A Camp for Boys near Asheville, NC
Conveniently located near Black Mountain, NC, in the Smoky Mountains, Camp Rockmont sits on 550 scenic acres. Most activities occur in the main 100-acre area that houses a wide-open space with a large lake, a couple of sports fields, and a huge vegetable garden.
Philosophy & Approach
Rockmont is very intentional about designing programs that address each stage of a boy’s development. Activities and lessons are specifically geared to enhance emotional, spiritual, and physical growth. The goal is to help create “whole people.”
We are often focused on pushing our kids to achieve in high school so they get into a good university, and then they have to do well in college so they can get a good job. Dan Davis, the Camp Director, likes to ask parents what they want for their kids when they are 30. This reframes the discussion about important childhood experiences.
Of course, parents say they want their kids to be happy. Being happy at age 30 usually has nothing to do with your high school GPA. It does have a lot to do with your ability to make friends, face challenges, and pass your values along to your own kids. This is what a good summer camp experience teaches you.
Tracking the journey of male development continues through high school. Rockmont offers the Catalyst program for ages 16-17. More than just a CIT session, it’s an intense two-week apprenticeship that encourages young men to “engage in a life of service towards others.”
Christian themes are also an essential part of the journey. Rockmont is an interdenominational Christian camp; they honor different stories and ideals, so people with all belief structures feel welcome.
The activity page on the website boasts 57 skills and group activities. Some of the more unique ones are fly fishing and fly tying, ceramics, trap-shooting, blacksmithing, and homesteading. Optional excursions include a horseback trail ride, water skiing on Lake James, and whitewater rafting.
While there are plenty of games and sports to take part in, Rockmont is not a “sports camp.” Boys are encouraged to “delight in what they do.” It’s not about improving your soccer skills and becoming a superstar.
The blacksmith and farming centers are fantastic.
In the Blacksmith hut, you learn the basics of how to use a hammer and work with heat and metal. This is a great opportunity for kids to work with their hands, as the most tactile experience we have these days is using our thumbs to text.
Other hands-on activities include ceramics and rocket building. I loved that one pre-teen was so proud of his bracelet-making tool. I snapped a photo to show to my daughters.
The humongous garden is full of numerous herbs and vegetables. The boys harvest items that are ready to pick, which are turned into fresh snacks, and are also used in the dining hall. They actually clean and grind buckwheat for flour to use in pancakes.
Some produce is taken to the farmers’ market, which incorporates a business lesson. After paying for supplies, the boys are allowed to keep a portion of the proceeds, and the remainder is donated to Kiva, an international micro-lending charity. They vote on a project and track donations on a world map outside the shelter.
Honoring Native American culture has long been a staple of summer camp programming, incorporating the ideal of a warrior spirit being at one with nature. Some camps, however, have struggled with how to end offensive stereotypes and still maintain their traditions. Rockmont was one of the first in the area to move away from headdresses and Native American names – in 2001 they decided to name their tribes after trees.
The practice of assigning campers to tribes at most camps continues today; partly because of tradition, but also because it facilitates comradery and team-building.
Ceremonies and tribal competitions (complete with body paint) are an important part of Rockmont’s tradition. Ritualized experiences help give the boys a sense of place, and provide a framework for celebration when they return the next summer.
Council meetings are held Sunday nights, where campers share stories of growth; they are encouraged to demonstrate both strength and gentleness.
Team activities include two games called Powerball and Outbreak. Powerball is played on a soccer field roped off in a circle. It involves ballpit style balls being thrown into a trashcan, mixed with flag football.
Outbreak sends boys all over camp trying to cure a disease by finding hidden paint cups. Mayhem ensues when sick boys infect the healthy ones and ten people with the cure need to save humanity by marking their arm with all the paint colors.
Campers and Counselors
Capacity is around 400 boys per session. The cabins hold eight boys and two counselors per room. Younger campers stay in lodge-style buildings, where multiple rooms are joined together with a common area in the middle, allowing them to play inside when it’s raining.
Campers come from all over – 40 states and 20 countries (some are children of expat parents).
Recruiting staff is one of the most important tasks for a camp, even with a return rate of 60%. Personnel director Shawn Marler travels to Budapest and Mexico to hire summer staff; this year they had fifteen from Mexico.
Rockmont makes sure to have a decent number of adult mentors to guide the younger college-age counselors. It’s important that they are able to turn to someone for advice, just as their campers turn to them.
And just because it’s a boys’ camp doesn’t mean it’s 100% male. They intentionally hire female staff; this year there were 30 members. A woman runs the climbing program, which gives the boys a chance to see the value of female instruction in a tough sport.
Dads can also get involved! If the cost of summer camp is hard to manage, consider applying for a Team Dad role. These dads help out around camp in exchange for reduced tuition.
Owners & History
Rockmont was founded in 1956 on the former campus of Black Mountain College. Prior to that the property was a family retreat on Lake Eden.
Director Dan Davis has been with the camp for 34 years. He began as a counselor and came back to Rockmont in 1994 after earning a Master of Divinity. Dan knows his stuff; he has served on the board of the American Camp Association (ACA) and served as an accreditation visitor.
David Bruce, the Executive Director, came on board in 1973, and his wife Cindy joined the staff in 1979. He served as Camp Director from 1987-2006 and currently manages the alumni association.
How to Register
Check out the Dates & Rates page and the click “apply online.”
This is one of the larger camps in the area, but it’s popular and will fill up early.
Note that parents get to try the zipline and water slide on drop-off day – an added incentive!
Rockmont also offers a coed day camp – perfect if you’re vacationing in the Asheville area and want some adult hiking time.