3rd Time’s the Charm

After a warm welcome from counselors on opening day, our campers were eager to dive into all the action of camp! Today everyone began their first rotation of activities. Twice a week, campers get to select what activities they would like to take for the following three day rotation. Over the course of a full session, a camper could try every single one of our 22 activities. While that makes it seem like camp is jam-packed and busy, our daily schedule actually has free time built in throughout the day. Free swims and twilights allow the campers to have extra time at the lake, time with their friends, or just a chance to shower! We want our campers to learn and experience new things at Rockbrook, dive deep into the camp community, but also have the time and space to explore on their own.

When campers take activities, they get to have time with campers and counselors from other cabins. All our cabin counselors teach along with a few specialists, who help with some more technical activities. For example, pottery, curosty (weaving), and folklore (mountain crafts) have specialists because these crafts require more skill, experience, and safety precautions. Campers are able to form relationships both in and out of the cabin because our counselors teach activities. Plus, the girls get to learn more specialized, unique crafts they may not learn at home thanks to our talented activity specialists.

upside down climbing girl
Hanging out at the alpine tower.

In addition to signing up for archery, jewelry making, and swimming, campers can audition for the play and take play practice as an activity. If you have been following the blog so far this summer, you already know the play this year is the Little Mermaid! The play is one of the most eagerly awaited events at camp, because the campers and play directors work all session towards their performance on the final day. Today, auditions began at 2nd free swim in the Hillside Lodge, and campers were lining up on the porch waiting for their chance to try out. At camp, anyone who tries out for the play gets a part—all you have to do is sing a song of your choice! The more the merrier is how we see it at camp; especially with the Little Mermaid, you can never have too many fish!

Our first full day of camp ended with excitement in the dining hall. After announcements, we played a round of Spin the Wheel! On the wall near the door to the kitchen in a white board wheel on which there are written various prizes. If a camper or counselor is lucky enough to be the last one standing after several elimination rounds (i.e. stay standing if you are wearing a friendship bracelet), then they may spin the wheel. Today, Senior 4 won Dress a Director, so tomorrow they will announce which director they want to dress up and when. Spin the Wheel is just one of the many fun surprises awaiting us this 3rd session. As they say, 3rd time’s the charm!

To conclude our blog, please enjoy this haiku from our Waterfront Director, Audrey:

First full day at camp 

Play auditions—sing a song!

Spin the wheel, spin the…

teen girl friends at camp
Enjoying free time with friends and flowers.

A Camp of Goddesses

Leaves in nature goddess hair

Everyone knows that Rockbrook is a “fairyland of beauty” home to countless forest spirits who work tirelessly to enliven our experience of nature and make the camp magical. Just glance to the side anywhere around here, and you’re bound to see something beautiful.  Today Rockbrook was also a land of Greek goddesses.  With a little help from the Hi-Ups, each cabin was given a particular goddess to follow— dress according to her characteristics, use her symbols and icons, and playfully emulate her personality. For example, Selene, goddess of the moon, Gaia, goddess of the earth, and Hecate, goddess of magic all came alive at camp today. Keeping it kid friendly, we selected about a dozen goddesses in all. The costumes ranged from elaborate dresses with crowns and golden jewelry, to delightfully homemade adornments. Ate, the goddess of folly used lots of feathers, while Gaia had leaves, moss, and twigs woven into clothing and hair. Antheia, the goddess of flowers was definitely the most colorful. When all of our various goddesses arrived at their activities, the counselors played along asking them to demonstrate their qualities and special personality. It turns out that goddesses are right at home here at Rockbrook, easily enjoying all the action and inter-action that defines our days.  The girls happily bestowed more magic, folly, nature, flowers and success on all of us.

rocking chair camp crafts

So how is it possible that these girls were so terrifically excited to become goddesses for a day, to dress and behave in costume for everyone to see? Isn’t that just weird, or embarrassing? Honestly, it is, and outside of camp, most of these girls wouldn’t dare walk around with leaves in their hair, or a necklace of clover flowers, or wearing a full-length cloak. At the same time though, there was no awkwardness in this for the campers. They seemed instead to revel in the opportunity to express themselves so freely, to laugh with each other, and to explore untapped aspects of their personality and who they are deep down.

