The Spirit of Rockbrook

Every year, Rockbrook sends out a publication entitled the Carrier Pigeon, which has, in the past, featured poems, photos from the summer, camp memories, and cabin photos. The Carrier Pigeon is sent out during the off season, so that campers can have “mem’ries of Rockbrook all winter long.” Tonight, our campers had the chance to write down their own memories, poems, or drawings to submit for the 2019 Carrier Pigeon. To spark their minds about Rockbrook and what makes camp special, today each of the three lodges had a poster board with a different question for campers to answer:

1. What makes Rockbrook a special place?

Even before you open your eyes in the morning, the natural environment of camp calls out in the form of leaves rustling, frogs croaking, birds chirping, and rain falling. Everywhere you look at camp, you either see the lush forest, ancient rocks, or the shimmering creeks. This close interaction with nature that campers have every day is unusual for many compared to life at home, and it allows campers to have a deeper sense of place and connection to the environment than they otherwise might have. Connection to other people also makes Rockbrook a special place. Since technology is limited at camp for campers and staff alike, we are able to have more face-to-face interactions and are able to build genuine relationships with the whole community. According to our campers, Rockbrook is special because they can be apart from their friends for a year, but pick up again the next summer as though no time has gone by. It is our mission for campers to walk away from camp with some of their very best friends, but we also hope they return to camp to continue building their connections to people and place

2. What is your favorite Rockbrook memory?

While many camper and counselor memories connect back to the special place and relationships of camp, some memories can be of things that are uniquely Rockbrook. For instance, trying out for the camp play for the first time and getting the lead role, or frolicking in the stream at the bottom of the hill. 

Many campers look back fondly on Sliding Rock and Dolly’s cabin day trips, as well as other off-camp trips like rafting the Nantahala. Another favorite memory and time of the summer is the Fourth of July, when camp turns into one big birthday party celebration for America, replete with field games, face paint, costumes, barbeques, and fireworks. Throughout the summer, campers are able to make memories small and large that will stay with them for their whole lives.

3. What makes a Rockbrook Girl?

In addition to being a good friend, a Rockbrook girl is kind and loving to others. She is open minded, honest, and always willing to bend her back to help a friend without asking for credit. She has a great, positive attitude, and is not afraid to embarrass herself, even at a camp-wide dance. This spirit of love, kindness, and carefree living is what we strive for at Rockbrook, and is embodied by every camper that comes to the heart of our wooded mountain. Living in community and having the time to try new things naturally instills these traits in campers and counselors alike, fostering a close-knit culture of supportive, empowered females that stays connected until next summer when camp starts again.

This is My Family

By Naomi Penner

I live in a mighty cabin on the Senior Line that sits up on a hill amidst the trees. A glorified tree house, if you will. Living with me are two co-counselors and 12, 13-14 year old girls. They are a spirited group of Rockbrook gals with nothing but wit, grit, pep, and cheer who always make me laugh. They are the girls of Penthouse and they are my family.

Camp Nature Girls

There’s no doubt that all of us here at RBC are one big family. We live together in the wooded mountains for a few weeks during the summer, so we’re bound to be close. We see each other during meals and activities, Assembly on the Hill, and Rockbrook Surprises, like a shaving cream fight or girl power themed carnival.

Yet, it’s the family within your cabin that shares a different kind of bond. Your cabin is your home away from home. Not only are all your belongings living in it, but so are the people you spend the most time with at camp. Your cabin mates are the first people you see when you wake up and the last you see before you go to bed. You sit together at every meal. You cheer for each other the loudest. You are proud of everything they do. You take care and look out for one another. And most importantly, you love each other no matter what. It’s your cabin mates who turn that cabin into a home.

Two Camp Friends

The fun thing about each cabin here at Rockbrook is that, just as every family, each one has a set of customs and traditions unique to just them. From mealtime to bedtime and everything in between. For me, it’s never a Penthouse meal without standing up to sing along to a Rockbrook song at the top of our lungs, or a Penthouse day without hearing “What the Buddha?!” Every night before bed, we do “Rose, Bud, Thorn.” It’s a nice way to share our day. “Rose” is something you enjoyed about the day, “Bud” is something you look forward to at camp, and “Thorn” is something that just wasn’t to your liking. A weekly tradition we do in Penthouse is “Secret Buddy.” Every Wednesday, we draw names out of a hat to see who our Secret Buddy is for that week. Gifts include sweet notes tucked away in a book, or homemade gifts made during an activity that magically appear on your bed. My favorite Penthouse practice is our nightly Mad Lib. Whoever has “Mad Lib It Up” on the chore wheel that day gets to pick the Mad Lib and go around asking for a noun, adjective, verb, etc. Laughter is critical in Penthouse and we do it ‘til lights out.

