It Leads to a Moment

girl on adventure bridgeWhenever 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 girlBoth 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 lakeThe 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

Giddy with Wet Hair

Kayak Camp Roll ClinicWhen you squish yourself into a colorful plastic kayak and seal yourself inside the boat by snapping a rubber, elastic skirt over the cockpit opening, like 16 or so Rockbrook girls did this morning, the boat feels like it’s part of you, making it fun to maneuver through the water. Using a double-bladed paddle, the girls can turn their boats quickly. In moving water though, when currents and obstacles can surprise you, these boats can suddenly tip over. At that point, a kayaker can slip out of her boat by tucking forward and pulling a loop on her spray skirt, performing a so called “wet exit.” There is a more advanced self rescue technique, however, called an “eskimo roll” where the kayaker stays in the boat. Rolling a kayak takes some practice to learn, so today Jamie, Leland and Andria, our kayaking instructors taught a “roll clinic” to girls at the lake. They demonstrated the coordinated series of actions a roll requires— tuck, set, sweep, snap, and lean —head, hips, shoulders and paddle all working together. Then, working one-on-one, they helped each camper learn the technique. Later, several Seniors proudly let me know that they “got their roll” and they were excited to get out on the river tomorrow.

Forest Marker ShoesAlso this morning, Jayne and Hunter led a group of girls on a hike to one of the highest points east of the Mississippi River, Black Balsam Knob (6214 ft) and Tennent Mountain (6040 ft). With a lunch packed, they left Rockbrook (2300 ft) and drove up and up, through misty clouds, to the Blue Ridge Parkway where the Art Loeb trail crosses near the road. This is way up there, high above most of the trees in the area, and even above the clouds filling the valleys below. This photo shows a US Geological Survey Bench Mark, indicating a point where the elevation has been measured and recorded (as well as the variety of footwear that can tackle this kind of high altitude hiking!). This was a great trip, exposing the girls to a uniquely stark, natural environment. The feeling being up there is amazing and everyone loved the impressive view.

For our afternoon cabin day (when individual activities are paused, so each cabin group can do something special together), we gathered all the Middlers and the Mini Session Seniors for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest, and a stop at Sliding Rock. Ready in swim suits, we drove to our favorite picnic area and had hotdogs, homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit. We ate quickly— we’re always building appetites here at camp! —and then ran around a bit playing tag games before loading all the buses again for the short trip to “the Rock.”

Sliding Rock Girls Camp Sliding Rock Summer Camp

Sliding Rock is formed by Looking Glass Creek as it cascades over a 60-foot dome of rock ending in a deep pool at the bottom. It’s our habit to visit Sliding Rock after the area is officially closed to the public, but because we have a Forest Service permit that requires us to be self-sufficient with respect to first aid and lifeguards, we are permitted to slide after hours. This is great because, like tonight, we often have the place to ourselves and our mob of girls (82 of them this time) can enjoy more slide time. Visiting Sliding Rock is also our habit because the girls absolutely love it. It’s the roar of the “freezing” water as it spills down the rock. It’s the piercing screams of the girls as they take turns slipping, spinning and sliding down. It’s watching your friends splash and swim at the bottom. It’s all just super fun.

To top off the outing, we made one more stop— Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Everyone screamed (again!) with excitement when we pulled into the parking lot. With “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” and other “Camp Flavors” on the menu, as well as more traditional flavors to chose from, it was simple for everyone to order a sweet treat they liked. Once again, when the Rockbrook girls arrived and everyone had their cup or cone, Dolly’s became quite a party. With this many girls, it doesn’t take long for them to start singing songs, laughing, and posing for silly photos. Back in the buses, still giddy with wet hair and probably a smudge of ice cream on a face or two, we were soon back at camp, happy to warm up and turn in for the evening.

Girls Summer Camp

Lifelong Inspiration

Camp Weaving KidThe many looms of the Curosty cabin are starting to really warm up as the girls spend more time weaving. Both the table-top and large floor looms all have completed work on them now. Our master weaver Melanie, who serves as the Fiber Arts Program supervisor at Warren Wilson College during the school year, has been teaching the girls several different geometric patterns that are created by lifting groups of warp fibers as the weft is passed between them. This geometry, added to carefully selected colors for the yarns and thread used, magically creates beautiful cloth. Of course, part of the fun is watching the pattern emerge with each added row. Weaving is an example of a specialty activity that’s not ordinarily taught to kids nowadays, but despite being “traditional,” is still very cool because it’s truly creative, deeply satisfying, and for some, a craft that can become a lifelong hobby. In our 19th-century log cabin in the woods, your Rockbrook girls are experiencing firsthand something that may inspire them for years to come.

Kayaker Kid CampWhitewater kayaking is really catching on around here as well, with more and more girls choosing to paddle during one of their activity periods. Jamie, Leland and Andria are happily teaching more and more girls about how fun it can be. After an orientation to the equipment and how to use it (properly fitting a PFD, paddle, and spray skirt, for example), the girls first learn how to slip out of their kayaks if they flip over upside-down. It’s a simple technique called a “wet exit” that involves tucking forward, pulling a loop on the spray skirt, and pushing out of the boat. Most girls pick it up right away, and move on to learning how to maneuver the boat in the water. This morning Leland and Jamie taught girls the next, and more advanced skill in kayaking, the “eskimo roll,” which is a technique that uses the kayaking paddle to roll up-right when a kayaker tips over. This takes practice to learn, but with this kind of enthusiasm from the girls, we’ll soon have some popping right up. Like weaving, kayaking can be a source of lifelong inspiration for these girls.

