A Sparkling Blast

horse camp wake up

As you can see, this was no ordinary morning, in fact no ordinary day, because it was the 4th of July! Instead of our regular bell, some of the riding staff rode horses up into camp to wake up the campers. With the staff dressed in red, white and blue, and with the horses also decorated in American flag patterned ribbons and paint, the campers woke to the sounds of hoof beats and shouts of “The British are coming! The British are coming!” up and down the cabin lines. Somewhat sleepy-eyed, the girls made their way through the morning fog to the hill to assemble around the flagpole for the Hi-Ups to raise the flag, and everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful.”

Camp Kids on 4th of july

Of course, horses were not the only thing decorated in red, white and blue today. You could see it everywhere around camp! In the dining hall on table decorations, on hats, headbands, beaded necklaces, t-shirts and other things people were wearing, some of the food we ate today (Oh, those brownie cakes!), and the body paint that seemed to become more prevalent as the day progressed. Similarly, the girls sang their favorite patriotic songs at meals— “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” for example —adding to the normal lively Rockbrook songs. There was no doubt these girls were ready to celebrate!

It also being Thursday, we decided to keep our regular activity schedule throughout the day. The difference, again, was the addition of those patriotic colors. There were American flags flapping in the wind as girls zipped through the woods, stars and stripes on the backs of archers, proudly worn by potters, weavers, tennis players and climbers alike. Campers carried the colors on a hike to Rockbrook Falls, to the top of Castle Rock while climbing on belay, and down to the barns for their riding lessons.

pottery on 4th of July
archery on 4th of July
girl on climbing rope for 4th of July

A group of girls enjoyed a relaxing morning in the “nest,” our hammock campsite located just below Castle Rock. Part of the fun is figuring out how and where to hang their hammocks among the rock anchors, but it is also a nice way to spend time with friends. Later, two other groups hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls to make actual stick biscuits. This waterfall, which is located in the woods up behind the office, has a dry area behind where the water cascades down from the rock above, creating a natural umbrella of sorts. The staff built a fire in this area making it possible for the girls to roast their biscuits (dough wrapped tightly on the end of stick) while the water crashed right nearby.

Dinner tonight took advantage of our well-loved charcoal grill, as we pulled out an all-American cookout of hot dogs (beef and veggie), homemade coleslaw, potato chips, freshly sliced watermelon (more than we could eat!) and a can of Cheerwine soda chilled in the stream for everyone. A playlist of America-themed music helped set the mood, and as the girls enjoyed their dinner together, they played and danced with their friends on the hill.

Camp Sponge Relay

Dividing up into three multi-age teams —yep, a red, a white, and a blue team —we all stayed on the hill for a few fun relays. Girls raced to fill buckets with water squeezed from a sponge. They carefully tossed water balloons stepping gradually further apart after each toss. They competed for the longest hula-hooping session. They struggled to thaw a frozen t-shirt as quickly as possible, and took turns bending their backs in an exciting limbo line. Naturally, as some girls participated in these games, their teammates cheered them on, sang and danced to the music.

As darkness fell, the spectacular finish for our day was our own Rockbrook fireworks show. We pulled out glow sticks for all the girls and were ready with more pop music to blast during the show. For the next 40 minutes or so, we all enjoyed another sing-along dance party, the girls twirling their glow sticks and cheering with every sparkling blast in the air. It was an exciting, special finish to a full camp day.

camp fireworks show

This Incredible View

rockbrook camp mountain view

Have you seen that view? Everywhere we went today it was breathtaking. As a cold front pushed aside the last lingering moisture of the last few days, the skies developed a rare blend of complex and varied clouds mixed with very clear air. Rockbrook is situated on a west facing slope with a view of the Blue Ridge mountains. We’re at about 2100 feet in elevation. In fact, when the camp was first built, each of the three stone lodges (one for each age group) was designed to have a long distance view of those mountains. The girls could sit on almost any porch in camp and soak in an inspiring cascade of ridge lines. Now, almost 100 years later, with so many large trees living at camp, we have to be more strategic about which porch we choose, but there are still plenty of rocking chairs perfectly situated to offer that same amazing view. It’s neat to think that girls throughout the long history of Rockbrook have sat on those same porches and enjoyed counting those same distant mountains.

