Last weekend began about a month ago. Daughter, husband and baby were sitting around the patio table when talk turned to camping.
Son-in-law, I’m certain, had never really seen dirt until he first visited our place from the cities of England. However time and travel have accustomed him to life in Canada, and the fact that not everything is paved over.
So during the patio chat he mentioned that he would enjoy going camping.
Ever one to push the envelope, I offered up a backcountry fishing trip, complete with ‘never been in one before’ paddle around a lake in a tippy canoe.
The enthusiasm was at first muted, and since the women in the group refuse to ‘camp’ in anything less than a four-star hotel, it was with some mild convincing that we finally determined just the two of us would embark on the ‘great adventure’.
Thus last Friday morning, the truck loaded the night before and the canoe mounted on my rough-country hunting trailer, we set off for a high elevation lake northwest of Merritt.
Now the son-in-law is a technophile. Every free minute is spent doing something on a computer (despite working on one for eight or more hours every day). So the camping trip came with great forewarning – no internet, no WiFi, not even, gasp, cellular phone service.
I’m sure that amplified his trepidation, but into the truck we climbed and hit the freeway heading east and north. Before we reached the Vedder Canal, he was already on his iPhone checking baby pictures, the latest football (soccer to us!) scores from the U.K., even checking on Google Maps where we were going.
I pointed out that where we were going is likely not on an Internet map, and certainly not the route we were about to traverse … even I could hardly remember how to get there since my last visit was some 20 years ago.
Fortunately, I thought, as we rolled down Highway 8 west of Merritt, cell service evaporated. The iPhone would be tucked away until Sunday afternoon when civilization once again appeared through the windshield of the truck.
However, ever the optimist in technical wonder, he sent off a text message, and hit ‘send’ just before we pulled off the pavement. I thought that would be it.
After an hour and half of dirt trail, the last seven kilometers taking up 60 minutes of that, we arrived at the lake, grateful for the rock-strewn track providing solitude and the lake all to ourselves.
A while later, after setting up camp, lighting a campfire beside which I was ensconced with a cool one (even at 1,500 meters it was a very hot day, the fire for ambience only) the son-in-law enthusiastically exclaimed “I got a reply.”
After a surprised, “You’ve got to be kidding!?!?!” from me, we discovered that for some very odd reason, in the middle of virtually nowhere, a cellular phone signal would fade in and out.
There went my plans for a techno-free weekend. The thoughts of just us, canoe, tent and axe, experiencing the Canadian vision of ourselves as rugged timeless outdoorsmen suddenly shattered and intruded upon by computers, cell phones and modernity.
Shocked as I was by this intrusion on my ‘get-away-from-it-all’ location, even I couldn’t resist the challenge to light up my Blackberry.
Sure enough there was a signal strong enough for me to not only text, but actually make a phone call.
And with that, a little tear nearly appeared at the loss of one of the priceless values of our fabulous wilderness.
No matter where we go today, the tentacles of technology can’t be avoided without a conscious effort to ignore them.