Feeling the Joys of Nature

Sunday mornings begin at a more relaxed pace compared to the rest of the week. We all sleep in an extra few minutes and then arrive for breakfast in pajamas… no worries about being dressed with cabin chores done beforehand. Also on Sunday, it’s been a long standing treat to serve fresh donuts along with our breakfast, having a little taste of the outside world. Then there’s cabin time for changing into our uniforms (white with a red tie) before assembling on the hill for flag raising. The Hi-Ups do the honors of presenting and raising the flag. Immediately afterwards, everyone walks down the lower line of cabins to the wooded amphitheater where we hold our Chapel program.

nature camp program

Today the Middler campers and some of their counselors presented a program on “Nature.” Like all of our chapel programs, this gathering was not a religious ceremony, but instead an opportunity to identify and reflect upon a core value or experience we all share at camp. In the past, we’ve held chapel programs on friendship, kindness, gratitude, community, and compassion for example. This morning we took time to consider our relationship with the natural world.

We sang “Tell me Why,” a slightly modified lyric to “Country Roads,” (“Almost Heaven, Rockbrook Camp..”) and “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by Tunde on guitar and Isa playing ukulele. We heard short readings on Nature selected by campers Sidney, E.A., Amelia, and Elizabeth.

Camper K.P. read a short reflection she wrote about her feelings in Nature and its importance to all of us. She said,

Nature is all around us. It is a big part of Rockbrook and it has a role in almost everything we do here. Rafting the Nantahala, hiking to Castle Rock, even dinner on the hill: Nature is a way of life around Rockbrook and we all live it.

Sometimes it is calming to just sit on the Hillside Lodge porch and look down at the garden, watch campers play in the creek, and see the girls splashing around in the lake. The serene setting of Rockbrook on a North Carolina mountain surrounded by trees and species of plants is the nicest place I know.

girls in camp uniforms

Sarah echoed this sentiment by reading the illustrated children’s book, “You Are Never Alone” by Elin Kelsey. This is a wonderful reminder of how nature touches almost every aspect of our lives, that “this beautiful planet showers [us] with gifts” in so many ways. The book illustrates how nature supports and at times heals us, how it stimulates our emotions, sense of wonder and imagination. Quite literally, Nature helps us be human. Much like what we enjoy at Rockbrook, it is a “warm, supportive, community that is always there for [us].” Sarah added how lucky we are at camp to experience the plants and animals of the forest (yes, even the “sprickets”) so intimately, feeling the joys of Nature without a care in the world. This message really resonated with the girls, many of them nodding their heads in agreement as she read the book. Good stuff!

Lunch was another incredible meal prepared by Rick and his kitchen crew— roasted, dry-rubbed chicken breasts, fingerling potatoes, and honey-glazed, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, with fresh blackberries and whipped cream for dessert. Amazing! The food at Rockbrook always gets high marks, and with meals like this, you can easily see why!

Our all-camp afternoon activity was a wild carnival of events down at the landsports field. With fun music pumping, and different snacks to keep us going, the girls enjoyed group games and challenges related to the theme of “food.” For example, one event challenged the girls to eat a doughnut dangling from the end of a string without using their hands. Similarly, another challenge required the girls to peel a banana (first cut in half) using only their feet. We used actual pieces of corn on the cob to play games of corn hole. The girls took turns making “pies” of whipped cream to toss at their counselors. There was a “grit pit,” a literal pool of warm grits, to experience. There were cookies to decorate, and beaded composting “worms” to make. One game was particularly fun, a challenge to use only rubber bands to break open a watermelon. They girls worked together stretching two or three rubber bands at a time over each watermelon, gradually adding to the band’s total pressure. There was only a small crack forming to warn them before the melon exploded to bits leaving a ball of sticky rubber bands behind. It was very exciting, and the kind of big crazy fun, we love at camp.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Sundays at Rockbrook provide us with a moment to catch our breath. After a very full week of riding horses, weaving on Inkle looms, taking the polar plunge, zipping across camp, and hitting tetherballs, it is welcome (and necessary!) to take a little break. 

