Two Awesome Surprises

Biltmore Farms dairy trucksAmong the many surprises at Rockbrook, the tradition known as the “Biltmore Train” has to be an all-time favorite. The tradition started years ago (before widespread refrigeration) when dairy products were delivered to camp from the Biltmore Estate’s Farm. On a regular basis, trucks from Asheville would make the trip to Brevard to keep camp supplied. Once a session, the Biltmore dairy truck would pull up to camp, and the girls would indulge in the sugary goodness of an ice cream cone on a hot day.

biltmore Dairy truack at Rockbrookdolly's trolley at rockbrook campAs the need for regular milk deliveries declined, the Biltmore Dairy closed (now it’s a winery and tourist destination), but both the ice cream tradition at camp and the name have carried on.

In recent years,”Biltmore Train” meant counselors would line up with tubs of ice cream, ready to serve hundreds of scoops to a long line of wide-eyed campers. At some point, a new tradition arose where the girls could finish the ice cream in their cone, and then get back in line to get a second scoop. As long as the cone survived and wasn’t eaten, they could continue to get refills of ice cream. With each trip through the line, the cone disintegrates making it impossible to get another scoop, but girls can end up with four or even five scoops if they are strategic (Don’t worry; the scoops aren’t all that big!). At the very least, it’s fun to get a second scoop and sample a different flavor.

This summer, we’re switching things up and returning the tradition to its roots, but with a fun twist. Dolly’s Dairy Bar, our favorite ice cream shop in Brevard, now has a food truck, an ice cream truck, that can arrive anywhere ready to serve up to 30 tubs of ice cream— the “Dolly’s Trolley.” So today, for the first time, our Biltmore Train was the Dolly’s Trolley serving the campers right under the same maple tree where the original Biltmore Dairy trucks served ice cream. It’s always a treat to have Dolly’s ice cream, but to eat it in the sunshine of the Rockbrook hill is even better.  Super cool!

Tonight’s optional twilight activity was a high-octane, hilariously messy, shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide. The call was to meet at the landsports field dressed in swimsuits and ready to smear. As the girls arrived, we handed each a large can of plain shaving cream pointing them to the grass where the “fight” would take place. After about five minutes, 50 children were eagerly spraying, wiping and racing wildly after each other. Ten minutes later, another 50 had joined in and we had shaving cream everywhere!  And while there were mostly Juniors and Middlers joining the slippery white commotion, there were plenty of Seniors too, enjoying the chance to style each other’s hair and pose for group photographs.  The slip-n-slide became popular after there was no more shaving cream to squirt. Two by two the girls hurled themselves down the gently sloping hill covered with a sheet of plastic. Already slippery from the foam, all we needed was a little spray of water to make a surprisingly fast ride. As some girls slid, others continued to mess around with their shaving cream, everyone laughing and having a blast.

Two awesome surprises in one day— the Biltmore Train and a shaving cream fight.  This must be Rockbrook!

Shaving cream in girls' hair

Hilarious Fun

The Nolichucky is a gorgeous wilderness river that stretches for 9 miles through North Carolina and into eastern Tennessee. It drops down through a gorge of rocks between the Bald Mountains and the Unaka Mountains forming an excellent, scenic and technical, whitewater run for kayaking. Today, Leland, Andria, Jamie and Brett led seven campers on a trip down the Nolichucky, spending all day kayaking on the water. With class III and III+ rapids most of the way, this is an intermediate kayaking river, and these Rockbrook girls were ready! They tackled the “Railroad” rapid, “On the Rocks” rapid, the “Quarter Mile” rapid, and the “Rooster Tail” rapid. They took time to play too, for example surfing a wave on the “Jaws” rapid.

Nolichucky Kayak Kid
Nolichucky River Kayaking

A couple of girls had to swim after flipping their boats, but both Marli and Anna Grace were able to roll back up, hitting a true “combat roll” (rolling up, not while practicing, but “for real” in the more difficult setting of a whitewater rapid). The girls were very excited to be able to take this special trip and to paddle so well. Take a look at this excellent group.

