Fully Excited to Dance

water slide plunge
girl holding camp pottery glazed

Saturday is a great day to dig deeper into the activities at camp. It’s the final day of the current 3-day rotation of activities, and at this point in the session, the girls are showing not only a greater interest in what’s happening in each activity area, but also more competence. For example, in the two ceramics studios, it’s been a glazing party. The girls are taking their pottery pieces and carefully painting on different colored glazed, the sculptures, hand-built and wheel-thrown vessels all receiving a coat of glaze. The pottery instructors will fire the kilns tonight, turning the dull glazes into shiny, brightly colored works of art. It will be exciting to open up the kilns tomorrow afternoon and see how all the pieces have turned out.

In the fiber arts cabin, Curosty, many projects were likewise finishing up today. The instructors were helping girls tie off their loom weaving, sew borders on needlepoint pieces, and gather the ends of knitting projects. The large wall weaving on the outside of the cabin is almost filled to the top, and later this week many hands will help embroider details on it.

During the first free swim period today before lunch, the water slide was open to blast girls down into the lake at the bottom. Swimmers were clocking laps, some girls basking in the sun while floating in a tube, while others took turns doing tricks off the diving board. The bright, sunny, warm afternoon made the lake feel really good.

After a passing thunderstorm in the mid-afternoon, which by the way brought out a different beauty of camp, we all enjoyed a picnic dinner on the hill.  The kitchen had the grill going all afternoon smoking and cooking hot dogs for everyone.  Along with homemade coleslaw, freshly cut watermelon and “blondies” for dessert, we had an amazing meal watching the sun recede toward the mountains.

summer camp dance

One of the most anticipated events of the session also happened today: the Camp Carolina Dance. Our Juniors and Middlers stayed here at Rockbrook to welcome the younger boys to our gym where our friend DJ Marcus was ready with his sound and light system to entertain everyone. With the counselors leading the way, the kids jumped and bopped to familiar pop songs as well as the well-known line dances like Cotton Eyed Joe. When things got too hot dancing, folks could take a break outside, and play gaga ball or tetherball instead. Part way through the dance we served everyone a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. They were delicious!

Meanwhile across town, our Senior girls and the Hi-Ups were showing off their moves in the Camp Carolina dining hall. With glitter on their faces, and some dressed in Hawaiian shirts, the girls brought an amazing power to the dance, I think surprising the boys a little.  This may have been because the girls outnumbered the boys, but I think these Rockbrook girls were just fully excited to dance. Jumping for two hours, stopping only briefly for a drink of water now and then, it was a sweaty and equally thrilling night.  On the ride home several girls remarked that it was “so hot in there, but also really fun,” and “way better than last year!”

Back at camp, it took everyone a little longer than usual to settle down for night, chatting about the dance, cooling off from all the activity, laughing and telling stories about the day. With days like this, that’s to be expected!

dock at camp lake

2nd Session Video Note – Part Three

We’ve got another highlights video!

It’s the latest from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Late last week, Robbie spent a day filming at camp, and with his careful editing, has again produced a fascinating glimpse into camp life. You’ve seen the photos in our daily online gallery; now see (and hear) camp in action.

At less than 2 minutes, I think you’ll really enjoy watching.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

That Peculiar Sense of Adventure

Two of the most popular activities at camp are the shooting sports, archery and riflery. Most of the girls at camp are eager to try these traditional sports at least once during their session. Each has pretty cool equipment— real guns and real arrows! Each is novel and challenging but also achievable, with an inherent satisfaction (hitting the target). Also, both archery and riflery are skills the girls learn quite quickly, seeing real progress in their abilities after only a few days. They are so excited when their scores improve with practice, and when they shoot a bullseye, it’s a huge thrill! There’s a bullseye club for each sport too, and whenever a girl shoots one, the staff announces her name to the whole camp during a meal. And finally, there’s a long tradition at Rockbrook of the girls challenging the boys of Camp Carolina to an archery, riflery and tennis tournament at the end of the session. The top shooters join the RBC archery or riflery teams for the friendly competition. There’s a lot to like about the shooting sports at Rockbrook.

