Nick at Night

Who remembers watching Nickelodeon growing up? For many of us, thinking of the TV shows we watched when we were younger brings up nostalgia. This year, we decided to combine those nostalgic feelings with the pure fun and silliness that is Nickelodeon into a crazy surprise event! After lunch, we switched up our normal announcements routine and headed out to the hill to watch our lineheads get slimed! Everyone loved watching these special counselors get covered in Nickelodeon-style green slime, but that was only the beginning…

The dining hall was decorated for dinner with streamers and panels showcasing Nickelodeon’s greatest hits throughout the years. During the meal, we played a game of counselor musical chairs — while the music played, counselors roamed the dining hall, showing off their best costumes. When the music stopped, they sat at the nearest table and got to spend time getting to know campers from different cabins and age groups. I loved getting to see all the counselors interact with new campers!

After dinner, we all headed to the gym for an evening program inspired by Nickelodeon’s Double Dare Challenges. We watched as campers and counselors participated in fun and messy challenges like “In Your Egg Hat” – a twist on a classic egg toss, but with a bucket attached to a helmet to catch each egg. However, many people’s favorite part of the evening was the final event. At dinner, each counselor’s chair had a number attached. Our game of musical chairs mixed up the numbers, and to end the night, we randomly selected a few counselor numbers to get slimed! All the campers cheered as counselors got covered in sticky green slime. After experiencing it myself, I can say that waiting for the slime to come was a little nerve-wracking, but the happiness on all the camper’s faces afterwards made it worth it. It was the perfect camp night, full of high energy and a little (lots of) messiness.

The “Extra” in the Ordinary

Tetherball Camp Game

An 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 High

If 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 Horse

Instead 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 Camp

Meanwhile 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.

Birds of a Feather— A Mom’s Perspective

Bentley Parker
Rockbrook Camper, Counselor, Camp Mom

The Parker Girls

It had never crossed my mind that new situations involving unfamiliar people or circumstances could be uncomfortable for some, especially friends I knew well. I thought this was a skill acquired by adulthood, one that came with age. I had obviously taken for granted these social skills that I acquired at camp, where I’ve been coming since I was 7, which required me to meet new people and try new things every summer.

A Break on the Range
Synchronized Floating
Yoga on Tutu Tuesday
Just Hanging Around
Happy Camper

I’ve realized I have been mistaken in assuming situations like this were easy for all, as I have often purposely met other moms outside of school, meetings, and sporting events to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable by walking in alone. I’ve recognized that the inexplicable confidence and laughter still comes naturally for me, as I was the only mom who stuck to the dress up plan and showed up to the premier of Hunger Games with pink hair. I’ve come to better understand that the unfamiliarity of people and situations surpasses the comfort zones of many, making the prospect of walking into a room with strangers and making a friend seem impossible.

I’ve now developed an even better appreciation of how these skills are developed as I’ve gotten the privilege to watch your children cultivate friendships and give birth to these character traits here at RBC. I recognize the confidence they develop when they come to camp not knowing anyone and yet leave with lifelong friends. As a mom of 3 girls, these are skills I can’t teach my children. These are skills that I’m grateful they have had the opportunity to gain here at Rockbrook.

I’ve also come to the realization that some of the tightest bonds I’ve formed have been with friends who were “camp girls,” long after our camper days were over. They were instantaneous friendships, because we immediately knew we were alike in so many ways. We had survived screened cabins, appreciated nature, respected various personalities, experienced new things, desired leadership, and possessed camp silliness.

If you are a parent of a camper reading this, let me assure you that you are providing a lasting legacy for your daughter. This opportunity is equipping her with a skill set that may seem invisible at first but that she will utilize throughout her lifetime. There are no words to adequately describe the bond camp creates or the traits acquired here, but the experience speaks for itself. She will continually reap the benefits of her camper experience throughout her life, and it will shape the person she becomes as a grown woman.

Camp birds are of one type of feather, and the bonds of the flock will always keep them together!

“How did we come to meet pal? What caused our paths to blend? ‘Twas fate we came to Rockbrook, and you became my friend.”

Good Clean Fun

Messy and Smiling

One of my favorite memories as a staff member at Rockbrook occurred one day early in Third Session a few years ago. A rainstorm had just cleared out, and I was walking to the Dining Hall, enjoying the reemerging sunshine. I walked past a shady spot by the stream, where a patch of earth had been transformed into a patch of mud. Two Juniors were jumping around in the mud, getting splatters all over their legs and clothes, and laughing uproariously when their feet would slide out from beneath them.

Dancing Queens

The noise attracted one of their counselors, who had been standing nearby. As she approached, the girls got very still, adjusted their giddy smiles into expressions of contrition, and waited to be reprimanded for making such a mess. The counselor stood quietly for a moment, looking them over, before kneeling, taking a handful of mud and spreading a wide streak of mud on each cheek, like war paint. “Can I play?” she asked.