Even more special to a cabin are the memories created within and around it. I have so many to draw from with my girls. Like the time we all gathered on Side C, singing and grooving to the High School Musical soundtrack, audible from down the line. Fourth of July spent on the hill talking about our childhoods as the fireworks boomed and glimmered in the background. Or when we went stargazing together on the hill and found a running man and dolphin in the lingering clouds.

As the session nears the end, I’m savoring these final days with my Penthouse, and Rockbrook, family. Looking around the breakfast table this morning, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the time had with this amazing group of Rockbrook girls. Luckily, the wonderful thing about family is that even when you’re far away from each other, whether it be from Tennessee all the way to Poland, the love you have for one another remains.

Nie mówię po polsku! PentHOUSE!

Happy Tennis Campers

CA Campers Write

Girl's Tie Dye PrideIt occurred to me recently while scrolling through the online photo gallery that despite our two photographers taking hundreds of photos each day (one day this week, we posted more than 1800!), it’s pretty common for us to miss a lot of the action going on at camp. Partly that’s because everything is going on simultaneously and the photographers can’t be everywhere at once. While some girls are aiming rifles at paper targets, others are aiming basketballs at hoops. Some are riding horses, while others are painting and drawing. There’s weaving in Curosty, and ziplining in the woods above the office. Taking great photographs of girls making tie dyes, for example, means we’re missing others doing yoga or climbing Castle Rock. This also explains why you might go several days not seeing a photo of your daughter; the photographers simply missed her during the activity periods, and during her free time (just before lunch and dinner, and during “Twilight” right after dinner), when she may have spent time laying low, they were elsewhere. I know that can be frustrating, so feel free to give us a call if you want the photographers to make an extra effort to find your girl!

Small Girl Kayaking Small Girl Zip Lining

Another limitation of our photo gallery is that it never does justice to the adventure trips that go out every day. Our photographers mostly stay in camp, so we rely on the trip leaders to snap a few photos of the girls as they are kayaking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, backpacking and canoeing. As you can imagine, it can be tough to guide an adventure activity while also taking pictures of it. The photo gallery shows that different outdoor instructors are inconsistent with that, since this week alone we’ve had all of these trips and more offered to the girls. Day hikes, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, even a waterfall scramble for the older campers— there have been some amazing outdoor adventure options available. The online photo gallery, while providing an fun peek into our daily life at camp, is simply not complete. It comes close at times, but we’re always up to more than you see there.

The other day, several of our CA campers, who are girls who have finished the ninth grade, took some time to write down how they are feeling about camp. I thought it would be interesting to hear a camper’s point of view, so I asked them, “What do you want people to know about your experience at Rockbrook?” Here are a few of the responses.

Hiking Waterfall Rock“CA year at Rockbrook is one of the most highly anticipated. I decided to go for a full session this summer so that I could get the whole camp experience. The past few weeks have gone by in a blur of paint, glitter, adventure, joy and excitement. I have been able to bond with all of my cabin mates and create new memories that I will remember forever. These girls have seen me in my most natural state, and I think there is extreme comfort in the fact that there are people here that don’t expect you to be anything other than that. Being older, I also find that talking to counselors is much easier. They have become my friends (as well as family). I do miss home a lot, but the people at Rockbrook keep me from being sad about it. Rather than feeling upset and homesick, I’m simply excited to share my experiences and adventures.” —Kendall

Rafting Girls Camp“Anxious whispers filled the room as my teacher distributed our writing prompt for the dreaded English final. I tapped my fingers on my desk, awaiting the task that was before me. A small white slip was placed in front of me that read “What is your heaven on earth? Explain.” It seemed like a complicated question, but my answer was simple. Rockbrook is my heaven on earth because when I’m there I don’t have to worry about anything in the world and I can be my true self. Rockbrook is a place where memories last forever and you create friendships that will last a lifetime.” —Reegan

“Rockbrook Camp has helped me so much through the past years. It is my safe place from a crazy outside world. The people here understand me more in 4 weeks than my friends back home. No matter where we all go, I know we will see each other again and remember our glorious camp memories.” —Emily

“This year I am a CA, and it has been the best year yet! All the girls are so nice and love our counselors so much! We have shared so many amazing moments and laughs, and we are only half way through the session. I’m so blessed to spend this time with my favorite people!” — Anna

Memories that will last, made with people who know and understand each other, a heavenly escape from the outside world… Living together, gloriously free from worries. These girls love camp.

Finally, I can’t help but post these two photos from our Twilight activity tonight, an optional shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide. Dressed in their swim suits, and ready with a can or two of shaving cream, girls of all ages raced around our landsports field, squealing with delight as they covered each other in slippery white foam and laughing uncontrollably because they looked so hilarious with their hair sticking up. Then when slicked down with shaving cream, the girls could really fly down the plastic slip-n-slide, crashing and spraying through the water as they went. The whole event lasted a little less than an hour, but it was an incredible display of uninhibited joy. Love it!

