A Rainy, Sunny, Silly Night

rifle target proud girl

Riflery is another activity that has been a part of Rockbrook since its founding almost 100 years ago. Learning the safety protocols and techniques for target shooting was a camp skill of sorts, something everyone learned, just like hiking, swimming and weaving, for example. Even today, most campers enjoy making their way down to the shooting range to fire our .22 caliber rifles. The girls shoot prone, aiming at their targets 50 feet away. The goal, of course, is to center their shots and hit a bullseye, being accurate with 5 shots per round. Getting all five shots within the concentric rings of the target is really good shooting. Every center shot earns the shooter a place in the bullseye club and her name announced in the dining hall.

beads necklace

Take a look at these painted ceramic beads, strung as a necklace and proudly worn around camp. They represent several ways this camper has been recognized as exemplary. The counselors nominate campers for these beads, and they are announced during the weekly assemblies. The one that says “Bend-A-Back” is awarded to campers who are seen helping another person around camp, or assisting the camp in some way, like picking up a stray piece of trash. “Ps & Qs” recognizes a camper for outstanding manners, usually in the dining hall. The central bead with the cardinal on it is especially meaningful. It’s the “Spirit” bead and it is given to those campers who are simply great Rockbrook Girls showing their love and enthusiasm for camp.

sliding rock children

Tonight we took our full session Seniors to Sliding Rock. We started out with a fun picnic of hotdogs, watermelon and chips up in the forest, and afterwards made our way to the natural water slide to give everyone a chance to take the plunge. It’s a huge thrill for the girls to sit down in the chilly water at the top and scream as they make the slide down to the pool at the bottom. Just as we all finished our first slide down the rock, it began to rain, so we made a quick dash back to the buses and vans. Fortunately, everyone had a chance to slide at least once before the rain. Of course, a stop at Dolly’s Dairy Bar completed our night with a delicious cone of ice cream. After they finished eating, the girls had a wonderful time singing camp songs to all the other Dolly’s customers. To everyone’s surprise on the way home, we spotted a complete rainbow in the sky over Brevard. It was a rainy, sunny, silly night in the mountains of North Carolina.  So fun!

girls camp uniforms

That Peculiar Sense of Adventure

girl pulling back archery bow

Two of the most popular activities at camp are the shooting sports, archery and riflery. Most of the girls at camp are eager to try these traditional sports at least once during their session. Each has pretty cool equipment— real guns and real arrows! Each is novel and challenging but also achievable, with an inherent satisfaction (hitting the target). Also, both archery and riflery are skills the girls learn quite quickly, seeing real progress in their abilities after only a few days. They are so excited when their scores improve with practice, and when they shoot a bullseye, it’s a huge thrill! There’s a bullseye club for each sport too, and whenever a girl shoots one, the staff announces her name to the whole camp during a meal. And finally, there’s a long tradition at Rockbrook of the girls challenging the boys of Camp Carolina to an archery, riflery and tennis tournament at the end of the session. The top shooters join the RBC archery or riflery teams for the friendly competition. There’s a lot to like about the shooting sports at Rockbrook.

I saw a news story reporting that more than “70 million Americans are expected to endure temperatures above 95 degrees in next 7 days.” Yikes! Rockbrook, thankfully, has been spared that kind of heat thanks to our elevation and northwestern-facing location. If you take a look at our weather station, you can see that we are enjoying a normal summer of upper 60s at night and mid 80s during the day. Camp in the mountains of North Carolina is great!

girls holding up tie-dye t-shirts they made

We’ve seen the unveiling of incredible craft projects lately. These tie-dyed t-shirts, for example, are one of the best I’ve ever seen… swirls of deep color, each with a unique pattern. The same is true for pottery as the first kiln firings are being completed. Here too, it’s exciting to see how the process of finishing the pots combines with varying techniques of glazing to reveal a surprise work of art. The fiber arts cabin is producing especially amazing pieces. The girls are using all the the looms, from the wide floor looms to the lap looms, and showing real skill and creativity as they work on their weavings.

