Just a Heavy Dew

If you’ve been paying attention to the weather in our area, perhaps checking the Rockbrook weather station, you know we’ve had plenty of rain over the last couple of days. The temperatures have hovered right around 70 degrees (a little cooler at night and a little warmer during the day), but it’s been cloudy and rainy lately— almost 2 inches of rain yesterday and almost 3 the day before that. A trough of low pressure is slowly moving out of the area, but at the moment we are all wearing our “dew coats.”  After all, around here rain is really just a “heavy dew.”

Flooding can be a problem in our area as it turns fields lining the French Broad River into expansive lakes, but for Rockbrook only a portion of our horse pasture land is at risk since most of camp is far up the hill from the river. This much rain does swell our creeks and creates much more dramatic waterfalls (like this video of “Stick Biscuit Falls” behind the office shows), but we have an elaborate system of underground culverts and spillways that carry rainwater strategically under, through and around the camp, keeping everything intact despite the rushing runoff.

camp girls paper craftsWith only a few exceptions (swimming, e.g.), our activities at camp have carried on nicely in spite of the rain. With so much covered space— our gym, dining hall, activity cabins, stone lodges, porches, barn and arena —we can easily stay out of the rain and still have fun together. All of the craft activities, for example, didn’t even skip a beat today. The potter’s wheels kept spinning, the looms clicked back and forth, and the brushes applied paint and inks to paper in the drawing classes. Yoga, Drama, and Dance all met in their usual buildings.

Also today, several outdoor trips went out for a (little more wet than usual) adventure. The kayakers got out on the Tuckasegee. A big group of Middlers and Seniors took a backpacking trip to an area near John Rock in the Pisgah Forest. And we still ran girls through our zipline course despite the consistent drizzle and periods of rain. Did we get wet? Sure did. Did it ruin any of the trips? Nope. In fact, zipping through the trees in the rain made the ride feel, if anything, a little edgier and more exciting.

gym sports parachute gameThe gym became a particularly fun place to be. The Alpine Tower climbers moved inside to the climbing wall to give some of its short, but challenging routes a go. Meanwhile, the gymnastics staff worked on cartwheels with the girls on the other end of the gym, and on the main gym floor, a massive, fun game of dodgeball whipped up. At another point, the counselors pulled out the parachute to play a game where campers would run under it when it was lifted in the air.  Another gym game involved pool noodles used as hockey sticks, easily inspiring the girls to race around the gym after a ball.

The girls were particularly happy that their time horseback riding wasn’t cancelled because of the rain. With our new covered riding arena, everyone’s riding lessons could go on as planned. The arena is positioned right next to the new barn, so it’s possible to tack up your horse and walk him directly out of the barn and into the arena without ever getting wet. And no mud too! That’s really nice.

camp horse rider indoor climbing wall girl

All of this is to say, we are having plenty of fun here at camp, “even in the rainy weather,” as the Rockbrook song says. The girls are extraordinarily resilient in the face of being a little wet, a little muddy, and a little cool most of the day. They happily want to carry on with what we’re here to do— to play together as great friends, to create, to feel a part of a caring, kind community, and to learn and grow by enjoying this beautiful place.  Rain or shine, that’s what’s going to happen!

camp buddies gymnastics

Beautiful Results

The cold front that brought yesterday’s drizzle stuck around today keeping the temperatures in the 60s and everyone covered up in fleeces, sweatshirts and rain jackets. The low temperature this morning was 60 degrees and the high this afternoon was 65! Keeping it cool in the mountains! Weather like this may move us inside for the most part, but it also inspired us this morning to build fires in the Lodges’ fireplaces. Now a warm crackling fire was the backdrop to the drama class in the Junior Lodge, and was something even more soothing for the Yoga girls in the Hillside Lodge. It also seemed completely normal to roast marshmallows for s’mores in the Lakeview Lodge. It’s such a cozy feeling— the dry warmth of a wood fire on a chilly day like this.

Camp Wood Turning Demo

We were very excited today to welcome a guest artist to camp, George Peterson. George works with wood crafting both sculptural and functional pieces. He carves, etches and scars the wood using different tools and techniques to make each piece completely unique. He’s displayed his work in galleries across the United States (CA, MI, IL, PA, GA and NC to name a few states), has been featured in magazine articles, and has pieces held in prestigious museum collections (Boston Fine Arts Museum, for example). Here’s a link to one of his most recent gallery exhibitions. George is also the father of two girls who attend Rockbrook, and his wife Margaret is an Alumna of camp.

