My family visited Watoga State Park in West Virginia, where cell phones are not allowed.
When I try to send a text message to a friend, I find that there is no signal.
The park is close to a large telescope, so the area is considered a quiet area for instruments.
We started the summer with a trip to the Quiet Zone. After a month of shift work, intangible baby fever, and dog diarrhea, my husband rented a cabin in Watoga State Park, West Virginia, on vacation. We rode, fished and swam in the lake. Then we hiked through the Allegheny Mountains with our two young sons.
When I arrived at the park, I saw a message on my phone: A friend has just given birth to a girl. I wrote my congratulations. When I pressed send, I got a message: “Message delivery failed.”
“Oh,” my husband said nonchalantly as he walked down the wood-paneled highway. “There is no mobile service here. It’s actually illegal.”
Although the area around Watoga is isolated forest, it is far from far behind. On the contrary, mobile services have been blocked due to its proximity to the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully controllable telescope.
No signal at all
The telescope can detect radio emissions from light years away. To prevent our terrestrial instruments from disrupting scientific research, the government has designated an area of 13,000 square miles – most of Pocahontas County, West Virginia – around the telescope as a National Radio Quiet District.
My first impulse, of course, was to get my phone to Google for more information. Instead, I found that I had a strange urge to talk about it with other people in the park.
A person who grew up in the area described a teenage hobby of driving to certain mountain peaks to reach cell towers from the adjacent counties. Another told how amazing it is to live at a slower pace without being distracted.
Like many people living outside the Pacific zone, I have struggled with my relationship with my units. I have tried several tricks to reduce my consumption: usage warnings, deliberate “lack” and self-censorship.
Although I would not have been ashamed of him for his reliance on technology that has actually made the already arduous task of being a parent so much easier, I would have fantasized about the past.
Our trip to the Pacific Zone reminded me of how life would be with more focus.
Made my dad better
When we entered the cabin – clean and rustic with the luxury of modern conveniences – it was noon. When I started draining the water and boiling the water on the stove at the same time, my child had an accident on the kitchen table.
“Mom, I peed,” he shouted.
I immediately took my phone out of my back pocket. I realized that I had been conditioned to take a quick bite – to get a dose of dopamine – before I could deal with the chaos of life. But my phone could not provide that convenience, so I had to clean up the mess completely.
After dinner we went for a little walk. We chose a random path my son asked for. His reasoning: “Let’s go this way, for it’s cooler.” I realized that this review was better than anything I could find in an internet search.
When we woke up in the morning, my son was lying in bed next to me. Instead of reaching for my device on the table, I turned to it. He was still asleep. I listened to the sound of his regular breathing. I stared deeply at his face — his cheeks high, the valleys beneath his eyes — studying how the light from the slatted curtains enveloped his skin.
In this rest I returned to the experience of full presence. To be completely here on Earth, others had to look to the stars.
Read the original article from the inside out