This makes sense when you realize that Rockbrook is a haven for girls, a special place where they feel safe, supported, and valued. It’s an intentional community built upon positive relationships— cooperation, communication, encouragement, generosity, respect and care. Led by a fantastic staff of adult role models, this girls camp community listens and accepts and has an amazing power to bring people closer, foster confidence and grit.

In this special environment where it’s easy to relax and be our true selves, it’s also natural to find friends, enjoy the tiniest adventure, and have the time and encouragement to try new things. It’s a recipe for what the girls simply call “fun.”

It’s also worth recognizing that all too often girls experience the opposite in their daily lives the rest of the year. Life at home and school comes with social ideals and standards, and often kids thereby feel pressure (even anxiety) to perform and even look a certain way.  In the face of competition and lacking genuine community support, our kids ordinary experience can inspire insecurities, self-doubt and unhappiness.

That’s why we were a camp of goddesses today. And thank goodness! These days more than ever, your girls need time and a special place like Rockbrook for them to feel good about being their true selves, to put aside social pressures, to play and to grow.

It’s a daily joy for us to see it all unfold so beautifully.

girl camp buddies

Jubilant Dancing

girl camp dance

There’s probably one special all-camp event that gets campers more excited than any other, and that’s a dance party with one of the neighboring boys camps. It’s an event campers plan for, in some cases anticipate anxiously, but definitely think of as a BIG deal. Like most of our special events at camp, it involves dressing up, music, dancing and food— aren’t those the essential ingredients for a fun party after all? —but a camp dance is somehow even better. Tonight Camp Carolina and Rockbrook took to dancing!

For years now we’ve held two dances simultaneously, dividing the children into older and younger groups, allowing the girls to feel more comfortable around boys their own age. Tonight the Senior girls and Hi-Ups loaded up our buses and vans to travel to Camp Carolina for their dance, and the youngest boys came to Rockbrook for a dance with our Middlers and Juniors.

granny costume dance

I knew to cover my ears when Chase announced the dance during lunch today, because the girls’ roaring reaction was truly deafening. The rest of the afternoon, conversations were about what to wear and when every girl (well, maybe not all of the Juniors!) would be able to take a shower to get ready. During dinner it was fun to see how the girls chose to get “dressed up.” In addition to special “nice outfits” packed especially for the dance, the older girls in particular were more inclined to wear flamboyant and silly costumes: Hawaiian shirts, traffic vests, cat t-shirts, plenty of tie dyes, and a couple of dinosaur costumes. Even this session’s camp moms Janet and Bentley dressed as old ladies! It’s almost expected; whatever you wear to a camp dance, it shouldn’t be too serious.

And that’s because the mood of the dances is high spirited and jubilant. For both the younger and the older girls, the dance means grabbing a friend, or a group of friends, and sticking together. No matter what the music, some familiar pop song from Bruno Mars for example, or some other Techno track (which for some reason is a popular genre at Camp Carolina), the dancing involves mostly jumping up and down to the beat, with only the occasional other “moves.” The exception to that are the recognized group dance songs with set choreographed dances like “The Wobble,” “The Cha Cha Slide,” and “Cotton Eyed Joe,” for example.

Camp teen dance

When the dance at Camp Carolina for the older girls and boys switched occasionally to a slow song, you could feel a little tension in the room rising. Some girls were clearly not interested in a slow dance and quickly left the dance floor or grabbed a friend, indicating they were already “out.”  A handful of brave boys and girls, though, paired up for an awkward, arms-outstretched, shuffle from side to side. It was hard to ignore this awkwardness, particularly when everyone looked so relieved when a fast song came back on.