friends going down sliding rock

Just looking at Sliding Rock is intriguing. After all, it’s a natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it flows over 60 feet of a dome-shaped rock and into a pool at the bottom. From a distance it’s even inviting. It looks fun for people to slide down. But standing at the top of the slide, the “refreshing” water splashing on the back of your legs, and looking down, it can be a little frightening too. Tonight when we brought all of the mini session Middlers and Seniors, you could see it in their eyes, that peculiar sense of adventure that combines uncertainty, physical challenge, and excitement, all in a beautiful natural setting. The water level tonight was a little higher than normal, so this made the sliding even more of an acceleration toward the plunge at the bottom. The girls had a complete blast sliding several times (some went down six times!) until it was time to drive out of the forest for our final stop of the evening, Dolly’s Dairy Bar. If you don’t know about Dolly’s you will when you hear from your daughter. We take everyone at Rockbrook to this local ice cream stand at least once during their session. It’s that good. Most of our girls will be happy to tell you it’s the “best ice cream on earth.” Perhaps a quick stop at Dolly’s would be a good idea when you pick up your girls from camp. I guarantee that will be a welcome suggestion! 🙂

two girls waving before sliding rock

Uniquely Memorable

It’s really one of the most popular things we do at Rockbrook, something we all enjoy multiple times a day, in fact. We can’t live without it, and fortunately we have an absolute expert guiding the activity for us. It’s the meals at camp, the delicious food served by Rick and his staff in the kitchen! Three times a day, he serves home-cooked main dishes and fresh side items, all while adding extra preparations to suit the vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free needs of the campers and staff. And you’ve heard about the full-time baker who thrills everyone each day with cookies, breads, and a surprise flavor (today was mint chocolate chip) of fresh-baked muffins. It’s simply marvelous!

Preparing authentic corn Tamales

Today’s lunch was a great example of the lengths Rick will go to make the food at Rockbrook special, uniquely memorable, and outstanding. It was authentic, completely made from scratch, tamales, served with black beans, fresh guacamole, sour cream, chips and salad. Preparations began several days ago, as the crew first made all the salsas: a bright red Guajillo chili sauce and a green variety combining serrano peppers, tomatillos, garlic and onions. They also roasted chicken in advance, pulling it off the bone in shreds, along with frying a blend of onions, green and red bell peppers. Each tamale has to be made individually and by hand, and when you need 1200 tamales to feed the camp, it’s quite a project. One by one, a layer of tamale filling (a paste of fine cornmeal, lime, oil and stock) is spread on a corn husk, and chicken or cheese along with one of the salsas and peppers added before folding the husk into a pocket and carefully being layered into several large pots to be cooked by steaming. The result is many delicious, hot savory treats. Part of the fun of eating tamales is unwrapping them, revealing the yummy middle of the husk pocket— undoubtedly a new experience for some the campers and staff. I would bet, this will be remembered as a favorite meal of the session.

Meanwhile, this morning girls were offered several adventure outings: a kayaking trip to the lower Green River, a canoeing trip to the French Broad, a hiking trip to Moore Cove in the Pisgah National Forest, rock climbing at Castle Rock, and a zip line tour through the course on the Rockbrook property. Such amazing opportunities to dive deep into the unique beauty of this part of western North Carolina!

rafting camp children
child whitewater kayaking camp
Child swimming with kick board at camp

This afternoon, cabin groups and their counselors planned special activities for their “cabin day.” One group had a relaxing float at the lake, while another chose an exhilarating ride on the zipline course. Two different groups took a hike to the top of Castle Rock to enjoy a view of the French Broad River valley. Two groups chose craft projects: one making tie-dye t-shirts, and another decorating compliment jars. One senior cabin planned an entire game show! —the wolves vs. the vampires in a competition to “Earn Lotso Respect.” All of the junior cabins loaded up the buses for a short trip over to Dolly’s Dairy bar, and for many their first taste of Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion or one of Dolly’s other camp flavors.

It was an exciting evening for the full session Middlers and Seniors. Along with their counselors, all 101 of us rode up into the Forest for a dinner picnic, visit to Sliding Rock, and final stop at Dolly’s. We love this trip because it combines time together eating and playing games, top-of-your-lungs excitement on the natural water slide, and what one camper called “the best ice cream in the world.” For many girls, this uniquely North Carolina experience is a highlight of their session.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to our mini session campers, recalling fondly the fun we had together, and looking forward to our chance to be together again next summer. Thank you girls!

Sliding Rock Camp Buddies

Joyfully Messy

ropes course climber

Watch out for those climbers! All morning at the high ropes climbing tower set in the woods behind the gym, girls were scurrying up different elements to reach the 50-foot-high platform perched high in the trees. Three girls can climb on the tower at the same time, each pulling up on a different rope, log, or handhold. This allows the ordinary group of nine girls to climb multiple times during their 1-hour activity period. During the class of older girls, the climbing staff was teaching belay techniques, giving those interested a chance to run the rope for a climber. With the staff member keeping two hands on the rope as a backup, the girls had fun helping each stay safe while climbing… not to mention, climbing themselves!

