Chasecamp 2016

Words: Nicolle Hodges • Photos: Damon Berryman

On May 14, I got on a bus with 49 strangers and headed into the unknown. Literally - we had no idea where we were going. But we were stoked. Then, as we passed through Hope heading farther away from the city than I’ve been in awhile, I watched the bars of my phone dive down into oblivion. No service, it said. 

These days we seem to be plugged into everything, swinging from one WiFi signal to the next like a lifeline, or searching for an outlet like a drowning man searches for air. We’re on a never-ending diet of notifications and we’re still left starving. That’s because in our hearts we know something is missing. There is no doubt that it’s stimulating to feel so connected and yet it is undeniable there is a feeling of underlying emptiness. We have lost something, perhaps, the most important thing. And the more plugged in we get, the more disconnected from nature we become. 

When I first got off the bus at Manning Park, I thought, “I should probably film this,” so I snuck off to the side of the group and took a short video. “Hey guys, we just got here and…” I don’t recall the rest. Who was I even talking to? I’d like to go back and tell that girl to take a look around. 

We sat on some logs and Ally Pintucci, one of the camp leaders, told us about the events of the weekend. I thought to myself, “I should be recording this.” While fiddling with my phone, I missed most of what she said. We got to the camping area where all of our tents were already set up, and I thought, “I should take a photo to share later.” 

Later, later, later. Saving it all for later, for someone else. I felt more like a passenger to my own experiences. But it was so natural for me to do this, my job requires it, my life – they say – requires it. 

If there was one rule of Chasecamp, it was this: no phones. So, I went to my tent and put my stuff away, met my tent buddies, walked down to the water, played a few icebreaker games, sat on the grass, looked at the sky, made some new friends, walked through the woods. 

I can’t pinpoint when it happened. Maybe it was chatting with some of the girls while watching gophers in an open field. Maybe it was standing by the fire and rapping along to Eminem. Maybe it was the moment I laughed so hard my eyes filled with tears. Suddenly I was completely and utterly there. 

But it took me a few hours to remember what it felt like to live in the moment instead of reporting on it. 

Isaac Newton’s law of gravity says that everything in the universe exerts a tug on every other. It may not seem like it, but as you sit reading this, wherever you are, you are pulling everything towards you with your own little (very little) gravitational pull.

I often hear people say that they feel the most alive in nature. And as I sat on the bench by the lake reading my book, surrounded by trees, mountains, and some damn good people, I realized that I was pulling their energy towards me too. The energy of living, breathing, beautiful things. 

So, I ask this of you: Don’t overcomplicate the plans or think adventures are reserved for someone else. Go drink from the lake, breathe in the wild air, and brush your hand across the bark of an old tree. Look up to the wide-open sky and wonder how it all came to be. Get on a bus and become friends with strangers. Dive in; I dare you. 

The law of gravity explains so many things – the roll of the ocean tide, the motion of the planets, and maybe too, why we feel drawn to the great outdoors and to each other. This feeling will not soon fade, nor will the friendships. We all had our own reasons for signing up - some to heal, some to get outside, some to prove they could, some because it sounded cool. Nonetheless, we were there together. To catch a sunrise, to be kids again. Thank you all for making me feel alive.