My favorite part of everyday is Twilight– the time at camp between dinner and Evening Program. Our themed dinners, special trips, or crazy songs aside, dinnertime is pretty self-explanatory. At Evening Program, girls from different age groups retreat to their respective lodges to put on silly skits before ending the day with the traditional Goodnight Circle song and the Rockbrook Prayer.
While these other parts of the day are fun, I feel such a deep sense of love and appreciation for camp at Twilight. The day’s activities have brought the girls out of their shells: Juniors chase each other down the hill in front of their lodge; the tetherball pole hosts a crowd of audience members and competitors; and others enjoy quirky activities put on by counselors. Many times, Evening Program brings a special event that was announced during dinner and girls busily dress up accordingly during Twilight.
Tonight’s Twilight was particularly wonderful. Everyone felt energized after our first full day of camp with the new group of mini-session campers, and the newly arrived campers clearly felt more settled in after an exciting day of trying new things and getting familiar with cabin mates and counselors.
One group of counselors brought biodegradable soap down to the creek for “Mermaid Baths.” Campers bounced down the hill in their bathing suits to soap up their hair, feet, and arms in the cold water. Note: We have made sure that campers know that these do not substitute actual bathing, no matter how much more fun the process!
Another group circled around one another to do yoga. I watched them take in the mountain view from the top of the hill as they practiced tree poses. They giggled as they tried to keep their balance, occasionally using each other to stay standing on one foot.
Two Junior cabins used Twilight to prepare for their Junior Overnight, which departed right as the bell rang for Evening Program. Most had finished packing early and sat enjoying the sunset for the second half of their free time. I spotted them at the ready, sitting among their sleeping bags, pillows, and stuffed animals.
Everything stopped at a certain point during tonight’s Twilight, though. From the hill, we heard “Hello, Rockbrook!” and looked up to discover three or four little figures at the top Castle Rock, the rock face on camp that is a short hike away! Some Hi-Up campers have hiked to the top every single day this session with one of their counselors, and they provided us with a greeting to celebrate. We shouted back, “Hello, Castle Rock!” and girls on the hill waved their arms and delighted in being able to see them wave back.
If you ask me, the best place to enjoy Twilight’s cool golden glow and the merriment on the hill is from Hiker’s Rock. It’s this view of camp that I miss whenever I’m somewhere else, reciting a poem to myself in my head that we read at Spirit Fire.
“You may think my dear, when you grow quite old
you have left your camp days behind
but I know the scent of woodsmoke
will always call to mind
little paths at twilight
and trails you used to find.”
—Mary S. Edgars, To A Camper
It’s been a day filled with activity time all over camp— on every path something fun, creative, adventurous, challenging or just plain silly to do. After this many days at camp, the girls seem at ease with the daily rhythm yet equally eager to stay busy in all these ways. Here are a few highlights.
It’s definitely fun to weave a basket while at camp, but one of the additional joys of basket weaving at Rockbrook is the beautiful setting. When the weather is nice, as it’s been lately, the girls weave next to the creek near Curosty. The cool water feels great on your feet as it also keeps the reeds wet and flexible. When it’s better to stay indoors, the log cabin setting of Curosty is home to the weaving— interesting, colorful fabrics on the floor looms and baskets too.
The yoga activity has been meeting in the hillside lodge, one of the stone meeting lodges at Rockbrook. With their colorful yoga mats neatly arranged on the hardwood floor, the girls today practiced their poses, some silly and others relaxing.
The rifle range is setting records as campers are filling the roster each period and shooting as much as possible. From a prone position, they shoot .22 caliber, bolt-action, single-shot rifles at paper targets 25 meters down the range. While not everyone is tallying high scores just yet, we’ve had a couple of girls join the “Bullseye Club.”
A fun addition to our waterfront area this summer has been three brightly colored “Corcls.” These are round plastic boats designed for one person to paddle. They are inspired by the traditional boats used in Wales called coracles. Our girls have a great time paddling them while sitting, climbing on them, floating in them just chilling in the sun, and even trying to stand up in them.
