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It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Except the needle was a cell phone. And the haystack was the Appalachian Trail.

So maybe it was nothing like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
But it was hard, is what I’m trying to say.
And distressing.
I was another victim of Mysterious Cell Phone Disappearance Syndrome.
As a reporter, it’s something I see in the local crime reports nearly every week.
A man leaves his phone on top of a gas pump. A woman leaves hers in a shopping cart. Another man loses him somewhere between Dahlonega and, well, he’s not sure …maybe the state of Virginia.
I’m never quite sure what the sheriff’s office is supposed to do about this.
Do they put out an APB for a Samsung Galaxy somewhere on the east coast?
Probably not. But I can understand the panic.
Because halfway through a four mile hike near Cooper Gap last month I realized my beloved iPhone was no longer with me.
It was more of a premonition than anything. Like when Obi Wan sensed the destruction of Alderaan.
“Wait,” I stiffened.
Something, somewhere, had just occurred.
“What?” said my buddy Nick.
“Uh oh,” I said.
I stopped, opened by backpack and knew….it was gone.
I never thought it would happen to me for the sole reason that I truly appreciate the awesomeness of the smart phone.
It’s a computer! It’s an iPod! It’s a camera! It’s a, um, I know I’m missing something.
Oh yeah..it’s a phone!
And it’s also expensive.
That’s why, with the help of my good buddy, we launched an all-out trail scouring search.
My theory was that it was only a matter of backtracking. Since we stayed on the trail it couldn’t be that far from our footpaths, right?
Still, I knew the odds were against me.
And after trudging for a mile or so, I began to come to terms with the possibility of life without a smart phone.
It was upsetting, yes. But then, I figured, it wouldn’t be all bad.
For starters, some might describe the smart phone as, well, a giant time-sucking distraction.
That’s what I thought recently as I sauntered through our local college campus on a beautiful Thursday morning and came to the realization that half the students there seemed to have no idea it was a beautiful morning. Or maybe even a Thursday.
Unless, that is, they were accessing a live feed of that morning via the tiny screens on their cell phones.
Ah, kids these days.
Am I old enough to say that? Well I just turned 34. And I used to own a pager.
So yes.
I’m just not sure if it’s possible for us to be more connected than we are right now. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
I mean, is it harder to loss one selves in the great outdoors if you have a super computer in your daypack.
Sometimes I hope that we’ll one day get fed up with it all and disconnect.
Maybe after we’ve played Words with Friends with every single one of our friends and conquered all the Angry Birds we’ll yearn for a phone that just makes phone calls.
Perhaps in the distant future, the iPhone 19 will boast the new fangled feature of … no features.
Just a keypad.
What will we do with a feature-less phone?
I suppose we’ll stop looking at our phones all the time.
We’ll have to make awkward conversations with strangers that we used to ignore while standing in line.
We’ll actually stare at the walls in the elevator.
We’ll … be bored.
And we’ll be better off for it.
Do we need smartphones?
No not really.
Though that didn’t keep me from jumping up and down as though I’d won the Super Bowl when I spotted my shiny iPhone a few feet off the trail on the other side of Justus Mountain.
Um, not that I need one that much.
It’s the kids that need to give them up.
Yep, those kids these days.
They just don’t seem to get the message.
Unless you text it to them.

Matt Aiken is the editor/founder/lone employee of TravelingSasquatch.com. He’s also a reporter in the small trail-friendly town of Dahlonega and wrote a book once. A slightly different version of this column has already been published here.

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