Okay, I admit it—I have my cell phone in my pack when I hike. Mostly because I don’t leave anything of value (even if it is an old flip phone) in my vehicle when I hit the trail. And it is almost always turned off. But, I have made a few calls from the trail over the years. Usually it’s when I have been away from my wife for days and then from some mountaintop I discover that I have service and I want her to know that I am alive and well—so don’t send a search party out for me. But even on those few times that I have called from the trail—I am always alone and well away from anyone if others are out on the trail. Because, just as I detest boorish cell phone behavior at restaurants, buses, and other public places—I cringe when I have to hear someone yakking loudly from a serene backcountry lakeshore about their night of drinking, their new boy/girlfriend, movie that they just saw, or some other inane or unimportant conversation that almost always can wait until you get back to the trailhead.
So, when I stumbled upon this stipulation on Peters Trail on Bainbridge Island I was immediately intrigued. Really? Turn off your cell phones and electronic devices while hiking this trail? What a concept! Now, the trail does pass private land. The owner granted a public easement in which he wishes for folks to keep their gadgets off while hiking this trail. Now, obviously this is a pretty unenforceable request—one that the owner wishes folks do simply from the kindness of their rational little hearts and not because they face punitive action. But what do you think? How does the thought of phone-free trails sound to you? Radio free too? I have stayed in provincial parks in eastern Canada that have radio free campgrounds, and there is no shortage of folks wishing to set up camp and listen to a swift river and not Taylor Swift. But phone and gadget free trails? Might be a tough one to support when so many folks use their phones as their cameras. Would you support such an idea? Is cell phone chattering and not so smart smart phone use a problem in the backcountry? Or what was that, I have to check the text I just got!