Downright Magical

Lake canoe trip for girls

Learning to canoe first means learning strokes, and there’s no better place to practice than on flat open water. This morning, Emily led a canoeing trip to Cascade Lake for 11 campers to do just that. With boats loaded and other gear stowed in the trailer, they drove just 15 miles to the lake and put on the water. Right away it became clear for the girls that when there is no current to move the boat, propelling and steering requires attention and skill— forward and back strokes, J-strokes, pries, and sweeps. Fortunately, it was a calm, windless morning, with bright sunshine overhead, which made it easier to maneuver the boats. It took a little practice, but soon the band of boats made it all the way down the lake to Hooker Falls, where the girls had time to beach the boats and go for a short swim.  After a light snack, the crew paddled back across the lake to load up the boats and make it back to camp for a late lunch. The girls returned excited and happy about how “amazing” the trip was.

Knitting Camp Kid
Zip line camp girl
Girl and roasted marshmallow

Meanwhile, the regular activities at camp carried on. In Curosty, the fiber arts craft cabin, girls were learning to knit, for example. Working with two knitting needles, instead of paddles, these girls were learning stitches, not strokes. Here, fine hand skills are required to twist, pull and flip the yarn while keeping the tension consistent.  Like canoeing, practice pays off when learning to knit as well, but in the end, you have something soft and warm, maybe a little uneven, but handmade nonetheless. Riding the zip line, on the other hand, doesn’t take any practice, or require strokes or stitches. Nope, all you need to zip line (beyond the harness, helmet, tether and dual pulley) is a little nerve, and maybe a couple of lungs full of air to release as a scream when you fly by high above the camp (oh, and 43 facial muscles for a smile as well!). In the activity we call WHOA, the girls have been learning to build a campfire, and when successful, perfecting their marshmallow roasting technique. Whether aiming for lightly golden brown or charred to a crisp, roasting a marshmallow is the kind of outdoor activity these girls are happy to practice.

Biltmore Train Ice Cream Eating

When Chase announced that the Biltmore Train would be arriving today after lunch, the dining hall exploded with shrieks of laughter and delight. Like Oprah had just given them some unimaginably fantastic prize, girls were jumping up and down in unison, clapping, waving their arms in the air, even collapsing with what looked like tears in their eyes. Yes, the thought of an ice cream party can do this to a group of girls, especially a huge ice cream party like this where everyone can have multiple— in some cases 5 or 6! — cones if they please. It’s been a long Rockbrook tradition to hold this once-per-session ice cream extravaganza called the “Biltmore Train.”

During the dinner announcements, another wild frenzy of screaming broke out when Chase invited everyone down to our grassy landsports for a twilight shaving cream fight and slip ‘n slide. This is another special event that, because it’s so much fun and because we do it only once per session, the girls really look forward to. Campers and counselors alike arrived dressed in their swim suits ready to get messy. Each armed with a can of shaving cream, it took about 5 seconds for the girls to begin squirting and smearing white foam on everyone. Nobody was safe; even the photographer (me) ended up covered.

Shaving Cream Fight Girl with Glasses
Camp girls sliding

For the next 30 minutes or so, the girls became more and more covered with the stuff, happily shaping outrageous hairstyles, finger painting messages on their stomachs, and adding to the designs on everyone else. We also set up a slip ‘n slide. Now covered with shaving cream, essentially coated in slippery soap, the girls took turns running and launching themselves down the long sheet of wet plastic. It’s a great time for them to roll and tumble as they glide along two or three at a time. Being this slick, some of the girls easily slid about 80 feet! After a quick rinse with the hose, it was time for a warm shower, some dry clothes, and evening program in each Line’s lodge.

What a great camp day! Adventure, creativity, time outdoors, yummy treats, and goofing around with friends— it’s been downright magical.

Shaving cream group of girls at camp

Her Authentic Self

Camp girls yoga pose
Camp Swimming lake

One important goal we have for everyone at Rockbrook, campers and staff members alike, is for each person to relax and be her “authentic self.” If the “real world” pressures us to conform to lofty ideals of personality, comportment and beauty, we want camp to be a haven from those pressures. It’s fine for our home and school lives to address these ideals, but if taken too seriously and if applied too rigorously, children can end up being more “fake” than “real,” and in the long run, unhappy. They can lose track of their true personality, spirit and character because they want to be who they believe others (parents, peers, preachers and professors) want them to be. Oscar Wilde put it this way. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” But how can we guide and educate our children, yet also foster their true selves? How can we promote real self-esteem and self-confidence more powerful than external social pressures?  It’s a lofty goal for a camp community, but how is it possible?

