The great outdoors are still open. And being outdoors is essential to robust health. That’s one of the reasons I headed west during the last two weeks of October with longtime camp friends to spend some quality time out in the backcountry.
Best friends are made at camp, and it holds very true for us. Max and I met 10 years ago, while I’ve known Betsy and Hannah more than six years. Working at camps is the thread that brought us together.
Taking the Plunge
The four of us converged from thousands of miles away to meet up again, this time in Utah, to explore the many canyons out there. This was our first trip to canyon country, but a trip into the wilderness has become an annual excursion for us.
Max and I spent three days backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, then spent the remainder of time canyoneering in the technical slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau with Hannah and Betsy. While none of us had been canyoneering (hiking down canyons, rappelling, wading or swimming potholes, and more), we felt confident in our skills and the sense of adventure was strong.
We did lots of downclimbing into slots (very narrow canyons), hiking under walls towering hundreds of feet overhead, breathtaking pothole plunges (the water was freezing), scrambling up steep scree slopes, and even some technical climbing.
We rigged ropes, harnessed up, and rappelled down drops ranging from 10 to 75 feet.
Packing our food in, we cooked over a camp stove, and then kicked back, watching sunsets and moonrises and then waking to the cool mountain air to watch the sunrise again.
The sweeping landscapes provided immaculate views.
The days were generally warm, and the nights were cool. Perfect to spread out our bags on the ground and sleep under the stars. We went to bed shortly after the sun went down, and we were up at first light, ready for another adventurous day.
The Disconnection Connection
One of the best parts of the trip for me, besides friendship and adventure, was turning off my phone.
After landing in Salt Lake City and connecting with Max, I shut off my phone and wouldn’t turn it back on for 17 days. I had 15 full days without any connectivity. Thankfully Max communicated with the others to coordinate logistics, which allowed me that freedom of unplugging from the communications grid.
I wasn’t thinking about texts, emails, voice mail, notifications, updates, etc. I was in the moment, living life, and soaking up the present.
On the long drives I could watch the world go by. At night there was no screen or mindless scrolling to distract me. There were no updates to give. I wrote in my journal. We told jokes and shared stories. We explored. We cooked, cleaned, set up camp, and broke camp. We lived deliberately. We were in the moment.
When telling people I was without my phone for such a long time, the responses go something like this:
“I wish I could turn my phone off for that long.”
“I’m jealous. You are so lucky to be able to do that.”
“What an amazing opportunity! That sounds incredible.”
So many of us have this inherent urge to disconnect from the digital world, to connect to the real world, and the natural world. We know deep down that the magic of life is in the here and now, not in a screen, an alert, a text, an email. But it is so hard for us (including me) to break free during our day-to-day lives. When we do, though, the joy of life is amplified.
Bringin’ it all Back Home
This trip to Utah was amazing for so many reasons. Camp friends, natural beauty, new experiences, adventure, dropping the screen, journaling, meeting myself in the challenges of each day.
To an extent, it replicates campers’ lives at Camp Alleghany for Girls. No phones, lots of friends, new adventures every day, the beauty of the Greenbrier River and Greenbrier Mountain. Stars at night follow spectacular sunsets. These are some of the many reasons I love Camp Alleghany and believe so strongly in camp as an essential part of everyone’s lives.
In a pandemic year with so much increased virtual engagement, this kind of break is more important than ever.
I can’t wait to be back at our camp, Camp Alleghany, and back on the river, surrounded by campers and staff connecting in the natural world, making memories, and resetting from the constant stimulation of technology.
I can’t wait for you to join us in 2021!
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls