Getting Back to Basics

Tonight two junior cabins embarked on their very own Junior Overnight. This special trip is reserved just for our youngest campers, and the girls get to venture a short distance into the woods with their counselors, make s’mores, sing campfire songs, and hear stories. For some of our youngest girls, the Junior Overnight is their only opportunity to leave camp and sleep outside, and it’s a major highlight of the session for them.

The announcement was made during dinner: “Junior One and Five cabins, what’re your plans for tonight?!” The two groups looked puzzled being asked this question in front of the entire camp, completely unprompted. “We don’t know… ,” said one girl in the back. “YOU’RE GOING ON YOUR JUNIOR OVERNIGHT TONIGHT!!!” As soon as I declared the news, the girls squealed with excitement. Their time had finally come!

Junior girls camping

The girls wiggled into their pajamas and packed after dinner, running up to their cabins as they remembered water bottles, bug spray, or a critical stuffed animal before we left. Once we made it out to the outpost, I immediately started making the fire. One curious camper asked me to explain each step, which I was thrilled to do. Afterwards, the campers inhaled some s’mores and learned some new songs, including my personal favorite, the Cider Song.

For bedtime, after some discussion of sleeping arrangements and keeping spiders away, I read the girls a story about a girl who snuck cookies to her pet cow and another about a girl who dreamt of going to the moon. Most of the campers fell asleep before I was asked to tell “a Chelsea original,” which featured a little redbird who traveled the world helping others. 

vintage camping ladies

Full disclosure, I love this trip. My most treasured camp memories involve sleeping outside, eating something by a fire, hearing a funny story from a Director or counselor, and overcoming a little nervousness about a bug potentially crawling on me during bedtime. It was those particular experiences that brought me back as a counselor years later.

The Junior Overnight entails what summer camp is meant to be in its simplest form—quality time with friends in nature, away from modern conveniences. In my opinion, for these reasons, the simple little trip also celebrates the very reasons Rockbrook was founded.

A S’mores Infographic

We’ve written before about how to make a s’more, and even discussed the history of s’mores, but now the folks over at REI have put together a cool infographic explaining what s’mores are, a few tips about making them, and some great ideas about variations you can try (adding peanut butter, for example). Take a look!

An infographic showing how to make a s'more

Take Our October Challenge

This week we sent out the first installment of our monthly staff newsletter. Aside from including tricks of the trade (how to French braid!) and recipes (chocolate chip muffins- yum!), we challenged our counselors to pause from the hustle and bustle of the “real world” to do a few things to remind them how sweet this life is. See if you can take our challenge!

Can you complete five of the following tasks by the end of the month?

  • Make a new friend.
  • Say hello to ten strangers on the street.
  • Play with shaving cream.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Make someone you love breakfast in bed.
  • Pick wild flowers.
  • Send snail mail (or snail texts!)
  • Start your morning with a dance party.
  • Read a good book.
  • Write a list of everything you’re thankful for.
  • Take a walk.
  • Take a bath.
  • Ignore Facebook for a whole week.
  • Go fresh-faced: no make-up for a day.
  • Eat a s’more.
  • Watch the sunrise.
  • Carve a pumpkin.

Camping in the Mountains

Check out this great page from a 1941 Rockbrook Catalog.  Campers had the opportunity to go on lots of different adventures including overnight camping trips.  Camping trips now follow the principles of Leave No Trace, but back in the 1940’s you can see that the camp outs were quite elaborate.  Don’t you know those S’mores tasted delicious?!

Campers at Rockbrook enjoy an overnight camp out
Rockbrook Catalog Excerpt, 1941

First-Time Counselor’s Camp Reflection

At the end of each camp session, select counselors and campers speak about their camp experience. Here’s what Kara Morris, a 2009 first-time counselor of the Junior line and archery instructor, said about her summer at Rockbrook:

Hello, I’m Kara Morris and this is my first year at Rockbrook. Being from the west where sleepaway camps are uncommon, I expected Rockbrook to be your typical Parent Trap style camp, where you pierce your ears, cut your hair, learn complex handshakes,  and of course, find your long-lost twin.

nifty knitter needlecraft

What I did not expect was this remarkable program enabling girls to constantly try new things, have endless amounts of fun, create life-long friendships, to grow, mature and learn life’s lessons with each passing day. I had no idea how intricate Rockbrook is, and how much work and effort goes into each and every single day. What’s remarkable is the resulting experience people receive by coming as a camper or a camp counselor.

What experience is that? It’s all of the chances we’ve had to enjoy ourselves, have our patience tested, a cold shower because you can’t get to Brad fast enough, it’s trial and error, attempting to catch-and-release a ginormous black widow instead of just killing him to be considered a “Bug Rescuer.” The personal thoughts you’ve collected while hiking miles or swimming that 440. Teaching someone how to make a cool design for a friendship bracelet. It’s the friendships you’ve made. It’s the laughs, the tears, the knowledge that you and a group of girls just got through a difficult situation, The battle scars from falling down the senior steps or the hill…Writing a handwritten letter. Watching the rain fall, listening to the thunder. Hauling trunk after trunk up the hill. Spending time in nature away from electronics and cares of the world. Finishing a great book. Encouraging another person. It’s Rockbrook camp. Young or Old, whether you know it or not, each of you have gained experience here over the past few weeks. You come as one person and leave a better person because of it.

I want S'more!
I want S’more!

My experience at Rockbrook has not only been these thing, but more. Camp has taught me to be a better person, more patient with others and myself; it has helped me be more forgiving and less judgmental. It has enabled me to contemplate who I am and why I do the things I do. It has drawn me closer to my beliefs. It has been a growth-promoting experience…

To my fabulous juniors, I love you girls. No matter where you are, every time I eat pudding I will think of your bright smiling faces. And I will hear little voices in my mind saying, “What about my pudding??” Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from you. As the Broadway Musical “Wicked” states, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Tubing down the Davidson River