This Incredible View

rockbrook camp mountain view

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

girls on top of Black Balsam mountain

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

tiny kid with big horse and barn

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

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

screaming girls on sliding rock

Simple Pleasures

camp teens on mountain

It was a full day of high altitude adventure for a group of 13 seniors who signed up for a special trip today. Lukas and Gabby, two of our outdoor staff members, planned and led the trip. Leaving after breakfast with muffins for a snack break, and a pack of sandwiches for lunch, they drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it all the way to the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness area where they parked and set out on the Art Loeb Trail. This trail leaves the parking lot and follows the ridge line over several of the highest mountains in North Carolina, Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain being the most prominent. You can see from this photo that these peaks, which are over 6000ft high, are grassy, treeless knobs that provide amazing distant views when the weather is good, like it was today. Perfect places to enjoy the pleasure of a homemade muffin baked at camp!

Spending the whole day out allowed the girls next to make a fun stop at a popular swimming hole known as “Skinny-dip Falls.” They had come prepared with swimsuits and towels, and with their packed lunch, the sunny afternoon swimming and sunbathing on the boulders below the falls was wonderful.  They took turns leaping from the “jump rock” and posing for photos.   The leisurely pace, plenty of time to soak in the surrounding forest (big trees now!), and the delightfully cold mountain water created a special experience.

female camp counselor and girl

Back at camp, we deemed today “Red and White Day.” Essentially, we created a simple theme for creative costumes or dressing up. In some cases it was a simple as wearing a red t-shirt or a headband, and since Rockbrook’s colors are red and white, just about everybody had something they could wear. Sarah went all out, though. She has Rockbrook gear going back to the corduroy RBC hat, Rockbrook socks, hair ties, t-shirt, shorts, and fleece tied around here waist.  Rockbrook red and white in all ways. It’s neat how the pleasure of a simple dress up theme adds to the fun of a zany community like Rockbrook.

After dinner during our “Twilight” time, Chase organized an all-camp game of “Counselor Hunt.” As you can imagine this involves the counselors hiding and the campers, as cabin groups, scouring the camp looking for them.  We randomly assign point values to the counselors so that when found points can be added up to award prizes in the end.  A few counselors successfully hid throughout the search period (I suspect covered in leaves), while others were found almost immediately. The whole event is really fast paced as the cabin groups race around trying to be the first to find any particular counselor. Here too, something simple— in this case “hide and seek” —made for exciting all-camp fun.

Don’t you just love this last photo? It’s a gorgeous example of another simple pleasure of life at Rockbrook. Different than the fast-paced, competitive, technology-fueled, pressure (even anxiety) of our kids’ ordinarily lives, camp opens up space for girls to explore, play freely, imagine and create. …like right here in this photo where all of that is happening spontaneously beneath a hydrangea bush.  The best word for it might be “joy.”  There’s a contentment, something additional and deeper, that makes camp “fun” more affecting. Sometimes it takes a while for girls to realize they can be themselves like this at camp, but once they experience it, everyone will tell you they love it.  They know “There’s no place like camp.”

camp child playing in garden

Thank You Notes

Camper muffin break

You may already know about “muffin break,” that time each morning between the first and second activity periods when the whole camp thinks about one thing. For some of us, though, it’s our favorite time of the day, or at least a moment we look forward to with glee. The muffins themselves are obviously the main reason the girls run to the dining hall porch to receive their surprise flavor muffin (Today it was vanilla cherry.), but I think we also love muffin break because it’s a great time to check in with everyone. It brings the campers and counselors back together after being scattered about the camp for the various activities. It’s a chance to ask, “What did you do in tennis?” or “Wanna go with me down to archery?” I love seeing everyone enjoying their muffin, chatting about their day so far, and excitedly heading to their next activity. It’s one of those unique aspects of a typical Rockbrook morning.

