Off the Grid

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We had a problem at camp this year that we’ve never had – complaints from adults and girls alike that the teen counselors spent too much time on their phones. I was actually quite surprised considering a HUGE part of their training revolves around the rule that they are NOT to be on their phones at camp. No campers are supposed to know that anyone even has a phone. Teens (and adults) who have phones with them are to refrain from being on the phones unless they are on break or after the girls are in bed. I was disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, I just recently wrote a blog about why we need to start putting our phones down and enjoying life.

I sometimes wonder if today’s young people have any idea that they can actually exist without being on their phones. They’re either texting, or snap chatting, or instagramming, or tweeting, or uploading to FaceBook, YouTube, or Tumbler. They’re looking at posts, watching vines, or playing games. It is any wonder that employers complain that today’s recent graduates have no socials skills? 

For the past week, we have been living in paradise. We’ve been at our second home in the San Juan range of the Rockies in Southern Colorado. Our girls each brought a
friend with them, and though we tried to prepare them, I don’t think they really believed us when we kept saying that there was no cell service at our cabin. That means a week of no texting, no chatting, no posting, and no calling. For the first twenty-four hours, I wasn’t sure these poor kids were going to survive. Slowly, they started to come alive. They noticed the low-hanging clouds over the mountains, the way the morning mist clings to the treetops, and the wildlife that lives around the mountain. They went four-wheeling to look for deer, and they began to talk about which day they were going to get up at five to see the sunrise.IMG_0002
The next day, the whole gang went white water rafting. They had to brave the icy cold waters, racing rapids, and light rain without any contact with the outside world. Not only did they all survive, they had the time of their lives. There was no need to find satisfaction through electronic devices when the world at their fingertips had so much to offer.IMG_0093_KMLater that day, they pulled out the puzzles, and that evening, they played a board game. The next night, after a day of white water rafting, they brought out the cards. Uno led to blackjack, and the stakes were high – a collection of lollipops and chocolate bars. 

They woke at four the next morning to tackle something that none of the visiting friends had ever done. They climbed one of the highest mountains in the continental United States — Handes Peak, which stands at 14,048 feet. I will admit that they were thrilled to discover that there is LTE service at over 14K feet. They all called their moms back home in Maryland and posted pictures of their accomplishment. Then it was back to the land of no service. IMG_2136Back at the cabin, everyone was rewarded with s’mores as a rainbow lit up the evening sky. The kids ate quickly, and we enjoyed playing Dominoes until late into the night.IMG_0036Horseback riding on the high plains of the Rockies took the gang out of their element once again, and there was no mention of not being able to text or call anyone. Over the course of the two and a half hour trail ride, we all talked and took in the scenery with no mention of phones or social media. That night, we enjoyed watching the Olympics without anyone even asking about which athlete or sport was trending on Twitter. IMG_0079We all played several games of Poker, and we had visitors – a beautiful family that consisted of a buck, a doe, and two fawns.IMG_0102On the day we left, some of us woke up to see the sunrise over the mountains. Though there were plenty of pictures taken to be shared once they had service, there were also memories made that can be shared with others for many more years than those photos will be around. While I know that this will all change one we get back to civilization, I like to imagine that these kids might actually think twice the next time they face the choice between their phones and a bike ride, or a walk in the woods, or any other activity. I hope that the the thing they will remember the most from this vacation is the reason why I love spending time at our cabin high in the Colorado Rockies – it’s a reminder of how wonderful life is when you you stop letting other things get in the way of actually enjoying life.IMG_0150

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Casting for Memories

Fly Fishing Fly Fishing1I was listening to my favorite radio show this morning, Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd, and he mentioned that he had gone fishing in Wyoming over the weekend.  For the rest of the ride home, I thought about my favorite fishing memory and how much it meant to me, still means to me.  I grew up spending my summers on the water with my grandfather.  I have many fond memories of jumping off the dock with my cousins, crabbing with Granddad (the subject of my first book), and going fishing.  Often, my father would join us if it wasn’t a weekday or if he and mom had taken off from work and were down at Grandma’s with us for a few days.  Fishing was a past time that we all enjoyed, and I still enjoy it today.

I don’t recall a whole lot about fishing with my grandfather.  We mostly crabbed, and those memories flood my mind whenever I think about my time with him.  However, I do remember how much fun we had with our rods and reels and that showing off our catch was always a big photo op!  We would lay out the fish side by side in the back yard and proudly stand next to our bounty and pose for the camera.  My mother’s photo albums contain many pictures of my dad and me posing with our row of shimmering, silver fish glistening in the sunlight.

Several years ago, my parents went out west with us to the home in Colorado that Ken and I share with several friends and family members.  Though my father wasn’t overly fond of the serpentine climbs that took us up into the Rockies, he thought that the area was one of the most beautiful places he had ever been to.  And who could argue with that?  I’ve been all around the world and have seldom seen anything more beautiful than the Alpine Loop above Lake City and Silverton, Colorado.

This particular trip took place over Father’s Day weekend, and I had planned a present for my dad that I hoped he would not only enjoy but cherish for many years to come.  Taking the whole family into Crested Butte, I announced that Ken, Mom, and the girls would spend the afternoon browsing in the shops while Dad and I took private fly fishing lessons.  Dad was so surprised!  He and I went into the guide’s shop and fitted ourselves with all of the proper gear for fly fishing and marveled at all of the flashy colors on the whimsical lures.  Never before had we fished with anything quite like those fancy flyers that were before our eyes.  We spent the next few hours with our guide learning all of the proper techniques for casting and hooking the fish that we were sure would make a hearty feast at least one night of our vacation.

Every morning and every evening for the next week, Dad and I trekked down to the Lake Fork River and stood in silence casting our lines.  What a peaceful and beautiful experience it was.  Every now and then one of us spoke, but for the most part, we enjoyed the tranquility as we cast our lines and hoped for a bite.  Alas, we never did have the trout dinner of which we all dreamed.  I don’t know if it was our technique, our timing, or our choice of location, but we were never able to hook up with a fish, excuse the pun.  We did, however, witness a stunning bobcat as it came out of the woods and slinked down to the river for a cool drink.  After a few minutes, she looked up at us with her lazy gaze and then bent back down for another sip before padding back into the trees.  Dad and I looked at each other and smiled.  No, there were no fish, but there was a story, and week of memories that neither of us will ever forget.

Never again have I passed by the Lake Fork on our way to our cabin that I haven’t smiled at the fly fishers as they cast their long lines into the rushing water.  I can still close my eyes and see the sun glinting off of the wet rocks as it filtered through the pines and aspens, the sparkling, gem-like light reflecting off of the stream, and the smile on my dad’s face as his line swished back and forth in search of a fish.  There are few times in life when we have the opportunity to just be with someone we love, not talking or watching a movie or being part of the crowd, but just being together enjoying the shared moment and each other’s company.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had any other similar experience with anyone, and I think it’s the closest thing to Heaven that I have ever felt.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.