girls on top of Black Balsam mountain

With this kind of amazing weather, the adventure staff decided to take a group of girls up to Black Balsam mountain, a favorite destination in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s one to highest peaks east of the Mississippi River at 6214 feet. The hike to the summit has a magical quality to it. The trail begins by winding through a thicket of Balsam Fir trees, and then suddenly breaking out to a grassy ridge line with short blueberry bushes along sections. As you continue to wind upward, occasionally scrambling over exposed rock, there’s a crescendo at the summit when you suddenly have a panoramic view stretching for miles. You can’t help but think, “Oh wow!” This part of western North Carolina offers so many examples of this kind of natural beauty it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s even real. The girls this morning enjoyed eating a snack, freshly-baked muffins from camp, while soaking in this incredible view.

tiny kid with big horse and barn

Down at the Rockbrook Riding Center there were other views today, this time of the pastures, barns, paddocks, riding rings, arena, and of course, girls and their horses. Almost all 30 horses were busy in lessons throughout the day, some being assigned to groups of beginners first learning to ride, and more advanced mounts exercising over jumps and other obstacles in the covered arena. For girls who love horses, the riding center is a fascinating place to be. With horses and ponies, feeding, washing, tack and other equipment, regular visits from the farrier, barn chores, and the manure composting system, there’s always lots to see, do and learn.

Our Senior Line campers and their counselors spent the evening out of camp for a dinner picnic, trip to Sliding Rock, and a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar. This is a wildly fun outing that we do every year because it’s so popular. It gets us out of camp for food and frolicking in the forest, really gets our blood pumping with the intensity of sliding down a 60-foot natural water slide, and ends with a yummy, one-of-a-kind ice cream treat. What could be better? Tonight that cold front made the water at sliding rock feel even colder, but that didn’t really slow down these teenagers. They whooped and slid, and sure, shivered a little more than usual, but it was once again a great time together enjoying yet another natural wonder of the mountains.

screaming girls on sliding rock

New Horseback Riding Arena!

Camp Horse Arena Rendering

Last summer we announced Rockbrook’s plan to improve its horseback riding facilities by building a covered riding arena and new modern barn. It was a quiet announcement really, but it included this architect’s rendering showing the open-air design we had in mind. Well, it’s time to announce it more publicly and officially! We’re thrilled to share the news that the construction is well underway and we’ll have the arena finished and ready for action this summer!

We began the construction in late August by using a bulldozer, a large excavator, and multiple dump trucks to prepare a large flat area of the upper pasture. This was a major job since we needed almost 42,000 square feet (almost an acre!) of flat land to fit the two new buildings, and redesigned outdoor ring. A civil engineering firm from Asheville helped us establish the correct grade, plan for storm water drainage, and survey a new road through the property. Since that time, Richie Case, Rockbrook’s full time Site Manager, has served as the project’s Contractor and led a team of workers through every step of the construction. We’ve received 90-foot steel roof trusses from Missouri, 30-foot long pressure treated timbers from Washington state, and bundle after bundle of lumber arriving on probably a dozen different trucks. More than 30 trucks have delivered concrete for the footers, post forms and sections of the barn floor. One highlight was the 100-foot tall crane that, over four days, lifted each steel roof truss into place on the riding arena.

The Rockbrook Camp Riding Arena

OK, so what’s it going to be!!?? The arena is huge! It’s 180 feet long and 90 feet wide, has a vaulted ceiling going up 26 feet, a 5-foot rail all the way around, a full lighting system, and a footing of sand, mixed with special additives ideal for the horses and hunter-jumper riding. On one end there’s an additional covered area for a mounting ramp, equipment storage, and observation. Certainly among horse camps, it’s the largest in western North Carolina, but more importantly, it will allow Rockbrook girls to ride all summer long no matter what the weather… rain or shine! In the shade and with fewer bugs to bother you while riding, it will be a wonderful place to ride.