There’s quite a lot to this, but I think part of the secret of camp, part of what makes it so successful at being this kind of haven for girls, is the nature and strength of the relationships that form our community. As I have mentioned before, Rockbrook is an intentional community staffed by a group of well-trained, caring adult role models who know the importance of compassion, generosity, and contribution. Instead of competition, we applaud blameless communication and cooperation. Instead of insecurities and self-doubt, we inject genuine encouragement. Instead of being left out or ignored, girls here find a place of listening, respect and care.

Pair of girls shooting archery

There’s really no better way to put it; at Rockbrook there’s a feeling of being appreciated and respected, loved, for who you really are. And the girls can sense it. They feel connected to everyone here, and supported by them. It’s within this special environment, this tight-knit community of friends, that girls can feel safe enough to let down their guard and laugh their heads off, get their feet completely muddy, dance in front of a crowd, wear an outrageous costume, jump off of a rock (tethered to a zip line cable!), shoot a real gun or arrow, and connect so deeply with so many wonderful people.

This is another reason why camp feels so good also. It’s a relief from that nagging anxiety that can accompany social pressure to perform or be a certain way. How wonderful it is to be free of that pressure! Rockbrook is that kind of haven. It’s a place where, for a brief time each summer, your girls can celebrate their true selves growing more secure and confident. Of course, all of this might just mean your girls are “comfortable” here and are having a lot of “fun,” but I think it’s much more than that.

Camper with flags in her hair
Girls dancing to live music at Rockbrook

Today was “International Day” at camp. To celebrate, we welcomed Ras Allen and the Lions, a Reggae band to play an outdoor concert for us on the hill during dinner. They set up on the Hillside Lodge porch. The girls relaxed in their crazy creek chairs, applauding and cheering between songs. Many of them also hopped up to dance, especially when the band came down to the crowd for a drum solo. Singing about “Beauty and Love” and “Organic” gardening, among other things, Ras entertained the campers and counselors for 2 hours. Live music, some good food, a little dancing, and all with really great friends— it was a nice way to spend a Friday evening.

Unforeseen Rewards

Pounding Mill Overlook NC
Camp Cabin of Girls poses on Parkway

It’s hard not to mention the weather in these posts. We spend so much of our time outside, it only makes sense that how hot or cold, wet or dry, it is outside would make a difference both in our plans and in what we might wear (raincoat or just a fleece today…?). You have to stay flexible too, because the weather can change minute by minute in this part of North Carolina. It can be hot, humid and sunny at noon, and then cool and breezy just an hour later. For example today we had a picnic lunch planned for our mini session seniors, and with everyone loaded in buses, we set out to our favorite spot in the Pisgah only to meet a huge rainstorm when we arrived.  Not to be discouraged, and with the help of a little weather radar, we continued climbing making it eventually to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pounding Mill Overlook.

Camp gils jump on Blue Ridge Parkway

At an elevation of 4700 feet, there we had risen above and away from the rainstorm and found ourselves just above the clouds with bright sunshine all around. It was gorgeous! We could easily look south and see Looking Glass Rock, and east to view Mount Pisgah (elev. 5721 ft). What better place to lounge on the grass and eat our picnic? In the end, this was an example of changed plans that were better. Being rained out meant finding unforeseen rewards. Stopping on the drive back for a quick cone of Dolly’s ice cream, while perhaps appearing unplanned, was a perfect polish to our afternoon trip.

Whitewater Rafting Team

Today we were able to complete this session’s whitewater rafting trips on the Nantahala river. Here too, a little flexibility really paid off. Most of the rivers around here are too high right now, and even the dam-controlled Nantahala was unsafe on Tuesday. With a little shuffling of the adventure schedule, we were able to run the trips today instead. We also decided to push the first trip to earlier in the day to boost our odds of avoiding the predicted afternoon thundershowers. I’m happy to report that everything went perfectly, and with no rain! Boats of singing (and at times screaming!) girls wearing white helmets, 72 people in two groups— our Rockbrook rafting days turn heads on the river.

