Sunny Days at the Lake

Our beautiful haven in the “Heart of the Wooded Mountain” has had a beautiful past couple of days. Blue skies and heat from the sun calls for a busy day at the lake. In addition to their regular activity time, there are two times a day when the girls have “free swim” periods available for them to take a dip: one before lunch and one before supper. They can also spend this hour in other ways. They may choose to play in the creek, visit the camp store, or finish up a craft in an activity area, for example.

swimming campersOn these sunny days we tend to see a trend here at camp. As soon as the bell rings at the end of second or fourth period, girls hike up the hill to their cabin, change into their swim suits, and soon you see them trickle down the hill to the lake with towels in hand. When the girls arrive to the lake, they form a line waiting excitedly to be the first ones in as soon as the lake opens. Lifeguards and lookouts take their places, the red flag is removed, the front chain is taken down, and finally the lake is open. In order to keep our lake as safe as possible, a counselor takes names at the front of the lake keeping count of everyone entering and exiting the lake. Once names are on the list, towels and shoes are left on an amazing, beautiful rock, swim tags are moved, and the girls have to decide how they want to enter the water.

The Rockbrook lake was built in two phases, the initial “pool” when the camp was founded in 1921, and then in 1925 expanded to its current size. It had to be dug by hand (!), with horses dragging pans of dirt out to form its shape between the giant rocks. We’re not sure how intentionally, but it was constructed into the shape of our mascot – a cardinal! Our lake is filled with refreshing stream water drawn right off the mountain. Because of the mountain water, the temperature of the lake can be a little chilly, or as we like to say “refreshing.”

jump from dock into lakeWhen the girls step up to the lake, they wonder how refreshing it will be that day. Some brave it by doing a cannonball off of the diving board, others take it slow and walk their way into the shallow end, and lastly you have a special few who decide to enter via our super fun waterslide. Many girls like jumping into the lake after spending time in the heat “because they like the refreshing water and when they get out they feel energized and happy.”

Once in the water, there are several activities for the girls. One popular attraction is the shallow end along the lap lane where girls swim their mermaid laps. For each session and line there are a certain number of laps needed to swim by the end of the session in order to become a mermaid. Once you become a mermaid, all of camp congratulates you by singing The Mermaid Song to you during a meal. Mermaids also get to go to Dolly’s Dairy Bar at the end of the session! Another popular attraction is our waterslide! One of our middlers said she loves the slide the most because “it’s so fast and when you go in the water it’s a way to quickly become refreshed.” She also likes the slide for other reasons – waiting in the water to encourage and watch her friends go down after her!

At Rockbrook, we love spending time at the lake. Our lifeguards work hard to make it a safe place for all of our campers. Each day you never know who will be at the lake, who will swim their last mermaid lap, or who will go down the slide the most amount of times. The lake is a place for campers and counselors from different lines to come together, have fun, and to leave feeling refreshed.

camp swim friends

Turning Into a Mermaid

By Lindsay Futch (The Lake Lady)

swimming friends at campSo, you’d rather be a Mermaid, right?
Well good news! Rockbrook Camp allows you to do just that.

From the first day you arrive at camp, you have the opportunity to dive right into the Redbird-shaped Lake, and demonstrate your swimming style.

But if you want to be a Mermaid, clearly one dip in the lake is not enough. It takes time in the water.

Here’s the Rockbrook guide to turning into a Mermaid!

Step One: Sign up for swimming as much as you can! In swimming, we like to give time to the campers to swim their Mermaid laps.  You will swim back and forth a lot, while the awesome lifeguards cheer you on with each passing lap.

mermaid girls swimming lapsStep Two: Set a goal to swim a certain number of laps each day. Depending on your age, becoming a mermaid requires different lap totals. Juniors in full sessions swim 125 laps, while juniors in mini sessions swim 65 laps. These numbers increase as you get older!

Step Three: If you didn’t make that goal amount in swimming, continue them during first and second free swim times. Sometimes, it’s difficult to meet the lap goal that you set for swimming activities. But that’s okay!  It’s fine to take a break and enjoy playing with your friends. If that happens, just know that you can always swim during the first and second free swim periods to complete your laps.

kids goofing around at the camp lakeStep Four: Just keep swimming! Like Dory says in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming!” The laps might seem too long, but setting a goal and being determined to finish that goal is very rewarding in the end. Especially when Dolly’s is the reward!

Step Five: See your scales start to glint in the sun. You’re almost done! Just a little more perseverance.

Step Six: Feel your tail start to sprout.

Step Seven: Bask in the camp celebration of your transformation. When you’ve finally reached Mermaid status, the whole camp sings a special song just for you.

“Way down at Rockbrook in the chilly lake.
There were some girls a swimming who started to shiver and shake.
We saw some scales a glinting and TAILS they did sprout.
Lo and behold a Mermaid, the whole camp to shout. Oh Mermaid, Mermaid, what’s your name?
(Name, Name)
You’re a Mermaid!”

Step Eight: Enjoy a refreshing scoop of ice cream from Dolly’s Dairy Bar!! You’ve earned it! You’re a Mermaid!

rockbrook camp lake fun

Toes in the Water of Independence

One of the many amazing benefits of attending Rockbrook is the opportunities offered for girls to make their own decisions. Every day, our campers get to spread their wings of independence in choosing exactly what to do, both in their activities and their free time. For two hours each day, one hour before lunch and one hour before dinner, campers must decide how to spend their Free Swim. During this time we open the lake, but ultimately it is up to the campers to decide what to do. Some girls flock to the lake day after day, some choose to stay active by running or walking Charlotte’s Loop, a 1.5-mile loop through camp, and some choose to simply spend the time with friends or counselors, reading or playing in the creek. No matter how campers choose to spend their free time, the joy we see on their face when engrossed in play they are passionate about is unrivaled.

