First World problems lead to old favorite

Bears Den Run
Water flowing in Bears Den Run undercut the existing sandstone until pieces broke off and tumbled into the creek. The entire ravine area was carved out by erosion. (Julie Geiss photo)

Having a plan and loving a schedule usually works well for me. However, sometimes the best-made plans fall apart, and I have to grasp onto a wing and a prayer. 

When I made plans to visit a new park near Pittsburgh with my daughter, I had no idea that by the end of the day, I would be reminiscing about the 90s and telling her to chill out. 

I have a conspiracy theory about cell phones and running shoes. I think they could actually be made to last longer, but big companies want consumers to buy new products more often. The products are self-combusting so that consumers will continue to buy newer items. 

My cell phone was reaching dinosaur status, wouldn’t hold a charge, and most likely would burst into flames if I attempted a software update. My husband and I had a divide-and-conquer type of day. I would get to go hiking and he would handle getting new phones. 

My daughter and I had one stop to make before we went to explore the park. We got back into the car, and I turned on the ignition. My very reliable car made loud clicking sounds along with small, lurching movements. I quickly turned the car back off and gave it a few minutes to think about its bad choices. 

No service

During that time, I attempted to pull up maps on my phone and discovered I didn’t have any cellular service. I assumed I was too far away from a cell tower. I tried to start the car again, and this time it roared to life. 

We headed towards the freeway, assuming we would have a cellular signal soon. The phone never gained cellular signal, and the AC decided it wasn’t going to work. The check engine light came on. My daughter and I realized that both our phones were not connected to service and it was probably related to my husband visiting the phone store. 

We were in the perfect storm. Our car was unreliable, and our phones were useless. I looked at my daughter and her face was ashen. To me, it was an inconvenience. To her, the world was about to implode. 

I had three choices: laugh, panic or cry. I laughed. Seriously, this wasn’t life or death. It was a bad day in a first-world country. 

Back to the 90s

I told her we were going to pretend that it was 1990 again when I drove a junky car and didn’t have a cell phone. “How did you live this way?” she wondered out loud. I laughed again. Honestly, it didn’t seem that bad. 

I had to explain how we handled car problems in “those days.” We hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. It meant trusting that if I had car problems and pulled over to the side of the road, someone would stop and help. It was a time when help from a stranger wasn’t creepy but necessary. 

This was a scenario she never considered. It is a time she will never know or understand. I am thankful for connectivity during a catastrophe, but I also miss just winging it. I also miss the option of trusting in humanity. 

We made it home safely, not by using the maps app for guidance, but instead using my brain and memory. Some days it feels like I need an upgrade, but the original parts are still doing fine.

Our hike at the new park was forgotten amidst all the car and cell phone issues. Within a few days, the car was fixed. I wasn’t happy that my old phone was shut off while I was in a broken-down car an hour from home, but I survived and forgave the offenders for this oversight. 

Bears Den

Instead of new trails to explore, I went to an old favorite. In between dropping the kids off and picking them up, my husband and I drove to one of our favorite parts of Mill Creek Metro Park. 

Bears Den is in the northern section of the park. As a distance runner, the mention of the Bear’s Den section of the park makes me grimace. It is the hilliest section, but also very beautiful. When evening is eminent and the soft hues of dusk settle on the park, deer gather in the open spaces to forage. 

There are no bears as the name implies, although not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The area is famous for large boulders along the creek bed. The boulders were not left by glaciers but instead created by the power of rushing water. 

Water flowing in Bears Den Run undercut the existing sandstone until pieces broke off and tumbled into the creek. The entire ravine area was carved out by erosion.

If I had only one month of the entire calendar year to visit Mill Creek Metro Park, I would choose October. The fall foliage is fantastic against the backdrop of boulders and waterfalls. 

Trolley tours are available with advance registration online required. Traveling by trolley also means no fear of car troubles and cell phone use is optional. Sometimes the backup plan ends up better than the original.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at



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