Magical Moments

As girls start getting settled into camp and third session has started going full swing, most of them have found that they feel right at home in their cabins. I love looking at how different cabins look and feel. Some are decorated with fairy lights, a camp “bucket list” of all the things the cabin wants to accomplish throughout the session, plus many photographs of camp from years past and friends and family from home. Everything is starting to feel cozy, the noises of the night no longer so scary, the bunk beds and friends ever more inviting.

In addition to the physical space in which we are residing, everyone is starting to get more comfortable with one another. We are moving past basic questions and getting in to the ease that comes with being around good friends. This was particularly appreciated today because we got to hang out as cabins all afternoon—it was Cabin Day! For Cabin Day, we cancel the two afternoon activities and counselors plan fun activities for their individual cabins. Everyone looks forward to cabin day— it usually means an extra special activity, some good snacks, and, of course, lots of time spent bonding together!

Middle School Girls Camp

The counselors put a lot of work planning activities they think their individual cabins will enjoy, and it definitely showed today! One group of junior counselors knew their girls loved playing with hair, so they spray painted hair (it’s temporary!) and braided the girls’ hair. This made every girl have the opportunity to be wacky, but also to feel special as they all had fun helping each other to do some fun hair dos.

Another junior cabin loves fairies (which is something I hear more about at Rockbrook than anywhere else—there is something that is just magical about it). Their counselors planned a great adventure for them, and I loved hearing all about it from the girls! They hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls (the nearest waterfall from camp—you can actually see the waterfall from the new office building) and searched for fairies. Then, after romping around in the woods and finding an adventurous trail back down the mountain, the girls made their own fairy wings! In addition, they came up with their own fairy identities— I heard of a football fairy, a flower fairy, and a nature fairy! The girls told me that their cabin had made a pact to wear their fairy wings at every meal (while they made sure to point out that other fairy accessories were encouraged, but they were not required). This seems like a small detail of a camper’s time at Rockbrook, but these are the magical parts of camp, the things that give cabins a certain identity that they will remember for years to come.

Pokemon Camp Game

The middlers decided to do something as a line for cabin day, and I saw so much excitement as the girls raced up and down the lines. In light of the Pokémon Go craze, the middler counselors decided to bring Pokémon Go to Rockbrook! Each counselor dressed up as a Pokémon and some hid while others went around with the girls. Much like a scavenger hunt, the girls went from station to station and acquired different treats (that were in Easter Eggs) as though they were collecting Pokemon. Then, they got to decorate cookies that looked like the different characters. Finally, to cap off a great cabin day, they all had a “battle” in the gym by playing dodge ball. Everyone had an amazing time and all the middlers were grateful for all the thought their counselors had put into the activity.

For their cabin day, the seniors had a picnic for dinner and then went to Sliding Rock and Dolly’s. The picnic was perfect—the girls ate quiche, warm lasagna, fresh peaches (possibly the best peaches I’ve ever had), and banana pudding. We then played a large group game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl and You’re a Rockbrook Girl too,” which is a tradition at these picnics and an opportunity for all of us to learn new things about others. Then, girls went down Sliding Rock— they loved the opportunity to slide as many times as they wanted. Though cold afterward, everyone was excited for Dolly’s, the local ice cream shop that names its flavors for the local camps.

No matter which adventure they were a part of, every camper enjoyed Cabin Day. It makes us all to feel more connected with our cabin and lets counselors be creative, choosing things their particular campers will enjoy. Above all, though, growing closer as cabins allows us to feel even more comfortable with each other, and therefore even happier and more at home at camp.

Girls Slide Rock

Leah’s Spirit Fire Speech

Leah and Abby

The third session Spirit Fire, that closed that session and the entire 2012 season, included a speech by Leah Mayo (here she is on the right just before giving this speech). Leah has been coming to Rockbrook for 10 years, first as a Junior camper and now as a counselor, and in the speech she tries to describe “the magic of Rockbrook.” It’s a wonderful testament to why she loves this place so much. Enjoy!

I can’t believe it’s finally happened, that I’m wearing my 10-year necklace. I can still remember standing up my second year for applause at Spirit Dinner and thinking how far away receiving even my 3rd-year pin was. Ten years is a long time; it’s more than half my life. And this year I’ve come to realize just how lucky I am to have spent ten years here, to have been a part of the magic that occurs here for ten summers.

And that magic is what has kept me coming back year after year, and has made such a radical difference in my life. The magic of Rockbrook is hard to describe, but one of my campers last session came very close. She said that she loved Rockbrook because here “it’s okay to wear your shirt inside out.” She’s eight years old, the same age I was when I first came to camp. My first year at camp was one to remember, I let a High-Up dye my hair blue and Jerry bought me a brush because he thought I lost mine due to its “wild” appearance. I went to the riflery tournament that year—I guess some things haven’t changed. But a lot of things about me have changed. I’ve found myself.

Rockbrook’s magic is that it allows everyone to truly be themselves. And in the process, find yourself. It is here that I have found myself. It is in the heart of the wooded mountain that I have grown from that 8-year-old girl who couldn’t brush her hair into the person I am today. And the magic continues each year.

