So Many Fun Options

two summer camp girl friends

The recent streak of days with perfect summertime weather continued today as we woke to a foggy cool morning. As the camp begins to stir and the girls make their way to the dining hall for breakfast, it’s common to wear long pants and a sweatshirt or fleece. The temperature today was about 64 when we woke, so it felt great to cozy up like that. Then as the sun burned off the fog, we soon felt warm and comfortable under bright blue skies and clear sunshine. The temperature climbed to about 83, but with relatively low humidity it again felt really good to be outside. Since we essentially spend all of our time outside —even the cabins are open-air, screened buildings— this kind of weather is inspiring. It makes everything we’re doing pop with more vibrant colors, perhaps a little more pep, and an extraordinary freshness. Yes, it was ideal camp weather.

“Cinnamon Apple” was the surprise muffin flavor today. The bakers in the kitchen start about 7am to be ready for this mid-morning snack. Mixing, scooping, and baking 300 individual muffins takes some time. Having a freshly baked treat like this, though, is definitely a highlight of most everyone’s morning.  The muffins are so delicious, it’s challenging to have to limit yourself to just one!

cool tetherball fashion girl

Rockbrook girls know that wearing a costume adds to whatever we’re doing, making things funnier and more fun. That’s why we’ll occasionally declare a costume theme for the day, like today’s “Under the Sea” theme. It was fun to see how the girls and staff members interpreted that theme. They mixed things up with beach attire (Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, hats), shark and octopus hats, seaweed skirts, and colorful coral leggings. The Hi-Ups and several counselors decorated the dining hall with streamers and painted banners, and an “ocean-related” playlist of music was queued up for all three meals.

There have been a flurry of adventure trips going out this week too. We went rafting on Tuesday, but today Clyde took an excited bunch of girls out to Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah Forest for an all-day rock climbing adventure. They left early in the morning to reach the south side of the rock face in time to jump on a couple of popular climbs, one called “B52” and another called “Fly By.” Leland and Sarah took a few advanced kayakers to run the rapids of section nine on the French Broad River north of Asheville. Meanwhile, Jayne and Sam offered an overnight camping and canoeing trip on a different section of the French Broad.  All of these trips were offered to the girls as options they could choose, switching up their schedule as they like. So many options all on the same day!

shaving cream fighter

We presented another fun option to the girls during dinner when we announced that tonight’s twilight activity would be a shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide held down on the grassy sports field. This is an event of exuberant play. Girls of all ages, and counselors too, dress in their swimsuits, arm themselves with cans of white foam, and proceed to spray wildly being as mischievous as possible splattering unsuspecting friends. Soon, there are wild hairstyles, messages written on bellies, and even some girls completely covered in shaving cream. As you might expect, this makes the slip-n-slide an extra slick ride. Be sure to visit the photo gallery to see some of the wild messy fun of the evening.

It’s been another full camp day, one with plenty of adventure, creativity, and fun with friends. We couldn’t have asked for a better combination of cheerful campers, enthusiastic staff members, weather and camp activities. Life is very good here at Rockbrook!

A Kind of Delirious Abandon

kid in canoe on camping trip

There’s a long history of Rockbrook girls spending time canoeing on the French Broad River.  We have photos from the 1930s of campers and their boats in the river. In fact, the camp has about 3/4 of a mile of shoreline on the French Broad not far from its true start in Rosman where two smaller streams come together. Once it passes Rockbrook, the French Broad flows north toward Asheville, continuing to form the Tennessee River, which feeds the Ohio River, finally becoming the Mississippi. In addition to beginner kayaking trips, Rockbrook takes girls canoeing on sections of the river, like for example last night when 12 girls and 2 staff members packed camping gear to paddle and then stop for the night part way through. As the river winds its way through valley farmlands, low trees and bushes line the banks revealing views of the nearby mountains from time to time. There are designated camping spots, usually grassy areas along the river, where groups can pull up their boats and pitch tents.  Our girls, as they have for almost 100 years in this valley, had a great time at their campsite playing games after dinner and watching a gorgeous sunset. The weather was likewise perfectly pleasant making the whole trip a grand time out.

The surprise muffin flavor today was mind boggling: chocolate chip cookie dough. It began with a regular chocolate chip muffin, baked to a perfect light brown with a moist crumb. That would have been delicious alone, but what pushed it over the top was the small chunk of cookie dough on top of each muffin. Needless to say, the whole camp was thrilled to bite into one these special treats.

