Happiness Has A Special Place

Sundays at Rockbrook are a wonderful mix of relaxing, contemplative, messy, and wild. We broke with our “normal” schedule of activities and trips, of course. We began with a rising bell at 9:00 AM, sleeping in a whole hour later, to stagger right to breakfast. The campers indulged in skipping morning chores and finding Krispy Kreme donuts waiting for them on their tables.

While some would argue that sleeping in is the best part of the Sunday schedule, I love the flag raising on the hill conducted by our oldest campers, the Hi-Ups. We begin by circling around the flagpole, and today we were met with a warm breeze and sunshine. In line with tradition, the girls pledge allegiance to the flag and then sing “America the Beautiful” before filing to chapel in respectful silence. The CA’s, who use the last cabin on the walk to chapel to plan the end-of-session Banquet, all stand in front of their secret space to guard it.

camp children of alumnae

Today’s chapel theme was “Special Places,” and it was camper-led, from the programs’ art to the agenda inside of it. The Junior and Middler campers used the week to plan which songs, speakers, quotes, poems, and stories to include. One camper brought tears to our eyes as she spoke about happiness as a special place, in light of the normal ups and downs of life. Many talked about why Rockbrook was theirs: They can be themselves, are relieved of the pressures and routines of home or school, and make long-lasting friendships.

We followed this low-key morning with a hearty, thanksgiving-style lunch. (There was turkey, cranberry sauce, lima beans, potatoes, and tofu for the vegetarians. Everyone loved it so much that we sang our special song of appreciation to the cooks!) Good thing the girls had bellies full of food… After rest hour, we surprised them with a special scavenger hunt that had them zigzagging all over camp looking for clues to win ice cream for their cabins!

shaving creamed girls

The campers eventually settled in the gym, in front of a giant screen, for movie night after an epic shaving cream fight. Surprisingly clean after such chaos, the girls brought their coziest blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows. They squealed in celebration when they found out that we were watching Moana and sang along to the soundtrack. Full disclosure, after I left to retrieve their nighttime snack, I could hear them singing from the other side of camp. Sunday ended on the perfect note when everyone came together at the end for our “Goodnight Circle” routine.

Symphony of Fun

Happy new Campers

Welcome 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

Amplified Energy

Cheering girls at camp assembly

We amplified the energy of camp today by opening our August mini session and welcoming 60 campers to Rockbrook. About a third of these are brand new to RBC, so for them this was an especially exciting time— driving in the main gate for the first time, rounding the lake with a glimpse of the water slide (aka “Big Samantha” —for no real reason, other than a junior camper suggested it), meeting Sarah at the top of the hill, and hopping out of the car to the cheers and whoops of the counselors. For the returning campers too, it’s a great feeling to arrive back at camp after waiting all year (and lately all summer!) and to take a deep breath of mountain forest air, only to need another after shrieking with joy at the sight of an old camp friend. This kind of enthusiasm mixed with all that anticipation can be almost explosive when it’s finally released, but that’s the kind of energy we love around here. It’s our day-to-day starting point.

While the mini session girls were arriving, the full session campers began their day like other Sunday mornings with a late breakfast in the dining hall (which included freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts), time to dress in their camp uniforms (white polo shirts, shorts and red tie), our traditional flag raising ceremony (led by the Hi-Up campers), and chapel program (that today focused on the theme of “Community”). Afterwards, these girls also had a “choice period,” an opportunity to sign up for an hour doing many of the most popular activities— archery, riflery, yoga, hiking to Castle Rock, a flower picking expedition, and various string and paper crafts, for example.

Girl holding a decorated paper box
Girl doing yoga at summer camp
Girl aiming a rifle at summer camp

Right before lunch we brought everyone together, the mini- and full-session girls, for an assembly on the grassy hill in camp. This was a chance to sing a couple of favorite camp songs (like “An Austrian Went Yodeling,” for example), to shout out the 3 line (age group) songs, and to learn a new song from the Hi-Ups. The directors announced which cabin this week would be recognized as having outstanding camp spirit, and would thereby be able to display the Rockbrook “Spirit Paddle” on their table in the dining hall (It was Middler Cabin 1). We also had fun taking a “whole camp” photo. While some of the staff members were absent on their day off, the photo really shows how we’re a colorful bunch!

After what seemed like a steady stream of cheese tortellini coming out of the kitchen— bowl after re-filled bowl —and stacks of cool sweet watermelon turning into a pile of rind at every table, the mini session girls spent the first part of the afternoon demonstrating their swimming ability at the lake. If a girl could confidently jump off the dock, swim out 50ft and back 50ft, and tread water for a minute, she received a green swim bracelet and a buddy tag. If the lifeguards saw signs of struggle, as they did for a few of the youngest girls today, those girls can still swim at the lake, but they are restricted to the safety of the shallow area and must wear a life vest when in the water. Today, wonderfully warm sunshine buffered the chilly water of the lake, giving every swimmer a little boost.

Girls making friends at swim demonstrations
Camp counselor girl in dunking booth

By 3 o’clock, everyone was ready for an afternoon scavenger hunt. Working in cabin groups, the campers moved from station to station solving riddles at each place, sometimes having to tackle a group challenge (like untangling a “human knot”), sometimes finding a yummy treat like popcorn or cotton candy, and other times just enjoying a special activity. The dunking booth, for example, was a complete hoot. A brave counselor from each cabin climbed into the tank as each girl took turns throwing at the dunking target. Of course, we filled the tank with regular cold water making each dunk even more exciting (well, maybe a little less exciting for the counselors!). Several cabins, after throwing but failing to dunk their counselor, stormed the target to press it by hand, a clear violation of the rules, but entirely hilarious too. The whole event was a wonderful Sunday afternoon of helping cabins get to know each other better, to learn about the different buildings and areas of the the camp, and to enjoy a variety of snacks and activities together.

We’ve got a wonderful session going here. Thanks for being a part of it!