An overnight camping and canoeing trip returned today from their journey down a section of the French Broad River. A few Middler and Senior girls joined adventure leaders Clyde and Jayne on the trip. They paddled for about an hour on Thursday before finding their campsite and pitching their tents on the river’s edge. It took some practice for a few of the boats to steer correctly and avoid bushes on the side of the river, but they all improved along the way. With their campsite set up and safely under a tarp, the crew ate their dinner of tamales while a rain storm passed, and once in their tents for the evening, everyone enjoyed talking well into the night. One girl summed up the trip like this, “We all had so much fun and we built some close friendships.”
The twilight activity tonight after dinner gave the girls an opportunity to learn salsa dancing. Counselor Sarah Dolce selected music, and with help from several other counselors taught a group of enthusiastic campers basic hand holds, positions and dance moves that make up salsa dances.
Finally, evening program turned to skits in each Line’s lodge. The Junior cabins took turns presenting crazy musicals, while the Middler and Senior cabin groups planned and then enjoyed acting out what they imagined different celebrities would be like at camp. Silly stuff, but hilarious fun to watch.
One of the fascinating points coloring the history of Rockbrook is the lineage of Nancy Carrier, the camp’s founder. Nancy was born in 1889, and before marrying Mr. Henry Nash Carrier in 1913, her full name was Nancy Barnum Clarke. Yes, Barnum: that Barnum, P.T. Barnum, the famed circus promoter and showman. Nancy’s mother was P.T. Barnum’s granddaughter, making the woman who founded Rockbrook Barnum’s great-granddaughter.
What better way to recognize and celebrate this lineage than to host a circus themed event? Plus, a circus combines so many of the elements that Rockbrook girls love: colorful costumes and make up, fun upbeat music, lots of action, a few special snacks or treats, and a heap of joyful enthusiasm. We kept all the plans a surprise for the girls, until, that is, a special announcement at dinner got everyone’s wide-eyed attention. A golden-winged, nine-foot tall (on stilts!), jester ducked into the dining hall and walked among the girls as they sat at their tables. With twists and turns, smiling mischievously, she invited everyone to come see her and her troupe, “Imagine Circus,” perform an acrobatics show in the gym!
Before the show, we spent the twilight time after dinner getting into the circus spirit by dressing up and playing games on the hill. We needed clowns! And soon, with enough face paint for everyone, we had dozens. While a few counselors made cotton candy cones, kept the popcorn machine hot with fresh kernels, and helped twist balloon animals, hula hoops and the slack line gave the campers more ways to feel a circus vibe. It was already becoming a fun evening, and as we played on the hill watching the sun begin to set behind the distant mountains, you could feel the girls getting more and more excited for the show.
Just for fun and to add to the already colorful evening, we gave everyone a glow stick necklace as they entered the gym. Inside, they were amazed immediately when they saw a 25-foot tall, pyramid-shape structure, silks, hoops, and other props, and three elaborately dressed female performers. As the campers and counselors sat around the perimeter, the women began an amazing show of ground and aerial acrobatics that included incredible feats of balance, strength and coordination. Accompanied by recorded music, they juggled while holding unbelievable tandem poses. They jumped and flipped using hoops, and perhaps showing the most amazing agility, performed multiple aerial silk maneuvers high above the gym floor. The campers clapped and whooped as the women twisted and spun using only the long silks as support. There was a point of audience participation in the show when a few campers were invited up to help with hula hooping, but the grand finale was truly amazing. The women set several props on fire (!) as they performed different flips and maneuvers. There was a flaming hoop, hand-held rings, and even a mask that supported a ring of fire above it. With the gym lights off, it was mesmerizing to watch the flames draw swirling patterns through the darkness as the performers danced and leaped about. Everyone was shocked and astonished during the whole show, cheering and at times gasping when yet another, seemingly impossible stunt was revealed. Such a great show! It was also neat to see the girls’ admiration for this all-female performance troupe, proving with real-life examples that girls/women too are strong and powerful. After seeing this kind of talent, there could be no doubt.
“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed…If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place.”
–RJ Palacio, Wonder
Many of my campers love the book Wonder by RJ Palacio. In it, a boy named Auggie, who was born with facial abnormalities, goes to middle school for the first time. Through shifting perspectives and realistic characters, the book ends up being an excellent argument for kindness.
This book resonates at Rockbrook particularly because, in many ways, Rockbrook’s foundation is a culture of kindness. There is something gentler about being here, something that causes everyone to be a little more patient with each other, to go out of our way for someone else. With mini session girls starting their first day of camp, it was fun to see how they were welcomed into camp and became a part of this culture.