girl building fairy house

A parent recently wrote thanking us for the experience Rockbrook provided her daughter, in particular the opportunity our program provides girls “to just be girls” and to “play outside.” It is one of the principles that has guided us for many years: that girls need time and a place that encourages them to explore nature, really feel the natural elements around us, and ultimately to not fear the outdoors, but see it as beautiful, wonder-full, and a source of comfort. Rockbrook does that; we have plenty of free time built into our daily schedule so the girls can build a fairy house from rocks, leaves, yarn and twigs. Living in open-air cabins, we can’t help but hear and smell the forest around us, and perhaps catch a glimpse of a racoon or skunk wandering by. There’s bound to be a spider cricket (“Spricket”) in the shower or under your bed. There are several creeks to explore and play in, even for just a minute right before lunch. So that’s typical around here too— the inescapability of Nature. And as this parent suggested, this experience is “invaluable” in today’s modern world. Don’t you think?

We received another letter this week (an email actually), this time from a Hi-Up camper who attended the first session of camp this summer. This young lady from Virginia is 16 years old and has been a Rockbrook camper for the last 5 summers. Her letter is also a thank you note of sorts, a note expressing her gratitude for what her Rockbrook experience has provided her. I think the letter is remarkable because she mentions very specific memories like the trail to Castle Rock and the intensity of planning her Banquet as a 9th grader, but also what these experiences have meant to her after camp—loving her true self and bonding so closely with friends. But here, let me share a portion of the letter:

Dear Rockbrook,

happy wide arms camp girl

I’m writing this to say thanks. Without you, I don’t know what kind of person I would be. Without you, I wouldn’t know what pure juvenile happiness is like. Thank you for judging me not on my grades or looks but on my kindness, resilience, and the volume of my truest laugh. Thanks for teaching me to cherish the sound of rain on a tin roof and the reviving air of the mountains. Thanks for memories of chasing each other around covered from head to toe in shaving cream, and laughing so hard that tears streamed down our faces. Thanks for helping me be OK with my imperfect skin and to love myself because I’m strong and can climb all the way up the winding path to Castle Rock. Thanks for teaching me endurance and a work ethic because god knows you need that when you have to stay up half the night for three weeks planning for a party just with the hope that’ll it make a few little girls smile as huge as you did when you were standing wide eyed at your first banquet. Thanks for giving me the best friends I could ask for– ones who know everything about me and love my realest self. And thanks for making me laugh and cry and scream so dang hard.

girl smiling two thumbs up

Some may not understand how a few weeks out of the year can be so significant in ones life but they’ve never experienced Rockbrook. The scariest thing about growing up for me is not that I have to apply to college or learn to drive or get a real job, it’s that I won’t be a camper anymore. You are a hidden gem for girls In a world where things can get overwhelming and frightening at times. When we are put down you lift us up. The tears that come with driving away after squeezing my girls so tight make me realize just how lucky I am to have you. I hope someday my little girls will run down your rolling hills and splash in your cardinal lake and sing to their hearts’ content in your dining hall just as I have for so long. Thank you for forever altering my life and my self. Thank you Rockbrook Camp.
—Callan

Wow! Thank you Callan! It’s so nice to see this kind of genuine reflection on a girl’s experience at Rockbrook, and to learn it has meant so much. The letter is a heart-felt account of what we’ve often said… that camp is so much more than simply “fun.” It’s “fun that matters,” fun that makes a difference in the lives of the girls who experience it and grow to love it.

I’m still trying to figure it out, but there’s something going on here and it’s pretty cool.

Tough kayak girls posing

Backpacking Reflections

Every week at Rockbrook, we offer adventure trips out of camp where the girls can hike, swim, paddle or climb in the nearby National or State forests. These trips are always optional; like all the activity offerings here, the girls themselves select whichever they like. Often how they select involves considering who among their friends will also be signing up, what they’ll be missing when out of camp, and sometimes a consideration of what seems new and interesting.

