A Huge Helping of Goofy

camp child parent

Today we welcomed another group of eager, excited girls to Rockbrook as we opened the August Mini session. There’s something really special about driving into Rockbrook, early in the morning at the start of a camp session. It’s a reveal of sorts. The gravel driveway slowly winds up the hill from the main road, and then suddenly there’s cool stuff to see: the archery field to the left, the lake to the right with the green and blue water slide on the far end, stacks of colorful kayaks and canoes, and at the crest the hill, a mob of cheering enthusiastic counselors. It feels like you’ve entered another world, and in many ways you have. So many things are inviting and intriguing right away, but it’s obvious also that the people here are good folks. The returning campers already know it, but the energy of camp— friendly, supportive, adventurous, with a huge helping of goofy —is definitely special. These campers have been waiting all year (and all summer) to experience this energetic fun, so finally we can all start. Finally!

flag raising at camp

While these new girls were arriving, the full session campers began their day like other Sunday mornings with a late breakfast (egg and sausage burritos, yogurts, cereals, and freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts), our traditional flag raising ceremony (led by the 10-grade campers), and chapel program (this time discussing the theme of “Gratitude”). Afterwards, these girls also had a “choice period,” an opportunity to sign up for a hiking trip to Castle Rock or Rockbrook Falls, a flower picking expedition in the garden, or time in the jewelry-making activity area.

The first event involving the whole camp was an “assembly on the hill,” as we call it. This gathering under the walnut tree on the hill is a chance for everyone to sing a few songs, watch a skit or two, meet the various directors at camp, and hear announcements. The Hi-Ups led everyone in learning a canoeing song, complete with hand motions. The Line Heads awarded, “bend-a-back,” camp spirit, and manners beads, and also announced which cabins would be recognized for having the highest overall inspection scores (winning the “mop award”). For the benefit of the new campers primarily, Sarah also reminded everyone of the boundaries of camp and how our lightning warning system works. Rick’s amazing homemade mac-n-cheese for lunch fueled us up for the swimming demonstrations, quick camp tours, and cabin meetings that came afterwards in the early afternoon.

science camp girls

The main event of the day was an all-camp festival that tapped into different science-related activities, experiments, challenges and games. We held the event right in the center of camp with the different activity stations positioned about, and counselors and Hi-Ups staffing each spot. One challenge was to make a working parachute from a large coffee filter. Another was to build different organic molecules using toothpicks and tiny marshmallows. At a different station, the girls were challenged to build a boat (or anything that floats) using aluminum foil and popsicle sticks. Another group made green sticky “Oobleck” with corn starch and white glue.

A particularly fun challenge was to use only rubber bands to crack open a watermelon. The girls would stretch rubber bands, one by one, around the middle of the melon, gradually adding more pressure. As a couple of cracks began to form after approximately 200 bands wrapped the melon, the group of girls huddled around screamed with delight when the melon suddenly exploded into bits leaving a sticky ball of rubber bands behind.

Of course, a “mad science” event would be incomplete without eccentric costumes— wild teased hair (or wigs!), lab coats, safety goggles, beakers and lab notebooks. Snacks and music helped keep the mood festive while the girls zipped among the activity options. The event was a nice opportunity to play outside together, be a little silly, and perhaps learn a little science along the way.

Tomorrow, we’ll have all the activities filled with enthusiastic campers, ready to give everything a try. It will be a full day of action.  Stay tuned!

laughing camp girls

Answering Questions

rockbrook camp girls having fun

Today we all felt the thrill of opening a new session of camp. The Rockbrook cabin counselors, specialist activity instructors, and directors all assembled for the third time this summer to welcome a new bunch of enthusiastic girls to the “heart of a wooded mountain.” It was a gorgeous morning, cool and foggy, when we opened the gate for cars to make their way up the gravel driveway, and the check-in process to begin unfolding. Once again, there was more eagerness than uncertainty, more excitement than apprehension, on the girls’ faces when they arrived for their session. These girls weren’t hesitating though; they were ready to jump right into life at camp. As the sun warmed up the morning, and the last few parents made their way back to the parking area, we could finally get things started, our patient anticipation finally satisfied. Camp!

Girls dressed as twins at summer camp
laughing swimming girls

The rest of the day we started answering questions, all kinds of questions. Already, we learned where our cabin was located, who were the other girls in our cabin (a mix of old and new friends!), and who our counselors would be for the next few weeks. At the assembly on the hill, we met this session’s line heads, directors, Hi-Ups, and camp dog Felix. We learned, or had our memories clarified, about the camp song, what to do when we hear the camp bell or the lightning warning horn.