The new adjoining 96×50 barn is wonderful too. It has 10 large 12×12-foot stalls, a heated feed room, separate tack room, a spacious 14-foot wide aisle, and a full 3,000 square-foot hay loft. Each stall has rubber mat floors, sliding stall doors, and rear dutch doors that open to the outside. Under a wrap-around shed porch, there are two wash stalls, equipment storage and more areas to observe what’s happening in the riding arena. It will be so nice to tack up, walk your horse down the barn’s aisle right into the arena, and ride— all under a roof.

Camp Riding Arena and Barn

Stay tuned for more updates. As you can see from this recent photo, we’re not quite finished, but we couldn’t keep it a secret any longer.  If you ride at camp, you’re gonna love it!

Finally, here’s a fun little video shot from a drone. It shows both new buildings and gives you a sense of how they relate to the other riding areas at camp.

Have any questions about the new arena? Let us know in the comments or get in touch.

Power with a Heart

Camp Horseback Riding Class
Horse Jumping Girl at Summer Camp

Watching the campers ride has been an especially fun treat recently. Dozens of girls have signed up for riding, some for their very first experience working with a horse, and others with more advanced skills. We have nine staff members devoted to teaching horseback riding at camp this summer, and with 30 horses in the RBC herd, there’s always a lot going on at the barn, from tacking up for a mounted lesson, to the farrier trimming the hooves on one of our Connemara ponies, to feeding and mucking out stalls. For the campers, there’s always something to learn too, both about the complexities of caring for the horses, and also about how to improve their riding skills. Today a beginner-level lesson in the upper ring had the girls doing a great job walking their mounts, steering them independently, while down in the lower (larger) ring, the advanced riders were working on jumping what looked like about 2 feet over rails. Both groups seemed happy and proud of their accomplishments.

It’s always been a question why some girls are so keenly drawn to horses, as so many girls love riding here at Rockbrook. The Kitchen Sisters have just released an episode of their podcast “Fugitive Waves” that explores this phenomenon. It’s entitled “Horses, Unicorns and Dolphins.” In the 20-minute episode, we hear the voices of young girls, authors, research scientists, and lifelong riders describing why they ride, and how they feel in their relationships with these powerful animals. My favorite line from the program is when one rider describes horses as “power with a heart.” In a sense this summarizes it. Horseback riding is so meaningful, so magical, for girls because it includes a special relationship with that heart, an emotional collaboration with that power, and fundamentally, a unique form of friendship between two beings. For those open to this sort of relationship, there’s really nothing quite like horseback riding.

Camp Tennis Girl

All of the other Rockbrook activities kept the campers busy throughout the morning activity periods. At tennis the girls worked on their volleys, while at archery and riflery, they steadied their aim. The girls climbed the Alpine Tower, and swam in the lake, if they weren’t stretching into yoga poses in the hillside lodge. Some made tie-dye t-shirts, and others sewed pillows. Some knitted hats, as other girls tied new bracelet patterns out of colorful embroidery floss. There was volleyball in the gym and cartwheels in the gymnastics area, as the WHOA instructors demonstrated how to build a fire. It’s astonishing how many different things the campers were doing at the same time all over camp!

Kids Playing Under Waterfall

Also this morning, a group of Junior campers took a “swim” hike to Moore Cove in the Pisgah Forest. Dressed in their swimsuits with towels and water bottles stashed in day packs, they followed the gentle uphill trail into the cove. It’s a short walk that ends at an 80-foot tall waterfall. It’s been pretty dry lately, so the falling water was more like rain as it dripped over the rock high above. This made a perfect place to cool off in the warm sunshine, and the girls made great use use of the opportunity letting the water spray all over them. They played in the pool below and had a great time building cairns from stones they found… a real forest experience, real play, and definitely real fun.