One aspect of taking an adventure trip, like whitewater rafting, kayaking, or rock climbing, for example, is the decision to skip your regular in-camp activities. Girls know that by signing up for these trips, they’ll have to miss archery, horseback riding, pottery and any other their scheduled activities. This can be frustrating for campers attending short sessions, but it soon becomes clear that it’s impossible to do everything at camp, and you always have to choose among options, thereby skipping certain opportunities. It’s a good lesson in decision making. To select also means to neglect. Fortunately, at camp, whatever a girl selects is guaranteed to be a fun-filled, good choice.

Our evening program tonight brought the return of our friend Daphne from “Cold Blooded Encounters” and 16 of her cold-blooded friends to the gym for her animal show. One by one, she presented each animal walking it around the crowd of shocked and at times wide-eyed girls. She described whether each animal— snake or lizard for example —was poisonous, where it lives in the wild, what it eats, and other unique aspects of its behavior.

Bearded Dragon Lizard
Reticulated Python

Some of the reptiles were familiar to the girls, like the Eastern Box Turtle and the Black Rat Snake, creatures that can be found at Rockbrook. Others, though, were more exotic like an Emperor Scorpion, a Tomato Frog, a Tarantula, a Bearded Dragon, and a huge Reticulated Python. At the end of the show, Daphne invited the girls to touch her python, disproving their belief that snakes are “slimy,” and showing that they are instead smooth, cool and muscular. It was an exciting, informative evening.

The Rockbrook Shake

The Harlem Shake… Odds are you’ve seen a version on YouTube because back in February it was a worldwide viral meme, with thousands of groups uploading dance videos to this same song. The Wikipedia article on the Harlem Shake does a good job explaining it. Well, today we made our own Rockbrook Harlem Shake. And Wow! The girls were really excited to make it, all dressed in their craziest costumes. Sarah starts it off, but when the beat drops, about 200 people turn the scene into a wild dance break. Be sure to watch it (several times, to catch it all!) in HD and in Full Screen!

Girls dressed for the harlem shake video
Camp Girls doing the Harlem Shake

These photos give you a better, up close, sense of what it felt like to make the video (click them to see a larger version). The dancing is brief and intense, with arms swinging wildly, jumping, rolling, and twirling in all directions. Kayaking and climbing equipment, gymnastics moves, and a parachute all made appearances. Long hair flew in every direction. The looks on everyone’s faces show just how fun and funny the whole experience was.

Overall, we have here a wonderful summary of the energy and spirit these girls bring to their time together at Rockbrook.

Take our Holiday Challenge!

Each year, we challenge our staff to spread the camp spirit around their community well beyond the summer. The holidays are a great time to utilize the lessons you learned while working at camp. See if you can complete all ten of these holiday tasks by the new year!

1.  Try something new. It can be anything- a new food, signing up to volunteer – whatever you want!

Kayaking at camp
Try Something New

2. Slow things down and spend some quality time with your friends.

summer yoga
Spend Time With Friends

3. Reminisce about the passing year. Think about all the fun you had in 2012. Be prepared for all the good times you’ll create in 2013.

Learning how to use a camera
Reminisce About the Passing Year

4. Be silly! Have a dance party, sing in the shower, put on a costume!

Costumes at camp
Be Silly

5. Lead the charge. Be the one to start something. Organize a food drive in your neighborhood – start a jump rope contest – make and deliver wreaths to all of your neighbors.

summer fun
Be a Leader

6. Get Crafty! You don’t need to spend a fortune to give great gifts this holiday season. Just a little creativity and inspiration and va-la! You’ve created a gift from the heart.

Crafts for kids
Get Crafty

7. Lend a helping hand. Wherever you see the need, help out.

trunk moving into camp
Help Out

8. Laugh until your stomach hurts!

goggles for kids

9. Kick your shoes off. It’s so easy to rush, rush, rush during the holiday season. Remind yourself to relax.

rain boots at camp

10. Let the comfort and joy you experienced at Rockbrook show loud and proud in your community.

joyful camp girls in play
A Rockbrook Girl, Loud and Proud

Alice Banquet

Alice Banquet Title and Program

The end-of-session Banquet is a huge deal at Rockbrook, something that everyone, from the youngest first-time camper to the most senior staff member, looks forward to. The element of surprise drives this to some extent, since the Banquet’s theme is kept secret, but it’s also a marvelous experience to attend, one filled with colorful wall panels, table decorations, choreographed dancing by live characters, special food, and dance music.

