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Whoa! Did I Read That Right? Double-Take Posts of 2009


This wasn't the sort of boat launch this Catoctin Mountain Park visitor had in mind. NPS photo.

Traveler posted 1,619 articles in 2009, including some articles that were well outside the box. Here are some stories reminding us that you just never know what you’re going to run into – or what might run into you -- in America’s national parks.

Saying that he “wanted to leave his mark” and “honor deceased golfers,” 57-year old Douglas Jones scattered around 3,000 golf balls in Joshua Tree National Park.

Speaking of questionable decision making ....

When two men and a dog were recovered from the water after their boat sank at Cape Lookout National Seashore on September 30, 2009, rescuers discovered that the dog was wearing a PFD, but the men were not.

Speaking of boaters ....

On March 25, 2009, a Catoctin Mountain Park visitor accidentally launched his 27-foot Bayliner down a 30-foot cliff into Big Hunting Creek.

Speaking of cliffs ....

Last January, a 37-year old Grand Junction man narrowly escaped death at Colorado National Monument when his van ran off the road, went over the edge, and was left teetering above a drop the height of a 17-story building.

Speaking of improbable accidents ....

Last June, a Utah couple was injured when a pronghorn antelope knocked them off their motorcycle while they were traveling 60+ m.p.h. (and helmetless) on U.S. Highway 26/89/91 in Grand Teton National Park.

Speaking of animals behaving badly ....

A study published in the Journal of Mammalogy last October showed that bears at Yosemite National Park prefer to break into minivans, apparently because these vehicles are more likely to contain food.

Speaking of bears ....

At Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area last July, an electrified contraption that was installed to discourage marauding bears almost killed a seven-year old girl instead.

Speaking of dangerous devices ....

After rangers arrested a car clouter caught in the act at Point Reyes National Seashore last April, it was discovered that the thief had a powerful homemade cannon in the bed of his pickup truck. The makeshift weapon, which was loaded, was designed to fire a lead ball.

Speaking of cannon balls ….

There was a big fuss at Fort Smith National Historic Site last April when a man who had been digging in his garden brought in a rusty six-pound sphere that was initially thought to be a live Civil War-era cannonball, but turned out to be a harmless iron ornament.

Speaking of judgment calls gone awry ....

The young man figured that the rocky off-trail site at Great Falls Park (a component of George Washington Memorial Parkway) would be a romantic place for a marriage proposal, but right after she said “yes,” his bride-to-be slipped, banged her head on the rocks, and required a tricky helicopter medevac. Fortunately, her injuries were not life threatening.

Speaking of banging heads on rocks ….

It’s a wonder that SAR personnel at Grand Canyon National Park did not commit head-banging mayhem on that party of judgmentally-challenged hikers who, while in a remote area of the park last September, [url=/2009/10/third-time-was-anything-charming-%E2%80%93-spot-misuse-grand-canyon-national-park4790]
repeatedly activated their SPOT device for frivolous reasons[/url], the second instance of which occurred when they didn't like the taste of the water that rescuers had provided them after an earlier unnecessary request for help.

Honorable Mention (“Recalling the Past” Category): Traveler’s March 28, 2009, article Was This the Best-Ever Use of a Bra in a National Park?, which described an act of bravery and ingenuity that occurred in Glacier National Park back in the 1990s (and may never again occur in a national park), went viral on the Web, crashed Traveler’s server, and left us scrambling to get back on line with more capacity.

Dishonorable Mention
: In the glare of national publicity of a type the National Park Service did not need, John Latschar was forced to step down from his position as superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park after it was discovered that he had viewed thousands of sexually explicit images on his office computer.


It was a kick reading some of these stories. We used to keep collections of stuff like this in notebooks so future generations of rangers could chuckle, too.

Was especially interested in the golf balls a Joshua Tree story.

Like some other commenters, I was also a bit confused by the article and was very happy to learn that Joe Zarki was not the perp in this case. That has to be the same Joe Zarki (I really don't think there are a large number of them around . . .) who was one of the rangers who spent a wonderful week chaperoning my 4th and 5th grade class from Snowville school when we were the first school group to take advantage of Expedition Yellowstone back in 1986.

I hope he's had a great career with NPS.

Okay, now let's see if I can get that CAPTCHA to work on the first try . . . .

Drat. Let's try again. Is that thing case-sensitive?

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