Messy Shaving Cream GirlsSlip and Slide Laughing Girl

A Day of Hugs

Closing our long session of camp, as we did today, is always emotional, and often a tearful experience for all of us— campers, staff members, and parents too. Combined with the happiness of reuniting with family members, today brought on a sudden sadness from realizing that everything we’ve been loving about camp is ending… at least for now. Today we had to say goodbye to the freedoms of camp, to all the action, the silliness, creativity and adventure built into everyday of the last few weeks, but more intensely, to all the wonderful people of camp, to the love and support everyone cherishes about life at Rockbrook. There are friends here, true friends who we will miss deeply even as we know that camp will always welcome us back. It’s been a day of hugs, where we try to embrace, for just a moment longer, how Rockbrook feels and what it truly means.

It’s really a difficult thing to describe, but here’s a lovely message from a parent that speaks to it:

kaitie U. From 2007

I cannot believe that 10 years have passed since we first made our way up the gravel driveway to camp. It really did not dawn on me until Kaitie came home that this was her last year as a Rockbook Camper. She loves her special time there so much, I guess I thought it would just go on forever. Until I read her statement that she gave at Spirit Fire and saw the tear stains on the ink, I didn’t fully appreciate how much this summer meant to her. I was touched by the raw emotion she expressed and the anxiety she feels about the possibility of never returning again in the same capacity. Rockbrook is more than just a “camp” that she goes to for a few weeks every summer. Rockbrook is a part of the fabric of her very being. It is a part of her philosophy of living. She sees the world through the eyes of a 7 year old little girl who found her way through the heart of a wooded mountain, cabin by cabin, to become the amazing young woman she is today. I find it difficult to put into words…it is the way she stands, the way she walks and the smile on her face when she speaks of this special place that is hers. I cannot thank you enough for everything you have given her.

I hope you have a great rest of the summer. Know that she is thinking of you every single day. I cannot imagine better thoughts.

Laurie Uebelhoer

Thanks everyone for a great session! We’re all looking forward to when we can see you again at Rockbrook.

A Camper’s Perspective

On this blog, you read a lot about camp from the perspective of the staff. We try to bring you our observations, a bit about our camp philosophy and some tidbits about how we spend our days at camp. But today, we wanted to try something a little different. We asked three of our Middler campers to reflect on some of their favorite moments from camp. These three submissions sum up everything that there is to say about the anticipation, the wonder, and the excitement of camp better than this grown-up ever could. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

ANNIE–ATLANTA, GA

Annie

“First Sight.”

I am ready to burst out of the car. We have been on the road for three hours and the GPS says ten miles to go. On a curvy road. Up a mountain. I try to swallow my impatience.

Looking out the window in boredom, I see…

“Rockbrook, Mom, stop the car! Rockbrook!”

We turn down the driveway.

“Annie, How are you feeling?”

I close my eyes. “Spectacular,” I lie. In reality, I am so nervous, I’m ready to run the 100-something miles home.

I take a breath and open my eyes. When I do, I catch my breath. I see a small waterfall in a crystal-clear stream, surrounded by mossy rocks. I see a beautiful forest where maples and oaks play hide-and-seek between the pines. The sunlight filters through the trees in a magical way. It makes everything look like it’s glowing and sparkling.

“Wow,” I murmur. The sight calms me. In that one moment, I know this will be an experience I will never forget.

ELLA–BREVARD, NC

Ella

Hi, I’m Ella. When they first told me to write about my most exciting, or my favorite, camp memory for the camp blog, I just couldn’t decide. So I thought about it some more, and I thought and I thought there were so many to choose from, and I couldn’t choose just one!

So, pondering on about what I should write, I realized that I had already found my topic: camp. Camp was my topic! If you are able to choose just one camp memory, then you need to make some more, and where else to make them than camp?

I realized that it was my seventh year here, so that has to count or something, right? But I am not going to start from today, I am going to start where it all began: seven years ago, on the first day of camp.

Now, don’t worry and keep reading, this is not going to be a long story about my whole life! So, just sit down and relax. It all started seven years ago on June 4th, 2008. I was five-years-old, and I had never been to a sleep-away camp before, so you could imagine how scared I was!

Now, take a look at me this year; I’m seven years older, I’ve gone here longer, I’ve made friends, and from now on I know that I will never leave Rockbrook Camp, for I love it too much!

ANNE–RALEIGH, NC

Anne

Hey! My name is Anne. This year (2015) is my seventh year here at RBC. And I am here to tell you about my favorite moment at camp.

When I first thought of it, I figured, “Oh, this will be easy–there are so many great things about camp!”

But, when I thought about it again, I realized just how hard this would be, because there are so many great things about camp!

