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National Park Tourists

Tourists at U.S. National Parks:

The Adventure ...
Compiled by writer Debra Shore, a frequent contributor to "Outside" magazine.

* Fun with wildlife ...

A visitor to Glacier National Park in Montana lost his car keys while attempting to lure a ground squirrel by dangling the keys out in front of the critter. The squirrel grabbed the keys and ran down a hole with them.

The keys were never retrieved, a ranger cited the man for harassment of wildlife, and a locksmith was called to make new car keys.

* Putting our loved ones at risk for a photo ...

In May of 1994, Tony Moore, 43, of Marietta, Georgia, was gored and seriously injured by a large male bison in Yellowstone, next to the Lake Hotel. Moore and a friend had approached to within 15 feet of the bison to have their pictures taken. While they were standing with their backs to the animal, it charged. Moore's companion escaped, but Moore received a severe puncture wound in his right thigh and was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Jackson for treatment.

* Watching for falling rocks ...

A visitor setting up camp at Lake Eleanor in Yosemite National Park hit herself on the head with a rock while trying to string up her food to protect it from bears.

* Requesting assistance ...

In 1994, a woman visiting from the Bay Area embarked on a solo hike to the summit of El Capitan in Yosemite. When she became lost and saw a storm brewing, she called 911 from her cellular phone and asked to be rescued. A helicopter found her barely off the trail and one-fourth to half a mile from the top of El Cap.

When the helicopter lifted off and the woman saw how close she was to her summit goal, she asked the crew to set her down on top. When the crew declined, she threatened to sue them for kidnapping.

* Caring for the creatures ...

A woman, appearing rather distraught, came into the visitor center at Redwood National Park in California to report that she had seen several Irish setters lying along the edge of the highway and she feared they were dead or injured. Rangers explained to her that these were pieces of redwood bark that had fallen off logging trucks.

* Asking for directions ...

Darryl Stone, now superintendent at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, remembered working the entrance station at Yosemite when a woman drove up and asked, "Which way are the geysers?" Ranger Stone directed her to continue 1,000 miles further to Yellowstone and told her there were no geysers at Yosemite. "Yes, there are," she said, "I have a friend who saw them." Stone and the woman went round and round several times before she left, insisting that there were geysers at Yosemite. Later she wrote a letter to the chief ranger complaining that Stone had refused to provide her with the information she wanted.

* Back-seat driving, as always ...

When an elderly couple stopped to film some bears at Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone, a young bear crawled into their car searching for food. Unable to make the bear leave, the exasperated (but well-dressed) couple drove about 17 miles to the ranger station at Canyon Village with the bear in the back seat. When the husband got out to report the incident, the bear hopped over into the front seat so that investigating rangers found the woman in the passenger seat and the bear behind the wheel.

* All tuckered out from our day hikes ...

In 1993 a woman called 911 from the top of Half Dome using her cellular phone. According to dispatch, she reported: "Well, I'm at the top and I'm really tired."

The answering ranger asked if she felt sick.

"No," she said, "I'm just really tired and I want my friends to drive to the base and pick me up."

The dispatcher explained that she would have to hike down the trail she had ascended. The visitor replied, "But you don't understand, I'm really tired."

What happened next? "It turned out we got really lucky," the ranger said, "her phone battery died."

* Taking mementos home with us ...

Each year visitors to Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona pocket an estimated 12 tons of petrified wood to take home (despite numerous warnings not to take wood and the fact that this criminal violation carries a minimum fine of $275). Some years back, several female foreign visitors, clad only in bikinis, were observed hiding wood in their garments.

Another time, rangers received a report that a man had put a large piece of wood in his car. Upon searching his vehicle, they found a 40-pound piece of petrified wood in his trunk. According to rangers, this visitor said he didn't know how it got there. "My son must have put it in there," the man said.

His son was four years old.

* Ever alert to terrorism ...

A group of European visitors came into the Wawona ranger station in Yosemite National Park and said, "Our car is parked at the trail head and it's been blown up by terrorists." Though rangers expressed some doubt, the visitors insisted that a bomb had exploded in their car and that they could see powder residue from the explosives. Investigating rangers indeed found that a door had been torn off and a powder-like substance -- pancake flour -- was strewn about the car.

"They were quite embarrassed when we showed them the bear prints," the ranger said.

* Ignoring the sage advice of rangers ...

A camper at Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park decided to take a dip in the lake with her dog despite signs saying "No swimming -- Danger -- Alligators." She swam to an island about 75 yards from the shore, then saw some alligators and refused to swim back.

"Didn't you see the signs?" asked the ranger who retrieved her in a canoe.

"Sure," she said, "but I didn't think they applied to me."

[Editor's Note: If I ever decide to create a Stupid People Hall of Shame, you can bet that this chick's picture will be in the lobby.]

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