I continued past the little group to the Dining Hall, leaving behind two awed and delighted campers, and one very, very cool counselor. I saw all three that evening at dinner, scrubbed clean. They were relating their adventures to the rest of their cabin—telling them all about the moment they realized that they were actually allowed to be dirty.

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Now, there’s no need to worry, we do encourage frequent showers, parcel out daily chores to keep the cabins tidy, and have all campers and counselors help to clean up the tables after meals in the dining hall. That being said, we also do all that we can to discourage that aversion to getting dirty that seems only to get stronger in girls as they get older. It’s no secret that girls tend to become more focused on their appearance as they get older, and Senior campers have expressed to me their reluctance even to do something as simple as getting their faces painted at home, for fear of looking dumb.

That fear of looking dumb, or silly, or improper, or anything other than perfectly presentable at all times, is a fear that camp manages to quash remarkably quickly considering how powerful it can be out in the “real world.” Within a few days at camp, makeup bags have been zipped up and put away, hair has been thrown up into messy buns, and hands have been stained by tie-dye and red clay.

Last night, we put that change on full display, by putting on a “girls’ dance,” a giant dance party—complete with a DJ, glow sticks, and strobe lights—down at the gym. After dinner, each age group went back to its lodge, where the girls decked themselves out in glow-in-the-dark facepaint, glow stick jewelry, and white clothes.

To get down to the gym, the girls had two options. They could either walk down the lower line of cabins to the gym, and start dancing a little early, OR they could take the messier route. Lining the lakeside road (which also leads to the gym), were counselors, CITs, and Hi Ups, toting water guns and bags of powder paint. Campers of all ages ran down this path, allowing themselves to be soaked first, then covered from head to toe in multicolored paint. Emerging from the other end of this “color run” was an army of human tie-dyes, racing to get to the gym and an evening of music and dancing.

With no slow dances with boys, streaky makeup, or pretty clothes to worry about, the girls danced harder and seemed to have more fun than I’d ever seen at a camp dance before. They streamed out of the gym again at bedtime, taking their milk and cookies with them as they went, giving no thought to their sweaty clothes, streaky painted faces, or tangled hair. The campers that I talked to could only express the fun they’d had, and maybe a bit of pride in the audacity it took for them to get a little messy.

Budding Independence

The first full day of the session, as was today, means several things. First, it’s a chance for the campers to become more familiar with the property and activity areas, to get a better sense of where everything is located. Following their camp tour yesterday, now they venture off on their own to the Alpine climbing tower, the Hillside Lodge for yoga, or Curosty for weaving, for example. There are almost 30 different things to do— organized activities available during the scheduled activity periods —and each has a “home” somewhere in camp.

Imagine all the little pockets of activity spread around Rockbrook… Outdoor adventure instructors explaining how to use special equipment, arts and crafts teachers introducing cool sewing, pottery, or weaving projects, horses being tacked up, bows and arrows nocked. If you scan through today’s photo gallery, you can see the variety of things going on. These girls are impressive already!

Young Kid Kayaking
Summer camp yoga class
Camper learns to weave at summer camp

What’s even more impressive though, and probably more significant in the long run, is the independence this first day of camp has already brought about in your girls. Remember, at Rockbrook, the campers select their own activities while at camp. Often after much discussion with friends about the options, and “what are you gonna take?” kinds of questions, everyone selects 4 different activities they will try for the first half of the week. For each activity rotation, which happens twice per week, the girls themselves decide how to spend their activity time. Furthermore, during the blocks of free time scheduled throughout the day— before lunch, before dinner, and after dinner —the campers can decide to do even more independent things. With a friend, they might head to the lake for a ride down the water slide, go to the tennis courts to hit a few balls, challenge someone at the tetherball court, or just hang out on the grassy hill enjoying the mountain view.

The very structure of our day, in other words, encourages this budding independence for Rockbrook girls. As they select their daily activities (“Riflery or Drama? Hmmm…”) and decide on their own how to spend free time (“I want to go play in the creek!”), as well as navigate from place to place throughout the day, all while listening for the bell to help make it on time, they grow increasingly confident. They learn firsthand that “I can do it myself.”

As you see your girls smiling and enjoying themselves doing any of the regular in-camp activities offered everyday at camp, at least part of that smile arises from the simple satisfaction, and maybe a little pride, that follows her successful experience of independence. And that’s pretty cool stuff.

