Entertained and Inspired

With all the in-camp activities humming along here at Rockbrook, populating the daily online photo gallery, it’s easy to forget that there are daily adventure trips going out too. Girls can choose to go on a “wet and wild” hike through a stream, as the Hi-Ups did today for example. They can take their first kayaking trip on moving water like the Middlers did today on the French Broad river. Or, as another trip went out this morning, our rock climbers can spend the day climbing at Looking Glass Rock or Cedar Rock in the Pisgah Forest. You may not see as many photos of these activities in the gallery, but they have been going strong all week.

Camp adventure backpacking girlsA group of fourteen Middlers and Seniors had a memorable backpacking trip today. Led by Clyde, Jayne, A.M. and Savannah, the crew loaded two buses with packs, tents, cooking gear and food for the overnight and set out to the higher elevations north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the trailhead, they divided into two smaller groups to hike in different directions and ultimately to convene at a designated campsite for the night. This area near Flat Laurel Creek is littered with wild blueberry bushes, which are right now coming into season, so the girls enjoyed picking and eating the berries as they hiked. With their tents pitched and dinner wrapped up, Clyde led the girls up the steep trail to the top of Sam Knob mountain (elev. 6055ft) to watch the sunset. The amazing 360 degree view up there was just perfect for watching the sun dip through patchy clouds and ultimately behind the distant mountains.

The next morning the girls had a rare, fascinating encounter. While they were exploring a nearby waterfall and rocky overlook, a black bear raided their backpacks! The crew had finished eating breakfast and breaking down their campsite, and as they ventured further down Flat Laurel Creek to explore, they left their packs in a pile near the trail. This took about 45 minutes, but when they returned it was obvious that some animal had torn into the top of a couple of the packs and found a ziplock bag of trail mix.  Looking around, they spotted the bear nearby in the woods. It had dragged one of the backpacks away, but as Clyde yelled and waved his arms, the bear retreated from the pack and soon ran off. The girls were excited to see the bear and not frightened since it was clearly not menacing. Ordinarily, it’s the sunset hike that’s the highlight of this trip, but this time it was the bear.

Meanwhile back in camp, it was time for the circus! We announced a whole evening of circus-themed activity complete with costumes, fun music and games, and a professional acrobatics show by the NC troupe “Imagine Circus.”

circus camp counselor costumecamper circus costumeIt all started with the girls dressing in their best circus attire —scores of clowns and colorful performers —making dinner festive good fun. When suddenly a nine-foot tall (stilt walker) jester ducked into the dining hall to announce the acrobatics show in the gym, the girls seemed dumbfounded. Every eye in the dining hall followed this golden-winged jester as she strode among the girls answering their questions.

Just after dinner, during our twilight time, we further set the mood by serving cotton candy and popcorn, perfecting our circus costumes further, working on face paint, cracking glow sticks (more color!) and getting even more excited for the show.

And what an amazing show it was! Using a 25-foot tall, pyramid-shaped structure and other props, the performers, who were all female, impressed everyone with an array of aerial and ground acrobatics set to music. They hung in the air by silks, held unbelievable poses with suspended hoops, and showed incredible strength, coordination and balance jumping and flipping. Every trick seemed more amazing than the last, and the crowd showed its appreciation with louder and louder cheers as the show progressed. It was inspiring for the girls to watch these powerful women confidently perform such extremely difficult physical maneuvers.

circus acrobat showcircus camp fire performanceThe show’s finale included batons and hoops set on fire! As the performers danced and leapt about, swirling their flaming props in the dark, the campers applauded in a standing ovation. Entertained and inspired, they absolutely loved the whole show!

crazy summer camp costumes

Thorough Happiness

Today we closed the First Session of the summer, and from all accounts— from campers, their parents, and staff members alike —it was an amazing few weeks. We heard rave reviews, and received so many complements about how well camp turned out, both exciting the returning campers and pleasing the new campers and their families. The flip-side of this success, however, is that many of the campers were a little teary when their parents arrived to take them home. It’s just hard to say goodbye to these great people, to the freedom of this place, to the life we enjoy at camp. Even as we know Rockbrook will always welcome everyone back, ending a camp session is tough… For all of us.

Girl holding an inch worm

The emotion of this day reminded me again about how deeply meaningful camp is for everyone here. Far beyond the fun, in ways so much more important than the entertainment, camp matters. During the session, parents see in the photo gallery the zany activity of life at Rockbrook, all the songs, activities, and dressing up that goes on, for example, and they can tell their girls are having the time of their lives being kids in this magical place. But it’s on closing day, when they see evidence of the love and support their girls receive in our close community, when they see the tear-filled eyes and the lengthy goodbye hugs, that they understand a little bit how this time at Rockbrook means so much. It’s enough to tug on the emotions of parents and staff members as well, and the next thing you know, we’re all crying while saying goodbye. In these tears, there’s such thorough happiness!

So thank you for sharing your children with us. They truly helped make this session wonderful.

P.S. I’ve been meaning to share an article by Todd Kestin published last August in the Huffington Post entitled, “What’s Needed to Prepare Your Child for the Future? The Answer May Surprise You…”  Here’s the link. You’d be correct to guess the answer is “camp.” He writes, “I believe if kids spent their summers in camp, they’d be better prepared for later decisions like […] how to make the best life for who they are.”  It’s a short tribute to the power of camp to transform children and make a real difference in their lives (gaining confidence and independence, taking responsibility for decisions, and learning to value meaningful relationships). Go check it out. I think you’ll enjoy reading it.