A Sparkling Blast

horse camp wake up

As you can see, this was no ordinary morning, in fact no ordinary day, because it was the 4th of July! Instead of our regular bell, some of the riding staff rode horses up into camp to wake up the campers. With the staff dressed in red, white and blue, and with the horses also decorated in American flag patterned ribbons and paint, the campers woke to the sounds of hoof beats and shouts of “The British are coming! The British are coming!” up and down the cabin lines. Somewhat sleepy-eyed, the girls made their way through the morning fog to the hill to assemble around the flagpole for the Hi-Ups to raise the flag, and everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful.”

Camp Kids on 4th of julyOf course, horses were not the only thing decorated in red, white and blue today. You could see it everywhere around camp! In the dining hall on table decorations, on hats, headbands, beaded necklaces, t-shirts and other things people were wearing, some of the food we ate today (Oh, those brownie cakes!), and the body paint that seemed to become more prevalent as the day progressed. Similarly, the girls sang their favorite patriotic songs at meals— “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” for example —adding to the normal lively Rockbrook songs. There was no doubt these girls were ready to celebrate!

It also being Thursday, we decided to keep our regular activity schedule throughout the day. The difference, again, was the addition of those patriotic colors. There were American flags flapping in the wind as girls zipped through the woods, stars and stripes on the backs of archers, proudly worn by potters, weavers, tennis players and climbers alike. Campers carried the colors on a hike to Rockbrook Falls, to the top of Castle Rock while climbing on belay, and down to the barns for their riding lessons.

pottery on 4th of July archery on 4th of July girl on climbing rope for 4th of July

A group of girls enjoyed a relaxing morning in the “nest,” our hammock campsite located just below Castle Rock. Part of the fun is figuring out how and where to hang their hammocks among the rock anchors, but it is also a nice way to spend time with friends. Later, two other groups hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls to make actual stick biscuits. This waterfall, which is located in the woods up behind the office, has a dry area behind where the water cascades down from the rock above, creating a natural umbrella of sorts. The staff built a fire in this area making it possible for the girls to roast their biscuits (dough wrapped tightly on the end of stick) while the water crashed right nearby.

Dinner tonight took advantage of our well-loved charcoal grill, as we pulled out an all-American cookout of hot dogs (beef and veggie), homemade coleslaw, potato chips, freshly sliced watermelon (more than we could eat!) and a can of Cheerwine soda chilled in the stream for everyone. A playlist of America-themed music helped set the mood, and as the girls enjoyed their dinner together, they played and danced with their friends on the hill.

Camp Sponge RelayDividing up into three multi-age teams —yep, a red, a white, and a blue team —we all stayed on the hill for a few fun relays. Girls raced to fill buckets with water squeezed from a sponge. They carefully tossed water balloons stepping gradually further apart after each toss. They competed for the longest hula-hooping session. They struggled to thaw a frozen t-shirt as quickly as possible, and took turns bending their backs in an exciting limbo line. Naturally, as some girls participated in these games, their teammates cheered them on, sang and danced to the music.

As darkness fell, the spectacular finish for our day was our own Rockbrook fireworks show. We pulled out glow sticks for all the girls and were ready with more pop music to blast during the show. For the next 40 minutes or so, we all enjoyed another sing-along dance party, the girls twirling their glow sticks and cheering with every sparkling blast in the air. It was an exciting, special finish to a full camp day.

camp fireworks show

Backpacking Reflections

Every week at Rockbrook, we offer adventure trips out of camp where the girls can hike, swim, paddle or climb in the nearby National or State forests. These trips are always optional; like all the activity offerings here, the girls themselves select whichever they like. Often how they select involves considering who among their friends will also be signing up, what they’ll be missing when out of camp, and sometimes a consideration of what seems new and interesting.

Today a group of girls returned from a backpacking trip through a high elevation area in the Pisgah Forest. Clyde and Jane led the trip that included visiting a waterfall on the Flat Laurel Creek and a morning hike to the summit of Sam Knob (elev. 6050 ft). The girls took some time during the trip to reflect and write about their experience, so I thought it would be nice to publish some of their thoughts. When you read what they wrote, it’s clear they really got a lot out of the experience.

