The Delightful Nurturing

Whitewater rafting girls on the Nantahala fallsThe Nantahala River today provided another perfect day of whitewater rafting for the Middlers and Seniors who just arrived at camp. We offered the trip to everyone, and probably 90% of the girls old enough were excited to spend the day paddling and splashing their way down the river. Our fantastic rafting guides arrived at the put in early to prepare the rafting equipment so that when the vans and buses of campers arrived, it took very little time to suit up (PFD, helmet, and paddle) and hear the safety instructions for the trip. Those instructions answer the girls’ questions about where to sit in the boat, what to do when you fall out of the boat, how to be rescued with a throw rope, and the whitewater swim position. Today the weather was hot a sunny all day, making both the morning and afternoon groups enjoy even more the cold water of the river.  For example, an entire raft of girls decided at one point to jump out into the river at the same time, leaving just the guide in the boat! There are almost 20 named rapids along this stretch of the Nantahala, but the highlight of the trip is the final rapid called the “Nantahala Falls,” a class III double drop. This is a heart-pounding, eye-popping, scream-inducing thrill that always elicits cheers when the boats make it through successfully. This photo (and others in the online gallery) gives you a sense of what it’s like.

Meanwhile back at camp, there was a lot going on!  Every building, every activity area, and even spaces in between, had groups of girls busy creating, joyfully playing, and engaging all the opportunities to try new things.  And on the other hand, the daily schedule at Rockbrook provides regular times where the girls can slow down a little, rest, relax and explore as their mood and interests might inspire. Mixed in are times for nourishment, like an apple or peach grabbed on the go from the dining hall porch, or everyone’s favorite, a freshly baked muffin (Today’s flavor was divine… cranberry, white chocolate chip!) served mid-morning. There’s time to soak in the natural beauty of the forested mountain, trees and flowers, and the running creeks that surround us at camp.

So much of this, so much of what life at camp requires, involves self-regulation by the girls. Many times throughout the day, the girls themselves make decisions about what they would like to do (float in a tube at the lake during free swim or read a book in one of the porch rocking chairs, for example). Likewise for their scheduled activities, would they like to spend time being creative tie-dying a t-shirt, getting a little sweaty playing dodgeball in the gym, or feeling their feet tingle high up on a rock face during a climb? Should they pay attention to the drizzle-threatening clouds, to the cricket in their cabin, to how many days it’s been since their last shower, and to their score in riflery?  What will they do when they feel tired, or a little too hyper, or maybe frustrated for some reason. How will they behave when it’s time to help with cabin chores, when their friend didn’t receive any mail and they got 5 letters, or when their cabin mates are arguing about who plays what role in an evening program skit?

proud camp girl holding needlecraft projects two camp girls dressed in kayaking gear ready for adventure proud camp girl holding rifle targets

Back in 2015, researchers at the University of Chicago published a report summarizing decades of theory and research drawn from the fields of youth development and education, and describing what children need to achieve “success” in life. Rather than academic skills, they identified four “foundational components” which underlie a child’s ability to fulfill his or her goals, influence the world around them, and have a clear sense of who they are. These four components are:

  • Self-regulation: the awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings, and management of one’s attention, emotions and behaviors to achieve goals.
  • Knowledge and Skills: information or understanding about oneself, other people and the world, and the ability to carry out tasks.
  • Mindsets: beliefs and attitudes about oneself, the world and the interaction between the two, which serve as the lenses through which individuals process everyday experiences.
  • Values: enduring, often culturally defined beliefs about what is good or bad and what one thinks is important in life.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, in thinking about the core foundations of child and youth development, there is a great infographic summarizing the report that I would highly recommend. For now, I hope it is clear why I bring it up; I believe a sleepaway camp like Rockbrook is a fantastic context to gain the sort of developmental experiences that bolster all four of these components. In addition to self-regulation, camp provides opportunities for practice and reflection on beliefs and values as they relate to the world and others. It offers numerous opportunities to gain knowledge and skills, and ultimately to develop a strong sense of self defined by “healthy relationships and a meaningful place within a community.”