I saw a news story reporting that more than “70 million Americans are expected to endure temperatures above 95 degrees in next 7 days.” Yikes! Rockbrook, thankfully, has been spared that kind of heat thanks to our elevation and northwestern-facing location. If you take a look at our weather station, you can see that we are enjoying a normal summer of upper 60s at night and mid 80s during the day. Camp in the mountains of North Carolina is great!

girls holding up tie-dye t-shirts they made

We’ve seen the unveiling of incredible craft projects lately. These tie-dyed t-shirts, for example, are one of the best I’ve ever seen… swirls of deep color, each with a unique pattern. The same is true for pottery as the first kiln firings are being completed. Here too, it’s exciting to see how the process of finishing the pots combines with varying techniques of glazing to reveal a surprise work of art. The fiber arts cabin is producing especially amazing pieces. The girls are using all the the looms, from the wide floor looms to the lap looms, and showing real skill and creativity as they work on their weavings.

friends going down sliding rock

Just looking at Sliding Rock is intriguing. After all, it’s a natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it flows over 60 feet of a dome-shaped rock and into a pool at the bottom. From a distance it’s even inviting. It looks fun for people to slide down. But standing at the top of the slide, the “refreshing” water splashing on the back of your legs, and looking down, it can be a little frightening too. Tonight when we brought all of the mini session Middlers and Seniors, you could see it in their eyes, that peculiar sense of adventure that combines uncertainty, physical challenge, and excitement, all in a beautiful natural setting. The water level tonight was a little higher than normal, so this made the sliding even more of an acceleration toward the plunge at the bottom. The girls had a complete blast sliding several times (some went down six times!) until it was time to drive out of the forest for our final stop of the evening, Dolly’s Dairy Bar. If you don’t know about Dolly’s you will when you hear from your daughter. We take everyone at Rockbrook to this local ice cream stand at least once during their session. It’s that good. Most of our girls will be happy to tell you it’s the “best ice cream on earth.” Perhaps a quick stop at Dolly’s would be a good idea when you pick up your girls from camp. I guarantee that will be a welcome suggestion! 🙂

two girls waving before sliding rock

It Leads to a Moment

girl on adventure bridge

Whenever the adventure staff announces that trips through the Rockbrook Zip Line course will be offered, there’s always a buzz among the girls. It’s a special trip open to everyone, no matter how old (yes even the smallest Juniors!), and we offer it almost everyday at camp, easily filling each group of 8 throughout the day. The trips take about an hour, so they nicely fit into our activity schedule. Our Zip course is uniquely woven into the forest above the dining hall, among several huge rock faces, old-growth trees, rhododendron thickets, and even a 50-foot waterfall.  With their harnesses, helmets and pulleys, the girls first hike along a trail to the first zip, a 200-foot, low angle ride across the front of Stick Biscuit falls. The second ride is faster, and flies the girls from one rock face to another about 40-feet above a deep contour in the forest floor. Then come the bridges, three different ones in all, challenging the girls to balance and hold on as they traverse to the final zip. That one launches from a rock ledge and screams 450 feet back into the camp, finishing right near the office building. The whole experience is a thrilling, immersive adventure into the natural beauty of camp.

wheel pottery girl

Both pottery studios have taken to the wheels today. Learning to throw on the wheel is often a goal of the girls who choose pottery for one of their four regular activities, eager to move past the basic hand-building techniques using slabs and coils of clay. It’s so much fun for the girls, almost magical when a ball of clay, perfectly centered on the wheel, slowly takes shape into a simple bowl. Zach and Joe, our long-time head pottery instructors, plus the counselors assigned, are right by the girls’ side assisting as they work on this skill. It can be frustrating at first, but with practice, and perhaps with some encouragement from the staff, the girls quickly feel successful. That look of understanding followed by pride at the moment a camper finally pulls up the clay on a spinning wheel —it’s really cool to see.

kayak roll learning at lake

The same sort of progression— practice leading to understanding and accomplishment —happens down at the lake when campers begin learning to roll a whitewater kayak. What begins completely disorienting (being upside down, under water, in a boat) can become simply a moment to perform another maneuver. It begins for girls by learning to slip out of their flipped kayak, learning to “wet exit” —a crucial first step before taking any kayak trip. From there, girls practice a sequence of carefully timed movements (hip snap, paddle placement, etc.) that allow them to right their boat without exiting it. It’s not easy to “get their roll,” but we’ve seen most girls master it over time. Believe me, if your daughter is working on it, you’ll hear about it the moment she finally gets her roll. It’s a truly exciting achievement.