At lunch, we had our dining hall questions answered: Where does our cabin sit? What can we find on the salad bars? Where are the vegetarian and gluten-free options, the peanut butter and jelly station, the extra fruit, and supply of milk? What happens when the Hi-Ups ring their bell and begin singing a funny camp song? Who makes the announcements at the end of the meal, and what is that wheel on the wall? How do we clean our tables and take care of the dishes at the end of meals?

Our afternoon was filled with tours of the camp, a chance for everyone to take a dip in the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability, and an assembly in the gym for a series of counselor skits presenting the different activities available at camp this session. We found out how refreshingly cool the lake feels, where the activities meet around camp, and which staff members will be teaching the various activities. It was exciting to learn, for example, that the camp musical this session will be the Little Mermaid and that auditions for specific parts would begin on Monday.

Parents may have questions too— How do I send my daughter an email? Where can I see the daily photos of camp? What do I do if I receive a troubling letter about her feeling homesick at times? All of these questions (and more!) are answered in the parents section of our Web site, but you can always give our office a call to talk with someone too.

It’s been a great opening day, the girls already adjusting to the rhythms of camp. All of this energy ready to launch, we’re set for an excellent few weeks!

sunny day swimming at camp

Deeply Satisfying

welcome to rockbrook

This was an exciting Sunday morning because it marked the beginning of our second July mini session. It meant the arrival of about 90 campers eager to start their camp experience. The staff woke early to be ready, so when the cars began driving up the gravel driveway we had an absolute mob of enthusiastic counselors cheering and greeting each car. It was a quick check-in process —office, riding interview, nurse check, swag store, and hair exam— and by 10:30am, we had most of the new session girls settled in their cabins. For several, there was time to visit Rockbrook Falls, one of the waterfalls on the camp property. It’s only about half a mile from the center of camp, and the trail leading there is pleasantly flat (mostly!) and a beautiful, meandering walk through the forest. Visiting this waterfall is a perfect first activity after arriving at camp. It gives girls a chance to soak in the environment a bit, shake out a few jitters, and get to know the other people hiking with them. It’s also an magnificent destination.

Around noon, the entire camp assembled under the walnut tree on the hill for a program of introductions, songs, awards, and skits. We sang the line songs, awarded cabin groups with the excellent inspection scores, and recognized girls with extraordinary camp spirit. Casey and Audrey performed a short skit about going to sleep in a camp cabin and the importance of staying quiet a night. Lunch was again deeply satisfying: tray after tray of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, salad and fresh fruit. With no less than 4 types of cheese, and baked to that perfect gooey center and crunchy top layer, it’s always a huge hit.

mad scientist campers

Our all-camp afternoon event turned to science for its inspiration: a “Mad Science” Fair of experiments, games, and challenges. Counselors and Hi-Ups led the different activity stations. There was a “Green Team Quiz” game, a challenge to make a parachute, a chance to concoct sticky “Oobleck,” and a return of the “watermelon explosion” rubber band challenge. One of the more popular options was the Buoyancy test. The girls had to build a boat, something that floats, using only aluminum foil. Then they tested each person’s buoyant craft by adding fishing weights until it sank. The winner was able to hold 26 weights! With snacks and music, and plenty of lab coats, goggles and mustaches, the girls zipped between activity stations having fun and learning a little science along the way.

Before dinner there was time for everyone to visit the lake for a swim if they desired. There are two of these “free swim” periods most days: one before lunch and the other before dinner. After being active around camp, zipping, riding, climbing, hiking, or shooting for example, the cool water of the lake is also a deeply satisfying experience. Swim, float, jump off the diving board, or shoot down the water slide— there’s a way to set your own pace at the lake.

This is going to be an excellent week of camp.  Stay tuned!

swimming girls camp

Hustle and Bustle

Bright sunny weather is such a nice backdrop for opening a session of camp, as it was today when we welcomed slightly more than 200 girls to begin Rockbrook’s second main session. It added to the enthusiasm of the day, to the cheers from the counselors as cars drove up into camp, to smiles from everyone as the check in process unfolded smoothly.

Camp Trunk Moving

With this many people involved— the campers, their parents, and almost 100 staff members —the whole morning was quite a show of hustle and bustle. While some carried trunks, others set up their bunk. Some girls played tetherball, while others were introduced to the art of making a friendship bracelet. The morning included relaxed conversation too, as parents and campers reconnected with friends from last summer. The weather also just makes everything at camp look more inviting, more beautiful. Several parents commented that camp was looking “really good.” The flowers tucked in here and there, the massive boulders, old-growth trees, stone lodges, grassy hill, gurgling creeks —everything seemed to really pop in the bright sunshine.

We received a similar comment last week from two important visitors to Rockbrook. They too marveled at the woodsy feel of camp, the gently cared-for natural beauty of our setting, and the happy community of girls they met. These visitors were conducting an inspection of sorts, an on-site check that Rockbrook is meeting almost 300 health, safety, and program quality standards for summer camps as defined by the American Camp Association. As you may know, Rockbrook is accredited by the ACA, and has been for 30 years now. These periodic “visits” are part of the process to retain that accreditation, which by the way only about 17% of the camps in America have achieved. I’m happy to report that the inspection/visit this summer went extremely well, and after reviewing all of our policies and procedures, and examining every area of camp from the kitchen to the climbing tower, Rockbrook earned the highest marks.

Girl Camp Assembly

Once everyone arrived today, we launched right into a few orientation activities. The whole camp assembled on the hill under the walnut tree to hear Sarah welcome everyone to camp, meet the leadership staff, and sing a few camp songs. Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, and fresh fruit (plus the super-stocked salad bars) made a tasty, comfortable lunch before the girls went back to their cabins for rest hour. But instead of resting, today they played name games, talked about cabin and camp safety rules, and learned more about the rhythms of camp life. During the swimming demonstrations where we check everyone’s swimming ability at the lake, the warm sunshine was a nice addition to the chilly water. We had fun music playing at the lake, all the directors helping, and a mob of lifeguards encouraging each girl as they jumped in. Later in the gym, we introduced all the girls to the different activities at camp, all the crafts, sports, and adventure things to do while they are here. The counselors teaching each activity took turns performing a skit or song about what they do, and with costumes and a dose of silliness, it was an entertaining hour. There was time to tour camp before dinner, which was another camp classic: grilled burgers, burger fixings, homemade french fries, and blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Tomorrow we will all scatter throughout the camp and get started making, climbing, shooting zipping, riding and playing in so many ways. Stay tuned. It’s gonna be great!

Camp Girl Swimmers

A Place for New Adventures

Girls at Sumemr camp

Yesterday we welcomed new friends to Rockbrook as we opened our June Mini Session. While this was the first day of camp for all these girls, it was the 8th day for our full session campers. Throughout the morning, as our new campers were arriving with smiles and trunks in tow, the full session girls attended a flag raising ceremony and chapel. Instead of being a religious service, our Sunday chapel focuses on a pertinent theme that relates to all girls at camp, such as nature, generosity, or friendship. This week, our chapel theme was “Individuality,” an apt topic for our diverse community. The quiet, collective time at chapel gives campers a chance to reflect on their experiences and connect to the space and people around them.

science girls

With the dining hall completely full of excited girls, it was also easily filled with laughter, singing, and camp cheer. At the end of lunch announcements, everyone learned about the special event of the afternoon: Mad Science day! All the campers, old and new, were split into five groups named after famous female scientists: Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, and Rachel Carson. Groups rotated through different stations around camp to craft parachutes for aliens, learn about molecules and fossils, and face boat building challenges. Campers were able to channel their inner scientist through costumes, problem solving, and crafting throughout the sunny afternoon.

kayaking camp kid

The sunny weather luckily continued through today, providing perfect weather for a multitude of activities and out of camp trips. In addition to our daily activities such as needlecraft, swimming, and yoga, the Adventure Staff lead out-of-camp trips for campers of all ages and experience levels. Our talented Adventure Staff make it possible for campers to step out of their comfort zones in ways they may not have access to back at home. Canoeing, kayaking, climbing, and hiking are all common here in Brevard, but for campers from out of state or from other countries, these are new and unusual sports. By providing outdoor recreation trips, we are able to create a space for campers to try new things, foster new friendships, grow new skill sets, and challenge themselves further than they have before. Whether it is her first time ever in a canoe or her 12th time climbing Castle Rock, there is always an exciting adventure to be had in our beautiful corner of Western North Carolina.