girls singing song camp

On Sundays we sleep in a little later and enjoy breakfast in our pajamas.  Afterwards we take some time to clean our cabins, put on our uniforms, and get ready for flag-raising and chapel.  For many girls, these ceremonies are so special because they are a different time at camp, a little quieter, a little more serious.  The silent walk to chapel provides a chance for girls to hear the sounds at camp that are often overwhelmed by happy chatter, shrieks, and singing.  Girls start to notice the birdsong, feel the sun’s rays, maybe even get a sprinkle of rain on them.  After arriving at the rustic clearing in the woods that was selected by campers nearly 100 years ago, girls learn the theme for chapel that week.  Our chapel services are not religious services, but rather quiet, thought-provoking times at camp.  The girls participate by choice, and they may lead songs, read poems, and share thoughts that have to do with the weekly theme.

Gratitude program at camp

This week, our theme was “Gratitude.” Girls quickly caught on to the theme by expressing how lucky they felt to have the opportunity to spend time in this beautiful setting, living closely with so many fun and interesting people.  Many girls recognized that coming to camp has been a gift for them from another person. We read the book “The Secret of Saying Thanks” by Douglas Wood together.  The book helped draw attention to the many simple gifts around us all of the time at camp – from the beauty of flowers, the shade of trees, the silence of mountains, the life of waters.  In closing, the book teaches that a grateful heart is a happy one.  The campers really embraced the teachings of this book.  After chapel one of our campers wrote her thoughts about Rockbrook:

I stumbled upon it by chance; this place that my great-aunt, grandmother, and aunt all loved before me.

And now, there is no sound that I love more than the bell’s peal mingling with laughter,

No sight I love more than a girl tying the friendship knot on a first-year camper’s tie,

No taste I love more than fresh donuts on Sunday morning, broken and shared between friends,

No smell I love more than the last wisps of smoke from a spirit fire candle,

And no feeling I love more than the warmth of a hug that I know means farewell,

But not goodbye.

We still have a few more days before our farewells, and we are grateful for all of these fun and happy moments together.

Reading in chapel program

A Pioneer Sunday

The Sunday schedule at Rockbrook takes on a more relaxed pace. We sleep in a little extra, come to breakfast still in our pajamas (often with an extra layer given our cool mornings), and enjoy a special treat of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. We assemble on the hill to raise our flag, walk silently out into the woods for a chapel ceremony (today focused on the theme of “friendship”), and then enjoy a big Sunday meal. Today Rick had baked chicken, roasted potatoes, and a broccoli casserole, with blackberries and fresh whipped cream for dessert. It was delicious and kept the girls coming back for more chicken and potatoes.

camp sack relay race
butter making teens at camp
crooked pine band playing outdoors
Girl camps with sheep

Sundays are a chance for an all-camp surprise special event as well, and during rest hour many plans begin to unfold. And today was no exception because we had “Pioneer Day,” a multi-station event of exhibitions, costumes, games, crafts, rides, activities, food and music.

First the girls took this event as a chance to dress up, to don their bonnets, their simple dresses, boots, flannel shirts, overalls and bandanas.

Dressed and ready, groups of girls bopped along the tennis courts for sack race relays. They tested their skill tossing horseshoes, and had a grand time wrapping dozens of colorful ribbons to make a maypole.

One of the activities was making butter. Using real heavy cream and salt, the girls churned the cream in mason jars by shaking them for several minutes (about 10, I’d guess). When the butter started to clump and separate from the liquid (the buttermilk), the girls could`remove the butter, squeeze out any excess liquid and then eat the butter on a small homemade biscuit that the kitchen had baked for us earlier.

Another exciting and unusual activity was interacting with several live sheep and learning about wool sheering, carding and spinning. The campers loved petting the sheep and feeding them, laughing at their bleating.

There was a hay ride too! With our red tractor pulling, the girls could ride on a trailer loaded with bales of hay. The staff members had decorated the trailer and fashioned a few seats for the riders. Each round trip lasted about 10 minutes.

In the hillside lodge, two counselors used hot wax to show the girls how to dip candles. They had enough red and blue wax for everyone to make their own thin candle… many dips slowly building up. In the Goodwill cabin, two other counselors provided quill feathers and special tips so the campers could try writing with ink on paper.

