This Incredible View

rockbrook camp mountain view

Have you seen that view? Everywhere we went today it was breathtaking. As a cold front pushed aside the last lingering moisture of the last few days, the skies developed a rare blend of complex and varied clouds mixed with very clear air. Rockbrook is situated on a west facing slope with a view of the Blue Ridge mountains. We’re at about 2100 feet in elevation. In fact, when the camp was first built, each of the three stone lodges (one for each age group) was designed to have a long distance view of those NC mountains. The girls could sit on almost any porch in camp and soak in an inspiring cascade of ridge lines. Now, almost 100 years later, with so many large trees living at camp, we have to be more strategic about which porch we choose, but there are still plenty of rocking chairs perfectly situated to offer that same amazing view. It’s neat to think that girls throughout the long history of Rockbrook have sat on those same porches and enjoyed counting those same distant mountains.

girls on top of Black Balsam mountain

With this kind of amazing weather, the adventure staff decided to take a group of girls up to Black Balsam mountain, a favorite destination in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s one to highest peaks east of the Mississippi River at 6214 feet. The hike to the summit has a magical quality to it. The trail begins by winding through a thicket of Balsam Fir trees, and then suddenly breaking out to a grassy ridge line with short blueberry bushes along sections. As you continue to wind upward, occasionally scrambling over exposed rock, there’s a crescendo at the summit when you suddenly have a panoramic view stretching for miles. You can’t help but think, “Oh wow!” This part of western North Carolina offers so many examples of this kind of natural beauty it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s even real. The girls this morning enjoyed eating a snack, freshly-baked muffins from camp, while soaking in this incredible view.

tiny kid with big horse and barn

Down at the Rockbrook Riding Center there were other views today, this time of the pastures, barns, paddocks, riding rings, arena, and of course, girls and their horses. Almost all 30 horses were busy in lessons throughout the day, some being assigned to groups of beginners first learning to ride, and more advanced mounts exercising over jumps and other obstacles in the covered arena. For girls who love horses, the riding center is a fascinating place to be. With horses and ponies, feeding, washing, tack and other equipment, regular visits from the farrier, barn chores, and the manure composting system, there’s always lots to see, do and learn.

Our Senior Line campers and their counselors spent the evening out of camp for a dinner picnic, trip to Sliding Rock, and a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar. This is a wildly fun outing that we do every year because it’s so popular. It gets us out of camp for food and frolicking in the forest, really gets our blood pumping with the intensity of sliding down a 60-foot natural water slide, and ends with a yummy, one-of-a-kind ice cream treat. What could be better? Tonight that cold front made the water at sliding rock feel even colder, but that didn’t really slow down these teenagers. They whooped and slid, and sure, shivered a little more than usual, but it was once again a great time together enjoying yet another natural wonder of the mountains.

screaming girls on sliding rock

Doing this Beautifully

Girl Power kayaker

The kayakers have taken trips almost everyday this week. The interest in kayaking continues to grow, so Leland, Sarah and Stephanie have been busy meeting that demand by offering lots of trips. The beginners went to the French Broad River twice this week. After mastering their “wet exit” (sliding out of the kayak when it tips over), the French Broad is a perfect place to learn other important kayaking skills like ferrying across moving water and catching an eddy. On both Thursday and Friday, groups of kayaking girls drove over to the Tuckasegee River in Swain County to run its rapids. The river was really moving after our recent rains, giving the girls a little extra push over the shallow areas and making a couple of the rapids like Moonshot and Dillsboro Drop even more fun. This section of the “Tuck” takes 2 or so hours to complete giving the crew plenty of time to play on the water and still be back at camp for dinner.