One way the girls at Rockbrook express their enthusiasm, creativity and silly nature is by dressing up. Today was declared “Under the Sea Day,” so we had fun decorating the dining hall with ocean-related banners, searching the camp for a hidden “Nemo” and “Dori,” and creating costumes to wear all around the camp, to meals and activities. There was an octopus playing tennis, a shark lifeguard at the lake, and a scuba girl working at pottery.  It was another day proving that costumes really do make things more fun— funny and fun!

Shaving Cream Kids Camp

The funniest event of the day, though, happened after dinner down on the sports field. It was a wild shaving cream fight for anyone brave enough to get this messy. Girls of all ages, yes even the teenagers, showed up wearing swimsuits ready to smear and be smeared. This kind of delirious abandon— running, squirting, laughing uncontrollably —is simply extraordinary. You’ve never seen girls so elated, and so many of them at once! We had a couple of hoses set up to rinse off a bit as necessary, like when some mischievous friend splatters a handful of the white stuff in your ear or some gets in your mouth. The slip and slide we had set up was also really fun when covered in the slippery foam. It doesn’t take long to empty 150 cans of shaving cream, but the fun doesn’t stop there. There are creative hairstyles to fashion, messages to write on your belly, and photos to take with friends.

It’s no surprise these Rockbrook girls are quick to say, “I love camp!”

Fun is for Sharing

muffins at camp rockbrook

You probably already know about our daily muffins, about how we have a baker who arrives early in the morning to bake a surprise flavor of muffin for everyone at camp to enjoy around 11am. It’s an exciting, homemade snack between activity periods that’s a highlight of the day for many of us. Word spreads pretty fast once the Hi-Ups pass the first muffin through the window on the dining hall porch, like today when a brand new flavor appeared: Cookie Crumble. They were amazing! Just look at them… huge chunks of Oreo cookie pieces in a soft vanilla muffin. Needless to say, all the extras seemed to disappear without a crumb remaining.

horse camp leading

One of the coffee mugs here at camp —no doubt acquired at some point from the local Goodwill store— has three cartoon animals, a bear, a dog and a sheep, playing jump rope together, and proudly declares in red letters, “Fun is for Sharing.” More than just a cute mug, its message seems particularly true here at camp. After all, we share just about everything here and have great fun doing it. Like every true community, we do so much together— eat our meals, play, and create. We interact with each other all day, have conversations, communicating our insights, joys and frustrations. We wake and sleep at the same time. We open up to each other sharing our emotions, supporting each other with caring and compassion. We share the work of camp life too— setting up and cleaning up. While there are moments when we might enjoy time by ourselves, like reading on the hill or making a friendship bracelet in a porch rocking chair, more than likely we’ll be having fun with someone else or a group of people. Camp fun is inevitably shared fun.

summer camp free swim

Camp life is likewise a wonderful tangle of heart-felt relationships. It’s more fully human in that way. By always including others, by beginning with the ties of community, it helps us develop personal qualities that thrive in company. It provides real evidence of just how rich the world can be when it includes a range of perspectives, the unexpected quirks, and creative ideas offered by others. Life lived closely with others, as it is here at camp, is inevitably a source of humor, surprise, and many kinds of intense feelings. Never bored, we’re connected instead. Sure, being upset can sometimes be part of this community life, but with a basis of caring, kindness and generosity, we can work through that struggle too.

All good stuff, but there’s a habit that can form from all of this experience, and it’s a habit that I think you’ll appreciate. Maybe it survives only as a hunch, or a faint memory after the intensity of living in the camp community, but it’s this; being with others is the way to have fun. If you’re bored, then get together, be close. Rich entertainment comes through personal relationship. Camp teaches this lesson because we live it everyday. Our fun is that much better because we’re with others, not abstracted through an electronic device or flickering screen. So when you’re bored, do you reach for a screen, or do you look for a conversation with a real person? “Social” media is at best a weak substitute for real sharing, real fun. Maybe there’s not always someone around, but whenever there is, it can be fun. I hope that’s a hunch that can inspire us long after camp.

country costume camp counselors

An example of this collective spirit happened tonight during our evening program when we held an all-camp campfire with an Appalachian mountain theme. This sort of campfire program is a tradition of sorts at Rockbrook called “Jug Band.” Akin to the old television show Hee-Haw, the counselors planned a variety show of songs, musical performances, skits and jokes. Of course, we included costumes and invited everyone to dress up with bandanas, overalls, hats and anything “country” they could think of. We sang lots of songs, like “Mountain Dew,” “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain,” and “Wagon Wheel,” for example. The campers helped tell some of the jokes too: “Why was 6 afraid of 7? …Because seven ate nine!” Sarah made an appearance dressed as “Granny” and helped lead several of the songs. Here in the mountains of western North Carolina, set in woods beside huge rocks and ancient trees, and glowing from the campfire light, we sang and laughed together into the night. Yes, it was a lot of fun. What could be better?