All is well at Rockbrook as we have moved through the week. Glorious weather has provided even more liveliness to what’s already a spirited bunch. Both campers and counselors have grown more confident and comfortable, making each moment even better. It’ll be great fun to watch this continue!

girls camp group

Happy Accidents

archery girl pull

During my time as an archery instructor this summer, I have noticed in some campers an expectation of high performance during their time on the range. Archery is a sport that requires an understanding of basic from when shooting, such as keeping your elbow up when you pull the bowstring back, keeping your feet parallel and a shoulder length apart, and keeping your arms straight. Often, if a shot does not land as expected campers can be quick to say “I’m not good at this” or “this is not for me” even after one or two tries. Admittedly, I have been this camper myself, and as I’ve transitioned from camper to counselor I have grown to recognize these kinds of perfectionistic tendencies in both myself and in campers.

Perfectionism, “a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection,” can be taught and internalized in children in many ways, especially in school where high achievement, high grades, and high standardized test scores are the expectation. Standards such as these are not inherently bad and can lead to greater success, but there can also be consequences that oftentimes lead children lacking confidence if they feel they aren’t achieving as well as they think they should be.

camp archery ready

Camp is a place for girls to leave perfectionism behind. It is a place where mistakes are understood as a part of the process of life and learning. Without the added pressures from high expectations, campers live their camp life to the fullest, and in the most fun ways possible— and giving girls the confidence to decide for themselves how they want to spend their days here.

As a camper, I always felt at ease during my summers at camp. The pressures of home and performance never affected what I did here, and I was always supported in my endeavors, even if I felt I had made mistakes. Making something because I wanted to and not for anyone else was also a freeing feeling. Now as a counselor, I try to give campers the same support and ease. In pottery, when we make slab mugs some campers will say “I don’t like how this turned out, can I have a new slab?” to which my fellow instructor and I reply “just flip it over and start again!”. Even if the camper does not like what they’ve made at first, trying something new or turning a mistake in an intended design can make a piece look even better.

summer camp skit fun

As a counselor, one of my favorite things to do is watch evening program camper skits. Certain nights the cabins on each line are given a wacky theme to create a skit around such as “Christmas in July” or “Moana meets Frozen”. Skits are a wonderful time for campers to let their creativity shine, design and wear funky costumes, and learn how to work together as a group. The campers never fail to come up with hilarious and out-of-the-box performances, and seeing the girls cracking up at their own antics during the skit and laughing together afterwards is always a delight. There is no right or wrong way to create a skit— no way to make it “perfect” —and I believe that is why the campers have so much fun making and performing them.

To conclude, at the start of this past rotation in Archery I was teaching a girl who, after a few arrows missed the target, claimed “I’m just not good enough at this.” However, as my co-instructor and I gave her a few tips and she got more used to shooting the bow, her aim became more accurate. At the end of class that day, four of her five arrows hit the white of the target and she cried with joy “I got them on the target! Look! I did it!” and she received congratulations and cheers from the other girls in the class. Today, that same camper got a bullseye! She was astonished and proud and we all cheered together. It was a great improvement from the first day of class, when she had expected a great shot on her first try. With guidance, practice, and confidence girls can do anything they set their minds to, and here at camp it is known that mistakes are just a part of learning.