All of the Senior campers gathered later this afternoon for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest, and a stop at Sliding Rock. Our picnic this time included a huge pile of watermelon, baked spaghetti the kitchen prepared for us in advance, salad, and sliced baguettes. I’d say it was far more of a complete meal than a “picnic.” One girl bragged to me that she ate 14 pieces of the bread! After eating, we enjoyed digesting our dinner a bit by running around playing a game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl.” Akin to musical chairs, this game gets the the girls running from one place to another in a circle with each round identifying a new “Rockbrook Girl” for the center of the circle. There’s a lot of laughing and screaming, like all great outdoor games. It was a short trip in the buses back to “the Rock,” and soon the girls were zipping down the natural water slide splashing into the deep pool at the bottom. It’s hard to describe how much the girls love sliding rock. As you slip, spin and roll through the “freezing” cold water, it’s only natural to scream your head off, and as you watch your friends, to laugh hysterically. It’s all great fun.

“Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” came next when we stopped at Dolly’s Dairy bar. If not that flavor, then some other sweet treat topped off the outing when everyone ordered their favorite in a cup or cone. Eating the ice cream, even after all the chilly sliding, really heated everyone up and in no time we were singing songs, posing for more photos and simply enjoying the evening together. It was the perfect way to finish up an excellent trip out.

Sliding Rock Thumbs Up Girls

Sheer Joy

4th of July Campers

We don’t take the 4th of July lightly around here. In fact, it might be the peak of the summer, combining everything we love about Rockbrook and then pushing it just a little higher, adding a tad more intensity, and turning up the volume… all, of course, just for the fun of it.

We began the day early, before the regular rising bell, like camp has for decades on the 4th, with the equestrian staff riding down the cabin lines shouting, “The British are coming!” The staff had braided red, white and blue ribbons into a couple of the horse’s tails and one had a small flag fixed to its saddle. As the campers woke to the sounds of hoof beats outside their cabins and all this strange yelling about “the British’ (which by the way, Paul Revere probably called them the “Regulars”), they stumbled out onto the hill, still dressed in their pajamas, for a flag raising ceremony led by the Hi-Ups and everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing America the Beautiful.

At breakfast, the campers were met by the first wave of decorations meant to help celebrate the 4th of July. The dining hall had streamers, posters, ribbons, and balloons hung in every direction. We set a pile of red, white and blue head bands, stickers and temporary tattoos on all the tables, and combined with the campers’ own festive shirts, tights, and hats, the patriotic color scheme was elaborate, to say the least! Rick had eggs, sausage (veggie too) and oven roasted red potatoes for breakfast, and after singing several songs like “Yankee Doodle,” “Your a Grand Old Flag,” and Katy Perry’s “Firework,” the girls were definitely in the spirit of the day as they set out for their morning activities.

For the afternoon, we scheduled a fun, exciting series of all-camp relays that ran the campers in stages between the Alpine Tower at one end of the camp to the Landsports field to finish up. Part group games, part physical tasks, and part cooperation relays, the entire event challenged three teams (red, while and blue) comprised of girls mixed from all three age groups. Each team started by dressing and decorating themselves with washable body paint in their team color, and by creating a team cheer. Also, all the girls on each team selected an individual relay, a particular challenge to tackle and advance their team toward the finish.

Greased watermelon relay game at the lake
sponge bucket relay game
victory pose shaving cream girl

There were 17 (!) different relays in all, so everyone had a role to play for their team. There were traditional relay race events like Dizzy Lizzy, Greasy Watermelon, Sponge and Bucket, 3-legged, and Egg and Spoon, but also silly challenges like moving marbles from one bucket of water to another using just you feet, and passing a banana backwards down a line of people lying on the ground, again using just your feet. One game used water pistols to roll a beach ball, another challenged the girls to sidestep while holding a balloon between a partner’s head, and still another required the group to thaw a frozen t-shirt as fast as possible. Dashing from relay to relay, the girls were so excited to finish their event and then cheer on their teammates as the mob grew larger the closer it got to the Landsports field. There we had music and watermelon to enjoy while the final events completed. We had a pie eating contest, and a crazy red, while and blue shaving cream fight at the end of the afternoon. But as a final surprise, Richie, Rockbrook’s builder and facilities manager, arranged to have a firetruck ready to spray a huge fountain of water up in the air. Instant rainstorm! With fun, danceable pop music blasting, the girls sweaty and messy from the relays and shaving cream, they had a complete blast together dancing around as the fire hose showered water.  Almost unimaginably, it was a moment of sheer joy for everyone.

water squirt ball relay game
crunched head balloon game relay
banana pass relay game

After cleaning up, we all enjoyed a traditional picnic on the hill, a yummy supper of grilled chicken breasts, baked beans, corn on the cob, and potato chips. We don’t serve soft drinks at camp ordinarily, but tonight we offered the girls each a can of Cheerwine, kept cold in the creek in front of the Goodwill cabin. For dessert it was shortbread, strawberries, blueberries and fresh whipped cream— red, white and blue.. again!