Today, the Hi-Ups had their third “Girls With Ideas” session— a curriculum designed to foster confident girl leaders. On sticky notes, they began the meeting by writing down times that they were positive role models for the younger campers, moments that challenged them, and how they want to end their camp session. Although they only had the space of a sticky note for each answer, their responses and following discussion were quite wise and thoughtful. Between setting and scraping for each meal, putting on Rockbrook surprises, and helping to teach activities, these 10th grade campers have packed schedules! The downtime to reflect was much deserved. Personal goals of theirs for the rest of their Hi-Up year include being good team players, staying selfless, and taking initiative.

Camping Trip Sunrise Mountain Top

Another outdoor adventure trip also returned to camp today with stories and photos to share. We were planning an overnight canoe trip on the French Broad river near camp, but at the last minute a huge thunderstorm caused the river to rise too fast for the group to paddle safely. Shifting gears a bit, adventure staff leaders Jayne and Mattie decided to camp in Pisgah instead and show the campers several very cool spots. They first went to Courthouse Falls for a swim in the icy pool beneath. From there they camped further up the mountain along the Silvermine Ridge. The next morning, despite being pretty tired, everyone woke up early (5:15am!) to summit nearby Black Balsam mountain and watch the sunrise. Being that high up (over 6,200 feet!), far above the morning fog in the surrounding valleys, was quite a treat. Click this photo (any of these!) to see a larger version.  Passing by one more waterfall on the way back to camp, the group just had to stop for a quick swim. These girls love the cold mountain water around here!

Camp Ceramics Class for Teen Girls

Similarly, we’ve been happy to see so many campers improving their skills in pottery. The Rockbrook ceramics program has always been extensive, with two studios, 3 professional potters who serve as instructors, and a steady stream of enthusiastic campers returning year after year to work with clay. Lately, the older girls have been doing amazing work on the wheels. Throwing on the potter’s wheel takes some practice at first, but once you learn to center the clay, stay steady and draw the clay up slowly and evenly, it’s magical to see a lump transform into a delicate, symmetrical pot.  The girls are doing this beautifully. The next step is to vary the final shape of the cup or bowl, perhaps flaring the lip, bulging one side, or adding a handle.  Next week after the pots dry a bit (There’s a special dehumidifying room for that.), it will be time for glazing, and the final kiln firing that will bring out the colors of the glazes. Look for incredible creations coming home after camp.

cute all girl camp basket weaving

Sliding Rock NC!

Camp Girls at Sliding Rock
Kids on Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock North Carolina Girls
Best Sliding Rock Trip
Sliding Rock Scream
Sliding Rock Swim

Sliding Rock is a natural water slide located along Looking Glass Creek in the Pisgah National Forest, south of the Blue Ridge Parkway along highway 276. Not far from camp, taking a trip there has over the years become a Rockbrook tradition of sorts. On cabin day, which is a day when we suspend the individual activity schedule for everyone so we can spend time together as cabin groups, we often take an entire age group to Sliding Rock.

Tonight it was the Middlers’ chance to take a ride down the rock. After a fun cookout of hotdogs, homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit, we arrived at Sliding Rock past when it had officially closed to the public. This is our routine, and our preference. (And the Forest Service approves!) We can provide our own lifeguards, counselors to help the campers settle into the water at the top of the rock, and set a good “Rockbrook Vibe” when we have the place to ourselves.

The Sliding Rock Recreation Area is about 60-feet of smooth granite that slopes gently downward. As the creek water washes over it, small pockets of whitewater form around bumps and indentations in the rock. At the bottom there is a pool of water about 6 or 8 feet deep, plenty deep enough to go under water, but not so large that it’s difficult for the girls to swim through.

Take a look at these photos (you can click them to bring up a larger version). Wearing their water shoes, the girls first cross the water below the pool and head up the right side of the rock to the top. This is their first exposure to the temperature of the water, which can be politely described as “refreshing” like all the mountain streams in this part of North Carolina.  It’s chilly, but compared to the heat of the day, it feels fantastic.