In Jewelry Making, girls made beaded necklaces. I saw many girls not making it for themselves only, but giving their necklaces to friends. They put their friends’ initials on them–entire cabins now match with beaded necklaces and bracelets. They enjoyed having a fun and colorful identity for the entire cabin to sport around camp! I’ve also seen many friendship bracelets being given to good friends. I even saw one girl giving a particularly intricate bracelet to a friend on the first day of camp! We all wondered how she had made the bracelet so quickly, but she said that she had been working on the bracelet throughout the year, ready to give it to a friend when she finally saw her at camp! It is impressive to consider how much these bonds continue throughout the year.
Hodge Podge is an activity where girls make really fun crafts. I don’t know of a better way to describe it–they make flubber, which is a gooey playdough-like creation. It doesn’t make much of a mess, but feels really weird and makes fun sounds! They also tie-dye shirts and fun pillows. Today was a flubber day, and the girls had so much fun talking to each other and making flubber. After, everyone let their friends play with their fun creations and it became a hit in the cabins.
I see this culture of kindness the most frequently in the dining hall. Our dining hall is wonderful and neighborly, and even though they are in close quarters, the girls are able to work together to make sure that everyone has enough space and can get in and out for food. We are constantly borrowing things from other tables, but today, I noticed that a lot of tables were also making sure that others have enough. Sometimes, girls will volunteer to be the ones to get up and get more food, even if they did not take the last thing. Girls will go out of their way to show new campers where the water spigot is, or where to find the extra spoons. After dinner, a camper from our cabin volunteered to help clean the table when it was not her night. These things might seem small, maybe even too small to mention, but these are the things that create the atmosphere in which we live.
It’s impossible to talk about kindness at Rockbrook and not mention the Hi-Up Campers. These are the oldest campers at Rockbrook, and they have many responsibilities that help keep camp running. They help out with the dishes, choose which songs to sing at meals, sort mail, get ready for special events, and help out with activities, among other things! This group of hi-ups has gone above and beyond to make all of the other campers feel loved. At twilight, hi-ups are frequently seen on the hill playing with the juniors and braiding their hair. They are constantly walking other girls to the barn, and helping out when any of the younger girls are feeling homesick. They show patience and love to the younger girls. In Nature, for example, hi-ups helped the juniors avoid slipping on rocks on a hike to Rockbrook Falls. Their spirit of helping others has resonated throughout the camp, making the other campers feel supported and welcomed!
Wherever you go at Rockbrook, you can’t help but notice this sense of gentleness and willingness to do things for others. Girls volunteered to sweep the lodge last night when their friends were on the rafting trip. Others helped comfort girls who were homesick. In one middler cabin, girls who had been to camp for years spent time trying to help a new friend who was experiencing homesickness. They asked her a lot of questions about her home life and tried to apply all of those things to camp–it truly helped the homesick camper and made her feel more at home here at camp.
Within this culture that so regularly exudes kindness as a philosophy, it doesn’t take long for girls to feel comfortable and at home. We aren’t competing against each other. Instead, we all want the best for each other. I see campers make being kinder than is necessary a rule in their lives at camp, whether consciously or unconsciously, they intentionally make decisions that brighten the lives of others. During each of these times, when girls go the extra mile, they are making their cabin, their line, and the camp has a whole a more generous place. Kindness is contagious, and in living this way at camp, I think this kind of generosity extends when campers return home.
“If I know what I shall find, I do not want to find it. Uncertainty is the salt of life.” –Erwin Chargaff
Anyone who has been to Rockbrook knows that there is some degree of certainty at camp: there is a regular schedule, there will definitely be muffin break every day at 10:45 (thank goodness!), and there is always something structured to do. Yet days like today, with nothing out of the ordinary planned, remind me that we all thrive at Rockbrook because when we wake up, none of us know exactly what the day will bring, and that makes each moment of each day exciting.
No one knows exactly what a day outside of camp will bring, either, but what I have noticed recently is that Rockbrook fuels this sense of curiosity and energy by creating a camper-driven environment. Because Rockbrook is set up like this, campers feel free to take initiative and take their spontaneous ideas and turn them into real fun.