As night fell, the finale of the day was our own fireworks show. Chase was ready with glow sticks for all the girls and a playlist of fun music to blast during the show. For the next 35 minutes, we all enjoyed another dance party, as the girls twirled their glow sticks, sang along to the music and cheered with every sparkling blast in the air.

It’s hard to beat a day like this with one celebration after another, one exciting surprise after another. When you have all these great people having this much crazy fun, I can’t think of a better way to spend the 4th of July.

crazy camp girls
happy messy camp girls

We’re Gaga!

If you take a stroll down behind the Rockbrook tennis courts, past the lower pottery studio, and through the tunnel under the highway, you’ll pop out by the French Broad River, nearby where all our horseback riding happens at camp. There we have our fenced pastures, horse barns, riding rings, and equestrian office— all on the west side of US276, while the majority of the camp, connected by the tunnel, is up the hills on the east side.

Horseback Riding Camper

This summer we have 30 horses at Rockbrook, all being superbly cared for by Kelsi, our Equestrian Director, and her staff of riding instructors. The personalities of the horses, their strengths and sensitivities, identify them as suitable for riders with specific skills and confidence riding. This photo, for example, shows Olivia riding Rocket, a 10-year-old thoroughbred/half linger cross who came to us from Mary Thomson at St. Andrews University. Isn’t it a great shot? Rocket can ride hunter jumpers and dressage, and has been used for several years in lessons for young children. He responds well to definite riders, and can be a little quick when jumping. It looks like he and Olivia— even their manes— are right in sync in their canter! If your daughter decides to take riding while she’s here at camp, you’ll no doubt hear about the favorite horse she rode, perhaps Otto, Watson, Annie, Quinn, or even Rocket. If you write her, you might ask about which horses she’s had a chance to ride. 😉

Gaga Ball Players

Ordinary dodgeball played in our gym is often part of the “Sports and Games” activity, but just outside is an octagonal court, about 20 feet wide with 30-inch high walls, that is for a special kind of dodgeball called GaGa (or Ga-ga Ball). The game is thought to have come from Israel and its name from the Hebrew word “ga” which means to touch or hit. “Israeli Dodgeball” is another name for it. Played mostly during free times at camp, like before lunch and after dinner, girls of any age and athletic ability can enjoy a game of Gaga. Any number can play too, making it easy to start a game and include everyone. The object is to hit a small, soft ball with your hands (not throw it) to hit other players in the leg, eliminating them from the game. As the girls knock the ball around inside the court, they jump wildly out of the way trying to avoid being hit. The court is just the right size to keep the game moving quickly, and soon when the last person is left (the winner) another game starts right up. Later in the week, there will certainly be an impromptu Gaga tournament for those girls gaga about gaga!

camp-girls

During the cabin skits tonight that were part of the Senior Line’s evening program, I was impressed by how much fun the girls were having being silly and performing for each other, but also by how close they had already become after only this first week of camp. It’s another of the amazing benefits of camp— by spending so much time together, unplugged from screens, sharing, communicating, and cooperating, your Rockbrook girls are also building emotional bonds with each other, growing more and more comfortable each day. It’s clear that camp life is fundamentally social, but perhaps different from the relationships formed at school, kindness and encouragement define the way Rockbrook girls treat each other. They are simply quick to be nice, and that really fuels the friendships being formed here. Over time, it’s this closeness that makes camp life so rich, and that’s so rewarding to experience.