Over the whole afternoon, the old time traditional music of the Crooked Pine Band kept everyone entertained. The band’s hometown is Brevard, so they are well known and popular around here, playing contra dances and concerts throughout the year. The girls had a great time dancing to the fiddle, guitar, banjo and upright bass, and later taking turns playing along on the washboard.

With fresh apple cobbler as a snack and lemonade to quench our thirst, we kept the event charged up all afternoon… true mountain fun in the mountains.

pioneer day special event

Our Full Sunday

Camp Flag Raising

We all look forward to Sundays at Rockbrook, and for several reasons. First, Sundays are a day when we get to sleep in; the rising bell rings and we wake up at 9 instead of 8am. After our active week, a little extra rest this morning was a good and well-appreciated thing. The treat continues when the girls can come to breakfast in their pajamas, essentially roll out of bed, put on a sweatshirt or robe if it’s feeling chilly, and shuffle to the dining hall through the fog (both literally and figuratively!). This morning, in addition to the eggs, bagels and cream cheese, fruit, granola and yogurt, we enjoyed sweet Krispy Kreme donuts, another Sunday tradition at camp. Rick even had a tray of special gluten-free donuts for the girls who required or preferred that.

About an hour after breakfast, at 11am, the Hi-Up campers (10th graders) presented their flag raising ceremony out on the hill. Raising the flag ceremonially, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing America the Beautiful has been a long tradition at camp also.  The whole camp dresses in their uniform and then creates a u-shaped formation around our flagpole. Today the sun was bright making our red and white uniforms look great on the green grassy hill.

Immediately afterwards, everyone walks silently in a single file line to the outdoor amphitheater for our weekly “chapel” assembly. For us, this is a moment of calm in our week to reflect a bit about core principles, values and ideas, rather than a religious ceremony of some kind. The campers themselves select a theme and then design a program that usually includes songs, poems and stories that illustrate the theme, with some time reserved for Sarah to add her thoughts. Today, our theme was “Special Places” and the girls talked about what makes certain places more special than others identifying the importance of friends, feeling at ease, and fond memories. They said special places don’t have to be fancy or far away; they can be your back yard or a special tree. Sarah read the book Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel which beautifully describes that exact idea! I’m sure the girls enjoyed thinking about where their special place or places might be.

Our Sunday lunch, which is always something special, was another impressive presentation by Rick, the Rockbrook chef and kitchen manager. Beginning early in the morning, he made pan after pan of homemade lasagna, baking the layers of pasta, marinara sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. With heaping bowls of salad and bread to complement, there was nothing but rave reviews about our midday meal.

Sponge Relay Girl
Watermelon Girl

An all-camp event for the afternoon is another typical Sunday activity at Rockbrook, and today we held an exciting tournament of games and relays, the “Red Bird Olympics.” First we divided all the campers into three teams, being careful to distribute the age groups, and then gave each team a bottle of washable paint to identify/decorate themselves— one red, white, and blue (The 4th of July is just two days away after all!). Take a look at the photo gallery to see how that turned out— everyone had their team’s color painted on them somewhere, maybe just a stripe on an arm or across a cheek, but in some cases much more!

Every camper participated in at least one of the relay events. Two were about careful tossing and catching: one with raw eggs and the other with water balloons. Girls on the same team would toss, and if successfully catch, they would step back to toss again from a greater distance. This continued until only one pair remained successful. Another challenge had the girls searching for a piece of gum hidden in a pie pan full of flour. We had a crazy sponge relay where members of each team raced back and forth carrying a soaked sponge, transferring water from one tub to a smaller bucket.

One station was the lake where we held 3 different relays. One was an exciting greased watermelon race that required the girls to propel a greasy watermelon through the water without using their arms or hands. The second involved transferring a t-shirt from person to person after swimming a distance, and the last involved girls covering themselves with shaving cream and then sliding down the water slide.  All three were definitely silly, but also crazy exciting to watch.

In fact, that’s a good part of the fun— cheering on your teammates as they tackle the challenges of the games.  The girls made up cheers for their teams, jumping and screaming in support. The cheering was absolutely wild during the “human knot” event.

