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

Summertime Delight

Horse Arena RiderHorseback Riding CamperThe new covered horseback riding arena and stables at Rockbrook are creating quite a buzz, so let me mention that first. After more than a year of planning and design work, we began building the facility last August and working throughout the winter and spring to finish in time for camp this summer. The arena is 180 feet long and 90 feet wide with a 26-foot vaulted ceiling, a 5-foot rail all the way around, and a high-bay LED lighting system. Most importantly, the arena footing is a special blend of white silica sand (trucked in from SC), nylon and polyester fibers that give just the right amount of grip and stability, but also cushion and rebound. Designed by an arena footing expert, this surface is amazing. On a regular basis we use a sprinkler system to keep the sand a little moist, which makes it virtually dust free, and also use a complex drag to level and groom the surface. We’ve been told that this arena, both because of its size and quality footing, is the best covered arena in western North Carolina, but that’s not why we built it.  We simply know how much nicer it’s making our campers’ riding experience— cooler in the shade, fewer annoying bugs, and of course an all-weather space that nicely handles the ordinarily wet climate of this county. With its gleaming white sand footing, and treated wood framing, it’s a beautiful building and a delightful place to ride.

Along with the arena, we built a new adjoining 10-stall teaching barn. We made the stalls huge (12×12 feet) to accommodate our larger horses, added sliding stall doors, rubber mat stall floors, and rear dutch doors that open to the outside. There’s a heated feed room and separate tack room, an extra-wide 14-foot aisle, and a giant 3,000 square-foot hay loft. With this barn, it’s now possible to tack up your horse and walk down the aisle right into the arena, all under roof.

Nearby outside, we also constructed a new 90-foot round ring to complement the existing 100×300 jump course ring in the lower pasture. If we divide these large riding areas, we can hold five mounted lessons at the same time, which really helps when we have almost 80 girls at camp who are currently riding. We’ve been taking full advantage of these great facilities keeping all our young riders as busy as possible.

Sliding Rock GirlsSliding Rock Cheer

Since today was cabin day, the day when we change up the afternoon schedule to allow cabin groups to enjoy an activity together, we gathered all of the Middler campers for a grand trip into the forest. A trifecta trip of sorts, we charged up the group with a fun picnic dinner, visit to Sliding Rock, and a final stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Middlers have such a great time on this trip, eager to play games in the grass after their meal, excited to plunge into the chilly pool below Sliding Rock, and thrilled to select a unique “camp flavor” of ice cream at the last stop. We had a total of 115 people on this trip when you include all of the campers and staff members, creating quite a mob. At Sliding Rock, we completely filled the place! Going in the evening (after regular hours) allows us to do that, have our own lifeguards and give the whole event a Rockbrook feel. The photo gallery will show you what I mean, but girls really enjoyed the excitement, the adventure of it all, the classic mountain summertime delight that we’ve loved for years at Rockbrook.

Back at camp, mostly dry in a warm sweatshirt or fleece, the girls had no trouble making a quick path to bed. Today we have played, laughed, and played some more… just how summer should be.

Dollys Ice Cream

Symphony of Fun

Happy new CampersWelcome new mini session campers! We’re very excited to have you join us at Rockbrook. For all of us on the staff and for the First Session campers already twirling through their session, this was a big day where new girls would be joining the camp community. More girls naturally means more fun, more voices singing in the dining hall, and lots more action throughout the camp. After a nice smooth arrival process— cars parking and unloading, luggage being carted to cabins, checking in with the office folks, nurses, and head screeners —cabin groups of new girls where exploring the cabin together. Serving as both a tour of camp and an introduction to the various activity offerings, these groups followed a scavenger hunt where they collected bracelets hidden at different areas of the camp: at the tennis courts, gym, health hut, and upper pottery studio, for example. It’s good to start with a little orientation, and this is a fun, active way to learn your way around camp.

We’ve been getting wonderful feedback about the new covered arena and stable we added to Rockbrook this past year. We wrote about the construction of the arena earlier, but today we had several parents take a tour of the facility and remark how much they were impressed. “It’s gorgeous!” was the most common comment. One mom said she thought this was the nicest covered horse arena in western North Carolina. I’m not sure about that, but its size and its quality footing (fiber additives blended with silica sand) do make it stand apart. Later we’ll post more information about this great addition to the horseback riding program at Rockbrook, but it was nice to hear a few “horse people” say they were impressed with our design and finished project.