summer camp girl friends

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

One of the things [Uncle Alex] found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” -Kurt Vonnegut

Girl Camp Swimming

Girls savored today as it was the last normal day of camp. Tomorrow, we have banquet, and the day after is the play and Spirit Fire. Today brought us opportunities to finish mermaid laps and Rockbrook running miles. It was a day to give away friendship bracelets and to relish the simplicity of talking to a circle of good friends in front of the cabin.

We have been at camp for quite awhile at this point, and with the end looming so close, I wanted to step back and consider those moments where all is well with the world. These are not the big moments that might stand out in our minds when we think of camp, but the little ones where everything is just going right. There are so many small and beautiful moments at camp, but they happen so quickly that if we don’t acknowledge them, we can take them for granted. We live good lives at camp, and when I zoomed out my perspective, I began to consider the small moments of loveliness that I can overlook after spending many days in this wonderful place.

At camp, we live in a world where…

  1. A fresh-baked muffin greets us every mid-morning. We ate fresh-baked, cinnamon apple muffins that were still warm from the oven. We get a new muffin flavor every day, which makes the rainiest days cozy and gives all of us a little extra warmth from the bakers. It’s a social time, too, as the news of the muffin flavor travels up and down hills and girls bring muffins to their friends who are in hard-to-reach places. I think that starting the day with a muffin makes the day that much better.
  2. We spend all day playing outside and learning new things. Sometimes, we become so caught up in exactly what an activity is doing every day that we forget that we are spending our days playing. What kind of day could be more incredible than one that includes kayaking on a lake, making a pinch pot, and hiking to Castle Rock…all within about six hours? These are days lived fully, where we appreciate every ounce of free time we have.
  3. Camp Girl Friends
    Girl Archer at camp
    Our best friends are our neighbors and we all like each other and are the kind of neighbors who would gladly lend a cup of sugar (or a pair of shoes or costume)! Each line forms a beautiful community of girls who are comfortable with each other. At this point, every cabin has girls from other cabins popping in and out of it; the cabins are much more cohesive than they were three short weeks ago. It is so convenient to be surrounded by good friends all of the time, always ready for a game of cards or a walk to the camp store. The counselors know all of the campers on their line, and when we gather together, there is a feeling of community that encompasses the entire room.
  4. We can choose how to spend our free time and we engage fully throughout that free time. Today, I played tennis with a camper during a free swim, and we had a great time practicing strokes and improving our skills. Many of the girls in my cabin ran with Rockbrook Runners. Then, for another free swim, we took a cabin hike to Castle Rock, a huge rock face that overlooks camp. Sometimes, free time will include One Direction dance parties or badminton tournaments. This time is not always so structured, but if anyone has an idea, we try our hardest to make it happen. We value this time and we try to make the most of it, even on the days that means relaxing and talking to friends on the porch.
  5. We are explorers of the world (or at least Western North Carolina), and we never know what we are going to run into! Our corner of the world is filled with animals and vegetation. The juniors teach the rest of us to explore the world–they are constantly sticking their feet in the creek looking for salamanders and skinks. Other girls decide that they want to romp around the forest and see waterfalls. Camp give us the place, the tools, and the friends to explore the world and teaches us to be more observant.

As these girls prepare to leave and we begin to reflect on what distinguishes camp from the rest of the world, I think these are five things that we have really been doing at camp. To cap off a beautiful day, I went to the Rockbrook Garden with a small group of campers. We showed each other the zesty verbena plant, plucked some strawberries off the vine, and smelled the gentle lavender plant. I realized that at Rockbrook, there are so many moments where I just need to step back and sigh, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Happy Nice Camper

Equally Full

camp-weaving-instructor

Our first full day of camp began this morning with every activity area ready to launch into action. A full breakfast of orange juice, fresh fruit, oatmeal, granola and yogurt got us started, and the morning assemblies (held in each age groups stone lodge) of up-beat camp songs set the tone for an equally full day.

The other day, after being asked, I counted up the number of buildings at Rockbrook. Including all of the camper cabins (25), activity buildings, staff housing and support buildings, there are 53 different structures at camp. That’s a lot of roofs! And today every one of them was being used for the jam-packed life that we enjoy at camp.