Nolichucky Kayaking Group
Shaving Cream Fight Girls

Maybe it was the fantastic dinner of pasta, roast chicken and green beans we enjoyed, or the blueberry cobbler (made from scratch with fresh blueberries) that showed up for dessert, or maybe the girls have now grown especially comfortable here at camp, but whatever the reason, we were all surprised by the explosive response that erupted in the dining hall when we announced an optional shaving cream fight for tonight’s Twilight activity. It seemed like every age group was excited to put on their swimsuits and in about 15 minutes, we had more than 100 girls on the landsports field armed with a can of slippery white foam. There are very few rules to a shaving cream fight. Essentially, you squirt and spray shaving cream on everyone nearby, and run around trying the smear it into someone’s hair, or into funny patterns somewhere on their body. It didn’t take long either for everyone to be mostly covered with the stuff. The girls absolutely loved it, and really spent most of their time laughing after “smearing” someone, or being “smeared.” With everyone slippery, we also pulled out a slip-n-slide to enjoy. This is all good, albeit a little messy, hilarious fun, perfect for a bunch of friends at camp.

Camp Game Show Girls

Our evening program brought back Bill Grimsly and his “Game Show Mania.” A little prompting from Chase first sent the girls back to their cabins to invent wacky costumes… proving once again that everything is more fun in costume. Check out the photo gallery to see what they came up with. When they arrived at the gym, the girls found four game show podiums set up, complete with buzzers, lights, and scoreboards. After selecting random members of the audience, each round from a different age group, Bill presented a trivia question and answer game challenging the girls to name movie titles, musical artists, characters from books, and details from Rockbrook’s history (For example, What does the F.B.I. cabin’s name stand for?). Bill mixed things up occasionally by announcing hilarious “challenge rounds” where he would award extra points if a contestant could hula hoop the longest, or was willing to eat something “not so appealing” like canned sardines in mustard sauce. When a girl won a round of questions, her whole cabin received a giant cookie as a prize, which meant that the audience was always rooting for the contestants.

By the way, the answer is “Fanny Bell Inn.” 🙂

Descending and Ascending

Kayak trip on the upper green riverNC Green River Kayak kidOne of the whitewater rivers popular with kayakers in this area of North Carolina is the Green, a dam-released river running through a deep gorge just south of Asheville. One reason for this popularity, besides the natural beauty of the surrounding forest, is the different sections of the river that provide a range of whitewater boating challenges. Perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most technical, section is known as the “Narrows.” With several class IV and class V rapids, and boasting a gradient of about 100 feet per mile, this is a section for experts only. At the other extreme is the section known as the “Lower” Green. It is about 5 miles of class II whitewater making it excellent for beginners, and the section most commonly run by camps.

Today a group of Rockbrook girls, led by Leland, Andria and Clyde, ran a third section known as the “Upper” Green. It is a moderately difficult section of class II and III+ rapids dropping almost 50 feet per mile over 4 miles. The whole section runs relatively fast, and the two largest rapids, named “Bayless’ Boof” and “Pinball,” are challenging lines with significant waves.  Our Rockbrook kayaking girls handled it just fine, and spent the whole day playing on the water. Rarely paddled by summer camp kids, it’s a real accomplishment for these girls to run the Upper Green.

Kid climbing Sundial route of Looking Glass Rock in North CarolinaMeanwhile, another group of Rockbrook girls, rather than descending a river, ascended a rock. Led by Andy and Rita, a group of Seniors and Middlers woke up early and drove into the Pisgah Forest to reach the base of Looking Glass Rock. They headed up the trail… gently uphill at first, but steep toward the end —to a climbing area known as the “Nose,” and were able to set 2 ropes on a well-known climb called “Sundial.” This climb is rated 5.6 in the Yosemite Decimal System, which means it’s steep enough to require a belay system and technical hardware for safety, but not so difficult that it requires advanced skills or strength. Climbing Sundial requires precise footwork, and the girls quickly figured out that the sloping “brow-shaped” handholds sometimes work better when you cling to them from underneath, lifting up instead of pulling down. Sundial also rewards you at the top of the 80-foot first pitch with a gorgeous long view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This photo of Haley at the top of the climb shows her after she removed her blindfold.  That’s right; with careful and patient footwork, she was able to climb the whole route blindfolded!  After a quick splash in the creek to cool off, the crew made it back to camp happy about the day’s fun and accomplishment.

Back at camp, the girls eating lunch in the dining hall were surprised when Chase interrupted the meal and shouted “Dance Break!!” into the PA System.  The speakers were ready and the music queued up, and a second or two later the entire dining hall was up and dancing to the song “Classic” that’s popular on the radio these days.  It’s a fun, pop dance song, and most of the girls new the words enough to sing along. For those three minutes of loud pumping music, everyone was moving, smiling and having a complete blast.

Girls slip and Slide for FunGirl attacking with shaving creamOur after dinner “twilight” event was a crazy shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide. This is about as simple as it gets, but also equally as fun. The girls dress in their swimsuits and assemble on our grassy sports field. Then, armed with a can of plain shaving cream, they attack each other spraying and smearing the slippery foam everywhere. The goal is to cover your friends (and, I suppose, anyone within reach!) as much as possible, spraying their backs, arms and hair, all while running around to avoid being sprayed yourself. Can after can of shaving cream was emptied, while we all laughed hilariously and screamed with delight. At one end of the field, we also unrolled a wide sheet of plastic down a gentle slope, added a little soap and sprayed it with water to make a fun slippery ride. The girls, all greased up with shaving cream, took turns launching themselves down the plastic, sliding in some cases 75 feet before rolling off the end to a stop in the grass. This last photo sums up the event nicely… Tons of good “clean” fun.

Camp Shaving Cream Fight for Girls

Almost Irrelevant Rain

Well, yesterday I spoke too soon, bragging a bit about our great timing in the midst of this unusually wet weather pattern, for today was a truly rainy day. We had rain overnight, rain this morning during breakfast, during rest hour, and except for an occasional break, all afternoon and into the evening too. I suppose we should have expected it, with the forecast using “100%” to describe the chance of precipitation, and that green/yellow/orange color on the radar maps all the way down through Florida. Still, when it comes to your raincoat, or what around here we call a “dew coat” (rain is just a “heavy dew,” right?), it feels odd to need it all day long.

You might think flooding would be an issue with all this rain, and that would be correct for the French Broad River, which has now crested its banks and has turned many local sod and corn fields into expansive lakes. Rockbrook though, with the exception of a few of our horseback riding fields, is high above the flood zone, set on the hill between Dunn’s Rock and Castle Rock. For us, this kind of heavy rain swells our creeks creating more powerful, rushing waterfalls. Over many years, we’ve learned to channel this water, and send it strategically through pipes and down various gutters and ditches. The camp facilities do quite well, even with this much rain… almost 4 inches today total.  Wow!

Camp girl on gymnastics bar
Girls Climbing Wall
Kid playing dodgeball

Our camp people are quite well too. Beyond the fact that most of our activities can carry on either because they are suited to being indoors, in our gym, on a porch, or one of the stone lodges or activity cabins, or because they can be reshaped to happen inside (climbing our indoor wall instead of the Alpine Tower, for example), there is something about our “outdoor lifestyle” at camp that makes rain almost irrelevant.  Living outside most of the time, we grow used to being a little wet, a tad bit muddy, and cool enough to wear long sleeves at night. We actually enjoy hearing the rain on the roof at night, feeling the warmth on our hands from a fire in the lodge fireplace, and snuggling in our cozy cabins. This weather… Although I’ll admit a little less of it would be nice! … seems like a natural part of our camp experience. While the sky might be crying, at Rockbrook, we aren’t sad we’re getting wet.