Camper sanding wooden bowl

George and Margaret spent the whole day with us presenting two wood turning workshops for the senior campers. George began the sessions by demonstrating how he uses a lathe to turn a log into the shape of a bowl. The whir of the electric lathe, the shower of twisty wood shavings, and the emerging bowl was very impressive to witness. Each girl then was given a walnut bowl to finish. George had prepared these in advance, turning them and letting them to dry to the point when they were ready to be sanded. In addition to sanding, each bowl needed some carving on the bottom, and for this the girls used an electric oscillating tool, with George guiding the tool as they carved.

Wood Carving Camp Project
Camp displaying carved bowl
Finished Carved Bowl

Some bowls had developed interesting cracks as they dried, and for those, Margaret and George demonstrated how to use a waxed cord to sew across the cracks, giving the bowl a really cool look. Everyone was able to add another finishing touch by branding their bowls with the letters “RBC.” George brought a metal brand which after being heated in a torch can burn those letters into the wood. The final finishing came when the girls applied a coat of mineral oil to their bowls bringing out the deep brown color of the walnut and adding a subtle shine to the wood. This was a very special experience for everyone, both informative and fun, and in the end, one with beautiful results.

Upper Green Kayaking
Learning to Belay

Do you know how to belay? Well the girls who signed up for climbing were learning today. Belaying is the technique used to protect a climber from falls by using a special “belay device” to adjust the tension and slack in a climbing rope. It requires careful attention to the climber and a very specific pattern of hand motions manipulating the rope. The belay device (We use something called an “ATC”) adds friction to the rope when needed, making a great deal of strength unnecessary, and allowing even a small girl can keep a larger person safe while climbing.

This cool wet weather hasn’t hampered our kayakers. Just the opposite! They took a trip today to the Upper Green River, running a 4 mile section of moderately difficult class II and class III+ rapids. This is fast section with several large rapids that require accurate lines and strong paddling at times. Consequently, it’s rare to see a group of campers handle the Upper Green this well. Our Rockbrook girls crushed it!

It was time for some big excitement after dinner— a dance with the boys of Camp Carolina. Actually, we held two dances, with Rockbrook hosting the youngest boys, and CCB deejaying a dance for our Senior girls and Hi-Ups. We also organized a “Dance Alternative” activity in one of the Lodges for those girls who didn’t feel like dancing. If you take a look at the Photo Gallery, you’ll get a sense of how these dances are primarily a time to be silly, sing to your favorite pop songs, and jump around with your friends. For the younger girls dance, our friend DJ Marcus kept everyone moving with several group dances like the “Cha Cha Slide,” while over at Camp Carolina, the older girls leaped about to “Sandstorm.” Time flies at these events, but after the last song, we had to say our goodbyes and head back to camp. We enjoyed the whole evening. Thanks Camp Carolina!

Camp Dance Girls
Camp Dance Teens

Almost Irrelevant Rain

Well, yesterday I spoke too soon, bragging a bit about our great timing in the midst of this unusually wet weather pattern, for today was a truly rainy day. We had rain overnight, rain this morning during breakfast, during rest hour, and except for an occasional break, all afternoon and into the evening too. I suppose we should have expected it, with the forecast using “100%” to describe the chance of precipitation, and that green/yellow/orange color on the radar maps all the way down through Florida. Still, when it comes to your raincoat, or what around here we call a “dew coat” (rain is just a “heavy dew,” right?), it feels odd to need it all day long.

You might think flooding would be an issue with all this rain, and that would be correct for the French Broad River, which has now crested its banks and has turned many local sod and corn fields into expansive lakes. Rockbrook though, with the exception of a few of our horseback riding fields, is high above the flood zone, set on the hill between Dunn’s Rock and Castle Rock. For us, this kind of heavy rain swells our creeks creating more powerful, rushing waterfalls. Over many years, we’ve learned to channel this water, and send it strategically through pipes and down various gutters and ditches. The camp facilities do quite well, even with this much rain… almost 4 inches today total.  Wow!

