Despite magnificent weather, gorgeous scenery and the company of three of my four favorite people (our daughter wasn’t there), I still struggled over “unplugging” from the Internet in order to enjoy our family’s trip to Yosemite last weekend.
I knew from past trips that cellular coverage was spotty at best, and wifi would likely be available only in our motel’s common areas. No problem – I had worked furiously on Internet-related projects before leaving town, so I figured things would be fine.
But I didn’t consider how pulling out my iPhone to check messages, get a weather report, or do a quick Google search has become a habit – something I do to fill a spare moment without even realizing it. I knew from observing the 2011 National Day of Unplugging that I might have some “issues” – but this weekend brought me face to face with them, again.
When the front desk receptionist informed me that Yosemite Lodge now provides free wifi in the rooms, I thought, “How great — our national parks are joining the digital age.” Then she added, “It’s been kind of touch and go lately. What can I say? I.T. is working on it.”
Sure enough, we got to our rooms and found that, while our sons were able to get random, weak wifi, my husband and I found ourselves sitting side by side, staring at blank browser screens and watching our “loading” wheels spin. Also, our TV was tiny — you needed birding binoculars to check the Giants’ score unless you sat right next to it. Which was kind of a problem, since there was only one chair in the room, and it was more of a desk chair, not a TV chair. But what was I expecting, the Four Seasons? That wasn’t the point, I reminded myself — we were here to enjoy Yosemite’s grandeur.
The next day was sunny and warm, not too hot. Blue cloudless sky. In other words, perfect. We chose to hike up past Mirror Lake, a ideal route because, since a rock slide had closed off the trail higher up, few people bothered to go past the Mirror Lake destination. But at the same time as I was enjoying our journey, I knew the Prince of Smooth was playing Lord Valdemort in the French Open semi’s, and my iPhone wouldn’t even give me a score update, due to the lack of cellular data coverage.
Never mind. I knew the likely outcome of that match, and how often did I get to spend a day with Rico and my boys — a day when none of us could retreat to our computers or mobile devices? We had no choice but to be with each other, to enjoy walking outdoors, to talk or be silent together. And it was great! At night we played Settlers of Catan, one of our family’s favorite board games. I won, for the first time in two or three years.
When I woke up on Saturday, I figured Maria Sharapova was about to win or had already won the French Open — completing her career grand slam. Not able to access an Internet signal in my room, I went to the front desk.
There in the lobby, similar souls had occupied nearly all the chairs. It was breakfast time, yet we were starving for web access. Everyone huddled over their laptops, iPads and phones, conversing with their companions, compelled by information on their screens. I confirmed Maria had prevailed. Feeling superior to the other lobby geeks, I didn’t check email, but sauntered off to join my husband and boys for breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
Afterwards we drove to Toulumne Meadows, abandoned our uphill hike to Dog Lake in favor of the easier walk to Two Rivers behind the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. As if to emphasize our lack of connectivity, my son’s iPhone fell out of his basketball shorts and into the river when he squatted to take a photo. Oh well.
I had finally disengaged enough that cellular calls and Internet communication seemed insignificant. I woke up on Sunday morning and turned on the TV to catch the French Open final between Nadal and Djokovic, but the match was delayed for rain before I could become too engrossed.