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By Nick Wakeman

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Always connected

The weather over the Christmas holiday was relatively mild in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, so my wife and I took the opportunity to get into the mountains and hike a new trail that had been recommended to us.

We took along my 13-year-old niece Deanna from Memphis, who was visiting my parents (her grandparents) with her mom and older sister.

The hike was a round-trip of five miles along a spine of the Massanutten Mountain range. The highlight was Kennedy's Peak, which has a look-out tower that provides great views up and down the Shenandoah Valley.

The trail follows the ridge line and then dips down into a saddle and around the base of Kennedy's Peak until you get to a steep quarter-mile side trail that takes you to the peak. From there, it was easy to see Luray to the south and follow the bends of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River as it flows north.

At the top, we ate a few snacks and relaxed. It was then that we heard a buzzing sound and my niece reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone.

Deanna had a text message from a friend in Memphis (Collierville for those who know the area).

As we made our return trip, the buzzing of Deanna's phone accompanied us back down the mountain. She told her friend what she was doing, where she was and that they needed to find places to hike near Memphis. She even tried to send him a photo but his phone couldn't receive it.

It didn't distract from the trip, though she did stumble a couple times when she was trying to text and hike at the same time. She says her friend can text with one hand and without looking. Deanna hasn't mastered that yet.

For me, there was the realization that the places in the world where we can't be reached is shrinking, but that isn't such as a bad thing. I brought my Blackberry because I wanted a backup in case someone twisted an ankle or worse. I didn't need it but I'm glad I had it with me.

My point is that with all these technologies we still have a personal choice. My niece thought it was cool to text from the top of the mountain.

But if you don't want to do that, just keep it in your backpack.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 03, 2008 at 7:22 PM


Reader Comments

Thu, Jan 10, 2008 Bill Hartman CA

When hiking in the Smokies in the 60's, I had a hiking partner who was (and is) a ham radio operator. He carried a portable unit he could use from a mountain top to reach a "repeater" and thereby make a free phone call to practically anywhere in the US. Perhaps the wonder of it all isn't how far technology has come, but rather how governmental control (in this case of the spectrum), supported by major companies opposed to change (AT&T at that point in time) keep us from enjoying the technological possibilities unearthed by inventors.

Tue, Jan 8, 2008 Justin Porto VA

Nick, I like your point that technology offers us an option, and that we can choice ourselves to either use it or simply turn it off and stick it in the backpack. I am sort of tired of people saying that technology has "ruined our lives by causing us to depend on it 24/7." Last time I looked, all gadgets I use have On/Off switches and I can choose to keep in touch with the world perpetually, or I can turn it off to appreciate a moment of natural beauty like the view from the top of the Shenandoahs, or a romantic walk on the beach. But the point is, as you made in your editorial, that WE control the technology, the technology does not control US. It becomes an enabler to improve the quality of my life versus a crutch and excuse to "plug in and tune out."Thanks,Justin

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