Active Creative Fun

Small Camp Girls

It’s been an amazing few weather days, with everyone surprised by how cool it’s been. If you’ve been checking the Rockbrook Weather Station, you know what I mean. For example, this morning it was a chilly 51 degrees (!), which means overnight we had perfect sleeping weather (in our open-air cabins), and in the morning everyone layered up with sweat shirts, long pants, and in some cases hats. The humidity has also been unusually low, so as the day warmed into the 70s with clear blue skies, it felt wonderful to be outside. It didn’t take long for the girls to shed their layers and enjoy the sunshine as they romped about the camp for their activities.

Camp Twin Day Costumes

So many twins! Not actual twins (mostly, since we do have a few sets of biological twins at camp right now), but costumed twins could be spotted around camp today, since, yes, it was “Twin Day.” We love costumes at Rockbrook, and tend to take any chance we can to dress up, to put on something— and the wackier the better —that’s out of the ordinary. There’s something inherently fun about taking on a different character, perhaps completely changing your hair (neon purple!), wearing a shiny black cape, or even changing your accent (Arrrrh, pirates!). It’s good fun to dress up, but more importantly, it’s active creative fun, and not some kind of passive entertainment. There’s no recipe or formula for how to make your twin costume; you and your friend have to decide. Same shirt, shorts, glasses? What about hairstyle? And since our dress up days at camp are always open to the whole group, there’s both a performance element, and a sense of pride that comes from presenting your costume creativity to everyone else. In this way, participating in a group costume event like Twin Day provides a real boost to our (admittedly zany) community.  When we’re into it, it brings us together. It can be a little disconcerting to see two girls wearing lab coats playing tetherball before lunch, but you can’t help but smile at the sight.

While girls were trotting with horses, zipping high among the trees, and tying t-shirts for dye in camp, about 60 middlers and seniors spent part of the day in Swain County rafting the Nantahala River.

Camp Rafting kids
Nantahala Kids Rafting

The Nantahala has been ranked as the best class II whitewater river in the southeast because it offers both incredible scenery as it passes through a steep, forested gorge, and a perfect mix of whitewater rapids, calm stretches, and an exciting class II+ drop for a finale. Back in the early 1980s the US Forest service awarded Rockbrook a permit to raft the Nantahala, and since that time we are one of the very few camps to do so with its own equipment and guides.  Over the years, taking a whitewater rafting trip has become an extremely popular adventure outing for Rockbrook girls.  There’s no additional charge and we offer the trip to everyone who is old enough to go (that’s a limit placed on us by the Forest Service): the middlers and seniors. One camper explained to me that this was her fourth time down the river— every year she’s come to camp —and it’s more fun every time. “Best trip ever!” One of the defining features of the Nantahala, and I’m sure you’ll hear about this from your daughter if you ask her about rafting, is the temperature of the water. Thanks to the frigid bottom-of-the-lake water released into the river by the Duke Energy hydroelectric project, falling into the 50-degree river is an unforgettable, wide-eyed, breath-taking experience. Toward the end of the 2-hour trip, it’s a safe bet that most toes are numb. Of course, there’s a thrilling rapid around each bend of the river, and a boat of laughing, singing friends to keep the whole trip exciting and fun.

Back at camp, our evening program tonight was an all-camp special event down in the gym, and as you might guess, we turned on the costumes again, this time to the theme, “When I grow Up.” This is a brilliantly conceived costume theme that can accommodate the conventional (I saw a doctor or two, a “professional equestrienne,” and a soldier, for example.) as well as the imaginative, like a shark trainer, a unicorn princess, or a food fairy. All of the costumes were resourceful, mostly eclectic and certainly colorful.

The event was a goofy spin-off from the popular game show “Family Feud.” For us it was more like “Cabin Feud” where groups of girls from each Line (age group) attempted to guess the most common answers to questions like: What’s a fruit that has lots of seeds? Or, What’s a sport that does not involve a ball? Or, What do teenagers like to do when they’re bored? Counselors knew the top 7 answers to each question and as team members correctly guessed answers, the team earned points. Meanwhile the audience rooted for their friends, shouted helpful suggestions, and had a great time following the competition. Each winning cabin (per age group) would receive a delicious-looking cookie cake trophy, so the audience went wild with enthusiastic cheering whenever a group won a round. It was a fun spirited evening celebrating our collective creativity.

Girls Camp Relaxing

It Starts with People

Camp kids learning photography
Camper kid holding newt

Everyone likes taking pictures, but at a place like Rockbrook where there is something wondrous or beautiful at every turn, it’s exciting to try and capture the experience in photography. The photography activity, or what we call “Photo Phun” around here, gives the girls a chance to explore and take— no make pictures all over camp. Jane, the lead instructor, starts them out by explaining how to use the digital cameras and when to select certain settings given what they’re shooting. She teaches them the basic notion of adjusting shutter speed and aperture relative to the amount of available light, for example, and how changing these settings affects the depth of field and motion effects. With this background, the girls will often head out to explore, looking for “cool photos.” To focus that sometimes, Jane will challenge them with a scavenger hunt where each photo has to have a different main color, or a represent a different letter in the alphabet. She’s taught them about stop motion photography and light painting as well. See why we call it “Photo Phun?”

Camp kid shooting archery bow and arrow

You probably can also see why having a skilled, energetic and enthusiastic activity instructor is so important to the success of something like this. For Photo Phun to really be fun for the campers, Jane has to be both a skilled technician who really knows her stuff about photography, but also a creative teacher who enjoys working with kids. Rockbrook is full of great activity instructors like this. They instinctively know how to take something maybe a little technical, like archery, tennis, horseback riding, or rock climbing for example, and present it to the campers in a way that’s safe and informative, but also inherently fun. There are a few tricks to this that we present during our staff training week, but we also work hard to hire counselors who “get it” instinctively. Pull together a bunch of people like this, young women who love what they do, creatively and imaginatively, and who sincerely love being with kids, and you’ve got a sense of what makes the Rockbrook staff special.

Camp kids waiting for swimming

Beyond the scheduled activities offered each day, it’s often the simplest things that mean the most to a girl when she’s here at Rockbrook. Playing tetherball on the hill at twilight, sitting in the sun on a huge rock by the lake, or racing your flip-flop down the creek— these can be the best memories of camp. Of course, the most important ingredient in everything at Rockbrook is the people, the incredible community of spirited folks who share camp together. They form the core of these memories. Certainly Rockbrook is a beautiful place and the activities are excellent, but it’s your cabin mates, your counselors and all the other support staff (Rick, Alison, Clyde, Elaine, Richie, Katie, Will, the many Directors and so many others) that truly make these little moments that add up to be “camp.” The magic of camp starts with people.

Tonight after dinner we sent word for everyone to dress up and come down to the gym for a surprise evening event. The girls must have been saving up costume elements because we saw amazing wacky wigs, goofy glasses, colorful dresses, boots and hats in any combination (There are some great photos of this in the gallery). When they arrived, they found the gym transformed into a game show, with our friend Bill Grimsley ready to host a trivia question and answer game using his podiums and scoring system. He randomly selected contestants from the audience, pitting girls from the same line against each other. Some of the questions were about Rockbrook, and others about pop music, TV and movies. Occasionally he would announce a “challenge round” where for extra points the contestants performed a task like hula hooping, or for the counselors, eating something “not so appetizing” like canned pig brains in gravy. Ugh! Of course, the audience thought this was hilarious. Prizes, like a giant cookie cake, went to cabin groups, and at times when the contestants were stumped and the audience knew an answer, the whole crowd won a little treat. Silly and oh so good!