—Hailey McGee, camper & counselor, 2010-present

camp teenagers

Colorful Works

girls camp pottery class

This is the time during a camp session when girls can be seen spending some of their free time doing crafts. You see, some of the craft projects can take quite a bit of time to complete. Take weaving, knitting or friendship bracelet making for example where a basic unit— passing the weft, knitting stitches, tying overhand knots —is repeated over and over again. Depending on the size of the project, this can require extra effort to complete. Likewise, other crafts have multiple steps involved. A painting may require a simple pencil sketch before layering on paint, for example. In pottery, there’s shaping the clay (on the wheel, using coils or slabs, etc.), letting it dry, applying different colored glazes, and then firing the pieces in a kiln. The pottery instructors want to fire the kilns on Monday, in time for the girls to pick up their finished work before going home, so there seemed to be a non-stop glazing party in the upper pottery studio today. Both kilns will fire two times over the next few days producing several hundred pieces of colorful ceramic works of art. At least one of them is bound to be yours!

Girls camp woodworking class

There’s always something special, out of the ordinary, being offered at Rockbrook, and today it was a visit to George Peterson’s woodworking studio for a tour and project workshop. Two groups would spend either the morning or the afternoon learning from George and his wife Margaret who is an Alumna of Rockbrook. George is a successful working artist here in Brevard who creates sculpture and functional pieces from different species of wood, old wooden skateboards and skis. He’s displayed his work in galleries across the United States and abroad. It’s no surprise when you see his work. Take a look at his portfolio: The Circle Factory.

Visiting George’s studio is fascinating. He has stacks of raw materials, powerful cutting tools, drills, torches and other scraps of metal he uses to shape and scar wood. There are piles of saw dust, paints and ink, straps of leather, completed projects displayed and works in progress.  Today’s project had the girls making a leather and wood bracelet from a chip of a multilayered skateboard. George and Margaret helped the girls use a drill press, a vibrating carving tool, sandpaper and a metal “RBC” brand to shape a colorful chip that they then sewed to a leather strap. As they completed each step, the girls soon had very cool “wrap around” bracelets to wear, and an exciting story to tell when they arrived back at camp.

There’s a rumor circulating among the campers that there was a midnight party last night. Some of the campers remember being woken long after they went to bed and being coaxed out to the hill where they found glittering fairies dancing, food and drink, and loud Beyonce music. Still half asleep, disoriented by glowing balloons, multicolored glow sticks, and the antics of the fairies, the campers soon found themselves having a fun, outdoor, nighttime dance party! Then as suddenly as it began, the fairies disappeared and the girls were back in bed. It’s just a rumor whether this fairy party happened or not, but I think I spotted some glitter on the hill the next morning. That makes sense, since at Rockbrook, we all know fairies are real.

3 girl campers matching
matching girls campers

Cabin Day Smiles

This afternoon we happily cast aside our regular schedule for activities to give each cabin group a chance to do something together. Ordinarily, campers select their daily activities individually, scattering all the members of a cabin according to their personal preferences. It’s possible to do things with cabin mates, go swimming or zip lining for example, but it’s also common to have a totally different activity schedule from the other girls in your cabin.  Our “Cabin Day,” which happens on Wednesday afternoons, reverses that.  Each cabin group sticks together, and with assistance from its counselors, plans a whole-cabin activity of some sort.

Spa face mask funny kids

Our two cabins of Juniors banded together to enjoy a unique “Spa” experience at the Carrier House, the childhood home of Rockbrook’s founder, Nancy Carrier, and now the house where Jeff and Sarah Carter live with their family. With Sarah, the Junior counselors, and the camp moms all helping, the campers rotated through four different stations. One made “slime” using white school glue, borax and food coloring. I think the idea was that the slime was “good for your skin.” Another station involved a huge array of nail polish. Multicolored manicures and pedicures for all! The third station involved facials of a sticky “mud mask.” Sarah gave tours of the house for the fourth station, explaining some of the interesting history of Rockbrook along the way. All four stations took place simultaneously giving the girls plenty to do, giggle and smile about.

dyed hands from girls tie dyeing t-shirts

The Middler cabins branched in all sorts of directions for their cabin day. One made pottery and then took on the challenge of making ice cream using ziplock bags, salt and ice to freeze the cream. Another cabin went down to the garden to pick flowers and make individual bouquets. One cabin got particularly messy making tie-dye t-shirts. An adventurous cabin packed a few snacks and headed off to Rockbrook Falls hiking and when they returned switched gears and decorated tote bags. Probably the most impressive project hatched from a cabin who wanted to thank some of the non-cabin staff members at camp, like the kitchen folks, office workers, nurses and maintenance staff. They designed a “Compliment Board,” a bulletin board where campers could post compliments for these staff members. It was a sweet thoughtful gesture!