We wrapped up the dances around 9pm, and after almost 2 hours of jumping around, the girls were sweaty, a little tired, and probably dehydrated. But they were also about as excited as you’ll ever see them. It was non-stop chatter on the bus ride home— comments about who was dancing with whom, that “boy with the weird hat,” the music selection played, how “I danced with a boy 2 years younger than me!”, and how the “whole place smelled like B.O.”  With all good things, it was another fun camp night of dancing.

girls camp dancers
teen girl dance

Fueled by Friendship

The last few days of a camp session have a new momentum, a slightly accelerated pace and intensified rhythm that feels a little like the finale of a fireworks show. There’s a flurry of events that cascade into a blur of activity and emotion. The whole session culminates with different moments of celebration and reflection when we gather as a community and enjoy each other’s talents and accomplishments. Each event is a beautiful reminder of how we’ve grown, and grown together, over our time together at camp. You’ve never seen such support! These girls all mean so much to each other now, it’s amazing to watch.

Cast of Fairy Tales Camp Party

A good example of this community festivity is the session banquet. Essentially an all-camp party, the banquet is a themed dinner planned by our 9th grade campers (known at camp as the “CAs”). These girls select a secret theme on the first day of the session and then work to transform the dining hall for the party. They work on costumes, music, decorations, the menu, and rehearse group dances and skits to entertain the rest of the campers and staff. This session’s CAs presented their “Into the Storybook” banquet complete with a cast of different fairy tale characters: Little Red Ridinghood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Peter Pan, Snow White, Three Blind Mice, Hansel and Gretel, and others.The girls did a great job decorating the dining hall, covering every inch of wall with floor-to-ceiling posters depicting scenes from fairy tales. They served “Maleficent’s Mac and Cheese,” “Peter Pan’s Popcorn Chicken,” “Jack’s Magic Green Beans,” and “Poison Apple Slices.” The tables included souvenir cups, candies, and streamer decorations. With a large area cleared for a dance floor, soon the entire camp, fueled by friendship, was singing, dancing, and having a great time.

James and the Giant Peach Kids Production

Another community celebration was the presentation of this session’s musical, “James and the Giant Peach.” Over the course of the session, 55 campers, under the direction of 4 staff members, rehearsed songs, built scenery and props, and memorized lines to present this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s popular children’s novel. The story presents the fantastic adventure of orphan James, the magical garden insects he befriends and their journey across the ocean inside a giant peach. It was a joy to watch. The girls really had fun acting the parts, singing the songs, and at times being silly on stage for a laugh. During the show’s intermission, the Junior, Middler and Senior dance classes each presented a group dance. Showing off their moves, choreographed for every dancer to move in unison, it was entertaining and impressive to see what the different age groups could do.

Closing Camp Fire girl presenters

One of the most beautiful moments of the session, our closing campfire or “Spirit Fire,” is another example of how close we’ve all grown at camp. Dressed in their white uniforms, the girls and their counselors all crowd around a glowing campfire to sing some of the more traditional songs and to pay tribute to the experiences shared, the deep relationships formed, and the personal strides made while together at camp. It’s a time to reflect on what camp means to us, to hold our friends close, and to marvel at the Rockbrook Spirit that makes camp special. Campers and counselors are invited to address the group too, sharing their thoughts about camp.

Olivia Vasquez, who is a new counselor this summer, spoke particularly well, and I thought you’d enjoy reading part of what she said.

“The Rockbrook community is a unique and funny thing, hardly something you can explain without jumping into it. It’s so incredibly tight-knit, which can make new people feel unsure and hesitant. How can you fit into a place already so beautifully woven together? But it’s through this same closeness that the magic can happen. That suddenly, before you even know it, you become part of a family you wonder how you’ve gone so long without.

The community here is joyful. When friends and family ask me how it is, I tell them, “It’s somewhere I can be happy all the time.” Not that I need to be or can’t be sad — If I am sad, there are always open arms and ears ready to listen. But if I want to be happy, there is someone to share my joy, to celebrate even the smallest victories, to remind me that there are few more freeing things in the world than to express the deepest gladness you hold inside you.