Camper Screams on zipline
Camper proudly displays pottery sculpture
archery camp girl shooting

A Haven from the Hectic

Does it seem to you like we are living in an increasingly hectic world? Look around and you’ll see families, and more importantly kids, being pulled into a whirlwind of commitments and scheduled activities, all while having less time than ever for quieter, slower things. They’re holding a hectic pace rushing from school to sports practices, from homework to home chores, cutting short time with family, or just the freedom to pursue whatever comes to mind. With rushed meals, complex logistics for “getting things done” and that ragged feeling of not getting quite enough sleep, it’s no wonder kids can so easily be unhappy.

Could it be that by “doing everything we can” to help our kids succeed and achieve, we parents are unintentionally failing to do something else? By charging full speed ahead and taking advantage of every opportunity, what other important things are we missing?

Camp as a sanctuary from hectic living

It reminds me of a quote by Tomas Tranströmer (b. 1931), the Swedish poet who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of more than 15 collections of poetry, Mr. Tranströmer has been described as “Sweden’s Robert Frost,” a poet who “gives us fresh access to reality… through his condensed, translucent images.” You definitely should look up his work. At any rate, he also wrote,

You can see beauty if you look quickly to the side.”

Quite keenly, this is a prescription, a welcome reminder that beauty is all around us, that if we stop speeding ahead and take a quick glance to the side, something wonderful is right there waiting to be discovered. It might be as simple as a clump of grass squeezing itself between two bricks, or the decorative trim on an old man’s hat, but more importantly, it could be a person, or a new inspiring experience. It’s pretty clear that as our lives become more hectic, we are missing out on all kinds of subtleties and precious opportunities to expand what we already know. How unfortunate, especially for our kids!

Thankfully, there is summer, a time when kids can slow down and enjoy a meandering pace. And likewise, thank goodness for summer camp, that special place where kids meet wonderful people, and every day encounter fun activities and new experiences. Camp is just brimming with these kinds of positive opportunities to grow. It provides the right balance of structured instruction and free time to pursue casual interests “just for the fun of it.”  At Rockbrook, the rewards of “looking quickly to the side” are frequent, rich and immediate.

While the rest of the world grows increasingly hectic, Rockbrook is an exception. And that’s a good thing.

Shaving Cream Fight Video

Ever had a shaving cream fight? Armed with a couple of cans, and dressed in your bathing suit, have you chased your friends around trying to smear them with shaving cream? Has anyone ever sneaked up to you and planted a handful of shaving cream on your neck? No? Well take a look at this video and see just how much fun it can be!

First Day of Activities

Today all of the activities at camp took off! The camp bell woke us all up to a wonderful cool, foggy morning. After breakfast, the different “Lines” (age groups) headed to their lodges for their morning assembly, a time for a couple of energizing songs, maybe a skit, announcements, and a just chance to regroup before the day gets really moving.

Counselor and Camper Weaving

Then each girl, armed with her own unique set of four activities that she selected yesterday evening, set off to the different activity areas throughout the camp. Around 10 o’clock, girls were climbing, swimming, shooting, riding and creating. There were hikes to Castle Rock, archery and riflery instruction, looms clicking and clacking, introductions to new favorite ponies, and games in the gym to name a few. Everywhere, you could hear girls chattering away, making friends, and laughing. It’s completely action packed and neat to see.

The big event, however, was the first free swim time right before lunch. This is when we opened the new water slide at the lake for the very first time. The staff enjoyed it last week a couple of times, but we have kept it a surprise for the campers until they arrived. It’s down on the far end of the lake. The girls first walk across the new dock, cross over the creek that feeds the lake (with a great view of the waterfall), and then climb a series of steps and platforms to the top of the 30-foot tower.

Camp Water Slide Tower
Waterslide Bridge Dock
Sliding Camper Fun

The slide itself is made of a soft vinyl material that’s nice and slippery when we run a little water down it. There’s a staff member at the top of the tower to help, but when ready, the girls launch themselves and zip down 50 feet before splashing into the lake. It’s then a short swim back to the exit ladders, and they’re off to do it again. Super fun stuff!

After dinner tonight, we offered an optional activity during what we call our “Twilight” time. The Rockbrook schedule has several blocks of free time built into the day (the two free swim times, for example), and this is another one. Twilight is free time when girls can hang out on the hill, enjoy one of the many porch rockers around camp, or get involved in whatever spontaneous activity is announced. Tonight we pulled out the slip and slide! It’s been so warm and dry these last few days, a lot of girls got excited. We rolled out a long sheet of plastic, got the water hose going and added a couple of drops of soap— instant cool summer fun, and just another way to enjoy being at camp.

The first whitewater rafting trips are going out tomorrow and we’ll be unveiling a surprise dinner. Stay tuned. We try to right a blog post every day, so if you haven’t subscribed to the blog, here’s the information about how to do that.

Camp Girls Cracking Up