The planning for each session’s banquet begins long before the girls arrive at Rockbrook. In fact, for girls who attend camp every summer, it can be a topic of discussion years before they even become “CA” campers, 9th graders, the age-group given the task of presenting this end-of-session party. Many of these girls have grown up attending RBC Banquets, seeing what the CAs before them have done, so when it’s their turn, they are full of ideas.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee Characters
Mad Hatter Character in Alice Banquet

The CAs this session decided to make their banquet an Alice in Wonderland theme, titling it “Down the Rabbit’s Hole” and featuring decorations and characters based on the well-known novel by Lewis Carroll, and the Disney animated film adaptation of the book. The decorations were phenomenal! Every wall of the dining hall was covered with a unique poster painted with a scene of character from the story. There were over-sized and regular playing cards hung among strands of lights, curtains, and fabric. On each table, there were paper mushrooms, plenty of candy, more playing cards, top hats, small bottles of bubble solution, and souvenir red cups. Here’s a short video to get a sense of the detail of these decorations and the amount of time and energy it took these girls to paint and set up the entire dining hall.

The costumes were amazing as well. Several of the counselors dressed as main characters: Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the Dodo Bird, while the campers became Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Caterpillar, the King and Queen of hearts, the Door Mouse, and the March Hare. The combined effect of these characters greeting the campers as they came through the red curtain into the now unrecognizable dining hall was magical. The girls, especially the youngest Juniors, had such looks of astonishment when they first realized the theme and took everything in.

Cheshire Cat costume at Alice in Wonderland Banquet
Alice and Caterpillar costumes for banquet

The program included a series of skits and dances enacting scenes from Alice’s adventures alternating with courses of food. They served chocolate chip scones after Alice descended the Rabbit’s Hole and met Tweedledee and Tweedledum, cheesy bread sticks after the Cheshire Cat appeared, and fancy small sandwiches when Alice saw flowers dancing in the garden. Cupcakes decorated like mushrooms topped off the meal, followed by cards dancing with the Queen of Hearts. In between program events, the campers, all dressed in this year’s RBC t-shirt, were invited to get up and dance to some of there favorite pop songs from the summer.

“You always remember your first Banquet,” a couple of Seniors told me today. And everyone agreed after tonight’s; this was one of the best banquets that everyone here won’t soon forget. It was awesome. Thank you CAs for all your hard work!

Alice Banquet Dancers
Banquet Dance of the Cards
Cast of Allice in Wonderland Banquet

Resilient Camp Girls

Rainy day at summer camp girl with raincoat

At 8:00 this morning, as is usual, the girls were awoken to the clear tones of the iron bell ringing throughout the camp, but also today to the tapping of rain on every roof. It was one of those rare mornings when raincoats came out for breakfast, when the temperature is cooler, and droplets of mud seem to spring up on most things at camp. On a day like this, some girls resist the weather and gear up completely with waterproof hats, jackets, boots and umbrellas, while others just embrace it, stomping around in flip flops, wet hair and soggy clothes.

Either way, there’s something important going on; the girls are showing their resilience, their ability to carry on despite the rain. Even with the minor discomfort and reshuffling of plans a rainy day presents, the girls coped just fine, confidently and without a parent determining every step. Life often includes moments like this when unexpected misfortune rears its head, so learning to be resilient, to land on your feet ultimately, is a crucial skill, and it’s something that camp is perfectly suited to teach. Here’s an article discussing how Rockbrook teaches resilience, what our program, staff and overall philosophy provide to help our girls handle setbacks later in their lives. (Please take a moment to read it.) We’ve said it many times before, and this is an example; woven into all the excitement and fun of camp are really significant lifelong benefits for kids.

