Absolutely Grand

When it gets hot outside, Rockbrook girls go to the water. It’s rare around here that the high temperatures reach above 90 degrees. It helps that being in the mountains keeps things cooler at night, and Rockbrook is tucked into a forested, west-facing slope giving it plenty of shade most of the morning, but there are always a few summer days, like today, when temperatures can climb. Fortunately at camp, we have plenty of ways to stay cool by taking a dip, splashing around, and otherwise getting wet.

Girls Laughing in whitewater raft
Girl Power Rafting
happy girl camp rafting

For example, the different creeks flowing through camp become water-park playgrounds for the girls during their free time periods. Above Curosty, the fiber arts cabin, you’ll find campers standing in the water— even sitting sometimes! —arranging small stones, floating their flip-flop shoes, and just enjoying the moving water headed to the lake. In front of Goodwill, the paper crafts cabin, the stream has more moss, larger stones to turn over and reveal small insects and other creatures —salamanders! crayfish! Armed with a small paper cup, girls are happily exploring, on the hunt for something of wonder.

Of course, the lake is the best place to cool off at camp. The diving board, 50-foot water slide, and variety of floating toys make it a fun and inviting place. Plus it’s always highly social, with groups swimming laps, playing “categories,” or lounging together in the water. As you might expect, the swimming and boating activities, plus the two free swim periods, have been extra popular with this sort of weather.

About 70 campers chose to experience the ultimate cooling adventure today over in Swain county, a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River. Two buses of girls spent the night beforehand at our outpost camp that adjoins the National Forest. After a quick dinner, the girls sang songs around the campfire and topped off their evening by roasting marshmallows for s-mores. The next day, all the other girls met our Rockbrook adventure guides to take the two-hour trip down the Nantahala River. This is such a fun time for the girls. Take a look at the photo gallery (or click these rafting photos) to see their hilarious laughter, wide-eyed moments of foreboding, and cheerful screams through the rapids. In the bright sunshine, the layer of cool air hovering over the cold, cold river water, felt really good today. It was an ideal day of rafting.

Finally, there was a fun surprise for the girls announced during dinner. The whole camp would have a “counselor hunt!” This is a giant, whole-camp version of hide and seek where all the counselors disappear into hiding places all over the camp, and each cabin group together searches. Each counselor was worth a secret number of points (some positive and some negative!) so that after the 45 minutes of searching, the tally would also be a surprise. The camp bell signaled the start and finish of the hunt, and the winning cabin received a sweet treat from the kitchen.

It’s only been a few days, and already this session of camp is absolutely grand. So many friendly girls and enthusiastic counselors, with all the great activities happening, are blending to fill our excellent days.

Girls Camp Friends

Wondrous Discoveries

girls holds small minnow in hands

Even in the driest weather, like that of the last few days, there are two creeks that flow through the center of Rockbrook. One is known around here as “Rockbrook Creek,” despite not having an official USGS name. It forms far above the camp, and as it descends the mountain, forms a 50-foot waterfall (“Stick Biscuit Falls”) just a short distance up the trail behind the new office building. It continues down under the dining hall, past the front of the Goodwill cabin, behind the back porch of the Curosty cabin, eventually making it into the French Broad River below. The other, much larger, creek is named “Dunns Creek” after the very large rock outcropping on the camp property called “Dunns Rock.” It too forms several impressive waterfalls on the property as it cascades down into the river valley. “Quentin Falls” and “Rockbrook Falls” are two of these waterfalls that are hiking destinations for the campers. We divert water from Dunns Creek, passing it along an aqueduct, to the Rockbrook lake, keeping it constantly supplied with clean, clear mountain stream water.

All this water, splashing down over and around the rocks of Rockbrook, which are really boulders strewn below Castle Rock and Dunns Rock, makes it a snap to discover amazing water creatures like, small fish, tadpoles, crawfish, worms, and salamanders, not to mention an array of bugs. That’s why during periods of free time around camp you can count on seeing girls stomping through the water, paper cup in hand, turning over rocks and staring intently into swirling pools. During activity periods, the “Nature” counselors will hand out small nets before heading out to explore one of the streams. There are wondrous discoveries all around us at Rockbrook.

girls archery shooting camp

Just the opposite of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” Rockbrook girls experience firsthand a superabundance of the Natural World. There are the impressive rocks and teeming creeks of camp, but there are also old growth trees, dense ferns and other forest plants, fauna, fungi and insects to encounter everyday. Spiders in the shower, crickets somewhere in your cabin, an owl or a bullfrog calling out at midnight: life at Rockbrook is immersed in Nature. The organic feeling of camp enriches our experience, calling the girls (sometimes literally) to dive in and ultimately providing the simply joy of loving the outdoors.