Camp girl on gymnastics bar
Girls Climbing Wall
Kid playing dodgeball

Our camp people are quite well too. Beyond the fact that most of our activities can carry on either because they are suited to being indoors, in our gym, on a porch, or one of the stone lodges or activity cabins, or because they can be reshaped to happen inside (climbing our indoor wall instead of the Alpine Tower, for example), there is something about our “outdoor lifestyle” at camp that makes rain almost irrelevant.  Living outside most of the time, we grow used to being a little wet, a tad bit muddy, and cool enough to wear long sleeves at night. We actually enjoy hearing the rain on the roof at night, feeling the warmth on our hands from a fire in the lodge fireplace, and snuggling in our cozy cabins. This weather… Although I’ll admit a little less of it would be nice! … seems like a natural part of our camp experience. While the sky might be crying, at Rockbrook, we aren’t sad we’re getting wet.

Girls laughing at shaving cream fight
Girl camp slip n slide

When you’re a little wet already, one idea is to celebrate it, and get even messier. That’s exactly what about half the camp chose to do this afternoon when we pulled out the slip-n-slide and a dozen cases of shaving cream. With only the occasional slight drizzle overhead, the girls attacked each other with foam spraying. They painted each other with the stuff, drawing designs on backs, “six packs” on stomachs, and twisting extreme hairstyles. Being covered with slippery shaving cream also makes for quite a ride down a wet sheet of plastic. This is the kind of mischievous fun, in this case that’s surprisingly sanctioned, that’s also completely hilarious. The girls, and quite a few counselors too, laughed and laughed as they got messier and messier, pausing once in a while to slide down the hill on their stomachs or knees.

Girls squirting each other

Tonight was the last night for our first July mini session girls, and also the night of their closing “Spirit Fire” campfire. The rain made holding the program inside the Hillside lodge a good idea. So with a huge fire roaring in the fireplace, all the mini session girls and their counselors spread out on the floor in Crazy Creek chairs to sing traditional camp songs and hear tributes to all the successes of the session.

Spirit Fire Campfire girls

Several girls from each line (Juniors, Middlers and Seniors) stood and spoke about their experience at Rockbrook, what they learned, the friends they’ve gained, and why they love camp so much. In the same way, both new and returning staff members made remarks. Sarah always speaks at the end of our Spirit Fires, and tonight she reminded us about how “the ‘Spirit of Rockbrook’ inspires kindness and generosity,” and how she hoped everyone would carry that spirit home with them. The small candles everyone lights at the end of the program likewise represent the “Spirit of Rockbrook.” With their candles lit, the girls formed a circle on the hill to sing one last song. It was a gorgeous sight… misty mountains looming in the background, dim blue hazy sky overhead, and the warm yellow glow from more than one hundred candles… All these girls and young women bonding in this special way, in this special place.

My Dewcoat Is Up In My Cabin

All Smiles on a Rainy DayOur first full day with the mini-session campers turned out to be a wet one–the rain showers that rolled in Sunday night lingered over our wooded mountain for most of yesterday morning.

In true Rockbrook fashion, though, we weren’t held back by the rain, or “dew” as we like to call it here at camp. Since Rockbrook girls like to greet every scenario with a song, we started off the morning with a rousing rendition of “My Dewcoat Is Up In My Cabin,” at breakfast, in which the campers sing for someone to please “Bring DOWN, bring DOWN, oh bring down my dewcoat to me, to me!” Activities started up as usual soon after, just with a few improvisations thrown in to make this rainy day as fun as any other.

Balloon VolleyballTennis classes switched out rackets for paddles, and put together makeshift pingpong tables in the dining hall. Pairs of girls faced off over napkin-holder-nets in an epic pingpong tournament that had the whole dining hall cheering.

Not to be outdone, Archery, Swimming, and Riflery joined up with Sports and Games in the gym, for a pick-up game of balloon-volleyball. To make things more interesting, the counselors in charge hung a tarp over the net, so the campers couldn’t see until the last moment where the balloons would emerge. Just when the girls were getting the hang of things, the counselors threw in another curveball by adding even more balloons, resulting in an action-packed hour of shouting girls, flying balloons, and big smiles.

Our craft activities continued as scheduled, sometimes with additional campers joining in from their outdoor activities. Girls who had thought they’d be spending their mornings hiking to a nearby waterfall, instead tried their hands at improv games in Drama, weaving in Curosty, and pillow-making in Hodge Podge. I even heard one girl, after trying out Drama for the first time due to the rain, promise the Drama teacher that she would be sure to sign up for Drama for the next activity rotation.

