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  1. #1
    13-45 Section Hiker Trash
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    Default Cell phone service in 100 mile wilderness

    The other HMW thread reminded me that I meant to ask the community this question. How is the cell reception in the HMW? I've read varying reports, and most seem to say that you can get service along parts of the AT in the HMW at higher elevations.

    So, anyone with actual experience care to provide some details on the service in the HMW? For the record I have Verizon cell service.

    Oh yeah, and I'm just looking for info from people who have actually been out there, and where they were able and not able to get service...I don't want to get into a debate on whether cell phones should be in back country and all that junk.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
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  2. #2
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    Verizon is the best through all of the AT. From what I remember I had service at all the peaks in the 100 mile and even perfect service at some low elevations like the White House Landing hostel area. It was somewhere between 10-20 miles before Abol Bridge there is no reception. You can actually get service with Verizon in certain parts of Baxter. There is service at the area around the bridge over the waterfall on the way up the Hunt Trail and not far into Baxter from the street I found service on some of the side trails. The spots are few and far between but it is there. It was 4G service at most high elevations in the 100 mile to. There were some days without out it though as a good portion of it is low elevation.
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    I had 2 or 3 bar type service at 3 peaks and somewhere around the antlers camp site.

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    Verizon would work at various times each day. Also upon exiting the 100 MW at Abol, when you get to the paved road right before the Abol Bridge store there is a hill on the right with a path to the top, that path is there because one can get cell service on top of that. One can also get service at some places on the way to the Birches in Baxter Park.

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    I have been reading lots of Appalachian Trail Memoirs, and the most recent, post 2010, utilize smart phones and tablet to stay connected for phone, web and (dread this) Facebook.
    I raise this question now.
    Should the "100 Mile Wilderness" on the AT be changed to sorta' wilderness?
    Seems there is cell coverage, at least on peaks and some low areas.
    And others have used a shuttle or hitch in and out of the area.

    I am not knocking 2000 milers for the use of cell phones necessarily, but can we truly experience wilderness while connected?
    And for that matter what would Benton MacKaye say? See
    MacKaye, B. (1932). The Appalachian Trail: A guide to the study of nature. The Scientific Monthly, 34(4), 330-342.

  6. #6
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Let's look at what wilderness means

    but can we truly experience wilderness while connected?
    If you look at the definition of "wilderness"
    https://wilderness.net/learn-about-w...ct/default.php
    " A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation"

    Seems to me that whether or not you have cell phone service has no bearing on whether or not you are in a "wilderness."

  7. #7
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    Verizon worked as you described it for me in 2013. You can get a signal every day and several times per day, but only at certain spots. Also as you exit at Abol (you are going Northbound, aren't you ) there is a small hill that one walks partly around as you come into the road near the Abol store and campground, there is a path up that hill that was caused by hikers going up to get a cell signal.

  8. #8
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    Some general comments as I have no experience with the HMW, but I've got a lot of experience with Verizon in Great Smoky Mountains.
    1. Data, Talk, and Text are on different frequencies, and so it's possible to have one and not the other.
    So I've been in a location where I couldn't talk or send a text message, but I could send/recv email... and vise-versa
    2. When you're in the "wilderness", you are typically far away from cell towers.
    a. That means your phone will likely use more power to talk to these distant cell towers (because it has to do the electromagnetic equivalent of "shout louder")
    b. Weather will have a big impact on the service you can receive, especially since rain drops effectively attenuate your signal.
    I've been in places where I couldn't get ANY service while it was raining, then perhaps get Text service while it was drizzling, and only get talk service while the weather is clear.
    3. Make sure to leave your phone either "off" or in "airplane mode" when you are in areas of poor service.
    When you are out of range, your phone can use a lot of battery power looking for service.
    4. A few feet to the left or to the right can make a HUGE impact.
    This one is a little harder to pin down. I've been in situations where I KNEW I had no line-of-sight to a cell tower, but I was in a valley that was pointing in the general direction of cell towers. So I was obviously getting cell service from waves bounce off he mountains. I distinctively recall standing on Mt. Whitney (highest point in lower 48) trying to call my wife. I'm obviously talking to the cell towers at the bottom of the mountain, and the mountain had a clear view of the valley. But for some reason, stepping 10' to the left was the difference between being able to talk to my wife or not.

  9. #9
    1,630 miles and counting earlyriser26's Avatar
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    When I hiked the wilderness I only got cell service at Antlers (3 bars, Verizon). A friend hiked the wilderness last month and she got service at several peaks.
    There are so many miles and so many mountains between here and there that it is hardly worth thinking about

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    ...1. Data, Talk, and Text are on different frequencies, and so it's possible to have one and not the other.
    Not really true anymore. LTE and beyond have them use the same frequency, 3G has talk and text sharing a frequency, data on another. Text was designed as a function of talk and shared the frequency. Fun fact, texting was just using an unused part of talk that was reserved for future use before texting was a thing.

    Now one can be in a situation where one can text but not talk, because talk is more data/transmission intensive, and sometimes the talk frequencies are being used but there are empty txt slots available in it.
    So I've been in a location where I couldn't talk or send a text message, but I could send/recv email... and vise-versa
    Data was carved out differently and does use a separate frequency before LTE and later. However this can still occur with LTE and beyond as talk requires an enough bandwidth and minimal lag - basically continuous bandwidth , while data can trickle out or burst out in a small time.

  11. #11

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    Text messages can also queue up on your phone and push out in a small burst of signal, where voice effectively relies on a consistent signal for the duration of the call.

  12. #12

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    I just did the 100 mile wilderness a few weeks ago; and here's what I found... You'll have cell service on top of Katahdin, but nowhere through Baxter State Park or the northern half of the 100 MW. Your only shot at communication in that stretch will be to make a stop at the Abol Bridge Campground (right between the northern end of the 100 MW and Baxter state park, and either pay by the minute to use their satellite phone, or pay for access to their slow, horrible wifi.

    You will begin to pick up cell signal, here and there, in the Southern half of the 100 MW. And it will mainly be on the peaks. That was my experience with Verizon as my carrier.

  13. #13

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    We were on Doubletop (just west of Katahdin) last week and we had 3 bars on Verizon but it was text only. Same with Mt Coe. In general texts do seem to go through a lot better than voice or internet. There is a cell tower on a hill on the south end of Millinocket Lake and one east of the park near Patten Maine. The public power lines stop just north of Millinocket so running a cell tower for hiker use is just not a viable option.

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