This is the youth development work that takes place at summer camp. It hints at the invaluable learning that takes place here amid the zany, colorful fun.  We know that girls love camp— just ask; they’ll tell you! Camp is also delightfully nurturing in these very important ways. It’s fun that matters.

Happy camp girls sitting on rock in the sun

Absolutely Grand

When it gets hot outside, Rockbrook girls go to the water. It’s rare around here that the high temperatures reach above 90 degrees. It helps that being in the mountains keeps things cooler at night, and Rockbrook is tucked into a forested, west-facing slope giving it plenty of shade most of the morning, but there are always a few summer days, like today, when temperatures can climb. Fortunately at camp, we have plenty of ways to stay cool by taking a dip, splashing around, and otherwise getting wet.

Girls Laughing in whitewater raftGirl Power Raftinghappy girl camp raftingFor example, the different creeks flowing through camp become water-park playgrounds for the girls during their free time periods. Above Curosty, the fiber arts cabin, you’ll find campers standing in the water— even sitting sometimes! —arranging small stones, floating their flip-flop shoes, and just enjoying the moving water headed to the lake. In front of Goodwill, the paper crafts cabin, the stream has more moss, larger stones to turn over and reveal small insects and other creatures —salamanders! crayfish! Armed with a small paper cup, girls are happily exploring, on the hunt for something of wonder.

Of course, the lake is the best place to cool off at camp. The diving board, 50-foot water slide, and variety of floating toys make it a fun and inviting place. Plus it’s always highly social, with groups swimming laps, playing “categories,” or lounging together in the water. As you might expect, the swimming and boating activities, plus the two free swim periods, have been extra popular with this sort of weather.

About 70 campers chose to experience the ultimate cooling adventure today over in Swain county, a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River. Two buses of girls spent the night beforehand at our outpost camp that adjoins the National Forest. After a quick dinner, the girls sang songs around the campfire and topped off their evening by roasting marshmallows for s-mores. The next day, all the other girls met our Rockbrook adventure guides to take the two-hour trip down the Nantahala River. This is such a fun time for the girls. Take a look at the photo gallery (or click these rafting photos) to see their hilarious laughter, wide-eyed moments of foreboding, and cheerful screams through the rapids. In the bright sunshine, the layer of cool air hovering over the cold, cold river water, felt really good today. It was an ideal day of rafting.

Finally, there was a fun surprise for the girls announced during dinner. The whole camp would have a “counselor hunt!” This is a giant, whole-camp version of hide and seek where all the counselors disappear into hiding places all over the camp, and each cabin group together searches. Each counselor was worth a secret number of points (some positive and some negative!) so that after the 45 minutes of searching, the tally would also be a surprise. The camp bell signaled the start and finish of the hunt, and the winning cabin received a sweet treat from the kitchen.

It’s only been a few days, and already this session of camp is absolutely grand. So many friendly girls and enthusiastic counselors, with all the great activities happening, are blending to fill our excellent days.

Girls Camp Friends

Immune to Imperfection

Rockbrook took over the Nantahala River again today as the final group of Middlers and Seniors went rafting. We offer the trip to everyone, but since it means missing their regularly scheduled activities, it can sometimes be a tough choice to make— rafting vs. working on that weaving project, hiking to play in the water below Rockbrook Falls, or learning to canter over cross rails in the horseback riding arena, for example. With so many things going on at camp, it’s impossible to do everything, but that’s OK because the girls revel in the choices and really enjoy following whatever whim they and their friends decide. For example, about 23 campers chose to combine their rafting adventure with an overnight camping experience as well. We drove over to the river the night before, having plenty of time for dinner, singing songs, eating s’mores, resting and meeting the RBC rafting guides the next morning.