Today a group of girls returned from a backpacking trip through a high elevation area in the Pisgah Forest. Clyde and Jane led the trip that included visiting a waterfall on the Flat Laurel Creek and a morning hike to the summit of Sam Knob (elev. 6050 ft). The girls took some time during the trip to reflect and write about their experience, so I thought it would be nice to publish some of their thoughts. When you read what they wrote, it’s clear they really got a lot out of the experience.

Teen hiking


“Though it doesn’t even come close to the excitement and wackiness of Jayne and Clyde’s Everglades adventures that Jayne recalled as we sat around the fire, here is a little recap of our overnight hike. Started with a 45-minute bus ride where I talked with Sarah Jane and Mae about our favorite Netflix movies, our dogs, and our favorite thing about our houses.Then a simple but gorgeous (and mostly flat!) hike to the campsite. Collapsed onto the ground with our packs still buckled. Pitched tents with no help and relaxed in Mae’s Eno hammock. While the burritos warmed on the fire Clyde made, we played the World Map game where we shared memories from our childhood home and where we want to be at age 25. I stood on my tiptoes on a small piece of moss to show how tiny Rhode Island is. That was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip because I learned a lot about people such as: Mia lives in London and used to live in Germany. Jayne told stories around the campfire. Then s’mores (we polished off a 64 marshmallow bag… Ooops). Peed in the wilderness. Bonded with tent mates as we successfully removed two mating daddy longlegs and a moth, then talked about life. Clocked out at 11ish. Then up and at ‘em at 5:15am for sunrise hike! HA HA just kidding. Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade so back to bed until 8:30. Woke up (part 2) to oatmeal and packing then stunning waterfall, then top of Sam Knob then back to the bus. I’d say first overnight hike = GREAT SUCCESS!!” — Ellery

Teen Hiking Girls


“I’ll preface by saying that I am not someone who considers herself athletic. Not in the slightest. However, if you were to tell me that Rockbrook was offering a position on the same overnight hike that I just returned from, I’d accept that offer in a blink of an eye. This trip pushed me in so many ways and although the saying goes “nothing changes overnight” I certainly returned to base camp with a new notch on my belt that will (and already has) help me grow as a person. On this hike I learned that pitching a tent easily and very quickly reveals one’s inner character. Some think rationally and set up the tent within a matter of minutes. Others take their time cracking jokes and making fools of themselves. Some others offer their help without being asked. Some might lay low in the helping department (and in the hammock at the campsite) and provide entertainment. These characters discovered early on in the trip, continue to blossom and to take new forms. The trailblazer, the campfire storyteller, the pack mule who is more than willing to lessen another’s load, and the photographer, observing the action and capturing it as they relax on a sturdy rock. Each character is integral and a crucial part of the hiking experience. With each of these characters by my side, it suddenly became much easier to hike. It was the difference between exercise being a burden and an adventure.” — Sarah Jane

Campfire Hanging Out


“Well, it sure was a trip, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Being out in nature with friends is truly one of the most enjoyable experiences. Even when wet, dirty, and overall just disgusting, we can look past the inconveniences and still keep a good attitude. I know that this trip will definitely be held in my memory for many years. I made new friends, and got to know past friends even better. I learned new tricks, both for camping and for knot tying. It was a great first-time backpacking experience. I always felt strong and powerful, like I was ready to take on the world, one muddy trail at a time. Of course, I wouldn’t go it alone. I would travel far and wide, but I would never have to look for a friend because I would always have many with me. Even when clean clothes, games and food were short, we could spend time together to feel fresh, entertained and fulfilled. I think that’s why I was never hungry on the trip. Even though we hiked a lot, sweat a lot, and burned tons of calories, I survived on one burrito, some oatmeal, and trail mix. Truly fascinating. I guess being hot, sweaty, tired, and hungry is no match for the good feeling you get from being outside with friends. I could tell that I had a good time even when I wasn’t doing anything in particular. I would walk down the trail, red-faced and sticky, and I would be beaming, even when there wasn’t anything to smile at. It’s something I could get used to.” — Mae