Teen hiking

“Though it doesn’t even come close to the excitement and wackiness of Jayne and Clyde’s Everglades adventures that Jayne recalled as we sat around the fire, here is a little recap of our overnight hike. Started with a 45-minute bus ride where I talked with Sarah Jane and Mae about our favorite Netflix movies, our dogs, and our favorite thing about our houses.Then a simple but gorgeous (and mostly flat!) hike to the campsite. Collapsed onto the ground with our packs still buckled. Pitched tents with no help and relaxed in Mae’s Eno hammock. While the burritos warmed on the fire Clyde made, we played the World Map game where we shared memories from our childhood home and where we want to be at age 25. I stood on my tiptoes on a small piece of moss to show how tiny Rhode Island is. That was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip because I learned a lot about people such as: Mia lives in London and used to live in Germany. Jayne told stories around the campfire. Then s’mores (we polished off a 64 marshmallow bag… Ooops). Peed in the wilderness. Bonded with tent mates as we successfully removed two mating daddy longlegs and a moth, then talked about life. Clocked out at 11ish. Then up and at ‘em at 5:15am for sunrise hike! HA HA just kidding. Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade so back to bed until 8:30. Woke up (part 2) to oatmeal and packing then stunning waterfall, then top of Sam Knob then back to the bus. I’d say first overnight hike = GREAT SUCCESS!!” — Ellery

Teen Hiking Girls

“I’ll preface by saying that I am not someone who considers herself athletic. Not in the slightest. However, if you were to tell me that Rockbrook was offering a position on the same overnight hike that I just returned from, I’d accept that offer in a blink of an eye. This trip pushed me in so many ways and although the saying goes “nothing changes overnight” I certainly returned to base camp with a new notch on my belt that will (and already has) help me grow as a person. On this hike I learned that pitching a tent easily and very quickly reveals one’s inner character. Some think rationally and set up the tent within a matter of minutes. Others take their time cracking jokes and making fools of themselves. Some others offer their help without being asked. Some might lay low in the helping department (and in the hammock at the campsite) and provide entertainment. These characters discovered early on in the trip, continue to blossom and to take new forms. The trailblazer, the campfire storyteller, the pack mule who is more than willing to lessen another’s load, and the photographer, observing the action and capturing it as they relax on a sturdy rock. Each character is integral and a crucial part of the hiking experience. With each of these characters by my side, it suddenly became much easier to hike. It was the difference between exercise being a burden and an adventure.” — Sarah Jane

Campfire Hanging Out

“Well, it sure was a trip, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Being out in nature with friends is truly one of the most enjoyable experiences. Even when wet, dirty, and overall just disgusting, we can look past the inconveniences and still keep a good attitude. I know that this trip will definitely be held in my memory for many years. I made new friends, and got to know past friends even better. I learned new tricks, both for camping and for knot tying. It was a great first-time backpacking experience. I always felt strong and powerful, like I was ready to take on the world, one muddy trail at a time. Of course, I wouldn’t go it alone. I would travel far and wide, but I would never have to look for a friend because I would always have many with me. Even when clean clothes, games and food were short, we could spend time together to feel fresh, entertained and fulfilled. I think that’s why I was never hungry on the trip. Even though we hiked a lot, sweat a lot, and burned tons of calories, I survived on one burrito, some oatmeal, and trail mix. Truly fascinating. I guess being hot, sweaty, tired, and hungry is no match for the good feeling you get from being outside with friends. I could tell that I had a good time even when I wasn’t doing anything in particular. I would walk down the trail, red-faced and sticky, and I would be beaming, even when there wasn’t anything to smile at. It’s something I could get used to.” — Mae

Rock Water Hiking

“Over the whole trip we hiked 5 miles, saw many pretty views, and got to sleep in tents. Even though we were different ages we all bonded so much. We all learned something new about each person. It was beautiful. I have never seen anything like it. It was so magical and an experience I will never forget. When we woke up, we went on a hike to a waterfall. It was super special because we got to look behind us to see the top of the waterfall, and in front of us to see a view of some beautiful mountains. Then we went to the top of Sam Knob, and the view was breathtaking. I would not trade the experience for the world. Then we hiked back and we were all exhausted, but knew it was all worth it. Back to the first day, we hiked 2 miles in just under an hour. It did not feel long at all. It was not that steep. It felt pretty flat. When we got to our campsite someone was already there, so we went back to a vacant spot for us to sleep. We learned all about what to look for as a sign of a good campsite. We also learned how to leave no trace by packing it out. We had to figure out how to put up a tent with no help. After we got our sleeping situation all figured out, we sat around the campfire and learned a lot about where we all live and what we want to be doing when we’re 25. We ate our burritos and s’mores as we talked. Then played a few riddle games including black magic and the elephant game. Overall it was super fun, and an experience I will never forget.” — Mia