A Huge 4th

Campers awoken by horses near their cabins

Today, the 4th of July, was an absolutely HUGE day at camp. First of all, I can’t help but mention the weather because it was beautiful— clear blue skies, low humidity, and a high temperature of 79 degrees. It was downright chilly in the morning (about 62 degrees) when we had a very special wake up call. The seven riding staff members, dressed in their best red, white and blue, rode horses up into camp and, on cue, down each of the lines yelling “The British are coming! Wake up! Wake up!” (a reference to Paul Revere’s ride in April of 1775). Awoken by the sounds of hoof beats and these warnings, and dressed in fleeces or wrapped in blankets to stay warm, the whole camp assembled on the hill around the flagpole where the Hi-Ups raised the flag and led us in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and singing “America the Beautiful.”

On a day like this, you know what to wear… anything and everything red, white and blue. Last night a group of counselors stayed up late and decorated the dining hall with streamers, balloons, table decorations and flags. Also a surprise for the campers, we had red, white and blue hats, headbands, temporary tattoos and bead necklaces on the tables for everyone to embellish their own costumes, and boost their patriotic spirit.

Camper dressed for 4th July
Camp Girl in Red White Blue
USA Flag in Hair of Girl Camper

In the dining hall, for both breakfast and lunch, the girls couldn’t help but further express their enthusiasm for the holiday by singing songs like “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Firework,” and Yankee Doodle Dandy.” At one point a whole cabin stopped eating to yell “Happy Birthday America!” followed by cheers from everyone else. These girls do have spirit!

Camp girl making a USA basket
Camp holding USA flag on zipline

A tour of the camp activities this morning proved this spirit was high everywhere, with patriotic  decorations being more normal than not. For example, at the creek by the Curosty cabin, Melanie and the girls were weaving red, white and blue baskets. Feet soaking in the creek with the reeds and plenty of sunshine brightening the scene, the girls produced some really cool baskets. At the zipline, Rita brought along small flags for the girls to wave as they flew down the cable. Zip after zip, the blur of red, white and blue was spectacular to see. Over in Hodge Podge, the girls were likewise leaning pretty heavily on 4th of July colors for their tie dye t-shirt designs.

Following Rest Hour, we continued this theme with everyone joining in for an afternoon of group relays down on our grassy sports field. We first divided all the campers and counselors, mixing the Lines, into three groups. Each took a color— yes, again red, white or blue —and using tempera body paint and the how they dressed, built a unified team, complete with a rallying chant or cheer.  Split like this, the camp made up three teams of approximately 95 people.

Camper running sponge race
Campers running 3-legged race
Camper carrying egg on spoon racing

Once assembled on the field, again with simply superb weather, Chase and Grace organized at least a dozen different relay races matching representatives from each team. While 10 or so girls from each team competed in a relay, the others cheered them on. It was exciting to watch classic relays like the 3-legged race, the egg (on a spoon) carry, and the crab walk. We also had teams square off for an egg toss, a water balloon toss, and a cracker eating race. Other groups raced across the field carrying an orange under their chins, and others carrying a water-soaked sponge trying to fill up a bucket.  Interestingly, even though these were races, and it was very exciting for your team to win a particular relay, nobody paid much attention to the overall score. In the end, who “won” seemed irrelevant to the girls. I think they were having too much fun to worry about that sort of thing. Finally, all that racing around warmed us up enough to make the final surprise feel really great. Richie borrowed a fire truck from his Volunteer Fire Department and using the water cannon, created the largest sprinkler you’ve ever seen. He shot a spray of water about 40 feet in the air so the girls could run around and shower off a bit under it.

Cookout food at camp 4th picnic
Eating cookout picnic on Hill at summer camp

Dinner tonight, taking great advantage of our huge charcoal grill, started with hamburgers, hotdogs and grilled chicken, plus homemade coleslaw, corn on the cob and freshly sliced watermelon loading down our plates. Then, tapping into another camp tradition, the girls also enjoyed a cold soda that was chilled in the stream. The hill in the center of camp makes the perfect place for an evening picnic as it slopes to present a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Topping off the meal, Katie (with some help from the Hi-Ups) made us all patriotic cupcakes— red, white and blue, each with a tiny American Flag stuck in the top. It was such a nice evening together… great food, perfect weather, fun music playing, and so many of our very best friends.

