A Swarm of Smiles

Summer camp horseback riding girl

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.

Junior camp girl shooting archery

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!”

Girls camp rafting whitewater rapid

“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.

Girls dressed as animals
Dressed a gorilla performance

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.”

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

Fun and Formative

Camper girl kayaking clinic

For quite a while now we’ve talked about how Rockbrook is “a place for girls to grow,” how a sleepaway camp experience can be so instrumental in the lives of young girls, helping them socially, personally, and even physically. Being at Rockbrook is plenty of fun, of course, but it’s also formative in really important ways. Here’s an article we published back in February about how camp helps children grow.

The adventure activities at Rockbrook provide a good example of this. They are ideally suited to providing the right balance of challenge and success, in an active, friendly and supportive context. They are just right for inspiring campers and fostering their self-confidence and social skills. Take today’s kayaking trip down the French Broad River. The girls handled the rapids, stuck together as a group encouraging each other, and conquered the technical aspects of catching eddies, ferrying, and reading the river. There were international campers on the trip too (Belgium and Russia), giving the girls even more chances to learn from each other. Getting out of camp for a river trip like this is often a highlight of a girl’s camp experience, perhaps because it’s a more focused moment where she can feel good about her abilities and relationships. Or, perhaps it’s just a good time!

Camper Fairy House

Our traditional Rockbrook “camp song” includes this line— The rosy mist of the morning, Veil it anew at dawn, Like a fairyland of beauty, Where friendships so true are born. This line is inspired by the notion that Rockbrook is a “fairyland of beauty,” that all of its natural beauty, the mosses, rocks, creeks, ferns and wildflowers for example, are the work of fairies. All of us at Rockbrook, being in this “wonder-full” place, can easily imagine friendly spirits working their magic all around us. This photo shows a “fairy house” a few of the girls have built near hiker’s rock. Gathering leaves, sticks, moss and other found bits of nature, they’ve been building several of these houses. Some have bathtubs, beds and even a set of “monkey bars” and a swing! Others were made mostly of rocks and colorful pebbles.  What fun to search the woods with your friends for special, enchanted fairy house building materials!  And, what a nice surprise to turn the corner in camp and encounter one of these special creations.

Girls dressed up for camp event

For dinner tonight Rick made us a feast of baked tilapia, roasted red potatoes, steamed broccoli (along with our salad bars of fresh fruits and veggies), along with Alison’s homemade brownies for dessert. After dinner, Jane (who by the way is majoring in fine art photography at The Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC) grabbed the camera and announced an impromptu twilight activity for the girls: a silly glamor photo shoot. She encouraged folks to just dress up and come out to the hill to get their picture taken. Dressed in true Rockbrook spirit (i.e. super silly) mostly the Juniors got excited about the idea, and Jane captured a bunch of really great shots.