During my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I had a little pay-as-you-go flip phone, and I got no reception for weeks at a time. This was the experience of most hikers in 2012. There were a few hikers who carried Verizon smartphones, and the rest of us would sit around them at camp, asking for weather forecasts from the oracles.
These days, it’s a different world — even in the backcountry. For that matter, even when I was on the Camino, many pilgrims were able to update their friends and families on a daily basis, if they were walking the main pilgrimage route.
Now, just about all of us have smart phones. While those of us who are cautious supplement them with analog versions, they’re our maps, our compasses, our cameras, and our connections to those we love.
Borrowing a phrase from Quiver, I often say of longer hikes that I’m “living in the woods for a while.” And, if this is my home, it would be bizarre to isolate myself from my loved ones while here.
I don’t want to finish a journey and try then to explain to my family its significance to me; it would be impossible to convey. Instead, when I’m alone in the woods, I’ll call them from a beautiful peak or quiet pond that I’ve been enjoying and do my best to describe what I’m seeing, hearing, and feeling.
These shared wilderness moments, even when I’m talking with someone thousands of miles away, have been and continue to be a special way of connecting.
And, they’re also a great way to make long roadwalks, such as the 5.7-miler between trailheads today, much more meaningful.