Happy and Tired

At breakfast this morning we announced a special activity the girls could select today: attending a wood turning workshop presented by local artist George Peterson. George is married to an Alumna of Rockbrook and has two daughters who attend camp. He is known nationally for working with wood, shaping, etching, carving, burning and finishing it into amazing functional and decorative pieces. He just returned from showing his work in Japan, and has worked with galleries in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta as well. One of his bowls was recently chosen for the oval office! His Web site, The Circle Factory, shows some of his latest work. Check out what he’s done with old skateboards.

George started by demonstrating how a wood lathe can spin a block of wood, and allow his sharp chisel to cut away curly shavings, slowly revealing a uniform shape. It was a little loud, but so fascinating to watch a bowl materialize from the block with each chip of wood removed. After forming the interior of the bowl, George demonstrated using an electric carving tool how to shape the exterior and bottom. This wasn’t just a demonstration though. George was ready for each girl to have her own bowl to work on. He had the interiors started, and with George guiding the tools, the girls carved and sanded their bowls, readying them for the final two touches: burning the letters “RBC” using a metal brand, and adding a coat of mineral oil to protect the wood and give it a pleasing shine. Throughout the day, in a total of 4 workshops, campers were carving and sanding very cool wooden bowls, now keepsakes of their session at Rockbrook.

Water Pistol Lake Game
Watermelon Lake Game

The Rockbrook lake already has floats, beach balls, kickboards, noodles, tubes, and other assorted floating balls and toys, but today the lifeguards added a few other items “just for fun,” as they put it. For the morning periods, it was an arsenal of water pistols, and water shooting devices. The junior campers in particular had fun spraying each other, easily refilling their weapons with water from the lake. In the afternoon, suddenly there was a watermelon to play with. Some of the older girls took turns swimming with it, tossing it from the diving board, and watching it— after a very excellent splash —slowly resurface. After each toss and loud kerplunk, the girls would laugh and laugh, ready to pass the watermelon back up for another throw. Simple stuff, I know, but you would love it too!

Camp Dance Older Girls
Camp Dance Younger Girls

Tonight was an event that many of the girls, especially the older campers, look forward to all session, and that has become a camp tradition over the years: a dance with Camp Carolina. We probably fired continuously all of our tankless water heaters this afternoon, and the very few mirrors in camp attracted a constant crowd, as the girls prepared for the night, pulling out a special outfit or maybe dressing in a silly costume. Once again we split the two camps and held two dances, our Juniors and Middlers staying at the Rockbrook gym with the younger boys and our Seniors and Hi-Ups dancing in the CCB dining hall with their older boys. At Rockbrook, our friend Marcus (aka, DJ Dawg) played all the music, doing a great job selecting songs the girls know, as well as songs with popular dance moves like “Watch Me.” At both dances we outnumbered the boys about 2:1 making the night, for the girls at least, more about dancing with their friends than with the boys. Sweaty and tired from jumping and dancing around for an hour and a half, the older girls were very excited and chatty on the ride back to Rockbrook. Happy and tired: that’s another good camp day.

All Together

moving camp trunk by wagon

The excitement around here exploded today as we welcomed our June Mini Session campers to Rockbrook. Ninety Four girls, about half of who are new to camp, joined the full session girls who arrived last week bringing the camp to completely full. After a few stops to see the medical team (pediatrician, nurses, and “head check” specialists) and office folks, and after taking some time to peruse the latest RBC gear, the new girls and their counselors could begin moving into their cabins. “Top bunk or bottom bunk?” and “Where should I keep my trunk?” are the most immediate questions to answer, but it doesn’t take long to make beds, arrange a stuffed animal or two, or maybe hang a small photo or poster to make these old (many almost 100 year-old) cabins feel cozy. Meeting your new cabin mates is another fun part of this process. It feels so good to have everyone here at last. Now the dining hall will be extra loud when everyone is singing, the activity classes will include more friends to talk with, the free swim periods (one before lunch and another before dinner) at the lake will be more of an event.

Camp girls cheering

A little after noon, everyone gathered on the grassy hill at the center of camp, and under the shade of the big walnut tree heard Sarah, the other directors and the Line Heads (counselors in charge of each age group) introduce themselves and announce the plans for the rest of the day. The Hi-Up campers (10th graders) led everyone in several songs, and then we gathered into groups to take State photographs. It was fun to see that Florida and Georgia were the two largest groups, the there were girls and counselors representing many other states, like Massachusetts, Colorado and even California. Lunch was fantastic. Rick had for us, his homemade barbeque chicken (or tempeh), a cheese grits casserole, and fresh steamed broccoli, as well as our deluxe salad bars which he stocked with other vegetables, fruits and sandwhich spreads. This was true comfort food, perfect for our first full meal together. And, it was devoured!

Campers making bracelets on the porch

A brief note about technology at camp… As you know, we strive to teach our campers the value of slowing down a little, reconnecting to the natural world and to the people around us. We believe that “unplugging,” taking a break from the flicker of television, phone, and computer screens, really helps girls get more out of camp. This can be a little difficult at first, especially it seems for the teenagers (I once saw a camper actually kiss her iPhone as she said “goodbye” to it on opening day.) but it only takes a day or two of camp life, of experiencing the satisfying feeling of it, to realize that fully engaging the world is so much better than the virtual abstractions technology offers. That’s a great lesson.

Camp kids smiling before swim test

We were fortunate to be able to hold our swimming demonstrations for the new campers after lunch and before the weather turned on us. There were only a couple of cabins who couldn’t squeeze in their demos before the rain, and we’ll take care of theirs tomorrow. We also were able to have our afternoon scavenger hunt that sent the girls all over the camp to visit a dozen or so activity areas and to meet the instructors. There were skits and games to perform at each station, and at some, snacks like fruit and goldfish kept everyone energized. This was all in preparation for the girls signing up for their first set of scheduled activities later in the evening, and for tomorrow’s action.

Keep those cards, letters and emails coming!  We love mail at camp!

Launching into Summer

After many months of planning, new building projects around camp, gathering supplies and equipment, hiring staff members, and for the last week, training outdoor adventure guides, equestrian specialists and cabin counselors, we have arrived at the opening day for Rockbrook’s 2013 summer season. It’s a very exciting day for all of us at camp. Like for your girls, it truly is the moment we’ve been waiting for. It’s the day when we can finally reunite with many old camp friends and meet great girls new to Rockbrook as well.

Overnight we had some heavy rain, and the rest of the day was forecast to be quite wet. So a little shuffling of our opening day schedule and procedures, a few tents and tarps, and plenty of raincoats and boots were required. It sprinkled a bit throughout the morning, and it did rain briefly now and then, but overall we had a great opening day. The campers met their counselors, moved into their cabins, and had a chance to decorate their name tags. These name tags, by the way, are made from a slice of a mountain laurel branch, and are just like those made for generations at Rockbrook. The girls use markers to decorate them and often add beads to the strings for another way to make them unique. In each cabin, the counselors had prepared a poster welcoming the girls and a “job wheel” outlining the daily chores and how they will be shared. It’s fun to settle into the cabin… Making beds, unpacking, arranging pillows and greeting everyone as they arrive.

Camper Games in Lodge

The weather cleared up nicely in the afternoon allowing us to send cabin groups on tours around the camp. These tours both orient the campers and get them thinking about the different activities they will be able to choose from. While some cabins were touring, others were playing group get-to-know-you games in the lodges, and others were down at the lake demonstrating their swimming ability to the lifeguards. Yes, it was plenty warm enough and, while cloudy, not raining during all of this activity.