Summer Whitewater Rafting on the Nantahala River

Today’s rafting trips are another example of your girls’ resilience. After a great night camping at our outpost located further upstream on the Nantahala River, complete with s’more making and wildlife encounters (a beautiful Eastern Box Turtle, a couple of girls discovered by flashlight), we woke to a light rain. By the time we reached the put-in to begin rafting, we had a steady, let’s-get-wet, kind of rain. Without hesitation or any sign of dampened spirits, the girls were soon suited up in blue spray jackets (for a little added warmth), PFDs, helmets and paddles, and ready to go. It’s hard to hold back an excited group of girls, and this was no exception. Even before the first rapid, boats were singing, cheering, bouncing around in the rafts, and doing “high fives” with their paddles. Rain or no rain, perfect conditions or not, these girls were having big fun.

Rock climbing girl on wall in gym
Teen Archery Girl

At camp, lunch was an elaborate taco fiesta, complete with Eulogia’s homemade guacamole to top ground beef, black beans, diced tomatoes, Mexican rice, cheese and salsa. Each table/cabin had a plate of crunchy and soft taco shells, and an unlimited supply in the kitchen for seconds. There was a little action over at the peanut butter and jelly station, but not much. Oh, and the muffins today were another of Katie’s creative combination recipes: Krispy Kreme, Applejack Muffins. Yep, they had chopped doughnuts in the batter and Applejack cereal blended in “for color and a little crunch,” as she put it. And for dessert tonight, Katie surprised everyone with homemade cinnamon rolls that she baked with just the right amount of sugar rolled up in a thin dough, sliced, and lightly glazed. We had no trouble gobbling those right up!

After dinner, a group of counselors presented a new, action-packed Twilight activity called “Gold Rush.” Working in cabin groups, the girls learned that hidden around the camp were “golden nuggets” (wiffle balls painted gold, actually) and that they were to find as many as they could, with the cabin gathering the most winning a special treat (spending rest hour by the lake, for example). They also stationed “Bandits” around the camp who could steal a cabin’s gold if the girls couldn’t sing a certain RBC song or answer a trivia question correctly. This was a high-energy event with the campers looking high and low all over the camp. In the end, we awarded several prizes to each age group. It was an evening spent enjoying the wooded setting of camp, the cool, fresh mountain air, and the company of friends playing a silly game… Exactly the kind of evening we love around here.

Teen girls happy and laughing at summer camp

Proud of These Girls

Horseback riding camp girl

Horseback riding was back in full swing today under bright blue skies and without a drop of rain to speak of. Kelly and her team of dedicated instructors were excited to move their classes from the porch of the equestrian office and inside the barns, where they’ve been meeting during that spell of soggy weather, to back outside for mounted lessons. The riders in every lesson were itching to ride too, the beginners ready show what they’ve been learning about the horses’ tack (saddles, reins and bits) and the more advanced riders thrilled to be meeting a new horse. A big part of riding is creating a level of trust, friendship really, between a horse and rider. The best riders “click” with their horses, communicating clearly, respecting and sympathizing, so it’s always a great thing to see Rockbrook girls out riding and demonstrating this kind of intimacy with their horses. Almost 100 girls rode today, so it was a big day of horseback riding down at the barn!

High Ropes Course Climbing child
Child with big gun

The Alpine Tower came alive with all kinds of high ropes course adventure today as well. Driving up the north driveway of camp, you may have spotted in the woods this giant, 50-foot climbing tower made of massive telephone poles, cables, bolts and rope. Up close, and particularly when there are (up to six at a time) girls climbing all over it, it’s even more impressive because there is such a variety of climbing challenges to try. There are swinging logs, tall cargo nets, climbing ropes, inclined poles, wiggly planks, and a strenuous overhanging climbing wall to choose from. At the top of the Tower, there’s a triangular shaped deck where the staff have placed a poster for girls to write their name as having successfully made the climb. Coming down from the platform is simple. Every climber is on belay when climbing, so when ready, the belayer lowers her slowly down on the belay rope. Like being on a big rope swing, it’s a fun ride.

At the rifle range, which is also set back in the woods away from camp, the girls are focused on the upcoming riflery tournament against the Camp Carolina boys. The instructors are hoping to match last session’s win, so they are really working, shooting hundreds of rounds everyday. Cliff, who is a retired law enforcement trainer and our marksman coach this summer, is helping the girls with their shooting technique as well as keeping the rifles perfectly sighted and maintained. And his coaching is paying off! Some girls are consistently scoring in the mid 30s (out of a possible 50 points- 5 shots, with a bullseye scoring 10 points) and a couple are clustering shots and scoring in the 40s. Very impressive accuracy and precision!