Girls laughing at shaving cream fight
Girl camp slip n slide

When you’re a little wet already, one idea is to celebrate it, and get even messier. That’s exactly what about half the camp chose to do this afternoon when we pulled out the slip-n-slide and a dozen cases of shaving cream. With only the occasional slight drizzle overhead, the girls attacked each other with foam spraying. They painted each other with the stuff, drawing designs on backs, “six packs” on stomachs, and twisting extreme hairstyles. Being covered with slippery shaving cream also makes for quite a ride down a wet sheet of plastic. This is the kind of mischievous fun, in this case that’s surprisingly sanctioned, that’s also completely hilarious. The girls, and quite a few counselors too, laughed and laughed as they got messier and messier, pausing once in a while to slide down the hill on their stomachs or knees.

Girls squirting each other

Tonight was the last night for our first July mini session girls, and also the night of their closing “Spirit Fire” campfire. The rain made holding the program inside the Hillside lodge a good idea. So with a huge fire roaring in the fireplace, all the mini session girls and their counselors spread out on the floor in Crazy Creek chairs to sing traditional camp songs and hear tributes to all the successes of the session.

Spirit Fire Campfire girls

Several girls from each line (Juniors, Middlers and Seniors) stood and spoke about their experience at Rockbrook, what they learned, the friends they’ve gained, and why they love camp so much. In the same way, both new and returning staff members made remarks. Sarah always speaks at the end of our Spirit Fires, and tonight she reminded us about how “the ‘Spirit of Rockbrook’ inspires kindness and generosity,” and how she hoped everyone would carry that spirit home with them. The small candles everyone lights at the end of the program likewise represent the “Spirit of Rockbrook.” With their candles lit, the girls formed a circle on the hill to sing one last song. It was a gorgeous sight… misty mountains looming in the background, dim blue hazy sky overhead, and the warm yellow glow from more than one hundred candles… All these girls and young women bonding in this special way, in this special place.

First Day of Activities

Today all of the activities at camp took off! The camp bell woke us all up to a wonderful cool, foggy morning. After breakfast, the different “Lines” (age groups) headed to their lodges for their morning assembly, a time for a couple of energizing songs, maybe a skit, announcements, and a just chance to regroup before the day gets really moving.

Counselor and Camper WeavingThen each girl, armed with her own unique set of four activities that she selected yesterday evening, set off to the different activity areas throughout the camp. Around 10 o’clock, girls were climbing, swimming, shooting, riding and creating. There were hikes to Castle Rock, archery and riflery instruction, looms clicking and clacking, introductions to new favorite ponies, and games in the gym to name a few. Everywhere, you could hear girls chattering away, making friends, and laughing. It’s completely action packed and neat to see.

The big event, however, was the first free swim time right before lunch. This is when we opened the new water slide at the lake for the very first time. The staff enjoyed it last week a couple of times, but we have kept it a surprise for the campers until they arrived. It’s down on the far end of the lake. The girls first walk across the new dock, cross over the creek that feeds the lake (with a great view of the waterfall), and then climb a series of steps and platforms to the top of the 30-foot tower.

Camp Water Slide Tower Waterslide Bridge Dock Sliding Camper Fun

The slide itself is made of a soft vinyl material that’s nice and slippery when we run a little water down it. There’s a staff member at the top of the tower to help, but when ready, the girls launch themselves and zip down 50 feet before splashing into the lake. It’s then a short swim back to the exit ladders, and they’re off to do it again. Super fun stuff!

After dinner tonight, we offered an optional activity during what we call our “Twilight” time. The Rockbrook schedule has several blocks of free time built into the day (the two free swim times, for example), and this is another one. Twilight is free time when girls can hang out on the hill, enjoy one of the many porch rockers around camp, or get involved in whatever spontaneous activity is announced. Tonight we pulled out the slip and slide! It’s been so warm and dry these last few days, a lot of girls got excited. We rolled out a long sheet of plastic, got the water hose going and added a couple of drops of soap— instant cool summer fun, and just another way to enjoy being at camp.