The real shock happens when the girls sit down in the water at the top of the rock and they feel it splashing on their backs. That’s when eyes widen and mouths open to let out wild screams. The water pushes, and soon they are accelerating down the rock heading to the splash landing below. We encourage the girls to slide in pairs, adding to the fun. As the girls twist, spin and sometimes topple down the rock for several seconds they scream even more, squint, and hold their noses at the last second. It’s so thrilling, and so much fun, they are quick to zip around and slide again. The awesome RBC lifeguards are ready to help the girls exit the pool below, keeping everyone safe.

Meanwhile, the girls who are watching the action, either waiting for their next turn to slide or from one of the two observation platforms, are cheering on their friends, singing camp songs and laughing at the craziness of the sliding.

It’s amazing to see how something this simple can be this much fun. Sliding Rock is one of those timeless mountain camp experiences in North Carolina that just can’t be recreated anywhere else. It’s really ideal, and the girls absolutely love it.

Top of Sliding Rock NC

Giddy with Wet Hair

Kayak Camp Roll Clinic

When you squish yourself into a colorful plastic kayak and seal yourself inside the boat by snapping a rubber, elastic skirt over the cockpit opening, like 16 or so Rockbrook girls did this morning, the boat feels like it’s part of you, making it fun to maneuver through the water. Using a double-bladed paddle, the girls can turn their boats quickly. In moving water though, when currents and obstacles can surprise you, these boats can suddenly tip over. At that point, a kayaker can slip out of her boat by tucking forward and pulling a loop on her spray skirt, performing a so called “wet exit.” There is a more advanced self rescue technique, however, called an “eskimo roll” where the kayaker stays in the boat. Rolling a kayak takes some practice to learn, so today Jamie, Leland and Andria, our kayaking instructors taught a “roll clinic” to girls at the lake. They demonstrated the coordinated series of actions a roll requires— tuck, set, sweep, snap, and lean —head, hips, shoulders and paddle all working together. Then, working one-on-one, they helped each camper learn the technique. Later, several Seniors proudly let me know that they “got their roll” and they were excited to get out on the river tomorrow.

Forest Marker Shoes

Also this morning, Jayne and Hunter led a group of girls on a hike to one of the highest points east of the Mississippi River, Black Balsam Knob (6214 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6040 ft). With a lunch packed, they left Rockbrook (2300 ft) and drove up and up, through misty clouds, to the Blue Ridge Parkway where the Art Loeb trail crosses near the road. This is way up there, high above most of the trees in the area, and even above the clouds filling the valleys below. This photo shows a US Geological Survey Bench Mark, indicating a point where the elevation has been measured and recorded (as well as the variety of footwear that can tackle this kind of high altitude hiking!). This was a great trip, exposing the girls to a uniquely stark, natural environment. The feeling being up there is amazing and everyone loved the impressive view.

For our afternoon cabin day (when individual activities are paused, so each cabin group can do something special together), we gathered all the Middlers and the Mini Session Seniors for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest, and a stop at Sliding Rock. Ready in swim suits, we drove to our favorite picnic area and had hotdogs, homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit. We ate quickly— we’re always building appetites here at camp! —and then ran around a bit playing tag games before loading all the buses again for the short trip to “the Rock.”

Sliding Rock Girls Camp
Sliding Rock Summer Camp

Sliding Rock is formed by Looking Glass Creek as it cascades over a 60-foot dome of rock ending in a deep pool at the bottom. It’s our habit to visit Sliding Rock after the area is officially closed to the public, but because we have a Forest Service permit that requires us to be self-sufficient with respect to first aid and lifeguards, we are permitted to slide after hours. This is great because, like tonight, we often have the place to ourselves and our mob of girls (82 of them this time) can enjoy more slide time. Visiting Sliding Rock is also our habit because the girls absolutely love it. It’s the roar of the “freezing” water as it spills down the rock. It’s the piercing screams of the girls as they take turns slipping, spinning and sliding down. It’s watching your friends splash and swim at the bottom. It’s all just super fun.