Rock Water Hiking


“Over the whole trip we hiked 5 miles, saw many pretty views, and got to sleep in tents. Even though we were different ages we all bonded so much. We all learned something new about each person. It was beautiful. I have never seen anything like it. It was so magical and an experience I will never forget. When we woke up, we went on a hike to a waterfall. It was super special because we got to look behind us to see the top of the waterfall, and in front of us to see a view of some beautiful mountains. Then we went to the top of Sam Knob, and the view was breathtaking. I would not trade the experience for the world. Then we hiked back and we were all exhausted, but knew it was all worth it. Back to the first day, we hiked 2 miles in just under an hour. It did not feel long at all. It was not that steep. It felt pretty flat. When we got to our campsite someone was already there, so we went back to a vacant spot for us to sleep. We learned all about what to look for as a sign of a good campsite. We also learned how to leave no trace by packing it out. We had to figure out how to put up a tent with no help. After we got our sleeping situation all figured out, we sat around the campfire and learned a lot about where we all live and what we want to be doing when we’re 25. We ate our burritos and s’mores as we talked. Then played a few riddle games including black magic and the elephant game. Overall it was super fun, and an experience I will never forget.” — Mia

NC Meadow Hiking


“On this trip I experienced amazing new things that I never would have before. First, we hiked two miles of a straight path with a few muddy spots. It took us a little while to find the perfect camp spot but when we did it felt so nice to take our bags off. We set up camp and then made a campfire. Then we learned things about each other by playing world map while our burritos got warm by the fire. Even though some of the burritos were burnt, they were still delicious. Afterwards, we told stories and had s’mores. We played black magic, which I did not understand for a long time. Then we went to our tents because we were all exhausted. Even though we were really tired it took us a while to go to sleep. When we woke up at 5:15am we were even more tired. It started raining so we all decided to go back to sleep instead of seeing the sunrise. The second time we woke up it wasn’t raining and we went for a hike to a waterfall. It was gorgeous! By the end of the waterfall, my shoes and socks and feet were soaking wet, but at least it was so fun. Then we hiked to the top of Sam Knob. It was tiring, wet, and muddy, but all of that made the hike better. And when we finally got to the top it was one of the prettiest views I have ever seen. From beginning to end, this hike was and always will be an amazing memory I will never forget.” — Emma

NC Hike Overlook


“From the minute I hopped off the bus and felt the weight of the pack on my back, I knew I was in for something special. I have to say, knowing that I have never done a trip like this before I probably would have never learned as much as I did if I didn’t have Jayne and Clyde and Rebecca. They really just made the trip with the games and the hikes and their leave no trace knowledge. I feel so enlightened. I also learned a lot from the campers like how to set up a tent. Ha Ha. I don’t think I would have had the bravery to hike down that waterfall if I didn’t have them with me either. The waterfall ended up being the most exciting part of the hike. When I stood on that rock and looked at the view ahead I just felt everything in me break free. All the tension and tightness in my back from the pack just released off me. Those are the kind of feelings I live for. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to venture out of the city and feel the breath of life and see mountains of trees and never ending skies. I also love the huge space of just grass and flowers, the meadow where we dropped our backpacks off. It’s another whole feeling being in the mountains and this trip is one I will never forget.” — Karma

Teen Hiking Pose

A Pervasive Spirit of Creativity

weaving pot holder

Why are there so many craft activities at Rockbrook and why are they so popular? It seems like everywhere you turn there are girls creating something complex and colorful, combining unexpected materials, contrasting and coordinating with beautiful results. One answer is that there are intriguing techniques to learn and inspiring instructors excited to share what they know. In pottery, for example, the girls have become fascinated by the wheel and have been eagerly giving them a spin. It’s fascinating to watch a carefully centered ball of clay turn, and then muddy yet steady hands, gradually shape and pull the clay into a bowl or cup. Just seeing it makes you want to try it. Likewise, there’s a fascination to tie dying, the careful folding, twisting and tying of the white t-shirts. When the richly colored dyes soak into the shirts after being selectively applied from plastic squirt bottles, it’s like a flower blooming in slow motion. It literally brings out “ooohs and aaahs.”

