River Adventures

Here it is, only the second full day of the session, and we’ve already got almost half of the camp out whitewater rafting on the Nantahala river. This many girls excited to go, to jump right into an outdoor adventure, was no surprise because these second session Rockbrook girls are full of energy, and these trips are so awesome. The word is out, if you come to Rockbrook (and you’re old enough… Unfortunately, the US Forest Service permit we hold limits our rafting to girls who are 5th grade and older), you’ll get to go whitewater rafting.

We actually started this extravaganza day of rafting the night before with 3 buses of girls packing sleeping bags and extra clothes to go spend the night at Rockbrook’s outpost camp over near the river in Swain County. The outpost is a unique piece of property Rockbrook acquired and improved back in 1988. It adjoins the Nantahala National Forest, is more than 1000 feet higher in elevation than Rockbrook’s main camp property, and is only about a mile from the Appalachian Trail. To say it’s “in the middle of nowhere” is pretty accurate, or at least it definitely feels like it when we arrive with the girls. The outpost is a great place to spend the night with a large group too, with 3 large camping shelters (each screened in, with a tin roof, and deck jutting out into the woods), a simple bathroom, but also a dining hall where we can serve meals. With the group settled into the shelters, we first devoured our dinner of pasta, salad and fruit, and afterwards, gathered around the campfire pit for the evening. It was just getting dark as Chase finished the fire and sent the girls scurrying about looking for a marshmallow roasting stick (avoiding the slightly toxic branches from rhododendron and mountain laurel bushes). This was very exciting because she also had a basket of graham crackers and chocolate bars, which meant we were going to make s’mores. Soon there were some marshmallows burnt to a crisp, and others patiently roasted to a golden brown, allowing everyone to have fun making this classic camping treat.

Whitewater Team
Rafting Girl Campers
Summer Camp Rafting

The next morning about 9am, we met our team of raft guides at the river’s edge to gear up for our whitewater adventure, the first of two for the day. A helmet, PFD and paddle for each girl, and 5-7 girls per raft, we outfitted 7 boats for this trip. The Nantahala, which is a Cherokee word meaning “River of the noonday sun,” is a river formed by both a natural flow and extra water released through Duke Energy’s hydroelectric plant. Throughout the day, water from the bottom of the Nantahala Lake is released back into the river making it great for rafting, albeit quite cold too (about 53 degrees). This morning we had bright sunshine though, so all the splashing and even the occasional (intentional or unintended) swim felt good.

Nantahala Rafting Falls
Raft drops over nantahala river rapid

If you look at the terrified faces of the girls in these rafting photos, it might be difficult to understand why our campers love it so much. I think the answer begins with the fact that rafting is first of all a fun, social activity. In the boats there’s time to chat, sing, laugh, and goof around together, like when making up a cheer or slapping a “high five” with everyone’s paddles. Also though, rafting is a special thrill because it’s such a pure adventure.  It’s a got an element of danger (managed by established safety procedures and equipment of course), a risk that something might go wrong, like falling out of the boat, that we successfully conquer in the end. The struggle of the experience, in this case the cold water, the rocks and waves of the river, the challenge of it all, makes succeeding feel really good. The girls can sense that through their efforts, they’ve accomplished something. In this way, though they wouldn’t put it like this, whitewater rafting is a boost to their self confidence, masquerading in a wet and wild ride down the river.

dressed up camper and counselor
American Campers dressed up
Captain America Costume

With the afternoon rafting trip, which was comprised of another three vans, back at camp in time for dinner, we learned that tonight’s meal was to be “All American,” with American food, decorations, songs, and all manner of red, white and blue costumes. The decorations were a hoot. Several counselors painted banners with slogans like “America the Beautiful,” USA, and “Freedom,” but also “Walmart,” McDonalds,” and “Coke.” Flags, streamers and balloons hung from the rafters, and all kinds of American-themed songs played over the speakers: “Party in the USA,” “Proud to be an American,” “American Girl,” and the “Star Spangled Banner.” To eat, Rick had Hamburgers and all the fixings, French Fries, and Watermelon. For costumes, you can see we had a visit from Captain America, and some pretty cool red, white and blue hats, sunglasses and shirts. The whole event was pumping with energy as the girls sang their favorite songs and started cheers, laughing and chatting between bites.

A quick word about sending mail to camp… Keep it coming! The old fashioned snail mail is the most exciting thing to receive in a camper’s mailbox, but our postal service here struggles to keep up with the huge amount of mail arriving in this area (14 summer camps in the county alone!). So I would suggest writing regular lettings and sending occasional emails as well. This will make sure your daughter has something in her box most days while she’s here.

We are off to a fantastic session!

Zeal for Dressing Up

Bracelet Making Girls

This morning we woke to a gentle, though steady, rain. It’s really been the first time during this spell of wet weather that it’s rained consistently for more than 45 minutes or so. Most of the “real rains” have been at night, but the radar this morning showed this cell would be with us a few hours, yielding not a stormy kind of rain, but continuous little drops, almost like a beaded curtain of water. It was a morning of rain coats, ponchos and rubber boots… And mostly indoor activities. All the crafts activities, all seven of them, have their own studio, whether it’s inside one of the historic log cabins or on a covered porch, so they were unaffected. The gym became livelier with the archery and riflery girls joining the action, and the dining hall accommodated tennis players for a board game. For horseback riding, the campers had a horse grooming party, staying dry inside the barn.

girls yoga partner pose
camp kids doing partner yoga pose

The yoga classes that meet in the Hillside Lodge continue to be well attended. MK, our yoga instructor, seems to have an endless supply of poses and relaxation exercises for the girls. Today she had several partner poses to present. One was a simple back-to-back twist pose, and another was called the “Child and Fish” pose. With relaxing music playing, MK tries to create a calm atmosphere, even if the girls tend to giggle at each other trying each new pose. It’s a lighthearted activity that celebrates process and initiative rather than some notion of perfection. Being together, feeling good, and having fun are the goals; doing yoga, in this case, is the means.

