Stash the Phone!

Thought you all might appreciate this little gem from Tom Stienstra, outdoor writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Get your 5 senses’ worth from outdoors

Updated 4:14 pm, Sunday, December 14, 2014

On a walk last week, on the trail from the other direction, a hiker approached who was holding his cell phone in front of his face.
As we crossed, he held up a hand to stop me. “Is this the right way to the waterfall?”
Turns out he was reading one of my stories on his phone as he walked.
Yet the trail was right there in front of him. A stream was running alongside. It sounded like a water symphony. Ferns were electric green. Mosses oozed water. Just ahead, a newt was trying to make its way to a mate, walking as if each leg operated independently of the others.
“The waterfall is right there,” I said, pointing, “just upstream.”

This has happened a half-dozen times or so this year. It seems that the advancement of cell phones, electronics and gadgets in general has people more disconnected from the land than ever.
It has a lot of people living in a bubble. You can miss all the sensory triggers, the smallest of sights, like all the mushrooms that emerged last week, the smell of the woods, the taste of clean air, the sounds of the wild and how a trail, softened by rain, feels underfoot.
When you become aware of all the senses, that’s how you have experiences you never forget, especially when you share them with people you care for.
In addition, you can learn to read the land and water. You often don’t need a map. You get so tuned in to the landscape that you can figure out, on your own, where everything is.
On trips on BART last week, it seemed every person on every train had a phone in his or her face. No books, magazines or newspapers, and nobody ever looked out the windows.
Life in a bubble might work on BART, but it isn’t the best way to enjoy the outdoors.
On your next trip, stash your phone deep. Or better yet, venture to where it is out of range and doesn’t work anyway.

Tom Stienstra is The San Francisco Chronicle’s outdoors writer. E-mail: Twitter: @StienstraTom