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Polis Report

Calls of the Wild

By Michael Learmonth

Sssshh, what's that sniffing sound? The campers sit up and hold their breath as a curious brown bear ambles around their tent looking for the irresistible picnic basket. "What should we do?" a concerned voice whispers. Then, a well-manicured female hand reaches out from the tent and grabs the Ericcson cellular phone perched on a log conveniently within arm's reach. End of television commercial. Presumably, the couple then dials for help, and their trip is saved.

Cellular phones have joined Coleman stoves and Cutter mosquito repellent as standard campsite equipment for the weekend warrior set. State park ranger Jay Sherman says wireless communication at the campground can be a blessing. "If there's an injury on the trail or someone's shooting a gun off or something, we hear about it right away instead of three hours later." The downside, says Ranger Jay, is that some of those calls are more like "Where can I get firewood?" and "Where's the snack bar?"

Mercifully, for those hoping to escape the beeps and bells of modern society, many campgrounds in remote areas or in valleys are out of cell-phone and pager range. Miriam Lomeli, park aide at Butano State Park near Pescadero, says, "We're in a canyon. If you bring a cell phone, its not going to be useful around here. Cable doesn't come all the way down here either."

But for those who feel they simply must stay in touch, fear not. John Coffaney, camping-equipment buyer for Any Mountain, has the solution. Radios. And not the GI Joe, Toys R Us variety. Real two-way radios made by Motorola and marketed to campers. "It's like the next step after pagers," Coffaney says. "Say the kids go hiking, and mom and dad want to say, 'Hey, come back for dinner.' " Ten-four, Mom! And so what if Dad can't place a call to his broker? At least with the old-fashioned radio, air time is free.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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