Back of beyond

Like it or not, we’re all in this web together. This particular web was at Wahconah Falls in the Berkshires, where I plan to stop to paint on my way to Maine in two weeks.
Non-New Yorkers always seem skeptical when we tell them there are vast tracts of our state that are uninhabited. Hamilton County, for example, sprawls over more than 1800 square miles of land, but its population is fewer than 5,000. That gives it a population density equal to North Dakota.
Since I leave—shortly—for the duration of the summer, I took a short trip this past weekend. I’ll be off-grid for much of the time I’m in Maine. I needed a better sense of what was negotiable with these old bones and what I can’t live without. I haven’t done any back-of-beyond camping in more than a decade.
My 2005 Prius–which went over 200,000 miles on Friday–has a perfect smartphone holder in the door. Amazing, since there were no smartphones when it was built.
Yes, I can still sleep in a tent and get up the next morning and be (relatively) limber, providing I have some kind of air mattress. Yes, it’s still a lot of work to camp, what with pitching a tent, hauling water and food and rolling and rerolling bedding. And although I used to like to cook over a campfire, I find it a pain these days.
Since I almost never paint from photos anyway, there is a declining advantage in hauling around my Panasonic DMC-LX5. If I’m just testing viewpoints for a painting–as here–I might as well use my pocket-sized computing device, a/k/a ‘phone’.
What has changed since I last went back of beyond is the nation’s cell phone network. I was on the top of a hill with no running water, no electricity, no septic, no artificial lighting of any kind—and an absolutely stellar 4G signal.
I’m thinking that will change how I interact with you while I’m on the road. Daily blogging without wi-fi or electricity may be difficult (although there are open wi-fi networks everywhere) but Instagram and Facebook are available everywhere. Does that mean my camera, with its beautiful, fast Leica lens, is obsolete in favor of my cell phone? Perhaps.
Of course, going off-the-grid with a party of youngsters is a little different from going with a party of painters. Mainly, the toys are noisier. (What we have here is a convoy.)

I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.