And so, in these few weeks I’ve spent here in the heart of the wooded mountain, witnessing the magic of my first banquet, the sweetness in the sound of our cabin’s laughter, the realness of the spirit of Rockbrook, I have ended up different, and yet the same. More myself, and yet less about me. These campers have made me laugh, cry and search for answers. Counselors and directors have done the same. But Sofie said it pretty perfectly the other day when she said that no matter what happens, we’re all just here— at Rockbrook and on Earth —to walk each other home. And what an honor it has been, is, and always will be, to walk with each of you.”

The Spirit Fire closed with everyone lighting a small white candle and forming a row around the lake. As we sang softly and candlelight reflected from the lake back onto everyone’s face, it was a beautiful summer camp moment. What could be better than being surrounded by all these friends and filled with so many great memories from our time together? It was the perfect way to close what truly has been an amazing, wonderful session.

Camp all girls Uniform

Their Playful Spirit


An evening dance party with a neighboring boys’ camp is one of the most exciting events we hold every session. Just like in the movie(s) The Parent Trap, it’s an all-camp event anxiously anticipated and always a BIG deal in the girls’ minds. We have three different camps for boys we dance with: Camp Carolina, High Rocks, and Rockmont, and tonight it was Carolina’s turn to mix with Rockbrook.

Since we’d have too many children to combine both camps in one location, we have the habit of holding two dances simultaneously, dividing the boys and girls into an older group and a younger group. Tonight the Senior and Middler girls loaded our buses and vans for the trip over to Camp Carolina and the Juniors stayed here at Rockbrook to welcome the youngest boys.

Pre-teen girls at summer camp dance

Before that, when the dance was announced (Like all special events, we kept it a surprise.), it was an afternoon of grooming around here. Every shower ran non-stop for two hours, fully testing our tankless hot water heaters. It’s nice to never run out of hot water on a day like this. Special shoes appeared, and miles of long hair found a hairbrush… for the first time at camp in some cases, I’d guess. But don’t think everyone’s goal was to get “dressed up” for the dance. Cleaned up yes, but there were also plenty of silly costumes on display. I saw a “catnado” and a unicorn t-shirt, traffic vest, a supergirl and a bear costume. Many of the 9th graders used facepaint to draw a “third eye” on the their foreheads as well as the letters “CA.” Sports jerseys, bandanas, overalls, and tiedyes almost outnumbered “nice” shirts and shorts. Quite insightfully and in true Rockbrook form, these girls have allowed their playful spirit to outdo any expectation to be “attractive.” They know from experience that trusting that spirit makes things more fun.

The two dances themselves have a different feel. The younger kids dancing here in our gym were led by our friend and professional DJ Marcus. He’s an expert at playing music that is fun and familiar to the girls, with an emphasis on group dance songs like “Y.M.C.A,” “The Cha Cha Slide,” and “Cotton Eyed Joe,” for example. With the counselors dancing right along, the girls had a great time making conga lines, posing for photos, and trying new dance steps with their friends.

The dance at Camp Carolina for the older girls and boys was held in their dining hall. They set the mood by turning the lights down so a large illuminated disco ball hung in the rafters became the main light. The music selections focused on more current pop songs, with some Hip-Hop, Dubstep and Techno tracks mixed in. There was also an occasional slow song that signaled a few brave boys and girls to pair up for slightly awkward, arms-stretched, side to side shuffle. These slow songs equally inspired some girls to pair up and mimic that same slow-dance style with each other. It seemed to me that most everyone was happy when a fast song returned, replacing the finishing slow song. Group jumping instead of individual shuffling— it’s just better.

The bus ride back to Rockbrook was a chance to talk about the dance, to process what happened paying particular attention to who danced with whom, who said what to whom, and how they enjoyed the dance overall.  One senior girl said she had “a great time,” and another told me she “loves the Camp Carolina dances.” So the reviews for the girls are positive! It was another great night out dancing.