Eight different places were home to creative craft projects. Weaving colorful yarns on the looms in Curosty with Nancy, pinching and rolling clay in one of the pottery studios, tying friendship bracelets, dripping dye on t-shirts, making layers of paper collages, brushing on watercolor paints, embroidering small swatches of fabric— the girls began many, many art projects.

rifle-girl-shooter

Sports too! The girls shot rifles and bows with .22 caliber bullets and arrows hitting their targets. They balanced on the beam after stretching in the gymnastics area of the gym. All three tennis courts saw various tennis drills and short games. The gaga ball pit also was stirred up by game after game, with girls jumping and swatting as the ball bounced in their direction. Of course the lake, which (next to the dining hall!) is probably the most popular place in camp, was humming with fun as the girls flew down the water slide, performed tricks off the diving board, and just played around on different floating toys. As the weather cleared up throughout the day, the lake seemed to become even more popular.

tennis-camp-girl-player
girls-camp-kayaking-instruction

The first riding lessons also took place today, with the girls who wanted to ride meeting new horses during one of the 4 activity periods. There were riders in every ring just about all day long. The outdoor adventure staff offered climbing on the Alpine tower, trips through the zip line course, a hike to Rockbrook Falls, and opportunities to learn the basics of whitewater kayaking down at the lake. Ellie and Jamie, our dynamic kayaking instruction duo, enticed dozens of girls to try out the cool new whitewater kayaks added to the Rockbrook fleet this summer.

Rick’s famous “cheesy bread” and homemade vegetable tomato soup, Becky’s fresh “Confetti” muffins, and chocolate chip cookies and milk before bed, were all top-10 foods popular from last summer that we enjoyed today as well.

With all of our activity areas cranking, familiar camp foods, a chance to spin the wheel in the dining hall (more about that later!), hula hooping on the hill during twilight, and evening program featuring silly, hilarious skits performed by each cabin group in their line’s lodges, it felt good to have a full day at camp. Everyone seemed happy, energized and settled in, which proves it doesn’t take long for girls to feel comfortable and at home here. It would make you smile to see it.

muffin-break-girls

Adding Some Edge


About once a week we head over to the Nantahala River for whitewater rafting, like today, when two groups of Middlers and Seniors made the 2-hour run down the river. Being the only girls summer camp that has a permit to run these trips (The US Forest Service issued us the permit back in the early 1980s), we decided long ago to make rafting a big part of our adventure program. We don’t charge extra for the trips and we let everyone who’s old enough (Middlers and Seniors, in our case) sign up to go if they like. All of this has made rafting very popular with Rockbrook girls, with about 90% of them choosing to raft every summer. For many, it’s their favorite adventure trip out of camp. Rockbrook really is “that rafting camp,” as one person put it.

Rafting Silly Kids Posing

Last night we also gave the girls the option to spend the night at our outpost camp before their rafting trip. Over in Macon County and adjoining the Nantahala National Forest, Rockbrook acquired and improved this unique piece of property with camping shelters (simple screened, structures), a small bath house, and a dining hall where we can have our meals. It’s a great place, “out in the middle of nowhere,” literally “at the end of the road,” where we can enjoy camping only 15 minutes from the river. It’s a beautiful place too. We had a wonderful time together last night singing songs around the campfire, making s’mores, and listening to the nighttime calls of a nearby whippoorwill. I was impressed by how relaxed and happy all the girls were as they spent their time together on the overnight, particularly because the group was made up of a few teenagers as well as young girls who had just finished 5th grade. There wasn’t one person trying to be cool, or exclusive. Instead, they all happily hung out together, slept in the same shelter together, sang songs and laughed at each others jokes. This showed me that these girls really trust each other, and that despite their age differences, really like each other too. It was a remarkable expression of “Rockbrook Spirit” that would make you proud to witness.

Kid Zip Line
Zip Canopy Course Bridge

There is another adventure activity popular with the girls at camp— we run it almost everyday —and it’s unique because of Rockbrook’s topography: our zip line course. Instead of zips and bridges going from platform to platform suspended in trees like most zipline “canopy tours,” our 3 ziplines (2 of which are new this summer) and 3 bridges (2 new ones here too) are suspended between gigantic boulders. The cables are bolted directly into solid rock making them extraordinarily strong anchor points for each span. The first zip is especially cool; it begins high to the right of “Stick Biscuit Falls,” the 50-ft waterfall directly above the camp, and slowly passes you across the front the falls, about 80 feet in the air, as you slide along the cable to a rock face on the far side. The next 150-ft zip begins at another boulder and sends riders over a gulley below, filled with rhododendron and mountain laurel. From there the riders make their way across the 3 swinging bridges: a beam, cable, and platform bridge. The final zip is a screaming 450-ft ride all the way back to camp. It takes a group of eight campers about an hour to complete every thrill of the course.

