Guy Waterman wrote in “Backwoods Ethics” that the very presence of communication devices such as cell phones, even if they’re tucked away and unused, reduces the wilderness experience.
A recent article in the New York Times – Hikers: Can You Hear Me Now? By Katharine Mieszkowski – states that San Francisco area search and rescue (SAR) officials are urging people to take cell phones with them on their trips into the wilderness:
“We tell people to always have a cellphone with you, Lt. Dave Dubowy, a patrol watch commander with the East Bay Regional Park District, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “Technology is wonderful now. The GPS capabilities make our jobs so much easier.”
The American Hiking Society, a national advocacy group, recommends carrying one in case of emergency but frowns on yakking on the trail. “We would ask that hikers respect the natural experience that other hikers are out to enjoy,” said Heather Sable, trail programs manager for the society.
What would a disciple of Waterman who is also a member of an SAR team say on the subject? Would such a person admonish people for bringing cell phones into the wilderness but then hope that they had done so if a search and rescue is undertaken?
A true “purists” would have to go hiking naked to separate themselves from modern technology while on the trail, and even then, they would be walking on trails created and maintained largely by technology. I don’t think a cell phone impinges on my wilderness experience anymore than the technology that is encapsulated in my backpack, my clothing, my boots, my water filter, headlamp, maps, or compass. To think otherwise is a delusion.
As for Waterman, he apparently had as little regard for leave no trace principles as he had for communication technology because he left his body behind for others to pickup and carry out after committing suicide by purposefully freezing to death on New Hampshire’s Mount Lafayette