Last week I had a personal challenge, off-grid, (almost). I went back packing at Yosemite National Park with my two adult children. Backpacking was not the main challenge, climbing was! We had the much cuveted Half Dome passes as well as a wilderness pass to camp in Little Yosemite Valley. The hike in was spectacular, with amazing up-and-close waterfall views with rainbows in the mist. We stayed the night with a full camp of other Half Dome climber wanna be’s.
Of note, I live for summer back packing trips. I like the challenge of carrying everything I need and I lOVE being off-grid. I do take that mini-computer we refer to as a phone, however it goes on airplane mode for the trip and my message informs callers that I cannot be reached. My device functions as my back-up flash light, my clock, and most importantly, my camera.
I-Phone Debacle One
A very funny thing happened on this trip. We were organizing packs, taking last gulps of water, sizing poles, and stashing valuable in the trunk, meanwhile my phone fell onto the floor of the front seat and completely slipped my mind. We headed out from the trailhead parking lot, with seemingly hundreds of other hikers. It was not until 30 minutes later when I wanted to take a photo that I realized my error. I certainly was not going back, I was off-grid after all. Besides, both my kids had their devices, what could go wrong?
As we passed the first viewpoint the crowd noticeably thinned and also became predominantly younger. By the time we were above both waterfalls and 3 extremely steep miles in, millennial hikes were the rule of thumb. I had just been hiking two weeks earlier with a friend who claimed that millennials were having a huge challenge unplugging. I assured her that my kids were versed in unplugging and that not all young people were chained to their devices.
We finally reached our basecamp, set up our tents, had a snack, jumped in the river and took a rest in the shade. I was feeling rejuvenated and thankful for the opportunity to step out of my daily life and spend some quality time with my girls. Then the unexpected happened. I heard a phone ring. It was our camp neighbors communicating with their friends who were still back on the trail. Next thing I knew, both my kids were on their phones talking to friends. It appeared the grid had followed me. Perhaps my friend was right after all.
I-Phone Debacle Two
We had a tight schedule the next day with a plan to head for Half Dome at first light. Not only were we hoping to beat the crowd, in addition one of my daughters had a wedding to attend the next day and was planning to catch a bus back at the trailhead. I volunteered to wake us all up but had to borrow a device to set an alarm since I had foolishly left my phone behind.
Unfortunately, and a bit humorously, the power on both our remaining phones had been zapped by roaming up in the wilderness. Ironically, we were finally unplugged. I the had a big grapple with my own desire to stick to a schedule and take photos of the adventure we were setting off on. Was I too addicted to my device? Could I get for a day without it? In the end we had no choice.
Now we come to the part of the story about the challenge. A little known personal fact is that I have developed a fear of falling. I remember the fearless years, but that changed with a combination of parenthood and a serious knee injury. Still, I had committed to climb 400 feet up the face of Half Dome. What was I thinking? I was thinking that thousands of people go up the dome every year. I fancy myself as being pretty tough and I had been in training for the past several months in preparation. Surely it could’t be that hard. Then I saw the cables. A group was coming down, there was a lot of yelling and the trepidation of some of the climbers was evident, even at a distance. I began to doubt.
I-Phone Debacle Three
In the end, I headed up. It took about 80% of my potential muscle power and 99% of my mental willpower to conquer the climb. I avoided looking anywhere except my feet. “Channel a goat” a mantra suggested by my daughter, and “one wrung at a time” a chant I overheard from a fellow hiker, were the words that got me to the top. The view was spectacular and my self-esteem was soaring. Of course, there was the trip down still to accomplish. A sobering event occurred on the way down. A fellow climber’s cell phone slipped from a pocket, slid down the cliff face and exploded into bits of plastic as it crashed into a cleft in the rock. Well, one more millennial off the grid for the day!