Camp Kids Love Muffins
Night Zip Line Kids

Speaking of our zipline course, two groups of senior campers took their ziplining to a new level after dinner. They went at night! It’s true; staying up late, we used headlamps attached to our helmets, other flashlights and glow sticks to illuminate our way. Part night hike, part group dynamics initiative, and part edgy idea, the girls had a blast zipping through the dark, launching themselves into the night with just their headlamp for orientation. As we moved from point to point, the girls had a good sense that this was a little over the top, making it even more fun than they expected. A couple of them said to me, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” A small creative twist turned something already pretty cool, into the “coolest thing ever!”

The same thing happened this morning when the girls discovered that the Rockbrook baker had added some edge to today’s muffin flavor: “chocolate chip cookie dough.” You might be wondering how to make a “dough” muffin?  You first bake a chocolate chip muffin, but then serve it with a blob of cookie dough on top. An outrageous topping, I know, but also, oh so good. They really were something else. I heard from several girls, in fact, that this was their new favorite muffin flavor.

We’re off to a fantastic start of the session. With this many really wonderful girls at camp, it’s no surprise.

Camp Kids Hugging

Loud and Lively

Teenager girls chores
Fresh baked muffins

The “Hi-Ups” are our 16-year-old, 10th graders at camp. They live together in a special two-story cabin “high above” (hence their name) the camp in the woods behind the dining hall. This cabin, in addition to having a bright front porch with a clear view of the final zip line in our Zip Course, is rumored to have secret amenities these oldest campers enjoy. For example, according to some junior campers, the Hi-Ups have a flat screen TV and a Jacuzzi in their cabin… Wink, wink 😉 The Hi-Ups are essentially in charge of the dining hall. They arrive before each meal to set all the tables. They serve the large bowls and platters of food, fill drink pitchers, distributing what each table (cabin of girls) needs for every meal. Then, when everyone is done eating and the announcements have wrapped up, the real work begins— cleaning the dining hall. That means racking up the dishes for the CIT dishwashers, wiping down tables, sweeping the floor, and emptying all the trash cans. You can imagine, with almost 280 people eating, this is quite a chore. It helps to have many Hi-Ups, like the group of 15 this session, but in any case there is work to be done. And this group is doing that work superbly. With a little Taylor Swift playing in the background, they are cheerfully tackling these chores 3 times a day. You’d be proud if you saw them.

Another Hi-Up responsibility is distributing the muffins during our morning “muffin break.” The kitchen crew bakes up a surprise flavor of muffin each morning in time to give everyone a warm, soft, usually quite sweet, treat between the 1st and 2nd activity periods (around 10:45). The Hi-Ups grab the trays of muffins, and hand them out to the other campers trough a screened window slid open on the end of the dining hall porch. Today we enjoyed pumpkin muffins, and the day before that classic chocolate chip. When you write your girls at camp (sent an email lately?), ask them what their favorite muffin flavor is so far. I bet the word “chocolate” will be in their answer!

Girl Loading a Gun
Camp Quilting Project

The second day of activities moved everyone about the camp today being creative, active and adventurous along the way. In pottery, a few girls were trying their hand on the potter’s wheel while others were pressing lace into slabs of clay to make decorative tiles. The jewelry making activity was introducing beads and multi-strand friendship bracelets, while in Curosty, tabletop and floor looms clicked away. A group of juniors sat in the sun by the creek weaving baskets just as other girls worked on watercolors with the counselors teaching painting in Hobby Nook. We heard the pop of .22 caliber rifles from below at the riflery range and the “thunk” of arrows finding their targets at the archery activity area. Girls were learning back flips in Gymnastics, and cross-court volleys in tennis, playing ga-ga ball and later a huge game of kickball on the landsports field. Climbers were “on belay” climbing the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock high above camp, while 2 groups of girls made their way through the RBC Zip Line course (which has 3 zips through the woods and 3 different bridges connecting start and end points). The kayakers and canoers were busy learning strokes on the lake, as other girls practiced their cannonballs off the diving board.