teen girls raftingIt was a little misty when the first group hit the water around 10am, not cold, but not sunny either. Right from the start, the girls’ overall excited mood, however, prevailed, helping even more as the sun began to pop out occasionally. After our picnic lunch with both the morning and afternoon groups (about 80 people total!), the weather turned rainy just as the second trip began. Here too, you might think these girls would shrink under such imperfect conditions, their enthusiasm literally dampened, their spirits wilting in what at times became a solid rainstorm.  But you’d be wrong!  Since this rain didn’t include thunder and lightning, the guides kept the trip going and the girls happily kept having a whoop-it-up great time.  Paddling hard provided some warmth, just as their camaraderie provided mutual encouragement and cheerfulness, despite the added challenge. It was an impressive display of grit and determination.  Today the river provided just as many whitewater thrills, plus a few extra chills along the way.

dance camp girlsOne of the raft guides put it this way. He said, “There’s something special going on here. These girls seem so happy and together on things. It’s obvious that they love camp.” What’s cool is that he noticed this when the girls were uncomfortable, some even shivering. I too heard a senior girl yell “I love camp!” right when her boat was blasting through the final rapid. It’s incredible that it doesn’t take smooth sailing to have a great time at camp. It doesn’t take luxury —our cabins, after all, are not air conditioned, have only a couple of light bulbs, no electrical outlets, and probably a spider or two. It doesn’t take gorgeous weather, a diet of favorite foods, or constant assistance when things are difficult. There’s a magic to life at camp that makes us immune to imperfection, and a power easily stronger than these sorts of discomfort that could otherwise taint an experience. And your kids embody that power because they love camp.

Why girls love camp, is another topic dear to our hearts and a discussion for another day. But for now it’s simply worth noting that your Rockbrook girls are gaining a valuable skill while here— the ability to see past what’s less than ideal, to enjoy an activity even if it includes a degree of discomfort or disappointment, to navigate around what might be frustrating or seen as an obstacle to fun.

girls aiming rifleIt’s also neat, perhaps even astonishing, that your girls are maintaining these positive attitudes, enjoying life at camp despite the occasional challenges and discomforts, without your help… on their own. They have not needed (nor wanted, I’d bet) anyone to remove every imperfection, smooth every bump in the road, or plow the path for them. Away from parents who might be quick to plow, camp provides this valuable experience of girls having a chance to feel proudly independent, capable and confident. It’s such a great life skill!

My hope is that our Rockbrook girls can carry this skill back home to their lives at school, that they can recreate some of the conditions of camp life that provide that special cheerful power we see here.  How they might do that is yet another topic, but for now, we can’t help but be amazed.

happy camp girls

Bouncing, Laughing and Singing

girls rafting crewWhen Rockbrook was awarded one of the few permits to raft the Nantahala River back in the early 1980s (still the only girls camp recognized for this), we had no idea that it would become such an important part of our adventure program. Every year since, we’ve guided our Middlers and Seniors down the river, with I’d say about 90% choosing to go. For many girls, rafting is one of the highlights of their session, and their main adventure activity, with the possible exception being day hiking trips or zip lining.

Having this permit for guiding rafting trips on the Nantahala means keeping our own fleet of boats (cool Avon and NRS whitewater rafts), and having paddles, helmets, and PFDs for everyone. We hire and train our own guides (they are on our adventure staff back at camp) and are inspected by the US Forest Service annually. All of this allows us to run trips as we like, and have the confidence that we have great folks in the boats with our campers for the trips to go smoothly.

summer camper raftingToday was another of those great rafting days. We took two trips down the river with two different groups of girls: the first rafting before lunch and the second after our picnic of sandwiches, fruit and chips. The girls had a blast bouncing over the rapids, splashing around, singing during the more calm sections, “riding the bull” (which means sitting on the front of the boat like a hood ornament), and occasionally falling in.  The Nantahala water is shockingly, steal-your-breath, cold, so when someone falls in, the whole boat screams and springs into action.  The goal is to get the swimmer back in the boat ASAP, so once in reach, the other campers help pull the wide-eyed swimmer back in by her PFD. It’s a coordinated effort that inevitably ends with several girls sprawled in the bottom of the raft laughing hysterically. It really was a fun day on the river, as the weather cooperated (we luckily dodged most of the rain in the area) and we easily made it back to camp in time for dinner.

