Monday, May 10, 2010

Use of phones on the long trails

The only real problem I have with cellphones is that the constant connectivity is becoming a mandate. It's great that people can go for a hike for two months and still do their jobs, but that is a two-edged blessing. If it becomes possible for the boss to have that "freedom", then how will the rest of us plebes get to take a two month vacation without being expected to work?

The other mandate now is that some people consider you to be irresponsible if you go into the wilderness without a phone or SPOT. It's fine if you want all that safety and security, but it makes it harder for those of us who feel we don't need this to do things our way.

I brought a cellphone on the PCT and was happy to have it. I used it to keep in touch. I didn't use it very often. I am not against cellphones.

I do kind of feel bothered by this new situation that seems to be happening where people have all these phone numbers pre-loaded so when they approach a town they just call someone for a ride and arrange their hotel accommodations before they arrive. I suppose I shouldn't be bothered by what other people do, but with the water caches and now even little stores popping up on the trail it kind of takes the "seat of the pants" adventure out of things. Makes it too easy. Lowers the bar so more idiots can get into trouble, too.

I tried the pre-arranged ride once on the PCT but it didn't work out for me. When I got to the pre-arranged meeting place two hours early there was somebody there willing to give me a ride right then. I canceled the pre-arranged ride. I decided that trail magic and serendipity would do the job well enough and just went with that from then on and had some of the most amazing adventures of my life.

People who rely too much on cellphones are starting to morph the meaning of trail magic and trail angels to mean mundane things like coolers of soda (often with advertisements for accommodations in town) and people who you can call to give you a ride when it used to mean learning about the gift economy of the trail, how it takes care of you when you let it. I feel sad that people are missing out on that very special magic.


  1. So far, I have managed to avoid having a cellphone. I guess if I went off on a long hike, I would rent one. Other than that, there is a sense of freedom from cost and distraction. I must live in another world.

  2. I'm not really a cellphone user myself. I have one because The Man purchased a plan where I can have one, too. I often forget to turn it on or charge it for weeks at a time. I was surprised how nice it was to have one on the PCT, though. I could call home from the trail at the end of an evening sometimes and have somebody to talk to. Once I called a cab because I couldn't figure out how to get to town. I never considered it an emergency device. I think if I had had any emergencies I would have thought of a 100 ways to deal with it before thinking of getting out the phone.