Girl River kayaking

A group of Senior girls headed out to the Tuckasegee River today for a whitewater kayaking trip. Being a dam-controlled river, the recent rains haven’t affected to it as severely, making it still safe to run. The water was a little muddier than usual (though the “Tuck” is always a little muddy), but all the named rapids were perfect and there were still plenty of eddies to catch and play in. In fact, the water level made the river slightly easier to paddle because several ordinarily shallow sections were now more forgiving. One highlight of the trip was a brief stop to jump off the rock right blow the Moonshot rapid… A little swimming to get even more wet!

At lunch, as the rain subsided and yes the sun broke through the clouds for an afternoon back outside, Frampton announced the afternoon was to be “Disney Day” and that everyone should break out their Disney-related costumes, especially for dinner because it was Disney Restaurant Night. This is a special dinner where the counselors transform the dining hall into a themed restaurant, in this case into anything Disney, using posters, table ornaments and other decorations.

Kids camp wearing disney clothes
Kids dressed in disney costumes
Camp counselor dressed as mini mouse

The costumes were amazing! And the enthusiasm for dressing up really showed as I’d say 95% of the campers and staff members were made up in some way or another. Just a little face paint, a goofy hairstyle, or handmade sign taped to your shirt was plenty good, even as some girls shown in complete Disney Character costumes. Lilo and Stitch, Chip and Dale, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, super heroes (from the Incredibles), monsters (from Monsters, Inc.) Winnie the Pooh, Fish (from the Little Mermaid), and more princesses than I can count came to life at Rockbrook singing their lungs out during dinner and posing on the hill afterwards for a few photos. Ever seen a frog play tetherball with a mouse? It happened last night!

It’s so wonderful to see these girls, young girls and teenagers alike, have such zeal for dressing up like this- bent over with laughter and asking for their picture to be taken so they can scrunch up their faces into an even sillier look. It shows that they are proud and self-confident, they feel safe and cared for, and they are surrounded by friends, completely free of other social pressures (no boys!). What a wonderful community for them.

Camp girls dress up in Disney clothes

Wonder, Creativity and Adventure

Whitewater Rafting Fun for Kids

Camp was full of wonder, creativity and adventure today, with so much going on. A big group of seniors and middlers headed over to the Nantahala River for a whitewater rafting trip. We packed up our gear, a great picnic lunch, and pulled the buses out of camp after breakfast. It was about a 2 hour drive, but with a quick bathroom/stretch/snack break, we arrived at the edge of the river in time for lunch. We really lathered on the sunscreen because it was a bright sunny day— perfectly warm to balance the cold river water. Clyde, the Rockbrook Adventure Director, and his crew met us at the top of the river with the RBC rafts blown up and ready to go. Every girl is outfitted with a life jacket (PFD), helmet and paddle before dividing up into groups of 5 for each raft. Then it’s 9 miles of rapids going down the river with the finale being the class III Nantahala Falls. True adventure!

Child glazing camp pottery mug
child horseback riding
girl climbing summer camp

Meanwhile in camp, the girls taking pottery were hard at work on their face mugs.  These are fun creative projects that start with slabs of clay they shape into a cylinder.  Then after attaching a handle, each mug gains character with an individualized face… eyes, nose, mouth, even teeth and eyebrows sometimes.  The final step for the girls is to paint on several colors of glaze before the pottery instructors fire the pieces in the kilns.

Down at the equestrian center, Cara and Audry along with the other horseback riding instructors are keeping the campers happy with the Rockbrook horses.  If you haven’t seen them in the photo gallery, they are a great looking bunch, from our smallest Welsh Ponies up to our 17.1 hand thoroughbred gelding Gordon.  There are lessons going on all day down there, from first time riders to girls learning to jump.  It’s always amazing to see the look of wonder on the girls faces as they learn to ride comfortably these great horses.

On the other side of camp, the alpine tower was crawling with campers, quite literally!  Every age group, from the youngest Juniors to the oldest Seniors, can sign up to climb this 50ft high ropes course tower.  It provides all levels of climbing challenges, and the staff members are great at starting girls out with the best route to match their ability.  There are easier ways to get to the top, and really tough obstacles for the more experienced climber.

Dressed up little girls at camp

Dinner tonight was a big surprise for the campers; it was “Restaurant Night,” but also with a dress up theme, the game of “Clue.” All the girls dressed up as players of the game in some “mysterious costume” they created, and the counselors dressed up as characters from “Clue” like Mrs. White, Professor Plum, and Ms. Peacock. The staff served the campers a wonderful meal of roasted chicken, pasta, salad and fresh fruit, but afterwords the game began. Each cabin was given an initial clue that when solved sent them to another part of the camp to meet one of the game’s characters and to receive a new clue. Each station/character also required the whole cabin group to perform some kind of challenge before receiving their next clue, challenges like singing a particular song, untying a human knot, or everyone telling a joke. Ultimately, once a cabin solved all the clues/riddles they were led back to the dining hall for prizes and treats. Wow, what a game! Everyone loved the action, the costumes, the imagination and cabin group cooperation it required, not to mention how much fun it was.