NC Meadow Hiking

“On this trip I experienced amazing new things that I never would have before. First, we hiked two miles of a straight path with a few muddy spots. It took us a little while to find the perfect camp spot but when we did it felt so nice to take our bags off. We set up camp and then made a campfire. Then we learned things about each other by playing world map while our burritos got warm by the fire. Even though some of the burritos were burnt, they were still delicious. Afterwards, we told stories and had s’mores. We played black magic, which I did not understand for a long time. Then we went to our tents because we were all exhausted. Even though we were really tired it took us a while to go to sleep. When we woke up at 5:15am we were even more tired. It started raining so we all decided to go back to sleep instead of seeing the sunrise. The second time we woke up it wasn’t raining and we went for a hike to a waterfall. It was gorgeous! By the end of the waterfall, my shoes and socks and feet were soaking wet, but at least it was so fun. Then we hiked to the top of Sam Knob. It was tiring, wet, and muddy, but all of that made the hike better. And when we finally got to the top it was one of the prettiest views I have ever seen. From beginning to end, this hike was and always will be an amazing memory I will never forget.” — Emma

NC Hike Overlook

“From the minute I hopped off the bus and felt the weight of the pack on my back, I knew I was in for something special. I have to say, knowing that I have never done a trip like this before I probably would have never learned as much as I did if I didn’t have Jayne and Clyde and Rebecca. They really just made the trip with the games and the hikes and their leave no trace knowledge. I feel so enlightened. I also learned a lot from the campers like how to set up a tent. Ha Ha. I don’t think I would have had the bravery to hike down that waterfall if I didn’t have them with me either. The waterfall ended up being the most exciting part of the hike. When I stood on that rock and looked at the view ahead I just felt everything in me break free. All the tension and tightness in my back from the pack just released off me. Those are the kind of feelings I live for. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to venture out of the city and feel the breath of life and see mountains of trees and never ending skies. I also love the huge space of just grass and flowers, the meadow where we dropped our backpacks off. It’s another whole feeling being in the mountains and this trip is one I will never forget.” — Karma

Teen Hiking Pose

Doing this Beautifully

Girl Power kayakerThe kayakers have taken trips almost everyday this week. The interest in kayaking continues to grow, so Leland, Sarah and Stephanie have been busy meeting that demand by offering lots of trips. The beginners went to the French Broad River twice this week. After mastering their “wet exit” (sliding out of the kayak when it tips over), the French Broad is a perfect place to learn other important kayaking skills like ferrying across moving water and catching an eddy. On both Thursday and Friday, groups of kayaking girls drove over to the Tuckasegee River in Swain County to run its rapids. The river was really moving after our recent rains, giving the girls a little extra push over the shallow areas and making a couple of the rapids like Moonshot and Dillsboro Drop even more fun. This section of the “Tuck” takes 2 or so hours to complete giving the crew plenty of time to play on the water and still be back at camp for dinner.

Today, the Hi-Ups had their third “Girls With Ideas” session— a curriculum designed to foster confident girl leaders. On sticky notes, they began the meeting by writing down times that they were positive role models for the younger campers, moments that challenged them, and how they want to end their camp session. Although they only had the space of a sticky note for each answer, their responses and following discussion were quite wise and thoughtful. Between setting and scraping for each meal, putting on Rockbrook surprises, and helping to teach activities, these 10th grade campers have packed schedules! The downtime to reflect was much deserved. Personal goals of theirs for the rest of their Hi-Up year include being good team players, staying selfless, and taking initiative.