Since it’s Wednesday, we paused our regular activity schedule in the afternoon for a chance to do something special as cabin groups. Ordinarily the girls run off and follow an individually selected set of activities, so it’s nice to do something together once a week. The cabin group and their counselors decide what to do too!

color paint war on t-shirts
camp face spa girl

Today there were some really fun cabin day activities going on. One group hung out at the lake, while another took a hike to Rockbrook Falls. The CA girls did a blind trust walk led by their counselors, eventually ending up to watch a movie. Another Senior cabin enjoyed a “color war” of sorts on the hill. They all put on new white t-shirts and, armed with cups of colorful paint, had a hilarious time splattering each other and being joyfully messy. A cabin of Juniors decided to have an afternoon, outdoor spa experience that involved giving each other an avocado face mask complete with a cucumber eye treatment. Very fancy! There was a little joyful mess here too as the girls relaxed on the grassy hill by the creek allowing their cleansing treatments to do their work.

two girls sliding rock

For all the Middler girls and their counselors, today was their chance to visit one of the most popular spots in the Pisgah National Forest— Sliding Rock. Like a little army of 100 people, we drove into the forest to have a picnic dinner and run around a bit. The kitchen packed us trays of hot pasta, salad and fruit, more than we could possibly eat. We arrived at Sliding Rock and found it deserted, perfect for our army to conquer! After a brief introduction, it took no time for our middlers to be zipping down the 60-foot water slide to the pool below where our lifeguards were waiting. We slid for more than an hour, until it was getting a little dark. Our final stop was Dolly’s Dairy bar, everyone’s favorite ice cream shop conveniently located at the entrance of the forest. You have to drive by it to go to Pisgah, so we can’t not stop on the way home. And the girls, of course, love it! Dolly’s has specialty flavors named after many of the local summer camps. “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” seems to always be popular with the girls. Very chocolatey, and delicious. A little chilled, but still excited and happy, the girls returned to camp ready to warm up and rest of the night. It was a great day.

summer camp climber girls

This Incredible View

rockbrook camp mountain view

Have you seen that view? Everywhere we went today it was breathtaking. As a cold front pushed aside the last lingering moisture of the last few days, the skies developed a rare blend of complex and varied clouds mixed with very clear air. Rockbrook is situated on a west facing slope with a view of the Blue Ridge mountains. We’re at about 2100 feet in elevation. In fact, when the camp was first built, each of the three stone lodges (one for each age group) was designed to have a long distance view of those mountains. The girls could sit on almost any porch in camp and soak in an inspiring cascade of ridge lines. Now, almost 100 years later, with so many large trees living at camp, we have to be more strategic about which porch we choose, but there are still plenty of rocking chairs perfectly situated to offer that same amazing view. It’s neat to think that girls throughout the long history of Rockbrook have sat on those same porches and enjoyed counting those same distant mountains.

girls on top of Black Balsam mountain

With this kind of amazing weather, the adventure staff decided to take a group of girls up to Black Balsam mountain, a favorite destination in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s one to highest peaks east of the Mississippi River at 6214 feet. The hike to the summit has a magical quality to it. The trail begins by winding through a thicket of Balsam Fir trees, and then suddenly breaking out to a grassy ridge line with short blueberry bushes along sections. As you continue to wind upward, occasionally scrambling over exposed rock, there’s a crescendo at the summit when you suddenly have a panoramic view stretching for miles. You can’t help but think, “Oh wow!” This part of western North Carolina offers so many examples of this kind of natural beauty it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s even real. The girls this morning enjoyed eating a snack, freshly-baked muffins from camp, while soaking in this incredible view.

tiny kid with big horse and barn

Down at the Rockbrook Riding Center there were other views today, this time of the pastures, barns, paddocks, riding rings, arena, and of course, girls and their horses. Almost all 30 horses were busy in lessons throughout the day, some being assigned to groups of beginners first learning to ride, and more advanced mounts exercising over jumps and other obstacles in the covered arena. For girls who love horses, the riding center is a fascinating place to be. With horses and ponies, feeding, washing, tack and other equipment, regular visits from the farrier, barn chores, and the manure composting system, there’s always lots to see, do and learn.