Color Tag Game GirlsThis afternoon was “Cabin Day,” a time when we pause our regular activities to give the campers a chance to do something with their cabin as a group. This could mean making a special treat in the dining hall like homemade ice cream, going for a hike to one of the waterfalls on the camp property, having flip flop races in the creek by Curosty, having a squirt gun battle, or playing another group game of some sort. Today, for example, one of the Middler cabins played a wild game of “Color Tag.” This game is messy. It’s a complicated contest involving colorful (and washable!) paint, little sacks of flour, and enough open grassy space to charge around trying to splash paint on the other players. As you can see, the flour is also thrown, eventually, proudly marking everyone.  While not necessarily something we’d recommend trying at home, this is good camp fun.

Meanwhile, all of the seniors in camp, plus their counselors, took a trip into the Pisgah National Forest for a supper picnic and visit to the famous Sliding Rock. Grilled hotdogs and all the trimmings… plus Watermelon! …made an excellent meal high up at one of our favorite grassy spots in the forest. We played a group game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” —which is a bit like musical chairs, only played with shoes— before loading up the six buses and making it to the rock.

Sliding Rock Camp Kids Dolly's Camp Kids

Sliding Rock is a natural water slide formed by Looking Glass creek as it rolls about 60 feet over a smooth rock and then plunges into a deep pool at the bottom. It’s been an attraction for years, and a perpetual favorite of Rockbrook girls. There’s really nothing quite like it. The crashing roar of the cold water, combined with the piercing screams of the girls sliding down, makes it intensely fun. The girls plunge into the water at the bottom, and pop up wide-eyed and intent on swimming as fast as possible toward the waiting lifeguards. The thrill for some campers becomes addictive, and soon we had a few girls heading back up to slide again and again.

Perhaps the highlight of the night for everyone, though, was our last stop: Dolly’s Dairy Bar. With dozens of (54 to be exact!) unique flavors to choose from, including “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” it didn’t take long for everyone to be holding sweet cups and cones of what some campers call “the best ice cream in the world.” Ice cream after the chill of Sliding Rock? Sure! It’s just that good. And that fun— to be out at night, happily away from the ordinary, and surrounded by your friends. It’s easy to see why it’s great.

 

Constantly Crafty

Camp girl smiling in yellow kayak with yellow helmet and pfdToday at the lake several senior girls spent time working on their kayaking roll. They practiced the technique used to roll a kayak back upright after flipping upside down. As I’m sure you can imagine, these narrow whitewater kayaks, while being designed to cut through the water easily, are also prone to tipping. When a kayaker hits a river rapid and surfs over or through a wave, there’s a fine line between balancing just right and leaning so far that, in an instant, you’re upside down. At that point, there are two options: you can abandon ship and swim free of the boat by popping the grab loop on your spray skirt (doing what’s called a “wet exit”), or you can twist and snap your hips, and use your paddle to push against the water to roll back upright. Learning to roll is a tricky set of coordinated moves that requires a fair bit of practice to perfect. And practicing takes dedication and determination because it involves spending lots of time upside down in the lake. Some of these girls want to “get their roll” so badly, they will sign up for extra time practicing during their free periods (just before lunch, for example). Reports from the paddling staff are that a couple of girls have gotten it! Next week we’ll offer another kayaking trip to the Nantahala giving the girls a chance to try their new rolling skills in moving water.

If you’ve been following the photos posted each day in our photo gallery, you probably have a sense of how constantly crafty we are at Rockbrook. There are arts and crafts everywhere, and the girls are creating some really cool stuff. In the Hobby Nook cabin, for example, the campers in “Folklore” are finishing pillow dolls, each unique with different scraps of fabric sewn together, stuffed with polyester fluff, and decorated with buttons and yarn. Both ceramics studios have been phenomenally productive as well. The girls there are making bird houses, throwing mugs on the wheel, and sculpting whistles (yes, that actually work!) shaped like turtles and other animals (I think I saw a dragon too). The Hodge Podge girls have been unveiling spectacular tie-dye t-shirts, each with complex designs— hearts, spirals, stripes, and even smiley faces —and psychedelic color patterns. Over in “KIT” (“Keep in Touch”), the campers have been busy making cards, beautiful folded greeting cards from fancy ornate papers, fun stickers and stamps. And the weavers in Curosty continue to amaze. Their work is simply gorgeous.  When you see the armload of crafts your daughter has created, the products of her creativity and imagination, you will definitely be impressed.

Camp girl's cute sewing project Clay snail made at camp Girls holding cards made at camp

Tonight’s evening program was another surprise special event, a square dance with the boys of Camp High Rocks. After dinner, with hair and teeth thoroughly brushed, we loaded all of our seniors into 4 vans and 3 buses for the short trip up the mountain to High Rocks, while simultaneously, they transported their younger boys down to Rockbrook to hold a dance in our gym. Having two dances allows us to handle all these children! Stepping out of the van at High Rocks, one girl may have been feeling a little nervous because she turned to me and said, “I forgot what it feels like to be around boys.” It didn’t take long, though, for everyone to be smiling and having fun. With these nice girls, and the boys equally so, the whole event was lighthearted, even a little goofy as they giggled after “messing up” and grabbing the wrong arm or spinning in the wrong direction.

We took a short break after about an hour for brownies and lemonade… a chance to mingle a bit and recharge for a few more dances. On the drive home, one senior in my van said she had a great time, even enjoying the dance more than the “regular” dances we have with other camps. Bluegrass might not be their favorite genre of music, but these girls appreciated the chance to talk with the boys, and to “have something to do,” as one senior put it. For all the best reasons, it was a wonderful evening.

Square Dancing Children Camp square dancinf kids

Summer Campers square dancing