To top off the outing, we made one more stop— Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Everyone screamed (again!) with excitement when we pulled into the parking lot. With “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” and other “Camp Flavors” on the menu, as well as more traditional flavors to chose from, it was simple for everyone to order a sweet treat they liked. Once again, when the Rockbrook girls arrived and everyone had their cup or cone, Dolly’s became quite a party. With this many girls, it doesn’t take long for them to start singing songs, laughing, and posing for silly photos. Back in the buses, still giddy with wet hair and probably a smudge of ice cream on a face or two, we were soon back at camp, happy to warm up and turn in for the evening.

Girls Summer Camp

Beauty at Camp

Camp Wabi Sabi

This is the time of year when we often have families visiting Rockbrook for a tour of camp. Being in the area for a vacation or because they are (smartly) planning ahead for their daughter’s camp experience, many of these families have heard of Rockbrook from a friend or almuna of the camp, or have simply noticed in their research that Rockbrook is one of the leading camps in the southeast. Lately, many of these families touring the camp have made a similar observation; they were struck by how “beautiful” Rockbrook is. It’s true that we have great old trees, grassy hills and fields, a dining hall, activity areas, and sleeping cabins— all things that other camps have as well, but as one Dad put it, “This place is different.” Rockbrook has a unique aesthetic that makes it unusually beautiful. The place itself has a special feeling that doesn’t take long to appreciate, striking enough even during a short tour.

There is a traditional Japanese sense of beauty called “Wabi-sabi” that I think can help explain this feeling about Rockbrook. Essentially Wabi-sabi is a concept that finds beauty in imperfection and incompleteness. Wikipedia puts it like this, “Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.”

Summer Camp Lodge
Camp Lodge Yoga Girl

There is a beauty, in other words, in all these qualities, especially as they are found in the natural world. Rockbrook, for more than 90 years now, has aimed to preserve the organic character of the camp, being careful not to polish or pave every surface, or straighten every path. In fact, just the opposite is true. We’ve allowed the forest to grow up around us, pruning it as gently as possible. We’ve preserved the rustic, old-fashioned character of our buildings, for example the 19th-century log cabins, Curosty and Goodwill. Even when we build something new, or renovate an existing cabin, we’re careful, when we can, to use rough cut lumber (often harvested from trees here on the property), stone we find here at camp, and native plants to fill out our flower beds. We love the rough boulders jutting from the ground and the crooked branches all around us. The imperfections of these natural materials, these “perfect imperfections” (as the popular John Legend song goes!), add to the beauty of camp. Simply being imperfections makes them part of what’s completely unique, and beautiful, about Rockbrook.

Tie Dye Craft Camp Girl
Camp kid shooting archery

More importantly than our camp facilities, the Wabi-sabi aesthetic goes further and frames the Rockbrook culture too. For example, like the asymmetry of every stone here, we celebrate the “imperfection and incompleteness” in how we perform in the arts and sports activities. There might be a twist in our friendship bracelet, or a bulge in our pottery mug, or splotch in our tie dye t-shirt, but we know that, more than “OK,” these qualities are what make our creations uniquely cool and beautiful. We might climb the Alpine Tower blindfolded (and slowly!), or shoot all our arrows too high, but we are still improving our skills, learning more and having fun nonetheless. When, as it is at Rockbrook, the fun of an activity is simply doing it (with our friends, naturally) rather than insuring the end result is “perfect” or the “best,” when the leap is more important than the landing, then the Wabi-sabi aesthetic is at work.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as we celebrate the Wabi-sabi of our natural environment and how we spend our day in camp, we likewise cherish the unique qualities, the “imperfections” and “incompleteness” of personality and appearance in the people around us. In those differences, in those ways that we are “weird,” as Grace put it, each of us enriches our community with our eccentric beauty. That quirky sense of fashion, that bold singing voice, or that quiet fascination with bugs— all cool. At Rockbrook, we learn that, in so many ways, who we really are isn’t ever really perfect, but it’s that very fact that makes us each a beautiful person.