In the end, we weren’t sure which team actually “won” the Olympics because we didn’t keep score. I suppose we could have, but how would that matter? Like so much at Rockbrook, for these games too, the fun was in the doing not in the measuring of what’s done.

After dinner and spending some time signing up for a new set of activities that will start in the morning, all the girls grabbed their crazy creek chairs or sleeping bags and pillows to head down to the gym for a movie.  We first danced to a few pop songs while everyone was arriving, watched a fun animated short film called Presto, and then enjoyed the Pixar feature film Inside Out. Gathered together and relaxing this way was a nice close to our very full day at camp.

Camp Color Girls

Don’t You Ever Worry About a Thing

Sometimes at camp, I ask my girls what their schedule is like at home. Their answers amaze me: their days are jam packed with school, sports, and other activities. My campers are in high school and, as high achievers, I am really impressed that they are able to balance everything and still have time for friends and fun. Still, there is a lot on their plate: between basketball, dance, really challenging classes, and other pressures, many say they get stressed.

They view Rockbrook as a break from that, and Rockbrook is uniquely suited to providing a less stressful environment. At camp, I think we take a step back and look at what really matters, and have patience with the rest. It’s a place where a camper doesn’t have to worry about being reprimanded if she is five minutes late to an activity. Instead, she is greeted with a smiling face and excitement. It’s a place where we wear costumes and do crazy dance moves without fear of being judged. It’s a place where ‘perfect’ doesn’t really matter, but being a good friend does. Without the stresses of our outside lives and with a really loving and supportive community, girls feel profoundly comfortable to try new things and get close with people.

Girls in black with red face hand print

Sundays at Rockbrook really exemplify this. We take things a little slower on Sundays. After the girls’ dance last night, everyone was exhausted, so the extra hour of sleep was greeted with joy. We then ate Krispie Kreme donuts for breakfast (a camp tradition!) before going to chapel. The juniors and middlers led chapel this morning, and we all reflected on the theme of “Playfulness.” We sang songs like ‘Zip a Dee Do Dah’ and girls shared their thoughts on playfulness and how they think about it at camp. It was a perfect way to spend the morning before a delicious muffin break and tidying up our cabins.

camp girls holding award

After that, we had Assembly on the Hill. This is a time for the entire camp to come together and honor cabins with the famous ‘Mop Award,’ or a prize for the cleanest cabin. We also honored girls who were outstanding in the categories of Spirit, Manners, and Bend-a-Back, which means going the extra mile for a friend. After, we watched as the counselors had an old-fashioned water balloon toss. The middlers won!

We have a good amount of down time on Sundays, and everyone appreciates the chance to have a break and hang out for a little bit of time. Bop It has been big in my cabin this session, along with Trivial Pursuit and playing drums. During a stretch of time today, my cabin of fifteen-year-old girls spent time playing together in the creek. Every cabin has something that brings their cabin together, and it is nice to have a little bit of ease in the schedule so we have time to hang out with no rush of going somewhere else.

This afternoon, we had an extra long rest hour (such an important part of the day!) and then it was time for Miss RBC. Miss RBC is basically a talent show where each cabin puts on a skit for the rest of camp. Girls get very creative—the CA’s played drums and interpretively danced/sang to Eye of the Tiger. Senior 4 rewrote the lyrics to ‘Hush Little Baby,’ singing, “You’re going to follow the cardinal bird.” Middler 4 ended up winning—they did a time traveling skit that went through the decades starting in the twenties. They sang songs and did dances from each decade—it was incredibly impressive! Everyone in the audience was wide-eyed and clapped wildly after the performance!

camp skit performance
award winning camper

For Miss RBC, we don’t use outside music or flashy lights. We just need the stage of the gym and a lot of imagination. I think there is something beautiful in the way we are completely captivated and entertained even without all of the distractions we usually would have at home. It is such a simple event to put on, but everyone enjoys performing and celebrating others’ talents.