Teenage Girls Camp Dance

Marvelous Events

Summer Camp Party Costumes

As we’ve arrived at the last day of our session, it’s time for everyone at camp to gather for several special all-camp events. Some have been in the works for weeks, like the fantastic Banquet presented by the CA (9th grade) campers. Kept hidden since the very first day of the session, the Banquet’s theme defines all aspects of the event: the colorful, painted posters lining every inch of wall space in the dining hall, decorations hung from the rafters, costumes for skit performances, special food and music. The Banquet is really an elaborate, highly decorated, over-the-top, party that’s so much fun everyone really looks forward to it.

The theme for this session’s Banquet was “The Great American Road Trip.” It featured characters dressed like tourists as they traveled to different cities and attractions across America. They stopped in New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and Los Angeles to see a music video being filmed. The posters decorating the dining hall walls showed all these places plus other American landmarks like Chicago, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Las Vegas, and even the Pisgah National Forest. The posters were outstanding… some of the most well-drawn, with colorful details, I can remember. The biggest surprise, however, came when the campers realized that all of the tables and chairs in the dining hall had been removed, and they would be sitting around checkered tablecloths on the floor for a picnic! Each picnic tablecloth included a basket of assorted candy along with the platters of chicken fingers, french fries, small canned drinks, and fruit kabobs. The whole banquet was marvelous, and easily one we’ll all remember.

Peter Pan Acting Camp Kids

The entire camp, campers, staff members and a few lucky parents, all were thrilled today to watch our camp musical, Peter Pan. This is the familiar story based on the Disney film where Peter Pan whisks away three children to Never Land where they encounter Tinkerbell and other fairies, the Lost Boys, Indians and Captain Hook. Using all homemade costumes and simple scenery, the girls put on an excellent show singing songs like “You Can Fly” and “Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me.” Marvelous is a great way to describe this event too. I’m certain everyone who saw the show would agree.

Campfire Camp Program

We closed the day with a campfire, our traditional “Spirit Fire.” As the sun dropped behind the huge poplar trees across the lake, the whole camp dressed in their “whities” (camp uniform) and gathered around the fire ring near Vesper Rock. For the next 40 minutes or so, the fire blazed, the crickets chirped and many voices sang traditional Rockbrook Camp songs like “How Did We Come to Meet Pal,” and “In the Heart of a Wooded Mountain.” We heard first-year campers stand and describe how they’ve settled in at camp, and also from returning campers about what Rockbrook means to them after so many years. Sarah spoke about friendship and the special sort of friends you make at camp. She described them as “Chocolate Chip Cookie Friends” because they make you feel that good. Arm in arm, huddled together as they sang and listened, the scene was emotional and beautiful, marvelous in so many ways. We closed the campfire as Rockbrook girls have for generations, with a candlelight procession forming a line around our lake. Each girl, with a small white candle lit from the Spirit Fire, stood facing the lake softly singing, absorbing the warm feelings of affection reflecting all around.

Girl Camp Kids
Final Campfire Lake Procession

Inspirational Fun

Summer Camp Showers

The other day, I overheard a couple of campers claiming the strangest thing. “I used Wonder Woman! and I used Beyoncé,” they said. Apparently there are girls also using Michelle Obama, Joan of Arc, Pocahontas, and the Queen of England.  “How?” you ask? Well, these are the names of our showers this year.  On all three lines, the counselors have chosen to name each shower for a strong, powerful woman. You can see the Middler line showers in this photo. Mostly this is just for fun, but also I suspect, as is true for a lot of the fun at camp, there’s inspiration and imagination to be found as well. Playful ideas like this make even something ordinary— like a shower stall —so much better.