We could try to iron out all these imperfections around us (in the world, in what we do, and in who we are), paint over the elements of Wabi-sabi at camp, but think of what would remain… something pretty plain, pale and predictable. No, camp should be a place to explore the irregular edges of nature, our incomplete knowledge and skills, and who we are as individuals. If the goal of camp is to grow, it simply should be such a place. And when it is, that’s beautiful.

Wabi Sabi Camper Climbers

Even More Unique

zucchini muffins

In addition to the pleasure of having a freshly baked muffin everyday between the first and second activity period, it’s also fun for the campers to find out what flavor Katie or Sonne have made. This surprise is the talk of the camp once the first muffin leaves the dining hall porch. Even better, the flavors vary widely with some being traditional favorites like blueberry and others being completely unique like S’mores flavored, for example. This week has been a good example of this variety with Zucchini Muffins making a debut yesterday followed by Pumpkin Chocolate Chip returning today. I asked one girl how she liked the Zucchini variety and, wrinkling her nose, she said, “It had chunks of Zucchini in it!” Hmmm…. Looking around as the girls gobbled up today’s flavor, it’s pretty clear that chocolate chips easily beat Zucchini chunks when it comes to muffin ingredients. No surprise there, I suppose!

Alpine Tower high ropes course climber
Camp Mountain Swim

Hidden in the woods behind the gym is our high ropes course climbing tower, the “Alpine Tower.” You may have caught a glimpse of it from the shuttle bus running on opening day. Perched high above this complex, triangular structure of thick poles, ropes, aircraft cables and wooden climbing walls is a covered platform that serves as the summit of the different climbing routes available. There are three main starting points that branch out providing a variety of climbing obstacles to challenge the girls… Swinging logs, a cargo net, overhanging walls, ladders and ropes, to name a few. The Alpine Tower can accommodate up to 6 girls climbing simultaneously, so it handles plenty of enthusiastic climbers. If a girls climbs all three side of the Tower, then climbs again blindfolded (yes, really!), and also climbs one of the routes on Castle Rock, she is welcomed into the “Seven Summits Club” and receives a special bracelet. There are girls from all three lines who can now claim this accomplishment.

Here is a photo taken during an impromptu day hike a group of senior girls and Emily took this morning up to Flat Laurel Creek at the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah. This is a truly magical spot. Above 5000′ in elevation and with views of Sam Knob and Black Balsam mountains, the water is clean and cold as is drops down slopes of granite into clear pools. As if they were visiting a private “mountain beach,” the girls were prepared with their swimsuits so they could enjoy playing in the water. What a unique experience!

Even more unique was the kayaking adventure a small group of Senior campers experienced when they spent the day paddling the Nolichucky River. For 8 miles stretching across the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Nolichucky drops through a steep mountain gorge of rocks making an excellent set of whitewater rapids. It’s a gorgeous place this time of year!

Camp Nolichucky Kayaking
Camp Girl whitewater kayaking on the nolichucky

Led by Leland, Andria, Clyde and Andy, the crew enjoyed perfect weather as they ran rapids with names like “On the Rocks,” “Jaws” and “Rollercoaster.” With most of its rapids being rated class III or III+, the Nolichucky is an intermediate kayaking river that is often too difficult for most summer camp kids. Not so for these Rockbrook girls! A couple of them had to exit their boats and swim a rapid or two, but overall everyone did really well on the river. A one point, the crew took a stretch break from the boats and practiced saving each other using a throw rope. It’s exciting to know that Rockbrook campers have reached this level of kayaking accomplishment.

Nolichuck Whitewater Kayaking Kids

Back at camp in time for dinner, the counselors threw a “World Cup” dinner party where they rearranged the dining hall to make 10 large tables each designated a certain country. One table was Great Britain, another Germany, and another Italy, for example. As the campers arrived they were sorted randomly so each table/country seated girls of all ages. A few campers dressed up for the event with soccer jerseys, flag t-shirts, and face paint. I think I saw a cheerleader or two as well. We played great World music, and with all the flags decorating the dining hall, dinner soon became a dance party. When the cakes came out, each decorated to look like a country’s flag, the cheers almost rattled the roof. We shared all the cakes, danced even more, topping off an excellent day.