I also think there is a pervasive spirit of creativity here at Rockbrook, and while that spirit also drives our enthusiasm for costumes, writing and singing songs together, and performing skits for each other, it finds daily expression through the many craft activities available. Weaving potholders or larger fabrics on the floor looms, layering colors of paint on paper, tying intricate knots in cotton thread and stringing beads for a bracelet, the girls can be imaginative and inventive in ways that we are quick to celebrate. That kind of encouragement to be boldly creative feels really good and is lots of fun.

Teen Girl Canoe Trip

Finally, I’d say our craft activities are popular with the girls because here at camp— and this is true for almost everything we do —we do them together. We share the experience with each other, with people we care about and know so well. In other words, the camp community enhances the process of making art, of being creative, and developing artistic skills. With a group of girls knitting on the back porch of Curosty, the group will be laughing and chatting.  Being social, reacting to each other’s excitement, or perhaps being quick to lend a hand with a challenging bit, adds to the joy of weaving a basket with your feet in the creek… “Doesn’t the sun feel really good next to this cold water?” Whether it’s paddling a canoe down the French Broad River, shooting archery, or decorating a memory box, having good friends around to do it with makes the activity more meaningful.  Being a little slower paced, our camp craft activities are particularly good examples of this, but doing so much around here together, as a community, is another reason camp life is so great.

And none of these reasons craft activities are popular at camp (the inherent opportunities to learn, create and socialize) rely on the quality of the final products the girls make— the paintings, pottery sculptures, weavings, and so forth. The real rewards come from the process rather than the end result. The process of making crafts together is way more important than having the crafts they make.  Sure, the girls are also proud of what they make, and they’ll probably present something they’ve made to you as a gift on closing day, but while they’re here, the fun is in the making. It’s in dressing up, and not so much in the nature of your costume. The fun is the hiking, and not the destination (Turn that goal into a stroll!).  I think that focus is another ingredient in the secret sauce that is camp.

Girls silly costumes

Perfect Day

Making tie dyes with Sarah

It’s hard not to describe today as perfect. First we’re having amazing weather— crystal clear blue skies shining all day after a few pockets of fog lifted in the morning, extraordinarily low humidity making the high temperature (around 80) feel just warm and inviting, and the occasional breezes turning the leaves on the trees into rustling waves of green. Glancing up at the shining granite of Castle Rock, hearing the splattering of Stick Biscuit Falls, and breathing in the cool fresh air combined so delightfully. Spending the entire day outside— making tie dye t-shirts with Sarah, riding horses, climbing the Alpine Tower, or just reading a book on the hill —it was spectacular, pleasant in every way.

One of the highlights, and perhaps my favorite time of the day, was after dinner as the sun began to slip down toward the distant mountains. This “Twilight” time after dinner but before the start of each line’s evening programs lasts about an hour, and it’s a relaxed, friendly time for everyone at camp to play on the hill (tetherball, hula hoop, guitar, etc.), watch the sunset, or just hang out to talk with friends. It’s really special, and in the glow of the evening light, beautiful as well.

Blindfolded Girl Rock Climbing
Climbing Instructor and Camper

It was also a perfect day for climbing, which almost two dozen campers enjoyed today on our 50-foot Alpine Climbing Tower. The Tower can accommodate up to 6 climbers at the same time, each exploring a different route and overcoming different climbing challenges on the way to the top. All these options make it a wonderful place to learn how to climb. Even our youngest campers will start here, learning a couple of important climbing knots, understanding the equipment for rock climbing (What’s an ATC?), and practicing the belay commands used by climbers around the world. Some of the girls opt of an even greater challenge climbing the tower by blindfolding themselves. Not being able to see where foot- and hand-holds are located slows things down, but it also makes climbing more about concentration and balance (that’s a good thing!) than about reaching the next hold in sight. What a great feeling for a girl to have tried something that sounds really difficult, and with encouragement and perseverance, being able to do it!