pony girl camper

Starting Something New

true camp friends

It’s the start of something new! It’s a new season of summer camp at Rockbrook, and we couldn’t be more excited! Today was the day that all of us— staff members, campers, parents, and camp directors —have been waiting for, and beginning about 8:30 this morning that wait was over as we opened the gate and the campers began arriving for the first session of 2019. Our staff members seemed like they were about to pop with eagerness and enthusiasm because for the last week we have been training, talking about camp life, learning about activities and other camp rhythms. The training week was wonderful fun and everyone finished up with even greater bubbling anticipation for having campers back with us. As girls and their families arrived throughout the morning, making the usual stops in the dining hall to check in with the nurses, office folks, and “hair specialists,” the camp took on the special energy we all love.

camp community assembly

Rain early in the morning happily turned into an occasional drizzle, but that didn’t seem to bother us.  Soon the tetherball was swinging, girls were beginning their first friendship bracelet, arranging their cabins, rocking in the porch rockers, and everyone could marvel at the beauty of the rich green forest that makes up Rockbrook. Several parents commented on how stunning the camp looks— just the right points of color blending with the trees, rocks and native plants… all made somehow more rich with the rain. As wisps of cloud rolled northward, we all gathered on the hill for an assembly, singing a few songs, meeting key staff members, and hearing a brief introduction to camp from Sarah. It took no time for the whole camp to be standing, clapping and singing together. Finally, it felt like camp.

Rick prepared his signature opening day lunch, mac-n-cheese, and once again it was a huge hit.  The crusty top, blend of 4 different cheeses all warm and gooey with the macaroni— it was particularly delicious. On a cool, misty day like today, it really hit the spot.  Happily, the rain mostly held off for the afternoon (even with an occasional blip of sunshine!) as each age group made their way to the lake for our swim demonstrations, brief tours around the camp, cabin meetings, and activity skits in the gym. Despite a very wet start of the day, the weather didn’t force us to change our opening day plans.

A new season at Rockbrook always means new things around camp, and while some won’t be very noticeable, others will be really fun for the campers. Mostly hidden from view this year are things like 4 different roofs, new skylights in the kitchen, several underground (very important!) pipes, electrical wiring of an activity building, road grading, tree removal, and a huge backup generator to protect us if we lose power. More interesting and fun improvements this year are a complete renovation of a camper cabin (floor, rafters, roof, electrical wiring and lights, shelves, screens, and an added porch out the back!), new wooden tennis court fencing with the addition of three pickleball courts, and a new hammock campsite set up in a very unusual location on the camp property (more about that in a future post).

So welcome to Rockbrook everyone. It’s a pleasure to welcome so many girls back to camp and to meet new staff members and campers alike. We have wonderful plans for the session, but no matter what, we’ve also already seen the spirit of Rockbrook begin to shape the caring community so many of us love. Things are certainly damp as the rains came again this evening, but our eagerness to be here together and to enjoy camp life is as bright as can be.

camp friends assembly

Cheer-inducing Fun

summer camp cabin mates

It was a great delight today to welcome our August Mini session campers to Rockbrook. The bright, sunny weather matched the mood of the morning perfectly as the girls and their families arrived. The mob of enthusiastic counselors, all dressed in their red staff shirts, waited eagerly on the hill and literally jumped, arms waving, when a camper in their cabin was announced as arriving. The whole morning was festive and fun, and seemed to unfold without a hitch.

Out of the 75 campers arriving (now a full house!), 25 are new with this being their first session at Rockbrook. It took no time for the current full session girls to show their welcoming spirit as groups began forming to rotate through a few choice activities and explore different areas of the camp property.

That upbeat mood carried right into the all-camp assembly on the hill we held before lunch. Sarah and the other directors led several camp songs, introduced key members of the staff, and reminded everyone about a few safety protocols (what to do when our Thorguard lightning prediction system sounds its alarm, for example). The girls particularly enjoyed meeting Felix the camp dog, our 1-year old Australian Labradoodle. You might call him an instant celebrity.

Lunch was tray after tray of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, paired with an amazing fresh kale and carrot salad, and grapes. Hot and cheesy, it was delicious comfort food for an opening day.

water balloon toss catch
dunk bucket splash
super stacked snow cone

The afternoon event of the day brought us all together for a Polynesian Luau, lake party of games, snacks, crafts, music and dancing.

The Hi-Ups (our 10th graders) along with many of the full session senior girls helped staff the dozen or so different stations where the younger campers could enjoy an activity. This added responsibility boosted their interest and made it easy for the different age groups to interact during the event. More fun for everyone.

Naturally, it’s not a Rockbrook party without costumes and dressing up. Everyone got that message because you’ve never seen so many Hawaiian shirts, lei necklaces and grass skirts. Combined with the face painting and the girls’ swimsuits, this was an extraordinarily colorful event.