Rafting crazy Rapid
Super Costume at Summer Camp

Meanwhile, 64 campers took rafting trips today down the Nantahala River in Swain County. We offer these trips to all the Middler and Senior campers (Junior campers are too small according to our Forest Service permit) and generally about 95% of them sign up. The trip is that fun! The first group of 5 rafts spent the night camping at our nearby RBC outpost, waking up and arriving at the river to meet our veteran guides at the river’s put-in. The weather was a little misty starting out, so we suited up all the girls in blue spray jackets for extra warmth. After smashing through the rapids “Patton’s Run,” “Pyramid Rock,” and “Delbar’s Rock,” the sun poked out and it felt great. The Nantahala is a nice beginner’s whitewater river providing a balance between easy, calm sections and rapids that build as you go. In this way, the whole trip alternates between singing camp songs while floating along and screaming your head off through the bumps and spray of the larger rapids. The sun stayed out for the afternoon trip, and we were all back at camp in time for dinner.

For a special dinner too, because tonight was Birthday Night! And even better, it was Super Hero Birthday Night! So out came the costumes… Batman, superman, spiderman (their female versions of course). We saw Captain America, Wonder Woman, Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and many, many spontaneous, highly imaginative, super girls. All over the dining hall, as everyone sat according to their birth month, there were exclamations of “Pow!” “Bam!” and “Whamo!” Mixing the cabins and age groups like this was a fun way to both celebrate everyone’s birthday and enjoy 12 different homemade birthday cakes that the Hi-Ups decorated earlier today. We must have sung “Happy Birthday” or shouted it out 30 or more times! Still, it was a silly, loud and lively, meal made even more fun by all the great girls being together and enjoying it.

Tennis Camp Girls

Muffins and Mail

Muffins and Mail

Here’s a photo that illustrates a few very important things about life at Rockbrook. First notice what the girls are nibbling; it’s today’s flavor of muffin. As you may already know —since this Rockbrook tradition is truly legendary— we serve fresh baked muffins everyday between the first and second activity periods. Brigid and Becky, our camp bakers, surprise us with these special treats creating all kinds of unique flavors. Yesterday is was pumpkin chocolate chip, which is always popular, but today we enjoyed a completely new variety: vanilla bean, cherry muffins. Man, they were good! Rick explained that they soaked vanilla beans and used locally grown cherries in the recipe. Outrageous!

The girls are also standing in front of the camper mailboxes on the dining hall porch. Mail. Everybody loves it at camp. Being away from home and isolated to some extent from the outside world makes receiving mail even more delightful. Send us some news. Maybe add a silly joke, like one of these jokes for kids written by Sofie. Have you been sending letters to your daughter, or at least emails? She will love it, and if you’re lucky will write you back.

It looks like (By the way, clicking the photos of the blog will bring up a larger version) Ellie is holding a Hodge Podge project popular right now, a tie pillow. It’s a pillow made from two pieces of cloth “sewn” together by tying knots in strips cut around the edges. These are sometimes called ‘no-sew pillows.” They are quick and fun to make, and often become quite elaborate as the girls then decorate them with fabric paint, beads and other shiny bits.

Huge Tree and Camp Girls

Finally, this photo nicely typifies how happy and relaxed the campers are at Rockbrook. Quick to smile, embrace each other, and support their friends with true feelings of generosity and care, these girls are peeling away layers of habits and concerns, and discovering how good it feels to be who they really are. In the context of a community brimming with encouragement, these girls can’t help but blossom. It’s not magic, but it is marvelous.

Isn’t that an amazing tree! Just a root of it is bigger than two people! Located in the Pisgah Forest at an elevation above 5100 feet, it’s an example of an old-growth evergreen tree that’s very rare in the forest these days, following the extensive logging of this area in the early twentieth century. We stumbled upon it this morning while out hiking with the Hi-Ups (our sixteen year old campers). Of course we couldn’t just walk by without touching it, feeling it, smelling and even tasting it! And grabbing a quick snap to share.

Drumming Camp kids

The hour of free time after dinner we call “Twilight” brought the return tonight of our friend and master drummer Billy Zanski. He arrived from Asheville ready to teach any interested girls how to play the Djembe and DunDun drums, and to lead everyone in what essentially became a drumming dance party in the hillside lodge. Campers and counselors alike took turns drumming and dancing, each whirling their hands over the skins of the drums and their feet across the wood floor of the lodge. The whole scene was energizing and fun, a special kind of group experience that we love at Rockbrook.