Interesting behaviour of visitors to National Parks
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Author:  OntPhoto [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Interesting behaviour of visitors to National Parks

I saw this link posted while browsing another photography website. An interesting NewYork Times article on the behaviour and expectations of some visitors to the National Parks. There's also a link to a YouTube video about a couple that got gored by a buffalo. "Watch Donald get gored,” she said as her companion hustled toward a grazing one-ton beast for a closer shot with his own camera." - NYT

Author:  Chris Hominuk [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:34 pm ]
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Wow. I'm speechless. Great article.

Author:  Royce Howland [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:34 pm ]
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The ignorance (and even outright stupidity) of some people no longer really surprises me -- only that they manage to survive it. But even that is less surprising, as the article describes. Modern technological society with all its safety mechanisms and services manages to bail people out of their folly so often. Sadly, this teaches them that they can be foolish and engage in high-risk activities and get away with it... so they will probably do it again. Even more sadly, SAR personnel (often volunteer based) and emergency services increasingly come under criticism (or lawsuits!) when they are unable to successfully rescue people, as if it's the fault of these personnel that the ones needing rescue couldn't be pulled out of the pit they so often dug for themselves.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, the company where I've been working for awhile has been mounting a major safety program the past couple of years. Safety had always been a concern for them, but they're trying to create an intentional safety-oriented working culture, which is no small ambition. The first lesson in the initial, formal part of the program is that safety is a matter of personal accountability, and to set aside the attitude that someone or something will always bail me out if I put myself in jeopardy through taking an at-risk behavior.

The second thing learned in the formal program is that I need to ask myself 3 questions when going into a situation, old or new:
  • Am I aware of the risks that may exist in this situation, and prepared for the occurrence of hazards?
  • Have I become complacent through repetitive experience and not having anything go wrong?
  • Is the illusion that I'm in control or the complacency of repetition leading me to risky behavior to get some kind of thrill or fun?
There are numerous variations to these questions. An increasingly common one is, "Do I believe that technology and a SAR team can rescue me unharmed no matter what happens?" For sure, going through this program has given me a different mindset when I'm in the field doing photo work...

Author:  AaronFM [ Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:46 pm ]
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Very true. Technology has become a crutch for people who get themselves into a jam. Instead of stopping and thinking about what the safe thing to do in the situation may be, or how to self-rescue; they either press on due to ignorance of their situation, or press 911 on the cell-phone for a non emergency.

I've seen people on Mt Washington in NH numerous times who don't have the gear or or appear to have the knowledge to know what to do when the weather goes south. Chatting with them, asking what they would do if the weather dropped 40* and it started to snow, they replied they'd just find their way down or call 911 on their cell phone. These are people in shorts or jeans, 1 or 2 bottles of water for their group, and maybe a light jacket -- hiking a 4 mile 4000' elevation change trail to 'the worst weather in the world'. Other friends recall similar instances at numerous other National/State parks and forests. Scary!

I think that people are so used to being in control of their surroundings that they fail to realize how much at the mercy of mother nature they are while in the backcountry. I'm not sure how to solve the problem. Imposing fines to compensate SAR efforts doesn't seem to make people think twice about going into the backcountry without proper planning/gear/knowledge. Signs at trailheads go unread or unheeded.

Author:  Ed Cordes [ Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:32 pm ]
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I hope the Park Service charges the people for the non warranted "service calls"! I love technology, but despite having HH GPS etc, I still carry and know how to use a compass and do not count on cell phone reception.

Author:  goudswaard [ Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:08 pm ]
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Charging for SAR is a bad idea, even for nuisance calls. Read this and give it some thought.

Author:  Colin Inman [ Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:18 pm ]
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We get our fair share here too ... Ugg_boots/

Author:  EMartinPhoto [ Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:56 am ]
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I am often down in Everglades National Park where there are alligators by the dozens in the visitor areas. I can't count how many times I've seen people trying to pet the alligators or getting really close for photos of them despite the signage and warnings from park rangers.

Author:  Paul Skoczylas [ Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:20 am ]
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I was going to post some "nice" examples, but then I started second guessing myself. I've done some of the same things as the "tourons", although I tend to do them in out-of-the way places where I'm not making a spectacle of myself...

I blogged on this topic at My Blog.


Author:  Ed Cordes [ Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:33 pm ]
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Paul, I just read your blog and generally agree with you. The difference in my mind is that most of those climbing fences in tourist places don't understand the risks involved and most likely are not prepared for anything out of the ordinary. They most likely have little to zero real wilderness experience to assist them in the event of an unforseen issue. Therefore thier risk is even higher.

Author:  Russ [ Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:38 pm ]
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Paul, I read your blog and have to say I largely agree with the accepted risks of going it alone in the wilderness. At 65 it gets even dicier....but I'm not staying at home to avoid possibilities. I'd do it with others, but I like my own pace and, frankly, the solitude usually. I also marvel at the clueless "fish out of water" doings of tourists, often thinking there should be a required orientation test before one get enter a NP...but that's way too onerous.....and I wouldn't want to submit to its counterpart if I visited NYC sometime!!!

The one issue I'd take is your off trail tendency....not that I'm lily white! As often as not, its not about your security but rather about impact on the terrain (ie erosion, fragile plants, etc). I don't off trail in high traffic areas or fragile high alpine areas. If I'm off trail (permissible in certain areas), I'm careful as to where I put my feet and/or any equipment I have. Like you, I avoid doing it in the presence of others who might construe it as precedent setting for doing likewise any/everywhere. If a trail or worn pathway is clearly flagged/fenced or filled with piled dead branches I avoid "end running" the intent to rehabilitate the area.

Author:  Paul Skoczylas [ Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:37 pm ]
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I'm certainly with you on off-trail activities in sensitive areas! The two examples I gave in that blog post were not in sensitive areas. Up in the alpine, I'm very careful to stay on the trails, and I never shortcut switchbacks.

Probably shooting macro in the wilderness is the most problematic that way--your equipment is right down on the ground, and you're lying down to get close to it. When I'm shooting flowers in the alpine, I'm only shooting the ones by the trail, so I don't have to leave the trail.

Another shot from the same weekend (one of my most productive ever):

I didn't get anyone out on the ice, since this was late in the day. But you can see how few people respect the "safe" zone set out by Parks Canada. The sign you see (and several more on the walk from the parking lot) describe the dangers of going outside the safe zone, and give details on some people (including young children) who died a slow death trapped in crevasses not far up the ice. And yet people still persist--after all, such things can't happen to them. It's not illegal to go off-trail in most places in the parks--even where there are fences--just not recommended. This is the easiest access point to the Columbia Icefields (the alternative is usually the Saskatchewan Glacier, but that's a 4-6 km walk from the car to the ice), and experienced mountaineers will sometimes start from this point. It's also a good starting point for glacier training courses because of its accessibility. For this reason, it's not illegal to go beyond the pylons. And people do it, as you can see. And every once in a while, someone dies. It's different when it's a tourist as opposed to a mountaineer (or kayaker if you're at one of the whitewater spots) who is knowingly taking the risk, with some level of experience and equipment. But the rules have to account for both. And most people aren't in favour of some kind of permit system, so what do you do?


Author:  Moodyvillain [ Thu Sep 30, 2010 3:24 am ]
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Calling the search and rescue to top up your water should be treated the same way as prank calling the police, fire or ambulance. There should be a fine or be charged the full amount of the cost of rescue. (the $3000+ it takes for a helicopter) Make people pay for being so stupid.

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