There were games to try: a balloon toss, a version of bowling that used real coconuts to knock over empty cans, a softball tossing game like skee-ball, corn hole, and a “fishing game” for the youngest girls that won fun RBC prizes like sunglasses, stickers, patches and jump ropes.

Beach balls, hula hoops, and a giant limbo line kept everyone moving, and with fun beach music pumping, several spontaneous dance parties popped up now and then.

The event that seemed most popular was the “bucket dunk” set up at the edge of the lake. This odd contraption has one purpose— to dump the contents of a bucket (in this case, water scooped from the lake) onto the head of someone sitting below when a string is pulled. The girls thought it was hilarious to soak their friends, and there were plenty of volunteers, campers and staff members alike, to both pull the string or to be “dunked.” Simple, super-campy, cheer-inducing fun.

Meanwhile the more crafty girls could make “grass” skirts from colorful ribbons and streamers, or learn to tie tissue paper into flowers to decorate headbands and bracelets. To stay hydrated and fueled up, there was fresh watermelon for snacking and plenty of snow cones (including some crazy ones!) to go around.

Be sure to login to your parent account for an entire photo gallery of the event. I think you’ll enjoy seeing how much fun we had. What a great way to kick off the session! These girls are ready for camp.

summer camp luau girls

A ‘Chill’ Opening Day

If you ask some of the older campers to describe the differences between the three sessions at Rockbrook, they usually answer something like this. “First session has the ‘sweet girls.’ Second is for the girls who are most ‘into’ camp. And third session is the most ‘chill.'” Of course, these are broad generalizations with plenty of variation to be found in each characterization, and it’s a little difficult to imagine how a camper would know much about sessions she does not attend, but today as we opened our third full session of the summer, there was some truth to label of “chill.”

summer camp opening day

Sure, there was loads of excitement— twitchy girls in the cars as they drove up, counselors leaping with enthusiasm as each camper arrived, and friendly directors ready to welcome everyone throughout the morning. These third session campers were all smiles and clearly ready for camp. After waiting weeks of summer for their session to start, how could they not be?  At the same time though, the morning felt easygoing, unfolding smoothly and cheerfully. Arriving at camp seemed like the most natural thing for the girls this morning. It’s true that most (a bit more than 80%) had been to Rockbrook before, so familiarity was guiding them, and the gorgeous, cool sunny weather probably helped as well. It really was a delightful, smooth, almost “chill,” opening day. So welcome to Rockbrook!

Once everyone had arrived, we all gathered under the walnut tree on the hill for a chance to sing a few songs, meet some of the directors and special staff members, and be reminded of a few camp protocols (about the Thorguard lightning warning system, for example). When Sarah introduced Felix, the new camp puppy, the girls were thrilled to see him do a few tricks like a “high five” and a leap over her extended led. Felix just turned one year old and he’s an Australian Labradoodle. He has a wonderful disposition and is always happy to interact with the campers. His coat is so soft, you can’t help but give him a quick rub when he passes by. You may spot him in the photo gallery. We’re looking forward to him being a member of the camp community for years to come.

Girl with buddy tag after completing camp swim test

After lunch, which was a meal of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, fruit and salad, we launched into cabin meetings and a visit to the lake for our swimming demonstrations. Each line (age group) took turns meeting Lyndsay, the head of the waterfront, learning about the tag system and the opportunities to swim each day at camp. Then each girl took turns jumping off the dock, swimming and treading water to demonstrate how comfortable she is in the water. With only a couple of exceptions, all the girls did great and received a blue tag for the board. We had hot chocolate ready for everyone when they finished up, since the chilly lake can feel extra cold on a cool day like this.  Despite the scattered thunderstorms that were threatening in the area, we were lucky to complete all the “swim demos” with no rain.

The counselors presented their activity skits in the late afternoon.  These are entertaining presentations with costumes, songs, and dances all designed to advertise each activity to the campers.  Seeing who is teaching each activity and hearing something about what each activity entails is helpful when the girls select their first schedule later this evening.

Charcoal-grilled hamburgers and crisp watermelon filled our dinner plates (or veggie burgers for those with that preference).  The evening program included more name games and skits, prepping everyone to jump into camp activities tomorrow.

A quick word about sending mail… Do it!  The girls check their mailboxes after lunch each day, and having something to grab before heading off to rest hour is always appreciated.  Here’s the info you need about staying in touch.

We’re off to a great start.  Perhaps it’s been a little “chill” so far, but you’re about to see a lot more!

camp swim girl friends