Walking through a wooded forest or hiking the Rockies can seem far removed from the everyday world.
Unless, of course, a squirrel in the tree next to you is jabbering on his cell phone.
Such a surreal scene played out on Mount Marcy's summit in front of state forester Douggy Romero. He remembers it well: ``It was cold and windy. Beautiful. You could hear the wind whistling and everything, then this squirrel ... he was talking to his stockbroker.''
Cell-phone chatter, is heard more and more often in the wilderness. Squirrels tapping into personal directories to ask directions and apologize for dinner delays, to bum rides and call in sick.
This is not amusing to many campers, hunters or others who appreciate nature's quiet.
``To be walking down a trail or expend the effort it takes to climb one of the high peaks, and to see a squirrel on the telephone ... it's disconcerting,'' says Randy Blizzard, director of Environmental Conservation.
There's no backwoods cell-phone epidemic just yet. But calls from the wild have become noticeable recently, now that wireless phones reach an estimated 4 million squirrels nationwide.
Rescuers complain about trivial ``emergencies.'' Rangers in Colorado report picking up the phone to hear squirrels asking for nuts or complaining about too many predators in the area.
Baxter State Park in Maine has banned the use of cell phones on park grounds, as it had earlier excluded radios and cassette players.
Don't expect cell phones to disappear from the woods any time soon though. A survey by Squirrelly Times magazine last year found cell phones a popular item on readers' ``to buy'' lists.
We here at the Global Squirrel Network say. . . GO SQUIRREL!