Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Weekend Off the Cell Phone Grid

Last weekend I did something that I only do about once every 20 years. I went on a camping trip. The occasion was the reunion of my old Boy Scout Camp staff. But that part of the story I'll save for perhaps another day.

In my youth I was a pretty good hiker and backpacker. But over the years I've turned into a city guy. So for this trip to Sequoia National Park, in addition to shorts, hiking clothes and comfortable shoes to walk in, I also threw my laptop computer into the bag. After all, I seldom travel without it anymore. And of course I took my iPhone. Both turned out to be about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.

Not that I really expected to get WiFi in a campground but I thought I could at least pull down a cell signal but, no luck. And it didn't matter which carrier you were using whether it was AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. No one could get their phones to work up there. Nor did it seem to matter which part of the Park you went to, Giant Forest Village, Lodgepole campground and the parking lot for the Wolverton trail head all were sans cell service. But it was actually kind of nice! No phone calls, no voicemail messages, no text messages, no e-mail. The only tweeting was the sound of the birds who woke me up early each morning.

I was certainly glad that no one could be holding a phone to their ear with one hand while palming the steering wheel with the other as they drove up from the foothills into the Sierras along the narrow two-lane winding road which had a number of hairpin turns.

And it was nice to walk along with other visitors to the park through the groves of Sequoia trees and out to Crescent Meadow without having to listen to someone talking loudly into their phone.

It was a pleasant reminder of what life without cell phones used to be like.

On Sunday, on my way out of the park I decided to make the 300 foot climb via a granite stairway up Moro Rock for the spectacular view of the Great Western Divide and the San Joaquin Valley in the distance. There were plenty of other people on the trail. On the way back down the sounds of nature were encroached upon by a sound I hadn't heard for three days. Somebody's cell phone was ringing. A treeless granite monolith 7,000 feet above sea level turned out to be the only place in the park where one could get a cellular signal.

Well, it was almost a perfect weekend.
© 2011 by Craig Smith and