Camping Trip Sunrise Mountain TopAnother adventure trip also returned to camp today with stories and photos to share. We were planning an overnight canoe trip on the French Broad river near camp, but at the last minute a huge thunderstorm caused the river to rise too fast for the group to paddle safely. Shifting gears a bit, adventure staff leaders Jayne and Mattie decided to camp in Pisgah instead and show the campers several very cool spots. They first went to Courthouse Falls for a swim in the icy pool beneath. From there they camped further up the mountain along the Silvermine Ridge. The next morning, despite being pretty tired, everyone woke up early (5:15am!) to summit nearby Black Balsam mountain and watch the sunrise. Being that high up (over 6,200 feet!), far above the morning fog in the surrounding valleys, was quite a treat. Click this photo (any of these!) to see a larger version.  Passing by one more waterfall on the way back to camp, the group just had to stop for a quick swim. These girls love the cold mountain water around here!

Camp Ceramics Class for Teen GirlsSimilarly, we’ve been happy to see so many campers improving their skills in pottery. The Rockbrook ceramics program has always been extensive, with two studios, 3 professional potters who serve as instructors, and a steady stream of enthusiastic campers returning year after year to work with clay. Lately, the older girls have been doing amazing work on the wheels. Throwing on the potter’s wheel takes some practice at first, but once you learn to center the clay, stay steady and draw the clay up slowly and evenly, it’s magical to see a lump transform into a delicate, symmetrical pot.  The girls are doing this beautifully. The next step is to vary the final shape of the cup or bowl, perhaps flaring the lip, bulging one side, or adding a handle.  Next week after the pots dry a bit (There’s a special dehumidifying room for that.), it will be time for glazing, and the final kiln firing that will bring out the colors of the glazes. Look for incredible creations coming home after camp.

cute all girl camp basket weaving

Dancing and Dashing

It’s cabin day! That’s the time, Wednesday afternoons specifically, when instead of going to individual activities, the girls do something as a cabin group. For regular daily activities everyone signs up for their own set of four, so this is a nice time when all the girls living in a cabin can enjoy a special activity together.

sliding rock shock girls creek slide Zip Creek Girls

All of the Middler (5th and 6th grade girls) cabin groups had their cabin day together taking a trip into the Pisgah Forest for a dinner picnic, field games, wild rides down a sloping waterfall, and an ice cream treat. We loaded all of our vehicles for the short ride up into the forest to our favorite picnic area that has a shelter and a large grassy field. Hot dogs with all the fixings, chips and watermelon (so much watermelon for 94 people!) fueled us up for the after dinner games. We played “Everybody up,” the “Human knot” challenge, and a huge game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl,” a clear favorite whenever we’re out away from camp. There was a slight sprinkle for about 30 minutes during our games, but it was only a minor nuisance, and if anything more, an added thrill for the girls dancing and dashing about in the grass.

NC waterfall swimming kidsIce Cream Face ChildrenCamp Girls PoseCamp Girls WaterfallBack in the vans and buses, we next were all at Sliding Rock for a good hour and half of classic mountain forest fun. For many of these Middlers this was their first trip to Sliding Rock, and as they sat in the chilly, fast moving water at the top of the 60 foot-long slide, and plunged into the pool below, they very quickly understood why this trip is so popular with the older campers. It’s amazing fun! The ride down is loud from the roaring waterfall and the cheering friends watching. It’s cold, even “freezing,” from the whitewater splashing all about, and from the swim at the end. It’s exhilarating as you accelerate down the rock toward the splash awaiting at the end. As it began to get dark, we finished up our sliding, said goodbye to the rock, and next found ourselves at Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Conveniently located at the entrance to the Forest, we now have a tradition of stopping for a sweet, also “freezing,” treat before heading back to camp. The folks at Dolly’s are experts at moving a huge group of campers along as they select their favorite flavor. It might be one of the special camp flavors they’ve concocted (Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion, for example), or something more common like peppermint. Licking our cones, then spontaneously singing camp songs, happily chatting along in the red and white glow of Dolly’s outdoor lights, it wasn’t long before it was time to head back to camp for some warm clothes and a cozy camp cabin.