Muffin Break! That’s the time between the first and second activity periods when everyone at camp enjoys a delicious, often warm, muffin freshly delivered from Katie’s oven in the kitchen. It’s always a surprise to find out the morning’s flavor because Katie is a master at creating one-of-a-kind combination flavors. Today she wowed us with “Banana Pudding,” a muffin reminiscent of banana bread but, like a bowl of pudding might be served, with a vanilla wafer poking out the top. So Yummy! Thinking about tomorrow’s flavor, I wonder what that case of Nutella I saw being delivered will be for…

Learning to throw clay on a potter's wheel

After making plenty of clay pinch pots, rolling coil after coil, and carefully slipping together slabs of clay to make sculptural vessels, girls taking pottery are next excited to learn how to throw on the wheel. The first step is to dress in a white apron (spinning cray and water can throw off a spray) and sit down on a bench behind the electric wheel with your foot on the pedal control. That pedal allows you to adjust how fast the wheel spins. With a ball of clay ready, the next challenge is centering it on the wheel. This can take some practice to get just right. Once you open up the center of the spinning clay and slowly pull up the walls— steady hands here — you feel a great sense of accomplishment because you’re really using the wheel. Trimming the base of the piece is the last step, releasing it from the wheel and placing it proudly on the shelf to begin drying. Both of our pottery studios have girls making these strides, quickly becoming more adept at these advanced ceramics skills.  Cool stuff!

Tonight all of the Middler campers took a trip out of camp to one of our favorite picnic areas in the Pisgah Forest, to Sliding Rock, and to Dolly’s Dairy Bar to top it off.  This is a big exciting event that brings together 61 campers, 22 counselors, 4 lifeguards, 3 vans, 3 buses, 2 camp directors, and 3 extra bus drivers, not to mention the picnic food and other necessities. The girls, dressed in their swim suits and water shoes, with towels flung over their shoulders, and loaded the vehicles for the quick ride into the forest. We arrived and had time before dinner for a huge game of “Ride That Pony” (a funny group song with dance moves). But the main event was our next stop, the always-thrilling Sliding Rock. This is a classic mountain experience that combines icy-cold water rushing down about 60 feet of smooth rock, and the perfect pool at the bottom for a soft (and extra chilly!) splash landing. For many of these Middler girls, this was their first visit to Sliding Rock, and from their screams of delight I think they loved it.

Girls at Sliding Rock
Pair of girls going down sliding rock

Our final stop of the evening, Dolly’s Dairy Bar, never fails to get the whole bus screaming. I just have to put on the turn signal of the bus and the roar from the girls is powerful. Our entire crew made a line last night stretching from the window where you place your order, down and off the porch far along the edge of the parking area. Rockbrook always brings a crowd! It’s fun to see how many girls choose “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” or one of the other “camp flavors” for their cup or cone. When the ice cream is this delicious, it can be dark and you might have just been swimming in 58 degree water, but you will love it nonetheless. By the way, Dolly’s will be open on our Closing Day next week, yes, even early in the morning. You might want to plan on stopping. 😀

Camp girls happy to eat Dolly's ice cream

More Reasons Kids Need Camp

Excited Camp Kid

Around here at Rockbrook, we’re big fans of discussing why summer camp is so great for kids. There’s no doubt that spending time at camp is super fun and kids love it, but it’s also important for their personal, physical and social development. In so many ways, camp is something our modern kids need more than ever because it provides relief from unhealthy habits. It serves, as we’ve said before, as a “haven” for children.

Over on the Web site What’s Up for Kids, Kathy Alessandra just posted an article entitled, “Five Reasons Your Child Needs Camp.” Reporting information from the American Camp Association and several well-respected studies, the article is a nice reminder of some very significant ways kids benefit from camp.

Here are the 5 reasons listed.

  1. Campers gain positive life skills like “making friends” and “trying new things.”
  2. Campers stay in motion, enjoying physical exercise.
  3. Campers have experiences that help them back at school.
  4. Campers reconnect with nature.
  5. Campers engage in creative free play.

Of course, there’s a lot to each of these, but perhaps most importantly, this article is another reminder of how rare and valuable a summer camp experience is for our kids. Definitely a great thing!