Several of the more organized opportunities that Rockbrook offers during each Free Swim allow campers to work toward a certain goal and enjoy the rewards of their efforts. Many campers choose to participate in these clubs since the reward is so sweet — an extra trip to our favorite ice cream stand, Dolly’s! The Mermaid Club rewards campers who swim a certain number of laps across our lake, determined by their age and the amount of time they are at camp. Campers who participate in the Marathon Club clock miles running or walking Charlotte’s Loop until they meet their age group’s goals.

Today, we loaded up all 49 mermaids and marathoners and drove across town to Dolly’s! It’s pretty amazing that out of all the things that campers can choose to do during their Free Swim, these girls chose to work on this goal. Rockbrook girls are inspiringly ambitious! Although everyone was full from an excellent lunch (tacos!), I could see the pride on each girl’s face as she chose her favorite flavor to enjoy. Everyone was in a great mood — smiles and laughter were contagious, and we proudly sang Rockbrook songs at the top of our voices while eating. As we drove back to camp to return to normal activities, I watched girls of all ages laughing and talking together. These moments happen all the time at camp — immediate bonds over a shared experience, no matter how big or small.

Living It Up!

From the very moment we woke up this morning, girls have been savoring what they have been calling “the last normal day of camp.” With banquet tomorrow, and Spirit Fire on Wednesday, the end of first session seems to be rapidly approaching. Today feels normal, yet there is a certain urgency in the air to soak up the beauty and fun of camp before it comes to a close. The campers are reenergized after a restful Sunday and intent on living it up throughout the day.

You could see this attitude everywhere today. Many girls chose to go off camp on one of the many trips offered. Some girls went whitewater kayaking on the Upper Green River today, while others spent the day climbing at Cedar Rock. Brought back by high popularity, some middlers and seniors went on a “Wet and Wild” hike to Moore’s Cove, while other campers went to Dupont Forest to explore some of the best waterfalls in the area. Going to camp in Western North Carolina offers so many avenues for adventures, and it is wonderful that there are so many options to engage with the outdoors every day—and so many girls who are excited to go on the trips!

IMG_0362-1Many other girls stayed in camp and spent the day happily busy in their activities. In drama, the girls helped to paint the set for the upcoming play, The Lion King, and then spent time acting like some of the animals from the show. Girls love drama because they learn both hard skills such as set painting, auditioning techniques, and stage directions, but also soft skills like confidence, and feeling comfortable while acting silly in front of others. As I walked by the lake, I also came across the girls of curosty. In curosty, girls learn how to weave on looms and, on days like today, weave baskets. They sit with their toes in the creek on this beautiful day, chatting to each other while learning how to weave reeds and ultimately create a basket. This is a time-honored Rockbrook activity. In fact, our camp mom, Laura, mentioned to me how much she loved that her kids spend time in the very same creek weaving baskets like the ones she used to make and like the ones her grandmother used to make.

 In addition to the activities, Rockbrook girls stayed busy during their free swims today! The counselor-camper tennis tournament was in full force first free swim. I had the opportunity to play with a camper, and we had so much fun. Through good communication, a few days of practice, and a lot of laughter, we advanced to the final round. Though we did not win the final match, we were proud of our friends who did! As the matches went on, I was struck by the genuine sportswomanship and large amounts of fun that were had on the court. We took it seriously– everyone wanted to do well–but the atmosphere was light and unwaveringly supportive.

Many of those who were not playing tennis were seen swimming or running, both groups trying to complete their last requirements to go to Dolly’s. Rockbrook girls who complete a certain number of laps in the Rockbrook Lake become a part of the esteemed Mermaid Club. The whole camp sings a song in their honor! In the same vein, girls who participate in Rockbrook Runners and complete a certain number of miles (by walking or running), become a part of the Marathon Club. Both clubs are rewarded for their hard work and their many hours of free swims by going to Dolly’s ice cream. As we are approaching the end of camp, girls are buckling down and working hard toward achieving their goals. Girls ran and walked with Rockbrook Runners three different times today—first free swim, second free swim, and twilight! This means that girls who were especially motivated were able to run or walk six miles today!

IMG_0817In the same way that we are savoring the activities we have to do, I have also seen girls savoring the friendships that they have made. All day, I have seen girls busily finishing their friendship bracelets to give away to their friends, a piece of camp that travels with girls throughout the year. There has been much more intentionality to their togetherness: I have come across many clumps of girls just talking during free swims whereas they usually would write letters or read. As camp is ending, the girls’ focus has been on what has been the most important throughout their experience: the relationships they have formed with each other.

As the day wound down, we all gathered in our lodges for the final night of evening program: counselor impersonations! The girls look forward to this throughout the session, a chance to poke good-natured fun at the counselors. We all laughed until our stomachs hurt and exchanged many hugs and sweet words before having our final goodnight circle as a line. We sang taps, passed the friendship squeeze, and said the Rockbrook Prayer before it was time for milk and cookies. During goodnight circle, we expect a certain amount of peace and comfort, but with it was extra special tonight, as we were not taking any part of the day for granted. As some girls got in to bed, the gentle rattle of the wagon could be heard going down the Senior Line as the CA girls started to set up for banquet and some girls headed to the hill to do a bit of stargazing before bed.

So tomorrow, we will begin packing and for the next two days, we will celebrate our summers and say goodbye. But at Rockbrook, we have learned to live for today. And today was just a normal day at camp: a day well-lived.

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