Inspirational Fun

Summer Camp Showers

The 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 wheel

After 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

“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

slide

Monday 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

For The Fun Of It

Searching for Tadpoles

“Non-competitive” is a word that gets a lot of use here at camp. It serves as a reminder to campers and staff alike to pursue camp activities for the joy of it—for the thrill of acquiring new skills, and embarking on new adventures—not for the sake of victory.

Rafters in the Mist

We do our best to bring this non-competitive flavor to every facet of camp life.  Every cabin gets their own unique “award” for their skits during Evening Program (“Best Break-Dancing Statue of Liberty,” and “Best Impression of a Watermelon” were some recent favorites of mine), every cabin gets a prize at the end of Counselor Hunt, and every girl even gets their own birthday cake on Birthday Night, so the fall-, winter-, and spring-babies aren’t left out.

It isn’t that we think competition is bad. On the contrary, competition can be exciting, enriching, and even wholesome in the right setting. What we do try to promote at camp, though, that might be different from the messages of schools and sports teams, is replacing the drive to win with the drive to accomplish.

Teamwork in the Lake

We encourage our campers to accomplish as much as possible in their time at camp. We offer reams of friendship-bracelet designs of increasing complexity for them to try their hands at. We coax tentative swimmers into swimming class, so they can work on their strokes with the lifeguards. We stand patiently at the bottom of the Alpine Tower, to talk nervous climbers all the way to the top. That heady sense of awe and disbelief when a camper achieves something she didn’t think she would be capable of is one of the greatest parts of the camp experience, and usually occurs in each girl at least once when she’s here.

While we encourage accomplishments like these whenever we can, we also do our best to take away the push and pressure to achieve them. We let girls work at their own pace, for example, and allow them to drop activities that don’t interest them after just three days, rather than forcing them to continue, as might happen in a school. We help them to enjoy the process as much as the result, to gain more from the experience than from the prizes at the end.

Dancing to "Grease"
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

More importantly, we also try to strip away the urge to “get there first” that can be so prevalent in the outside world. That is, we take away that need to get to the top before anyone else, and to win at the expense of everyone else, that can so dampen the fun of any activity.

A perfect demonstration of this came in our Miss RBC pageant Sunday afternoon. Each cabin spent last week crafting their very own cabin “talent” for the show, which could have been a dance, a song, a skit, or anything else they could think of. All last week, I saw cabins working during their free times, planning during meals, and scavenging costume bins around camp, all to create the perfect talent for Miss RBC.

Every camper participated, and gave their all, making it a truly spectacular show. There were elaborately choreographed dances to songs from “Mamma Mia,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” original songs about checking for lice and the joys of camp, and one wonderful skit put on by our youngest campers, acting out one of our favorite camp songs, “I’m a Little Coconut.”

Skipping

The most remarkable thing about the show, though, was the genuine enthusiasm with which each cabin cheered for all the others. Each cabin seemed thrilled simply to be able to put on their own talent for the rest of the camp, and derived just as much enjoyment from watching all the others’. There was no uneasiness when campers saw a cabin that did particularly well, and no jealousy or resentment displayed toward the cabin that ultimately won the pageant. Indeed, that cabin found themselves surrounded by well-wishers as soon as the show was finished. The winning cabin was proud, of course, that they had won, but I heard more of them complimenting the other cabins on their talents than touting their own accomplishment.

Camp, of course, is a unique environment, but I always hope that this is a lesson that our campers take with them into the outside world. That something should be created, a task achieved, or a goal accomplished, simply for the satisfaction of accomplishing it, rather than for the attendant recognition and glory.

The Rockbrook Shake

The Harlem Shake… Odds are you’ve seen a version on YouTube because back in February it was a worldwide viral meme, with thousands of groups uploading dance videos to this same song. The Wikipedia article on the Harlem Shake does a good job explaining it. Well, today we made our own Rockbrook Harlem Shake. And Wow! The girls were really excited to make it, all dressed in their craziest costumes. Sarah starts it off, but when the beat drops, about 200 people turn the scene into a wild dance break. Be sure to watch it (several times, to catch it all!) in HD and in Full Screen!

Girls dressed for the harlem shake video
Camp Girls doing the Harlem Shake

These photos give you a better, up close, sense of what it felt like to make the video (click them to see a larger version). The dancing is brief and intense, with arms swinging wildly, jumping, rolling, and twirling in all directions. Kayaking and climbing equipment, gymnastics moves, and a parachute all made appearances. Long hair flew in every direction. The looks on everyone’s faces show just how fun and funny the whole experience was.

Overall, we have here a wonderful summary of the energy and spirit these girls bring to their time together at Rockbrook.

The Wheel of Fun

Camp girl riding zip line

It being the 4th of July weekend, we all stayed close to home and enjoyed activities in camp today. This part of North Carolina is a popular tourist destination… even more so this weekend … so to avoid the crowds, we thought it a good idea to do things in camp.  For example, our zip line was humming with action all day today. Located in the woods a short distance up the trail leading to Castle Rock, the zip line begins with a high suspension bridge strung between two massive boulders. Wearing a helmet and a harness clipped into a safety cable is essential both to support the campers should a foot slip, but also to give them a small boost in confidence from the cable’s reassuring tug. The suspension bridge is a little “freaky,” as one girl put it, because it’s wobbly and (intentionally!) missing a few planks. Staring down through the gaps in the planks is indeed a little disconcerting, but it really makes you concentrate as you take each step. At the end of the bridge, perched high on the rock, the campers then clip their pulley into the zip cable. Here a little bravery is called for because the first step is out into the air with about 50 feet of nothing below.  Immediately, you are accelerating down the cable, flying by the Hi-Up cabin and zipping 450 feet across to the other side of the camp. It’s a thrilling ride! The zip ends gently over an inclined platform, where it’s just a matter of standing up and unclipping your pulley from the cable.  “Time for one more zip?” You bet!