Our Senior Line campers and their counselors spent the evening out of camp for a dinner picnic, trip to Sliding Rock, and a stop at Dolly’s Dairy bar. This is a wildly fun outing that we do every year because it’s so popular. It gets us out of camp for food and frolicking in the forest, really gets our blood pumping with the intensity of sliding down a 60-foot natural water slide, and ends with a yummy, one-of-a-kind ice cream treat. What could be better? Tonight that cold front made the water at sliding rock feel even colder, but that didn’t really slow down these teenagers. They whooped and slid, and sure, shivered a little more than usual, but it was once again a great time together enjoying yet another natural wonder of the mountains.

screaming girls on sliding rock

Comfortable and Confident

water slide splash

It’s only been a few days into the session, and already it’s clear that camp life is the good life. A casual stroll around the camp, really at any time, proves it. We have happy girls everywhere, engaged caring counselors, and genuine enthusiasm spilling out of every activity. It’s remarkable too how quickly this positive momentum has appeared. You see it at archery when the girls cheer for each shot that hits the target, at the Alpine Tower when a camper makes it to the top platform, and at Curosty when the looms vibrate from quick fingers at work.  The poses at Yoga, the canoe strokes at the lake, the backhands on the tennis courts, the careful protocols and aim at the riflery range —together, there seems to be a natural rhythm to camp now. It’s fascinating to see all this relaxed, comfortable and confident activity.

There also has been tremendous interest in the adventure trips being offered each day. When the staff announces a trip, the girls have been literally running to sign up. There’s been so much interest in overnight backpacking, for example, we’ve added more chances to go in the coming days. The Juniors have been filling day hiking trips, and tomorrow’s rock climbing outing to Looking Glass Rock will have a full group leaving bright and early. Likewise for the zip line trips: quickly full of eager adventurers. It’s impressive how much these girls are ready for everything camp has to offer!

sliding rock camp kids

The entire Senior line spent their cabin day evening having a wild time at Sliding Rock. Just before dinner we loaded up all the buses, and drove up to a great grassy spot in the forest for a picnic dinner of hot dogs, Rick’s homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit. A quick game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” helped digest our meal before driving the short distance to the Rock.  Once again, since we were sliding after hours, we had the place to ourselves and the girls could easily get back in line to slide several times.  Some slid as many as 6 or 7 times tonight! Back in the buses and after a short drive back down the mountain, Dolly’s Dairy bar was our last stop of the evening.  Cups and cones of delicious “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” or some other camp flavor made a nice cap for the fun trip.

Keep that snail mail coming. Receiving a true card or letter in their mailbox is a wonderful gift for the girls. Follow the instructions for keeping in touch on this page.

rifle target kids

Full-bodied Excitement

Tetherball game

Tetherball. It’s one of the simplest pastimes at Rockbrook, but also one of the most popular ways for the girls to spend a few spare minutes between activity periods, right before meals, or during one the three designated slots of “free time” each day. There are two tetherball courts at Rockbrook, one by the gym and the more prominent spot near the hillside lodge.  Made from a 10-foot tall locust tree pole, that tetherball court has a cool open feel to it, and since it’s centrally located, seems to always be in action.  Look over the hill and you’re bound to see a colorful ball swinging around the pole on a rope.

The game of tetherball is simple —hit the ball and wrap the rope around the pole as your opponent tries to hit the ball in the opposite direction… whoever wraps the ball completely is the winner.  When someone wins, that’s called a “tether.” The other day a few girls explained some of the other game terminology.  If a player grabs the rope instead of hitting the ball, that’s called a “ropey,” which is a foul of sorts, as is something called a “holdy,” which means grabbing the ball altogether.  When one player commits either of these fouls, the other player is allowed to employ the same foul. In addition to a regular single hit, there are two more hits that more advanced players use: the “double tap,” which simply means hitting the ball once before hitting it a second time, and “popcorn,” which means tapping the ball multiple times before hitting it around toward the other player. In a tetherball match, the winner of a game keeps playing until defeated by a challenger. The challenger always serves, which is a slight advantage. This may all sound like serious stuff, and to an extent it is for some of the girls, but playing tetherball is also a fun game of skill perfect for playing with friends at camp.

devils courthouse pisgah forest

Today the adventure staff announced a trip for the girls up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and a hike that included a stop at Devil’s Courthouse. This is a spectacular destination. At an elevation of more that 5700 feet, it has a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you can see 4 different states! This photo shows a girl crouching behind the marker that allows you to identify far off mountain peaks by sighting over the brass cones. It’s quite a steep hike to reach the summit, but this view is really incredible and definitely worth the trip when the weather is nice like it was today.