After dinner, we had a barn party as the twilight activity! Girls could choose to walk down to the barn, play with the horses, eat a Popsicle, and watch the drill team perform! The drill team is comprised of girls who love riding, and they were able to synchronize their moves—it was quite a performance! Afterwards, the drill team members got Dolly’s, an extra special treat!

After a wonderful day of relaxation, it was time for movie night! Girls look forward to this every Sunday night. They bring down sleeping bags and pillows and curl up next to their good friends and watch great movies. Tonight, it was Zootopia! Every age group loves this movie, and many had not seen it before!

Tomorrow, we will return to a normal schedule, which is great because we get to continue doing so many activities! Still, today was a needed day of relaxation. Camp is winding down. Next Thursday, we will be back in our normal lives, back with all of the worries, joy, and support that come with that. What we have learned at camp, though, does not need to stay at camp. Rockbrook teaches us to slow down and reconsider what is important and what is not. We stop worrying about how we are perceived, and we realize that perfection is not the expectation. The biggest lesson I hope we take with us when we leave these mountains is simply: I Am Enough.

Absolute Exuberant Hilarity

Greased Watermelon
Egg Toss Game
Sack Relay Race
Three legged race
Girls eating watermelon

It’s not quite the 4th of July yet, but that has not stopped us from getting ready for the holiday and celebrating it with a good dose of red, white and blue.

If you’ve been following along by reading these blog posts and scanning the daily online photo galleries, it’s clear that we have jam-packed days here at Rockbrook. We’re happily playing, having more muffin-fueled conversations than you can count, and being physically active— swim, climb, ride, run, shoot, flip and zip —all day. After a whole week of intense fun like that, it felt really good this morning to sleep in an extra hour. Everyone seemed to have no trouble relaxing longer and then coming to breakfast in their PJs for a treat of fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts along with Rick’s egg sandwich fixins’ (English muffins, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, and ham) and our yogurt/fruit/granola/cereal bars.

After breakfast everyone dressed in their camp uniforms (white shirt and shorts, with red tie) and assembled on the hill around the flagpole so the Hi-Ups could lead a flag raising ceremony. In two rows, they marched toward the flagpole, raised the flag, led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “America the Beautiful.”

The Juniors next led the Chapel assembly on the theme of “Goodwill.” They chose songs like “Lean on Me” and “What a Wonderful World” and took turns speaking about what “goodwill” means to them. They shared stories about when people were especially kind and helpful. Sarah explained why there is a cabin at camp named “Goodwill” (It’s named after the birthplace of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier, a plantation in SC by the same name).

After rest hour, we held the day’s main event, a fun all-camp relay race: the “White, Blue and Red-bird Olympics.” We randomly assigned all the girls to three multi-aged teams (red, white and blue) and gave each a gallon of washable body paint to “express their team spirit.” You can imagine how that turned out! Each team also came up with a cheer, and a strategy about who would participate in the different group challenges and relays to come.

The relays themselves were classic. At the lake, the teams raced to move a greased watermelon up and back through the water, as other girls tried to ride the waterslide “Big Samantha” as fast as possible. Another group madly soaked sponges and ran to squeeze out the water, filling a nearby bucket. In the gym, after a break for a few slices of watermelon, the girls took turns pairing up for a three-legged-race, the Dizzy Lizzy spinning bat run, and a costume challenge that involved dressing in various costume items, running and then removing the costume for the next member of your team. Another athletic challenge was the sack race held on one of the tennis courts. Using burlap sacks that once contained coffee beans, the girls climbed into the sacks and hopped the width (and back) of a tennis court as fast as possible. Meanwhile, things got a little messy on another court as the teams tossed eggs back and forth, stepping farther apart with each toss. I’d say the winners successfully tossed their eggs about 40 feet. Amazing!

All the groups ended up at the landsports field after their relays, the perfect place for the final event of the afternoon: a giant all-camp shaving cream fight. Cases of shaving cream bottles, dozens of squirt guns, and almost 100 water balloons were distributed across the grassy field. The sound system was queued up with an up-tempo pop song, and suddenly white foam was spraying everywhere. Laughing and shrieking with delight as they sprayed each other, the girls soon had emptied their cans of shaving cream and then went on to style each others’ hair or simply cover themselves completely. You’ve never seen a group of girls, from the 6-year-olds to the biggest teenagers, have this much crazy fun. Absolute exuberant hilarity! And so fun to see, even if it meant getting a handful of shaving cream planted on your back unexpectedly.