girl group danceSomehow, despite the desire to keep it a secret, only half of the girls seemed surprised when it was announced that we would be having a dance tonight with Camp Carolina. We often schedule a dance at some point during each session, but we try to surprise the girls with when it will happen because it minimizes the time spent getting ready. The line for the shower can only be so long! Over the years, what it means to “get ready” for a dance has evolved away from a “nice outfit” and become more about a crazy costume. Dances are less about brushed hair and more about braids, less about make up and more about glitter. Hawaiian shirts have replaced blouses, and pajama pants and shorts are preferred over skirts.

teen group danceThis is practical too when you consider the dancing, which is mostly a simple move of jumping up and down with one hand raised high. Clustered together, the crowd jumps in unison perfectly matching the straight beat of the music. The playlist tonight was a series of familiar, danceable pop songs from recent years— “Party in the USA,” “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” and “Wobble,” for example. A few classics also made it: “Africa” by Toto, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, and “Mamma Mia” by ABBA, to name a few of the sing-a-long examples.

For about an hour and half, both dances (the younger children at Rockbrook and the older at Camp Carolina) were bouncing, laughing and singing along to the music. A little sweaty and surprised by how fast the time flew by, it took a good half an hour for the excitement of the evening to fade after the girls returned to camp and began getting ready for bed. A fun, full camp day to remember.

girl kicking dance

Hilarious Delight

Girls Rafting Camp kids whitewater rafting trip

At Rockbrook, every girl who has completed the 5th grade or older (our “Middlers” and “Seniors”) can go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. For many years now, since the early 1980s, we simply ask the girls “Who wants to go rafting!?” There’s no extra charge, no pressure to go, and the girls decide for themselves if they are interested, but without a doubt, rafting has become the most popular outdoor adventure trip we offer. I’d say 95% of the girls old enough to go, do go, and go every year they come to camp. In this way, it’s become part of Rockbrook’s overall program. Rafting is popular, of course, because it’s really fun for the girls. They have an absolute blast rocking and bumping down the river, splashing and being splashed by the cold water, chatting a singing along the way, and laughing hysterically whenever someone falls out of the boat (which happens quite a bit… often intentionally, or at least partly so). Rockbrook is the only girls’ camp that has a US Forest service permit to raft the Nantahala, so we can use our own equipment and as guides, our own adventure staff as who are familiar to the girls. For us there’s no stranger in your boat, just someone you see around camp ordinarily, and that’s really nice for the girls. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day on the river for all 57 people (plus our 6 guides) who took their trips today. The first rafting day of the summer was an excellent success.

If you don’t know about “Muffin Break,” let me describe it because it also has become an important feature of camp life at Rockbrook. It’s essentially a yummy surprise for the girls each morning provided by one of the bakers in the kitchen, a freshly-baked muffin served as a snack between the first and second activity periods (about 11am). The muffin flavors are different everyday, ranging from traditional varieties like chocolate chip and cinnamon crumble, but often have an added twist. For example, we’ve seen pumpkin chocolate chip, key lime pie, white chocolate strawberry, and even zucchini sprinkles. Today was another new flavor, maple pancake. The muffins were reminiscent of pancakes, and sure enough, included a drizzle of maple syrup on the top making them sweet and sticky, and fun to eat. The next time you send a letter or email to you daughter, you might ask her about the muffins and if she’s had a favorite flavor so far.