This afternoon, we paused our regular activities for “cabin day,” a time when each cabin sticks together and enjoys a special activity as a group.  Ordinarily the girls sign up for individual activity schedules, so this is a nice time to bond with bunk mates and do something special.  One group decorated t-shirts with markers, while another used paints to design colorful glass jars.  There was food involved for some— decorating cupcakes for the kitchen, using a scoop to make a huge bowl of watermelon balls, or shaping cookie dough for baking the evening’s cookies. Another group played games like an egg toss, and another took a hike to Rockbrook Falls for a wet-n-wild creek hike.

sliding rock north carolina

All of the Senior girls stuck together for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest followed by a trip to Sliding Rock. This trip has become a tradition of sorts at camp because it’s so popular. The girls love loading the buses and riding high up into the forest to eat dinner and play a few games before screaming their heads off while sliding down the chilly natural water slide. One glance at the photo gallery and you can tell by the looks on the girls’ faces— an extraordinary combination of wide-eyed trepidation and full-bodied excitement —that sliding rock is a true thrill. It was impressive how many girls slid down the rock multiple times, each time getting just a little colder and even more excited for the ride.  The end of night brought all of us (almost 100 people in all) to Dolly’s Dairy Bar, the one and only ice cream stand.  This too is a loved tradition, a must-do part and the perfect cap to this thrilling night out.

rock climbing girl campers

Gleefully Chilled and Thrilled

Camp muffin snack break

Don’t be surprised if your daughter is far more interested in baked goods when she gets home from camp. Rockbrook has that effect on people, campers and staff members alike, because we enjoy freshly baked muffins, cookies, cakes and other desserts on a daily basis. There’s a full time baker (actually 4 that work in shifts) keeping our giant mixer and convection oven working first thing in the morning and long into the afternoon. The most sought-after item from the bakery has to be the muffins we serve every morning between the first and second activity periods. Sarah invented the idea of “Muffin Break” years ago thinking the girls would enjoy a morning snack to help keep up the active pace of camp. She also thought it would be fun to vary the flavors and make each day a surprise. The bakers enjoy inventing crazy flavors as well as repeating classics. One day it’s pumpkin chocolate chip, and the next it’s raspberry swirl, strawberries and cream, confetti, or oreo (yes, with half an oreo cookie poking out the top!). Word about the flavor spreads fast around camp when the muffins are ready each morning, and you can count on everyone swinging by the dining hall porch to grab one.

Sliding Rock Children

Let’s take all the Middlers (5th and 6th graders) and their counselors to Sliding Rock. Like rafting, this has become one of the signature trips for Rockbrook girls, something they look forward to every year. Tonight our crew of more than 100 people, including all the staff members and lifeguards, took over the rock for the evening, sliding two-by-two down the 60-foot natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek. And these Middlers loved it! Slide after slide, wide-mouthed screams, cheers of encouragement from friends, and satisfied smiles proved how something this simple (no batteries required!) can be this fun.  As others in the south struggle with summer heat, these girls were gleefully chilled and thrilled with this classic mountain experience.  With no complex agenda and only the fading daylight to limit us, I think most girls were able to slide 3 or 4 times before we gathered everyone for the short ride to Dolly’s Dairy Bar, our final stop of the trip. Of course the girls look forward to this too, a cup or cone of “the best ice cream in the world!” as one girl declared it. Whether it’s “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” or one of the other camp flavors, a frozen sweet treat after riding down a freezing waterfall, is ironically exactly right. Add to it a few dozen friends, and that shared experience creates something uniquely powerful.

It’s certainly worth repeating, but this unique power is another example of why camp is great for kids. The thrill of sliding down the rock is certainly active outdoor fun, but it’s also exceptionally educational, helping to build confidence, independence and social skills. Surrounded by friends, the girls pull each other along experiencing more as a community than they otherwise would. They’re learning to communicate, to consider others with kindness and generosity at heart, and to contribute to the larger group. Spending time in this kind of encouraging community, one focused on positive relationships and appreciative of nature and diversity, is inspiring for children. There’s curiosity, wonder and joy to be discovered and celebrated each day at camp. Ordinary school experiences don’t easily provide this kind of core learning, so more than ever, camp is a critical supplement for our growing children.

We take this educational responsibility seriously at Rockbrook, training our staff and strengthening our camp culture to encourage this kind of growth for our girls. Thank you for sharing them with us, and helping them help us make this experience so meaningful for everyone.

Tennis Camp Children