Camp Girl Riding Horse
Love Rockbrook Calendar

The Rockbrook horses are also enjoying this perfect summer weather as they keep our many young equestriennes busy in the riding rings. From the beautiful thoroughbred mare Ava to the veteran Connemara pony Annie, most of the 30 horses here this summer were providing mounted lessons today. So far there’s no shortage of enthusiasm for riding at Rockbrook this session, keeping both our horses and riding staff happily busy.

Powerful crafting forces are at work now too! Armed with gallons of paint and glue, paper, fibers, cloth and clay, among so many other options, these girls are extraordinarily and creatively productive. There are so many examples. Our master instructors Maggie Kelsey, Alex Baker and Nancy McDonald have amazing projects planned for the girls. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the colorful results that make their way home at the end of camp. Isn’t this calendar fantastic? Click the photo to see a larger version and you’ll find out what appears to be the most important days… so far! 🙂

You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day of whitewater rafting either. We took four buses and vans of campers over to the Nantahala river today to bump, bounce, splash, and scream their way down the rapids for a few hours. We practically had the river to ourselves, gorgeous weather, and with our top-notch Rockbrook guides and equipment, flawless trips all day long. It really feels special to paddle the Nantahala like this… a boat full of excited girls, warm sun, cold water, moments of intense, wide-eyed adventure, followed by full-bodied laughter. You might just call that “fun.” Yep, it was that too.

Rockbrook Whitewater Rafting
Girls Swimming Lake

An Inviting Waterfall

North Carolina Sliding Rock


Here in the “Land of Waterfalls,” as this part of western North Carolina is sometimes called, there are almost 250 named waterfalls to be found. It’s the area’s steep mountains and rocky geology, combined (ordinarily!) with plenty of rain, that create these falls from the broad network of streams and creeks that drain into the French Broad River. Rockbrook itself is an example of this, as Dunns Creek flows down through the property forming several cascading waterfalls, including “Rockbrook Falls,” a popular hiking destination for the campers.

Beyond the beauty of these waterfalls, many of them are spectacular places to play. Even the largest of them, like High Falls in the Dupont State Forest for example, have bubbling pools of water at their base, perfect spots for a daring swim. Stepping into the water below a waterfall is intense. It’s loud and you feel a definite spray thrown out as the water crashes down. Plus, our mountain streams are always chilly, as everyone at Rockbrook knows after swimming in our lake.

Sliding Rock North Carolina Campers
Pair of Sliding Rock girls

Probably the best example of an inviting waterfall is Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest. This is an area where Looking Glass Creek glides over a steep, sloping rock for about 60 feet, ending with a short drop into a pool at the bottom. It’s a unique mountain water slide. Over the years, as the area has become well known, the Forest Service has organized it, charging a fee, providing parking, lifeguards and first aid services during the busy summer months. It’s a very popular place among visitors to western North Carolina.

We love it too, even to the point, in fact, of bringing all of the Middlers and Seniors to Sliding Rock each and every session. Tonight it was time for the entire Middler line, plus all their counselors to take a trip to the rock. That meant marshaling 70 campers, 21 counselors, 3 lifeguards, 3 vans, 3 buses, an SUV, 2 camp directors, and 2 additional bus drivers. We had quite an army of RBC enthusiasm, when we arrived around 7pm, which by the way is after it is officially closed. This is the best time to bring a group this large because we can avoid the typical daytime crowds, have our own lifeguards, and spend more time sliding.

Sliding Rock Girls
Sliding Rock Celebration

The experience of sliding down the rock is exhilarating. The ride itself thrills everyone— feeling the shock of the cold water on your back as you sit down at the top, the disorienting bump and spin as you accelerate toward to splash awaiting at the bottom, plunging deep into the pool for a moment before popping up to see the smiling lifeguards nearby ready to help you swim to the edge and climb out of the water. Each slide takes a few seconds, giving the girls plenty of time to scream, wide-eyed, clutching each other even tighter before hitting the pool below. I heard a couple of girls take a breath mid-scream, mid-slide, and scream a second time before holding their nose and squinting their eyes tight before their splash landing. All around there are friends cheering each other on, clapping and singing camp songs while they wait their turn to slide. The entire evening was filled with laughter, shrieks of delight, and voices of encouragement. There was time for the girls to slide multiple times, but as it grew darker and lips turned bluer, we knew it was time to dry off and roll down the hill to our final stop of the evening.