We took some time after lunch for the newly arrived campers to demonstrate their swimming ability to our lifeguards, and when successful to earn a colored swim necklace. For some girls, the mountain stream water feeding our lake can be shockingly cold and thereby make it more difficult to swim and tread water as our “swim demos” require. So a girl who swims well in a warm pool may appear less confident in the Rockbrook lake, but we’ve found that with some practice and assistance from the waterfront staff, she can get used to the water and improve. On a warm summer day, the lake feels great, altogether refreshing. And when the water slide is open during free swim periods, and the lake is filled with girls diving, floating, playing games and swimming laps, the lake is absolutely delightful.

Flying Jedi Girl Light Saber Duel Kids Star Wars Costumes

One of the best ways to kick off a new camp session is to launch right into an all-camp event, something that brings everyone together for music, dancing and costumes with surprising creative activities, challenges, and games with prizes. Just add a theme, and this combination becomes a carnival, a multi-station, free-flowing symphony of fun. That’s exactly what we did by throwing a Star Wars themed carnival or “Jedi Knight Training Academy.” The Senior campers and counselors built and operated 10 different stations like the “Matching on Mars” game, “Death Start Destruction” shooting game (using Nerf pistols), “Pin the Saber on Yoda” game, and “Shoot the Sith” game, for example. There were two huge inflatable games: something called “Leaps and Bounds” that seemed really difficult, and a bungee cord race. We had our snow cone machine grinding out pounds of ice for everyone, and a couple of sprinklers set up to keep things cooler in the bright sun. For costumes, the were many Jedi Knights, a team of Darth Vader characters, and probably a dozen girls dressed as Princess Leia. One counselor dressed as Yoda and another as Darth Maul, but my favorite was the baby Wookie being carried around. As the campers arrived at the landsports field, they could make their own lightsaber from a foam pool noodle and different types of tape. They could have their fortune told, their face painted (“The Face is with You”), or challenge a Jedi master to a lightsaber duel. There were plenty of things to do for everyone, easily filling two hours with activity. A perfect camp Sunday afternoon!

Star Wars Girls

New Horseback Riding Arena!

Camp Horse Arena RenderingLast summer we announced Rockbrook’s plan to improve its horseback riding facilities by building a covered riding arena and new modern barn. It was a quiet announcement really, but it included this architect’s rendering showing the open-air design we had in mind. Well, it’s time to announce it more publicly and officially! We’re thrilled to share the news that the construction is well underway and we’ll have the arena finished and ready for action this summer!

We began the construction in late August by using a bulldozer, a large excavator, and multiple dump trucks to prepare a large flat area of the upper pasture. This was a major job since we needed almost 42,000 square feet (almost an acre!) of flat land to fit the two new buildings, and redesigned outdoor ring. A civil engineering firm from Asheville helped us establish the correct grade, plan for storm water drainage, and survey a new road through the property. Since that time, Richie Case, Rockbrook’s full time Site Manager, has served as the project’s Contractor and led a team of workers through every step of the construction. We’ve received 90-foot steel roof trusses from Missouri, 30-foot long pressure treated timbers from Washington state, and bundle after bundle of lumber arriving on probably a dozen different trucks. More than 30 trucks have delivered concrete for the footers, post forms and sections of the barn floor. One highlight was the 100-foot tall crane that, over four days, lifted each steel roof truss into place on the riding arena.

camp horse barn construction Crane lifting steel trusses for horse arena

The Rockbrook Camp Riding Arena

OK, so what’s it going to be!!?? The arena is huge! It’s 180 feet long and 90 feet wide, has a vaulted ceiling going up 26 feet, a 5-foot rail all the way around, a full lighting system, and a footing of sand, mixed with special additives ideal for the horses and hunter-jumper riding. On one end there’s an additional covered area for a mounting ramp, equipment storage, and observation. Certainly among horse camps, it’s the largest in western North Carolina, but more importantly, it will allow Rockbrook girls to ride all summer long no matter what the weather… rain or shine! In the shade and with fewer bugs to bother you while riding, it will be a wonderful place to ride.

The new adjoining 96×50 barn is wonderful too. It has 10 large 12×12-foot stalls, a heated feed room, separate tack room, a spacious 14-foot wide aisle, and a full 3,000 square-foot hay loft. Each stall has rubber mat floors, sliding stall doors, and rear dutch doors that open to the outside. Under a wrap-around shed porch, there are two wash stalls, equipment storage and more areas to observe what’s happening in the riding arena. It will be so nice to tack up, walk your horse down the barn’s aisle right into the arena, and ride— all under a roof.

Camp Riding Arena and Barn

Stay tuned for more updates. As you can see from this recent photo, we’re not quite finished, but we couldn’t keep it a secret any longer.  If you ride at camp, you’re gonna love it!

Finally, here’s a fun little video shot from a drone. It shows both new buildings and gives you a sense of how they relate to the other riding areas at camp.

Have any questions about the new arena? Let us know in the comments or get in touch.