A Walk Around Camp

Pictures from July 20, 2010 (password required)

Today’s blog comes to us from Ryan Donovan.  Ryan is head of the Mountain Biking Program here at High Rocks and is enjoying his fifth year in that role.  During the year Ryan works in nearby Brevard for the Brevard College Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education Program.  He is a very well-rounded and skilled instructor who holds certifications in climbing, paddling, mountain biking, wilderness medicine, and wilderness ethics.  We are pleased to have someone like him return year after year to provide leadership and mentoring for the staff, and facilitate awesome skill development and experiences for the campers…  –Hank Birdsong

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

I was really excited when Hank asked me a few days ago, “do you want to write a blog entry?”  I immediately knew that this was my chance to get to do something that rarely happens…get to visit other activities!  So I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and headed off to tour camp at the three o’clock hour, and hopefully give a little peak into what is going on ‘around the rocks’.

At the canoe docks I got to sit in on one of Rob’s wet exit and roll prep lessons.  Each camper would capsize in their kayak and practice staying calm under the water until they gave the “tap, tap, tap” signal on the hull of their boat and Rob would roll them back up.  Feedback on proper position and safety practices would follow each attempt.  I couldn’t help but notice the huge leap in confidence that the campers experienced after each successively longer stint being upside down under water in the boat; something that they were scared to even think about just a few days ago.  I also saw great lessons in trust going on…’so, I’m going to flip upside down and hold my breath for as long as I can, then you’re going to flip me back up???  OK, sounds great!’

At sailing I found Will organizing our brave sailors for serious business; this is race week on the lake and the four sunfish were treated to some of the best wind of the session!  The race is head to head, but in the High Rocks spirit emphasis is placed on trying to work on improving your own skills and teamwork with your crew rather than ‘beating’ another boat.  Starting sequences were the main focus of the lessons and it looked like the instruction and practice were paying off big time with some quick starts.

In tennis the numbers worked out just right so that everyone was able to play a doubles match.  This is always enjoyed by the campers and gives them a chance to use the skills that they have been working on so hard in all of the drills that they do.  Much like the lake, the tennis courts looked like fun, but I had to keep moving.

Fun was top of the list in soccer as well!  The boys were locked in a heated camper/counselor scrimmage (8 on 4 ;)).  I saw several good plays as I was passing through; passing, shooting, and defense were all on display.  I was so impressed to see campers and counselors alike running so hard at the end of a long hot day.

In archery and riflery work on the finer points was the order of the day.  With campers progressing to shooting the bows at 20, 30, and even 40 yards the instructors must be doing something right.  I heard some great tips on body position and continuing to hold the bow steady after release.

The best way to describe the arts and crafts and pottery areas when I stopped by is “ACTIVITY”.  The whole place was buzzing with activity with clay being molded and thrown, a stop motion animation studio operating at full tilt, boats being made for the end-of-session regatta, and woodworking projects being finished up.  It was really neat to see not only the instructors working with the kids, but also to see the kids working with each other to lend a hand, a creative eye, or even a little elbow grease to see that the projects took shape exactly as they had envisioned.

The climbers were busy in the new bouldering cave pulling down hard on plastic (our affectionate name for indoor holds).  While climbing inside is not the real thing, it is super great training for real rock and is worth pursuing as a sport in its own right.  Here again I saw campers and counselors trusting each other and taking part in each other’s successes and opportunities for growth.

At the swim docks I came upon an intense, and somewhat complicated, game of Marathon Relay Race organized by Happy.  The class split into two teams and had a few minutes to pick a team name and come up with a warm-up routine.  Team names were interesting to say the least, but when the time came “Paco and the Tacos” and “the Purple Cobras” put on a pretty impressive warm up show that bordered somewhere between actual warm-ups, synchronized swimming, and general goofing off.  To top it off points were awarded by various celebrity guest judges (instructors from other activities) for “sick style”, “originality”, and of course “good sportsmanship”.  The lake sure looked inviting, but I had to move on.

And last but not least…mountain biking!  Mountain biking is definitely the most physically demanding activity here at camp.  These kids work incredibly hard because, as we always say, “you have to pedal up to get to go down”.  I am so proud of the campers and my staff to see them still giving one hundred and ten percent even though it has been pretty hot and everyone is feeling just a bit worn out from all of the excitement and activity that camp has to offer.  This summer has seen a flurry of trail work being done by the mountain biking staff and it has been paying off big time in providing new and interesting challenges for our campers. 

So I hope that you enjoyed my little report about what was going on ‘around the rocks’ this afternoon.  I know that I enjoyed getting to see other activities and watch other instructor in their element, doing what they do best, all the while building skills and relationships with the campers.

–Ryan Donovan

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