(Zephyr Extra!) SOLITUDE LOST…OR UNWANTED? Part 2…by Jim Stiles

I’ll sing about an emptiness the East has never known,

Where coyotes don’t pay taxes and a man can live alone…

And you’ve gotta walk forever, just to find a telephone.

It’s sad, but the tellin’ takes me home.

-Utah Phillips


The call is coming from INSIDE THE TENT…


Until recently, solitude was a cherished and valuable component in our lives that often proved to be more elusive than we wanted it to be.  In the fast-paced, frenetic world that most of us endure, the idea of escaping the madness, even the faint hope that we could get away and claim a few moments of peace and quiet for ourselves, was comforting. We wanted to ‘disconnect,’ even if it was for just a few days. As we’ve noted before,  the opportunity for ‘solitude’ was even written into the Wilderness Act. It was a crucial component of the legislation.

But do most of us still seek that? Do we want to ‘disconnect?’ Would we really want to, “walk forever, just to find a telephone?”  Maybe not…

When I need to know what’s ‘trending’ these days, I look no further than the crass commercialism of a television ad. Recently, via that medium, I discovered something revealing in the way we seek and appreciate solitude and our moderating efforts to escape technology.

It was a Verizon commercial that caught my eye; a young family was about to embark on a camping trip and the narrator asked, “Would you be willing to give up sharing your moment?”

Even before the 30 second spot ended, I was reminded of another tv ad, from 2011...just four years ago. It was a Chevy commercial and four young guys, out in the middle of nowhere, kept stopping to check their cell phone signal. One fellow would jump from the Silverado, hold the phone in the air and shake his head. They drove further, stopped again. Still no success.  Finally, up in the Ponderosas somewhere, he climbs atop a boulder, tilts the phone in all directions and smiles.

“Got it,” he grins. “No signal.” His buddies give it a thumbs up. Perfect. They’d found their camp site.


Jump back to the present and the Verizon ad. As night descends upon the happy campers, the family crawls inside their tent, hooks up their devices to the 4G network and settles in to watch a video of  ‘Star Wars.’ The children look delighted. The parents beam.The narrator asks, “If you’re not on the nation’s largest and most reliable network, what are you giving up?”

What are they giving up?  The very last scene depicts the artificial glow of the family tent, pitched beneath the dark silhouette of a majestic pine forest. Above the canopy, a brilliant star-filled sky shines brightly…and unnoticed .

This is the pursuit of Nature in 2015. This is what it’s becoming. This is what our lives are becoming. We cannot stand to be ‘dis-connected.’ The mere thought of it terrifies most of us. If the silence and solitude of Nature and wilderness are no longer qualities we long for, then what exactly is it we’re trying to save?

Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.


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3 comments for “(Zephyr Extra!) SOLITUDE LOST…OR UNWANTED? Part 2…by Jim Stiles

  1. April 18, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Not around my campfire, by God! No cell phones, not now, not ever. If someone gave me a cell phone, I’d drown it in yesterday’s coffee, and bury it in a peat bog for future archaeologists to puzzle over. Cell bog man.

    Spending time in the wild is not getting away from it all, it’s getting TO it all!

  2. David Fraley
    April 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I have wrestled with the same notion for some years. much of what I value was lost before I knew it, hell, most of it happened before I was born. An old timer in Montana blew my mind with that one many years ago. Now that I’m an old timer myself, I’ve come to some hard decisions about what I’m going to do with the time I have left. What try to pass on, and how, and what to leave to others. Decisions best kept to oneself.

  3. greg
    May 27, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    I admit to being a tech geek in the backcountry. I travel solo, just me and my dog and my gizmos. I like my internet/cell/GPS devices in the backcountry, I use them for navigation, weather and safety. I carry a SPOT satellite emergency location device on every remote trip (hopefully in a bad situation the local search/rescue guys will get to me before the ravens peck my eyes out). I appreciate the technology and the contrast of using these devices in a remote backcountry landscapes. I am always surprised at how a cell data signal can be found in remote areas in UT from some antenna on a high point many miles away. I mute any gizmo beeps around others that I may encounter. These items are all stashed in vest pockets or in my pack and you would never know about them if you met me on the trail.

    I admit to being a tech geek in the backcountry.

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