This has been exemplified all day long at camp. No one batted an eye when a whole cabin of girls arrived to breakfast decked out in costumes from head to toe, but many of them got great compliments for their senses of style! At the end of breakfast, the girls made an announcement that, as a reward for clearing their table without being asked, two girls got to dress the other girls in their cabin. The girls all loved it and enjoyed parading around in their costumes all morning!
While walking around today, I dropped by KIT, which stands for “Keeping in Touch.” In this activity, girls make stationary, calendars, and boxes—anything that helps them write letters or keep special camp memories. KIT takes place in Goodwill, an historical building that is cozy with soft lighting and red curtains. The environment is relaxed and laid back, as the counselors who teach KIT have made sure that each girl is doing a project she wants to do. Conversation flows easily as the girls who have already spent a week at camp get to know those who just arrived. Everyone is engaged in their craft and content with their choice, happy they got to decide for themselves what to focus their energy on.
When I passed by WHOA, our activity on Wilderness Hiking and Outdoor Adventure, I heard something I do not usually hear casually around camp: The Star Spangled Banner being sung around a fire pit. Curious, I joined in the song, and tried to blend in. As the song ended, girls got up to speak, and I realized quickly that this was a memorial service for the miniature rafts the girls had tried to create. A particularly memorable moment of the speech was, “It was the Titanic of rafts, and that’s probably why it sank.” No one would have thought that a sunken raft would be an avenue for the subtle hilarity that ensued afterward. With a healthy dose of flexibility and an emphasis on process instead of outcome, every small activity can become something exciting and unexpected.
This notion of camper ownership extends to every part of the day and every place around camp. Eating in the dining hall is always a little unpredictable because no one ever knows what songs will get sung. The Hi-Ups (the oldest Rockbrook campers) get to choose and lead the songs, but any table can request them! My absolute favorite part of meals, though, are announcements. There are many predictable (and important) announcements about adventurous trip offerings, tie-dye pick-ups, and lost and found. What makes Rockbrook different, though, is that campers take initiative and make their own announcements too. We were treated at dinner to two juniors performing a self-written song on their favorite activity: Nature! Set to “The Shark Song,” a familiar camp tune, the girls replaced the verses with “terrariums”, “Rockbrook Falls”, and “cool counselors”. The girls even made the journal in which they wrote the lyrics down! The rest of the camp gushed at how perfect the announcement was, and broke into excited applause. Not only do campers take ownership of camp, the rest of camp enthusiastically celebrates their initiative because everyone appreciates this spontaneity.
Twilight gave us another avenue to explore as a group of girls chose to venture down to the Rockbrook Garden. Every age group was represented, and it was moving to watch the senior girls helping the younger girls get excited as they walked down the hill together. When we arrived at the garden, Chelsea, the friendly and calm Rockbrook gardener, addressed the campers saying, “Girls, welcome to your garden.” The garden is a plot of land by the land sports field. Chelsea works hard to plant a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. It is incredibly calming and relaxing to be there during this twilight time, when the day’s heat is finally easing up, when the sun is setting, but there is still gold in the sky, when wind chimes are providing us with gentle sounds, and we get to romp around in what feels like a secret garden. There are rows of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that will eventually find their way into the Rockbrook dining hall! Surrounding the vegetables are beautiful flowers—heaps of sunflowers and daisies of every color. It is nothing short of perfection.
Even better, we got to do so much more than look at it. Girls proceeded to pluck strawberries right off the vine and eat them; others tried kale for the very first time. Some created bundles of lavender and verbena to tuck into their pillows at night, while others picked flowers and fashioned bouquets for their new friends. Chelsea also gave the girls some lettuce to plant in the ground, and many also helped water the plants. Regardless of what they did, I saw so much sheer joy in being able to actively engage in a space like the garden. On the way up the hill, I heard a girl comment that she was somewhat hesitant to come to the garden because she thought it would be a structured lesson about plants. She had no idea she would be allowed to pick anything or try anything, and that most requests she had would be answered with “yes,” and a smile.
After the garden, we headed back up the hill for evening program. Most nights, cabins work together to plan a skit. Though counselors are always nearby, we try not to be too involved—it’s a great opportunity for girls to work together and get as creative as we please! As I was watching a skit whose characters were debating the origin of French Fries (France or the United States…in the end, it was actually Belgium!), I was struck by the originality that stems from campers creating so much of the direction of their camp lives. I realized that, at Rockbrook, the phrase I heard at the garden should be applied more broadly. It’s as though every moment of every day is saying, Girls, welcome to your camp.