Meanwhile, other cabin groups had different plans. A couple of groups went camping at the outpost site under Dunn’s Rock. This is a beautiful campsite on the Rockbrook property that includes an arrangement of huge boulders, massive old trees, the nearby creek, and a simple fire ring of stones arrange many years ago by former campers. A group of Junior campers hiked up to Stick Biscuit Falls, the waterfall up the mountain a bit behind the dining hall. It’s the smallest of the waterfalls on the camp property, but is a fun place to explore and feel the spray of water created by the falls hitting the rocks below. The Hi-Ups had a blast zooming through the trees on the Rockbrook Zip Line course. With 3 zip lines and 3 suspension bridges, it took them about an hour to run through the whole course. A group of Junior campers took a quick trip into Dupont State Forest for a swim at Hooker Falls, which has a bright sunny pool to enjoy. Another Junior group headed down to the garden to pick flowers and then make fairy houses back in camp under a hemlock tree. A cabin of Seniors decided to make “Spa face treatments” using avocado, yogurt and coffee grounds… a little silly certainly, with perhaps dubious benefits.

Mixing things up on Cabin day.  Oh so good!

Teen Girls Face Mask

Rock and Brook

Set here in the mountains of western North Carolina, the topography of Rockbrook is really something special. Within its 220 acres, the camp includes amazing natural features including prominent rock outcroppings, waterfalls, creeks and the French Broad River. If you haven’t seen it already, watch this video and then scroll through the posts in this archive about our area in North Carolina. You’ll be impressed by the natural beauty of the camp property and its surrounding area.

After learning more about the camp topography, you’ll quickly realize that when Henry P. Clarke, the father of the camp’s founder Nancy Barnum Clarke Carrier, named this property “Rockbrook,” it was a particularly apt name. Situated between (and below!) two rock landmarks (Dunn’s Rock and Castle Rock), with numerous boulders scattered all around the camp, and as three named creeks (Dunn’s Creek, Rockbrook Creek and Hanty Branch) and several smaller tributaries of the French Broad river carve rocky courses through the camp, the terrain here is very much both stone and water, rock and brook.

camp kid zip line ride

Our camp program benefits from these topographical features in a number of exciting ways. There are excellent hiking destinations for example: the magnificent mountain view from the top of Dunn’s Rock, the spray to be felt at the bottom of Stick Biscuit Falls, and the mysterious “Kilroy’s Cabin” found only by bushwhacking for more than a mile through the woods. We have 5 different climbing routes on Castle Rock to tackle, and down below, a nice sandy eddy we can use to launch or take out canoe trips on the French Broad River. A particularly cool example, though, is our camp zip line course since the zips are built between boulders and over creeks. It takes about an hour to do the whole course— 3 zips and 3 challenging adventure bridges —and it continues to be one of the more popular optional activities we offer. The last zip is the fastest and goes right past the office building at the top of the hill giving everyone on the porch a front row seat to see the aerial poses, wide-eyed grins, and hear the yelps of delight multiple times each day.

gaga ball game

Equally popular this session, though for different reasons, has been Ga-ga Ball. Played down near our gym in a special octagonal court of 30-inch high wooden walls, GaGa is a form of dodgeball that’s nicely fast-paced, and well-suited for multi-age groups of girls. Three people or thirty people can play, so it’s a great “pick up game” for the girls during their periods of free time each day (before lunch and dinner, and during Twilight in particular). The object of Gaga is to avoid being hit in the legs by a soft ball as it bounces around inside the court after being hit (not thrown) by the players. It takes quick reflexes to jump out of the way as the ball bounces wildly off the walls of the court and the other players alike. Once hit, a player hops out of the court dwindling the number of girls still playing. As the game progresses and one person is left (the winner), the game is over, and everyone can hop back into the court to start a new game. Perpetual play!

camp girl dancing

Tonight’s Evening Program allowed us to dress up, be silly, and go a little wild on the dance floor. We held an all-girl “glow dance” down in the gym. Without much encouragement, the girls dressed in tie dye t-shirts and other colorful costumes. We pulled out neon face paint to add dots, swirls and stripes of color to their looks, and when we handed out a few hundred glow sticks, dimmed the lights in the gym, and began pumping out upbeat, popular music, we had a fun dance party.  No boys, no pressure, no judgment: there was just unbridled excitement and glee as song after song got the girls dancing.  And these girls know how to have fun in the groove! —lots of jumping to the beat, well-rehearsed dance moves now and then, and plenty of hands-in-the-air, singing-along choruses.  It was another great camp event celebrating the fun of being together, feeling happily relaxed and pulled into an activity so thoroughly that you forgot most everything else and time flew by… so good, and just how we all like.