Spinning the wheel Camp Wheel spin

On the wall in the dining hall, right up front where everyone can see it, is something we call “The Wheel (of FUN!).” Somewhat like the game show “Wheel of Fortune,” our wheel spins and clicks around until stopping on a random section where we’ve indicated fun activities that the lucky spinner wins. You can see these prizes in the photo above, but they are designed for an entire cabin to enjoy and include things like “Rest Hour at the Lake,” “Polar Bear” (an early morning, before breakfast, jump in the lake), Dance Break (picking a song to blast during a meal where everyone stops to get up, sing and dance for a couple of minutes), and “Dress a Director,” for example. Though not every time, we often spin the wheel during the lunch announcements. Selecting which camper gets to spin the wheel is a big part of the fun. Chase hops on the mic and has everyone stand up, and then by announcing random qualities, narrows down the crowd. She might say, “Stay standing if you have your hair in a pony tail” and those without pony tails will sit down. Then, “Stay standing if you’ve made a friendship bracelet,” or “Stay standing if you have a brother.” As the excitement builds to almost explosive levels, this process continues until only one person remains standing, our wheel spinner. Today that person was Alden and her spin landed on “Pie a Counselor,” which to everyone’s hilarious delight (well, maybe not so much the counselor) happened after dinner.

Nickelodeon Egg toss gameSpeaking of dinner, tonight’s had a theme: Nickelodeon. The counselors set up the dining hall to play several Nickelodeon-inspired games throughout the meal. First, they surprised the girls by revealing that every chair had a colored “splat” hidden underneath, and that each color indicated they won a small prize, like a jump rope, silly putty, or crazy fidget sticks. The main event though was a game of musical chairs where the counselors roamed about while music (a Nickelodeon theme song, of course!) played, and sat down at a different cabin’s table then the music stopped. It was a fun way for the campers to get to know other counselors. For dessert, the kitchen made green “slime” glaze for each table to “slime” it’s own chocolate cake. A little messy and a lot of yummy. After dinner the games continued out on the hill. Again inspired by Nickelodeon, the girls tried an egg toss where they had to catch the egg in a pail taped to a helmet. Like the Nickelodeon game show “Double Dare,” other groups had a challenge to use only their feet to remove a banana from a tub filled with different types of canned food like cherry pie filling, jello, and sliced beets. I think you can understand why we held these games outside! Sure they were a little gross, but the girls loved playing like this— small physical challenges, silly costumes, messy consequences, with cheering each other all the while. It was one of those wonderful camp moments of full exuberance and laughter that is very difficult to find anywhere else.

Camp Archer Girl

In and On the Water

Morning Outdoor Pancake PicnicWhen the camp bell rings at 8am each morning, when it’s typically cool and foggy making everything a little grey and moist outside, there’s rarely anyone out on the hill in the center of camp. That was true this morning too, except several staff members were quietly scurrying around to set something up in all three of the stone lodges. They had folding tables, stacks of plates, bowls of fruit, chocolate, maple and caramel syrup, whipped cream, and colorful sprinkles. They were clearly up to something, excited about the unannounced treat they had in store for the campers. The best clue explaining all this was the griddles, spatulas and huge bowls of pancake batter they finally carried out from the kitchen. It was “Pancakes and PJs,” a surprise breakfast cooked and served in the lodges, and enjoyed by everyone while sitting outside in one of the red porch rockers or on the hill in crazy creek chairs. With sausage and fruit on the side, the girls loaded up their pancakes with sweet toppings, and spilled out everywhere to chat in small groups and watch the sun break through the fog. Something completely new and different, it was a delightful way to wake up and start the day.

Girls with the feet in a streamCamp Water Slide FunIt’s always easy to play in the water at Rockbrook. First of all, the lake itself  provides a place to cool off, take a swim, ride the water slide, or just float in a tube. But my favorite way the girls play in the water here is by exploring, often during their free time, one of the many streams cutting down from the hills above the camp. One of these, near the Curosty cabin, flows along a grassy bank making it a perfect place to soak your feet (even when wearing long pants!), float and race your flip flop shoes, keep reeds wet when weaving a basket, or hone your Hydraulic Engineering skills by building a dam from rocks, sticks, bark and mud (Fortunately, these dams are never completely watertight!). The other, which passes in front of the Goodwill cabin, flows over and around several large rocks making it a thriving habitat for stream creatures like crayfish, salamanders, and water striders. It’s great fun for the girls to wade into this stream, paper cup in hand, and inevitably scoop up something interesting, and wiggly. Standing on one of the big rocks in this stream, a camper exclaimed, “This is the most beautiful place on earth!” At one level, I think she’s right. It’s certainly a place full of wonderful plants and animals ready to discover.