Different special events, “Rockbrook Surprises,” switched up our day today. We like to do that around here, change our routine by announcing surprise events, establish an unexpected theme for the day, or offer additional activities that the girls can do instead of following their regular schedule. It might be having a pancake breakfast in the lodges, or making it “Side Ponytail Day” (or “Twin Day” or “Superhero Day,” for example), or offering a hula hoop making workshop, to name just a few recent examples. It’s part of the playful spirit at Rockbrook to be excited about surprises and changes like these, and it’s another way that everyday at camp is extra special.
The lifeguards surprised everyone by announcing that they would be hosting beach parties during the activity periods today. That meant bringing out the outdoor sound system to play fun summertime music, having bubbles to blow, frisbees to toss, and other games to play. It was a bright, sunny day today, so as the girls sunbathed, played and read, they enjoyed taking breaks for cool lemonade, and later cold frozen popsicles. It was a fun, yet easygoing scene, at times rising into a singing dance party, only to then slow down to apply more sunscreen and splash in the water a bit… a lovely beach in the North Carolina mountains!
The roar was deafening when Chase announced the next surprise after dinner: a shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide down at our sports field. And the roar came from all directions in the dining hall, from the area where the Junior campers sit and equally from the Senior area. Girls of all ages were pumped to participate. A shaving cream fight is pretty simple. You need everyone dressed in their swimsuits, a large grassy field, and enough shaving cream so everyone can be armed with a can. Like all great games, there’s no keeping score, no clear beginning or ending point, and the only reason to play is for the fun of it. Some girls would run up and spray you directly from their can, while others would load a blob in their hand and plaster it on your back or chest, or in your hair. Actually, just about anything goes, making part of the fun becoming completely covered with the stuff. There was a certain devilish grin on the girls’ faces as they raced around smearing their shaving cream, but also wide-eyed surprise when someone snuck up and smacked them on the neck with a handful of the white slippery foam. Painting designs in the foam and styling wild hair formations soon became part of the fun, but we also pulled out a long sheet of plastic so, with some water sprayed on it from a garden hose, we could have a slip-n-slide. We added a little soap to the plastic, but with everyone so covered in shaving cream, the girls had no trouble zipping down the slide. It took a short run and then a belly flop to ride about 80 feet! These photos (clicking them brings up a larger version) should give you a sense of just how fun and crazy an evening it was.
I can’t verify that this other special event happened, but many of the girls told me of a dream they had last night where they were woken up by glowing fairies and invited to a dance party on the hill. With bright, beautiful stars shining above, girls from all over the camp, every age group, were there dancing and eating candy and snacks. Was it real, or a figment of our collective imaginations? It’s hard to tell!
Tonight, during Twilight, I took a walk. Ordinarily, in that quiet hour just after dinner, I’m holed up in the office answering emails or returning phone calls. But tonight, after two gloomy days of drizzling rain, I decided to walk out beneath the clearing skies and see what there was to see.
Twilight is always a bit of a hodgepodge—you never know quite what you’ll get. There could be an all-camp event, like a dance or auction; there could be an impromptu gaga ball tournament, or a meeting of Rockbrook Readers on the Hillside Lodge porch; or there could be no organized events at all, just campers milling about and choosing their own way to fill the time until the bell rings for Evening Program.
Tonight was that third sort of Twilight—the best sort, in my opinion. Campers ranged across the hill in the waning light. Clusters of girls sat on the still-damp grass, making friendship bracelets, chatting about their day, and watching the sun set.
A line of older campers, wearing workout clothes and kneepads, trooped down the hill to the gym, to play some volleyball. They talked and laughed as they made their way down the hill—some linked arms, some called up to their friends, sitting on the hill, asking them to come and watch the game.
During this particular Twilight, the Dining Hall was being cordoned off by the CA’s. They’ll spend tonight and all of tomorrow transforming our everyday Dining Hall into another world of their creation. Their excited laughter seeped out from beneath the sheets they’d hung over the building’s screens and doors (to guard against curious eyes). Already, I could feel the anticipation for tomorrow night’s Banquet beginning to build.