Campers making tie dye t-shirts

Get ready for tie dyes! The craft activity we call “Hodge Podge” has been cranking through tie-dye t-shirts giving everyone a chance to twist, fold and squirt colorful dyes. The process begins with soaking a plain white t-shirt (though a few other cotton items have found their way) in a solution of urea. The girls then use rubber bands to bind folds of the still wet fabric tight enough that when they apply different colors of dye, some parts absorb less dye than others. The shirts then sit overnight. It’s always fun to see what cool patterns are revealed when the they are finally unfolded and rinsed.

Tonight was a camp dance night as we hosted the young boys from Camp Carolina in our gym, and our oldest girls rode over to dance in their dining hall. For years we have done it this way, holding two simultaneous dances to manage better so many children and to play more age appropriate music at each venue. The senior girls seemed most excited about the event, but in a great lighthearted, Rockbrook, way. Instead of fancy outfits, most of them wore campy clothes, t-shirts, even crazy costumes. Most brushed their hair, I suspect, but face paint and glitter were more prevalent than make up. When came to dancing, it was just as silly, with small clusters of girls laughing and jumping together to the beat, almost oblivious to the (much more shy) boys. These are strong young ladies who know how to have good fun. You should be proud!

teenage campers dancing at camp dance

A Kind of Collective Euphoria

Raft goes over Nantahala river falls

One of the outdoor adventure trips available to all Rockbrook Middlers and Seniors (girls who have finished the 5th grade and older) is whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River over in Swain County. We don’t make girls sign up for these trips before arriving at camp (or charge extra for them) because we know part of the fun is deciding to go, or not go, with your friends. And when there are two options available -a day-long trip or an overnight camping version -making that decision is important. These girls just want to be together! This can make the logistics of planning rafting trips complicated, but we have plenty of experience making it happen. Like today, when surprisingly 77 girls wanted to raft, we simply ran an extra raft of girls on both trips to accommodate everyone. After meeting our veteran guides at the river’s put-in, and suiting up in the RBC gear (Rockbrook has a special permit to do all this ourselves), the morning trip hit the first rapid called “Patton’s Run” in bright sunshine. The girls had a ball over the next two hours, laughing and screaming with every bump and splash. Some of the rapids on the Nantahala really get your heart pumping, like the one in this photo, the final big rapid called the “Nantahala Falls.” There are calm spots too, making a nice balance of floating (and chances to sing camp songs!) and high adventure whitewater. The afternoon trip also started out warm and sunny, but did have some rain for the last 30 minutes. This didn’t stop the fun however. Their Rockbrook Spirit, a kind of collective euphoria, kicked in and the girls just sang louder and paddled harder.

Back at camp, creativity ruled the day with all kinds of arts and crafts projects taking shape- watercolor painting, t-shirt scrap weaving, extruded form pottery, triple pattern friendship bracelets, beaded headbands, embroidered pillows, and paper craft decorated boxes. For some girls, sports and games like dodgeball, tennis or yoga kept them moving, if they weren’t signed up to ride the zip line course or attend the sharpshooters club taught by Cliff down at the rifle range. Elaine had the gymnastics girls working on balance and posture, and down at riding, Kelly was giving similar instructions to girls cantering around the lower ring.

Black Forest Girls Costumed

For dinner Rick brought back his homemade pizza… completely homemade, with pounds of flour, yeast and water going into the dough, gallons of red marinara sauce, and a mountain of shredded mozzarella cheese. There’s something about the chewy soft crust of this pizza that really makes it extraordinary. Some like it with pepperoni, and others with veggies, but even if it’s plain cheese, the girls gobbled up tray after tray tonight. Everyone had some of the spinach salad and strawberries served on the side too, but it was the pizza that made the meal. To top it all off, Katie made fresh blueberry cobbler that had a perfectly crunchy, crumbly topping, though I suspect most of the girls were pretty full when the Hi-Ups brought out the dessert platters. So many delicious things!

