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June 22nd '98
Expedition

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through trees
through trees
through trees
through trees
through trees
Expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park

e-mailed to Doug Filter, June 22, 1998, 4:52 PM

Destination Irony

How three adults and two six-year-olds
wired Mother Nature in a day.

by Dale Boller

What a fine idea to visit Rocky Mountain National Park to show our daughters, age five and six, how life can change quickly from city hubub to quiet serenity. But this particular visit wasn't just a drive to the Park for a picnic, a little history and towering scenery. It was a digital expedition, which involves taking notebook computers, cell phones and digital cameras to the wilderness. Thus we are armed with the power of 1's and 0's on the lake shore or the hiking trail, somewhere these powers rarely visit. We wanted to see if the girls would abandon the outdoor experience to play with the Windows 95 Paint program, or whether they'd ditch the computers for chasing squirrels, or if they'd meld the two without philosophizing.

Laptop Lake

Jenna and Dale on the laptop - under a tree in the shade, necessary because of dim laptop screens outdoors

through trees
through trees
through trees

The die was cast at 6:40 a.m. when Doug Filter and daughter Rachel picked up Dale Boller and daughter Jenna in a big Ford Expedition. To keep the kids occupied and allow the parents precious time for adult conversation, Filter brought a TV/VCR combo which runs off the Ford's battery, and by 6:45 a.m. the girls were giggling to a full-length movie called "The Baby Sitter's Club." Twenty minutes down the road we picked up Brent Sweet, another adult, and the Expedition headed Northwest for a rendevous with Park representative Curt Buchholtz, who would open a few doors for our experiment and give us some local history and lore.

The girls stayed in city mode during the 1 1/2 hour drive by watching their video. As the roads got higher and twistier, the boys traded car and motorcycle stories from their reckless youth. But not even the wildest Mustang story could match the perfect weather and the power of the mountains when we entered Rocky Mountain National Park. There was, however, considerable irony in arriving in a luxury truck to the audio and video of "The Baby Sitter's Club."

We shifted gears as Curt Buchholtz took us to some old cabins, circa 1915, and told of the Ute Indians who walked over the mountains with young children such as ours. With no videos. The girls listened to the history lesson, but expected more of a story with a plot, a hero, a bad guy and maybe a princess. Nevertheless they did make a few longhand notes in their Junior Ranger Guidebooks. We snapped photos of the girls with new Kodak digital cameras loaned to us for beta test. Then the girls shot us---point and shoot---easy as pie.

As Buchholtz explained how massive glaciers inched inexorably down the valley using rocks to grind other rocks to sand, I wondered if any of that 12,000-year-old sand had made it into the Pentium chip in Doug Filter's ThinkPad. Or maybe to the processor in a Kodak digital camera. If so, true irony.

We drove to Lilly Lake where foot-long rainbow trout, tame chipmunks and snails took over the girls' attention. We talked to Dex Headquarters in L.A. on a cell phone from lakeside and downloaded some of the half-hour-old photos of the group to the Dex server, much to the amazement of the rustic Mr. Buchholtz and various hikers who stared at our collection of computers, phones and digital cameras spread out on a log. The girls popped over from time-to-time between collecting water snails for a quick session of scribbling in Win 95 Paint. Just as quickly they ran off giggling. Soon they wandered up the trail a ways and we found them off shore soaked to mid-thigh. They were simply being five/six-year-olds playing in water without much reverence for either the majestic mountains or the magical electronics.

And therein lies the lesson.