I sat with two Juniors on Hiker’s Rock for several minutes, watching as they built a fairy house (I tried to help, but I don’t have quite the knack for fairy architecture that they do). Their focus was admirable, and their conviction was complete that this structure would indeed be the home of Rockbrook fairies—and who am I to say that they were wrong?
The whole of Twilight was like this—peaceful, quiet, and happy. Mixed into the atmosphere, I think, was the knowledge that things would begin to speed up again soon. Tomorrow, there will be a steady increase of energy and anticipation, leading to Banquet. Wednesday will be a blur of packing, moving, plays, and Spirit Fire. Thursday, camp ends.
But tonight, we all took a breath together. We relished one last time the quiet and the ease of camp, and didn’t allow anything to make us to feel hurried or anxious. We sat beneath the dripping trees, and watched as night settled into place around us, content simply to be with one another.
When we finish a session at Rockbrook and the girls have returned home, we always send out a brief survey to parents hoping to receive some feedback about their girls’ time at camp. We ask questions about all aspects of the experience, from the activities, the health care, and the staff to the special events and the food. It’s always very interesting (and helpful!) to learn how camp succeeds and where we might improve the way we do things. Two of the final questions ask parents to describe the most challenging, and the most rewarding, aspect their girls encountered while at camp. I wanted to share an insight one parent mentioned in her response.
This parent reported her daughter being challenged by some of her cabin mates, “getting along with them,” but then suggested “being flexible and understanding others” was a clear reward as well. For this parent, and likewise for others I would guess, camp life for her daughter was not at first entirely comfortable and easy, but because of that, it provided very important lessons. To be an opportunity for growth, it was at first challenging in an beneficial way.
This is spot on. Being at summer camp, certainly the first time, means entering a foreign environment where the familiarity of home is replaced with all sorts of new experiences that can feel strange or even a little scary to a child. There’s unusual food… “Did you try the falafel?” There’s our mountain forest environment itself with its weird plants, perpetual parade of insects, eerie sounds at night and funky organic smells. At camp there are “never-tried-it” things to do like climb a real rock, improvise a character on stage, or knit a hat, for example, all which might appear “too hard” at first.
Camp, of course, is the perfect environment to try all these things, to go beyond the ordinary, and to learn what each requires. With the right combination of coaching and encouragement from our staff, girls will step “out of their comfort zone” and gain pillars of confidence that will support them in the future.
This parent comment, though, identified one of the most complex and equally inescapable aspects of camp life, and that which often requires the most adjustment for girls: the social dimension of the cabin. Camp cabins are made up of girls who might talk in their sleep, and others who might like waking up early. There may be a messy girl and a “neat freak” who have to share a bunk. Each cabin will undoubtedly be a mix of shy and outgoing girls, crafty and sporty girls, some voracious and others picky eaters. Working through all these differences, learning to be elastic when necessary, is simply part of cabin life. Most essentially, camp requires getting along with the other girls, getting to know them and finding ways to understand them. At Rockbrook, the cabin counselors, their training, personality and instincts, recognize this goal and work tirelessly to help everyone be more flexible. Everyone on the staff is keenly aware of this social dimension, sensitive to it, and ready to step in whenever a camper has trouble (or might subtlety be causing trouble!) in the cabin. For some groups, learning this elasticity can take time, but generally the girls understand its value and are quick to exercise it.
This is good stuff because this kind of social elasticity is a skill that really benefits children. After all, learning to adapt to various circumstances, making adjustments to others as needed, is the mark of a well-adjusted person who deals effectively with disappointment and is capable of creative problem solving. Throughout life there are situations when we are called upon to be flexible for a greater (often collective) good, so its important for our children to bank experiences where they have done so effectively. Again, with guidance from their counselors, life in the camp cabin provides exactly that.
Here’s a photo of a GaGa (or Ga-Ga) game. Sometimes called “Israeli dodge-ball,” or “Octo-Ball,” and literally translating as “touch-touch,” this is a form of dodgeball played inside an octagonal court made of 3-feet-tall walls. Any number of players and any aged-camper can play, making it a great camp game. During free time and sometimes during the Sports and Games activity, there are groups of campers eagerly playing. The games are fast-paced as players use their hands to knock the ball trying to hit other players in the leg. Once hit (or if she hits the ball out of the pit), a player is out. Like other forms of dodgeball, play continues until only one person remains. It’s even fun for girls after they are out and have to stand on the outside of the pit because they can still play in a way. They can lean into the pit trying to hit the ball, and if they successfully hit another person out, they get to return to the game. Game after game, the girls are really enjoying GaGa.