A huge fireworks show at Rockbrook Camp
Camp girl with statue of Liberty

Leah surprised everyone after dinner by dressing up like the Statue of Liberty, complete with a crown, matching green-copper-colored dress and torch. This then led to girls wanting to have their picture taken with our Lady Liberty. It was a spontaneous photo shoot with the Statue of Liberty. And she was so nice! 🙂

As night fell, anticipation grew for our fireworks show, the finale of the day. All the girls and their counselors pulled out crazy creek chairs on the hill so they could have a view of the sky above the lake where we launch everything. Armed with flashlights and glow sticks, and bopping along to the upbeat music Stephanie and Chase had selected, the girls cheered after every colorful blast.

This has been one of the best 4th of July celebrations at camp in recent memory. So great in fact, it’s hard to think of a way that it could have been any better.

A Powerful Feeling

Horse Camp Riding Class

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that while girls are jumping (in the lake), sewing (pillows), climbing (rocks), shooting (arrows), and acting (in improvisational drama games)… all up in camp, down by the river, they are also riding— horses, of course. Managing our riding program this summer is Kelsi Peterson who comes to us from the Equestrian program at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, NC where she is the show team coach. Directing the Rockbrook riding program is quite a job with 29 horses, 2 barns, 60 acres of pasture, and 6 staff members all needing attention, not to mention all the campers wanting to ride. Kelsi does a fantastic job with this, taking particular care placing every camper in a mounted lesson that matches her experience and riding ability. For those extra-excited campers, Kelsi and her staff also teach a regular class we call “Stable Club” where the girls learn— mostly by doing —how to care for the horses. Baths and brushing, hoof care and feeding, and mucking out stalls, there’s always a lot to know and do!

Girl learning to throw pottery on wheel
Girls hands on pottery wheel

The girls taking ceramics are advancing through the different hand building techniques, experimenting with coils and slabs to make some pretty cool animal sculptures. Michele, who is our Head ceramics instructor this summer, is encouraging the girls to use their imaginations and create whatever comes to mind without much concern about what something is “supposed” to look like. They are learning that different color glazes and finishing tools can really make something unique. In addition, it’s been a big hit for the girls to learn wheel-thrown pottery techniques. Michele has been explaining and demonstrating all the steps to throwing a pot on the wheel: centering the clay, opening it up, pulling up the walls, and cleaning the top. Each of these can require some practice to master, so it’s a great feeling when the girls are successful at each point. Most of the girls are really excited to give it a try and likewise determined to master every skill. We are all looking forward to the end of the session when all of the kiln firings are done and the finished, colorful pieces emerge.

Kids Hiking by Waterfall

This afternoon, Clyde led a group of Junior campers on a hike in the nearby Dupont State Forest to visit several of the county’s largest waterfalls. With a snack, water bottles packed, and with cameras set and ready, they were able to reach both Triple Falls and High Falls while out hiking. This area of the Forest has recently become popular thanks to the first Hunger Games movie, part of which was filmed at the base of these waterfalls. Today the water level was a bit higher than normal making the crashing sound of High Falls a little louder and the spray you feel on your face at the base of the falls all the more surprising. It’s a powerful feeling to be that close to such a huge waterfall.

Summer Camp Drum Class

After dinner, during that hour of free time we call “Twilight,” tonight we held a drumming workshop in the Hillside Lodge. Our friend Billy Zanski from Asheville arrived loaded down with different sized drums and led the drumming session for any of the campers who chose to attend. He taught us several basic Djembe rhythms and the girls played along taking turns on the Dundun bass drums. Several of the songs included a call and response chant while others easily inspired several of the girls (and counselors!) to get up and dance along. The whole session illustrated that even for young girls, drumming, contributing to a group musical experience like this, is something really enjoyable.

Finally, today was “Twin Day” at camp, so if the girls felt compelled— and a great number did —they would dress together as twins. This meant switching the the left shoes, or wearing the same t-shirt, or in this case dressing as “Camp Carolina Boys.” I think I spotted several princesses too. You just never know what these girls will come up with!

Girls Camp Twins Costume