Costume Dinner Dance Line

A Swarm of Smiles

Summer camp horseback riding girl

With so much going on at camp and with so many people involved, all simultaneously, it’s astonishing to add it all up. While some girls are screaming as they fly by on the zipline, others are silently stretching into yoga poses listening to quiet flute music. As floor looms click back and forth slowing revealing their weaving patterns, pottery wheels spin splattering mud when a bowl forms in the exact center. One girl rides a horse and another the water slide. Campers shoot bows and arrows, as well as .22 caliber rifles. They hit tennis balls with rackets and volleyballs with their fists. As some girls tie a figure-eight into their kernmantle climbing rope, others tie embroidery floss into square knots to make a friendship bracelet. Campers are leaping off the diving board into the lake, while others are jumping on the mini tramp to flip in gymnastics. With plenty of tie dyes, paints, markers, and glitter, we have an army of girls happy to add color to just about anything. In these ways and others, camp is an energetic mass of movement, and an awesome swarm of smiling busy girls.

Junior camp girl shooting archery

Have you written a letter or sent an email or two to your daughter? Here’s some info about the addresses and such, but it’s worth repeating that receiving mail is a big deal at camp. After lunch and just before the girls return to their cabins for Rest Hour, everyone checks their mailboxes. Seeing a card, letter or folded piece of paper (a printed email) is always a nice surprise, and it’s the perfect inspiration for writing a response home! In your letters, tell your girls how you’re proud of what they’re accomplishing at camp, sprinkled with some encouragement to try new things. Pass along lighthearted, upbeat news from home, while trying not to dwell on what she’s missing while away or how much you miss her.  Maybe include one of these kid-friendly jokes written by our own Sofie Ehlinger.  Do you know why the pig was red, for example? He was out all day BACON in the sun! Here is some more good advice about how to write to your kids at camp.  In the end, “Just write!”

Girls camp rafting whitewater rapid

“Hey Middlers! Hey Seniors! Do you want to go whitewater rafting?” That was the question we asked all of the girls on those lines, and perhaps predictably, about 90% of them said “yes,” with some choosing to do even more by camping overnight at Rockbrook’s Nantahala Outpost. These overnight rafting girls drove over on Monday night and had a great time eating dinner, making ‘smores over a campfire, goofing around in the platform cabins (with a package of glow sticks for each cabin making it even cooler), and simply enjoying this “middle of nowhere” campsite. The next morning, the girls hit the water under bright sunny skies, the perfect weather for a trip down the icy Nantahala river. For several of these Middlers it was their first time rafting, yet almost immediately, even before the first named rapid, they were laughing and squealing with delight. The Nantahala provides a nice balance of thrilling rapids with sizable waves and calm spots in the river where the girls can splash each other and even jump out for a brief swim.

I was able to take a little video as a few of our rafts came through the final rapid, the Nantahala Falls (or “Lesser Wesser” as some call it). Have a look and you can see why rafting is HUGE fun!

Our afternoon group of rafters, which was primarily Seniors this time, likewise had an excellent adventure trip with hot sunny weather, and just as much high-pitched fun.

Girls dressed as animals
Dressed a gorilla performance

When we all arrived back at camp, a special event dinner was ramping up, a jungle/animal themed meal we called “A Night at the Zoo.” This was a fun opportunity to dress like your favorite animal and have a dinner party singing jungle and animal songs.  So tonight we had an entire table of cats, a few butterflies, a squid, a platypus, bears, a turtle, several bunnies, a pink panther (Director Sarah!), and a whole school of fish enjoying a meal together. Hamburgers, sweet potato fries, salad and watermelon with chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert… yummy and fun!