Shaving Cream Squirt
Shaving Cream Girl

Nearby, Richie, Rockbrook’s builder and facilities manager, who is also an officer in the local volunteer fire department, stood by with a 600-gallon pumper firetruck ready to provide a welcome shower. When he turned on the hose, spraying warm water high in the air, it took no time for a wet dance party to erupt as the girls cleaned off. It was an exciting way to rinse off before heading back up to their lines for a “proper” shower before dinner.

Shaving Cream Shower

The whole afternoon was the kind of full-on fun we love around here. It was loud and silly, sweaty and messy. It was full of laughter and cheers, girls letting loose, and friends having the best time together. Such good stuff.

Beautiful Moments

Nature Chapel Speaking

The ordinary frenzied tempo of camp yields to something more tranquil and relaxed on Sunday mornings at Rockbrook. Instead of all the activities, adventure trips leaving the camp property, and lively play filling our day, we take time to sleep in a bit and reflect on some of our experience together at camp. The rising bell rang at 9am (instead of 8)… Ah, sleeping in following such a busy week … and after a breakfast of Krispy Kreme doughnuts as well as scrambled eggs, English Muffins and our regular cereal, fruit and yogurt bars, the girls changed into their camp uniforms (white polo shirt, white shorts, and a red tie) in time to meet on the camp hill for our traditional flag raising ceremony. Led by the Hi-Up (10th-grade) campers, this was a particularly beautiful moment today. Met by an extraordinarily bright blue sky and sunshine above, the campers lined up around the flag pole, and with everyone so cleanly and sharply dressed, the setting made reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing “America the Beautiful” very special.

It’s a short walk from this ceremony down the lower line of cabins to the Chapel area of camp, which is a small clearing in the woods with rustic benches arranged into an amphitheater. Today the Senior campers and some of their counselors presented a program on the theme of “Nature.” Like all of our chapel programs, this gathering was not a religious ceremony, but instead an opportunity, a moment, to identify and contemplate a core value or feeling we all share at camp. This morning that meant considering our relationship with the natural world. We sang “This Land is Your Land,” “The Sound of Music,” and “What a Wonderful World,” heard short readings presented by Olivia, Nisha and Eileen, and Sam played her guitar and sang an original song. Sarah read the illustrated children’s book, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message from Chief Seattle, highlighting its message about preserving our relationship with nature (or how that relationship enables for us “living” instead of merely “existing”). Toward the end of the program, Sarah also invited the campers to add their thoughts and ideas. First one, then another, but soon more than a dozen girls came forward to describe how camp has strengthened their love and appreciation of nature. One told of releasing a captured spider (instead of simply killing it), and another described how she wished there were more opportunities at home to be outside. With these stories and others, the girls proved they really care about this topic.

Cabin Spirit Award

After a little free time following Chapel and before going into lunch, we all assembled on the hill under the walnut tree to announce the “Mop Awards” (highly stylized mops, that this year look like cats) to the cabins that had the best inspection record this week. Two campers were recognized as “Happy Campers” and a Junior cabin received the RBC “Spirit Paddle” for their overall enthusiasm for camp (Here they are in this photo.). The Directors made a few short announcements, and to wrap things up, the Hi-Ups helped lead several rousing songs punctuated by the Line cheers.

Girls running around camp

The afternoon event got everyone in camp moving… running in fact, as we played a new game Chase called “Around the Camp in 80 Ways.” With help again from the Hi-Ups, we set up 12 different obstacles or group challenges throughout the camp. The cabin groups, staying together, then tried to complete each challenge as fast as possible, including mad sprints from station to station. The obstacles required various camp skills, some teamwork, and other odd talents. There was untangling a human knot, hair braiding, bouncing a tennis ball on a racquet, friendship bracelet tying, riddle solving, and a swimming challenge at the lake. For many groups, the most difficult activity turned out to be starting a fire, and the messiest station involved finding a piece of bubblegum in a pan of flour. All this running up and down the hills of Rockbrook really worked up a sweat, so it was nice to find icy popsicles at the finish line, and likewise to cool off with a dip in the lake. While perhaps a little strenuous, this turned out to be a really exciting, fun event.