Finally, I can’t help but include this photo from our Twilight “Diva Dance Party” tonight. I was an hour of fun pop songs, costumes, and silly dancing… just your Rockbrook girls having a great time.
With so much going on at camp and with so many people involved, all simultaneously, it’s astonishing to add it all up. While some girls are screaming as they fly by on the zipline, others are silently stretching into yoga poses listening to quiet flute music. As floor looms click back and forth slowing revealing their weaving patterns, pottery wheels spin splattering mud when a bowl forms in the exact center. One girl rides a horse and another the water slide. Campers shoot bows and arrows, as well as .22 caliber rifles. They hit tennis balls with rackets and volleyballs with their fists. As some girls tie a figure-eight into their kernmantle climbing rope, others tie embroidery floss into square knots to make a friendship bracelet. Campers are leaping off the diving board into the lake, while others are jumping on the mini tramp to flip in gymnastics. With plenty of tie dyes, paints, markers, and glitter, we have an army of girls happy to add color to just about anything. In these ways and others, camp is an energetic mass of movement, and an awesome swarm of smiling busy girls.
Have you written a letter or sent an email or two to your daughter? Here’s some info about the addresses and such, but it’s worth repeating that receiving mail is a big deal at camp. After lunch and just before the girls return to their cabins for Rest Hour, everyone checks their mailboxes. Seeing a card, letter or folded piece of paper (a printed email) is always a nice surprise, and it’s the perfect inspiration for writing a response home! In your letters, tell your girls how you’re proud of what they’re accomplishing at camp, sprinkled with some encouragement to try new things. Pass along lighthearted, upbeat news from home, while trying not to dwell on what she’s missing while away or how much you miss her. Maybe include one of these kid-friendly jokes written by our own Sofie Ehlinger. Do you know why the pig was red, for example? He was out all day BACON in the sun! Here is some more good advice about how to write to your kids at camp. In the end, “Just write!”
“Hey Middlers! Hey Seniors! Do you want to go whitewater rafting?” That was the question we asked all of the girls on those lines, and perhaps predictably, about 90% of them said “yes,” with some choosing to do even more by camping overnight at Rockbrook’s Nantahala Outpost. These overnight rafting girls drove over on Monday night and had a great time eating dinner, making ‘smores over a campfire, goofing around in the platform cabins (with a package of glow sticks for each cabin making it even cooler), and simply enjoying this “middle of nowhere” campsite. The next morning, the girls hit the water under bright sunny skies, the perfect weather for a trip down the icy Nantahala river. For several of these Middlers it was their first time rafting, yet almost immediately, even before the first named rapid, they were laughing and squealing with delight. The Nantahala provides a nice balance of thrilling rapids with sizable waves and calm spots in the river where the girls can splash each other and even jump out for a brief swim.
I was able to take a little video as a few of our rafts came through the final rapid, the Nantahala Falls (or “Lesser Wesser” as some call it). Have a look and you can see why rafting is HUGE fun!
Our afternoon group of rafters, which was primarily Seniors this time, likewise had an excellent adventure trip with hot sunny weather, and just as much high-pitched fun.
When we all arrived back at camp, a special event dinner was ramping up, a jungle/animal themed meal we called “A Night at the Zoo.” This was a fun opportunity to dress like your favorite animal and have a dinner party singing jungle and animal songs. So tonight we had an entire table of cats, a few butterflies, a squid, a platypus, bears, a turtle, several bunnies, a pink panther (Director Sarah!), and a whole school of fish enjoying a meal together. Hamburgers, sweet potato fries, salad and watermelon with chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert… yummy and fun!
After dinner, during our “Twilight” period of free time (before the start of “Evening Program”), several counselors held a “pet show” on the hill where different girls could show off their “pets.” There were dog tricks, and a super strong rabbit, but the funniest was the gorilla who could do cartwheels. It was all pretty silly stuff, and as that, really great as well.
As the sun began to set far off across the distant Blue Ridge Mountains, the lyric painted on the dining hall poster during dinner tonight seemed all the more apt: “But the sun rolling high… Through the sapphire sky… Keeps great and small on the endless round.”
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.
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.
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.