Before dinner, we all assembled in the gym to learn more about the different activities at camp by watching the counselors perform skits. There were songs, dances with props like tennis racquets, climbing harnesses, and kick boards, and incredibly enthusiastic introductions. Watching these skits, you could tell the counselors were having fun and were going to be great teachers as well as role models for the campers this session. If you haven’t read through some of the staff profiles we’ve posted, I recommend it. You can see, even without meeting them, just how impressive these young women are!

Tomorrow the campers launch into their first activity schedule. It’s going to be big fun!

Friends Swimming Test

Zeal for Dressing Up

Bracelet Making Girls

This morning we woke to a gentle, though steady, rain. It’s really been the first time during this spell of wet weather that it’s rained consistently for more than 45 minutes or so. Most of the “real rains” have been at night, but the radar this morning showed this cell would be with us a few hours, yielding not a stormy kind of rain, but continuous little drops, almost like a beaded curtain of water. It was a morning of rain coats, ponchos and rubber boots… And mostly indoor activities. All the crafts activities, all seven of them, have their own studio, whether it’s inside one of the historic log cabins or on a covered porch, so they were unaffected. The gym became livelier with the archery and riflery girls joining the action, and the dining hall accommodated tennis players for a board game. For horseback riding, the campers had a horse grooming party, staying dry inside the barn.

girls yoga partner pose
camp kids doing partner yoga pose

The yoga classes that meet in the Hillside Lodge continue to be well attended. MK, our yoga instructor, seems to have an endless supply of poses and relaxation exercises for the girls. Today she had several partner poses to present. One was a simple back-to-back twist pose, and another was called the “Child and Fish” pose. With relaxing music playing, MK tries to create a calm atmosphere, even if the girls tend to giggle at each other trying each new pose. It’s a lighthearted activity that celebrates process and initiative rather than some notion of perfection. Being together, feeling good, and having fun are the goals; doing yoga, in this case, is the means.

Girl River kayaking

A group of Senior girls headed out to the Tuckasegee River today for a whitewater kayaking trip. Being a dam-controlled river, the recent rains haven’t affected to it as severely, making it still safe to run. The water was a little muddier than usual (though the “Tuck” is always a little muddy), but all the named rapids were perfect and there were still plenty of eddies to catch and play in. In fact, the water level made the river slightly easier to paddle because several ordinarily shallow sections were now more forgiving. One highlight of the trip was a brief stop to jump off the rock right blow the Moonshot rapid… A little swimming to get even more wet!

At lunch, as the rain subsided and yes the sun broke through the clouds for an afternoon back outside, Frampton announced the afternoon was to be “Disney Day” and that everyone should break out their Disney-related costumes, especially for dinner because it was Disney Restaurant Night. This is a special dinner where the counselors transform the dining hall into a themed restaurant, in this case into anything Disney, using posters, table ornaments and other decorations.

Kids camp wearing disney clothes
Kids dressed in disney costumes
Camp counselor dressed as mini mouse

The costumes were amazing! And the enthusiasm for dressing up really showed as I’d say 95% of the campers and staff members were made up in some way or another. Just a little face paint, a goofy hairstyle, or handmade sign taped to your shirt was plenty good, even as some girls shown in complete Disney Character costumes. Lilo and Stitch, Chip and Dale, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, super heroes (from the Incredibles), monsters (from Monsters, Inc.) Winnie the Pooh, Fish (from the Little Mermaid), and more princesses than I can count came to life at Rockbrook singing their lungs out during dinner and posing on the hill afterwards for a few photos. Ever seen a frog play tetherball with a mouse? It happened last night!

It’s so wonderful to see these girls, young girls and teenagers alike, have such zeal for dressing up like this- bent over with laughter and asking for their picture to be taken so they can scrunch up their faces into an even sillier look. It shows that they are proud and self-confident, they feel safe and cared for, and they are surrounded by friends, completely free of other social pressures (no boys!). What a wonderful community for them.

Camp girls dress up in Disney clothes