Fire Building race
Untie a human knot challenge
Hair Braiding Challenge
Cabin won the race

Amplified Energy

Cheering girls at camp assembly

We amplified the energy of camp today by opening our August mini session and welcoming 60 campers to Rockbrook. About a third of these are brand new to RBC, so for them this was an especially exciting time— driving in the main gate for the first time, rounding the lake with a glimpse of the water slide (aka “Big Samantha” —for no real reason, other than a junior camper suggested it), meeting Sarah at the top of the hill, and hopping out of the car to the cheers and whoops of the counselors. For the returning campers too, it’s a great feeling to arrive back at camp after waiting all year (and lately all summer!) and to take a deep breath of mountain forest air, only to need another after shrieking with joy at the sight of an old camp friend. This kind of enthusiasm mixed with all that anticipation can be almost explosive when it’s finally released, but that’s the kind of energy we love around here. It’s our day-to-day starting point.

While the mini session girls were arriving, the full session campers began their day like other Sunday mornings with a late breakfast in the dining hall (which included freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts), time to dress in their camp uniforms (white polo shirts, shorts and red tie), our traditional flag raising ceremony (led by the Hi-Up campers), and chapel program (that today focused on the theme of “Community”). Afterwards, these girls also had a “choice period,” an opportunity to sign up for an hour doing many of the most popular activities— archery, riflery, yoga, hiking to Castle Rock, a flower picking expedition, and various string and paper crafts, for example.

Girl holding a decorated paper box
Girl doing yoga at summer camp
Girl aiming a rifle at summer camp

Right before lunch we brought everyone together, the mini- and full-session girls, for an assembly on the grassy hill in camp. This was a chance to sing a couple of favorite camp songs (like “An Austrian Went Yodeling,” for example), to shout out the 3 line (age group) songs, and to learn a new song from the Hi-Ups. The directors announced which cabin this week would be recognized as having outstanding camp spirit, and would thereby be able to display the Rockbrook “Spirit Paddle” on their table in the dining hall (It was Middler Cabin 1). We also had fun taking a “whole camp” photo. While some of the staff members were absent on their day off, the photo really shows how we’re a colorful bunch!

After what seemed like a steady stream of cheese tortellini coming out of the kitchen— bowl after re-filled bowl —and stacks of cool sweet watermelon turning into a pile of rind at every table, the mini session girls spent the first part of the afternoon demonstrating their swimming ability at the lake. If a girl could confidently jump off the dock, swim out 50ft and back 50ft, and tread water for a minute, she received a green swim bracelet and a buddy tag. If the lifeguards saw signs of struggle, as they did for a few of the youngest girls today, those girls can still swim at the lake, but they are restricted to the safety of the shallow area and must wear a life vest when in the water. Today, wonderfully warm sunshine buffered the chilly water of the lake, giving every swimmer a little boost.

Girls making friends at swim demonstrations
Camp counselor girl in dunking booth

By 3 o’clock, everyone was ready for an afternoon scavenger hunt. Working in cabin groups, the campers moved from station to station solving riddles at each place, sometimes having to tackle a group challenge (like untangling a “human knot”), sometimes finding a yummy treat like popcorn or cotton candy, and other times just enjoying a special activity. The dunking booth, for example, was a complete hoot. A brave counselor from each cabin climbed into the tank as each girl took turns throwing at the dunking target. Of course, we filled the tank with regular cold water making each dunk even more exciting (well, maybe a little less exciting for the counselors!). Several cabins, after throwing but failing to dunk their counselor, stormed the target to press it by hand, a clear violation of the rules, but entirely hilarious too. The whole event was a wonderful Sunday afternoon of helping cabins get to know each other better, to learn about the different buildings and areas of the the camp, and to enjoy a variety of snacks and activities together.

We’ve got a wonderful session going here. Thanks for being a part of it!