All girl glow stick dance

Fun Just Like That

Girl Making Tie Dye ShirtHere’s a common question we hear at camp; “Can I tie dye my __________?” Tie dying is part of the Hodge Podge craft activity, and mostly we have white t-shirts available for the girls to dye, but this question has also been framed with answers like, “my shorts,” “my underwear” (of course!), “my socks,” “my backpack,” and even “my shoes!” We love that kind of creativity around here, so often the answer is “Maybe! Wanna try it?” The results could be described as “mixed,” but it’s certainly fun to experiment with the squeeze bottles of bright colorful fabric dye. When it comes to shirts, the results have been spectacular lately… chevrons, spirals, bullseyes, waves, smilies, and plenty of random patterns, all with great, vivid colors. Making a tie dye has a fun surprise built into the process too— when the t-shirt, or other garment, is untied and you get to see the cool pattern created from the dye being absorbed or resisted. One group of girls today looked particularly pleased at their untying. Look out for some fun new fashions heading home to you at the end of the session!

Summer Camp SwimmerThe Rockbrook lake continues to be a popular spot throughout the day. As so many other parts of the country are baking in the summer heat, we’ve been hitting high temperatures in the mid 80s. That’s not too hot for around here, but with the humidity, a dip in the lake has felt excellent. The girls have been hard at work swimming their “Mermaid Laps” (A certain number admits them into the “Mermaid Club.”). They been perfecting their silliest jumps from the diving board, and repeatedly zipping down “Big Samantha” our giant water slide. There has been some mischief underway too with a bunch of squirt toys, athletic skill shown using kick boards, and plenty of cooling off and relaxing in the inner tubes.  In addition to the regular four activity periods when the girls can sign up for swimming, the lake is open to everyone right before lunch and dinner for about an hour. I’d say with all of these options and opportunities, most everyone at camp is visiting the lake these days.

The great warm weather lately has also inspired us to offer the girls several waterfall and creek hikes. Right here on the camp property, the WHOA (Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure) instructors have been bringing girls to Rockbrook Falls. It’s a nice set of small waterfalls that cascade down multiple levels into pools… perfect for a refreshing dip. For several Junior campers, the creek in the center of camp is a place to play, stack stones, and race sticks (or their shoes!) in the current.

Outdoor Swimming HoleA few miles south of camp, the Dupont State forest has magnificent high waterfalls like Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. In the Pisgah Forest, a group of Juniors visited Moore Cove to feel the spray of the waterfall there. And we’ll be heading to sliding rock tomorrow night for the ultimate waterfall experience.

Every year when we survey the campers about their favorite outdoor adventure activity, whitewater rafting wins the number one spot (Ziplining has become #2, by the way). That’s not too surprising when you consider how perfectly it combines several amazing things. First, just being outside is great, but when you have the natural beauty of the Nantahala Gorge, the steep rocky slopes rising on both sides of the river, it’s extraordinary. There are massive trees (poplar and hickory come to mind), thick rhododendron thickets, and flowering silk trees. There’s bound to be a King Fisher that swoops by chirping, and a sharp eye may spot a turtle or water snake hiding among the sticks and leaves of an eddy. Some of this probably slips right by most of the campers because the real focus is the crazy, bumpy ride in raft. The girls take turns “riding the bull,” which means sitting on the front of the raft with their legs dangling, an intrepid hood ornament that’s bound to get the biggest splash in the rapids. Falling out of the boat is part of the fun too… for that matter, so is falling into the boat unexpectedly after hitting a hidden rock. Let’s not forget the temperature of the water either: a frigid 50 degrees thanks to the majority of the water coming from the bottom of the deep Nantahala lake (as part of the Duke Energy hydroelectric project). Hitting that water, even when it’s sunny and hot outside, is a wide-eyed, breath-taking, shock, just as it’s an excellent thrill.  Add to that the fun that comes from singing and laughing with friends in the boat. For the two hour trip down the river, the girls are splashing each other, waving for photo opportunities, making “high fives” with their paddles, and doing “fire drills” to switch places in the boats. Yes, it’s outdoor adventure, but taken altogether, this is super fun too. Since we took almost half of the camp rafting on the Nantahala today, it was fun… just like that.