This year has been the most magical by far. I had a lot of expectations of what my tenth year at camp would be like. I imagined I’d get my necklace surrounded by my friends with whom I’d grown up at camp. But the people who spent those ten years with me aren’t all here. Some came earlier in the summer, some didn’t come at all. I was very sad when I realized I wouldn’t get to share this day with them, but little did I know I would be surrounded by some of the most amazing girls ever!

It has been such a treat to watch them grow as I did and put on one of the best banquets I’ve ever seen. I am so glad to know each one of them, and will always cherish the times we’ve had this session. We’ve all grown so much these past weeks. Someone special to me once said this in a Spirit Fire speech, and I want to pass this along to all of you: You are all strong, independent women. If you were a holiday, you’d be the Fourth of July. I am so proud to be your counselor. And to my co’s, I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend hours upon hours in Treasure Island with. We really are a family now.

Rockbrook’s magic is also about relationship building. It is here that I have formed friendships that have turned into sisterhoods, and I am close with people who live all over the states. My wish for my girls, and all the campers here, is that you will build friendships that will turn into lifelong relationships here as I have. And that here at camp you feel free to be yourself and so find yourself. There’s a line in the camp song that goes “May you see us one day the girls that you wish us to be.” That line has been on my mind all summer. The Spirit of Rockbrook isn’t finished working its magic on me yet, but I am so happy that I have spent ten years here and look forward to more.

A Kind of Collective Euphoria

Raft goes over Nantahala river falls

One of the outdoor adventure trips available to all Rockbrook Middlers and Seniors (girls who have finished the 5th grade and older) is whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River over in Swain County. We don’t make girls sign up for these trips before arriving at camp (or charge extra for them) because we know part of the fun is deciding to go, or not go, with your friends. And when there are two options available -a day-long trip or an overnight camping version -making that decision is important. These girls just want to be together! This can make the logistics of planning rafting trips complicated, but we have plenty of experience making it happen. Like today, when surprisingly 77 girls wanted to raft, we simply ran an extra raft of girls on both trips to accommodate everyone. After meeting our veteran guides at the river’s put-in, and suiting up in the RBC gear (Rockbrook has a special permit to do all this ourselves), the morning trip hit the first rapid called “Patton’s Run” in bright sunshine. The girls had a ball over the next two hours, laughing and screaming with every bump and splash. Some of the rapids on the Nantahala really get your heart pumping, like the one in this photo, the final big rapid called the “Nantahala Falls.” There are calm spots too, making a nice balance of floating (and chances to sing camp songs!) and high adventure whitewater. The afternoon trip also started out warm and sunny, but did have some rain for the last 30 minutes. This didn’t stop the fun however. Their Rockbrook Spirit, a kind of collective euphoria, kicked in and the girls just sang louder and paddled harder.

Back at camp, creativity ruled the day with all kinds of arts and crafts projects taking shape- watercolor painting, t-shirt scrap weaving, extruded form pottery, triple pattern friendship bracelets, beaded headbands, embroidered pillows, and paper craft decorated boxes. For some girls, sports and games like dodgeball, tennis or yoga kept them moving, if they weren’t signed up to ride the zip line course or attend the sharpshooters club taught by Cliff down at the rifle range. Elaine had the gymnastics girls working on balance and posture, and down at riding, Kelly was giving similar instructions to girls cantering around the lower ring.

Black Forest Girls Costumed

For dinner Rick brought back his homemade pizza… completely homemade, with pounds of flour, yeast and water going into the dough, gallons of red marinara sauce, and a mountain of shredded mozzarella cheese. There’s something about the chewy soft crust of this pizza that really makes it extraordinary. Some like it with pepperoni, and others with veggies, but even if it’s plain cheese, the girls gobbled up tray after tray tonight. Everyone had some of the spinach salad and strawberries served on the side too, but it was the pizza that made the meal. To top it all off, Katie made fresh blueberry cobbler that had a perfectly crunchy, crumbly topping, though I suspect most of the girls were pretty full when the Hi-Ups brought out the dessert platters. So many delicious things!

Camps magic show

Tonight after dinner our friend Bill Grimsley entertained the whole camp in the gym with his world famous magic show. Bill has been a full-time, professional entertainer since 1986 and has toured all over the world to perform. He is a talented comedian, juggler and stage magician, and tonight he didn’t hold back. He made two doves appear in an empty box, only to cover the box again and reveal a live rabbit instead. He sawed a counselor in half (reconnecting her shortly thereafter!), and levitated a camper by removing the chairs supporting a plank she was lying upon. The Juniors sitting on the front row were rapt and wide-eyed. He performed other classic magic tricks too, like cutting and magically restoring a rope, mysteriously connecting large metal rings, and a card trick where a card with a ripped corner appeared in a box across the stage. The Senior girls seemed particularly impressed by a mind reading trick where Bill correctly guessed one girl’s favorite food (French Fries) and another’s favorite vacation spot (New York City). “How’d he do that?” “I don’t know, but it’s pretty cool.”

camp girls rafting the nantahala river