teen girls dressed for bowling

Finally, the Seniors switched things up completely. The entire Senior Line dressed up in wacky costumes (of course!) and went bowling! They had a great time inventing silly bowling techniques, singing along to the jukebox, and posing for photographs. Cheers erupted with every strike, and dance moves with every gutter ball. To cap off the evening, we made a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar so everyone could sample their favorite flavor of ice cream. It’s always an exciting event to visit Dolly’s. After finishing their cones, the girls tonight sang all of the senior songs flamboyantly entertaining the other Dolly’s customers. It’s quite a sight, our group of zany, costumed, ice-cream-sugar-charged girls singing together. You can’t help but smile seeing so many people having such a great time.

Pottery Glazing Girls

Doing this Beautifully

Girl Power kayaker

The kayakers have taken trips almost everyday this week. The interest in kayaking continues to grow, so Leland, Sarah and Stephanie have been busy meeting that demand by offering lots of trips. The beginners went to the French Broad River twice this week. After mastering their “wet exit” (sliding out of the kayak when it tips over), the French Broad is a perfect place to learn other important kayaking skills like ferrying across moving water and catching an eddy. On both Thursday and Friday, groups of kayaking girls drove over to the Tuckasegee River in Swain County to run its rapids. The river was really moving after our recent rains, giving the girls a little extra push over the shallow areas and making a couple of the rapids like Moonshot and Dillsboro Drop even more fun. This section of the “Tuck” takes 2 or so hours to complete giving the crew plenty of time to play on the water and still be back at camp for dinner.

Today, the Hi-Ups had their third “Girls With Ideas” session— a curriculum designed to foster confident girl leaders. On sticky notes, they began the meeting by writing down times that they were positive role models for the younger campers, moments that challenged them, and how they want to end their camp session. Although they only had the space of a sticky note for each answer, their responses and following discussion were quite wise and thoughtful. Between setting and scraping for each meal, putting on Rockbrook surprises, and helping to teach activities, these 10th grade campers have packed schedules! The downtime to reflect was much deserved. Personal goals of theirs for the rest of their Hi-Up year include being good team players, staying selfless, and taking initiative.

Camping Trip Sunrise Mountain Top

Another outdoor adventure trip also returned to camp today with stories and photos to share. We were planning an overnight canoe trip on the French Broad river near camp, but at the last minute a huge thunderstorm caused the river to rise too fast for the group to paddle safely. Shifting gears a bit, adventure staff leaders Jayne and Mattie decided to camp in Pisgah instead and show the campers several very cool spots. They first went to Courthouse Falls for a swim in the icy pool beneath. From there they camped further up the mountain along the Silvermine Ridge. The next morning, despite being pretty tired, everyone woke up early (5:15am!) to summit nearby Black Balsam mountain and watch the sunrise. Being that high up (over 6,200 feet!), far above the morning fog in the surrounding valleys, was quite a treat. Click this photo (any of these!) to see a larger version.  Passing by one more waterfall on the way back to camp, the group just had to stop for a quick swim. These girls love the cold mountain water around here!

Camp Ceramics Class for Teen Girls

Similarly, we’ve been happy to see so many campers improving their skills in pottery. The Rockbrook ceramics program has always been extensive, with two studios, 3 professional potters who serve as instructors, and a steady stream of enthusiastic campers returning year after year to work with clay. Lately, the older girls have been doing amazing work on the wheels. Throwing on the potter’s wheel takes some practice at first, but once you learn to center the clay, stay steady and draw the clay up slowly and evenly, it’s magical to see a lump transform into a delicate, symmetrical pot.  The girls are doing this beautifully. The next step is to vary the final shape of the cup or bowl, perhaps flaring the lip, bulging one side, or adding a handle.  Next week after the pots dry a bit (There’s a special dehumidifying room for that.), it will be time for glazing, and the final kiln firing that will bring out the colors of the glazes. Look for incredible creations coming home after camp.

cute all girl camp basket weaving