Over the weekend I went to the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Prior to my trip I went to their website to check out some info. Somewhere it said something about no cell phone service in the park. Strangely, I often have better cell phone service in national parks than areas where you would think you would have great service. I figured that maybe they hadn’t updated that info for a while and by now they had better connection. I have also come accustomed to that when you hike up towards a peak you usually have service. I am often surprised when out hiking in remote areas and my phone starts beeping letting me know I have a text (which quickly makes me put it in silent mood!).
As I am driving in the middle of nowhere and still have five bars of 4G I kept thinking of how anyone with a smartphone now can connect to the internet, even in remote places. I also kept thinking of what it said on the website about no service but if I have service out here in the middle of nowhere then I certainly will have service in a place where people live, work and come from all over the world to visit.
As I cross the border from Utah to Nevada I stop to take a photo of the “Welcome to Nevada” sign. Since I hadn’t told anyone exactly where I was going, just that I was going somewhere for the weekend, I figured I would post the photo on Facebook and let my friends know that I was heading to the Great Basin National Park. As I was standing there I realized my phone said No Service. Not Searching, not E, not almost no service. It was 100% No Service. Wow! I had five bars of 4G just a few miles from the border. Did Nevada not pay their dues? Did all the tower power go to Las Vegas? Not too worried I assumed as I would get closer to the park I would pick up service. However, as I continued driving towards the park, my phone still said No Service. Alright, well, since my plan was to hike the Wheeler Peak I figured I would get that welcomed connection once up on the mountain.
By the way, if you haven’t been to the Great Basin National Park you have missed out. It is a great park with lots of hiking, wildlife viewing, a cave and Wheeler Peak is strikingly beautiful and breathtaking. After finding a campsite I headed out on the scenic drive that takes you up to the base of Wheeler Peak at about 10,000 ft. Still No Service. As I was hiking the Wheeler Peak trails I could now see Utah from where I was standing. I was a birds eye view less than fifty miles from where I last had signal. Still No Service. Really?!
It suddenly dawned on me that I have come so accustomed to always having some kind of cell phone service, even when out in the back-country, that the thought of having absolutely no service for the weekend made me slightly perplexed. I am not the kind of person that has to answer my phone when it rings, I don’t check it all the time, even leave it at home and often turn it to silent. But my reaction of having no service was nonetheless shocking to me. Had I really forgotten how it is to have no cell phone service for that long? What if people were trying to reach me not knowing I was gone for the weekend? What if there was an emergency? For the rest of the weekend I couldn’t decide if I liked having No Service, or not.
Then I started to pay attention to the fact that no one was even carrying a cell phone in their hand. No one was walking around looking down at a cell phone. People did what we used to do before cell phones. Smiled and talked to strangers. We simply didn’t have anything else to do as we were waiting in line or waiting for the tour guide to take us into the Lehman’s cave. We talked, we laughed, shared stories and we were not distracted by checking our cell phone. We had figured out very quickly that no matter where in the park we would still be faced with No Service on our cell phones. It was refreshing in a sense.
All this made me think that we have become so connected that we have become disconnected. Disconnected with the people around us. Our modern technology is great but it has taken away a natural connection to talk to people. To stop and listen. To pay attention to what goes on around us. To stay in the present and not be in a hurry. Since no one was distracted by their cell phone, it forced us to connect to the world around us. We were given the time to connect without distractions. Something that is rare today unless we either create it or in this case have no choice.
Sadly, I learned that they are working on setting up temporary towers in the area and a few of the visiting park rangers had received some signal for the first time last week. So if you want to have some time away from your cell phone where you have no choice but being connected by being disconnected, you better hurry up. In a few months I’m sure the world will connect to the Great Basin National Park and you will be surrounded by people having loud conversations to you next in line, checking their phones and not paying any attention to the person next to them. Because somewhere along the way as we got electronically connected we forgot that we can after all turn it off…and truly get connected.