Rafting Celebration in a Rapid

A Beautiful Spirit

A little more than 8 miles south of Rockbrook along US276, the state line between North and South Carolina forms the eastern continental divide, at an elevation of 2910 feet. On the South Carolina side we have the Atlantic Seaboard watershed, where all the creeks and streams flow down toward the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. The North Carolina side of the continental divide sends its water north, eventually turning west, meeting the Mississippi River and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico almost 2000 miles later.

Cascade Lake Canoe TripMost of our waters here in Transylvania County, including the 2 waterfalls on the Rockbrook Property (Stick Biscuit Falls and Rockbrook Falls), flow into the French Broad river as in flows toward Asheville. East of camp is tributary of the French Broad called the “Little River,” which is a complicated creek that winds north through the Dupont State Forest. Gaining volume as it flows, it’s responsible for several of Dupont’s more spectacular waterfalls— High Falls, Triple Falls, and Hooker Falls. After the it drops over Hooker Falls, the river widens to form a narrow lake called “Cascade Lake” stretching about a mile and a half from the falls to the dam on the northern end.

This morning, a group of ten campers, led by Thea and Clyde, took a canoe trip along Cascade Lake, paddling all the way up to Hooker falls and back. They had perfect weather making their way along the beautiful waters of the lake. There was time for a brief swim to cool off at the base of the falls, as well. Clyde even packed everyone a muffin from camp, successfully recharging everyone before the paddle back to the put in. To think this water makes it all the way to New Orleans, it’s really a special experience to paddle this clear mountain lake.

Girl splashes down off camp waterslideMeanwhile back at camp, “Big Samantha,” the affectionate nickname of our water slide, was hurtling campers out into the lake during free swim. The ride is 150-feet long and begins at the top of a 50-foot tower accessed by walking along the boardwalk on the far side of the lake. The slide is made of vinyl tarp material draped between two parallel cables. With a little water spraying it from above, the slope down to the lake is slick, and the splash at the bottom is powerful. It’s a guaranteed thrill! It’s a quick swim over to the ladders, and an easy— now wet, drippy— walk back around the boardwalk, and up the tower steps for another slide. Some girls just need more than one ride down Big Samantha each day. It’s simply that fun!

Blind Folded Camper ClimbingTying on a blindfold before climbing is not something you see very often. Over at our Alpine Tower, however, there are girls who do exactly that; before they climb someone ties a bandana tightly around their eyes so they can’t see. Obviously this makes climbing much more difficult because you have to feel the next move— handhold to grab, or cable to step on —rather than see it. The climbers know the general direction to go (up!), and with occasional help from friends on the ground calling out hints, blindfolded climbing is a fun challenge. It’s amazing to watch too. The girls grope with their hands, and whenever possible stand on whatever knob, handhold, rope or cable they find.  Confidently standing up, trusting your feet, is the key to making progress. I recently watched a Middler climb the entire 50-foot tower, blindfolded, in about 6 minutes. Incredible!

Not a day goes by that we’re not impressed by the enthusiasm, zest and talent displayed by the campers here. It appears in bold ways like this climbing ability, but perhaps more so in small things… dressing up in a spontaneous costume for dinner, non-stop lap swimming during free swims before lunch, easily managing the complexities of a 3-foot floor loom, or just accompanying a cabin mate on a trip to the dining hall for muffin break. The girls now know what to do at camp, and are happily doing it. All these girls, being great girls, in all these ways: it adds up to a beautiful spirit. It is completely wonderful.

Girls Camp Summertime

Spontaneous Fun

Making authentic corn tamales at campDining Hall WheelTwo things come to mind when considering meals at Rockbrook. First, there is the food. Obviously, eating the fantastic meals Rick and his crew prepare for us is the ostensible reason we gather three times a day in the dining hall. For example, tonight everyone was giddy with excitement because dinner included a special Latin American dish, authentic Tamales. Made with finely ground corn, lime, oil and stock mixed into a paste, then combined with meats, peppers or cheese as fillings, each tamale is hand-stuffed into a corn husk. The kitchen crew shredded the chicken and cheese, made a Guajillo red sauce and a green salsa, spending hours stuffing, folding, and then steaming all of the Tamales. Such a delicious treat!

Beyond a time to eat excellent food, our meals are also events. They are special times when spontaneous fun is bound to happen. A whole cabin might come to lunch dressed for a beach party or ready to perform a song or short skit they invented. Naturally, there’s always a silly song to sing, often with hand motions, clapping or even banging on the table. Occasionally, we’ll have a dance break, where everyone stops eating, jumps up to boogie down to a recent pop song. Today lunch included Chase giving everyone in the dining hall a chance to “Spin the Wheel” of Fun. You can see the wheel in this photo, but it’s basically a clicker that when spun lands randomly on one section (think of the game show “Wheel of Fortune.”). Our wheel has things like “Candy” and “Muffins,” but also “Dress a Director” (devise a crazy costume for a Director to wear at the next meal), “Joy Ride” (ride around with Chase in the golf cart), and “Polar Bear” (jump in the lake early before breakfast). We spin the wheel only occasionally making it very exciting when we do. The whole camp stands up, and then using a series of criteria (for example, though these vary every time: hair in a ponytail, visited Europe, wearing green, have blue eyes, etc.) girls sit down or remain standing until only one person is left. When that lucky person finally spins the wheel, the whole dining hall holds its breath with anticipation and explodes with cheering when we find out the result. Spinning the wheel is a blast for everyone, even when it’s just one person spinning.

Teen Camp Girls at High FallsRock Climbing Teen Camp GirlOne of the climbs on Castle Rock, the big outcropping of granite above the dining hall on the Rockbrook property, is called “Dragon Tail.” It’s a short climb (maybe 25 feet), but is quite difficult because it requires a strenuous climbing move called a “layback.” You can see it in this photo. The climber lays back pulling an edge of the rock with her feet out in front of her. Dragontail is even more challenging because it requires you to switch from the layback position to a very small edge at the finish. For our intermediate and advanced climbers, it’s a tough, but exciting route.

The Hi-Ups took an impromptu waterfall hike today in the Dupont State Forest. We hiked about 4 miles altogether and along the way stopped to check out Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls (where this photo was taken; click it for a larger version). This part of Dupont Forest has become a very popular tourist destination, so recent improvements have made it easy to view these Falls from a distance and climb down to the base where you can feel the powerful, constant spray created by the falling water. It can be challenging to make your way over the slippery wet rocks— two girls slipped slightly, completely sinking one foot in the water! —but with extra care, we all made it past each obstacle… and now have some fantastic photos to prove it!

Camp Play PracticeAt the end of the session, on Wednesday afternoon (8/13), the campers will present a musical based on the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (which was in tern adapted from the 1964 novel by Roald Dahl). With auditions complete, now the main cast members are rehearsing during the first free swim periods before lunch. This photo shows them meeting in the Hillside Lodge and sitting in a circle while reading through a scene. The story of Willy Wonka has lots of characters (all those Oompa-Loompas!), some that sing, others that also deliver specific lines, and a few supporting roles. The directors have reserved a few of these roles for the mini session girls who will arrive on Sunday, making sure that we will have a full cast for the performance. Members of the tech crew have also started painting scenery, just as the vocal soloists are rehearsing their songs. It’s going to be a great show! If your daughter is one of the performers, our office will contact you so that you can make plans (if possible) to attend the camp’s performance (we nevertheless will also distribute to everyone a video recording of the performance).

Winter Wonderland Camp PartyTwo other special events happened today, both of which were spontaneous, optional for everyone, and really fun for the girls who chose to attend. When cool, misty weather arrived during second free swim, the lifeguards announced a “Winter Wonderland Party” instead of swimming. Inside the Hillside Lodge, they built a glorious fire in the fireplace, had hot chocolate to drink, and broke out marshmallows to roast for s’mores. They played winter holiday music, cut snowflakes from colored construction paper, and had a wonderful time together, cozy in the Lodge. After dinner, during the “Twilight” period of free time, Kelly the camp gardener held a “Garden Gathering” down at the flower and vegetable garden. She introduced the girls to the plants growing and let everyone pick a few things. Soon we had a nice basket of carrots, squash, green beans, and a few cucumbers. Several girls also made bouquets of flowers to decorate their cabins back up in camp. It’s marvelous to stand next to a sunflower towering high above you, or to reach into the ground and pull out something you can eat. By the end, the girls were loaded down with produce and a true appreciation of gardening.

Here’s Amelia showing off what she gathered from the garden.

Camp Garden Girl