Camps magic show

Tonight after dinner our friend Bill Grimsley entertained the whole camp in the gym with his world famous magic show. Bill has been a full-time, professional entertainer since 1986 and has toured all over the world to perform. He is a talented comedian, juggler and stage magician, and tonight he didn’t hold back. He made two doves appear in an empty box, only to cover the box again and reveal a live rabbit instead. He sawed a counselor in half (reconnecting her shortly thereafter!), and levitated a camper by removing the chairs supporting a plank she was lying upon. The Juniors sitting on the front row were rapt and wide-eyed. He performed other classic magic tricks too, like cutting and magically restoring a rope, mysteriously connecting large metal rings, and a card trick where a card with a ripped corner appeared in a box across the stage. The Senior girls seemed particularly impressed by a mind reading trick where Bill correctly guessed one girl’s favorite food (French Fries) and another’s favorite vacation spot (New York City). “How’d he do that?” “I don’t know, but it’s pretty cool.”

camp girls rafting the nantahala river

All of This on Her Own

Rockbrook Ecumenical chapel
Campers wearing white and red camp uniform

How we spend our Sundays at Rockbrook is a little different than other days of the week. It begins at a relaxed pace by sleeping in a little later, resting a little longer, and instead of doing cabin chores and getting dressed for breakfast right away, the girls shuffle into the dining hall still dressed in PJs and robes- literally, just rolling out of bed. There’s a special “real world” treat waiting for them too- boxes of freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts to supplement the regular fruit, cereal and yogurt bar, and today, Rick’s perfectly scrambled eggs.

The campers then dressed in their camp uniforms, which for Rockbrook means a white polo shirt, white shorts and a red tie, and assembled on the camp hill for our flag raising ceremony just in time for the sun to rise over the mountain behind camp. From there it’s a short walk along the “path of silence” to the Chapel area of camp. The Middler campers and their counselors led the Chapel this morning. They chose to sing songs, read poems and other meaningful passages, all revolving around the theme of gratitude. These gatherings are not religious ceremonies for us (they do not include readings from religious texts, for example), but rather are opportunities for the girls to reflect upon their time at camp and the broad human values and feelings that strengthen our community. We want girls of all backgrounds, no matter what their religious beliefs, to feel comfortable and included at Rockbrook, so our Chapel gatherings, set so beautifully in the woods, reflect that priority.

Girl sitting on her camp bunk bed

Meanwhile today, we also welcomed our July Mini 2 campers to Rockbrook for the start of their session. As they rode up the driveway with their trunks and duffel bags packed (in some cases, packed for weeks in anticipation!), it was absolutely clear that these girls were more than ready for camp to get started. They wanted to rush through the check in process, barely containing their enthusiasm, fidgeting while the nurses and the office checked things out. Up in their cabins, they finally got to meet their counselors and cabin mates, select their bunk, and settle down. All of this doesn’t take long, so parents are sometimes surprised how quickly they are “dismissed” by their daughters. “I got this, mom.” It can even be a little unsettling to see your girl skip off with her friends with just a wave or sly smile, but it’s good to remember that Rockbrook is her camp, not yours. It’s a place for her to be herself, grow up a little, try lots of new things and build really strong friendships. And all of this on her own! It’s a special recipe for encouraging independence and growing self confidence. Such good stuff.

After lunch a brief thundershower cooled things off and cleared up in time for the whole camp to charge up for a wet and wild carnival down on our sports field. A group of counselors, with the help of Frampton, Charlotte and Sofie, organized the event which included an inflatable obstacle course and water slide. The girls came dressed in their swimsuits and ready to get wet. There were sprinklers spraying, water pistols for just about everyone, water balloons and a bucket dumping game to satisfy that desire. The girls played the RBC corn hole game to win silly prizes, made small sand art bottles, tossed Pocket Discs around the field, and ran around stopping to hula hoop between getting a face painting design.

For snacks we had goldfish, an endless supply of snow cones, and drinks for everyone. Bringing the whole camp together for this kind of raucous event, mini and full session girls alike, is a great way to kick things off for the new girls. They can let loose right away, and by the end of the afternoon, they’re already feeling at home. I took a short video of this crew you see below. It’s posted on the Rockbrook YouTube channel and is very cute.

girls with face paint showing they love rockbrook