closing campfire candle ceremony

Tonight we held the closing campfire for our mini session girls. Like for all of the camp sessions at Rockbrook, we gathered everyone around the fire pit near the lake to reflect on our time together, and recognize what we’ve enjoyed, accomplished and learned at camp. The campers and counselors dressed in their red and white uniforms, and following a traditional program, sang songs and took turns speaking about what this session of camp has meant to them. One by one, from the youngest girls up to and including a few staff members, we heard sweet stories about how camp helped conquer fears, and allowed hidden talents to emerge. Mostly, the speakers recognized all the people, young and old, they now consider friends, and how they love the feeling of being at Rockbrook. Sarah spoke at the end reminding everyone that even during the school year, we can enliven some of these camp feelings…by being kind and generous, maybe a little silly and courageous at the same time. She reminded us that being outside with friends, away from our favorite flickering technology, is something we can do at home. We closed the program by lighting a white candle and sharing that flame with everyone, each camper and counselor holding their own small candle. Singing softly, the girls and their counselors spread out facing the lake, illuminating everything with golden candlelight. “Day is done; gone the sun…” It was a calm beautiful scene, and a perfect ending to a wonderful session.

girl campers uniform hub

In and On the Water

Morning Outdoor Pancake Picnic

When the camp bell rings at 8am each morning, when it’s typically cool and foggy making everything a little grey and moist outside, there’s rarely anyone out on the hill in the center of camp. That was true this morning too, except several staff members were quietly scurrying around to set something up in all three of the stone lodges. They had folding tables, stacks of plates, bowls of fruit, chocolate, maple and caramel syrup, whipped cream, and colorful sprinkles. They were clearly up to something, excited about the unannounced treat they had in store for the campers. The best clue explaining all this was the griddles, spatulas and huge bowls of pancake batter they finally carried out from the kitchen. It was “Pancakes and PJs,” a surprise breakfast cooked and served in the lodges, and enjoyed by everyone while sitting outside in one of the red porch rockers or on the hill in crazy creek chairs. With sausage and fruit on the side, the girls loaded up their pancakes with sweet toppings, and spilled out everywhere to chat in small groups and watch the sun break through the fog. Something completely new and different, it was a delightful way to wake up and start the day.

Girls with the feet in a stream
Camp Water Slide Fun

It’s always easy to play in the water at Rockbrook. First of all, the lake itself  provides a place to cool off, take a swim, ride the water slide, or just float in a tube. But my favorite way the girls play in the water here is by exploring, often during their free time, one of the many streams cutting down from the hills above the camp. One of these, near the Curosty cabin, flows along a grassy bank making it a perfect place to soak your feet (even when wearing long pants!), float and race your flip flop shoes, keep reeds wet when weaving a basket, or hone your Hydraulic Engineering skills by building a dam from rocks, sticks, bark and mud (Fortunately, these dams are never completely watertight!). The other, which passes in front of the Goodwill cabin, flows over and around several large rocks making it a thriving habitat for stream creatures like crayfish, salamanders, and water striders. It’s great fun for the girls to wade into this stream, paper cup in hand, and inevitably scoop up something interesting, and wiggly. Standing on one of the big rocks in this stream, a camper exclaimed, “This is the most beautiful place on earth!” At one level, I think she’s right. It’s certainly a place full of wonderful plants and animals ready to discover.

Camp French Broad Float
Camp Nantahala Float
Camp Girls Nantahala Celebration

It’s also easy to play on the water at Rockbrook. This is because throughout the week we offer optional canoe, kayak and rafting trips on many of the local rivers. After the girls learn their basic strokes on our lake, they can sign up for these trips. For example today, Emily led a group of 6 canoes on a leisurely float down a section of the French Broad River near camp. This river is wide and lined with trees in this section. The water moves along gently making it a very relaxing paddle. Meanwhile, further west in the mountains, a group of Middlers and Seniors were spending the day whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. Some of these girls spent the night at our outpost camp, while others came just for the day to raft. Clean and very cold, the Nantahala River provides a great whitewater workout… of muscles paddling and bouncing over the rapids, and of vocal chords screaming with delight to every bump. It’s a thrilling adventure for the girls.

Our silly side came out after dinner tonight when the Middlers presented an all-girl “Prom” for our twilight activity. Essentially a dance party, the girls dressed up and came down to the gym to dance and sing to their favorite “girl power songs.” The posters decorating the walls reminded us of famous strong women (e.g., Jane Goodall) and “girls’ bands, like Taylor Swift. The dancing was lighthearted and carefree, free of criticism, competition and posturing. It was both fun and funny, partly because Rockbrook is simply a friendly supportive place, but also I think because there were no boys around. This all-girl, “no boys allowed,” environment, one that eliminates the powerful gaze of the opposite sex, allows our campers to loosen up a bit and enjoy themselves as they truly are— friendly, sensitive, caring young ladies. Without concern for what “the boys might think,” girls, particularly teenage girls, thrive, becoming more confident and self-assured as they develop positive relationships with those around them. At camp, this translates to simply having a great time with your friends. I think everyone here would agree; camp should not be about boys. Instead, it’s about us— living together in this beautiful place, growing closer as we share all these special experiences, and celebrating the fun of it all.

All Girls No Boys Dancing