I'm spending the weekend at beautiful Camp N-Sid-Sen on the eastern shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. N-Sid-Sen is within the Great Green Cone of Cellphone Silence also known as North Idaho. There is one spot just outside of Spirit Lodge where, if you stand on one foot near a tree stump, you can make calls. This affords the opportunity to repeatedly shout the word, "hello", hear just enough about what's going on at home to get worried, and then have the call dropped.
E-mail and web-browsing are also completely out of the question. I have the sense that I will have lots of free time on my hands, but also a renewed realization that, though unplugged, I will not be unhappy.
As a kid I remember our summer treks to the Northwoods, our name for a beautiful plywood shack on the eastern shore of Winslow Lake outside of Iron River on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The cabin was, as we used to say, 21 miles away from the nearest light bulb. We utilized a wood-burning stove, kerosene lanterns, and an icebox (cooled by a block of ice cut from a nearby lake) in the early years there. We never gave up the wood stove for heat, but switched to propane gas for lighting, cooking, and operating the gas refrigerator, a modern marvel if there ever was one.
The Northwoods was a great break for my dad, whose job entailed much time on the telephone and answering mail. In the woods we were outside the reach of modern communication. In addition, Dad wasn't required to wear a suit and tie, or shave, or bathe (the best defense against mosquitos).
As happy as this break was for Dad, my brothers and I viewed it with a degree of anxiety. How could we possibly survive without Saturday morning cartoons, Saturday evening Gunsmoke, and Sunday night's Ed Sullivan Show? How would Hank Aaron and the Milwaukee Braves fare without my continual surveillance and support? We sometimes lobbied for a shorter stay at the cabin, but never won the argument. The lure of not bathing was simply too great for Dad to pass up.
In the end, Dad's wisdom always prevailed. Despite our protestations, my brothers and I found a way to pass the time. We had fishing contests in which points were awarded for the various species and sizes of our catch. We built the "jump pit" for high jumping, really just two poles for holding a bamboo stick and a landing area filled with decomposing "logwood", which stained our jeans dark red but made for soft landings.
There were trips to the dump where we did target practice with the old "22", berry picking expeditions, and in later years, experimentation with explosives (combining the powder from multiple firecrackers into film canisters). After but a few hours the radio and television were forgotten, and we filled our time with all manner of adventure.
I've not jumped into a logwood pit for some years. I don't own a gun, and would be scared to death to repeat our experiments with explosives. Still, I think some time in the woods, far removed from the cellphone and computer, could be a good thing. I'll try to keep that in mind as I prepare for my trip to N-Sid-Sen. Maybe I won't bathe.