The first whitewater rafting trips are going out tomorrow and we’ll be unveiling a surprise dinner. Stay tuned. We try to right a blog post every day, so if you haven’t subscribed to the blog, here’s the information about how to do that.

Camp Girls Cracking Up

Camp Carnival Fun & Games

children assemble for camp opening ceremonyWelcome August Mini Session Campers!! Welcome to Rockbrook! Today a big group of new and a few returning campers arrived for this, our last mini session of the summer. Like our other mini sessions, these are shorter sessions perfect for younger and first-time campers, so for the majority of these girls, this was their first day at Rockbrook. After waiting most of the school year and now until August, their anticipation made for high pitched, and maybe a little nervous, excitement. It doesn’t take long though to settle down after meeting the staff members and other girls, and realize how friendly and welcoming everyone is. Parents are sometimes surprised how quickly and easily their daughter is ready to say goodbye, and to run off with her new cabin mates.

While the new mini session campers were checking in and getting settled, the full session girls followed our regular Sunday schedule— sleeping in a little, enjoying a breakfast with fresh Krispy Kreme donuts, dressing in their white uniforms and red ties, performing the flag raising ceremony, and attending the wooded chapel service. Chapel today was put on by the Senior campers and the theme was “Growing.” Right before lunch the whole camp gathered under the big walnut tree on the hill with the gorgeous mountain view in the background, for our Sunday assembly. This a chance to introduce key staff members (e.g. Mandy, Jessi and the Line Heads), see skits about the various activities available at camp, present the “Mop Awards” to the cleanest cabins, learn and sing a couple of new camp songs, and afterwords, take state photos. Biggest state this session? North Carolina, by far.

Swimming camp buddy tag girlRight after lunch the new campers and their counselors zipped down to the lake for their “swim demonstrations.” Sarah, several lifeguards, and Elizabeth, our head of the waterfront, ran through the exercise designed to test everyone’s ability to swim and tread water. When a girl “passes” the swim demo, she receives a special colored buddy tag alerting the lifeguards of her swimming skills. If someone’s uncomfortable in the water, or if they can’t complete the “demonstration,” she will have to wear a life jacket and stay in the shallow end of the lake, but is certainly welcome (though not required) to come down for swimming lessons during her swimming activity or during one of the free swim periods.

The afternoon’s activity was a crazy water carnival we held down on our sports field. It was crazy because there was so much action, so many girls having fun in different ways at the same time. We had a giant inflatable water slide where after climbing up, would shower you as you flew down into a pool of water at the bottom. There was a tent where several counselors were painting faces (and arms, and backs and stomachs!). We had a coconut bowling game going on, and a “cake walk” game where the girls danced in a circle, landed on numbers, and if lucky won a tasty cupcake prize. The snow cone machine was making icy treats non-stop, and everywhere there was someone working out a hula hoop.

Camp carnival water slide girls Girls Camps Slip and Slide fun Camp shaving cream carnival game

The slip-n-slide was probably the biggest hit. What could be a better use for a long sheet of plastic? Stretch it down a gentle hill, add a little baby soap and water, and launch yourself down for a wet slippery ride! Add some upbeat music and you’ve got an awesome time. The big surprise though, was a shaving cream fight at the end of the Carnival. We passed out a couple of cases (yikes!) of shaving cream, and the girls took off trying to spray each other, splatter it in each others’ hair, and ultimately cover their entire bodies in white slippery foam. All kinds of creative hairstyles soon appear, with laughter and smiles all around. Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see more of that. We rinsed off a bit under the hose, and headed back up for a quick shower before dinner. Whew! What a fun afternoon, and a great way to open the August Mini session.

childrens camps carnival scene