Camp French Broad FloatCamp Nantahala FloatCamp Girls Nantahala CelebrationIt’s also easy to play on the water at Rockbrook. This is because throughout the week we offer optional canoe, kayak and rafting trips on many of the local rivers. After the girls learn their basic strokes on our lake, they can sign up for these trips. For example today, Emily led a group of 6 canoes on a leisurely float down a section of the French Broad River near camp. This river is wide and lined with trees in this section. The water moves along gently making it a very relaxing paddle. Meanwhile, further west in the mountains, a group of Middlers and Seniors were spending the day whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. Some of these girls spent the night at our outpost camp, while others came just for the day to raft. Clean and very cold, the Nantahala River provides a great whitewater workout… of muscles paddling and bouncing over the rapids, and of vocal chords screaming with delight to every bump. It’s a thrilling adventure for the girls.

Our silly side came out after dinner tonight when the Middlers presented an all-girl “Prom” for our twilight activity. Essentially a dance party, the girls dressed up and came down to the gym to dance and sing to their favorite “girl power songs.” The posters decorating the walls reminded us of famous strong women (e.g., Jane Goodall) and “girls’ bands, like Taylor Swift. The dancing was lighthearted and carefree, free of criticism, competition and posturing. It was both fun and funny, partly because Rockbrook is simply a friendly supportive place, but also I think because there were no boys around. This all-girl, “no boys allowed,” environment, one that eliminates the powerful gaze of the opposite sex, allows our campers to loosen up a bit and enjoy themselves as they truly are— friendly, sensitive, caring young ladies. Without concern for what “the boys might think,” girls, particularly teenage girls, thrive, becoming more confident and self-assured as they develop positive relationships with those around them. At camp, this translates to simply having a great time with your friends. I think everyone here would agree; camp should not be about boys. Instead, it’s about us— living together in this beautiful place, growing closer as we share all these special experiences, and celebrating the fun of it all.

All Girls No Boys Dancing

Why Girls Love Rafting

Camp Rafting CrewOf all the outdoor adventure trips offered at Rockbrook, whitewater rafting continues to be the most popular. More than kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing (though that’s a clear second), day hiking and backpacking, leaving camp to raft the Nantahala River inspires campers to sign up, even as that means missing their regularly scheduled activities. In fact, I’d estimate 90% of the girls old enough to go —Middlers and Seniors only, due to a Forest Service restriction— elect to take a day trip down the river, or to raft and spend the night at our outpost camp located near the river in Swain County. Rockbrook has been guiding these whitewater trips since the early 1980s, when it received one of the few Forest Service rafting permits awarded organizations. Rockbrook remains the only girls summer camp authorized to guide its own trips like this.

Why, though, is rafting so popular with our campers? If you ask the girls, they’ll say things like “It’s just so much fun!” Or, “It’s a thrilling ride.” As you can see from these photos, they are really enjoying it, but is there something special about rafting that makes it so “awesome?”

Camp Whitewater Rafting LaughterBeyond the cool gear you get to wear (a helmet and PDF), the excellent Rockbrook guides steering the rafts down the river, and the sheer novelty of the experience, my hunch is that whitewater rafting is particularly fun for our girls because it is foremost a lighthearted social experience. More so than other adventure sports, rafting is a group event. All down the river, the girls in each boat are together, chatting with each other, singing songs, and reacting to all the bumps and splashes. In particular, each rapid of the river provides an opportunity to laugh hysterically when someone falls into the boat, or even bounces out into the river unexpectedly. Rafting, especially with a group of girls, is simply fun and funny in this way.