Basket-Weaving in the CreekAfter a morning of crafts, group games, and ice breakers indoors, campers and counselors emerged from their cabins after rest hour to a pristine–if slightly damp–camp, sparkling in the sunlight. The rest of the day went perfectly as scheduled: kayaks ventured out onto the lake once more, arrows thudded into bullseyes at the archery range, Curosty classes took their basket-weaving out to the creekside to enjoy the scenery–all while campers of all ages zoomed overhead on the zip-line.

It is true that these exciting adventures (big and small), which campers encounter every day at camp, are what make Rockbrook an exciting place to be; but still, it is the way that our campers spent their rainy morning that makes Rockbrook special.

Elsewhere, you might pass a stormy morning sitting around the house, staring glumly out the window, waiting for the sun to release you from boredom. Here at camp, we treat that pesky rain to a song, then spend its duration trying new things, meeting new friends, and creating silly games that might never even have been thought of if the rain hadn’t offered us the time.

We can handle the rain— it’s boredom that has no place here at Rockbrook.

Resilient Camp Girls

At 8:00 this morning, as is usual, the girls were awoken to the clear tones of the iron bell ringing throughout the camp, but also today to the tapping of rain on every roof. It was one of those rare mornings when raincoats came out for breakfast, when the temperature is cooler, and droplets of mud seem to spring up on most things at camp. On a day like this, some girls resist the weather and gear up completely with waterproof hats, jackets, boots and umbrellas, while others just embrace it, stomping around in flip flops, wet hair and soggy clothes.
Rainy day at summer camp girl with raincoatEither way, there’s something important going on; the girls are showing their resilience, their ability to carry on despite the rain. Even with the minor discomfort and reshuffling of plans a rainy day presents, the girls coped just fine, confidently and without a parent determining every step. Life often includes moments like this when unexpected misfortune rears its head, so learning to be resilient, to land on your feet ultimately, is a crucial skill, and it’s something that camp is perfectly suited to teach. Here’s an article discussing how Rockbrook teaches resilience, what our program, staff and overall philosophy provide to help our girls handle setbacks later in their lives. (Please take a moment to read it.) We’ve said it many times before, and this is an example; woven into all the excitement and fun of camp are really significant lifelong benefits for kids.

Summer Whitewater Rafting on the Nantahala RiverToday’s rafting trips are another example of your girls’ resilience. After a great night camping at our outpost located further upstream on the Nantahala River, complete with s’more making and wildlife encounters (a beautiful Eastern Box Turtle, a couple of girls discovered by flashlight), we woke to a light rain. By the time we reached the put-in to begin rafting, we had a steady, let’s-get-wet, kind of rain. Without hesitation or any sign of dampened spirits, the girls were soon suited up in blue spray jackets (for a little added warmth), PFDs, helmets and paddles, and ready to go. It’s hard to hold back an excited group of girls, and this was no exception. Even before the first rapid, boats were singing, cheering, bouncing around in the rafts, and doing “high fives” with their paddles. Rain or no rain, perfect conditions or not, these girls were having big fun.

Rock climbing girl on wall in gymTeen Archery GirlAt camp, lunch was an elaborate taco fiesta, complete with Eulogia’s homemade guacamole to top ground beef, black beans, diced tomatoes, Mexican rice, cheese and salsa. Each table/cabin had a plate of crunchy and soft taco shells, and an unlimited supply in the kitchen for seconds. There was a little action over at the peanut butter and jelly station, but not much. Oh, and the muffins today were another of Katie’s creative combination recipes: Krispy Kreme, Applejack Muffins. Yep, they had chopped doughnuts in the batter and Applejack cereal blended in “for color and a little crunch,” as she put it. And for dessert tonight, Katie surprised everyone with homemade cinnamon rolls that she baked with just the right amount of sugar rolled up in a thin dough, sliced, and lightly glazed. We had no trouble gobbling those right up!

After dinner, a group of counselors presented a new, action-packed Twilight activity called “Gold Rush.” Working in cabin groups, the girls learned that hidden around the camp were “golden nuggets” (wiffle balls painted gold, actually) and that they were to find as many as they could, with the cabin gathering the most winning a special treat (spending rest hour by the lake, for example). They also stationed “Bandits” around the camp who could steal a cabin’s gold if the girls couldn’t sing a certain RBC song or answer a trivia question correctly. This was a high-energy event with the campers looking high and low all over the camp. In the end, we awarded several prizes to each age group. It was an evening spent enjoying the wooded setting of camp, the cool, fresh mountain air, and the company of friends playing a silly game… Exactly the kind of evening we love around here.

Teen girls happy and laughing at summer camp