Girl Rifle Shooter

One of the benefits of attending a full session of camp, and especially this 4-week (our longest) session, is that the girls can really dig into their favorite activities, signing up for them several times if they like.  The kayakers can take trips to more advanced rivers, the weavers can start more elaborate projects, and the girls can really improve their skills whether its their tennis serve, their archery or riflery aim, their one-handed cartwheel, or dive at the lake. These talents can take extra time to develop, so having a chance to do more while at camp can make a difference. And on the other hand, a longer session means having more opportunity to try new things, to experiment with something that might even become a new favorite. Have you ever tried acting, rock climbing, or dance? At a long session, you certainly can.

Camp wheel spin game

This is the “Wheel of Fun.” It is mounted on the wall in our dining hall, and is a huge hit with the campers. Reminiscent of other “clicker wheels” (think of game shows like “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Price is Right,” for example), a person spins it, hoping it will stop spinning on a something desirable. Our wheel has things like “Candy” and “Muffins,” but also “Dress a Director,” “Cabin Cheer” (work together as a cabin and present a cheer to everyone at the next meal) and “Dance Break” (pick a song to play during the next meal so that everyone can get up and dance). Girls also hope to avoid some of the spots, though… things like “Polar Bear” (which means the whole cabin jumping in the lake before breakfast), or “Lose a Turn.” We don’t spin the wheel at every meal, but when we do, it’s very exciting for everyone. We pick the person to spin by narrowing down the group with a series of criteria. It’s different every time, but it goes something like this. Chase, who often does it, will say “Stand up if your hair is in a ponytail.” And about 100 campers and staff members will stand. Then she’ll narrow it down by saying, maybe, “Stay standing if you’re wearing red.” Then maybe, “Stay standing if you have or had braces.” She’ll keep this up until there’s one lucky person still standing who gets to spin the wheel. All of the items on the wheel apply to the whole cabin, so as it’s spinning, everyone is quivering with anticipation, and when the wheel stops, the whole dining hall explodes with cheers. All in all, the “Wheel of Fun” is something we do simply because that’s what it is— fun… big fun for everyone.

It’s Like a Rocket

Rockbrook Collage

Less than a week! Rockbrook will open in just 5 short days, and boy are we excited! (Have you seen the countdown timer on the sidebar lately?). Throughout the spring as we’ve planned and prepared for our 2013 summer season, as we’ve finished building projects, organized activities and special events, we’ve gotten more and more eager to get started. This past Sunday was the start of our week-long staff training session. There are about 60 of these college-aged women who are now at camp because this summer they will be cabin counselors, outdoor adventure guides, equestrian instructors, craft specialists, and sports coaches. Add to that several nurses, the entire kitchen crew, and maintenance staff, and you can imagine the buzz of activity suddenly energizing the camp.

In addition to the directors and the staff members, we’re hearing from campers too, many of the girls who are bursting with glee to finally get to camp. Here is a collage, made by Eva, that conveys this feeling of excitement. It’s impossible to not feel excited when Rockbrook is so much fun “it’s like a rocket,” and is “addicting” like the “sweet and spicy” taste of “cinnamon.” Whether in 1962 or 2001, or this year, Rockbrook is a place to make new friends and do new things.

Can you feel it? Are you ready for camp?

An Experience to Last a Lifetime

Camp is fun.  There are shaving cream fights, muffin breaks, kayaking trips, Dolly’s visits, hiking overnights, funny skits, and so much more.  However, camp is about way more than the present experience. The entire Rockbrook experience is meant to last us a lifetime.  It is about building character traits that will help us later in life — confidence, independence, individuality, and so on.  It is about being with nature.  Camp is about making friends who won’t leave our side.  The spontaneity, the adventure, the laughter and the FUN found at camp will stay with us long after we leave the Heart of the Wooded Mountain.

At Rockbrook, our mission is:

“To provide a haven for girls,

RBC's Mission

a place of their own,

RBC Mission

where they can explore the beauty of nature,

RBC Mission

try new things,

RBC Mission

enjoy carefree summer living,

RBC Mission

and make some of their very best friends.”

rbc mission

Friends True and Faithful

What is it about Rockbrook that makes it so special?  That’s a pretty loaded question- certainly one that has no right or wrong answer.  Some of us may say that it’s the beautiful mountain scenery, others may agree it’s the fabulous counselors, and many may decide that muffin break separates Rockbrook from the rest.  However, we think that the friendships made at Rockbrook are a good place to start when discussing what makes camp so wonderful.  Though we may only spend a few weeks each year with our camp pals, none of us would hesitate to call them some of our best friends.  Sarah and Evie, two Rockbrook girls who met last summer, are a perfect example of ‘true friendship born to last’.

Just last month, Sarah flew from Florida to Maryland to visit Evie and to celebrate her birthday with her.  According to her mom, who wrote to tell us about the trip, Sarah’s winter break was “full of firsts that wouldn’t have happened if she had not attended camp this past summer.”  Sarah and Evie spent a week together and had lots of fun along the way.  The girls saw Les Miserables, played in the snow, went skiing, and counted down to 2013.  What a fun trip!  Check out some pictures of Sarah and Evie during their trip below, and be sure to let us know about any adventures you have with camp friends during the year- you might just make the blog!

Evie and Sarah
Evie and Sarah reunite at the airport
Evie and Sarah skiing
Evie and Sarah hit the slopes!!!
Ready for the show
They don’t look Les Miserables to us!