After dinner, during our “Twilight” period of free time (before the start of “Evening Program”), several counselors held a “pet show” on the hill where different girls could show off their “pets.” There were dog tricks, and a super strong rabbit, but the funniest was the gorilla who could do cartwheels. It was all pretty silly stuff, and as that, really great as well.

As the sun began to set far off across the distant Blue Ridge Mountains, the lyric painted on the dining hall poster during dinner tonight seemed all the more apt: “But the sun rolling high… Through the sapphire sky… Keeps great and small on the endless round.”

Unforeseen Rewards

Pounding Mill Overlook NC
Camp Cabin of Girls poses on Parkway

It’s hard not to mention the weather in these posts. We spend so much of our time outside, it only makes sense that how hot or cold, wet or dry, it is outside would make a difference both in our plans and in what we might wear (raincoat or just a fleece today…?). You have to stay flexible too, because the weather can change minute by minute in this part of North Carolina. It can be hot, humid and sunny at noon, and then cool and breezy just an hour later. For example today we had a picnic lunch planned for our mini session seniors, and with everyone loaded in buses, we set out to our favorite spot in the Pisgah only to meet a huge rainstorm when we arrived.  Not to be discouraged, and with the help of a little weather radar, we continued climbing making it eventually to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pounding Mill Overlook.

Camp gils jump on Blue Ridge Parkway


At an elevation of 4700 feet, there we had risen above and away from the rainstorm and found ourselves just above the clouds with bright sunshine all around. It was gorgeous! We could easily look south and see Looking Glass Rock, and east to view Mount Pisgah (elev. 5721 ft). What better place to lounge on the grass and eat our picnic? In the end, this was an example of changed plans that were better. Being rained out meant finding unforeseen rewards. Stopping on the drive back for a quick cone of Dolly’s ice cream, while perhaps appearing unplanned, was a perfect polish to our afternoon trip.

Whitewater Rafting Team

Today we were able to complete this session’s whitewater rafting trips on the Nantahala river. Here too, a little flexibility really paid off. Most of the rivers around here are too high right now, and even the dam-controlled Nantahala was unsafe on Tuesday. With a little shuffling of the adventure schedule, we were able to run the trips today instead. We also decided to push the first trip to earlier in the day to boost our odds of avoiding the predicted afternoon thundershowers. I’m happy to report that everything went perfectly, and with no rain! Boats of singing (and at times screaming!) girls wearing white helmets, 72 people in two groups— our Rockbrook rafting days turn heads on the river.

One aspect of taking an adventure trip, like whitewater rafting, kayaking, or rock climbing, for example, is the decision to skip your regular in-camp activities. Girls know that by signing up for these trips, they’ll have to miss archery, horseback riding, pottery and any other their scheduled activities. This can be frustrating for campers attending short sessions, but it soon becomes clear that it’s impossible to do everything at camp, and you always have to choose among options, thereby skipping certain opportunities. It’s a good lesson in decision making. To select also means to neglect. Fortunately, at camp, whatever a girl selects is guaranteed to be a fun-filled, good choice.

Our evening program tonight brought the return of our friend Daphne from “Cold Blooded Encounters” and 16 of her cold-blooded friends to the gym for her animal show. One by one, she presented each animal walking it around the crowd of shocked and at times wide-eyed girls. She described whether each animal— snake or lizard for example —was poisonous, where it lives in the wild, what it eats, and other unique aspects of its behavior.

Bearded Dragon Lizard
Reticulated Python

Some of the reptiles were familiar to the girls, like the Eastern Box Turtle and the Black Rat Snake, creatures that can be found at Rockbrook. Others, though, were more exotic like an Emperor Scorpion, a Tomato Frog, a Tarantula, a Bearded Dragon, and a huge Reticulated Python. At the end of the show, Daphne invited the girls to touch her python, disproving their belief that snakes are “slimy,” and showing that they are instead smooth, cool and muscular. It was an exciting, informative evening.