking through streambeds in search of them during Twilight. Girls who perhaps have only ever played card games on computer screens, learn that by far the best use of real playing cards is building them into elaborate houses with their friends. Girls who reach instinctively for technology at the first sign of a quiet moment, might discover that it is far better to reach for a book, or even for the hand of a friend as they jump into the lake.

A Great Match-Up

With unscheduled time, of course, comes the risk of boredom, and the twiddling-of-thumbs. What it also brings, however, is an agency over the use of their own time that our campers might not often see in school-days. At camp, this time is given to them in abundance, and it is a beautiful thing to see our campers take it and run with it.

Slowing It Down

Yoga Camp Pose
Rifle Names

Yesterday, I wrote about the physical activity of camp, highlighting a few of the ways we charge up at Rockbrook, but there are also activities where we ease off a bit and enjoy a slower pace. Yoga is probably the best example. It meets in the Hillside Lodge, and like its twin, the Lakeview Lodge, this building is constructed from massive cut blocks of grey granite, has a 4-foot tall fireplace on one side with a long porch on the other, and a beautiful hardwood floor inside. The Middlers use this Lodge for their Evening Programs, but during the day, it’s a sanctuary of colorful yoga mats, calm music, and relaxation. Mary Alice, our main yoga instructor, leads the girls through flexibility and concentration exercises followed by demonstrations of yoga poses. This might mean simply lying face up on the mat and listening to quiet flute music with hints of lavender oil in the air, and with that concentration established, then sitting up into the “Hero Pose” or “Thunderbolt Pose.” There is plenty of variety according to the age of the girls in the class, but for everyone taking yoga, it is a refreshing experience that nicely balances with other activities in camp.

Riflery could be another example of an activity more focused than frenetic, more composed and concentrated than brisk and busy. Like Yoga, target shooting benefits from first calming down and being aware of your breathing. There’s a stillness to riflery. Once the Instructor gives the standard command to commence firing, the shooters take plenty of time to load each bullet into their bolt-action, .22-caliber rifles, and to take steady aim at the target before firing. When shooting, there is no talking on the rifle range, and with everyone wearing ear protection, only the muffled popping sounds of the rifles can be heard. Scoring each 5-shot target is part of the fun, but I think the girls also enjoy the simple pace of riflery. Here too, it can be a nice change given the tempo of most things at Rockbrook.

Reading a book floating in the lake
Rock Climbing Cool Girl

Here’s another great example of taking it easy at camp— floating in the lake with a good book during the Free Swim period before lunch (or dinner). Most days, you’ll find a few girls doing exactly that, comfortably settled between the chilly water below and the warm sunshine above. I’d say that’s one of the joys of summer! All of these periods of free time, in fact, can be used to take things a little easier at camp. They are chances not only to follow your own interests, but often to simply take a break as well, whether that be to hang out with a book or take a quick shower.

Rock climbing is, at least in one way, another interesting example of a Rockbrook activity built upon careful concentration rather than rapid coordination. Certainly, it’s physically difficult. It does demand arm and leg strength to stand up on small rock ledges and to grip oddly sloping finger holds. At the same time though, rock climbing is akin to meditation as it too benefits from a calm and attentive state of mind. Successfully climbing a difficult route means ignoring how high you are and slowly working out the balance, hand and foot moves needed. Climbing too fast is sure to mean skipping an obvious hold or lead to awkward movements, making the whole experience more difficult and perhaps frustrating. The best rock climbers will look smooth and fluid, calmly in a state of “flow” as they move up the rock. With all the rock climbing at camp— trips to Looking Glass Rock, Castle Rock, and to our Alpine Tower just today —I think some of the girls are becoming a little obsessed with the feeling of “energized focus” rock climbing provides.

Ah, but we can’t “keep calm” for long around here! Tonight for our twilight activity, for example, we offered a classic, a shaving cream fight and slip ‘n slide.  Put together a mob of enthusiastic girls dressed in their swimsuits, give them about 150 cans of shaving cream, and just get out the way. That’s about all there is to one of the funniest, messiest, craziest, and most squeal-inducing events around.

Shaving Creamed Child
Girl Shaving Creamed
Shaving Creamed Kid

Frolicking with slippery foam like this, sneaking up and smearing a handful of the stuff in your friend’s hair, feels as exhilarating as it does mischievous. It’s yet another chance to do something rarely allowed at home, and to do it with a huge group of equally enthusiastic friends. It’s amazing that something this simple can be this fun, but it certainly is.

Shaving Creamed Friends