After thinking about it for a while, I found that my favorite moment at camp is the first day. That is the day where I can be reunited with old friends, and meet new ones. I think about that day all year long. Rockbrook is a second home. The whole session is amazing. If I could remember everything that has happened in all seven years, then I would. But I can’t, I can only remember some things.

One of those things is the first day of camp. That is my favorite day of the whole session. Driving up, seeing Hi-Ups, talking to Sofie and Chase as they announce your name, hearing the counselors go crazy seeing you, and greeting new and old friends.

That’s why I love the first day. Everything is positive. I feel as though nothing can be bad or wrong on the first day. I love everything at camp, but the first day always stands out.

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.

Marie Brown Chapel

Toward the end of our recent Rockbrook Alumnae reunion celebrating the 90th year of the camp, the women attending held an impromptu chapel meeting. Like those held on Sunday mornings in the summer, this gathering was a chance to sing favorite traditional songs and reflect upon some of the more important experiences, lessons and values we all associate with Rockbrook. These are wonderful moments, often full of personal stories, and on this occasion, childhood memories of camp.

Marie Brown, who came to camp starting in 1989 when she was 8, shared something that we’re so proud to reprint here. It’s a brief reflection on how the Spirit of Rockbrook can sustain and revive us long after we grow up and become adults in the “real world.”

Alumnae Reunion Chapel with Marie Brown
Alumnae Reunion Chapel

“The wonders of air travel, incredible timing, (and a supportive husband) have made it possible for me to step out of the stifling mayhem I have been living to come for a brief moment to be here. All the stone and concrete has fallen away into mountain laurel, rushing water, beloved rocks and roots and trees…and faces that, despite the decades, haven’t seemed to age.

I have to admit, I was afraid to come. My memories of this place are so deeply embedded in my heart, so close to my core, so invaluable to my spirit, I was afraid that coming back here with the sharpened, hardened and perhaps jaded eyes of an adult would somehow mar the perfection of those memories. And between having a genetically poor memory, and the inability to return to any of the places I actually called home as a child, at times it feels as though the past were no more than a figment of my imagination. There is no other place on the planet that I can go to that holds anywhere as much of my memory in its hillsides as this place. So it was with trepidation that I came to tread back into those memories.

Marie Brown and Sarah Carter
Marie and Sarah

I was grateful as a child and well aware it was only because of the generosity of my grandmother (also a Rockbrook girl) that I was able to come year after year. But I don’t think there was any way for me to understand how big a gift she was giving me until I left Rockbrook to fare the rockier world of “civilization” without my annual reprieve in this Rivendale.

I have spent countless days and nights over the last years feeling I was going crazy, feeling so trapped or confused or heartbroken about the state of the world; a world continually more driven by fear, over “teched” yet disconnected, and terrifyingly detached from, and destructive of, nature. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the noise… and for someone as sensitive as myself, to feel despair. But despair won’t do any of us any good. So coming back here at this particular moment for me, and walking literally as if I were Mary Poppins jumping into the chalk painting of my childhood and finding it hasn’t changed (and where it has it has only gotten better) has given me such rejuvenating hope. I am not crazy. I am not intolerant, or impatient, or bitter. I am just in severe withdrawal of my annual dose of Rockbrook.

And what this weekend has shown me is that the gifts and perspective, and lessons this place has to offer are just as present and valuable to me now as there were for me when I was a little girl. If not more so. These enduring stones soften my hardened defenses. The cold waters warm my chilled spirit. These steep hills dull my impatience and intolerance. And rather than damaging the perfection of my memories, returning has added to them. Returning to Rockbrook for even this brief sip has filled my belly once again with a little bit of ginger, a little bit of grit, a little bit of spirit and a little bit of wit to carry with me as I go back out once again to face the big bad world.”

Thanks Marie!

90th Year Reunion a Great Success

What an amazing weekend! It was 3 days bathed in absolutely perfect weather, decorated with fond memories relived, and filled to the brim with laughter and conversation among friends… a camp reunion to remember. Rick and his crew took great care of us by serving wonderful meals, including several fresh yummy desserts baked by Alison. Everyone stayed busy on Saturday hiking to Kilroy’s Cabin, climbing the Alpine Tower, making pottery, shooting archery, and zipping down the water slide at the lake, but perhaps most enjoyably, spending a lot of time relaxing amid the beauty of Rockbrook.

90th Camp Reunion Almunae Attendees

Here is a group photo we took after lunch on Saturday (click the photo for a larger version). We also took lots of photos all weekend long and have published them here: 2011 Alumnae Reunion Photos. Take a look!

Stay tuned to our Alumnae Blog for more updates about the reunion. There are many wonderful moments to recount.

Thanks to everyone who attended the reunion. We always enjoy welcoming former campers back to the “Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” It won’t be long before we do it again!