Dolly’s Dairy Bar! You might think that swimming in 58 degree water, ending up chilled and wet, would discourage girls from enjoying ice cream, but that would be wrong. These girls were psyched to order their favorite of Dolly’s unique “camp flavors” of ice cream: “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” “Soar Super Storm” or “Wayfarer Overload,” for example. I think they have almost 60 different flavors in all, and they are delicious! Now mostly warmed up, we had a great time signing songs while enjoying our cones. By the way, Dolly’s will be open on our Closing Day next week… yes, even that early in the morning. You might want to plan on stopping. 😀

Dolly's Ice Cream Stand

The Richness of Our Days

Spirit Fire Campers

There’s a strange time warp that happens at camp, a sense of time that’s accentuated during a long session like the one we are finishing today. It’s peculiar how time passes here because for some reason it seems to both speed by, but also creep along day by day. Oddly you hear both kinds of comments from campers and counselors: “Wait? It’s only Wednesday?” and “I can’t believe it’s already time for Banquet!” My best explanation for this points to the richness of our days, to the incredibly abundant range of activities, surprise events, conversations, and meals we enjoy everyday. Packed into each day are so many things that engage, thrill, and perhaps challenge us. Camp life means making things, being with people, and going places. One moment we might be breathing hard from climbing the Junior Hill, and another we’ll be wringing a few drops of water from our hair thanks to a passing rainstorm. With this much going on— “constant activity” is not an exaggeration —we’re never “wasting time.” We’re filling our days to the brim with nature, relationships with caring people, excellent food, and dose after dose of silly fun.

Life at camp slows the passing of time because it accomplishes all of this. Adding up the sheer volume of new and different experiences, reflecting on it just a bit, paying attention to its details, we simply have a lot of time to recall. At camp, it’s hard to ignore the daily abundance of novel experiences and that slows down our perception of time. Simultaneously, however, these experiences are also really fun. They’re exciting, stimulating and fully engaging. With the collective spirit of camp amplifying every moment, we’re not having fun sporadically; we’re having a blast virtually every minute of our waking day. Because the abundance of our experience at camp is also an abundance of fun, our sense of time speeds up. After all, time really does fly when you’re having fun. The time warp of camp life, its seeming speed and span, springs from this unique combination.

Spirit Fire Friends


During our closing campfire tonight, our “Spirit Fire,” several campers and counselors stood to speak about what camp meant to them this session, recalling fondly the richness of their days at camp. For many, camp felt “too short” but also “the best summer of my life.” New campers described being nervous about camp at first, but quickly realizing that Rockbrook is a welcoming, encouraging, positive place ready to bring out everyone’s best. Returning campers talked about the incredible friendships they’ve formed at camp and how every summer they return, those friendships become more important to them.

Spirit Fire Candle

Sitting together like this under the white oaks, circled around a blazing orange fire, the deepest meanings of camp come to the surface.  Camp has brought us all closer together, just as it has challenged us to grow a “little in the spirit of Rockbrook.” The Spirit Fire is a beautiful ceremony in this way, celebrating all that we’ve experienced together. After hearing from the campers and counselors, and Sarah’s reflections on the session, everyone lit a small white candle and slowly formed a line around the lake. We stood for a few minutes looking out at the many reflections of candlelight in the water. It was a marvelous scene, and the perfect way to close the Spirit Fire.

Thank you everyone for your enthusiasm and support over the last few weeks. It’s been a phenomenal session, and we’re so proud how everyone helped make that possible. We look forward to welcoming you back the “Heart of a Wooded Mountain” soon!