Likewise, even though some might wish for something warmer, I think rafting on the Nantahala river is extra fun because the water is always about 53 degrees. It makes every splash more intense, and if someone gets in the water, you can only imagine how that can produce quite a shocking scream!

We’ll be doing more rafting as the session progresses, but for now you can see more photos in the online gallery. It was a great day on the water… Warm and sunny weather, 7 Rockbrook rafts, almost 50 people, and a special experience for everyone.

Camp Rafting Cheer
Girls Whitewater Rafting

Down Right Fantastic

Dance counselors teaching girl

There’s a remarkable energy at camp right now, a current derived from almost constant action, powerful enthusiasm, smile-filled interactions, and boundless opportunity for fun. It’s an energy that has sparked to life in the context of camp— the different creative, adventure, and sports activities, the awesome food, and the beautiful wooded setting Rockbrook enjoys —but has its deepest source in what our staff members contribute to the daily lives of your girls. And that’s what’s so impressive! This summer’s staff, our cabin counselors and special activity instructors, are down right fantastic, easily the best bunch of friendly, genuinely caring young women we’ve ever assembled. Several hundred people applied to work at Rockbrook this summer, so Sofie, our staff Director, was able to be very picky and select only those applicants that shined.  And making the whole staff even better, these new hires joined a large group of veteran counselors (30% new and 70% returning overall). Combine all of this with the fact that these staff members now have (at least) 2 sessions of experience from earlier this summer to draw upon, and it’s simple to explain why this is such an outstanding bunch.

Girl aiming bow and arrow at archery camp activity

The campers are midway through their first set of activity selections that began on Monday. This means they have now mastered basic skills, are making progress on craft projects, and feeling more confident in their abilities. For example, the archers and marksmen are scoring hits closer to the center of their targets. The climbers are scaling more difficult routes up the Alpine Tower. The knitters are adding new colors to their woven cap projects. The kayakers are now comfortable performing a “wet exit.” There are smoother tennis (and teatherball) serves, bigger splashes from cannonballs off the lake diving board, and louder screams of delight flying by on the zip line. Each step, of course, only intensifies the satisfaction and fun of what we do everyday.

Girls Rafting Cheer
Girls Whitewater rafting rapid

For 75 campers and a dozen staff members, today was a day of big adventure because we went whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. About half these began their trip Monday evening by spending the night at our outpost camp over near the river in Macon County. With their clothes, sleep bags, brushes (hair and tooth), and spays (bug and sunscreen) packed, and in some cases with pillows and stuffed animals tucked safely underarms, the girls enjoyed having dinner together and then sleeping in one of the three platform cabins at the outpost. In the morning, we met our raft guides and prepared for the trip by fitting helmets, PFDs, and paddles, learning about how to stay safe in whitewater, and the basic strokes for paddling our rafts. The trip down the river lasts 2 hours and is the perfect river for a young, beginner because it includes several named rapids but also plenty of calm stretches for splashing, singing, clapping “high-fives” with paddles, and even jumping in for a quick (very quick, given the temperature of the water) swim. Today the weather was ideal too— hot and sunny, to balance that cold water.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like on these rafting trips, but this photo helps. Take a look at the faces of these girls. They are having an absolute ball! They’re screaming, laughing hilariously, and being splashed and bounced around like never before. Part of the fun is just being in the raft together, but when suddenly you hit a rock and someone falls backwards into the raft (or out into the river!) with her feet sticking high in the air, it’s uproarious fun. Like all good outdoor adventure activities, whitewater rafting feels edgy, gets your heart pumping, but is controlled and safe in the end.

Girls Smile while rafting

Back at camp, one girl turned to me as she was getting off the bus and said, “Thank you for an awesome day. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had.” Wow! That’s about as good as it gets! Thanks. I had fun too.